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My two day break

In personal gaming news I have the next two days off so I picked up a 4000 point XBLA card before I left work. Came home and downloaded Orcs Must Die!, Renegade Ops, and the final DLC packs for Fallout: New Vegas. I figure that should keep me busy for a couple days. Of course I still have Dark Souls and Rage to play but I can always toss them into the pile.

I should probably get to that now. Here's hoping I can keep this whole writing thing up.


Closing Thoughts On My Fall Vacation

As my impromptu fall vacation nears a close in the next day or so I look back and reflect on what I got done. Or more specifically what I didn't. I hadn't quite realized how stressed and unhappy I was with work until I sat here for about seven days without having to go. It then dawned on me that I have two college degrees and was within weeks of becoming an officer in the Army. I'm also 26. What the Hell am I still doing in Parkersburg working a crummy retail job?
So, I'm going to have to start looking into graduate or law school for next fall. I'm currently leaning towards the history doctorate because from everything I've read the lawyer market is saturated to the breaking point at the moment. Plus I enjoy reading books about dead people and what they did. It's fun.
Enough about my life realizations and on to the video games. This week has been very productive in my achievement whoring. I finally managed to S-Rank Bad Company 2 and Toy Soldiers. I'm quite proud of those two. I love the living daylights out of both games and it's kind of sad that they will now go on my shelf not to be played again till new DLC comes out. I've just got too much in my backlog and the fall release season will begin soon.
The two games I played earlier this week were Aliens vs. Predator and Army of Two: The Fortieth Day. I wanted to like Aliens vs. Predator so much but I just can't do it. Rebellion started off so strong with the incredibly atmospheric and solid Marine campaign that so beautifully captured the feeling of Aliens. The shooting didn't reinvent the wheel but it worked and everything looked and sounded correct. Then things all went downhill when I got into the Alien and Predator missions. First person melee is something that only a very small number of games get right (Chronicles of Riddick and Condemned) and when it's done poorly it can ruin a game. I suppose now I really hope that Aliens: Colonial Marines gets made but I somehow doubt that will ever happen.
Oh, and I also played Army of Two: The Fortieth Day. That game is so generic and short that it's just a blur in my mind. There's a disturbing trend in games these days to have almost no story to back up their gameplay. I suppose that makes it a much purer "gaming" experience but not everyone is Bungie and able to get away with that. Your gameplay has to be amazing in order to not remind me I have no idea why I'm doing what I'm doing. Even Borderlands only got away with its minimal story until the end when you realized there was no satisfying payoff to what you had just done for the past twenty hours. Sure, it was an awesome twenty hours but it felt listless. At least Gearbox appears to have learned their lesson as The Secret Armory of General Knoxx had a much more interesting and fleshed out story.
So, I have about two days left in my vacation and I have to decide what I'm going to play. At the moment I'm torn between going back and playing some of the older games I'm on the verge of S-Ranking or pressing on to my backlog. There's also Kane and Lynch 2 but from the freezing video Jeff showed I'm going to hold off on that until I hear some more about it. I'm within an achievement or two of an S-Rank in Bionic Commando, Bioshock, and Dead Space. The only problem is that they all require me to replay the entire game on a high difficulty setting. I don't really know if I'm up to that.
I suppose I should get back to doing nothing. These games arn't going to play themselves.


On my addiction to DLC content and plastic doo dads

Over the course of the first half of my week long vacation a disturbing trend of mine has become painfully obvious: I must buy every bit of DLC that comes out for any game which I own. This has been highlighted by my binge of buying the Aliens vs. Predator map packs, Army of Two: The Fortieth Day extra missions, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Onslaught Mode and SpecAct Bundle, and Toy Soldiers Kaiser's Battle. The latter two are pretty quality add ons to good game. The former two...not so much. Looking at my hard drive this is not a new trend for me.
So, why do I do this? Probably for the same reason that I feel the urge to get as many achievements (and trophies to a lesser extent) in a game as are humanely possible. Case in point I just spent most of my day blowing up buildings and trying to crush people in Bad Company 2 to get the Demolition Man achievement. This is not a thing that any sane person would do, and I didn't have much fun doing it, but it's done and I'm pretty proud of it. However, that didn't cost me any money.
Perhaps an even better question than why I'm buying expansions to games I don't like too much is why did I buy these games in the first place? In the case of AVP I just love the two franchises but that doesn't explain why I got the Hunter Edition. The plastic facehugger is pretty cool but I don't know if it was worth the extra cash. With all the money I spend on useless plastic extras and digital content I could probably have bought...we something really nice.
I know that this blog post has very little point but it's just a forum for me to puzzle why I feel the need to buy and play absolutely everything a game has to offer. I think I'm going to go the easy route and say it's work related since I do work at Gamestop. That'll last me for about another year until I hopefully head back to college. Then I won't have any excuse.


