Archive for the ‘XBox360’ Category

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NaNoWriMo Week 3: Almost There

November 23, 2011

Another quick update on my progress, before I retreat with my tablet and keyboard to a dark closet, in which I’ll stay locked until I write my word count quota for today. For various reasons, the 2000-3000 words a day average I’d been pulling at the beginning of this month has shrunk to 1000 or less per day this week.

How do you work when you’re under the wire? I personally like to create deadlines. I make mine midnight, so I can punch in my daily word count before I go to bed and see the stats on my page go up and up and up. In week 3, for more days than I’d like to admit, I would only sit down to write at 11pm and for that last hour I would pound out those words like my life depended on it. It’s like college all over again — bringing back to those days where I’m up ’til 4am in the morning with a 20-page term paper due in five hours.

My husband thinks I’m nuts, that I should just chill and write more the next day, and maybe he’s right. But there’s just something about that rush which gets my creative juices flowing. I know not everyone works this way, but for me, I seem to do my best work under pressure. And I need to have a semblance of routine in my life, I need to make myself — or force myself — to sit down to a writing session at least once in a 24-hour time period.

44120 words so far. I’m so close I can smell it. At this point it’s too late to quit. Factoring in Thanksgiving where I already know I won’t do anything but cook, clean, and eat, as long as I keep up with a thousand words a day, I should be able to do it. That’s not too bad, right?

It’s all Skyrim’s fault. Anytime I have free time, all I want to do is play it.

Oh, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. The NDA had to drop too. Hard to believe, but I think I might have written more words for my SWTOR posts than for my NaNo novel last week. Actually, scratch that. After scrolling down my blog just now, I can believe it.

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NaNoWriMo Week 2 Update: Effusive

November 14, 2011

Now that we’re coming to the end of week 2, I’m just practically vomiting words onto the page. It stinks, it’s messy, and I’m spewing a lot of it–so I personally like the metaphor. Thankfully, that seems to be whole point of National Novel Writing Month.

Just a quick update to celebrate my successes (and bitch about the challenges).

Like I was saying, the words seem to be coming a lot easier, but every once in a while I still fight the blasted urge to edit. Can’t help it. I’m just so used to it, not to mention my obsessive-compulsive perfectionist side kicking in at the worst of times. Speaking of which, I also read a great piece of advice from one of my favorite authors this weekend regarding research for your NaNo novel, which in a nutshell can be summed up as “STOP IT! STOP IT NOW! RESEARCH LATER DURING THE EDITING PHASE!”

That’s one pitfall I always find myself in, all right. The other day, I was writing a scene in which two of my characters are making hot, sweet love on a couch. I had the whole scene in my head, but all I was obsessing about was how to describe that stupid couch. I went on furniture and antique websites and the whole shebang trying to figure it out, until I stopped and asked myself WTF I was doing. No one is going to give two flying craps about the couch. Not if I do the scene right, anyway. I finally made it a damn Chesterfield, and moved on.

As of last night, I am at 30,028 words, but that’s basically me making the most out of the lead I gained during the first week. This weekend saw the first signs of slowdown in my progress. With my husband getting into the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta, my spare time went mostly to play with him. So we’re not even factoring The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim yet at this point, which is a little scary. The game box has been lying on my coffee table unopened since Friday, but that’s going to change this afternoon.

NaNoWriMo gods, if you can hear this, in the coming days please help me in my quest to balance dragon-y goodness with my writing.

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A Key Cog – Thoughts On Gears Of War 3

September 29, 2011

While nothing too much has changed about the gameplay from the previous games and the campaign itself probably only took me a total of 14 hours to complete, what Gears of War 3 made me realize is that a good co-op game is a very special gem.

Throughout the years I’ve played a lot of really amazing single-player games and have enjoyed having adventures and exploring worlds on my own, and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. But every so often something comes along and I learn to appreciate all over again the fun of experiencing all the joys of a game with a family member or a buddy.

It’s great to be able to play some co-op with my husband, and when I do, the time just flies by. Likewise, when I see my good friend online working his way through the game I’ll just jump in and play with him, and vice versa. Afterwards, we might chat online about what we did or bitch about which one of us is the bigger ass for stealing the other’s kills. It just adds a whole different level to the gaming experience.

