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Archive for March, 2009

“It’s Like a Boring Movie”: First Impressions of Mass Effect

Friday, March 27th, 2009

masseffectAs I mentioned before, my Gamefly account kept recommending the 2007 game Mass Effect to me whenever I browsed, and as Gamefly cannot guarantee that you will get your top choice on your GameQ, and I really wanted Halo Wars, well, I got Mass Effect. And despite my disappointment over not receiving something a bit “fresher”, Mass Effect is growing on me, now that I finally got out of the “capitol” city and home world, the Citadel.

So, to begin at the beginning, let me lay a few things down before we go any further into my initial review of Mass Effect. I am not big into RPG’s, and truthfully, other than FPS games that lightly tread on RPG-style choices, I don’t think I have played a role playing game on the Xbox 360 since I’ve had it (August 2006). Also, I did not want to find out anything about Mass Effect before I jumped right in. No walkthroughs, no instructions on the keypads, and as I don’t have the accompanying literature with the game, I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. And I didn’t notice the option for the tutorial until late last night when I was shutting down, so yeah, nothing.

girl-shepherdOk, that said, the game has the choice of playing either a girl or boy version of the main protagonist, and as that made me so happy, I am playing the girl version of Commander Shepherd. I didn’t really follow much in the beginning as I was trying so darn hard to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing, but I got to do a little choosing when it comes to the background of my Commander Shepherd. I think I chose a past of no parents, raised on the streets and joined the service as soon as I could. Cliche! Not sure what bearing that past will have on my future in the game, but I’m willing to play along.

There is an attack on a human colony by these things called the Geth. The Geth are being led by a bad guy that Shepherd has to track down across the Universe. I have to say, at first, I was a little freaked out by having too many choices as to what to do and when, having “free will” as it were in a video game rather than being lead around by the ring in my nostrils. But seriously, after I got my own spaceship to explore the Universe while hunting for stuff to kill, this game is a lot better.

lost_in_translationLet me explain. Mass Effect starts pretty slowly, which is both good and bad. Good, because like I said, I was clueless; and bad because I was getting a little bored. In fact, my boyfriend was trying to take a nap on the couch and was concerned that I was firing up the Xbox (he hates the sound of gunfire when trying to sleep — very understandable). I said, “Don’t worry. This game is like a boring movie.”

And it is true. It’s more like a documentary about space exploration with some aliens here and there, and add a huge conspiracy to destroy humanity and yeah, that’s Mass Effect. It is not exactly non-stop action nor does it follow the small battle-puzzle-small battle-boss battle blueprint.

It’s help to be a little methodical in your playing style as you do have to cover territory and remember what you may have had to leave behind in terms of items because you don’t have enough experience in order to override computers or survey mineral finds or decrypt stuff. You know, all those things that come up while trying to save your race.

It’ll be nice when I finally get enough experience and “omni-gel” to crack safes and hack into door controls, but I am not one to find cheat codes, so it may be a while before this game really opens up to me. I am also thinking that Mass Effect may be a better game to own than to rent, as I have a feeling that I can really get lost in this game, kinda like Oblivion.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Xbox

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

systemerrore74As I am not one to spend too much time reading about every little thing, maybe I am a bit tardy in talking about the new and exciting development in Xbox 360 error codes: E74.

Amid all the hubbub over the infamous Red Ring of Death in the Xbox 360’s, the quiet little one-quadrant of death has received little attention. According to Joystiq, Microsoft is not aware of the problem…of course, they are not. At least until the public relations department can figure out how to handle this one.

So far, Xbox geeks (and I use that term lovingly) are thinking that the error is caused by an issue in the AV cord, but some are going so far as to say the problem lies internally with a loose chip in the HDMI models. Also, Joystiq has compiled some unofficial data sets to find that the number of E74 errors reported to them by readers after running an initial story about the E74 error, and the numbers seem to indicate that the occurrences of the E74 error have spiked since the launch of the New Xbox Experience (NXE). Engadget is polling their readers about E74 errors. And an inventive writer at Negative Gamer has been tracking google searches for E74, and the numbers have been rising since last last summer. Before August 2008, he found no searches. Here’s his graphic below.


And DWells55 is posting on both sites, claiming that the E74 error may be a sneaky trick by Microsoft to disguise the RROD.

Ah, Microsoft. They seem to be following the rule book of the FDA when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Just get it on the shelves, and worry about problems later.

If you’d like to learn more about this problem, I suggest checking out Joystiq. They are doing a great job following this through, and I like that site anyway, so you should check it out. I’d update my blogroll in this site, but I’m too busy playing games.

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The Mass Effect Conspiracy to Get Me to Play

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

masseffect2_desktop_02_350x263Alright, so yesterday BioWare (itself now a division of EA) announced the coming sequel, Mass Effect 2. And wouldn’t you know it, I just recently started playing Mass Effect (the first of a planned trilogy, so the sequel is hardly a surprise), as if I knew that I’d better get to it before the sequel does come out. Is it that I have a sixth sense for my gaming priorities based on upcoming releases of a game’s sequel or three-quel? No, I blame Gamefly.

