The briggity briggity Brawl & Bowl

Originally posted at GameSpot on March 20, 2008

Over at my brother-in-law’s house the other night for one purpose: to Brawl, and Brawl hard. That goal was met in spades, and I really had a great time.

I have to confess I had more fun than my earlier outing at Super Smash Bros. Brawl, simply because I actually won some matches – including my first on-line.

Kirby and Meta Knight were my warriors of choice, and using the Gamecube controller I was actually able to set up some moves and use them. I’ve tried using the Wii controllers, but I just couldn’t get comfortable.

After the Brawl, things mellowed out a little and my father-in-law joined us for some bowling. I don’t know why, but bowling on the Wii is fun – really fun. I don’t understand it…but I’m not going to fight it!

We also busted out a little Wii Play, and then it was a few more games of Brawl until midnight.

It’s not the marathon sessions I pulled off in college, but any night gaming with friends and family is always a good time.

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Keeping the bighorn sheep population in check

Originally posted at GameSpot on January 4, 2008

My family and I went over to a friend’s house the other night (January 2nd), and between the good food and excellent conversation we managed to get some gaming in. Some of my thoughts on the night:

Their parents bought them (how cool is that?) Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2008 for the Wii for Christmas. Their family enjoys hunting, so the game is a natural fit. I’ve never hunted before, but I enjoy the outdoors and I can see the appeal. I played a few rounds, shot a few deer – even a big horn sheep. It was kind of fun; you definitely have to really enjoy it to get into it, but with the natural sounds and the animals bounding playfully in front of me, it was kind of relaxing in a way.

I found myself wondering if the genre could be expanded and, in my opinion, made better. What if you had actual locations you could hunt on – not just a generic representation? I mean, the game had locations such as “New Zealand Fall” or “Montana Winter,” but it’s not like they were very different from each other. When a game accurately represents a real-world location, its stock goes up in my book.

What about on-line or multi-player? Maybe this is already out there, but I would think hunting with your buddies would just seem natural in a game like this. Isn’t that part of the draw of hunting?

How about an “epic hunt?” By epic, I mean having to track an animal across mountains and continents, all kinds of weather, finally culminating in that one shot that brings down your prize and sends your war cry echoing from the mountains…I don’t know if you can actually translate that into an enjoyable experience in a game, but it sounds good in my head.

In retrospect, I’m probably thinking way too much about a hunting game, but I think there are some interesting possibilities out there.

Next game up was Need for Speed Carbon. I wasn’t that impressed, but it was alright as far as racing games go. I never got into the whole “underground” movement in the Need for Speed games; still some of the cars were pretty nice to look at. What didn’t work at all, however, was the Will remote. They had the wheel shell you could place it in to drive, but it still felt awkward. Racing with a free-floating wheel feels less like the real thing then moving the right thumb-stick.

Something else – when we tried to get chased by cops, we couldn’t find them. When we did get some to chase us, they couldn’t keep up. Weird – in previous Need for Speed games they jump down your throat!

To cap off the night, I hooked up the Xbox and we played Halo. Ah, it always brings back a lot of good memories – back when I had ample free time and could just spend hour after hour at someone’s house playing Slayer. I enjoy what I’ll call the “Halo Effect” – this is setting down to play a quick few games and all of the sudden it’s three hours later. The last time for the four of us played it was Blood Gulch all the way, but this time we had a little Derelict and Wizard action. My wife is getting better all the time…

It was a great night.

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Cerebrations of the past tense

Originally posted at GameSpot on November 19, 2007

(Or, recent thoughts I’ve been meaning to get in here but haven’t had the time.)

These are not in order of importance, just simply how they’ve come into my brain:

Able to see World in Conflict over at my brother-in-law’s house a few weeks ago – the game was just as amazing as the GameSpot review made it out to be. The first thing that struck me was the graphics – stunning. The detail of the terrain, weather effects, lighting, and the smoothness at which the game ran was fantastic. True, he has a state-of-the-art PC that can handle the heavy load – but even at a lower resolution things would have looked great. The level he showed me also had some fun game play, which kept things moving with good voice acting and high drama. All that being said, it was a treat to see what’s currently out there as far as high-quality RTS.

On that same PC, he booted up Medieval II: Total War for me as well. Shogun Total War is one of my all-time favorite games, and I eventually hope to own the entire Total War series. Until then, however, this small taste will have to tide me over. Simply put, I can’t wait. It’s worth noting, however, that this game (from what I could tell) was more of what I was used to playing Shogun, just beefed up and expanded. That’s not to take away from the game at all – in fact, I see it as a compliment. I hope to spend many future hours with Medieval II and the whole series.

A few memories of old Tom Clancy games. My brother-in-law had the gold edition of the first Rainbow Six – a title I used to own – with all his other games. I never could really get into that game. If I had to nail it down, it probably was because I wasn’t that good at it. All the planning, all the map points, all the trial and error – it just didn’t add up to a fun experience. It came down to me executing a well-laid plan – and then doing just as well without said plan and shooting anything that moved.

I had to take back Band of Brothers. I appreciate the need to be realistic, but having the characters swear at least once every sentence made me pop and game out and take it right back to the store. To be fair, the first sequence in the game drops you right in the middle of a battle, and there’s no doubt a heavy amount of loud swearing would be taking place in that situation. Also, to be fair, I’m a father now – and I can’t have that crap on in the background. It’s too bad – I was really looking forward to getting into that game for awhile.

Currently playing Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, and I’m stuck at the second battle against Gothmog. I know I’ll re-visit this thought when I finish the game, but it’s not really “fun” to play. I love the source material, but that’s what carries me through. On its own, I would have stopped playing a while ago. There are some perks that stick out, and I’m glad I’ve been able to see them: 1.) Fighting (or playing as) the Balrog was sweet. His animation is done extremely well; I really feel like he’s a powerful enemy when he steps up to the plate. 2.) A sense of “being there.” Oh, it doesn’t happen a lot in the game – but when the sunset hits the wall of Helm’s Deep just right, I feel like I’m in the movie. 3.) Since the characters are the same models used in The Two Towers and Return of the King, I feel like I’m playing with weather-worn friends when they show up. I played as those characters for hours on the other games, so there’s a “welcome back” feeling when they join my party for a battle in The Third Age.

Unfortunately, a strong feeling of being boxed in by the game, big differences in difficulty from one second to the next, and a weak story (with Tolkien’s literature as a backdrop? How could they have a weak story?!) crush any of these small joys from making it a fun game. Will I ever finish it? Yes. Will I ever play it again? No.

We had a couple over this past Friday and they brought the Wii. I’ve been able to play the Wii at several friends’ houses’ and I really enjoy the console. I mean, you’ve got to love a gaming system that makes bowling that fun. My wife and I were also able to introduce them to Halo, and that was a lot of fun as well. I love that moment when someone says, “Well, we better get going…what time is it…12:40!? Just one of the many reasons why I enjoy this form of entertainment.

Warmed up Fable: The Lost Chapters and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: Substance this past weekend. Not really playing, just looking around. I wandered around a little in Fable, and watched the cut scenes from MGS2. I don’t have the time to play these games through again at this point, but a little remembrance tour always makes me feel good.

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