Mmm... Donuts

Back in the Burnout Takedown days, we had an inside joke that the last person to cross the finish line in a race was late because they were busy buying donuts for everyone as their punishment for being slow.

So I was delighted to see actual donut shops in Paradise City.

Last night I unlocked the police car (Hunter Citizen) and then the Hunter Civilian, which both look reasonably close to my 2006 Dodge Daytona Charger.

Here is a pic of me dumping the police car on the sidewalk in Sunset Valley to run in and get some donuts.

Leon's Getting Donuts
Check out the epilogue in this old Burnout montage of mine for more donut goodness. BTW "My Clique" (mentioned in the video) was the name of our Halo clan back in the day.
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More Levels of Completeness

I finished the story part of Mirror's Edge the day after 100%'ing Mass Effect. I was closer to the ending than I thought, when I shelved it a while back.

Added another 60 points for finishing the story (I break the 9,000 point barrier!), plus 70 points from some other achievements I popped afterwards.

I still intend to find the 8 bags (out of 30) that I didn't find in the course of playing through the story, for another 80 points. There are maybe two other achievements I might try (finish a chapter without getting shot, and the last "stunt combo" I don't have) for 45 more points, but I don't think I'll do much else with the game soon. If there is a long enough dry spell game-wise I may work on the speedruns.

As for the ending...

...if you are expecting some big resolution to the oppression portrayed in the trailers and cutscenes, forget it. The story is just a girl rescuing her sister. Ah well. I don't regret buying the game at all.

I also put some effort into Burnout Paradise and upgraded my Class A license to a Burnout License, as well as unlocking several vehicles (including the awesome 4X4 truck which allows you to rear-end and even t-bone tourists without wrecking, almost like traffic checks in the previous edition... in fact during a Road Rage event, I did get a "traffic check takedown" as opposed to a "car takedown"). I don't see me going for the Elite license -- 116 events to go from Burnout to Elite. But per Derek's suggestion, I'll get some more mileage out of the online mode after the update this week. Hope to see y'all there!

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Leon Earned 1,050 Points in Mass Effect

I earned all of the Mass Effect achievements (1,050 points) in the wee hours of the morning today. That makes four games in which I have a gamerscore of 1000 or more (my gamerscore is 8,885 now).

Some details:

I purchased the Mass Effect Limited Collectors Edition before buying my 360.

I played Mass Effect from December 2007 through April 2008, then started up again in December 2008 until finishing it last night, over 140 hours of gameplay.

I had four Commander Shepards:

  • Rebecca, Vanguard; 3 full playthroughs (normal, hardcore, insanity difficulty); reached level 60 (near the end of the hardcore playthrough); over 103 hours of gameplay; both paragon and renegade; once with Kaiden as the significant other, twice with Liara
  • Walter, Soldier; paragon; played up until my last ally achievement (Wrex) popped (level 55, over 26 hours); then finished the Ashley romance
  • Cadence, Engineer; played long enough to get the remaining tech achievements (over 6 hours, reached level 28)
  • Bart, Adept; played long enough to get the remaining biotic achievements (over 5 hours, reached level 16); second time playing the very cool Bring Down the Sky DLC

And even at the very end I was still seeing stuff and hearing dialogue that I hadn't before, and I consider myself pretty thorough when playing RPGs. Kudos to Bioware.

This checklist came in handy.

My main gripes:

  • too many elevators, especially the one in the Normandy that takes like 30 seconds to go down about 10 feet (I wanted to install a ladder)
  • chase camera that insists on following the ground contour exactly, resulting in too much vertical jarring motion, especially up and down stairs
  • low-resolution facial shadows that destroy the "cinematic effect" the game advertised
  • while trying to get the weapon achievements, you want to keep your squad out of the fight so you can get all the kills, but they don't always stay put, or refuse to go where you tell them to
  • annoyingly repetitive "music" in the galaxy map; otherwise pretty good accompaniment

Nonetheless, I loved the game.