Is GRIN the New Brash?

Movie tie in games are big business in the video game industry. For just about every big budget movie which hits the theater a video game is almost guaranteed to appear on Gamestop shelves across the country. While these games are almost universally reviled as being shameless cash ins by reviewers they create just Usually far out of proportion to their quality and budget.

So, onto this scene in 2007 rolled Brash Entertainment. Founded in 2007 it was created with the expressed goal of producing nothing but movie based video games. With start up cash of somewhere around 400 million dollars things were looking good. The somehow got the licenses to such big movie franchises as Saw and, rather puzzling since there hasn't been a movie in years, DC Comic's Superman. However the only games which ever saw the light of day under their name were Alvin and the Chipmunks, Jumper: Griffin's Story, and Space Chimps. While they came out on multiple consoles, as any good movie tie in should, their review scores were brutal. Averaging out their highest metacritic scores only brings their score to about a 40. Apparently the public agreed these games weren't so great because the company quickly went out of business in November 2008.

The fallout from Brash Entertainment's spectacular failure is still being felt. Just this past week Factor 5 announced it was closing its doors due to the falling through of its deal with Brash to creat the aforementioned Superman game. This implies that said deal must have had a rather large payroll riding on it which never materialized. Exactly how Brash managed to waste $400 million dollars in about two years is a topic I might cover in a future blog.

Now, to the point of this post. Has GRIN become more Brash Entertainment than Brash Entertainment ever was? In the past two months they have released Wanted: Weapons of Fate and Terminator: Salvation. Tie-ins to major blockbuster films. While averaged out they only have a metacritic rating of about 59 that is light year better than Brash ever dreamed of. It's important to point out that most of those low scores were a result of the games being criminally short. They both have clocked in somewhere around four or five hours.

While the jury is still out on whether or not these two games are going to sell things are looking good for GRIN. The fact they managed to get those two major franchises and make the games decent is a miracle. If they can just make them a little longer with some additional polish they could finally achieve the magical alchemy necessary to create good movie video games. I'll admit that the only game of theirs I own are the two recent Bionic Commando titles but the potential is there.

They can't do any worse than Brash.


Depends on Who You're Asking

Whether or not the used games market is a problem all depends on who you are asking.

If you ask the Publishers and Developers they will probably say yes. If customers are walking into a store and picking up the used copy of a game for $5 or $10 less than a new copy then they are seeing none of that revenue. While their initial sales are still likely to be high it will quickly taper off as an abundance of used copies come into circulation.

If you ask a retailer like Gamestop they will of course say no. Used games are what has put them on the Forbes 500 and made them one of the fastest growing companies in the country. In a time of economic recession they are posting insane year over year growth. On every game that someone trades in they are making around 300% profit over what they give.

If you ask a consumer they will likely say there is nothing wrong with it. While many have a problem with the low value which they can get from trading games in they often have no qualms about buying used games.

In the long run it's all a cycle. Publishers sell new copies of games, which people trade in, which are then sold as used, and the money from that sale is used to buy new product to begin the cycle all over again. It's the video game circle of life.


Batman: Arkham Asylum Delayed...Again?

As I was heading over to to figure out how to pick some stuff up for Army of Two I noticed this article.

...linking to this article...

So, things don't appear to be looking good for a June release of Arkham Asylum. I have to agree with the articles that the only real reason they are probably doing this is to cash in on the holiday shopping season. The recent release of the demo in retail stores says that the game was incredibly close to completion. They were one of the only heavy hitters coming out in the summer months and could easily go the way of  Resistance 2 in the holiday madness.

I'd also be curious to hear what hand Square Enix (the new masters of Eidos) might have had in this decision. Could they be trying to hold back a big game to pad their Final Fantasy XIII lacking North American holiday release schedule?


Army of Two Review

I just threw up a review of Army of Two. Picked it up at the Gamestop B2G1 sale last weekend. Not nearly as bad as the reviews and word of mouth led me to believe. It could have really benefited from a lot of polish but overall not bad.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly, and who does, will be wondering what became of my quest to play all the Jak and Daxter games. Well, the brutal difficulty of Jak II was killing the fun for me. So, I decided to take a break and commit some mindless violence. I shall return to it shortly.


