Gaming thoughts... 10/31/11 - Halloween edition

I like scary movies, and I love scary games. In honor of Halloween I thought I would do a quick rundown on some of my favorite spooky games from over the years.

My favorite scary game: Fatal Frame 2

The entire Fatal Frame series on the PlayStation 2 was amazing. My wife and I bought part 2 from a friend online with a couple of other games, and had no idea what we were getting. He needed money, I just wanted some cheap games. Turned out to be the creepiest game we had ever played, and we loved it. Went out and got the first Fatal Frame right afterward and played that, then when part 3 came out, we immediately bought and beat that one. We were disappointed when the Wii Fatal Frame was released in Japan, but not ported over here.

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Good series:

- Silent Hill and Resident Evil

My entry into those games came on parts 2 for both. I've played a few over the years since, but never quite got into them the same way. Somewhere along the way, they became more action and less fright-oriented. Still good games, but the series definitely lost some fright-factor.

That said, I did pick up Silent Hill game for the Wii, which got solid reviews. I need to get around to playing and reviewing that one.

- Phantasmagoria:

What a mouthful, huh? Right about the time I met my wife, she and a friend of hers wanted to introduce me to this PC game. The graphics for the time were solid, and the gameplay was that of point-and-click adventure stuff. The storyline was decent, and it definitely had a creepy feel to it. Just don't bother with the second game in the series, where it goes from haunted house to aliens, if I recall correctly.

- Amnesia: The Dark Descent:

I talked about this title back when I reviewed the Potato Sack by Steam. As a game, it is a little clumsy in places. As an experience, this is probably one of the most atmospheric games I have played in awhile. The game is very creepy, and while the graphics engine is not the best, they make excellent use of what they have. Great independent title.

- Limbo:

Not really a horror game, but like Amnesia, this title sets up the atmosphere beautifully, and there are some genuinely creepy moments in the world of living shadows. Amazing title in my opinion.

Honorable mention:

- Dead Space

I still haven't played #2, which is odd since I absolutely loved #1. Sure, it's more "Aliens" scary that "Nightmare on Elm Street" with its sci-fi theme, but it's a good blend of action and tension.

Honorable mention - runner-up:

- Condemned series

These games were more akin to action titles, and I was not a huge fan of the storyline, but the titles themselves had me jumping here and there. The first person view and excellent use of light and sound had me on my toes throughout both titles. Condemned may have been the first suspense/horror title I played this console generation.

Dishonorable mention:

- Friday the Thirteenth on the NES

This may have been my first 'horror' game ever. I had never even seen any of the movies before playing this game, but Jason was an iconic figure by that time, and I knew I was supposed to be scared of him. Thing is, instead of 'horror' the game was simply 'horrible'. It was boring, repetitive and did not scare me in the least - it was quite a let down. Luckily the titles above it in this list have more than made up for this game's sins against me.

So, what about you? Any fans of horror games out there? If so, what are some favorites (or least favorites) and why?

Playstation Move - Tiger Woods 11- Playstation 3 Review

Of the sports titles that come out, Madden is my favorite and the NBA 2K series is runner up. I enjoy MLB: The Show, EA's NHL, EA's Boxing and Tiger Woods golf games - but I tend to pick them up every few years, and not each season. I was excited to pick up Tiger Woods 2011 though, because it was not only well-received, but Move compatible. Golf is just one of those titles that seems a natural for motion controls. The last version I had played was 2009, so that is my only real point of comparison.

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Graphics - 7:

The player models generally do not impress me a lot. The scenery is nice, and some of the weather effects and grass effects look nice, but there is very little in the way of 'wow' factor here. On a technical level, there is no slowdown or tearing that take you out of the experience. A decent effort that does a fair job of immersing you in the game, but they won't do anything to blow you away either.

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Sound & Music - 7:

The announcers do a decent job of detailing the action. Having recently been horrified from the much newer audio found in Madden 2012, I can appreciate how well the commentary flows in this game, which is a couple of years older. The sound effects are somewhat minimalistic during play, but they work well enough to keep you into the match.