Of course, I have Halo Wars on the tip-top of my Gamefly GameQ, but as the availability of that game is, like, impossible to get through the rental service that is too far away from me to give me a decent turn-around. So, the last time I updated my Q, I noticed that the service was giving me recommendations for games in which I may be interested. Mass Effect kept popping up as I was updating, so I clicked on it. I didn’t give it much of a read, however, relying more on the very high marks that Mass Effect had garnered from users and other reviewers on game sites. It was in the high 8’s, out of 10, and after a disappointing time with my last rental, Civilization Revolution, I was looking for something that scored high.

masseffect2_desktop_01_640x480Not that I place a lot of weight in user scores or even editor/reviewer scores, but hey, if the scores are really low and consistently low among other sites, I am prone to skip the game. If I somehow got a quicker turnaround on my Gamefly rentals, I’d probably be a little more adventurous when it comes to lame games. But it takes too damn long to get the game in the first place for me to dillydally around with crappy games.

Anyway, it seems the Universe wants me to play Mass Effect. First, it was high ratings, but then it became about getting the 2007 game played before the arrival of its Spring 2010 sequel.

BioWare says that Mass Effect 2 will be available for both the Xbox 360 and the PC platform. No word on the PS3, but the first ME was an Xbox-only deal until it went to PCs, so it’s likely that ME2 will also be Xbox-only (in terms of consoles). Although now that BioWare is owned by juggernaut Electronic Arts, there may be more pressure to go multi-platform (more sales potential).

So far, few details about the game are out there, other than Saren and the Geth are defeated and now humans face a bigger threat. Gee, thanks for that.

If you want to check out the fairly pointless teaser (I mean other than to tease), click here to go to the Mass Effect website.

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BioShock 2 Official First Look

Monday, March 16th, 2009

bioshock-2-gi-coverHow excited I was today, upon opening the mailbox, to see the new Game Informer. And on the cover, BioShock 2.

To save you the trouble of either procuring the magazine or reading the lengthy first look article, I will try my best to summarize what changes we can expect in the highly-anticipated sequel to the somewhat anti-climatic (imo) BioShock.

If you read my review of Bioshock, you may have taken away from that a sense of my disappointment with Bioshock. It’s true, I may have been a bit harsh in comparing it to an actual Ayn Rand novel, and by that I mean to say the game was interminable and repetitious. But for three-quarters of the game I was really digging it. And yes, I had some gripes about some aspects of the game playing experience that I am happy to read are being addressed in the sequel.

First, the character you are is no longer Jack, but a Big Daddy — the first Big Daddy. As a Big Daddy, you now get to wield the power of that gentle giant/marauding monster, including that awesome big drill and the rivet gun.

The game’s designers tell GI that there will be more options for different styles of game play, by choosing certain plasmids and upgrades. I remember playing through BioShock 1, and frankly, by the end, I had way more ADAM and money than I knew what to do with. I blew through all the available plasmids and tonics well before the end, so the benefits of rehabilitating all those little girls were wasted after a while. That, and I found the best results with a trusty shotgun rather than the Cyclone Trap.

Even Little Sister gets a makeover...

Even Little Sister gets a makeover...

BioShock 2 also gives you a new relationship with the aforementioned Little Sisters. As a Big Daddy, these ADAM-wielding sweetie pies trust you and look to you for protection. You are a better Big Daddy with your Little Sister. You can now adopt them, after killing their original Big Daddy. The Little Sister then travels through Rapture with you, and she can harvest ADAM from “angels”. And when she does her work, you have to protect her from all those ADAM-hungry Splicers.

A welcome change in my eyes is the new ability to have both your “weapon” and your “plasmid” locked and loaded. Before you could only have one or the other on hand, which made some battles rather clumsy as you shot an electric bolt before putting you left hand down, raising your right while loading your gun or whatever weapon you needed. Oh, and your Big Daddy gets a flashlight on his helmet. Thank you!

Of course, like all FPS games, you have to have some “boss” fights. And I am not using the word boss as they did in the 80’s, but rather the trend in video games that includes chapters concluding with a battle against a bigger, badder baddie. I never found BioShock’s boss fights difficult, and I think the developers are addressing that, in the form of a major boss character, the Big Sister.

Big Sis (seen on the cover) is the present day (10 years after BioShock’s timeframe) guardian of the ruins of Rapture. Rapture kind of found its own equilibrium in the decade following the Little Sisters’ escape, and it’s all thanks to a Little Sister who decided to return and buff up, complete with a shiny new suit. You start screwing up her equilibrium, and she is going to get pissed off. And when she gets pissed off, she’s coming for you.

There is also going to be a multi-player option added to the game. Oh, and GI had also included the cover art as a promotional poster for BioShock 2. The game is expected to release this fall.

