GoW, WoW and other acronyms.

The title is a big lie, because I have no other game title acronyms to use for this post. Oh wait, actually scrap that, AOE, there we go.

I should probably clarify that the GoW in the title, and throughout this post stands for Gears of War (not God of War, which it typically refers to), and I'm specifically referring to Gears of War 3. I bet you couldn't guess that one huh? Well anyway, I have been playing GoW 3, as I'm sure many of you have been as well. I've had a great time with it so far and will hopefully start a review in the next day or so if I can get some coop partners (hit me up if you're interested at SnakeSDR) for the Horde and Beast modes, and a bit of arcade campaign if possible. The versus multiplayer hasn't been as soul crushing as I expected it to be. Granted I'm still playing in the Casual mode, but I expected an abundance of ludicrously skilled players in these first few days to be populating the casual matches until they ranked up. I'm excited to get back to it tomorrow anyway, it's been a pretty positive experience so far.

My second acronym, WoW, is a consequence of the downed PSN (ooh another acronym...well actually initialism, since an acronym needs to be able to be said as a word, but hey, lets not get into semantics). Because I'm clearly incapable of finding things to do other than play games, I decided to jump on World of Warcraft to see how things are going. I'm not exactly a stranger to it these days, but I play significantly less than I used to (which is a good thing). I rather enjoy participating in arena games now, with a close friend of mine, and it takes up the majority of my time spent on the game now. Tonight however I am not really interested in doing anything on it, I'm just kind of sitting there, accumulating more hours for my increasingly embarrassing 'Total time played'. I would have much preferred to be playing Renegade Ops right now to try and acquire the last two trophies I need.

I did consider logging onto Age of Empires: Online instead, but it always seems that Games for Windows Live hates my router and never connects (I really need to sort out the ports for it rather than lazily putting my PC in a DMZ) and I can't be buggered sorting it out now. I will try and jump on tomorrow and complete some quests, I just got to level 15 the other day and the quests are starting to get a bit tougher, which is a welcome challenge. I had a friend with whom I was playing cooperatively with for most of the early portion of the game, but she's been tied up with other things lately and I'm stuck having to actually try and defend my base now instead of letting her take care of the attacks while I amass a unnecessary, and frankly absurd number of units to crush our CPU controlled foe. I took great delight in that playstyle, but I'm sure I will adjust to actually having to play the game properly.

Well I think that about does it for my acronyms (and initialisms) for one day, as I said earlier, I should be doing a Gears of War 3 review sometime this week if I can keep myself focused long enough to do it, so check back then if you find my writing at least bearable. And please leave feedback, it helps me make things less painful for you.

P.S. Also leave suggestions about which game I should play next, The Baconing or Bloodrayne: Betrayal.

P.P.S I realised I could create links to Giant Bomb pages and hence abused the shit out of that feature.

EDIT: I am aware GoW is typically used to refer to the God of War games, but I used it in this post to go along with an idea I had after a conversation with a friend this evening, I noticed that I made a statement up the top that implied GoW definitively stands for Gears of War and not God of War, I corrected it to state that in this particular post it is an abbreviation of Gears of War.


I finally did it

After promising myself for years to write a review for a game, I finally did it. I just posted up my Resistance 3 review on the site, and as I expected, I don't think I'm happy with it. It's the funny thing about being a perfectionist, you're never satisfied with what you do, because it's never perfect. I forced myself to just finish it, tidy it up and post it, because I knew that even though I might not be pleased with the review, I would be happy that I finished it. And I am, It's nice to have finally fulfilled the promise I made to myself to give review writing a go, just for my own enjoyment, or self growth or some other nonsense like that. The interesting thing now is to see if anyone actually reads it. It's quite long, which will put off some, but I feel like I said everything I wanted to say with it, so that's something.

