Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rock N' Roll Scrap Metal

I'm not sure how I'm just now hearing about Scrap Metal since it came out last week, but I'm glad I finally have. I know I've mentioned here before that I really enjoyed a game called Rock N' Roll Racing back in the Super Nintendo days, and I've always wanted some kind of remake. Well, this isn't it, but after listening to the most recent Xbox 360 Fancast from Joystiq, it's damn close. That's likely good enough for me to give it a shot. It also has an online mode, which means I can blow up cars that actually piss somebody off in real life... awesome.

For those of you who don't remember Rock N' Roll Racing, it was a racing game, obviously, that gave you a top-down view in the style of RC Pro-am or Super Off-Road. You raced on several different planets with several different environments, though the track layouts didn't vary much. As you progressed you would unlock new cars, weapons, and add additional speed boost tanks. The ultimate of these racing machines was a hovercraft that could carry heat seeking red balls of destruction. Really, I have no better way to describe these things. They were literally little red balls that tracked other cars and exploded on impact. I probably beat that game every day for a few months.

There really hasn't been much else going on outside of Bad Company 2. We're all still petty addicted. I'm unfortunately having to balance my play time with studying. I hope it's still burning hot in mid-April because if my study time goes anything like Chuck's, I'll be online with a vengeance after the test.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Axis Addiction: Bad Company 2

I've spent the past several nights playing some Battlefield: Bad Company 2. So far the multiplayer has grabbed me more than Modern Warfare 2 ever did. It does have a bit of a grinding element that's been a little tough. The medic class allows you to eventually distribute med-kits and use a defibrillator to revive fallen teammates. However, before that, you're just a jerk with a horrible gun. Actually, that's kind of how all the classes are in their first incarnation... if you're at this stage, keep playing, it gets much better.

I've become, what I would consider, a pretty solid player at the Medic class. Medics default with light machine guns... initially you have a 100 round clip. The first weapon upgrade delivers a 200 round clip. This is exactly as awesome as it sounds. There have been many times where I've caught an unsuspecting enemy squad running around a corner and just mowed down all of them. At that range I typically don't even have to aim down the sights. I just hold down the trigger until there's a big pile of dead. I know it sounds fun... and that's because it is. In addition to tearing through enemies, the medic also has the ability to use a defibrillator to revive fallen friends (or comrades, depending on your team). This is key, as the two biggest game modes, Rush and Conquest, have a shared pool of lives (referred to as tickets) between you and your teammates. When those run out, you lose. Using the defibrillator to bring back your teammates keeps you from spending a ticket.

In addition to the medic, there is the Assault class, Engineer class, and Recon class. Assault class can distribute ammo to his teammates. If you're working well together this becomes important because you're probably living long enough to participate in extended firefights, which means you're likely tearing through a lot of ammo. The Engineer class can repair vehicles with his repair tool, or completely fuck them up (with a repair tool or RPG)... whichever the situation calls for. Engineers also eventually gain the ability to lay down tank mines. I haven't gotten to that point yet, but my cohorts who have make it sound like a hell of a lot of fun. Mostly because there is typically a large amount of time between laying the mine and scoring a kill. I imagine it's very rewarding to just randomly gain some points, and to know that somewhere on the map, somebody is dead and pissed. The Recon class carries high powered sniper rifles and motion detectors. The detectors can be used to spot enemies, which your whole team can see, when they get within the detection range. Also, since sniper rifles have a high powered zoom, it's often the responsibility of the Recon class to spot enemies. This is done by pressing the "back" button when an enemy is in sight. A red arrow appears over the opposing soldiers' heads for all the world to see.

So, in case you couldn't tell, I've had an awesome time with Battlefield: Bad Company 2. I went ahead and wrapped up the single player campaign yesterday. It's entertaining, but in no way is it the biggest appeal of the game. Now I'm just going to have to find a way to juggle my multi-player addiction and study time for my upcoming licensing exam. Wish me luck!