I think there’s definitely some value in it, and I recall a case of a family friend who was able to connect with his older son through sports, but was struggling to find interests in common with his younger, geekier gamer son — that is, until they discovered co-op games on the Xbox360 like Call of Duty, Left 4 Dead, Army of Two…and yep, Gears of War.

Combat in Gears 3 feels familiar like it’s clear they didn’t want to stray from the path too much, but I can forgive it since the campaign was such a wild ride. The game never really slows down, it’s always throwing you into insane situations each more explosive than the last, and most surprisingly, the story and characters found a place in my heart.

Let’s get one thing straight — I never pick up these shooter-ish type games expecting there to be much in the way of dramatic or emotional back story. But the truth is, even within its testosterone-laden bromantic plot lines, there was something that reached out to me. I even felt myself tearing up a little at a couple of the cutscenes, no joke. Of course, right afterward the game did throw a bunch of lambents at me and I almost died because my eyes were blurry and I couldn’t shoot straight.

The characters were also more fleshed out in this last installment of the Gears trilogy, and I especially liked the highly-publicized addition of the female soldiers. Sam and Anya kick as much ass as the boys and I love the dialogue and unique dynamic they add to Gears 3. Given how I was told 90% of the game’s and characters’ stories happen in the series’ novels, I may just have to pick up a Gears book one of these days.

Then of course, there is the multiplayer, which really has to be reviewed separately from the campaign. I was never really interested in exploring the multiplayer content in the previous Gears games, but I was in Gears 3 which should tell you something. I probably spent the least amount of time in Versus mode, preferring Horde mode where I got to defeat waves of enemies with either friends or strangers in matchmaking, as well as the new and exciting Beast mode which allows you to play the Locusts.

In fact, Beast mode’s probably my favorite part of multiplayer. For me, it’s mostly pure unadulterated fun, whether you’re blowing heroes up with a Ticker or slicing them off at the knees with a giant Serapede.

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Awed And Augmented – Thoughts On Deus Ex: Human Revolution

September 19, 2011

Last Friday I made the push and finally completed Deus Ex: Human Revolution, refusing to relinquish the Xbox360 until I was done. And now that I’m finished the game, I believe one of my commenters said it best when they used the term “class” to describe the experience of DE:HR. I mean, have you ever appreciated a really good movie or read a book you just couldn’t put down, because its plot elements were just so well put together that they flowed almost effortlessly? I can’t remember the last time I was so impressed with an RPG, which is good because I mostly bought DX for its story, and I wasn’t disappointed.

In the end, I did come to enjoy everything DE:HR had to offer. In fact, to cut to the chase, the only two major issues I had with the game were 1) the so-named “tacked on boss fights” (but more on that later), and 2) the numerous times when my delicate senses were accosted by the horrible voice acting by the main character (who was probably advised to act too cool for any line of dialogue he speaks, which would certainly explain why everything was delivered in a laughable monotone).

What I really liked about DE:HR was the flexibility it offered. At first, I admit I wasn’t all that crazy about the game mechanics or the augmentation system (which arguably forms the basis of these Deus Ex games), but I did learn to love it. In fact, it’s where much of that flexibility comes from. Once you play the game a bit and start to “get” where it’s coming from, the whole world of DE:HR opens up to you. It also gets easier and gives you a lot more room to play with once you gain more Praxis points. There are so many ways to tackle the situations in this game, even two players with completely different play styles can have a lot of fun with it.

I for one have neither the skill nor capacity for sneakiness, instead preferring bloodbaths to stealth runs, so I played the entire game like a shooter.

My husband on the other hand, he of the seemingly endless fount of patience, challenged himself not to kill anyone or even be detected. Needless to say, watching him play was an infuriating cycle of “oops-pause-reload last save”, “oops-pause-reload last save”, “oops-pause-reload last save”, bringing me dangerously close to just grabbing him by his collar bone from behind and re-enacting a classic Adam Jensen takedown on his ass. And that’s why he’ll probably get the “Pacifist” and “Foxiest of the Hounds” achievement, and I…didn’t.

