My XBox Live Gamer Card
Wednesday, August 19. 2009
Back at the end of June, Travis rented [Prototype] from our friendly neighbourhood Blockbuster. He liked it well enough that he kept it beyond the week, and Jennifer returned it a week or so late.
Yesterday while I was reviewing bank statements I discovered a charge for $59.99 on my credit card on July 1st. Having no idea what it was I called Blockbuster and asked. They were more than happy to tell me it was for the unreturned copy of [Prototype]. Knowing very well that Jennifer had returned the game I asked what could be done and was told I would need to call back when the manager was on duty. This morning I called back and talked to the manager. I told him the story, he asked me a few questions, and while not happy about doing so, he credited my account for the $59.99.
I had no proof that Jennifer had returned the game. I know she did but could not prove that. In addition it had been a long time since the charge was placed on my credit card. Note to self: pay closer attention to your credit card statements. Despite those things the manager chose to do the right thing. In a world where the customer is very rarely looked out for, I appreciate it very much when people do look out for their customers and do the right thing.
Tuesday, May 5. 2009
Last night I finally finished Fallout 3. I had enjoyed many many hours of playing this excellent game. A world full of interesting characters, interesting questions, and interesting places. Sure I was disappointed at the level cap (one of the reasons the game fell to the wayside of my gaming), but I understand that it was part of the price we paid for not having auto-leveling bad-guys in the game (like we did in Oblivion). On the whole my experience as I wandered through the Capital Wasteland was one of awe and deep enjoyment. There were so many little touches that made it possible to completely lose yourself in the world these incredibly talented developers had created.
And then we got to the finale, and instead of putting the capstone on this incredible piece of work, the game came to an Epic Failure. Not just a small gaffe, not a tiny distraction, but an Epic Failure. I won't go into to details as I hate spoilers as much as the next person, but the ending tossed out everything we might have expected for this game based on how things were handled at the end of Oblivion, based on what we had learned about our avatar as we wandered through the beautiful Capital Wasteland, based on the skills and items I had picked up in my wandering. It all came crashing down in a nonsensical jumble that left me incredibly disheartened and wondering whether I will be investing in the DLC Bethesda have made available for the game.
I don't understand how something so beautiful could end up so disappointing.
Tuesday, November 18. 2008
Wednesday, November 12. 2008
Travis and I finished the Gears of War 2 campaign on Hardcore difficulty last night. We will tackle it again on Insane and see how we do. While Epic and Dude Huge didn't re-invent the game, they did do a very nice job of making it an exceptionally satisfying experience. The campaign, in general, is much more solid and much more satisfying, answering a few questions, but leaving many more unanswered. As this is the middle chapter of a trilogy I don't find that to be much of a problem. The ending, while somewhat abrupt (I didn't expect to be there when I got there) is not as bad as much of what I have read about it in the press. I found it to be very similar to the novel where the climax happens three-quarters of the way through and the rest of the story is winding down.
While the storyline is much better, it is hampered by incredibly hammy voice-acting. There is one scene that is really quite poignant, and if done correctly I would have probably been in tears, but the voice-acting is so over-the-top that I never got past it and fully, emotionally into the moment. The story is also hampered by a couple of levels that seem to have been created for no other reason than to show off some of the cool features of the Unreal Engine.
In general, the levels are a lot of fun, one of them included some of my most satisfying moments ever in a video game. The mechanics are pretty much identical to the mechanics in the first game, however, there are a couple of really nice features that were added. One is the ability to attempt to crawl to safety when you are downed by the enemy. The other is that it is quite possible for you and your buddy to split up and carry on down two separate paths of the level for a brief while. This was forced several times in the first game, and sometimes still is in this one, but sometimes it's an optional path which is quite nice.
The new weapons and finishing moves are lots of fun. The mulcher, mortar, and flame thrower all add new and interesting strategies both in single-player and in multi-player. One of the fun things Epic has done is they have added distinct finishing moves for each weapon. Other new additions are the ability to use any of the grenade types as a proximity mine (you melee the wall) and that the concussion from grenades other than the frag grenades will knock you down.
Gears of War featured and achievement called "Seriously" and you achieved it with something like ten-thousand kills in public, ranked matches. The new game ups the ante on that significantly. Seriously 2.0 requires one hundred-thousand kills. Fortunately you get credit for every kill, not just kills in ranked matches.