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Gameplay - 9:

Kudos go here. I enjoyed the Move interaction. I was very impressed with the level of tracking and control - though at times sometimes it was a bit too sensitive. What do I mean? Well, the swinging and putting controls feel fantastic. Seriously, it is so much more immersive than prior PS3 iterations, no doubt due largely to the Move controls. That said, sometimes little things like aiming was a bit too touchy for my liking.

For non-Move users? The game plays pretty well too. I'm not terribly good at it, but I did enjoy the basic timing mechanics that drive the game and it was easy to get around the menus. I also made use of the Playstation Eye to create a zombie-like Me as a golfer. It actually did a pretty good job of mapping my face, but adding lifeless eyes to it was 'creepy' according to my kids.

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Intangibles - 8:

The Move controls are a welcome addition, but the game itself is pretty good too. They added a Ryder Cup mode that I didn't get much play out of, but I did spend a lot of time building up my created golfer and losing a lot of matches. I am not very good at playing the game, but I still enjoyed it, which is a sign of a good game I think. Like all of these annual sports games, I think a big part of the game's value is how much has changed since your last version. To me, the game, modes and controls were worth the update from version 9 of Tiger Woods. That might not be the case for someone coming from version 10.

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Overall - 7.5:

I enjoy the game, and though I don't play it nearly as much as some of my other sports titles, but when I'm looking for a slower-paced, almost relaxing break, this is the title I most often turn to. Now, why am I reviewing this version when it's so old? I got it cheap, and its integration with the Move gave it some extra value for me. I know there are newer versions out there, but as someone who skips a couple of years between releases most of the time, this one should hold me over for awhile all the same - especially at the price of $12 I got it for.


Playstation Move - Sports Champions - Playstation 3 Review

The first title we actually purchased for the Playstation Move was Sports Champions. It seems like these sports titles are the preferred introductory experience for these kinds of motion controls. It makes sense really - since sports are often inherently familiar to people and their movements are somewhat easily tracked and translated to video games. The Wii made use of this a couple of times over, first with the system itself and then the introduction of the Wii Plus.

Here are the sports you get:

- Table Tennis
- Volleyball
- Disc Golf
- Gladiator combat
- Archery
- Bocce Ball

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Graphics - 7:

The attempt here is to come up with a more realistic sports entry than the Wii's charming if simplistic sports titles offer. This is both a good and a bad thing as this game looks nice overall, but sometimes animates just a bit stiffly and you see odd graphic pop-in and overlap. I know a lot of people prefer the Wii method, but I can at least appreciate the direction they went in here with Sports Champions and personally prefer the more realistic appearance

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Sounds & Music - 6:

The music is nice enough, simple and completely forgettable. It doesn't take anything away from the experience, but it adds almost nothing as well. The sounds are very simple, with appreciate thuds, whacks and player noises where needed, but like the music, these sound effects are very simple and do nothing particularly well, if not particularly badly either.

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Gameplay - 8:

The controls generally respond well, and that is the key with a game like this, right? Show off what you can do with familiar controls? I think archery was probably my favorite, tennis my least favorite. My son really liked the gladiator combat, and my daughters were all amused by different sports, if only for a short time.

There is a very nice option to do some of the games like archery and gladiator combat with two motion controllers. It is not required, which is great for families with only one Move controller, but I won two in the contest and was able to sample out both methods and did find that two controllers was better.

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Intangibles - 7:

There are not a ton of sports to be had here, but there is a fair amount of depth in trying to master them. There are also quite a few different types of rounds and to unlock everything would take an incredible amount of time. With different sports, everyone's interests and mileage will vary. We also benefited from having two Move controllers, because we could take part in multiplayer, which made things a bit more fun.

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Overall 7:

These types of sports games with motion controls often feel like dressed up tech demos, and honestly Sports Champions does very little to change my opinion on this. That said, it feels like a fairly polished and successful demonstration that entertains, if not for a terribly long time. The events are probably not all going to be for everyone, but for the most part they are well enough done that you should find at least a few different types of sports to keep you busy for awhile.


