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!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


There have been a lot of sequels to blockbuster games floating around out there in the past several months. We've had Uncharted 2, Assassin's Creed 2, Mass Effect 2, and now Bioshock 2 all hit shelves since October.

This made me think about what I look most forward to in a game sequel. I like the idea of seeing familiar game play and characters in new environments and adventures. I like to imagine where things could go, and then watch the vision of the game creator unfold in front of me, often times to see something I never would have imagined. I also like to see how a control scheme may have changed to simplify or streamline things.

There are certain moments in new games that really make you glad to see a sequel come along. I know, for me, seeing the landscape of Earth exploding from space in Halo 2 was an awesome moment. Fighting a Scarab for the first time and traveling to a new Halo World were moments that really stuck with me. Moments like waking up as adult Link in the Ocarina of Time... or finding Castle Hyrule under water in the Wind Waker are the type of "Fuck yes!" moments that keep me anticipating the next chapter.

A game like Uncharted 2 featured updated visuals, which is saying a lot considering how amazing the first game looked. It took Nathan Drake on a new adventure, and managed to feature environments that were not a jungle. One such environments was a train... that's right... a fucking train. And, not the cabin either, I got to fight and perform some wicked parkour on the side of a train... awesome. The creators of the Uncharted games, Naughty Dog, also take real life legends and add their spin to it. I've always liked stories about the treasures of the "old world." I mean I used to watch this horrid excuse for a cartoon EVERY DAY:

So you can probably see how ol' Nathan Drake's interests and mine might cross paths.

To the idea of fixing and stream lining game mechanics you probably won't find a better example than Mass Effect 2. I think I hit one glitch in my entire 51 hour first play through in which I was stuck behind a sales counter on the Citadel. I think Volus are kind of cute, so this wasn't a big deal, but it did hinder my game progress. I lost about 30 minutes of play because of that, but it wasn't a huge deal... save more often, idiot. Other than that, everything was better from a game play aspect... they even made the achievements better. No shitty inventory system, no constant frame rate problems, no crashes, better gun play, and the only Mako in the game was a stationary one that I never had to drive... fuck that thing. Then of course there was the continuation of the amazing story that Mass Effect set in front of us. I liked how the first game wrapped up it's little chapter, but still managed to leave you with the much larger story spinning through your mind. I wanted to know everything about the Reapers after finishing the first game and it was painful to think it would likely be 4 more years before the rest of the story unfolded. It was a pain I was willing to endure so long as it meant I had more Mass Effect on the way.

Then there's always the rare game that doesn't change that much, but still manages to be awesome. Take Bioshock 2. I had almost zero interest in this game from the outset because it seemed like they didn't change much of anything. From a game play perspective, that was fine as I had no real problems with how the original worked. The idea to return to Rapture is what was putting me off, and from what I read it's what was putting a lot of people off. I felt like I was going to be playing a game I already played. I just didn't feel like I'd have one of those "watching Earth explode from space" moments. After reviews started coming out and watching a few videos, I was swayed to give it a shot, and I'm glad I did. The game is just plain good. It doesn't have that same groundbreaking or mysterious feel that the first game had, but I'm not sure that it wants to or needs to. It's still features the same creepy atmosphere as the first game, and adds a new chapter to the story. I did hear somebody ask why they didn't reveal a little more of the story before the release, and I have to agree because I think it would have helped people to better understand the premise of this game. Somebody has returned to Rapture and and is restarting the little sister program. I think letting people know that before hand would have stirred up speculation and excitement for the new title. Either way, once you crack it open and start diving into the story, it provides you with enough of that wonder to keep you pushing forward.

And, really, I think that's the big thing for me in a sequel: The wonder. As the gamer playing a sequel you probably had a love for, or at the very least and appreciation for, the first game. You've seen what other games have done with sequels and you're excited to get that same feeling with you new favorite franchises. It's exciting and I love it every time.

Oh and before I wrap this up, you can add games like the upcoming Saint's Row 3 and Crackdown 2 to games I'm anticipating for the pure fun factor. There's not much story there or anything that makes these games "epic" in their scale... but dammit the previous iterations were fuuuuuun, and my friends and I look forward to getting into them.

Oh, and more Borderlands please.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Weekend Review

Well it's Sunday night and I felt like I should check in with everybody and let you know what we were up to over the weekend. Barry is finally with Xbox again and has been riding Mass Effect 2 pretty hard. Josh has been MIA for the entire weekend. He and I both have a big licensing exam coming up, so I hope he was out there being more responsible that me and actually studying. Chuck and I have both been investing a lot of time in the bowels of Rapture with Bioshock 2. I like the game. I'm still not 100% sure it's a game that was "necessary" as so many people questioned before its release, but I am glad it's here and I am glad to be playing it. So, I guess take from that what you will.

I also picked up the God Of War Collection on Friday. I never played the first two games, as I never owned a Playstation 2 (or an original Playstation for that matter), and now with God Of War 3 on the horizon I feel like it's time to get caught up. Plus it helped that they've offered this collection in HD with trophy support.

I'm also working on a little piece about what I think, for me, makes a sequel good. I'm hoping to have that up by Wednesday, but schedules tend to get crowded... plus I'm still trying to finish up Bioshock 2.