Also, I plan to write another post that will encompass some more specific adventures of ours in Bad Company 2. Right now, I just wanted to give everybody a taste of how things work.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ryan Goes To IGN Part 2

Wow... what a damn weekend folks. The podcast went off pretty well I thought, and I managed to get everybody nice and buzzed in the process with the booze I brought along. Craig Harris claims he couldn't write anything until after 4 o'clock... probably because he was drinking vodka straight out of the bottle. By the way, you can download the podcast here. It's episode 155.

I can't express enough how awesome Friday was as a whole. A huge thanks goes out to not just the podcast guys, but to everybody over at IGN for making it as awesome as it was. Before the podcast I was given the chance to spend about 20-30 minutes with Final Fantasy XIII and another 30 minutes with Cave Story. Final Fantasy XIII looks absolutely amazing and the combat system was very engaging. It has a very real-time feel to it. The character I was using could queue up 3 actions at once. Below where your actions lined up there was a bar that filled over time. Once that bar was filled your actions would begin, and each action would drain the bar an amount equivalent to the length of that action bar. Now, I say 3 actions could be queued up, but I pretty much only used one attack action in my time, so I have no idea if other actions actually have different lengths and allow you to line up more than 3 at a time. But, it became important to continuously pay attention to the battle, as even if you stop attacking, your enemies do not. I should mention that I didn't get any tutorial, so I'm sure I only scratched the surface. Ryan Clements of IGN gave me a quick rundown of the controls as I was playing. He said it gets incredibly in depth as you progress and obviously he didn't have time to run me through everything, but I was able to win a few battles and had a good time doing it. One thing that was new was the ability to assign one of your characters to take on one job during combat. So, for example, I had a character in my party who was able to heal. I could press L1 (I was playing it on a PS3) and select an option to assign her to heal me throughout the engagement. It definitely came in handy with my high levels of suck.

I saw Greg Miller playing some ModNation Racers. It's a very Mario-Kart-esque PS3 exclusive with fully customizable cars, characters, and tracks. He described it as Mario Kart meets Little Big Planet. It actually looked like a lot of fun and I could definitely see myself picking it up. You can check out Greg's "Deep Dive" here.

Later that evening we all headed out on the town. I'll spare you all the details, but it was a hell of a night.

Anyway, now that that's all over I'll resume my regularly scheduled gaming experience. I'm hoping to get into Battlefield: Bad Company 2 tonight for at least a little bit. I also still have Heavy Rain to work on. I'd better get to it...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ryan Goes To IGN

This is AirstrikeRhino, reporting live from my friend's couch in California. I was just forced to watch Grey's Anatomy. That show blows, but it has doctors banging nurses. And really, if you're going to go to school for 30 years, there had better be some perks. I think banging nurses qualifies.

As I said, I'm in California, and that's because tomorrow is the big day. I will be appearing on IGN's Game Scoop podcast tomorrow morning at 10:30 pacific time. The podcast should be up on IGN's website tomorrow evening. I'll be posting a download link here, of course. I'm really excited for this opportunity. I have to ride the BART across the bay in the morning, then catch a cab to the IGN office. I'm pretty near Oakland right now, so my main goal pre-podcast is to not be stabbed by a hobo.

In gaming news I played a lot more Borderlands last night in order to level up my character enough to actually tackle General Knoxx on Playthrough 2. I finished up Playthrough 2 of the main story at level 54. I'm hoping that's good enough because Playthrough 1 of the DLC was offering almost zero challenge and zero XP. I have access to an Xbox 360 while I'm here so I'm hoping to keep my wicked levels high. I even brought my 360 hard drive, wireless adapter, and headset with me. I sound awesome right now.