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Video Games Ad Space Put to Good Use: Halo Wars on BSG

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

hiddencylonsI don’t think it would be much of a stretch for anyone out there to believe that I am a fan of Battlestar Galactica (so say we all). And watching last night’s episode on SciFi HD, I finally watched the trailer for Halo Wars on a big HD screen, and let’s just say…like Wayland Smithers when a new Malibu Stacy comes out…I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it.

Especially after my recent disappointment with a strategy game involving other civilizations

This ad placement is no surprise, and a good example of putting your ad dollars to work for you. Kind of. I mean, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that a good percentage of BSG viewers are already hip to the Halo Wars fact. So one could say that those ad dollars are going to waste, and they could instead be targeting people that may not already be aware of and wanting Halo Wars. But then, you could make the case that by putting the ad on during a show that creates such fanaticism is a smart move, taking enthusiasm for one product and trying to connect it with another product that also involves planetary colonization. Either way, copies of Halo Wars will sell and sell well.

Afterall, it is not uncommon for BSG fans to share their love of both BSG and HALO in creative ways. This is from metacafe, and one of their members took Halo footage and added the BSG music. Cute.

Battlestar Halo 3 (edited Trailer) - A funny movie is a click away

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Civilization Revolution — Nothing Revolutionary About It on Xbox

Friday, March 6th, 2009

civ-rev-coverI have just finished a full game of Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution. Overall, it is a big yawn, but I think I am totally jaded in that summation of the turn-based strategy game that has consumed many hours, days, weeks of my life since I discovered the darn game back in the 90’s. I also had my boyfriend play. He is a Civ newb, but skilled in strategy games (not as good as me, of course).

So, I am going to try and give you two reviews in one this time. One is from an addict that is losing her taste for the game, and the second from a beginner.

Honestly, I don’t see an experienced Civ player playing this game on an Xbox 360. It’s better on a PC, and easier to micro-manage which it what this game is all about. But for someone who has never played, I think that the Xbox version will be satisfying to those looking for a strategy game to play from time to time.

Ok, getting right into it. The game looks good, and I like the curved Earth aspect given in the graphics. Granted, I never did play Civilization IV, so maybe the shape of the globe was integrated into Civ at that point. All other Civ’s were very two-dimensional, so the third dimension was a nice treat. I just wish there were more new and improved game play aspects of which to also praise.

There are the usual suspects that are your playable civilizations, i.e. the English (Elizabeth looks frigid), the Russians (Catherine the Great is hot), the Mongols (my fav since the Vikings are no longer available), the Germans, the Chinese, the Indians, the Zulu, and even the classical civs like the Greeks (Alexander loves to toss his blond hair around) and the Romans. The Americans are represented by Lincoln and his theme music is straight out of Deliverance. Odd.

Anyway, you start off as a group of settlers, you build your capital, you make more settlers to build more cities, you want to build military units and destroy all the barbarians, before your fellow leaders turn on you and then you get to fight them off for the rest of the game. You can play super easy to super hard, depending on your level of experience. I played the first game on Chieftain (super easy) and it was so easy, I quit playing and switched to the medium level of King. Usually on the PC game, I find it impossible to survive on any level above King, as I am a warmonger and this game rewards peace.

When Chris played, he found it challenging and fun, although he did complain about the length of the game. This coming from a guy who can play Age of Empires II for six hours without a rest. He lost his first game on the Warlord setting. I don’t think he will lose again, as he was just figuring out the tricks of the trade before he was taken out. And that is one of the biggest problems with Civilization Revolution as a game to be played over and over — once you figure out how to win, it becomes more like a chore than a pleasure. The learning curve is rather shallow to put it another way.

civilization-revolution-military-advisor1One thing I absolutely HATED was the gibberish that my AI opponents and my ministers and advisors spoke to me. What is with that? You pay a writer to write, and he writes actual gibberish. At first, I thought it was a mistake, but I don’t think it was. I eventually turned down the volume on the voices, as they became uber-annoying.

The game play on the Xbox is not fundamentally different from the way it plays on the PC. The game moves for you, and you can use your right thumbstick to move around the “board”. You still have to fight military units one at a time, which has always driven me buggy in the PC game, but made me seethe on the Xbox. Chris also found this a dumb move on the developer’s part. What’s the point of building the biggest, most kickass army with naval and air support if none of them move together in any kind of cohesive master plan in order to make the most of each units individual strengths. It’s best to just have a lot of troops, so playing a smart tactical game is a non-issue for the most part.

One thing I did like as an improvement was the “Build Road” function. Instead of having to direct (or haphazardly automate) your workers to build a road, you can simply purchase one that runs between two cities. And other than the makeover for Catherine, I have nothing else to commend.

In all, I would say that Civilization Revolution was a phoned-in effort on the part of the development team at Firaxis. All they really did was gut the game enough to pare it down to a 3 or 4 hour game with little to no micromanagement needed. For some, that could be a good thing. For me, frankly, I am over my Civ addiction. Despite the innumerable sequels and supposed upgrades and additions to the original, that game is still the best of the bunch. Call to Power wasn’t bad. Civ III yawn, and Civ Rev — shh, Lulu’s sleeping.

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