That's kind of how our weekend went. We did finally get the band back together and restart our Xbox Live Chat Parties. So, that was certainly a welcomed addition for me. I missed all the conversations that Chuck and I would have that typically ended in him asking "what is wrong with us?"

What indeed, sir, what indeed...?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Your New Borderlands DLC Achievements

Click the image for a larger, more legible view

Well this popped up on Xbox Live last night. Our resident curious cat, Chuck, found this when he was trying to compare his shiny point values to Barry's in Mass Effect 2. It looks like there is a significant increase in the level cap. This shows an achievement for Level 51 and for Level 61... there are rumors around the interwebs that the new limit will be 70. Sounds good to me... I've been craving some true Borderlands action that doesn't involve a 9 hour beating from a hot, crazy woman's minions with no XP or level gain.

There is still no news on when the new DLC, titled The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, will be released, but you can bet I'll be picking it up on day one if for no other reason than to learn the meaning of the phrase "Loot Midget"...

On Geth Keepsakes

Heretic Station: Phoenix Massing/The Sea of Storms

Geth 5483: Dammit... that's the 4th time I've taken down Shepard's buddies and they keep getting the fuck back up. What is going on?

Geth 6572: Maybe they're just faking it... How the hell did they get this deep into the station anyway? You'd think we'd have installed some bio-sensors or something. Maybeve even a fucking window...

Geth 5483: Shut up, just keep the pressure on them. They can't keep this up forever.

Geth 6572: Yeah, you're ri.... wait, what the fuck?! Shepard is getting into my med station over there... HEY, FUCKING GET OUT OF THERE SHEPARD!

[Shepard takes medi-gel from med station]

Geth 5483: Your what? Why the hell do you have a med station here? We're fucking machines.

Geth 6572: I took it as a souvenir on Eden Prime...

Geth 6572: Mocking Tone - I took it as a souvenir on Eden Prime

Geth 6572: You know I hate it when you do your Elcor impression. I can hear the fucking tone of your voice...

Geth 5483: Shut up... just shut up. This is the dumbest thing you've done since you brought that EMP to 2894's birthday party.

Geth 6572: Hey, nobody got hurt... that bad.

Geth 5483: You're an idiot... no wonder they keep getting back up if you're just leaving medkits sitting around

[Miranda goes down, gets back up]

Geth 5483: See, look at that... they could do this all day. How many did you take?

Geth 6572: Just the one... plus like 10 medkits...

Geth 5483: Unbelieving Angry Inquiry - TEN!? TEN!? TEN MEDKITS!?

Geth 6572: That's what I'm talking about. You don't even try to hide your inflection...

Geth 5483: Fuck this, I'm uploading myself back to the hub.

Geth 6572: But... what will I...

Geth 6572: .... shit.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Return of Online Social Time

Gaming has, over the past several years, become more and more of a social experience for me. Trying to pinpoint exactly where it really jumped to this level of a shared experience isn't easy. I can look back to the days of the Nintendo 64, when games started offering 4-player split screen and multiplayer modes that mattered. There were, of course, good multiplayer experiences available on the PC, but most of my PC days were spent on flight sims, combat flight sims, and Mechwarrior games. I've never played Counterstrike. We didn't even have the internet at my parents' house until I was in 11th grade. So, you can maybe see how I didn't really catch on to the online gaming craze with the PC.

When I moved off to college, multiplayer gaming was more abundant because everybody was around you all the time everywhere. Always. Always there. Everybody. Anyway, we played a lot of 4-player NFL Blitz and Mario Tennis. I bought a Sega Dreamcast that came with a limited time trial of SegaNet. We spent hours switching off the controller playing Unreal Tournament over a dial-up connection. We had a high speed connection in the dorm, but the high speed adapter for the Dreamcast was something I never invested in.

Beyond that I played a lot of Halo with friends, both online via xbconnect (remember xbconnect!?), and in large groups with the Xbox LAN connection. We surprisingly never had much trouble finding 8 guys to meet up, hook up 2 TVs, set two couches back to back, and play Halo for hours. I think this may be where the tide started to turn for me... we were on the cusp of Xbox Live. Actually, through a lot of this I think it was already a real thing, but Halo wasn't supported by it, and xbconnect was free. Xbox Live was very much a luxury I could live without.


Then it got ugly... remember all those flight sims I mentioned playing above? Well, thanks a fucking lot Microsoft and Xbox for doing THIS:

I bought this game and a subscription to Xbox Live on the same day. I remember being skeptical. I didn't know that the game was going to be any good. It had airplanes, and I could shoot at other real player over the internet. Sounds good to me! I took those first few timid steps into the world of Xbox Live and it sucked me in full force. I would spend hours every night playing this fucking game. I got good... like REAL good. I was in the top 10% in the leaderboards for most of my tenure in the game.

After Crimson Skies I started in on MechAssault, Halo 2, MechAssault 2, and the like. I even made about a 6 month stop in Azeroth... Go Horde! Late in the life of the original Xbox there were times where some friends and I would use a Halo 2 lobby to chat during different sporting events on TV. This was key to the way things are now.

Fast forward to the Xbox 360 and the introduction of party chat. Now it's rare that my friends and I don't have a chat party open when we're playing games. There are even a lot of times I have it open while I'm eating between games or on a gaming break.