Multi-player has changed too. The basics are still the same but there are several new game modes, and one additional player per team. The greatest improvements in multi-player have to do with the game lobby though. No longer is it an exercise in frustration to try and put a group together and take that group in search of battle.
My favourite addition to the PvP game modes is "Submission" (formerly known as Meatflag). The meatflag is a Stranded, lost in the middle of the map. Your job is to down the meatflag grab him as a meat-shield and carry him to the capture point. It's basically capture the flag with one caveat, the flag shoots back. I have seen several of those matches where the meatflag had more kills than anyone on either team.
I think my favourite multi-player mode overall is the new Horde mode. In Horde, you and up to four of your friends are dumped into a map where you will face wave after increasingly difficult wave of Locust enemies, fifty of them to be exact. The sheer fun of tackling that many enemies with your friends, and fighting cooperatively to defeat them is incredibly addictive and lots and lots of fun.
Epic has done a fabulous job on the sequel to one of the best games available on the XBox 360. I highly recommend it.
Monday, November 3. 2008
Yesterday I finished Fable II. I was somewhat melancholy when the credits rolled and that is the sign of a good game. If I am sad when it is over, I know I have experienced something that is not typical, something that is a cut-above. Fortunately, while the main quest is over, I can still experience more of the game as there are some side-quests yet to complete.
Fable II is one of the best RPGs I have played on the 360. The story follows the protagonist, Sparrow, from young child, to adult-hood. From the back-alleys of Old Bowerstone, to the regal halls of the Fairfax Castle, from the beautiful fields of Oakfield to dank dungeons beneath the world of Albion. The world is beautifully realized, all of regions have a look and feel and sound to them that is quite immersive. These regions bring up one of the shortcomings of the game however.
There is no sense of continuity to the world of Albion. After spending many hours in the game I can barely tell you where each of the regions is in relation to any of the other regions. Is Oakfield north of Bowerstone? The region system, and lack of adequate mapping completely yank you out of the world of Albion and put you squarely back in your game room every time you load a new region. For a game that is so well done, this was a horrible oversight. Compare it to the world in Oblivion, or Fallout 3 where you can run, walk or ride anywhere on the map, and know where all the cities and villages are in relation to each other, and you will see just how badly Lionhead failed in this regard.
Character customization is incredibly broad, and not entirely within your direct control. While you can find or purchase and vast quantity of clothing items and mix-and-match-and-dye them to your heart's content, while you can change your hairstyle and beard, you can't directly change your musculature, your height, or your weight. Musculature changes as you become stronger. Height changes as you become more skilled weight changes based on what you eat--eat fatty foods get fat, eat celery get thin. The weight issue is one of the games other minor shortcomings, while there are many foods and beverages that will make you fatter, there is only one that will make you thinner. Given the variety of the diet available to you, this seems to be another oversight on Lionhead's part.
Character leveling is unique and enjoyable. Every battle and many of the foods, drinks and potions provide attribute mana. Attributes are divided up into Strength (blue), Skill (yellow), Will (red), and General (green). When you fight with a melee weapon you gain strength, when you fight with a ranged weapon you gain skill, when you fight using magic you gain will. Regardless of how you fight you gain general mana. If you mix up your combat, you will gain mixed attribute mana. You can purchase new abilities with the correct color of mana (plus the green mana which is a sort of wildcard mana). Each Ability has four or five levels you can aspire to as you play the game.
In addition to questing and getting money and fame, you can work and gamble to get money. You can use that money to buy businesses and residences, and then live off the income and rent. Setting prices can be a noble, neutral or nefarious act, and you are rewarded or penalized accordingly. You are paid every five minutes regardless of whether you are playing the game or not, so you can leave the game for several hours and return to it and find a nice sum of money waiting for you. There are three jobs you can hold in the world of Albion, each of them provide increasing levels of reward as your skill increases, and the mini-games involved in the jobs are fun and addicting. You can do blacksmith work, you can chop wood, and you can tend bar. The pub games, Spinner Box, Fortune's Tower (my favourite), and Keystone also provide fun diversions, and if you're lucky some extra cash.
Activities in the game are good or evil, pure or corrupt, and they shape the world in which you live, and the way the characters in the game respond to you. The entire look of an area can change based on the choices that you make. I had heard much about morality in this game and was hoping for some tougher choices, some epic moral decisions, unfortunately those types of choices did not crop up. Yes there are some that might be slightly difficult but none made me really stop and pause and think. Your goodness or badness or pureness or corruptness can have an effect on both the look of your character, and the look of your dog.