Playstation Move - Singstar Dance - Playstation 3 Review

So the very first game we got to experience with the Playstation Move was Singstar Dance as it was shipped with our prize package. The game came with 2 microphones and a converter box that allowed them to plug into the Playstation 3 itself.

The idea was to do the same as other Singstar games and allow you to sing along with popular songs, but to incoroporate the Playstation Move so you could dance with the song as well, attempting to add an additional layer to the gaming experience. Does it work?

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Graphics - 7:

The actual music videos look pretty good, but I just could not get around the horrendous video from the Playstation Eye. The colors and pixels are very poor, and the Playstation Eye was one of my main points of concern in the hardware review. I realize that this allowed Sony to keep the price of the unit down but it just feels so low tech compared to the rest of the Playstation Move package, and in a game like this where the video gets displayed on-screen? It's much more distracting.

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Sound & Music - 8:

The tracks sound really good. I mean, this is not a game where you have to worry about the surround sound helping you succeed like in a Call of Duty game, but everything sounds professional and crisp, and in a music title like this, that is very important. Also, the track selection is fairly good. It's not really my type of music, but my youngest daughter loves pop music, loves to sing and loves to dance, so I figured this game for a hit.

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Gameplay - 4:

Unfortunately, this is where things start to come off of the rails a bit. The music component is fine, for those who like that sort of thing. It never really seemed to grab my daughter's attention though, despite the fact she liked several of the songs and listens to them away from the PS3 as well. She played it a couple of nights, and never touched it again. One thing that made the experience worse however, was the attempted Move integration. Honestly, it just feels broken. The 'dance' element is really rough, not terribly responsive and just takes away from the experience instead of actually enhancing it.

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Intangibles - 5:

Here's the thing: this game is meant to really help break some boundaries and better entice players into enjoying not just the music, but the movements. However, the movement controls barely work, and are much more of a barrier than anything. The musical aspect is solid, if this is your type of game, but if it is not there is very little here to bring you in and the Move controls feel tacked on and gimmicky.

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Overall - 6:

If this is your sort of thing, it might make for a fun party game. I'll be honest, it's really not my sort of thing. My wife showed no interest in it, and neither did any of my three kids. For the most part, that did not surprise me - but my youngest daughter's indifference did. She loves to sing and dance, as I mentioned before, but she just showed no real interest in this game. I had to suggest it to her for four nights running before she gave it a chance, and after she did, she never fired it up again. It's not a bad idea, but the execution was clearly lacking.


Playstation Move - Hardware review

So, last year around this time, I won a Playstation Move package that came with Singstar Dance, two Move controllers, a Playstation Eye and all of the necessary cables. I picked up one of the small hand held control sticks to compliment the Move controller as well.

I am going to breakdown my impressions of the hardware, some of the games, and then just my overall impressions of the game lineup and offerings to date.

So, let's start with the hardware, which overall is pretty good. The build is excellent - the durability is quite sound as my kids have managed to drop the controllers several times and I have yet to notice any sort of negative impact on the performance. The appearance of the controllers is a bit odd - my son compared it to a glowing snow cone. I was not a fan of the button layout. The Playstation Dualshock controller has buttons laid out in a diamond shaped pattern, and the Move controller uses a square shaped one. I would have much preferred they stuck with the diamond shape surrounding the "Move" button.

The setup is quite easy, though my PS3 has somewhat limited USB ports, and the eye did use one of those up.

The off-hand control stick I picked up was decent as well, also having been dropped on its head a few times but never failing to operate. Not many games seem to use that controller currently (think shooter games and movement controls mostly), however. Both this device and the Move controllers hook up to the USB to mini-USB and charge just like a Dualshock controller would, and sync up to the system in the same way. Overall, I like that design, but having had one controller of about two years' age no longer holding a charge, I would be concerned that .this could happen here prematurely.

On to the Playstation eye - this is in most senses the least impressive piece of tech in my opinion. It looks nice enough, but the image quality is very, very poor. It responds well to the Move controllers themselves - I found the accuracy of the unit to be incredibly good in most instances, but the camera itself is of such poor quality that in games like Eyepet it was almost jarringly bad.

