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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?"
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"...
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.
WHERE DO I PUT ALL THE LAG?
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.
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.
TAKE THAT DINOSAUR!
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?
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...
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.
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.