Nov 24, 2008

Aliens: Colonial Marines Exterminated? Aliens RPG set to hatch?

Dammit! I had suspected that Gearbox's Aliens: Colonial Marines title might be in serious risk of an airlocking, as news on its development has been sketchy at best. Looks like my fears were realized. I'm seriously disappointed though - this is probably my all-time favorite movie license. [sigh] Game over, man! (Sorry, someone had to say it...)

In more uplifting news, Obsidian Entertainment, the development team behind Neverwinter Nights 2 and KotOR II, are apparently working on an Aliens-themed RPG for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC! Until then, I guess I can only cradle my pulse rifle in anticipation.

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!

Nov 12, 2008

Our Star Wars RPG Campaign Blog Achieves Orbit

The ever-resourceful Mr. Newquist launched a cool Wordpress blog for our fledgling Star Wars Saga Edition RPG campaign today. (It's like Dungeons & Dragons, but based on the Star Wars movies. Yes, I'm that big a nerd.)

Still much content to be posted, but be sure to check back soon if you're interested in such things.

Left 4 Dead: Demo-licious Demo-lition!

Unfortunately, I got home late last night and the Left 4 Dead demo took forever to download on XBL, so I contented myself with watching some Chuck season 1 episodes with Heather.

I couldn't stand it any longer though, and fired up the demo this morning for a few minutes while the ol' WRX was warming up. Suffice it to say that the opening cinema is fantastic, and serves as a great introduction to the main characters and the more interesting individual varieties of zombies we'll encounter.

Since I only had a few minutes, and am most interested in the co-op modes the game offers, I jumped into the 1P version of co-op play that the demo offers (no online multiplayer in the demo at all from what I could surmise). The other three characters are controlled by (some rather competent) AI 'bots. From my quick taste, I can guess that this is going to be the next multiplayer game of choice for me.

The characters were tasked with making their way from a rooftop haven to a neighboring subway station. I grabbed an Uzi as my weapon of choice and opened the door leading down into the bowels of an apartment building. My 'bot posse and I were immediately assaulted by a number of weak, "everyday" zombies. Note that most of the L4D zombies seem to be very much the fast, rabid 28 Days Later type - no plodding, easy targets in this game! The typical zombie seems to be very easy to take out - in general it's all quantity over quality among the undead.

I shortly discovered that some of the flesheaters are more unique, skilled, and tough, however. The first of these was called a Boomer (I think), and was a huge, bloated and fat zombie that exploded violently when I cut into him with the Uzi. My vision was instantly partially distorted and obscured by the disgusting viscous green gore that splashed out all over us. To our horror, this slime also served to temporarily attract the normal "horde" zombies, and we were almost immediately assaulted by a score of these creatures.

Unfortunately, I actually had to go to work today, so further zombie blasting (and any subsequent Ditlog impressions) would have to wait until this evening. More soon!

Nov 5, 2008

Fable II Winding up - Fallout 3 Here I Come

Got to play Fable II for a good long time last night. I'm closing in on that jerk Lucian - his base are belong to me tonight for sure!

I don't think I'm going to replay the game as an evil character - I think it'll serve me better as trade credit towards my next purchase. I am enjoying the game, but I'm very eager to dive into Fallout 3, as well as work on a few other older games (Half Life 2 and the venerable Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries in particular). Oh yeah, then there's the gabillion other games that are coming out over the next few months!

My next big decision is going to be between Mirror's Edge, Gears 2, and Rock Band 2. Since Zack just got his braces attached yesterday, I'd best cool it with the extraneous spending - at least until we get used to the new budget! I think we mostly have it covered though. We've already eliminated a few unnecessary monthly bills to compensate - namely HBO, Netflix (we don't use it much when new episodes of our shows are airing), and Audible. Plus, we're probably going to dump our copper phone line if Verizon will let us do naked DSL.

Nov 4, 2008

Gears of War 2 More Story-Focused

I just finished reading IGN's Gears of War 2 review. I was very glad to hear that the second iteration of the franchise will be a bit more story-driven. I didn't dislike the first game, and thought the characters' wry quips quite funny, but I do prefer a deeper yarn and greater sense of immersion in the unfolding events. Gears 1 seemed very one-dimensional.

Synopsis: "Here are the bad guys. They come out of the ground. They are Evil(TM), so you should shoot them." No Cliffs Notes (or Cliffy B notes) required.

I actually have yet to finish the Gears 1 story campaign. The swaying perspective of the game makes me a little sick at times (which doesn't usually happen to me in games), and the claustrophobic and at-odds perspectives of co-op splitscreen don't help matters. So far, most of my Gears play has been "couch co-op" with my son Zack and gaming group buddies Bob and Jon. I expect to finish up the final act as soon as Zack and I can carve out some mutual free time - hopefully this week.

I'm also very keen to try out the GoW2 multiplayer. Again, being to late to the game, I missed out on Gears versus play entirely. As an avid paintballer though, I'm a huge fan of cover-based combat systems. Sure, "normal" FPS multiplayer is fun, but its veritable dearth of sane tactics always bothers me. I don't care if I am wearing Mjolnir armor - in a RL firefight, I'm still going to find some cover. It's not like the suit has a self-preservation dampener or something - sheesh! Anyway, I'm hoping my gaming group decides to take the collective plunge on this title - between the co-op and versus multiplayer modes, it would provide a welcome alternative to Halo 3 over XBL.

Nov 3, 2008

Wings of War: Famous Aces Coming to Xbox Live Arcade

I was very jazzed to hear that Fantasy Flight Games' excellent WWI fighter dogfight game Wings of War is coming to XBLA. I had demoed the game at GenCon '07, and was very excited to pick it up.

The board game's Famous Aces starter box had been out of stock for a while though, and my gaming group hasn't been playing many board games of late, so I'd kind of held off on the purchase.

I'm thinking that WoW:FA on XBL will be an excellent online multiplayer time-killer when the weather is too bad to venture out to our normal Friday night game sessions, though!

The game is being developed by Madison, Wisconsin startup Big Rooster.