I heard a lot of concerns about the lighting, but honestly I did not have too many of those. Most lighting conditions in our living room allowed the device to work just fine, even if there was a semi-open window where the camera was pointing. The sometimes limited range of the Playstation Eye itself was sometimes more of an annoyance. Without the ability to 'adjust' the sweet spot on the camera, it was sometimes a bad 'fit' to my living room. I know the idea is to get people up off of their couches at times, but some games were lengthy and being able to sit on the sofa would be nice, but the Eye could not track properly because I was a foot or two away from the sweet spot. Another game, Eyepet, had a very specific distance you needed to sit in order for it to operate properly.

Overall, the hardware is very well-made. The controllers are durable and light, they track very well, and except from some particulars with the Playstation Eye itself, I found it to be very accommodating to our living room. I would score the hardware components as an 8 out of 10.

Gaming Thoughts... 10/15/11 Game Difficulty

So, recently I loaned out the game Splinter Cell: Conviction to a buddy of mine at work and he made a comment to me about how he put it on the easiest level of difficulty to beat it. This is something I have found myself doing a fair amount over the last few years as well. Sometimes, it is more fun to get through the storyline and not deal with frustrating death after frustrating death. I did the same thing, playing through Splinter Cell: Conviction in an afternoon. Sometimes, not always. Sometimes I will give the game a second playthrough at a higher level of difficulty.

I admit that sometimes achievements and trophies can affect my difficulty decision. When I played through Halo: Reach I choose the normal/default difficulty in part because the achievements for completing chapters could not be earned on easiest. I am currently slugging away at Record of Agarest War one more time - having gone through Normal already but on Hard now to see the true ending. Then again, sometimes for games like Madden, I turn up the difficulty most/all of the way just because there is no storyline really, and I need a good challenge.

When talking to my buddy at work, he said he plays most of his games on easy - like Call of Duty. It is not that he is a bad player -in fact, in multiplayer he's about the best I know in Black Ops and Modern Warfare, often finishing tops on the map, but for him he just wants to sample the storyline in single player and then move on.

I also really like difficulty adjusters in general. Would games like Demon Souls be less appealing to people if it had an easier mode? Probably, but does that make it the right choice? I don't know to be honest. I have some friends who proudly puff out their chests at having beaten the game, and I have others who gave up on it or refused to play it due to the difficulty and reputation the game carried. The software developer is obviously fine with this choice as their spiritual follow-up is supposed to be even harder. Will I purchase it? Probably not - the first one frustrated me a LOT at times, and I would rather just play something else despite the fact I did enjoy Demon Souls. If the game had an easier mode where you could still earn trophies and get through the storyline? I'd probably pick it up. It's an interesting dilemma the developer gets to figure out for themselves.

I read a report a few months ago that most players do not finish their games. The vast majority of games have something like a 30-40% completion rate, and many of them in the 20's or lower. If I was a developer, I would be a bit disappointed if I put all of that work into a game knowing that most players never saw the content I made. Personally, I like the idea of multiple difficulties and still offering 'rewards' for people who best the easier ones, though there should be better rewards for the greater levels of difficulty.

What about you? Do you like multiple difficulties? If so, are you someone who always goes for the hardest, sticks to the defaults, prefers less of a challenge or vary it by title and number of playthroughs? Any games out there you wish had variable difficulties but did not?

Angry Birds - iPad Review

Angry Birds is a game that needs little introduction. Just about everyone has heard of it by now. The other day passing through Walmart, my wife and I stopped at a huge rack of plush Angry Birds that came in a variety of sizes and types. I kept waiting for her to hurl them at me as if we were reenacting a level from the game, but thankfully that didn't happen.

For those who have not yet played the game, the formula is both simple and addicting, which no doubt are the main reasons for the game's success. You use your finger to draw back a slingshot and how far back you pull and what angle you aim at propels your feathered artillery toward green pigs (or are they piggy banks?) to shatter them.

There are different kinds of birds, and some have secondary effects while they are air born that you tap the screen to trigger. There are a variety of structure housing/protecting the pigs and you have to figure out the best way to burst through them to destroy your targets.

