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Video games, PC games, or other interactive media that's currently caught my attention ...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Zagapain XOR (Xbox 360)

Via my Japanese Xbox Live Gamer tag, I downloaded the Zagapain XOR demo.

It's passable, but I'm not fluent in Japanese, so I'm struggling a bit on what exactly, I'm supposed to be doing.

The intro cut-scene is nice (as are the dashboard set-ups at the beginning of the mission), but I'm not sure if the game "feels" next-gen to me. Plus, the targeting feels a bit off -- kind of like the Xbox Robotech BattleCry.

I'll play it some more and see if I choose to like to more.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Chromehounds (Xbox 360)

I'm playing the Chromehounds demo for the Xbox 360.

This is next-gen(ish) mech game, kind of sim-ish in tone, and pretty fun.

The demo consists of two brief single-player levels -- "search and destroy" and "sniping".

The demo has no customizing of the mechs (called "Hounds" in the game), but the game play is pretty solid, if not totally next-gen. Lots of things are destructable (from light posts to trees to buildings), but they're canned -- they always collapse the same way after a set number of hits, depending on the objects (kind of like a less-pretty version of Halo 2's warhog demolition).

Actually, the physics in general could use some work. For example, pounding away with big shells at the ground near on-foot soldiers has no effect -- you've got to physically hit them to make a difference. Also, I'm really waiting for a next-gen mech game where falling down a mountain looks and feels "real" -- think the scene in Return of the Jedi where the AT-ST (scout walker) is tumbling about on Ewok logs, before wiping out and exploding.

On the plus side, there is some nice attention to detail, like when I fell down said mountain, I damaged my hydraulics, which caused some stilted movement and sparking, and this was carried over into the ending cut-scene in the sniper level. And the voice acting doesn't totally suck

Also, the brief bits of music are really pretty amazing.

Overall, this game feels to me be a mix somewhere between the phenomenal Heavy Gear PC series and Microsoft's own (excellent) MechAssault II: Lone Wolf.

I'm thinking multiplayer is going to be where it's at with this game -- and it'll be the only new game in town for the summer Xbox 360 mutliplayer front (unless 3D Realms totally fixes Prey's mutliplayer pain fest).

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Prey (Xbox 360)

I've been playing the Prey Xbox 360 demo, which became available on June 30.

Prey is one of the most anticipated First-Person Shooter (FPS) titles for this year, and has quite a history -- 10 years on the making. And overall, the demo is pretty slick.

Built on the Doom3 engine, the lighting and bump-mapping are spec(tac)ular, and despite concerns about Human Head's PC version running in higher resolution than developer Venom Games's Xbox 360 version, the console version looks great.

I haven't tried the online or system link multiplayer yet, so I'll comment on that later

The single player is fun, innovative, and may make you nauseous. There are some neat gameplay mechanics and nods to other successful franchises (game avatar Tommy's wrench is Gordan Freeman's crowbar), and stuff like the Zero-G ability to walk up a wall and onto a ceiling is cool, disorienting, and (played to close to a 100" screen) seriously vertigo inducing. Can't wait to try it in multiplayer.

And the spirit walk gimmick (kind of a tangible version of Psi-Ops mindwalk gimmick) is pretty nifty.

Perhaps coolest is the way they handle dying in the game. Rather than "game over" or restarting at the beginning of a stage (a la Halo), you go to a spirit world where you use your bow to try to tag as many spirits of fallen foes as you can -- the more you tag, the better your health and spiritual levels when you jump back into the game. Kind of a mini-game with a purpose.

There's also a decent amount of humor and attention to detail in the game (in the opening bar scene, you can turn the water on and off, flush the toilets, work the hand dryer, cycle through the jukebox, play video slots and blackjack, etc.).

The game is also dark. I think calls it a "serious, dark story, based on authentic Cherokee mythology."

So what doesn't work? Sometimes, the humor doesn't juxtapose well with the dark stuff. Also, Tommy is a bit chatty. But my biggest grip is the load screens. Akin to Perfect Dark Zero, they provide gaming tips that knocked me out of the mythos moment. I seriously don't know why developers do this.

The bummer is there's no way for publisher 3D Realms to get feedback annd make adjustments to them game. I wish more companies would do like Capcom is doing for Lost Planet -- putting out a solid demo in 2006 for a 2007 game, and soliciting feedback from gamers for adjustments to the title. Nice.

But, overall, Prey is a fun demo, and I'm looking forward to the full game next week. Since it just went gold on June 30, other than the PC download version, we'll have to see if the 07/11 release date also includes the physical media versions.

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