XBLA Summer Time, Gears of War 2 going Backwards & the Bitter Core of Gaming – Welcome to the column that sees summer as a chance to stretch their feet and wiggle their toes as long as it is inside a house with massive amounts of air conditioning known as Dare to Play the Game.
Welcome to another edition of Dare to Play the Game. 51/27/22/8. I started another character, somebody please shoot me. No, I swear it is not Warcraft/Toon ADD. This time, I started a Blood Elf Mage named Magkick on a PVP server. Furthermore, I have the best of intentions. My girlfriend’s brother feels like playing WoW again, so this is mostly his idea. But to join the cause, Sarah, her best friend, my best friend, and myself are making a go of it by starting at the same time on the same server. Others might join as well making for possibly one big party of sorts. It could be an interesting and fun time or eventually end up in a character transfer back to my usual Horde stomping grounds @ the Killrogg server. Either way, I’ve got a mage named Magkick. May the jokes and ganking begin.
Morgan goes over her lines carefully for the upcoming show seen here. I wonder if she has a method to her preparation or just shoots from the hip. Does she stand in front of a mirror and echo certain phrases like “We give this game 3 out of 5” or “Stop touching me there, Adam!”? Perhaps X-Play is just the improv half-hour and everything is just a performance based on “Scenes from the Hat”. I just hope to be included when they try to do “Helping Hands”. (Whose Line is it Anyway anybody?)
It might be the end of July, but over at Xbox Live Arcade the summer is just starting! This week sees the official kick off of the Summer of Arcade, five weeks of blockbuster Xbox Live Arcade releases to help ease us into the traditional fall gaming explosion. They’ll be kicking things off with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 (800 MS points), the sequel to one of the best games on the Xbox 360 period.
Each week after this will feature a new huge title. Next week sees the release of Jonathan Blow’s innovative platformer Braid, followed by Bionic Commando: Rearmed (explaining the delay), and the reinvented classic Galaga Legions. Wrapping things up will be the August 27th release of the long-awaited Castle Crashers, from the creators of Alien Hominid. That’s right, a game we’ve been waiting years for is coming out after a game announced two weeks ago. Such is the magic of summer! Sound impressive? Wait, there’s more!
During the Summer of Arcade event, anyone who plays even a trial version of these new titles is automatically entered to win one of five weekly 4,000 MS point prizes, as well as a grand prize of 100,000 points, and Xbox 360 Elite console, and a 12 month Gold subscription. Two second prize winners will walk away with 10,000 points and the Gold sub.
Definitely an interesting promotion, with some excellent games attached. It’s been a relatively lackluster summer so far for Xbox Live Arcade, with the Puzzle Quest expansion being the only thing I’ve purchased in the past few months. Looks like they’ll be making up for lost points over the next five weeks. Good for them!
Promotions are a fun thing and this is one that is easy to enter and provides a lot of fun in the process. I’ve been making a habit of downloading at least one XBLA demo a week, so this makes my choices a little easier. I actually did win an Xbox contest not too long ago. I don’t know if you some of you remember but there was a GTA IV contest recently. Welp, yours truly won a year of Gold subscription. I didn’t win an Elite or GTA IV but a very worthwhile prize. For the games, I’m pretty excited to see Bionic Commando & Galaga Legions. I’m not sure what to think about Braid or Castle Crashers, so I’ll reserve judgment. Finally, even though I’m probably in the minority, I want nothing to do with Geometry Wars 2. Will I download it? Sure. It’s not a bad game, however I remember several headaches stemming from playing the first one. Something I’ve tried to avoid. The prizes seem cool enough but there probably should be more of them. Heck, an easy prize would be one of these five games to enjoy. With my luck though, I would get Geometry Wars 2 though. But it can’t be any worse than Double D Dodgeball.
Gears of War
Cliff Bleszinski presented Gears of War 2 to Comic-Con attendees today, walking fans through the Sinkhole level shown last week at E3. While that gameplay session may be old news to Gears fans, Dude Huge had two new announcements for the crowd.
The first was that Steve Jablonsky, composer on films like Transformers and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, was working on the score for Gears of War 2. Jablonsky was said to have been at Skywalker Studios working on the final mix of the soundtrack.
Even more interesting was the announcement that Gears of War 2 would feature “linked Achievements.” In short, goals reached in the original Gears of War will carry over to the sequel, giving the player bonuses. Cliff listed three examples of how linked Achievements will work.
Keep in mind, some may be light spoilers.