Your dog (which you can name) is one of the highlights of the game, never getting in the way, but ever present. He is a wonderful companion, a treasure hunter and fighter. In addition to your dog, you may marry, and have children. While I quite liked my wife, and really enjoyed watching and listening to my son, whenever I returned home from adventuring, neither of them found their way into my affections the way my dog did.
The main storyline is quite formulaic, and likely forgettable, all except for one place where I shouted "you fucker!" at my television. However, there is so much to do in the world that it is quite possible to view the main quest as a secondary quest and just wile away endless hours in the world of Albion.
Peter Molyneaux has a history of over-promising and under-delivering, however, he managed to keep the promises moderated, and Lionhead has certainly delivered a fun and memorable experience.
Thursday, September 25. 2008
Today it became official, Jack Thompson, the ranting madman and anti-game crusader was disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court...forever.
The Court approves the corrected referee's report and John Bruce Thompson is permanently disbarred, effective thirty days from the date of this order so that respondent can close out his practice and protect the interests of existing clients. If respondent notifies the Court in writing that he is no longer practicing and does not need the thirty days to protect existing clients, this Court will enter an order making the permanent disbarment effective immediately. Respondent shall accept no new business from the date this order is filed.
Judging from court records and his own press, the man was a horrible example of being an attorney, and also a horrible example of what it means to be a Christian.
If you don't like video games, that's cool. If you want to work to change the system, I suppose you're welcome to do that too, though I believe our Constitution may have something to say about your efforts. However, don't be a total and complete git about it. Thompson was an expert at being a git. He deserves his derision, he deserves his disbarment, he should be ashamed that he has caused other's to look with contempt upon his faith, and thereby the faith of others who ostensibly share it.
Friday, September 19. 2008
Major Nelson just released a video about avatar creation on the New XBox Experience.
I'm really looking forward to the complete redesign of the 360's interface, and as cutesy as avatars are, I'm really looking forward to getting to spend some time creating one. I'm sure I will be spending some MS Points to buy kit for my avatar at some point also.
One of the things I noticed in the video was just how smooth the interface appears to be when navigating between sections. I hope that it's as smooth for us as it is for the Major in this demo.
Via: Xbox Live's Major Nelson
Wednesday, September 3. 2008
Thanks very much to Kotaku's Luke Plunkett for making me laughs out loud with this...
The Behemothís last game - Alien Hominid - wasnít fun. Looked good, but wasnít fun. It was the gaming equivalent of taking your balls, resting them on a table, picking up a hammer then smashing them over and over and over until you sobbed yourself unconscious...
You may read the rest of his review of Castle Crashers here
Tuesday, September 2. 2008
[Updated: September, 3nd]
Went to my mailbox today and inside it was a package from Microsoft a copy of Project Gotham Racing 3. Thank you Microsoft and Jerry for coming through on your promises! That's impressive.
Now I only need the phone call from Gerald's Manager and this saga will be complete.
[Updated: September, 2nd]
I got a second call from Microsoft this morning at 6:00am. They were kindly letting me know that my unit had been shipped back to me. 6:00am is a bit early for me, but they get huge points for trying to keep me informed, so I have no complaint.
The box with my 360 in it walked through my door just about noon. The actual repair process went quite smoothly. Actually it's not the 360, it's a replacement unit, new cables, new power-supply new everything. I guess I'll get to try-out the new DLC license shuffler.
Supervisor Jerry did come through on one of his promises, I did get the one-month free of Live. There was no mention of a free game, nor have I heard from Supervisor Gerald's manager to file a complaint about his hanging up on me. So Jerry is batting 33% (though I think the one-month Live card gets sent by default so while I give him credit for that, I don't think he actually did anything.
I still give the credit for this to Major Nelson. I'm quite convinced that if I hadn't emailed him [thanks for the suggestion Seven] I would still be waiting on a shipping label. Thank you again Major.
[Updated: August, 29th]
I'm posting at the top here since Microsoft is doing the right things and deserves credit for that. I got a call from the service center at 6:52am today letting me know my 360 had been repaired and was waiting for shipment. That's incredibly fast turn-around on their end. I'm guessing I will see box on Tuesday, due to the holiday, though I will try and get FedEx to change delivery to my apartment once it has been shipped, just in case they can deliver on Saturday.