Now what:

I need to finish the story mode of Mirror's Edge. I am in the last chapter (9) but took a break since I was having trouble on the rooftops in the dark with snipers on one side and assault rifle dudes behind me. I had to give up on the no-guns achievement in Chapter 5 after trying for several hours to get past that warehouse room with the catwalks and several baddies overhead; finally I just had to grab a gun and mow them down. I don't know if I will do a full playthrough again. I will probably try to collect the rest of the bags (I think I have over 2/3) but will likely just pop in at given checkpoints to pick them up. I am at 400 points and may be able to get another 200 out of it.

There are a few more Left 4 Dead achievements I think I can get, but I'll be lucky to break 600 points.

Plus the two last achievements in Penny Arcade Episode 2 that I was working on. One glitched on me in my first playthrough (fully upgrade everyone's weapons) so I'm hoping the second playthrough will pop it.

I hated the Resident Evil 5 demo. I have slight interest in H.A.W.X. but it will depend on the demo, if any. I've had more than enough Halo so I will definitely be skipping Halo Wars (not into RTS) and will likely skip the idiotically named ODST ("Odious T").

I need me some Sam Fisher or some Agent 47 stat. Call me glass-half-empty but I fear that Velvet Assassin is going to suck.

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The November 17 Horde (as opposed to the November 7 Horde)

UPS dood brought my Left 4 Dead at 3pm today. I played through the first campaign, and wow. I couldn't stop until the campaign finale.

There are 4 campaigns, composed of 5 chapters, with the last chapter being a dig-in and wait for rescue climax. According to the campaign stats, which scroll up the screen at the end of the campaign like movie credits, it took me 2 hours 51 minutes. I died once in the sewers and had to restart that chapter from the safe room at the beginning. At the end, we held out long enough for the helicopter to arrive. I was playing with 3 AI controlled characters; none of my friends have it yet, hint hint. Bill and I got onto the helicopter. I look back and Zoey is on her way, but Louis is being shredded by a Hunter. I hopped out thinking I could save him, only to be knocked off the landing platform and swarmed over by the horde. The other two died as well. The helicopter took off with Bill, the one remaining survivor. Even though I died, I got the achievement for the campaign, apparently since SOMEBODY survived. All told, I earned 10 of the game's 50 achievements, for 160 points. We killled over 3,500 zombies; I killed just under 1,100 of those. My accuracy was 35% ... a lot of spraying a machine gun or assault rifle. Also the stats told me that the AI characters never threw a Molotov or pipe bomb.... which may be OK because in close quarters that's not wise... I caught on fire a few times because of the spreading fire or because the Horde pushed me into the fire.

The game is drop-in-drop-out in both campaign and versus modes. I haven't tried versus yet, but in case you didn't know, you can play as one of the infected bosses too. When you hit the start button, the game does not pause. This of course makes sense in multiplayer mode, but even by myself the game kept going. If there is another human playing, the "Take A Break" option on the menu appears, and choosing this lets the AI take over for your character until you get back, allowing everyone else to keep going. I took breaks inbetween the chapters while inside the safe rooms that bookend the chapters. If you stand still too long, the AI will throw hordes at you... a quick way to get seriously hurt and deplete your ammo.

So, doing the math, if you were to play this once through in campaign mode, it might take 12 hours (almost 3 hours for my campaign #1 times 4 campaigns). There are four difficulty levels, and I played on "Normal", the second hardest. Hopefully the versus mode will be worth some significant time as well; we'll see. Playing as the infected will mix it up a bit.

P.S. I left Faith partway through Chapter 4 (of 8 apparently) in Mirror's Edge... these two games are clearly like night and day, although both have "180 degree spin" mapped to the right bumper... so Faith can launch off walls and so the survivors can better fend off the horde in chokepoints....

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I have been selected...

...for a slightly early look at the NXE, the "Xbox 360 Fall Flash update". I signed up at connect.microsoft.com just a couple weeks ago, and got an email last night saying I could get the update today at 4pm CST. The official release (incomplete as it apparently will be, according to the latest OXM) is next Wednesday.

