Onlive Micro-console First Impressions

 

 So my Micro-console arrived yesterday to much excitement. I ordered it off of their sale that they have going on right now as part of CES. I plan to do a full review after I get some real hands on with the hardware, but here are some first thoughts on it. 
 

Hardware

 
The hardware for this little micro console, while minimal appears to be pretty decent. The console itself is basically a small box the size of a smartphone with a few ports. It features a micro usb, power input,ethernet, HDMI, and optical output on the back. Two USB ports on the front. I have heard that you can plug a mouse and keyboard into the USB ports on the front, but I have not yet tried that.  
 
Now the controller has some interesting things going for it. It feels like a hybrid Xbox 360 and PS3 controller. Button layout is that of the PS3, but overall shape is that of the 360. It feels a bit light for me and doesn't quite sit as nicely as the 360 controller, but it isn't too bad. A cool feature is this brag clip button that instantly takes the last 10
 seconds of your gameplay and saves it as a video clip to share with people.  
 
The box also comes with ALL of the needed cables, including ethernet and HDMI cables. Nice touch.  
  
 

Software Interface

 
So the interface is an interesting one. Focusing on a hub of live game streams from other players you can jump around to a few different places. It has a semi-blade feel to it when you press the guide button. The initial setup though was slightly confusing in some parts, for example when they were asking if I was using a WiFi bridge. Instead of the tradition "A" = YES and "B" = NO they had it as "A" = YES and "Y" = NO.   Overall the interface moves smoothly though and looks pretty good. 
 

Image Quality & Games

 
So here is the meat of it and I have to say my initial impressions are that I am blown away. I have read some reports from people that the image quality appears slightly fuzzy for the games and I do get that on my laptop with the service (which is on Wifi) and when I watch other people playing games. When I play them games themselves though everything looks just as crisp as it does on my Xbox 360. It could be that my HDTV has less resolution than my laptop screen, it could be that I am close to a datacenter living in Chicago. I am not sure, but the image quality of the games is spot on.  (As a note I have a 42" HDTV, Comcast internet 6Mb+ in the Chicago area. )
 
As part of this purchase I got access to the Playback Beta which allows me unlimited access to a select number of games. I also get a voucher for one full game to purchase. My only real complaint so far comes from the game selection. Not only is there a limited number of games currently on there service but they predominately appear to be PC versions of games.  Again, that would be fine if I am at a computer, but playing on my console with a controller didn't always pan out. Controller support is "Beta" on these games and documentation for the buttons is not very good. Again, they games look great, but there were several times where I found text hard to read or interfaces not quite right for a console experience.  
 
I also should make a note about the shooting experience on here. I tried one FPS, being Frontlines: Fuel of War, which was clearly the PC version. Shooting was very difficult and I found my crosshairs jumping all over the screen. I am not sure if it is a lag issue or the fact that the PC version of the game probably does not have an auto-aim to it.   
 
The end story though so far is that it works and I have to say I am surprised at how well it actually does work. 
 
Anyways, more impressions as I get more time with the system. 
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New Music, New Games

Gaming

 I had a chance to finish Prince of Persia this past week which has sort of been taking a while to get through. I know this is a very decisive game and for me I am on the fence about it overall. Personally I love the way it looked, but found the gameplay to be too repetitive for me. I have never been a big POP fan so take that for what it is worth. The ending though totally took me for a loop though and I have to say I rather enjoyed it and do want to see where the game ends up.  
 
I am still working on Halo 2 but decided to try my hand at Damnation this week. This is not a AAA title, but I have to say I am enjoying it despite its flaws. It is a plain third person shooter, but it certainly has some mindless fun to it.  I actually wish I decided to play it through on the hardest difficulty as it is a rather easy game due to the poor AI.  
 

Music

In music news I have a new track posted up at Soundcloud for people to enjoy. It is a faux 8-bit tune so I think the GB crowd can appreciate it. I think I am set on trying to get  a bit more of the chiptune sound flowing the next couple of months as well.  
 
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Just started Halo 2: I know a month late

 Games 

 Halo 2

So for some reason I had Halo 2 sitting on my shelf for about three months. I kept telling myself that I would play it before XBL was cut, but I just never got around to it.So for some reason I decided to pop it into the 360 tray this week for a play-through. It is a shame I will never experience the multi-player, but to be honest I have always been a single player sort of guy in Halo.  
 