Angry Birds Boxshot

Graphics - 8:

Cute stuff. I mean, these characters got turned into stuffed animals and they are pretty adorable. The various moving parts all look good as platforms crumble and piggies break. Everything is crisp and easy to make out. There could be some extra stuff going on in the backgrounds from time to time, but overall it looks good.

Sound & Music - 7:

The sound effects do a decent job of illustrating the collisions that take place, but there's really not much that I found particularly memorable either. In fact, as I sit here, I can't recall any music, though I'm sure there was some.

Gameplay - 9:

The mechanics of drawing the sling back and shooting are simple, but perfect for this game and really for the iPad device. Now, there were times I would occasionally misfire if my finger 'stuttered' across the screen and prematurely let up, but it did not happen and each level only takes a couple of minutes to play through (at most) - so experimentation is key and you will trial and frequently error on your way to completion.

Intangibles - 8:

There's a lot of levels. There's quite a bit of challenge to be had here. And you can use different tactics to beat most levels, though some work better than others. My wife seemed to enjoy the game more than I did, but I still got quite a bit of play out of it.

Overall - 8:

It's the perfect type of game for the iPad, and at the time we got it, Angry Birds was like 99 cents. Considering the hours of play both my wife and I got out of it, I would say it was a worthwhile investment. It has a very broad appeal too. All of my kids have played it to some extent, with my youngest in particular being taken with it. There are a lot of other games out there now that have mimicked this basic formula, but there's a certain charm to the Angry Birds that still helps it to stand out from the crowd.


Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 - PS3 Review

Man, that's one long title. I had the original Duels of the Planeswalkers game for the PC years ago. It was a very different animal than the Xbox/PSN version that released a few years ago. I've also been a long-time fan of the collectible card game. I've won, bought, sold and lost (yup, I played back when ante was common) more cool cards than most players I would guess. That said, I was a bit disappointed with the last version of this game, so I had mixed feelings about the 2012 one that came out a few months ago.

The premise to the game itself is this:

You have cards in your deck that require mana to cast. Mana is generated by land cards you have in place. There are creatures, spells and more at your disposal. Your objective is to deplete your opponent's life before they do the same to you.

There is a ton more to the game than that, as the cards have a huge assortment of effects, but you get the general idea. So, what did I think of this latest iteration to the venerable collectible card game?

Graphics - 7:

The card artwork is amazing as always. There really is not much animation going on, which is fine. Truth be told, I would probably turn most of it off after awhile anyway to speed up the matches, but some additional effects or mabye even combat animations might be nice all the same. The menus and boards all look better than the last time around.

Sound & Music - 7:

The sound effects are simple enough, but mercifully they do not occur so frequently as to get annoying. The music is actually quite good, though another couple of tracks for the sake of variety would have been nice.

Gameplay - 8:

The cards and menu navigation are all improved from last time. There are quite a few options you can tweak to change how targeting and such are handled. I found the new archenemy mode somewhat frustrating at times - just a bit cheap. The idea is a three-on-one and that one has a huge life total and gets multiple draws per turn including from a deck of cards hugely overpowered - like the ability to wipe out all permanents on another player.

Intangibles - 9:

Oh, if only they had REAL deck editing. But it's closer than last time. In the last game you earned extra cards for your victory and you could shuffle them in and out of your deck - and only them. Now you can shuffle in or out any of the cards in your deck (except land). Maybe next time you can actually pull cards from other decks in, but it's a step in the right direction.

A lengthy campaign mode, a new archenemy mode, online play for both of these modes - there is a lot to do and a good number of cards to do it with. For those who like trophies, these ones aren't too hard to acquire as I have all but one - I haven't won that fifth online match yet (only have 4 wins - I don't play online too often though).

Overall 7.75:

If you like collectible card games, and Magic: The Gathering in particular, there is a lot to like here. It's far from perfect - my favorite part of CCG's is the deck-building, but you have more control over the deck than in the last version and there is a good number of cards to experience. The additional modes add value to the package as well. This is slow, thought-provoking strategy. People looking for an action game of any type need not apply.