I just wanted to express my thoughts and feelings about a game I played, more for myself then anybody else's benefit. I would be stoked if somebody else enjoyed my writing, but I'm not going to get my hopes up. Regardless of the reaction the review receives -- positive, negative or non existent -- I will continue to do more (so be warned if you think that one is woeful, MORE ARE COMING!). I also hope to get back to blogging about whatever bullshit game related nonsense I am thinking about at the time as a means of clearing out my cluttered mind. Anyway I think it is time to take a step back away from the screen, my giant wall of text I call a review is making my eyes sore. I may jump back on later to talk a bit about Age of Empires Online and my experiences with Deus Ex.


Midnight Launch

I'm going to the midnight launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops tonight at my local EB Games and I'm pretty keen for it. It's not even getting the game that's that exciting, as I will likely just get home and go to bed afterwards. I just like to go out to these things and mingle with other folks excited about gaming. Sure it will be a pretty geeky affair and there will probably be at least one douchebag that thinks hes god's gift to the world of online gaming, but it should be a fun experience none the less. Anyway I thought this would be a good opportunity to start up the blog again. I haven't posted on here for a while because I haven't had a lot to talk about regarding games. My PS3 has been crapping out the last month and a half, which has limited my console gaming fairly extensively. My 360 is still functional but I don't have as many games on it and due to saving to replace my PS3, I haven't had the opportunity to buy any new games for it. 
However the PS3 seems to be going a little better (it's only crashing from to time to time now,  rather then every hour) and should be able to handle Black Ops,  at least until I replace the PS3 in a few weeks. 
Also, while my PS3 has been continuing to drag itself along as it slowly succumbs to the terminal heating issues from which it suffers, I got to bugger around with the new Red Dead Redemption DLC, Undead Nightmare. I have to say, this is easily the best DLC all year for me, I thoroughly enjoyed Lair of the Shadow Broker for ME 2 but this takes the cake for me. It's just a solid piece of content, theres heaps to do, it makes great use of the entire world of Red Dead Redemption and captures the campy horror atmosphere perfectly. It manages to feel like Red Dead while feeling like an all new game at the same time. It's not enough content to be it's own game though, it does get repetitive in parts and the story, although funny and fairly interesting, is rather thin at times. But hey, it's fun to shoot zombies, and it's even more fun to see a world you know transformed into a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested nightmare. If you own Red Dead, you should check it out. 
I will likely hammer through Black Ops tomorrow morning, knowing how I typically play those kinds of games, which should work out well for getting out a reasonably timely review. I feel like posting up an actual review on here for once rather then half reviewing something in my blog post. It should be up withing a couple of days, but I will see how I go, I have a terrible habit of getting halfway through writing something and then spending days procrastinating over it and rewriting what I have already written rather then just completing a draft. 
Well that's all I have to say today, well except that I have God of War: Ghost of Sparta and I'm having the Peace Walker problem I had where I can't seem to motivate to play my PSP, even though I really want to play the games. So I shall come back with a review of Black Ops soon, or at the very least some impressions. Also, to those who are also going to a midnight launch of the game, have a good time.


I want more Red Dead Redemption

I've been hanging out for some more Red Dead Redemption to sink my teeth into for the last few weeks. Mass Effect 2 has had me quite occupied, and will continue to suck up some hours over the coming weeks as I finish of some DLC and side missions I didn't attack in my main playthrough. But I really have a hankering for more Red Dead, especially more single player content. Unfortunately the Liars and Cheats pack coming out tomorrow, as well as the last two releases, are more multiplayer focused. I still enjoyed them quite a bit however, being one of a surprisingly active online community for that game. Still it's the single player experience that made me fall in love with the game, and I wish that was a bit more of a focus for them. It will be interesting to see how the Undead Nightmare pack turns out with its apparent single player focus. Anyway I will probably drop a short review of the Liars and Cheats pack on here after I spend some time with it, assuming I haven't finally ventured out to buy Halo: Reach before then. Am I the only person not playing that game?


Mother, time to go!