Edit: The update went fine. When I fired up the xbox it said I had an update waiting. After quickly downloading a couple things, it rebooted and downloaded some more, about 4 minutes altogether.

Leon's NXE Avatar on 14-NOV-2008
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Waiting for Faith

After reading some early reviews yesterday, I bit the bullet and "pre-ordered" Mirror's Edge from Amazon.com at about 5pm. I bought it from them since the pre-order perks included $10 off a future game purchase, as opposed to Gamestop which offered a bag like the one carried in the game, which I'd never use, or bankrupt Circuit City, which offered an art book.

Today, release day, Amazon's page says it's out of stock, more due November 13th. Since I chose the free "when we get around to it" shipping, my estimated ship date is the 17th. If it comes from elsewhere in Texas like my last Amazon order, I might get it the 18th, the day after Left 4 Dead comes out (no pre-order on that yet).

In the meantime, back to Insane mode of Penny Arcade Episode Two....
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Tomb Raider Disappoints Again

Three seconds into the Tomb Raider Underworld demo, I inadvertently made Lara stumble into a wall like the drunken cow that she has been since the first release I played. Two seconds later the tips of her boots were disappearing into the solid surfaces of her boat. The camera is still so broken, glancing off invisible walls and trying to flip to some "helpful" vantage point (often making Lara disappear then pop back in), that it creates a frustrating claustrophic feeling. They've "improved" her movement animation to show her dealing with uneven footing, and while this seems more realistic, it removes the last traces of gracefulness that she had.

I enjoyed the two Dreamcast releases, crude as they look now; forced my way through Legend; hated Angel of Darkness (yeah let's have Lady Croft go fetch a key for a bartender in exchange for information); couldn't return my rented copy of Anniverary fast enough; and still had the naive hope that Underworld would be good. Sorry Eidos, this cash cow can't possibly generate cash with this lack of quality.

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Xbox Repaired or Replaced

According to service.xbox.com, my 360 "has been repaired or replaced". Yesterday (the 26th) UPS received billing information for the return shipment. If it ships today I should get it tomorrow (the repair center is only a 4 hour drive from here) and only 7 calendar days will have elapsed.

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Battlefield: Bad Company

Tonight I finished the Battlefield: Bad Company campaign on "hard" difficulty and now have earned all 30 of the achievements (610 points) that don't require playing multiplayer mode, getting me to a nice even 7,500 points.

I'd give the game an 8 out of 10; not a $60 game (got mine for less than $40 new; Target lowered the price to $39.99 but didn't have any in stock so I got a raincheck and took it to Circuit City where they sold it to me for 10% less than $39.99; they had it on the shelf for $59.99). The downloadable demo is exactly like the game (including one of the two multiplayer modes), so if you didn't care for the demo, then pass on the game. I wouldn't call myself a shooter fan, and I avoid war-based games that are "real", i.e. no aliens or zombies or non-Earth settings (i.e. not enough escapism), but I found the humor entertaining and the story (about stealing gold from mercenaries) engaging.

There are seven missions, counting the tutorial introduction. When you are with your three squad members, there is funny banter both during cutscenes and at various points while you're in-mission. However, in the fifth mission, most of the time is spent piloting a helicopter; when you do get out, only one squad members comes along; there is little banter as a result, and it is often drowned out by the sound of the helicopter. In the sixth mission, your squad has been captured and you spend nearly the whole mission finding them; so there's no banter through the bulk of this mission. These two missions back to back, despite being a logical progression, took a lot of the charm out of the game, but the helicopter and the solo mission did mix up the gameplay (the solo mission was especially challenging since you wake up in a town with plenty of baddies, and only a pistol with 24 bullets and a knife to defend yourself). The last mission is played with the full squad, and is back to business-as-usual up through the "final" boss battle (of course the boss doesn't really die; bring on the sequel).

I have only played a little multiplayer, and prefer the downloadable Conquest mode, which is the same as one of the modes in Star Wars Battlefront II, which I played a lot of over Live on the original Xbox.

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