I also spent a little time with Lazy Raiders (big thanks to Daemon Hatfield for the free download code). It's a puzzle game where your rotate the maze-like world to send the ragdolling Diggabone sliding and falling to collect treasures while avoiding traps. So far it's been fun, but the 75 levels included seem like a daunting task. I'm still having trouble getting through the 50 in 'Splosion Man.

Next up, I downloaded Greed Corps. I've only read a little about it, but it seems interesting and I look forward to tackling it soon. Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan were both mentioned in reviews, so I figure it can't be horrible.

There's also been a lot of talk about the high profile firings at Infinity Ward. I'm not sure what to make of it until more facts come out, but if some of the things that West and Zampella are alleging are true, then it sounds like Activision might be able to do for waterboarding what they did for rhythm games. I don't have a basement, so I'm not sure where I'd keep the peripheral. As for West and Zampella, I look forward to EA releasing Call of Honor: Current Battle, staring a British SAS operative named Shampoo Macintosh, in 2011.

Alright, it's late... and even later by Texas time which I still feel like I'm on. I need to get some rest so I'm nice and rested for the podcast. I'll talk to you folks tomorrow. If you're bored, Grandma's boy is on TV right now. Goodnight everybody!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Arcade Style

It's been a few days since I posted, and I apologize for that. Things have been kind of busy, and I don't see that changing until after April 16th. So please, bear with me here.

In addition to playing around in Borderlands, I've spent a lot of time over on Xbox Live Arcade. There was, of course, my time with P.B. Winterbottom and 'Splosion Man, but since then I've played a lot of Wallace & Gromit (Episodes 2 & 3), and A LOT of A Kingdom For Keflings. Outside of the Xbox, I've played about 2-3 hours of Heavy Rain and started the God of War Collection.

I'd like to touch on a Kingdom For Keflings a bit. It was a great change of pace after Mass Effect 2, Bioshock 2, and more Borderlands. It's got the whole tech tree thing going on like an RTS, only there are no enemies and no real way to fail. You can use your Xbox Live Avatar as the "Giant" who sends the Keflings out to gather resources while you build stuff. If you're bored and need some violence, you can kick your Keflings around or destroy buildings. It's great! It's also excellent for drinking... you can just sit there, drink, and let your Keflings continue to gather resources without the fear of an impending enemy attack. I did have one genius start piling rocks up in one spot rather than taking them to the stone cutter. She paid for her sins by spending the next 2 hours moving that rock to it's proper location. YOU'RE IN MY WORLD NOW KEFLING!

If you're looking for some relaxing, semi-brain-teasing mystery solving, the Wallace & Gromit games are fun. The stories are funny enough, but really I just like the solving the little puzzles along the way. It's a pretty traditional point-and-click adventure, but it definitely has it's own personality. I especially love the way they manage dialogue when you're controlling the mute dog, Gromit. I also like the way they've adapted the "point" portion of point-and-click for the Xbox. You can cycle between selectable objects by using the right thumbstick or by using RB and LB (my preferred method). I'd love to see the Sam & Max games find a way to incorporate this. Those games are absolutely hilarious, and if the object selection was a little better in the console versions they'd be damn near perfect.

I had planned to spend some more time with Heavy Rain last night... but this kind of killed that plan. I hear things are all squared away now. 2010 as a leap year? Somebody looked at the wrong Olympic schedule. Also, I kind of suck at quick-time events apparently. I think my main problem is that this is the first Playstation system I've owned. I keep mixing up the circle and square buttons... too many years of A, B, X, Y.

Finally, I'd like to remind everybody that I'll be headed to San Francisco in a few days. I'll be on IGN's Game Scoop podcast this Friday! I'm super excited, so expect updates and pictures along the way.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First Look: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx

Last night we (Barry, Chuck, Ben, and I) took our first dive into the latest Borderlands DLC, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx. So far it's delivering more of that same feeling that made the main game so awesome, and it's definitely offering a more genuine Borderlands experience than the last DLC, Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot.