The only time this become a problem during cut-scene-heavy titles. We typically just have a system worked out in which somebody just yells out "cut scene!" and silence is granted. However, even this wouldn't do for Mass Effect 2. We invoked an unofficial party chat ban. It didn't even have to be spoken... we just didn't invite each other into a party.

That being said, it's been awful quiet around the Xbox Live lately. With Barry out of commission and everybody else diving heavily into the Mass Effects 2 there has been no chatting. But now, Chuck and I have finished the first play through, Barry gets his Xbox back tomorrow assuming his neighbor hears the doorbell this time, and Josh's first run won't be far behind.

So with that, I want to say to everybody... welcome back fellas, it's been too fucking long.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Game Night: Turok 2 Edition

Another Wednesday has come and gone, and that means we've blown through another Game Night... though that's hardly what you could call it. Barry is still without an Xbox, Chuck was out in the bustling metropolis that is Santa Fe, TX for work, and Josh was out of town for work as well. So, that pretty much left game night in my capable hands. I managed to play some more Mass Effect 2. I'm over 35 hours now, and I'm wondering how I got there. It's one of those games where you just kind of lose track of time.

Since we didn't have an actual Game Night, I thought I'd just take a trip in the way-back machine. I listened to the latest episode of IGN's Nintendo Voice Chat Podcast this afternoon. They spent much of the podcast talking about the days of the Nintendo 64. One game that is near and dear to my heart came up: Turok 2.

Many hours were wasted on Friday and Saturday nights playing this amazing piece of 4-player hotness. I never even finished the single player mode. This game was relegated to heave multiplayer action... in a time when split-screen was king.

Typically my buddies and I would gather at my friend Keith's house. Mostly because his parents didn't care how loud we got, how late we stayed up, or what we did. We were actually pretty good kids. The most trouble we got in was getting the occasional evil eye from the security guard at the local Kroger on one of our late night junk food runs. Speaking of which, Planter's PB Crisps and Promised Land Chocolate Milk are a deadly combination. Not just for the consumer, but for all those in the vicinity.

Our multiplayer mode of choice was Frag Tag. This made one player a small monkey. Points were scored by killing the primate, though I doubt we ever really focused on that specifically. If you were the monkey you were pretty defenseless, but you were FAST and could jump really far and really high. This often resulted in a hilarious flying, screaming monkey shooting across your screen in the heat of battle. The monkey's goal was to walk through a glowing area on the map which handed your predicament to one of your opponents and changed you back into a combatant. We often played on a map that had a sort of pit in the middle of the map. This was not a friendly place for the monkey to be. If somehow our little furry friend ended up in the pit, there were scream of "MONKEY'S IN THE PIT" followed by a barrage of grenades. So. Fucking. Fun.

The fact that this game was split-screen also heated things up a bit. If you say you never screen watched, then you're either a fool or a liar. Especially when this bad boy broke out:

That there is the Cerebral motherfucking Bore. There was nothing more terrifying than seeing that reticule pop up in a neighboring screen. It was very distinct, as was the sound the bore made when fired.


Even if you were trying to not watch other peoples' screens, that reticule drew everybody's attention to that corner of the television to make sure they weren't about to be on the receiving end of a brain splattering skull drilling. Getting hit was, obviously, a one shot kill. It was awesome!

This game more would pretty much continue until the sun started to come up. We rarely switched it up because that monkey was just so damn hilarious and it added something to game that most others didn't have. Insults would be tossed, trash would be talked, frozen lasagna would be consumed, and good times would always be had by all.

So, that was a little taste of my old game nights. Hopefully we can get back to actual game nights soon. I guess it depends on how long Mass Effect 2 keeps us all occupied. In the mean time, I have plenty of other games to cover from back in the day. Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey anyone?

Just A Little News

Somebody has actually put an extensive amount of time into developing a Wii title. That would be awesome if the disk drive to mine hadn't caked over with dust about a year ago. I wanted to read some more about the game, but every link I clicked led me to something I could not read. For those of you waiting on this game, I hope it turns out better than that time I tried to age a box of Frazia.

The Behemoth announced the title of the game they've been teasing for a while as simply "Game 3." The new title was revealed as BattleBlock Theater. There's a trailer at that link. I'm not sure what all this game will entail, but given their past titles I'm likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. I played about 30 minutes of Alien Hominid on XBL Arcade. I spent significantly more time on Castle Crashers with some friends. The art style they use over at The Behemoth is something I've always really liked, and the characters they've made are unique and fun. The 4 heros from Castle Crashers and the Alien Hominid himself all had a very recognizable flare about them.

The latest installment in the Fallout universe has been given a release "window." Fallout: New Vegas should be out in fall of 2010. Fallout 3 was the first Fallout game I ever played. I had heard of the franchise, but never tried it. I think I played between 70 and 80 hours on my first play through. I'm somewhat excited about getting some more Fallout, but at the same time I stand intimidated at the time investment I may have to make...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's A Good Day In IYA-Land

I'm still not playing anything other than Mass Effect 2 at the moment so there's no new news there. It continues to flex its awesome. I think tonight I'll have a lot more time to spend with it than I did last night or most of last week. I basically had a Mass Effect 2 I.V. going all weekend, so I'm pretty well hooked.

