Nov 19, 2008

Still Alive

Wow - the ol' blog is looking very neglected. Let's start with a catch-up post. We've been pretty busy, and even more so at work, hence the lack of posts.

Left 4 Dead

Most of my gaming group got together last week to test drive the Left 4 Dead demo on XBL. Very freaking fun. We really enjoyed the co-op play, and all the ensuing confusion, complaints, and carnage.

"Bob, why the hell are you three blocks ahead of us??"
"Ack, a smoker grabbed me - help!!"
"No - don't shoot the Boomer yet!! Ahh, crap. Incoming!!!"
Most excellent fun. I loved how the game models zombie-movie conventions. A friend goes down, and another player must go over and spend time helping them up. A "boss" zombie attacks a player, and the others must rescue that player - he can't save himself. All these nuances force the players to act as a team or perish - a great way to foster cooperative play.

My group has been trying to figure out what our next XBL multiplayer game will be, and L4D was a strong candidate. In the end though, most of the group wasn't convinced, due to the lack of any unique single-player content. I'm sure we'll get this game some time, but now right now. Gears of War 2 seemed like another obvious choice, but I think the weak GoW1 story left several of the us underwhelmed. Several others are waiting until closer to the holidays. It looks like Rainbow Six Vegas may be our next XBL venture.

Fallout 3

I've really been having a blast with Fallout 3. We stayed home all of last weekend, and after knocking out a hefty hunk of chores each day, I deliberately carved out a few hours to continue exploring the Capital Wasteland.

The game is simply fantastic, and I'm particularly digging the palpable sense of exploration, the tension of traveling across a hostile, unknown landscape, and especially the extremely well-written quests and story. (I'm level 8 now, and just finishing up the last of the Survival Guide quests.)

Game Night

Our Star Wars Saga Edition session got off to its normal start - namely everyone sitting around chatting, catching up, and generally letting our hair down and decompressing after a long week's work.

Unfortunately, Ken - our designated GM for the evening - had a unexpected hostile random encounter with Neutron Lad and Star Girl (his kids) and we had to close up shop for the night.

This week Ken is busy, so we've got Classic Battletech at Damon's house on the slate. I've been reading a ton of Battletech books lately (Project Phoenix and Total Warfare), so I'm totally jazzed to sling some LRMs, baby!

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

Monday night, Brendan and I headed over to Ken's place to help him playtest MK vs. DCU for his Sci Fi Weekly review. We were all very pleasently surprised.

When this game had been announced, I had been firmly in the "huh??" camp. Suffice it to say, however, that Midway has done a fantastic job of crafting a story that makes the whole premise suprisingly acceptible. In fact, the story (told through a series of cutscenes seamlessly woven into the fight sequences) is very engaging and well-crafted.

The gameplay was likewise satisfying. Midway dropped much of the complexity that had been bolted on to the MK games of late. Gone are all the extraneous weapons, fighting stances, and emphasis on 3rd-dimensional movement. This game feels much more like a back-to-roots, 2008 take on the classic 2D Mortal Kombat games. The move set is simple enough for casual play, and contains enough depth to keep all but the diehard Virtua Fighter junkies engaged. Even given my dislike for the 360's mushy, imprecise d-pad, I still very much enjoyed myself.

The effects and animation were quite good as well. The plastic-doll look that plagued the PS2 MK characters has been overcome, and the whole package is quite pretty. Speaking of which, I must comment on the, er, proportions of the female combatants. The situation was ridiculous enough that we spend half the evening joking about it.
  • "Just think how awesome the game would have been if they'd spent less time on boob-bounce physics." - Brendan
  • "Oh no! Jax, my breasts have achieved fully sentient status!" - Ken, free-forming a Sonya Blade cutscene voiceover, MST3K style

The New Xbox Experience, or, When Wiivatars Attack!

Well, for good or ill, the '08 Fall Dashboard Update goes live today. (Whose idea was it to let the marketing guys spin a moniker for a freaking system update, anyway?) Out of curiosity, I logged onto XBL this morning while getting ready for work. I was pleased to see that the download was acceptably brief.

Unfortunately, though, the first experience you'll be dumped into is my least favorite feature of the NXE, namely the dorky avatars. Sure, it was pretty easy to create a reasonably close, big-headed faxsimile of myself, but why?? The 360's main demographic is late teen to 30's adult males, and what typical adult male gamer doesn't want ridiculously cutesy, childish figures prancing around on their cutting edge gaming console? Ugh...

What I do like, and test-drove this morning, is the full game install to hard disk feature. I popped in Fallout 3, and the process took about 10 minutes max. Upon firing up the game, I was very relieved to hear, well, the damn game! The optical drive on my red-ring-replacement 360 sounds roughly like a hair dryer on "low" setting, and is particularly annoying if you're trying to play a retail game on any audio level besides full Memorex mode.

The NXE: Xbox audio on "11" no longer necessary!

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