– Complete Act One in Gears Of War, unlock a playable Anthony Carmine in Gears of War 2
– Find 10 COG tags in Gears Of War, unlock Minh Young Kim in Gears of War 2
– Kill Raam in Gears Of War, unlock a playable Raam in Gears of War 2
Bleszinski didn’t expand much beyond those three linked Achievements, nor did he mention if those unlockables would be limited to either single-player or multiplayer portions of Gears 2. We’re currently sitting in on the Xbox 360 creators panel hanging on Bleszinski’s every word.
I finally have a reason to pick up my Gears of War collector’s edition and actually play it. Okay, okay I should have played this months ago. But I’m probably the only person who owns both the collector’s & regular edition of this game and never played it. (If somebody wants to make a trade for the regular, let me know) These achievement rewards are a nice touch and while sequels rewarding you for previous gameplay is nothing new, it is appreciated. RPG’s are particularly famous for this, most notably the old Goldbox AD&D pc games. Seeing it crop up in a first person shooter of all things is something not very much seen though. The most interesting one mentioned here has to be Raam, the final boss from the first game. I’d be more interested to see if they could cross platform here. No, I’m not talking about Master Chief appearing in a Gears of War game. That would be too easy. I’m talking about Bender from Futurama. Think about it, John Dimaggio is the voice of Marcus Fenix and also the voice of Bender. Couldn’t you somehow imagine Bender walking around with a bottle in one hand and a large pistol in another fighting off the Locust Horde? Okay, okay maybe Bender belongs more in the Condemned games (now there is a creepy sight) but I can dream can’t I?
We’ve chewed this topic to death, but it’s always interesting to know how others see you. And The New York Times’ Seth Schiesel comes up with a rather solid analogy to describe the backlash to the parade of dross we saw in Nintendo’s E3 presser (and, to a lesser extent, others.)
Call it nerd rage. Like loyalists of a once-partisan politician who tacks toward the center later in an election cycle, old-school gamers are coming to terms with the ramifications of their favorite’s newfound popularity. Though they have long craved mainstream respectability for video games, players sometimes resent the concessions their champion must make to attract mainstream adherents.
I think we all get why the industry is doing this; I think we all understand that we’re talking about publicly traded corporations, who must show growth and not just profitability; I think we can see how it ties into the survival of the consoles and publishers we patronize, and how it affects their ability to give us what we really want. And I think we can all agree we wouldn’t be caught dead playing candy-coated shit like Wii Music. In lawyer’s parlance, we can stipulate to all of that.
But there’s one description of “me” to which I won’t:
“In the popular imagination, a gamer is a caffeine-fueled 26-year-old with a paunch, the local pizza place on speed dial and a hard drive full of Internet pornography.”
They only got me on three of those. Plus my hard drive isn’t full (duh) so really, two out of six.
Video gaming has always been a little paradise for us nerds. On one hand we want to be accepted as normal people, on the other hand we are vigilant against those who wish to invade our world and make it normal. A lot of us hardcore gamers stay away from the Wii even though it has Smash Bros, Zelda & Metroid because we wouldn’t want to be seen with the system and damage our “rep” (assuming we had any). But they are fantastic games. Heck, during my late college years & early bachelorhood, I found myself buying systems that nobody played (Turbo Graphix 16, Panasonic 3do, Sega Saturn and others) just so I could stay in my own little world of gaming. As I got older, I still wanted to play but my choice of systems went back to the mainstream including the first two Playstations & the Xbox 360.
However, I still detest the casual gaming arena because it seems to me to be lazy gaming. It takes little effort to produce these games and the profit margins do nothing but support it. I only hope that companies don’t forget us hardcores in search of the almighty dollar (or Euro). One note however, I take exception to the way the New York Times describes the typical gamer. I am not caffeine ridden (one cup of coffee and a cup of tea do not make me addicted I swear), I am 32 years old, no paunch (I’m attractive or so my girlfriend would lead me to believe), the pizza place is on the fridge not the speed dial & my hard drive is not full of pornography. I have a special section in my dvd collection for that.
Geometry Wars is back and this time it’s personal. Or an attempt to make money, you decide. Your little spaceship inside a tiny grid will be taking on new challenges & modes. Six different modes are included. Some of the more unique ones are Pacifism & King. In Pacifism, you can not shoot. You must instead lead your enemies towards exploding gates. In King, you can only shoot from safety zones which appear as circles on the grid. There are more traditional game modes including the standard game and a timed option. New to this version also include multi-player coop & competitive modes. Of interest is a co-pilot mode where one person operates the guns and the other pilots the ship. There is a mode like this in Robotron 2084. From previous practice this played out like a bad nightmare. Hopefully this will work a bit better.