I want to talk about a few game related things later, but at the moment I just want to announce a couple of things.

First, our resident AZN, Barry is once again employed. I won't say how long it's been since this last happend, but there were back alley hand jobs in his very near future (and I don't mean receiving). So, let us all congratulate him on his return to the work force. Lucky him, his Xbox 360 will be back just in time for him to start a new job and simultaneously relocate. That always makes for a lot of good gaming time. Good thing nothing big came out recently........

Lastly, I would like to announce that I will be appearing on an episode of the IGN podcast, Game Scoop. I spoke with Greg Miller and Daemon Hatfield this afternoon to try to nail down a date, and it looks like things are set for March 5th. The Axis hasn't struck it big or anything (yet!); I just donated a little to their IGN For Haiti fund raiser and ended up with this opportunity. I'm glad to help out, and I get to do something awesome like this now. Needless to say, I'm very excited. Also, I'm pretty sure they're still taking donations via that link so you should stop by and help out.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Yeah, We're Still Playing Mass Effect 2

It's been quiet around this page the past week, I know. I apologize for nothing. We've (and by "we" I mean Chuck and me... I'll explain the other 2 in a moment) been playing a lot of Mass Effect 2. Chuck finished up his first play through over the weekend, and I'm wandering around somewhere on Disk 2. It's so good... I don't even know how else to put it... it's just... SO GOOD. There's a great story there again, the game moves and plays well, and it all looks amazing. I can very easily see myself playing through this one again, which is something I didn't do with the first one. I loved the first Mass Effect, but it's not too often that I will go through an "Epic" game more than once (i.e. Mass Effect, Fallout 3, Gears of War HEYOOOOOOO!). The time investment is typically just too great, but there's something about this game that has me already planning my second play through even though I'm only halfway through (that's a rough estimate). I loaded up my old Mass Effect character for this go 'round. I'm going to see how it works out with a new character the next run. I've also never used a biotic character in a Mass Effect game, so I want to explore that some.

As for Barry and Josh... Josh has been on a noble quest to finish up Darksiders and Dragon Age: Origins before jumping into Mass Effect 2. Barry was red ringed out of the game for a while. It's been odd not having him around Xbox Live. Maybe it's more odd that I feel so out of touch with a good friend when he isn't on Xbox Live. The only correspondence I had with him over the weekend was a text message that said "Oscar Mike to beer." I suppose his cause is just as, if not more, noble than Josh's.

Finally, there's a bit of exciting news for this particular member of the Axis. I don't want to say a whole lot just yet, but as soon as I have all the details I'll be letting everybody know. So keep an eye out.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Tender Moment With Mass Effect 2 Collector's Edition

Oh... why... hello there Mass Effect 2 Collector's Edition. What are you doing here?

MASS EFFECT 2, what are you doing?!... showing me your steel game case. You naughty girl... But what's that over there?

Mmmmm, a 48 page hard cover art book AND a limited edition Mass Effect Redemption #1 comic book. You are just too much.

What's that? You also come with a download code for a new weapon and armor.

Ok, I can't take it anymore... come here you, and let me install you to my HARD drive...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poops Magee in: The Ballad of Toht and Buttermouth

An alternate and possibly more useful title may be "Why I will never go to a midnight release again", but that's neither here nor there. I recently acquired my copy of Mass Effect 2 (thanks, Shepardclause!) at a midnight release at my local Gamestop. I believe Ryan has already covered my reasoning for such a venture, so I won't dwell on those details.

Let me start by saying that the last midnight release I attended was for Halo 3, and I was so damaged by that event that I swore then to never do it again. Last time, I was surrounded by gamer snobs bragging about their gamerscores (their GAMERSCORES!!) like it was something their mom would tell her friends about with a glowig smile and a puffed out chest. To me, that's about as good of an indicator of your ambitions in life as talking up how many friends you have on facebook. The onslaught continued with talks of their best kill scores in Halo 2, excitement about the possible nudity of Cortana, and other such trash that made me wish I was born without ears.

That sets the groundwork nicely for this evening's (morning's?) events. I got to the Gamestop only to be very disappointed that I had arrived at 11:45 and had to find a non-rage-inducing way of killing 15 minutes. After sitting in my car and listening to the dulcet, lady-like tones of Reggie Miller on the Dan Patrick show, I decided that there had to be a better way.

So I went in.

Upon breaching the threshold of the Gamestop, I was greeted with the usual crowd that attends midnight releases. Of note, there was the mid 50 year-old with a ponytail and a sour demeanor, the guy who was still in his work uniform, a dude with spiked up hair and a bluetooth earpiece who was undoubtedly going to take the game back to the Kappa house so he and his "brothers" could race to the finish during any romantic scenes, and then there were these two rare creatures:

It's like pure joy split into two beings

These two guys are some of the hardest to find citizens of the gamer world - the guys that make you ashamed to have the same hobby as they do. Since I dared not interrupt their witty, loud repartee to get their names, I've dubbed them Major Toht and Buttermouth. Major Toht, as you may have guessed is the fellow on the left. Apparently the night was ripe for a knee-length leather coat, a bowler hat he was holding in his right hand (gentlemen never wear hats inside) work boots with white socks, and round specs. It was this attire that earned him the moniker "Toht".

