Frontline: Road to Moscow PC Review

An accessible strategy game that lacks some depth, but makes for a fun time all the same

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 - Vita Review

The original game was charming, but flawed. Re;Birth 1 fixes almost all of that.

Akiba's Trip - PS3 Review

It's like playing an anime

Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar - PC Review

Some good takes on the tactical genre, but somewhat lacking in depth in the end

Whispering Willows - PC Review

A memorable, haunting point-and-click adventure

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gaming Thoughts... 8/19/11 - Console Wars - Xbox 360

Here's my runner-up, but just barely. Honestly, I adore my computer much more at this point, but the 360 gets some credit here for a few reasons. First off - it was the earliest console from this generation I acquired, so I have without a doubt played more games on this than any other system over the last four or five years. I was waffling back and forth between this and a Playstation 3 at the time, but the quality of online service coupled with the number of friends I had who had this system (as opposed to only 1 who had a PS3 and 1 who had a Wii at the time) plus the gentler price tag sold it for me.

The library of games is excellent, ranging from Microsoft games to third party ones. Of course they were not all hits, but my earliest titles were excellent ones, ranging from Fear, to Condemned to Gears of War. Then came the sports titles and those mixed with online play had me hooked. Achievements were awesome - some games in the past had sort of mini-achievements, but never something global like this. A sort of virtual badge of honor your friends could see.

I hardly ever use the D-pad, and this system's controller feels great in my hands. I had come from using a Playstation 2 before buying the Xbox 360, and the Playstation 2 controllers broke on me fairly regularly.

I played through about 9/10 of Gears of War, and one of my buddies from work hopped right in to do co-op and we beat the game together one night. I had Saturday afternoons with co-workers where 5-15 of us would get together and play Modern Warfare 2. The collection of downloadable games was awesome - everything from Limbo, to Monday Night Combat, to Castle Crashers...

The hardware proved somewhat suspect after awhile though. I was the last of my friends to get a Red Ring of Death, but got it I did. I sent it into Microsoft and it was fixed for free after I had owned the system for a bit over 2 years, but then another problem presented itself and I was looking at about $150 to fix it. Disappointing.

Also, my friends seemed to be migrating off of the 360 to the PS3. My son wanted to play online games like Castle Crashers or Halo: Reach - but he would need a gold account. The idea of having to spend $50 a month to play online with friends was a bit rough for me, but then I realized how it cramped family play online - if you weren't willing to spend a good chunk of money.

The account management was handled very well. I liked how multiple people could log in with their actual accounts at a time for some local co-op, and how saved data files were kept separate from those of other login accounts.

The lack of wireless internet? That's been a bit more of a hassle - only one of my 360's is online due to this. The newer models are more reliable - but they are also very loud. My wife compares it to a coffee pot brewing - from the other room.

To my mind, there's been more good than bad. I've played a lot of games, and I still have some to go. you won't see Modern Warfare 2 show up on this list, even though some of my best 360 memories are of that game. I now own it for the PS3 - for reasons I will explain in my next and last post on this topic.

Favorite three games from this system:

- Halo: Reach
- Mass Effect
- Gears of War

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Pros:

- Great audio and video really helped me 'leap' into this generation of games.
- Account management with file saves and local co-op is the best of all systems
- Excellent collection of games & had achievements from the start to go with them

Cons:

- Hardware certainly had its share of failings
- Online play requires you to pay
- Lack of built-in wireless

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gaming Thoughts... 8/16/11 - Console Wars - Wii

And the winner is... not the Wii. Now, I know there's a lot of console love and hate out there. Considering my past consoles and anyone who's read this blog or other posts of mine in other places - I don't think anyone can honestly call me a fanboy to a particular company. I've owned Every. Single. Nintendo. System. Ever - with 2 exceptions - virtual boy and 3DS. Stil, the Wii comes up short in my mind when weighed in again the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360.

The full motion gaming controls and marketing were brilliant. The initial price point and slightly cheaper games made it more accessible to a larger audience than ever before. However, mistakes were made, and corners were cut in order to make all of this happen.

While the controls were immersive and in some games, very organic - in others they felt forced into place. Many third party companies struggled to make proper use of the controller options. Additionally, it wasn't until around midway through the console's life that the motion plus - something that granted true 1:1 motion control - was introduced. Now it feels like you need it for many of the best new games, but it seems like something that should have been there in the first place. The controllers add up to be expensive - especially if you want a full set for all four players.

The online store made for some great purchases, but most games simply did not make good use of online play. No voice chat, no achievements/trophies, most games with limited to no online play - it feels like the Wii really missed the move to online while their competitors capitalized on this.

The use of Miis in many of the games was a cute, clever way to add some personalization to some of the games, but the lack of true accounts made it easy for people to delete one another's data accidently - something that's happened quite a few times in our family.

The audio and video not being up to par with the 360 and PS3 was easier to overlook early in the life of the three consoles, but as developers have learned to make better use of the 360 and PS3 hardware, the Wii looks and sounds more last-generation than ever.

The library of games has been a mixed bag. The first-party Nintendo stuff has been amazing, ranging from Kirby's Epic Yarn to Mario's many adventures to the oddity of Link ushering in and out the Wii in some ways. Twilight Princess was a great introduction to the Wii, and it feels more and more like Skyward Sword is going to be something of a farewell as Nintendo has been showing very lukewarm support for the Wii in favor of their current projects - the Wii U and 3DS.

While the first-party games have been generally excellent, many third party titles have not been so successful. There are plenty of very good games out there from third party developers, but there are also truckloads of crap - something I'm not able to sugarcoat.

Favorite games so far on this system:

- Metroid: Other M
- Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
- Mario Kart Wii

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Pros:

- Unique Control Scheme
- Great first-party titles
- Best full-console price points

Cons:

- Audio & Video feel last generation
- Lots of poor third party titles
- Weak online presence