The only parts of the game I dreaded were the boss fights. Most of the complaints you’ll see about this game will probably involve them, and for good reason. I didn’t think they were going to be so bad but after experiencing them for myself, they do somehow feel apart from the game. First of all, the boss encounters in this game are all straight-up fire fights. So for those who were totally digging the whole stealth and sneaking around thing and not having to kill a single soul, I can see why they would be pissed.

But even as someone playing as a trigger-happy mercenary, I can’t say the boss fights felt all that great for me either. Simply put, they can be difficult. While I don’t normally mind a challenge, the problem is I don’t think the game prepares you for these boss fights. Much of the beginning emphasized and even encouraged stealth and taking enemies down quietly and non-lethally, making it look like a bad-ass bag of fun. Then just as you’ve gotten all your stealthy augments and started falling in love with your stun gun, they throw you into death trap to fend for yourself against some heavy-rifle toting meathead nicknamed “The Bull”. I had damage reduction and all my guns upgraded, and the first time I still flailed around like an oiled-up squid.

Yet, if you know what you’re getting into, DE:HR is still a rock solid game. And the world details are phenomenal! Even when you think you can get away with something, the game’s just too “smart”. Just like real life, someone might catch you moving behind even a tiny window panel in a door and the next thing you know a dozen guards will be alerted to your presence. And as someone who can read a bit of Chinese and French, I was also amazed at the number of Easter eggs I found in Hengsha and Montreal; everything down to the emails to the graffiti scrawled on the walls meant something significant (or was just plain old fun).

I also developed a knack for hacking, and poured points into that as well as social persuasion. Both to me were like little mini-games related to the story, scattered throughout the game. This is where I think the game excels, by giving you many ways of dealing with a situation (with the exception of the boss fights), leading to different branches of the story in a way which I think is even more elaborate than a BioWare game. Picture all the game elements like its plot, features, or mechanics each being an individual thread, and all of them coming together to make a perfect web, and that’s how I felt throughout my playthrough of DE:HR.

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In The Fall My Fancies Turn…

September 15, 2011

It’s that time of the year again, when the old MMO fatigue settles in and I climb back on that Xbox360 wagon to start lusting for the myriad of AAA single-player games coming out in the fall.

In fact, it’s already started. I don’t think I’ve touched an MMO in the last two weeks thanks to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which is one of those games you tell yourself you’ll just play for a couple hours but then hey why not just another mission and I’ll be done but oh first I should clear out this area and do all the side missions and before you know it the whole day is gone.

When it comes to finishing single-player games, I’m also a bit on the slow side. Yes, I sometimes feel the need to draw out the experience and savor every moment when it comes to SP games, but it’s also mostly because I — *groan* — have to share. I realize in my household things are a bit unconventional in that I’m the one who does all the game buying (plus I love hunting for game deals), and it never fails — I pop in a game, my husband sees me playing and “steals” it. Please tell me this is a common issue for a lot of people, right?

It means that given this fall’s game release schedule, I’m going to be buried under an avalanche. Until Star Wars: The Old Republic, don’t be surprised to see single-player and Xbox games dominate my time  — Gears of War 3, Arkham City and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim already on my must-have list, Dead Island, Modern Warfare 3 and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations on the will-get-when-there’s-a-sale list, not to mention a whole other bunch on the wait-and-see list.

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The Catch-Up

September 6, 2011

Well, earlier last month I expressed hopes that August would be a little less “turbulent”, and what happened? We had an earthquake and a hurricane came hurtling up the east coast. Such as it was, we lost electricity for five days last week in the wake of Irene. Still, trees and branches toppling onto power lines every time we even get a slight breeze happens to be a very common occurrence in my area, so no harm done. I know things could have been a lot worse.

Losing power, however, did mean putting a damper on one’s gaming and blogging lifestyle. Even after power was restored it took a while to get the house back in a state fit for habitation (hey, after almost a week in the dark, you’d be surprised to find how much you just don’t give a damn anymore). I was able to play a little catch up this weekend and read up on things I missed last week, but other than that I haven’t really had the chance to do much in terms of gaming.

I missed the bulk of information coming out of PAX Prime this year, only getting bits and pieces from random tweets in my Twitter feed during the power outage, and from catching up on reading blog articles from last weekend. Granted, I know PAX is a fan convention and I was mostly paying attention to MMO-related news especially with regards to upcoming titles, but for better or worse I guess nothing really big happened.