I played Metroid: Other M recently, and despite some minor issues, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It felt like classic Metroid in all the areas that count, regardless of any stilted dialogue our heroine might utter or any minor difficulties the limited control scheme may present. Now that I mention Samus' dialogue, I may as well start there. 
The voice actress for Samus Aran is woeful. I can understand the developers wanting the character to sound like devoid of all emotion -- After all, she is a galactic bounty hunter that works alone, and has been through some serious business to boot -- but that doesn't excuse the actresses wooden performance. In fact, actress is a bit generous, line reader is a more adequate job title, she is given lines and she reads them out loud. Okay I'm being a little bit nasty, it's most likely the voice over director's fault or maybe she delivered the exact performance the team was after, It's hard to say. All I know is that it made a poor first impression on me for the story and character side of things. Fortunately I did feel like the story did a reasonable job, and I found Samus' voice tolerable after playing for a couple of hours. I wasn't bothered as much by the portrayal of the Samus as some people were, but I did find one particular moment kind of moronic. 

Alright, now that I have filled my bitching quota I can continue. 
Wait hold on, theres more. 
Being 'metroided' has become a common game mechanic ever since the early Metroid and Castlevania games. Typically the cause isn't terribly creative and may even feel a little arbitrary in the overarching story, but its rarely, entirely inexplicable. Metroid: Other M seemed determined to change that, providing the most profoundly ridiculous reason for losing your characters abilities from a previous game that I have ever encountered. She doesn't want to use them. She wants Adam to say when shes allowed to. Fuck that. 
The game tries to justify it through the story and it's almost convincing, but there are moments -- where an ability isn't enabled when it should be -- that just defy all logic and reason. The clearest example of this I can recall is a moment early on where I had to run Samus through an unstable, lava-filled environment, that was emanating enough heat to start burning through her suit. Where after making my way through most of the sector Adam finally decides to authorise the use of the Varia Suit -- an upgrade that would have prevented all that unpleasant burning alive business. It's also worth noting that having Adam say "You can use this now!" isn't quite as satisfying as traversing hostile environments to procure the upgrades yourself. The knowledge that you have them in your suit, laying dormant, is actually quite frustrating and it put a bit of a damper on my experience.
Enough of this negativity though, what did I actually like about the game? Well it might be slothful of me to say that pretty much everything I haven't dumped shit on I enjoyed, but It seems a fairly accurate statement. I found myself quite content with the control scheme after getting used to it, and the automated dodge and aim functions during combat felt appropriate and reasonably well implemented. The combat was largely enjoyable, minus a couple of enemies that feel as though they require a touch more punishment then they should. Bosses were appropriately big and nasty looking, as well as providing welcome doses of fan service throughout the game's duration. Finally, the most important aspect for Metroid fans, collecting stuff is still cool and backtracking to use unlocked abilities to see where you get to go next is still as exciting and addictive as ever. 
So, it took about five paragraphs to talk about what was bad about the game, but only one to explain why it is ultimately a good game. I think I might need to work on balancing out my negative and positive opinions. 
Anyway, writing all this has left me with a couple of questions: 
1. Should there be another story driven Metroid game ?
2. Should Nintendo stick with what it does best and just continuously remake the games you love with some shiny new extras? 
I feel like the story worked out alright in Metroid: Other M, there were some genuinely interesting developments for the Metroid lore and it's characters. However I don't know if it really needed a more prominent story. It would have been interesting to see how a new 2D metroid game would have done critically rather then them trying to shake it up a bit. I am glad they didn't just make another Prime though, that trilogy feels just right as it is. 
Anyway, I should really get to bed. I have made this post long enough already. I might consider writing some proper reviews soon, since this pretty much is one. I will see how I go. 