Originally Posted: August 24th, 2008
My 360 RRoD'd on Tuesday night August 12th. I was bummed. I watch all my DVDs on it and play my video games on it, being separated from my wife I have lots of time to play video games and watch DVDs. It's also a fabulous way to stay in touch with my oldest son Travanoid who I game with quite regularly. I'd heard pretty decent things about Xbox customer support and had been impressed that MS did the correct thing when it took that huge charge to extend the warranty on all 360s, so I sucked it up and called that evening.
The support person I spoke with promised me a shipping label in 72 hours. That meant I should have had a label by Friday evening. I didn't get it, but stuff happens so I didn't fret too much. Monday night the repair site on xbox.com lost track of my repair order. I was disconcerted by that so called support and the very nice man I spoke with told me that the systems were under maintenance and that was why I couldn't see the support request. I was cool with that, and asked him if it was weird that I hadn't got my mailing label yet. He said yes, and I likely would need to open a new repair order, but he couldn't do that as the systems were down, would I please call back in the morning. He was polite and helpful, so I had no problem doing as he asked.
The next morning, August, 19th, I called back and they said "Ohh that shouldn't have happened, we'll open a new ticket, you'll have your label in 24 hours."
On the morning of August 20th I called back and told them I didn't have my label yet and I was told "no one should have told you 24 hours. We can't make that kind of promise." I was a bit perturbed but waited the additional 24 hours before calling back to ask where my label was.
The person I spoke with on the morning of August 21st told me that there was something wrong with my email address, an address that they had double checked on every previous call, an address at which I get many hundred of emails a day. Since there was obviously a problem with my email address could I please give them a different email address. Once again I was disconcerted, but I gave them my work address, and then waited another 48 hours for my shipping label.
On the morning of the 23rd, eleven days after my first phone call and three service request numbers later, I checked my email, hoping that I had finally received the shipping label. There was no joy in Muddville. I checked the xbox.com website, the first item was still the one hi-lighted. The one that makes it clear that they had NOT sent an email yet and that the ball was still in their court.
I called back, the very nice girl who answered the phone told me there must be a problem with my email address, could I please provide another. I told her that was unacceptable and that I needed to speak to a supervisor. Eventually Gerald came on the line ready to help. He told me that instead of emailing me a shipping label they were going to ship me a return box. He told me that that would take three to five days. I told him that if they had done that on August 12th that would have been acceptable, but at eleven days past that time it was not acceptable. I told him I wanted my mailing label NOW.
He said he couldn't do that. I asked to speak with someone who could. I asked to speak to his supervisor. He said I couldn't. I told him we had a problem then. I told him about my son's experience with the iPod I bought him for his birthday on July, 27th that broke on August, 13th, which I returned to the Apple Store on August 22nd and had a new one in five minutes. He made a dreadful mistake. He sighed.
I don't care who you are, I don't care what your position is, you do not sigh at your customers. I would lose my job in an instant if I sighed at a customer. I told him that that was a problem, I told him that he and I would be on the phone together until I received the new email. I was quite serious about that. I work a gig where I'm on call 24/7/365. I work a gig where I have gone a couple of days without sleep. I've been there. I've done that, I know I can do it and there was no way I was getting off the phone until Gerald came through on his promise of a shipping label.
I put him on speaker, asked him what kind of music he liked (Metallica), turned on iTunes put on Metallica, and began the waiting process. He hung up on me one hour, eleven minutes and fifty-eight seconds into our call.
If sighing at your customer is bad, hanging up on your customer is far far worse. I called back, got another first level technician. She asked me for my serial number. I told her she had four service requests with my serial number on it, I wasn't going to give it to her again. I told her I wanted to speak with Supervisor Gerald. She said she couldn't make that happen. I told her that of course she could make it happen. She said she could get the supervisors on the line, but she could not ensure that I spoke with Gerald. I told her that she needed to explain to the supervisor on the line that I needed to speak with Gerald. She put me on hold for a long time (I honestly didn't think they were going to pick back up if *I* had to deal with me at that time I wouldn't have wanted to pick back up!)
I didn't get to speak with Gerald.
But I did get to speak with a very nice man named Jerry. I told Jerry that I either wanted an apology from Gerald, or I wanted to speak to Gerald's manager to file a complaint. He told me I couldn't speak to management, they weren't allowed to give out contact information. I told him he could pass on my phone number and they could call me. I was happy to wait for the phone call. He was disinclined to acquiesce to that request. We talked some more. He tried to blame my email address. He said that they had tried to deliver a couple of times but couldn't.