Gears of War 3 - Xbox 360 Review

I've been posting about Gears quite a bit this week, and it has been a really pleasant trip down memory lane for me. The Gears of War titles were both excellent, though the first holds a slightly more nostalgic place for me since it really did usher in this generation of game consoles for me, introducing me to the high definition graphics, excellent use of surround sounds, fun gameplay and also experiencing what online gaming could be like on consoles now.

I am not going to lie - I have been spending a lot of time on this game. I already have two friends asking to borrow it. My son and I logged quite a bit of time one weekend doing the campaign mode together. I'm going to come out and say that this was my favorite Gears game yet, and if you have been following along with my other reviews over the last week, you'll see I looked at the first two pretty favorably as well. Here's the details:

Graphics - 9:

There is this really oppressive atmosphere that just bleeds into the entire game. The colors are still varied (unlike the reports that Resistance 3 for the PS3 was very brown and muddied at times), but the world of Sera is a dark, gritty place. Buildings are falling into decay. The Stranded (survivors) are a ragtag group of people with tattered clothing and scars. There's virtually no slowdown in any of my gameplay, and that goes for online and offline. The engine does not show pop in, tearing, things like that. Is it perfect? No. But it's still really impressive.

Sound & Music - 10:

The voice acting is really solid, and it's everywhere. Obviously some is better than others, but the principle actors do a good job though, and some of the banter and dialog is not only believable but just add a sense of 'life' to the entire game, which is impressive given the dismal surroundings of the storyline. Beyond that though, this is a game where the gunfire and explosions just sound great from top to bottom. I cranked this game up in my living room with the surround sound, and it felt like my system was getting a great workout from it, where the bass would cause my floor and sofa to shake with explosions and gunfire could be heard coming accurately from different directions.

On top of all of that, the musical score was quite good, helping to set and maintain the tone of the game throughout many of its major scenes. A footnote on the music front was when I was playing online and "Mad World" began to play as a piano instrumental. Kind of a cool nod to those of us who have been fans of the game since the beginning. Why? Because of this trailer for the original Gears of War that was very well-received, featuring this song playing over it in the background.

Gameplay - 9:

This is a third-person shooter, where taking cover is a major part of how you advance. It is a very different mechanic than those found in most first-person shooters like Call of Duty. I have one co-worker who is a huge fan of Call of Duty and Battlefield and has played through all of the Gears of War games, and did not enjoy them nearly as much. He could not really give a reason beyond saying that he just did not care for the style as much. I actually enjoy it quite a bit more, so there is definitely some preference at play here.

There are not a ton of innovations here, to be honest. If you played either of the first two Gears of War games, you know what to expect here. But there are some cool new weapons, the close-range combat feels a bit tighter than prior versions (maybe I'm just doing something different, but it seems like 'in close' my gun play handled a lot better in this version than the prior ones) and the way you to run in and 'stick' to cover is a bit smoother as well.

I still prefer the firefights to some of the mounted or vehicle sessions, but they did not annoy me nearly as much as in Gears of War 2. A couple of the sections were definitely tough, sometimes a bit unfairly so where you had an object that maybe was not 100% clear and you had to dodge some unkillable creature, for example, but these were far and few between and using the Left Button on the shoulder does a nice job of showing you your objective and teammate locations on the fly.

Intangibles - 9:

There's replay value to be had here. It is not a long game - you can beat it in a weekend but I think it takes longer to navigate than the Call of Duty games. There are several difficulty levels you can choose from. The campaign mode supports up to 4 player co-op, and you can have local or online players. My son and I did 2-player co-op and had an absolute blast with it. There are plenty of medals, achievements, online modes and campaign-mode collectibles to find as well, giving you reasons to go back in and play again.

The game modes range from story (including an 'arcade' variant), horde mode (a somewhat tactical you-versus waves of bad guys mode you can do solo or with friends), a beast mode (where you are on the other side of the coin - you are the monsters trying to infiltrate the human forts and kill them working against a timer - I liked this one, but it feels like a mode that requires multiple people - the timer is pretty harsh for just 1 or 2 players to get through), a fair number of unlockable skins for use when you play and it all works against a 'level' system that reminds me a bit more of Halo: Reach than Call of Duty in that it unlocks cosmetic things and not actual gear (that I've noticed yet anyway).