We're still waiting to see some of the new loot drops that were promised in a lot of the previews, but I have a feeling that will come with time. I think part of the problem is that we're using our Playthrough 1 games. This was not our original intent, but starting off with Playthrough 2 proved a brutal and foolhardy endeavor. One of the initial mission starts off with enemies IN the main city, T-Bone Junction, and on Playthrough 2 these enemies are Level 51 and clearly very upset with our adventurers. From there it seemed to just get worse as we ran into nothing but Level 51 and above characters on our way to the first mission outside of the "safety" of T-Bone Junction.

However, once we moved over to our Playthrough 1 games things started to move along a lot smoother. Our hope is that we can spend some time leveling up and then move over to Playthrough 2... perhaps on a second playthrough of the DLC, which is not at all a foreign concept to us. As I said before, this feels like Borderlands again, and is quickly washing away the bad memories of Mad Moxxi. We've already spent a lot of time dead at the expense of bad driving or the occasional land mine. We're still getting a feel for the lay of the land. It appears that there aren't many fast travel stations, and it's forced us to use the expansive highway system Gearbox has built for General Knoxx. I can't tell if this will ultimately add or detract form the experience. So far it's been fun to blast enemy drones along the way and to explore the Crimson Lance facilities that initially impede your progress.

Early on, Scooter shows up to assist by helping you assemble a new vehicle, The Monster. He's also there to add the same humor he did in the main game (you also get an update on his "friendship" with Lucky!). We had many laughs last night thanks to ol' Scooter. The Monster boasts a machine gun that thumps along with a more authoritative sound than the original and a cannon that shoots a cluster of heat-seeking rockets. We've also come across another vehicle called the Racer that is very similar to the main game's vehicle only faster.

We'll be getting back into it tonight, and hopefully there will be more good news to report. Barry has devised a graphical representation of wicked levels for our merry band (you'll have to click on it to get a clear look at it). As you can see, we're sitting in a good place right now. I hope that trend continues.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom

P.B. Winterbottom is a man with a great appetite for pie. He's obsessed with it, it's all he thinks about, and it is always the object of all his pursuits. This time, Mr. Winterbottom's desire for pie has gotten him in a bit of trouble.

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is the first game by a small development company called The Odd Gentlemen, and they introduce themselves to the world with a bang. They've brought us a simple, but incredibly entertaining Xbox Live Arcade game that will provide tons of entertainment for the small price tag of only 800 Microsoft points.

The main story in P.B. Winterbottom has P.B. on a quest chasing a giant magical pie. Along the way he is, of course, gathering many normal sized pies to keep his appetite at bay... a man's gotta eat. The music is incredibly catchy and fun. The art style is amazing, and the game play mechanics work very well. I loved the way the story was played out in the form of a poem, of which more was revealed to you between each level. That same storytelling "voice" is used to insult "Winterbritches the Crudstache" throughout the game with witty insults at the bottom of the screen. Also, if you played Braid, some of the mechanics are the same, but Winterbottom really lacks that stick-a-gun-barrel-in-your-mouth vibe. It's a nice touch. Also, if you haven't gathered this yet, the story is simple: Motherfucker loves pie.

The main game mechanic is the ability to create clones of yourself that could be used for a wide variety of things such as place holders or climbing platforms. You can also use an umbrella to float to the ground slowly, or to whack clones into far off pies. You can also set up "whacking" clones that can toss you across the screen. Initially you create clones by recording yourself performing an action by holding down RT. Once you release it, P.B. takes a bow for his performance and a clone is created that runs in a loop until being deleted by pressing Y, he's destroyed by an obstacle in the world, or you interact with him by whacking him or launching him from a see-saw. Initially there is no time limit to your recordings, but that changes as you progress to later puzzles. You'll run into clones who can only be spawned from one point and start their playback simultaneously. This forces you to create clones in stages that will eventually get you to your goal. You also run into evil clones that are dangerous to the touch.