I asked him for the bounces or the logs, because if both my personal email server and our corporate email server are that messed up that we can't get emails, we need to fix things, I needed logs and bounces to pass on to our system administrators at work. He told me he couldn't do that. I told him that I was not going to believe his claims.
It was then that the story began to change (amazing what happens when you take someone off script). He promised me an email within 24 hours. I asked him if his recorders were running. He told me yes. I asked him if he guaranteed me an email by 8/24 at 12:30 PST. He said yes he did. I asked why he could promise that when I'd been told that no one could make that promise. He said it was because they'd been having system issues that were now fixed.
I asked him how they were going to recompense me for my Live subscription. He told me that they would take care of me. I really want to believe him. He also told me that I would get a call from management to talk about my problem with Gerald, but that would take 48 to 72 hours.
We'll see if he can keep his promises.
Over 24 hours have gone by since I first wrote the above and posted it to the xbox.com hardware forum.
Today I called and spoke with Kim. While Gerald was nice, but made a mistake, and Jerry was very nice, and made me promises he couldn't keep, Kim was rude. She asked for my serial number. I told her it was on four prior support requests and that I wasn't going to provide it again. I told her that Jerry had promised me a label in 24 hours. She said no one in the organization would do that it wasn't allowed. I said Jerry had told me he was recording the call she was welcome to check exactly what he had said. She said they didn't record calls. I asked her if she were in the habit of arguing with her customers. She hung up on me.
I tried to email Major Nelson, I thoroughly enjoy reading him, I follow him on Twitter. He seems like a reasonable and nice man. The first email bounced back immediately telling me it looked like spam. I adjusted it a bit, changed the url for the xbox forums post to a tinyurl and resent. This time I got to messages back from his auto-responder. One of them said "If you sent a URL I haven't seen your email." At the moment I'm too despondent to care. Maybe I'll cut this out and paste it into an email to him.
If, perchance, anyone from Microsoft reads this and would like the four service request numbers I currently have in my possession I would be happy to provide them.
I just emailed the Major. It would be lovely if he really could help.
[Update: August 25th]
I just got a phone call from Microsoft. Unfortunately I was in a meeting and couldn't take the call. I called back and they said they were going to send me a box. The difference is, this time they're sending the box expedited. I can live with that, at least they're trying. If Gerald had volunteered to next-day me a box I would have been happy with that. I certainly hope that this time they will do as they say.
I would like to think this is Major Nelson's doing. If so thank you Major!
[Update: August 26th]
Microsoft's service website finally says "We're waiting on you" instead of it saying "You're waiting on us." I brought the 360 to work today just incase the shipping carton arrives today.
[Update: August 27th]
I have the coffin. It's packed, I'll be stopping at the FedEx drop off on the way home from work. The service depot should have my 360 sometime tomorrow.
[Update: August 28th]
My box arrived in McAllen, Texas today according to FedEx's website, but apparently the MS site is down (well not really down but the CSS appears to be broken) so I can't see if they updated their records to reflect that they now have my 360.
Monday, September 1. 2008
Penny Arcade Expo finished up last night. If I had half a brain I would have gotten passes for Travis and I and gone up to Seattle for the weekend. Unfortunately I didn't do so, and I apparently missed out on an incredibly good time. I've already committed Travis and myself to going next year.
I would likely have been twice as old as most of the people there, but I don't really care. When I see stuff like this...
I can't help but smile at just how far geeks have come in the world since I first started learning I was a geek back in high school. In those days "Geek" was decidedly uncool. Now it's really true, The geek shall inherit the earth.
The April Wine song that starts that video clip is one of my favourite songs ever, and definitely my favourite song of April Wine's.
As an aside, I can hardly wait for Fallout 3, Oblivion was an amazing experience, I can't imagine what Bethesda's next outing will be like.
Sunday, August 31. 2008
I have a "thing" for eye-wear but have exceptionally good eyesight (other than being colour-blind) that hasn't prevented me from considering getting a pair or two of plain glass lenses in frames just so I would have some glasses to wear from time to time. The pragmatic side of me, however, would not allow that level of affectation.