So close to a 10, maybe it is. I would have liked a slightly longer story mode, or even maybe some choices along the way that have cosmetic effects on the world around you, but I realize that this is not an RPG game. Just the same, you are part of this epic battle with tremendous stakes throughout, and the storyline is excellent

Overall - 9.25:

This is a game that is not meant for kids, but there are options to turn off the swearing and decrease the blood - but in honesty you're shooting people in the head and tearing them apart with chainsaws. It's not little-kid friendly, but I did find the options useful for playing with my son. With lots of modes and a well-made game all of the way around, it is hard for me not to recommend this title - especially if you liked the first two. That said? It is a different kind of animal than most of the 'shooters' out there, and as in the case of my one co-worker, it does not appeal to everyone. Also, the story could be a bit longer, but the key here was I simply had a lot of fun, and had a lot of fun with my son, and given the various game modes offered, I suspect we will keep having fun with it for the foreseeable future.


And my first contest winner is...

Okay, I rolled the Di tonight on my online MUD (for anyone who's curious what it looks like - basically lot of colored text). Just use that link below to see the not-so-thrilling recorded results. :P

Since you were both on the blog, twitter and FB, I figured you both had 3 entries, so I went with a single 6-sided di roll.

I set Coffee as numbers 1-3, iLag for 4-6. And the roll was...


... yeah, it's probably not exciting enough to warrant all these ellipses, but here's 1 more set:



I've got your email, so I'll shoot you a quick one to confirm the details as I try to gift this game away (I've never done this before so I can't promise my computer won't like, explode or something).

I will also post this comment as an actual post now. :) Thanks again!

Gears of War 2 - Xbox 360 Review

I recently touched on Gears of War, which was an excellent early game for the Xbox 360. It was probably one of the most defining titles for this current gaming generation, at least if you owned an Xbox 360. I felt like Halo and Gears were counterpoints to some of the shooters specific to the PS3 like Warzone and Resistance.

The first Gears was one of the driving forces behind my leap into the Xbox 360 - almost all of my friends had it, and we made great use of the co-op modes and online play. To say Gears 2 was anxiously awaited would be a ridiculous understatement. With the recent Gears 3 release, this seemed like a great time to visit this title.

Graphics - 9:

Amazing stuff, really. Even better than the first game, which at the time blew me away. I bought an HD tv for the first Gears (and technically, my 360). This game made me appreciate it even more. The animations were sweet, the angles were presented very well and the oppressive atmosphere of the world around you is unrelenting.

Sound & Music - 9:

I loved the music in the first Gears, and that holds true of Gears of War 2. Constant voice acting is generally good, though there were times it felt a bit more flat than in the original, at least to me. The sound effects were good and varied, making quality use of my surround sound system. Loud, reverberating explosions punctuated with gunfire and dialog - it is good stuff.

Gameplay - 8:

I have to mark the game down a tad here. The game plays a lot like the first Gears, and the firearms combat feels tightened up. That said, I really disliked some of the vehicle/on rails sections. This is not a game with much freedom. Sometimes you make a path choice but essentially you are on a linear path, and that's fine, but I preferred the ground combat to some of the mounted scenes. Some of these parts really, really annoyed me - they weren't necessarily poorly done, but they were my least favorite part of the game.

Intangibles - 8:

The game is a bit longer than the original Gears, but not by much. Again you can tweak difficulties, but yet again I beat the game in a single weekend. The online modes are much more robust though, giving you much better bang for your buck than the first Gears game.

Overall - 8.5:

A technical improvement on the original in pretty much every way, though certain parts of the single player mode did annoy/frustrate me more than the first. Still, Gears of War 2 proved to be an undeniably fun, if brutal (this one is no more for kids than the first game in my opinion - even my son didn't get to play this one when I first got it, and he was like 7 or 8 at the time) experience. It's definitely not reinventing the wheel here - Epic took what worked in the first title and polished it up. This game can be found somewhat inexpensively now as well, and it was definitely worth it for me.


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