All of this cloning is done in an effort to ingest every pie on a given level. At first you are given pies that can be consumed by you or your clones, allowing you to set them off on collection tasks while you do the same. Later you will run into blue pies which can only be eaten by your clones, red pies that can only be eaten by your evil clones, and attention-whore transparent pies that need the spotlight on them before you're able to partake in their delicious wares. The latter involves a type of "infection" style play where you can pass the spotlight from yourself to your clones in an effort to light up and collect every pie. Several of the puzzles later in the game are challenging, and there is a definite sense of reward upon completing them. The game's story is broken up into five different movie levels and each one introduces a new cloning mechanic or pie collection method. The game does a good job of initially easing you into the new mechanic, and then quickly ramps up the difficulty once you get the hang of things.

In addition to the game proper, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom also offers challenge levels which give you a recording goal as well as a time goal. Sometimes these can be accomplished simultaneously, others it's advantageous to work out one and then the other. I often found myself first figuring out how to clear the room with the allotted number of recordings (or less!), and then coming back and going recording crazy to beat the time challenges.

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is a fun and unique experience. Even if you played something like Braid, this game stands apart with its art style and music (which I can't express my enjoyment of enough). Plus, I felt like I had a lot more control over the cloning mechanic in this game than I ever did with Braid. It just felt like the whole thing had a lot more polish. In addition, the challenge rooms offer a lot more game play and more puzzle solving to keep your mind sharp without the story.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Less Rest, More Wicked This Week

It looks like the next Borderlands DLC is dropping tomorrow, February 23rd, for the Xbox 360. The PS3 and PC will be getting it on Thursday. I found this out via Giant Bomb.

Thank God, I say. My level of rest was on a steady rise while my wicked levels were at an all time low.


With Mass Effect 2, Bioshock 2, and the Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom all out of the way, I spent some more time with 'Splosion Man this weekend. There are parts in the game where you use a very fat scientist to block incoming laser fire. This plays while you carry him:

It might be my new favorite song... and it's true. I do loves me some donuts!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Microsoft Does Not Like You

Well that didn't take long. Barry had his busted Xbox 360 replaced with a busted Xbox 360. Microsoft had no comment on the issue... mostly because we didn't call them.

I know it's a tired point, but why the hell are we still dealing with so many red ring issues this far into the life of the Xbox 360? I understand they extended the warranty, but sending it off still means 10-14 days without a system you likely paid a lot of money for. It could potentially be longer if your neighbor doesn't hear the door bell.

I've suggested that Barry call Microsoft and ask for a NEW console instead of the refurbished jobs they send you. I think, given the circumstance, he could probably pull that off with the proper amount of persuasion. His concern is that his renegade skill isn't high enough. Also, negotiations take place over the phone, so it's unlikely that he'll get a renegade RT quick-time event. I think that's for the best, as those usually end up in somebody getting injured or killed, and we don't want that.

Chuck added that "Cry like a little girl" will be grayed out in the top left corner of the conversation wheel. Truth.

I took a break from Bioshock 2 last night to hop into some Xbox Live Arcade action. I purchased The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom and I'm really digging it. The art style is awesome, the music is awesome, and the execution is awesome. It's got some of the same game mechanics as Braid (you're able to clone yourself), but it's really lacking that put-a-gun-barrel-in-your-mouth atmosphere. There might be some who say that's a bad thing... I'm not one of those people. It also involves a story that's a tad easier to follow:

This Motherfucker Loves Pie. The End.

I'll leave it at that for now because I want to write a review when I finish it up, but I can tell you that the game is very enjoyable so far and you should at least give the demo a try.

The art style does remind me a little bit of the Twisp and Catsby cartoons that the guys at Penny Arcade have done. This reminded me that those guys have made a couple of video games, and I'm curious when the next one will drop. I really enjoyed the first two games.

Hey Penny Arcade, get on it!