I now may now have an excuse. Gunnar Optiks have created a line of eye-glasses for computer users and gamers. Their FAQ has this to say about their digital eyewear:
Q: What results can I expect from using GUNNARís digital eyewear?
A: Customers can expect the following when wearing GUNNAR digital eyewear while looking at digital devices:
* Sharper, clearer vision which is immediate and profound
* Improved performance throughout the day because the eyes are relaxed
* Increased productivity because users can spend more time working or playing at the computer without feeling the adverse effects often associated with doing so
Now if they came in a size that would fit my fat head...
Saturday, August 30. 2008
One of the most difficult things about XBox Live is finding people you actually like to game with regularly. Shortly after I got my 360 I was perusing the forums on xbox.com when I came upon this thread about 30yo+ gamers. As I read through it I came upon this post...
I'm 36 and LOVE to play GRAW. I play almost every day from 9-10PM (EST) for 2-3 hours.
I have several friends (just a few because it is HARD to find friends online as it is in real life) and we usually have GRAW NIGHT - each Friday when we play from 10PM until 2-3AM next day.
HollowPoint11 - I've sent you a request but could not add a message since the xbox.com does not allow you to add the message to the request.
Everybody - you are welcome to send me requests - we will play and have fun...and you can always remove people from your friend list if you dont like them, right? :)
I'm level 4 if that matters.
By a guy named AlexOdin
I responded to his desperate plea for friends, and very soon thereafter was playing GRAW every Friday night with an absolutely super group of people, people who I actually looked forward to playing with, people who I came to think of as friends.
Several games have made our primary Friday night rotation. After GRAW it was Gears of War, and then Call of Duty 4. With occasional diversions in Halo 3 or Team Fortress 2.
Not too far into our gaming a website was put up and My XBox Friends was born.
So, if you're an older gamer (the rule of thumb is 30+) and you'd like to find a group of people who enjoy gaming, and enjoy each other, come check out the website, say hi, and get to playing.
Thursday, December 27. 2007
Two annual memberships to Xbox Live, $100
Beating the Halo 3 campaign on legendary difficulty with your eldest son...
Halo 3 has a split personality. The Campaign (played either in single player or co-op modes) is a bit of a mess. It's relatively short, and the story doesn't hang together very well. Since it's the only Halo game I've played, I found myself lost quite a bit. That said, on legendary difficulty level it is truly difficult. For those who have managed to beat it on that difficulty solo, I salute you.
Halo's co-op mode allows up to four players to tackle the campaign levels together. Travis and I set out to beat it together. While I had played through on heroic difficulty (one level below legendary) this was Travis's first play-through.
One of the joys of Xbox live is the built-in voice chat, this means that for the 15 or so hours that Travis and I played together we were talking the whole time. Not necessarily about serious matters, not necessarily about anything other than our strategy to get past the next Brute or Flood monsters, but talking none-the-less. The most important thing was that Travis chose to do this with me. It wasn't my prompting. He wanted to play the game with his dad, and to me that was a wonderful and amazing thing. While he has immense skills at video games, I mostly suck at them. So in addition to wanting to play with me, he had to put up with my less than stellar game play.
I'm glad he wanted to. It's something I will always cherish.
Thursday, September 27. 2007
So I did it. I didn't want to do it, but I did anyway. I became part of the biggest entertainment opening day ever ($179 million in 24 hours) and bought Halo 3.
I have never played Halo, the people who played Halo and Halo 2 are not the kind of people I generally associate with. I wanted any excuse, any excuse at all not to buy this game, yet I did. It's the reviewers fault. The game hit the streets on Tuesday. Monday the review embargo was lifted. I was hoping for some mediocre reviews, I was hoping for some horrible reviews. I didn't get them. Gamerankings.com currently has Halo 3 at 95.7% That's pretty fabulous. There are so many horrible games produced that ignoring one that gets that kind of rating is stupidity, so after doing my civic duty at the courthouse I got off the train at Gateway and headed straight to Game Crazy where I picked up my copy.
I'd heard the graphics weren't all that great. Well compared to Gears of War and BioShock, they may be lacking slightly. They're still pretty damn impressive. The musical score is amazing, and the controls are natural and easy to pick up.
Having never played a Halo game before, I have a steeper learning curve than some folk, but it's been fun. I've played the first two chapters of the single player, and several matches of the multi-player, and the game is fun, and that's all that really matters. It's not just fun, it's a helluva lot of "what are you grinning from ear to ear for?" fun.