Me and my PSP

I've been trying to play through Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker on the PSP for a couple of months now. I'm really enjoying the game and I'm eager to see where the story goes, but I'm finding it difficult to actually motivate myself to sit down with the PSP and play through it. I'm just not big on playing a game on a portable device at home, when I could be playing a console game on a HD television. 
It's not that I don't enjoy playing games on the PSP, I love the system, and I've really enjoyed the titles I've played on it. However I didn't buy it for home use, I bought it to play when I'm on the bus or train, and it has served that purpose well. A problem arises with longer games though, gaming experiences more akin to those found on console and PC titles. They encourage longer play sessions, typically longer then a commute or quick bus trip to the shops. I don't want to sit there looking at a tiny screen for hours on end, I'd rather have a more broken up experience that I can attack in short bursts.  
Peace Walker does address that, with a nice mission structure that allows shorter play sessions but that isn't really my issue. I love the Metal Gear series, I imagine my username and profile page might give that away. I love Hideo Kojima's unique brand of crazy, the over the top characters, ludicrous plot twists and bizarre supernatural elements that are actually just a convenient bi-product of nano-machines. It's my personal investment in this series and it's characters that is making it hard to play Peace Walker. 
How? You might ask. Well I can't just play it for short bursts. I need to see what happens next. I need to listen to every audio tape! 
Then I burn out. I either get uncomfortable or my eyes get sore, either way I can't keep playing. Most people would just take a break and come back to it later in the day or the following day. I however then get involved in something else, I get sucked into some other story -- another game, movie or television series typically -- and then I forget about Peace Walker for a while. 
I find it so strange, being a huge fan of the series, not feeling the urge to jump straight back into it. Maybe I'm not as big a fan as I thought. Is it perhaps a failing of the format as I initially stated, or does it speak to how spoiled I am by all the great games that have been coming out this year? Either way I'm determined to get through this game. If it were on the PS3 I would have completed and unlocked everything available, but because its on a system I cannot seem to bring myself to dedicate the time to. It's time for me to learn how to play long game in consistent increments rather then large binges. Might be healthier too.


I just finished Mass Effect 2

In May I got my Xbox 360, complimenting the PS3 and Wii I've had since 2008. My primary motivation for the purchase was playing the much lauded Mass Effect 2. I could have gotten it for PC, but it wouldn't have ran as well on my modest system as it would on a 360, and it was cheaper for me to purchase the console rather then upgrade my system.  
Since then I have played a variety of Xbox 360 exclusive titles (I buy cross platform titles for my PS3 because I'm a trophy whore) but I hadn't gotten to the game I originally bought the system for. I had played through Mass Effect to get up to speed on the story and to carry over my Commander Shepard, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, completing every available mission. 
So whats the point of saying all this? Well basically I had done what few have, I had held onto a copy of Mass Effect 2 for months without touching it, playing through my back catalogue of xbox titles I bought on the cheap after the console purchase, and completing and PS3 releases I grabbed on the way. I had the current front runner for game of the year on my shelf, and I hadn't touched it. Madness! 
So what finally made me sit on my arse, eyes glued to the screen for 3 days? 
The Lair of the Shadow Broker. 
Because I could continue my Shepard's relationship with Liara and stay true to her to hopefully continue it into the sequel. 
I don't know if thats a testament to how engrossing the story and the characters are, or to how mental I am. Either way I loved the game. It would have to be one of the best, if not the best game I've played this year -- and I've played some damn good games so far and the year has more exciting titles to come. Outside of Uncharted 2 and Heavy Rain, I've found the characters in Mass Effect 1 and 2 to be the most relatable and well developed characters in any game I've played. I truly cared about what happened to them and how they felt about my Commander Shepard. The story felt like a perfect balance of the excitement of Star Wars battles with the elaborate pseudo science of Star Trek, with a more consistently enjoyable narrative. 
Actually, speaking of the science of Mass Effect, the amount of work that has gone into developing this universe is astounding. Everything feels like a lot of care and thought has gone into crafting the history of the planets, races and technology in this series. Everything seems as though it could work, as though it could exist some 150 years from now, and thats no small feat on Bioware's part. 
By this point, the praise I'm giving this game is expected by anyone who has played it, or anyone that visits gaming websites even semi-regularly. Still I felt it worth sharing. If there is anyone that hasn't played Mass Effect 2, or even the first, I highly recommend them. If you strongly dislike Science Fiction, maybe this won't change your mind, since the story is pretty deeply rooted in that genres storytelling conventions. However if you like space adventures, with a hefty dose of sciency goodness, plus some solid third person cover-based action/RPG goodness, give these games a look.  
P.S. If anyone actually bothers to read this, I'd like some feedback on my writing. I'm hoping to do a bit more of it to improve my skills before I return to Universtity. Any pointers, opinions and even questions are most welcome ^_^