We're, hehe, not here to drink

His trusty sidekick in his gaming venture, the gentleman on the right in the above photo, was the louder one of the pair, sporting a shirt that would make Magnum, P.I. gag, some swanky linen pants, and some finely crafted moccasins (socks sold separately). He capped off the ensemble with a killer ponytail and they yellowest, most churn-golden chiclets that ever existed and could only be the product of a two-packs-a-day habit coupled with an immoral love of Easy Cheese. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Buttermouth.

Once i was settled in the back of the store and closer to the Dynamic Duo, a few things became clear. First, the guys were avid fans of the Adult Swim programming block as they were embroiled in a heated discussion about whether Titan Maximum was better than Robot Chicken. Apples to oranges? Such things do not exist to Toht and Buttermouth. Their chatting ranged all over from TV shows to movies, and finally settling in on video games.

It was about this time that the registers opened and Major Toht chimed in loudly with something he'd probably been rehearsing in his head all night: "Ok, so, who's here for MAG?" (which was also releasing at midnight). He followed up his query with a self-satisfied chuckle and a "who's with me?" look around the store. Buttermouth, like any good sidekick, was happy to support his pal and offered the dubious behind-the-back low five as a prize for his friend's zinger. Just before I passed out from the pain, I managed to get my game and get out of Dodge.

This friggin game better be worth it. Also, I won't be doing that again. I swear.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Awaiting Shepard Claus

So, Mass Effect 2 is almost here. Chuck has informed us that he will be attending a midnight release to "make sure he gets a copy." The idea behind this is both understandable and absurd. You see, he pre-ordered the game, but he did so from Gamestop. They have a habit of not having items you've already paid for when you come to pick them up. I can see a bleak future where the snarky 17-year-old behind the counter has abandoned "you should have pre-ordered it" and will resort to telling us we have to attend their midnight releases now.

Coming soon to a storefront near you!

Then he'll probably make a joke about me being old and staying up that late. Oh how the tables will turn when he tries to walk across my lawn. What a dick.

I pre-ordered my copy from Best Buy... where there are often *GASP* SURPLUS copies of new releases. Fear not late adopters (and by late, I mean release day), Best Buy will likely have more copies available than you care to buy. I don't even know for sure WHY I pre-ordered it... perhaps it was the promise of nifty armor. Maybe it was because I wanted to secure the collectors edition. Most likely it's just that I'm a sucker, and they're proving it one $5 deposit and shiny box at a time.

With Mass Effect 2 coming I tasked myself with completing Darksiders over the weekend. I wrapped it up last night around midnight. It was 15-20 hours of awesome (my exact finish time escapes me at the moment, but I think it was around 17 hours). You can find reviews of it all over the place, so I'll spare you another one. I will say that if you enjoy adventure games, Zelda, badassery, giant swords, and everything awesome, then you should play Darksiders.

So, everybody strap in and get ready. We're in the home stretch for the Mass Effect 2 launch. What's that Europe? Why yes, it is:

(Shepard Claus photo courtesy of Chuck, aka Poops.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Borderlands Gets Level Cap Increase

I just found this over at Kotaku. It appears that Borderlands is finally getting that level cap increase I know we all want so badly. The news was delivered one of Gearbox's designers via the official Gearbox Forums. The level cap increase will be delivered via what they're calling their biggest piece of DLC yet.

Oh yeah, and Kotaku points to this twitter feed which delivers even more good news: MORE SCOOTER!

It looks like I'll need to gear up to spend many more hours in Pandora. I'll be interested to see what Gearbox has up their sleeve this time. If it can be as good as The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned and have the level cap increase then it should be able to wash that bad taste out of my mouth that was left by Mad Moxxi. Hopefully there will be something a little more official soon that includes an expected release date and, God willing, some screen shots or some kind of story description.

Somebody please take me to where the cars live so I can get me one!

Game Night: Left 4 VICTORY 2 Edition

Last night, Barry, Chuck, and I dove back into Left 4 Dead 2... and we once again decided to give the Dark Carnival campaign a shot. This time we had our big boy pants on and made it all the way through... though we left that d-bag Nick behind. This isn't Miami Vice, take off the fucking white suit asshole.

Calm down there Detective Crockett

Having played through the campaign once already helped us out a lot. We knew where to go, we had prior knowledge of the things ahead, and we were able to plan accordingly. Even though the conductor changes things up as you go, the toughest spots are still generally the same. For whatever reason we had a hell of a time finding the opening that led back to the "off" switch for the carousel... for the record, it's right by the "on" switch, and we're not that smart.

I supposed familiarity is one of the points of this game... you're not supposed to master things on your first shot. Having the conductor control the infected rather than everything being pre-programmed helps keep things fresh and makes every run different. Plus there are several achievements that require you to spend some real time with the game to unlock.

After we stood victorious over Nick's dead body in the Dark Carnival, we decided to make a run through Dead Center for Barry's sake since he hadn't unlocked the achievement yet. Apparently this was attempted without me one night, and success was beyond their grasp without their gaming Lord and Savior. Lucky for them I stepped in and led the team to the promise land (switching to easy probably had something to do with it too).

