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

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Gears of War (Xbox 360)

OK, this game is amazing.

It's different -- control scheme, some mechanics I've been trained to expect (dedicated grenade button, jump, etc.), etc. -- but adjusting to that, this has got some cool game play.

The story's engaging so far, though I'm just in the first act, and getting used to the whole mini paradigm shift.

Graphics are slick (and gritty), the action is intense, I think I've adjusted to the whole "Stop and Pop" way of playing, and I really like the damage indicator.

I have not got the chainsaw bayonette or curb stomping down yet. Bummer. I'm going to get pwned in online.

The AI of my squadmates is pretty good, except for one chapter where they kept rushing in and getting killed, and reviving them was costing my life every time. I ended up having to just solo the mission, and I'm curious if it was just me, or if there's a design issue with this particular level.

Really good stuff -- in spite of Circuit City.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (Xbox 360)

These are updated impressions from my last post.

This game is Fun. It's a good, solid RPG, and I'm starting to level up to the point where it matters, and starting to really kick some comic book tale.

I was worried about Raven falling into RPG tropes (grinding through dungeons, etc.), but even thought they arguably have (Mandarin's castle, "Doom's castle", Asgard, etc.), it's really well done, and there's something cool about seeing these brightly colored heroes traipsing through stonework (or in Mephisto's Lair, Planescape-ish environs). And the Arcade mini games on Murderworld are clever.

And I'm probably too biased in my love for Norse mythology to be objective, but I'm totally digging the Asgard level, and of course I'm playing through it with Thor. And Beta Ray Bill better be unlockable after this, or I'll be peeved.

Something really funky did happen between the Mephisto and Asgard levels though, and I can't tell if it's a design issue, a bug, or a usability problem that caused me to screw up.

** Potential Spoilers Ahead **

The issue is after the Murderworld level, I went to Mephisto's Lair and freed Ghost Rider. When I came back, NPC Hank Pym is talking to Ghost Rider, and asks how Murderworld was (and Ghost Rider answers, "Not as fun as you might think"). Ghost Rider hadn't been to Murderworld (he's unlocked after). Worse, when I'm talking to all the NPC's after Mephisto's Lair, all of the interactions were post-Murderworld / pre-Mephisto, including the mini-quests (which means I couldn't give Wong his requested item or get Weasel out of harm's way).

After dealing with this for 20 minutes (and multiple reloads), I gave up, and decided to re-do Mephisto's Lair (since that's where Fury and Black Widow said I was going). When I activated the teleporter, I was sent to Asgard.

Which is nice that I don't have to re-do the Mephisto level, but a pain that I don't know my Wong / Weasel mini missions were credited.

Heh. I said "Wong / Weasel mini missions"....

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (Xbox 360)

I am a comic book geek. And Activision's Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is a fantastic game for me.

This is just a first impressions kind of thing, as I'm pretty early into it. But having a stable of more than two dozen characters, each with different costumes and skins that changes their stats (and in many cases, their characters altogether) is awesome. The gameplay machanics are solid, and Raven has brought what worked in their X-Men Legends I/II forward into Ultimate Alliance.

That said, even with me being a comic book geek, this game is probably an 8 out of 10. Again, just first impressions, but a lot of what makes the game work for me is the content. The following is going to sound like an ungracious laundry list, but there are a number of missed steps and mistakes.

Missed steps? Oversimplification of some of the mechanics from X-Men Legends I/II. Things like if one of your party dies, s/he "rests" for a while, and you can't pay to bring them back. This can kind of suck.

Also, there are some usability issues in the interface, like not being able to change skins on the fly, like you could in the X-Men games. Granted, this is probably partly because it's not just about changing costumes -- your stats and character change, too.

I am bummed that items aren't shareable. I have special gear for Deadpool, but I need to drop it and have him pick it up to get it to him. Nice.

Oh, and unlocking the build-your-team functionality, but you lose cred if you change it up? And not all characteres/skins are unlocked? Weak.

Probably my biggest peeve is what Dead Rising got me used to (and MUA doesn't have): Cut scenes that show what's happening in the game. If I'm playing with the Fantastic Four, and the cut scene is Nick Fury talking to Captain America, Wolverine, Elektra, Spider-Man, etc. -- that's pretty poor. Or, as I'm playing throughout the game as Captain America, and I keep having these conversations over and over with NPCs (Hank Pym, Bruce Banner, etc.) about the Super Soldier Serum, and Captain America, in the third person? Yikes.

And voiceover for all NPCs? Nope. If BioWare can do this for Mass Effect, Activision should have done it for MUA. Worse, it's sporadic. Sometimes an NPC talks, sometimes not.

And the game's not next-gen. Sure, the 360 version looks good. The cutscenes look great, but the gameplay isn't doing everything I would expect a next-gen game to do. And I'm playing the game on a 108" high-def projector, so it rocks. I think this may be a more painful game on a standard size/def TV. Especially in Co-op. Honestly, I think the Dungeons & Dragons Heroes exclusive on the original Xbox was a prettier (and under-rated) game, with waaaaay better water.

And this game is buggy. Seriously, I've seen more bugs, stickings, and the like in the first 10th of the game than I saw in X-Men Legends I and II combined. In Atlantis, Iron Man wigged out, and looked like that bug in old 2D games where all frames of the sprite showed at once.

OK, so it sounds pretty bitchy, so it's a good thing the content is so good, as is the overall treatment of the license. And it's a solid RPG -- if a bit of a grind.

But it's a comic book grind. And I get to be Cap.

"When Captain America slings his mighty shield! ..."

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