Batman: Arkham Asylum Delayed

Well, it appears that Batman fans are going to have to wait a couple of more weeks to delve into Arkham Asylum's horrors. I was looking through the Gamestop release date list earlier today and noticed that they had moved Arkham's release to June 23. Double checking on IGN and Gamespot this seems to be confirmed. I hadn't seen any official announcements of this two and a half week delay so I thought that everyone deserved a head's up.

If I were a speculating man, and I am, I would say that this was done to seperate it from an action game heavy period of time. Infamous will drop on May 26 followed closely by Prototype on Arkham's old release date of June 9. A little more than a week ago all three of these major titles were to drop on the same day. Since then they have done their best to get some distance between one another.


Cajun's Thoughts on the new 360 Bundle and Valkyria Chronicles

So, after a good many internet rumors Microsoft confirmed a new bundle for the $399.99 Xbox 360 Elite. Replacing the old pack in of Kung Fu Panda and Lego Indiana Jones will be Halo 3 and Fable II. I don't think I have to tell anyone what a big deal this is. While the previous two games were decent the new ones are rather incredible. 

Halo 3 was the highest selling game of 2007 and has sold around 9 million copies worldwide. With over a billion online matches played it consistently appears at the top of the month Xbox Live play charts. Fable II is no slouch in its own right. The sequel to Lionhead's critically acclaimed Xbox RPG since its release in October of 2008 it has sold nearly 3 million copies.

While I don't foresee this new bundle causing a spike in 360 sales it does make the most expensive SKU a much sweeter deal. In comparison to the equally priced 80 GB PS3, which comes with no games, it produces a heavily weighted proposition in Microsoft's favor. It will be intersting to see if instead of a price drop Sony decides to begin packing in some good games with their new PS3s. Hopefully the trend of giving away crummy games with new consoles will end.

In other news Sega's quasi-turn based strategy game Valkyria Chronicles appears to be returning from the grave. Releasing in November 2008 it sold a dismal 33,000 units in its release month. Despite high critical reviews it seemed destined to sink into obscurity as a good but forgotten game.

Like the phoenix from the ashes good word of mouth and a discounted price are bringing it back. While I find it saddening that it has taken a price drop, with Gamestop going so far as to put it in its Game Day Sale, to bring about these numbers I won't look a gift horse in the mouth. New DLC missions were released earlier this month and I hope this is a sign that Sega intends to support this wonderful game and possibly create a sequel.


Finally Getting Around to Some PS2 Classics

I find it rather shameful to admit that for years I was afflicted with the blight known as being a "fanboy." My loyalty to Microsoft knew no bounds to the point and refusing to play anything that came out exclusively on other platforms. Therefore I missed out on many wonderful, and now classic, games that I now regret deeply. Having rectified this situation with the acquisition of a Gamecube and PS2 I plan on experiencing them all.

Last week during my days off from work I made it my mission to complete the God of War series up till this point. Over two days of nearly non-stop gaming I was able to plow through Chains of Olympus, God of War, and God of War II with little difficulty. To me these games always seemed to be one dimensional beat em ups with some Greek mythological trappings thrown on to try and make them interesting. After finally playing them however I can now completely understand what all the hype behind them is. The beautifully balanced, and fun, combat is set within a world where Kratos seems to be single-handedly putting an end to every aspect of Greek mythology that ever existed. While every game in the series is basically the same with minor weapon and enemy differences this is nothing to fault it for. As the old saying goes "if it ain't broke don't fix it".

As a continuation of my ongoing quest to finish iconic PS2 series I have now moved on to Jak and Daxter. My first real exposure to this series was during my time in the Army. After my injury I was sitting in med hold with little to do so I picked up a PSP bundled with Daxter. That wonderful little platformer got me interested in the series and I'm happy to say that the ones on the PS2 haven't disappointed yet. I finished Jak and Daxter after only a couple of days and have begun to move into Jak II. While the first game was a rather kiddy platformer the second is obviously a product of the GTA-clone syndrom which permeated video games in the early 2000s. It pulls it off nicely however and makes the transition to a darker setting with relative ease.

My experience so far has shown me both that being a fanboy can do far more harm than good. If it can do any good at all. If I had never gotten to experience these great games that would have truely been a crime against my love of video games. While they have obvious flaws looking through the lens of time they still have alot to offer. Both in fun gameplay and showing the progression of the industry over the past decade. I will be interested to see if Ratchet, Kingdom Hearts, Grand Theft Auto, and Final Fantasy hold up as well.

I'll be sure to keep you all posted as to my continuing progress.

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