I'd say this was one of our more successful Game Nights in a while. Josh was left out of the mix because he hasn't purchased a copy of L4D2 yet... it's the deal of the day over at Amazon, so now is a good chance for everybody to get it on the cheap.

Oh, and just to say again what Barry stated yesterday. If anybody is reading this who'd like to jump in and play with us, feel free to add us to your Xbox Live and PSN.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Speaking of Citations

It has been noted that Ryan’s posts have become more abundant. It has also become clear that with his fountain of gaming knowledge and half truths that you readers have come to expect, he has also given away our identities. Heheh titties, sorry. It’s not as if anyone really cares but it’s like he ripped off the S under Clark Kent’s shirt, just spewing our names about like an everyday thing, like we’ve been rebranded. Chuck has expressed this in a recent group email but doesn’t want to do the work. Apparently I found some free time…

Name – Xbox Gamertag – PSN ID
Ryan – AirstrikeRhino – AirstrikeRhino
Barry – Humdinger24 – Tag_Youre_It
Chuck – PoopsMagee2112 – I’m too good for a PS3
Josh – Fenris Wolf 82 – Sony what?

Feel free to add us so that we may laugh together on Xbox live or so that at least Ryan and I have a less than mediocre list of friends on the PS3. Hopefully, one day, Chuck will grace us with his opinion of a game he’s played and maybe Josh could add some insight to what loot he’s picked up (read stolen) recently as well. Now back to Ryan’s Lifelock Mode. What’s your social security number?

Reach Out And Murder Someone

... see what I did there? No? Then perhaps I should explain. The video below has been making its way around the internet today (I found it first on Kotaku)

As you can see, the "leaked" footage shows the possibility of a new "Murder Mode" that may appear in Microsoft's latest addition to the Halo Universe, Halo: Reach. In the Kotaku post, Ashcraft speculates that perhaps the footage wasn't REALLY leaked in the traditional I-stole-yo-game sense, but rather that Microsoft allowed it to get out to generate a little buzz. This type of speculation always comes with any leaked footage, and rightfully so. Viral marketing has always been a very effective way to sell a product, and it's not inconceivable that Microsoft could be behind this. Especially when adding the word "Murder" to a game that's never really counted on over-the-top violence, gore, or controversy to sell their game. Sure, people have bitched about it... but mostly because you're killing things with guns, not because Microsoft or Bungie ever set out to get that reaction. I hope there's no reaction at all. I have no problem with the name given to this alleged mode, and I assume MOST of you out there never even gave it a second thought. Well, I should take that back. I DO have a problem with it because the name sounds a little dumb and on the nose, but not because it implies violence. However, I can't help but wonder if maybe Microsoft is letting this get out there to see how the general public will react. It may seem silly, but growing up, I know plenty of friends who's parents would immediately walk away from any game they heard had a "murder mode". I know, the ESRB ratings are there, but we all know that these games make their way into the hands of "underage" gamers all the time. I should note that I don't have a problem with this. If the kid is mature enough, a decision that SHOULD be made by parents, then I don't see the big deal. At any rate, I wouldn't be surprised to see the game released with a "stealth mode" for no good reason.

Stay tuned for the less anticipated, Citation Mode. YOU CAN'T PARK THAT WARTHOG HERE!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In Which I Give My Thoughts on Army of 2: The 40th Day

The plan for the end of the week and weekend was to try to push through Darksiders. However, the purchase of Army of 2: The 40th Day sidelined that plan for at least a little while. There's typically a small window of opportunity in our group to partake in co-op activities. We play a lot of games, and it's been a long while since we devoted more than a week or two to any one. So, with Barry screaming through multiple play throughs of Ao2: TFD I had to make the executive decision to join him, lest I be stuck running solo in a game that thrives on co-op play between two actual humans.

This time our ambiguous mercenaries, Salem and Rios, are out in Shanghai, and as in any situation, be it video game or movie, things don't go as planned. What looked like easy money quickly turns into a fight for their lives full of moral choices as they try to escape Shanghai and finally have that beer they keep talking about (and likely a few tender moments).

I didn't play all the way through the original Army of 2, but I did play enough to notice some of the improvements. For starters the shooting, though still not perfect, is improved. I felt like things reacted slightly faster and more accurately than in the first iteration. There was also a noticeable improvement in the way the cover system behaved. In the first Ao2, there was a slight delay between pulling the LT and your character peeking out of cover to aim down their sights. I remember this driving me crazy, and I'm glad to see it's been fixed for The 40th Day.

Army of 2: The 40th Day also boasts a heavy amount of weapon customization. You have the choice between several different stocks, barrels, cartridges, scopes, suppressors, and front mounts. Suppressors include bayonets... and those include a screw driver. Fuck. Yes. Front mounts are items like hand grips, shields, a grenade launcher... and that awesome shotgun add-on called the Master Key. Once again: Fuck. Yes. The whole idea of mounting a gun to a gun still kicks a lot of ass. You could easily spend an hour or 2 customizing all of your guns. Plus, it adds a little replay value since you can't easily grab all of the parts on your first run through without knowing exactly what choices to make. It's also unlikely that you'll earn enough money in one play through to buy all add-ons and guns.