I have to say I am quite impressed at how good the game looks on the 360. It is much crisper than Halo 1 and only marginally worse than Halo 3. The story is a fun play through so far, but I have to admit that as soon as I left earth and went back to another Halo I was immediately disappointed. I would have loved to played more in the cities of earth. The mountains of Halo just seem so simplistic by comparison at this point.  
 
Anyways, it is a fun play-through that I think I am finishing up soon. I have may be three to four chapters left.  
 

Prince of Persia

I am also on my final stages of Prince of Persia as well. I can't quite say yet as to whether or not I actually like the game. On the one hand the visuals are great and the voice acting is very good. On the other hand I find the gameplay repetitive (as I did with other POP games)  and the battle mechanics frustrating. It is not so much that I have a problem with not dying. In fact I think that is a good mechanic if you are focusing on a puzzle solver, but I think I just don't find the puzzles engaging and the response times in the battles just doesn't seem snappy enough. Regardless I have resolved to myself to finish the game. 
 

Music 

 In music related news I have sort of abandoned my 5/8 track that I have been working on.  I have shifted instead to a quasi 8-bit track and I like where the direction is going with it. I should have a preview up shortly.  I was inspired by a     video I saw a couple of weeks ago where a guy was in Reason simulating 8-bit tunes. I thought to myself that; "hey, I can do that with hardware" and have so set out to do it. 
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Are you Eff'ing Kidding Me. Crashed during the Ending Cinematic!!

So I just finished Dragon Age Origins, at least I think I did. The game crashed on me during the ending cinematic. I had just defeated the Archdemon. Then I proceed into the ending cinematic and a voice over comes in.  As it goes along it ends with "but at what cost....." then a loading screen pops up and my came is frozen. I didn't get to find out what else happened. What happened to Morrigan and the child? What happens to my character and the rest of the world? 
 
Worse yet my save files appear to be corrupt. My manual save does not load. The auto-save must have tried to auto-save during this cinematic because it loads me back to my camp telling me the game is complete. Thing is I cannot leave the camp The whole world is grayed out and all of the faction members still in my camp. Morrigan is in my camp too.  
 
It is so frustrating to have sunk 40+ hours into this game to have been burned in the last 30 seconds. 

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It's Been a While

 Wow,  it has been quite a while since I posted on this site. Not sure why that is exactly why that is. I certainly have been playing plenty of games. I figured I would do a quick round up.  
  

Gaming

For the past couple months I started out playing some X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This was a fine enough brawlers but to be honest, it got pretty boring after a while. Repetitive to say the lest. Next up I was playing a bit of the new Prince of Persia game from last year. This game actually started out rather promising but still featured the sort of mundane puzzles of the previous series. I stuck with it though as the story it appear appealing. That all stopped though as soon as Dragon Age: Origins rolled across my desk. Everything stopped when that happened and I have been working through that game as a female elf mage for the past 40 hours of gameplay. I find myself near the end of the game at this point very excited to see how it turns out.  
 
While I am enjoying this game I have to admit I am a bit let down by it. It is certainly not my favorite RPG on the 360 and I even at times found the game to be more than frustrating in the combat mechanics. Perhaps it is because I never grew up on this style of RPG, but I never could figure out how to win a battle when it was 4+ enemies against my team. I simply dropped the difficulty down to "casual" and removed some of the micro-management from it and found it to be a much more enjoyable experience because of it. I am eager at this point to be done with the game and to move on to something else. I still have Batman: Arkham Asylum sitting on my shelf to be played along with probably ten others in my pile of shame. Hopefully 
 

Music

Ahh my music. This is actually one element in which I find myself slightly disappointed in myself. After taking two months off to recharge the batteries, I began writing some music again back in March. I am working on a difficult 5/8 time signature piece. Unfortunately I have not had much progression on it due to lack of time. To compound the issue I am now going to be tearing my studio apart in the next week or two to re-paint the entire thing. 2010 so far is not looking all that positive for music. 
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Blew Through Wolfenstein This Week

Well, due to some snow and time off from work this past week I had an opportunity to blow through the game in about three days. As I mentioned in my previous post I was not particularly excited about starting another FPS game when I received this, but lo and behold I actually liked this game quite a bit. The controls were spot on I thought (MW2 layout) and the veil powers were overall fun. The game was certainly predictable, but it was good romp in the park.  
 