Hey it’s Beer Pong. Oh wait, let me put on my politically correct hat (I thought I torched that thing). It’s Pong Toss. The game where you throw a table tennis ball (PEEING PONG) across a table and try to land it in a cup. It’s a drinking game. No sane person who is actually sober would play this on purpose. It certainly doesn’t promote underage drinking or drinking at all for the simple fact that it is a silly game that probably has the replay value of going out into the wild and shooting exotic animals (I just pissed off the hunting game crowd, no worries). Two modes are included, one for traditional tournaments and one for Speed Pong. So go experience the wonderful sport of Pong Toss. Be sure to get the expansion pack that deals with darts, air hockey and picking up girls that you would only touch once you had 5 beers in you as well. Cheetah Love, I mean Charity dating and not “Damn, why did I wake up with that?” needs some gaming pleasure too.
On to Virtual Console and we actually see a Turbo Graphix release this week. Chase HQ is one of those games you either love or absolutely hate. I find it incredibly fun but very frustrating at the same time. Your police car starts out with a time limit. The car must maneuver through traffic and catch up with the criminal in a set time frame. Once caught up to the vehicle, the time limit is extended but you must ram the car enough times to make it stop and apprehend the criminal. There were five stages and they showed off several cars for the villains including Porsches and Ferraris. It was very similar to Outrun in look and feel but little things such as track splits and hills were handled so much better. I always love to recommend TG-16 games and this one is no different.
My least favorite fighting game series gets a sequel. Okay, okay fair shake I know. The game is set a year after the original and Geese Howard from Fatal Fury calls for a new tournament to decide the “King of Fighters”. Art of Fighting 2 displays tremendous difficulty & added the “rage gauge” which was just the “spirit system” but toned it down some to make it more realistic. AOF2 is also the only game that had Yuri Sakazaki as a playable character. She would of course become famous later in the King of Fighters series. If you like Art of Fighting, you probably already have this game (Art of Fighting Anthology PS2/Wii). Can’t recommend it, but sure plenty of you will take an interest.
Ford Racing Off Road
Women’s Volleyball Championship
MLB Power Pros 2008
Ford Racing Off Road
Soul Calibur IV
Soul Calibur IV
Spectral Force 3
Ford Racing Off Road
Freddi Fish: Kelp Seed Mystery
King of Clubs
MLB Power Pros 2008
We do get Soul Calibur IV this week. May Yoda fly and may Darth Vader breath funny, just not on the same platform. The generic Summer Athletics game just in time for the *snore* Olympics is also up this week. Expect this to show up in a bargain bin in three months flat. Maybe less. A way late baseball game also makes entry into the market as a bargain title and cause for a quick money grab to those seeking cheap baseball enjoyment. The only odd title of interest would be Spectral Force 3 for the Xbox 360(the previous 2 were on the PS2). A title by Atlus, this tactical RPG takes place in the fantasy world of Neverland (hopefully not the ranch). There are forty characters to recruit & one hundred – fifty stages to conquer. It has some neat features and might be worth a look especially if it gets a price drop after six months or so.
I didn’t try out any of those three games (Stranglehold, Conan or Condemned 2) that I purchased within the past two weeks. I’ve also been delinquent on putting down my pre-order dollars for Fable II and possibly a couple of others (Rockband 2, TNA Impact or Lego Batman likely candidates). I want to start something that I already have but I really can’t decide which. Heck, I busted out Bases Loaded and Tecmo Bowl for the NES just to play something. I promptly lost 4-3 & 41-21 respectively to boot. I’ll be glad when RBI Baseball comes out for XBLA. Though according to the release schedule, it does not appear to be anytime soon. So here is what we are going to do. I’m going to post a little poll over in our forums (www.featureforum.com) and you will need to vote to decide what game I will start playing. It will be a list of games that I currently own (no write-ins for GTA IV). Then you choose the winner and I start playing it, no questions asked. We’ll see how that works, if I hate it then I can always quit after a week or so and throw it on Ebay. But I got to get some of these games played and at least be able to say hey that game was good or hey that game was pretty crappy. I just hate this console gaming funk I seem to set myself in. Have fun kiddoes and may you find the game that you are looking for (it’s probably right under your nose).
Kedrix of Aldrianian
(*The Forgotten One*)