As for the overall gameplay, everything works very well. The story is, as usual in games like this, a little lacking and somewhat full of holes. But, you likely won't care much once you get into the action. The gun play is solid. Salem and Rios move around a little slowly, but it fits in with the pacing of the combat very well. This isn't a game where you're often running and gunning. Cover is key and you'll spend most of your time sprinting from one location to the next, ducking into cover, and picking off enemies from there.

Just to point this out, headshots from a sniper rifle or Desert Eagle cause a very satisfying pop.

Visually the game looks very good. The environments are well built and you won't run into any of those frustrating hit detection problems that so often appear when trying to shoot between balcony railings and the like. Many of the cut scenes go into a very Borderlands-esque art style as you watch Shanghai be utterly destroyed. It's all executed very well.

The game has also added in a gauge of how moral you decide to be through out the game. Doing things like tying up guards and rescuing prisoners will give you a big plus sign on the morality scale. As far as I could tell, your level of morality in these situations rarely had an effect on the game. However, rescuing certain sets of hostages often rewards you with weapon parts, or in one case, that head-asploding Desert Eagle I mentioned. There are larger moral choices throughout the game which can also reward you with money or weapon parts. These larger choices require you to press "A" or "B" (I played on the Xbox 360) and are followed by a cutscene that shows you the immediate and long term consequences of your choice. You may consider this a "spoiler" but I'll let you know right now: You will not feel all that good regardless of the choice you make. EA was a real dick on this point.

The aggro system is back and you can work out simple, but fun strategies if you're playing with another person. There are a few larger enemies that require you to flank them or work yourself behind them. One player can usually stay behind cover and draw all the aggro while your partner sneaks around. You also have the option to remove silencers and scopes on the fly. Removing your silencer can help increase your aggro for those situations when you get the honor of playing decoy. To further help out your aggro strategies, there are often 2 paths for Salem and Rios to take. We found it beneficial to split up and take turns drawing aggro while the other person picked off unsuspecting enemies.

Still, as much awesomeness as they pack in, the game isn't perfect. There were times that I felt almost as if the guns had preset notches of movement. A slight tap left would, at times, cause a sort of "jump" in the reticule rather than a steady controlled shift. I don't mean it moved too quickly. I mean it seemed to only be able to look in one spot or the other. This would result in over-shooting what I was trying to aim for, and would start a sort of back and forth reticule dance across my target. I didn't notice this as much with the sniper rifles which I assume were slightly more fine tuned to serve their intended purpose. "Gun Sway" is still present, and it's reasonable. I actually like the addition of this in games. It adds a little more true skill to the art of sniping.

It also would have been nice to see the moral choices have more effect on the game itself. Sure, you can get some nice loot, but if you're going to include this stuff, then maybe make it more consequential. Then again, maybe that's not what this game was trying to be... perhaps the whole POINT of the morality system was just a means for collecting items. I'm just not sure I see the real point of it in the way it was executed. Plus, like I said, there's not really a "right" choice... the cut scene ends up making you feel like an asshole anyway.

Overall I found the game to be incredibly entertaining. It's definitely more enjoyable if you can recruit a buddy to play with you. EA has made the right improvements and brought a better product to the table this time around. They even cut down a lot on the bro-love... though you can still voluntarily give bro hugs. I don't know that I'd put it down as a definite "buy" but it's one you should give a shot at some point.

Mass Effect 2 Gets Even Closer

I've been working on a review of Army of 2: The 40th Day. My hope it to have it posted by tomorrow. With that, I guess you can assume that I have, in fact, played through the game. I'm actually on my second playthrough right now as I do some achievement hunting. Barry and I conquered that beast. I also noticed that Josh picked it up and was playing it with his roommate. Not to give away too much, but everybody enjoyed it.

So, Mass Effect 2 continues to be what is on everybody's mind. The first one was a game that locked all of us down for a while. The story gripped me hard and I came home every night ready to see what happened next. I think the last mission of the game might have been one of the most satisfying and exciting gaming experiences I've ever had.

There is a disturbance in the force. Barry's console has finally given up on him. It will be on it's way to Microsoft in the next day or so. It's highly unlikely that it will be back in time for the release. I can imagine it's causing some honest-to-God distress for the poor guy. If anybody has a 360 to lend, I'm sure he'd pay in "favors". That's as specific as I care to get.

So, I've been gone from this space since Thursday and most of my time since then was wrapped up in Ao2: TFD. However, I did take a little time to download and try out 'Splosion Man. I was very impressed. I found myself laughing a lot at the goofy sound effects and ridiculous animations. You're a man who explodes... and when you kill an enemy they turn into all your standard "grilling-on-the-weekend" fair. It's a clever, fun, hilarious game that is AT LEAST worth a run through the demo. The control scheme is incredibly simple too... pretty much every button makes you explode. It's awesome.