I was surprised at how poorly the multi-player translated over however. While in the single player I found the controls to be pretty responsive, the multi-player controls just felt way to soft and squishy. Almost in fact as if they were designed for a mouse and keyboard, which may have been the case.  
 
My only other critique really of the game was that the main character was about as bland and generic as you could get. Thankfully I didn't have to look at him at all. 

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First Impressions:Started Wolfenstein This Evening

I received Wolfenstein this evening from my Goozex cue. To be honest I was not looking for another first person shooter to show up at my door. If anything I was eagerly awaiting Prince of Persia or Batman: Arkham Asylum. In anycase this is what showed up. When I originally read about it, it on received mediocre reviews. First impressions so far though are that this is a pretty solid FPS. Controls are well done (same as MW2 btw), the veil mechanic is fun. There is even a decent  scavenger system for intel for back story a la Bioshock. I found myself surprisingly sinking a couple of hours into it this evening. I am curious though if anyone is actually still playing multi-player on this thing. 

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Finished Mirror's Edge: We Need More of This

So I finished Mirror's Edge this evening. As I and many other have mentioned before the game has tons of faults, but the end result was a very satisfying experience that wanted me craving to know more about the work and Faith. She is a wonderful character that I would like to know more about and it is nice to see a female character portrayed as she is. The music in the game was extremely well done as well adding nicely to the overall atmosphere of the game.  
 
I can't wait to play the second one to get more of this world and aesthetic. 

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Mirror's Edge Truly is Exhilarating

I started playing Mirror's Edge this past weekend and I think I am about half way through the game at this point. I have such a love/hate relationship happening with it. On the one hand the game is brilliant. The world is well crafted; minimalist but vibrant in color and I like the aesthetic they chose with no people except the police. The puzzle solving is also fantastic and akin to Portal. In fact I think the games hold a lot of aesthetic similarities to  each other. Both are very lonely set in stark worlds.  
 
While Mirror's Edge certainly has it's design problems, namely the combat system and the frustration of adding shooting to the puzzle elements, it nails it on the adrenaline factor.  Once you get the platforming down you can really get momentum going and it is satisfying to string together some parkour moves. I have to admit that this is the first game in a long while though that actually got my heart racing. While doing the puzzle solving with the police shooting at you can be maddening, simply running away from them is an exhilarating experience. My hear was racing and I was ducking through hallways and the roof tops, making a turn left and then right and dodging. It was incredibly well executed.  
 
Two particular instances in the game worked out extremely well. Slight spoiler ahead. 
 
One occurred right after a subway train crash. I had to jump off the back of the train and run towards a door in the tunnel as another train raced towards me. I have to literally run towards the speeding train and beat it to the door. The small sequence got both my girlfriend and I going that we both were yelling and screaming. When I finally made it through the door there was a collective sigh of relief in the room. That was amazing!!!! 
 
The other occurred when I was running from some soldier's who looked like runners. This sequence was different, but the game laid out a clear path that forced you to execute all of your moves and really keep your momentum going to escape.  The runners were right on you the entire time, but once you nailed that sequence you felt like a million dollars.   
 
Frustrating at times, but I haven't ever I think played a game that got my adrenaline going like this one. I can't wait for the sequel. 

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My Game of the Year, 2009: Battlefield 1943

Ok, I totally know I am late on this one, but I actually had to really put some thought into what my game of the year for 2009 was. To be totally honest I did not play all of the releases from last year so Arkum Asylum and Assassin's Creed didn't get some play.  After getting over the initial hump of Modern Warfare  2's hype machine, the post holiday retrospective I have begun to realize that I don't enjoy MW2 all that much. Sure it is polished and well done, but I just don't find myself having fun. Mainly because of the frantic nature of the games.  
 
Battlefield 1943 comes out on top in my book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was my first experience in the BF series and it totally captured me in size of the maps. It is the size of these maps that really make for such an interesting new game dynamic. When the maps are as large as they are in that game the pacing of the entire game slows down a lot.  People aren't grenade and rocket spamming nearly as much as in other FPS's I have played this year and the maps themselves have almost no choke points on them that snipers can pin down.  
 
It is perhaps the one FPS game that I have played where I really don't get frustrated during the game. If there ever was a casual FPS BF1943 maybe it since all levels of players can easily get into it, have a good time and enjoy themselves. 

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