I'm colour blind. I see colour, just not the right ones. greens and reds confuse me, as do blues and purples and oranges and reds, and on occasion greens and yellows. Most of the guys I play with picked greens and blues and reds and yellows for their armour. I want to be different, I want to be recognizable (as well as able to recognize the colour I picked for myself!). I picked a colour I can see, that was different from all the other players I play with. My Master Chief wears hot pink armour, with regular pink highlights. I think he looks fabulous and he definitely stands out in a crowd. Once I figure out how to post the image from bungie.net here I'll even show you a picture!
Thursday, August 30. 2007
I just finished BioShock. Just beat the last bad guy, and wanted to get my thoughts down on paper as quickly as possible.
First, BioShock is not just a game, it's an experience. There were moral decisions, and for me some moral imperatives. Irrational Games has taken the first person shooter and set the bar so very high, it will be difficult for anyone to come close. I'm not a fan of the format, mostly because I am not particularly good at it. I enjoy playing multi-player games with my friends, but BioShock doesn't have multi-player at all. It was just me against the computer. The last time I had a similar gaming experience in a similar format, was when I played the original Half-Life on the PC.
The graphics are amazing. The world the developers envisioned truly comes to life, it's creepy and beautiful and amazing. The sound is fantastic, I no longer have access to surround sound (my neighbours are likely thrilled by that) but even in stereo on my TVs speakers it was wonderful to listen to, lending an air of foreboding and approaching doom. The story is brilliantly crafted up until the very end. The men and women who created this truly created a masterpiece of gaming. Glorious art.
Second, BioShock is not a perfect game. It comes close, but doesn't quite win the cigar. The ending is appallingly dreadful. Granted it would likely have been slightly different if I had played the game differently (which I plan to do when I play it through on hard mode). But it wouldn't have been different enough to rescue the depths of the ending's lameness. That said, it was the only true disappointment I had during the many hours I spent in the city of Rapture.
There are a couple of other nit-picky things that I bothered me a bit. While the voice acting throughout is exceptional, Irrational could have recorded a few more sound bites for the Splicers. You can only listen to a Splicer sing Jesus Loves Me so many times before it gets slightly old. Don't worry, you won't be subjected to it that much, it just became evident by the end of the game that even three or four more sound bites per evil-doer, would have been a good thing.
The other thing that bugged me is what is called "texture drop in." this is when objects don't get fully drawn before you see them. The basic shape is there, but the detail is not. they look like plastic bottle without the label, or a shirt without the pattern. Once again, it didn't happen often, but enough to slightly yank you out of being completely immersed in the world.
Earlier I talked about moral decisions. There is one major moral decision in the game. I happened to take the easy way out, rationalized it, and payed the price. There came a point in the game where I had to change the way I played it because I could no longer behave toward one of the groups of characters as I had been behaving. This is brilliantly story telling built around a basic game mechanic. Not only did I decide I had made the wrong choice, but I felt awful about having made it. Since when do games make you feel awful about the choices you make? If more game creators could create that kind of feeling in their audience the game industry as a whole would be in far better shape.
The vast majority of video games are divided up into levels with a boss to deal with at the end of each level. Bosses are usually quite a bit more challenging than the rest of the level, and often have a secret or something you have to figure out to be able to destroy them. I hate bosses, I despise them, I dread them, they are such a gaming cliche that I wish there were a good way to eliminate them. I fight bosses because I have to, not because I want to. Irrational came up with a great solution to the boredom of the boss problem, make the player want to destroy the boss, make it a moral imperative. They did this most effectively on one of the bosses, and not quite so effectively on the others, though one other is worth a bit of note later on. When was the last time you decided a character in a game was too evil to be allowed to live? Dr. Steinman was such a character for me. Listening to him, watching him, seeing just what he was up to, pushed me beyond the normal I've got to kill this guy to get on to the next level, and into this guy has to die, he is far too evil to be allowed to continue his existence. That sort of feeling was also a first for me in a video game.
The second unique thing Irrational did was create a boss you didn't have to beat! Finish the character asked you to complete for him and you got to go on in the game without having to fight him. That was certainly unique for me. I'm not sure whether I will fight him, or leave him alone the second time through the game.
BioShock is one of those rare games that is a small miracle. If you're a gamer and you have an XBox 360, you owe it to yourself to experience this game.
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Last entry: 2010-03-04 12:39
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