Well, that's about all I've got. Keep an eye out for my full thoughts on Army of 2: The 40th Day very soon. Sorry for the short, and somewhat un-entertaining post. It's late, and it's been quiet around the Axis. Expect better soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

We Suck At L4D2, EA Hates Barry, and RRODs

The Axis played a little four player Left 4 Dead 2 last night, and about all I have to say is that we really are not good at that game... yet. We tried the Dark Carnival campaign and things were going swimmingly until the last stand on the Midnight Riders' stage. And, even then, things went pretty well until the chopper arrived. This is when we put our "suck" on full display for all the undead to see... and that Tank... and that Jockey... I think the Spitter was there... maybe a Hunter in the mix too. That is to say, there were a lot of special infected in the area when the chopper arrived. On our first attempt at the finale we were learning the lay of the land. We found the health packs, ammo, pipe bombs, etc. Our concern was not knowing where rescue would come from or where it would finally settle to wait for us. To complicate things we had a fucking gnome in tow the entire time. There's a carnival game you can play early on, and scoring 750 points or more drops ol' Gnome Chompski. There's an achievement for rescuing him, and dammit, we were going to get it.

That first attempt ended when the chopper arrived while were were all out of position. I had to run back for the gnome, A tank showed up, there was a jockey out there, plus a horde wave. We got spread out between the stage and the chopper and everybody went down.

On attempt number two, we had a little more success. We placed the gnome by the final resting spot of the chopper, then took our spot on the stage. Everything was pretty uneventful until, once again, the chopper showed up. We all kind of got over NEAR the chopper, but then a seemingly invincible Jockey got a hold of Barry and rode him off into the sunset. Rescue attempts were useless and ultimately stupid... but we fucking mastered in Stupid in college (I know right, "you went to college?"). Fast forward a solid 10 seconds: that limey Ben is sitting on the chopper (with the gnome), Chuck is out, Barry is out, and I'm hobbling back at 1% health. Enter the giant piece of concrete the Tank likes to magically pull from his pocket. They try to make it look like he pulls a chunk off of whatever he's standing on... but he was on some wooden bleachers (aluminum at best)... anyway, I died. Ben took off with the chopper. Nobody made it start to finish (Ben entered the game after the first safe house); therefore nobody got any achievements. We might take another stab at this tonight.

After we completed our lecture on fail, I took to watching some TV and chatting with Ben and Barry while they tried to set up a game of Army of 2: 40 Bro-hugs a Day (I mock it... but I still bought it). EA decides that Barry is not in their target demographic (Do Chinese people want to play games that take place in China?) and won't let him into their servers. So Ben and I went through about the first 30 minutes of the game. I enjoyed it. The controls are a little sluggish and take some getting used to, but it was fun to be sure.

Let me revisit Barry's problems for a bit. His 360 is bordering on busted right now. He was going all old school NES on it to try and make it work... right down to blowing into the disk drive. He smacked it around a bit and it finally started reading disks. I could just see him pressing the power button and getting that fucking screen that flashed between blue and static. That was always awesome. It didn't help that the first Nintendo I ever owned spent a couple of years hooked up to a TV that had to "warm up" before anything could be watched on it. So that made the "work dammit!" song and dance all the more fun. Anyway, to summarize, Barry will be getting a visit from the RROD fairy soon.

Which brings me to this morning. EA finished their background check on Barry and let him into their precious game. He contacted Ben and they agreed to meet in the virtual space for some Ao2. This is where Ben's 360 promptly red ringed. It's a real shit storm out there kids.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Game Night: Left 4 Dead 2 Edition

It's Wednesday, and in IYA land that used to mean game night. Tonight we try to fire that back up with a little Left 4 Dead 2. Chuck and I managed to play through the first campaign about a month ago when we actually bought the game. It was a great time, but for some reason the game has played the part of expensive coaster ever since. Since games started incorporating more co-op game modes, games have become a very social experience for me (to the point that my friends and I have a chat party open on Xbox Live even when we're playing different games). So, games like Borderlands and L4D2 are right up my alley. I'm definitely looking forward to playing the part of a portly black coach with a bad knee as I mow through waves of zombies. I had a portly black coach in 2nd and 3rd grade... coach Salari. That guy was awesome. He used to hit golf balls during gym class and make the kids go pick them up. We loved that shit... only now, as and adult, do I realize how fucked up it was. So yeah, tonight coach Salari will make zombies his bitch. GO SHAG BULLETS ZOMBIES!!!

An event transpired last night that has me somewhat torn. Barry purchased Army of 2: The 40th Day, as mentioned in yesterday's post. The problem I'm having is that he sounded like he was having so much damn fun playing it. It has diamond encrusted grenades... let that sink in and I'll say it again... DIAMOND ENCRUSTED GRENADES. This love this kind of absolutely ridiculous stuff in games. Some of the most fun I had in the past year was playing co-op through 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, and the reason for that was the absolute over the top idiocy of the game (you're a rap artist fighting through an army in the middle east on a mission to recover your diamond encrusted skull...) Barry tells me Army of 2: The 40th Day also has a shotgun bayonet. The idea of this absolutely blows my mind. It's mounting a gun to a gun... if you have a problem with that, then you have a problem with yourself. Even if he was wrong, and it's just a bayonet you mount to a shotgun it's still awesome. A shotgun is typically a short range weapon, but while you're there you might as well conserve ammo and just stab the guy. So, it looks like that plan of not buying anything between now and the Mass Effect 2 release went right out the window. I'll be practicing my fist pounds all day at the office in preparation.

Hey, that's a fucking awesome copy you just made *fist pound*.