Though if my computer had been connected to the internet last week, I think most of my time would have been spent refreshing The Secret World site, even though after the countdown clock reached 00:00 a whole lot of nothing happened. OMG, it could have been part of “the plan”, after all! Of course, I found out afterward that I was already registered for their beta for doing their “personality test” way back when oh who knows how long ago.

Here’s the thing: I would be thrilled if I got into TSW beta, but I do draw the line at anything that involves the words “requires Facebook”. While participating in the full experience apparently ups my chances, I have a strict no-whoring-myself-on-Facebook policy, call me an old softie but that’s just how I feel.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a game I’ve had on my radar screen for a while, and after it got good reviews from critics and the people I know I decided to pick it up. Ended up buying the Xbox360 version because every once in a while I want to remedy the fact I’m neglecting the poor console. Unfortunately, I was literally in the middle of playing this game when the power went down last weekend, so I haven’t had the chance to get very far. What I’m really liking so far is the story, which is something I knew I could count on, though sadly I have to say the voice acting is rather atrocious.

Perfect World Entertainment has plans to make Star Trek Online free-to-play later this year.

You don’t say.

I didn’t think the news of STO going where many others MMOs have gone before was going to be that surprising, considering how almost everyone including myself has been expecting an announcement like this ever since Champions Online went F2P. I admit I’ve sort of wanted this to happen for a while now, ever since I realized the F2P model probably better suits the pattern with which I play STO.

When the hurricane arrived last Saturday, Rift’s half-birthday celebration was like the last thing on my mind. I assumed it was over when we managed to get back online again late last week, but to my surprise the perks notification was still popping up and sure enough our alts were still benefiting from the extra experience gain. I didn’t even realize Trion had decided to keep the event going on for another week until just now, citing the east coast weather problems as the reason for the extension.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone was beating themselves up over not being able to take advantage of the half-birthday bonuses, not when there are so many other things that take priority in a storm, but I have to say I am seriously impressed by Trion’s consideration.

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Hard-Boiled In Los Angeles – Thoughts On L.A. Noire

June 24, 2011

It wasn’t until I completed L.A. Noire that I finally started getting an idea of why some of my friends don’t like reading depressing books. It doesn’t usually bother me to read novels where the good guys don’t always win, or where the main protagonists are put through an unbearable amount of strife, but apparently my brain objects when it comes to games.

You see, it’s one thing to be reading about the characters in a book, it’s quite another when you are the protagonist in a video game. In L.A. Noire I find myself connecting to my character on a whole different level because I’m the one playing Cole Phelps, making his decisions, determining his successes and failures. I become attached to my video game characters in a way I don’t with heroes in a novel.

So when bad things happen, I get royally pissed.

In some ways, this is my way of giving my kudos to Rockstar Games and Team Bondi. They’ve done a great job with the story and characters of L.A. Noire, and made me care. Still, I’m detecting a pattern here, no pun intended. Those who have played Red Dead Redemption will know what I mean. Without giving away anything, let’s just say most of L.A. Noire isn’t exactly all sunshine and lollipops either. In fact, it all goes downhill after Homicide.

Once again, I’m don’t want to make it sound like that that’s a terribly bad thing — after all, as its title suggests, the game draws heavily from elements of film noir, including sex, violence, and moral ambiguity. All those themes were captured very well, and it’s certainly not Rockstar’s fault that after finishing the game I felt like I needed a hug.

Anyway, enough of me bitching about the story. Moving on to the other features, I’d mentioned before how much I liked the interrogation aspect of the game, even though I sucked at it.

There is a super fine line between “Lie” and “Doubt”. Trying to read a suspect’s expression remained the biggest challenge for me (other than navigating awkwardly through the mean streets of L.A in those old 1940s automobiles), especially once I discovered how very little distinction there is between the behavior of someone who is actually lying versus that of some hyperventilating idiot whom I just tackled after chasing him down for like 8 city blocks. Seriously, all the perps are friggin’ Olympic sprinters or something.

The beauty of the game is its open world, but here you are much more limited in your activities. Playing as a cop, shenanigans can only hurt your mission and make you score less at the end of a case. There aren’t even mini-games to distract you, though you can drive around discovering famous L.A. landmarks or hidden cars, and there are always street crimes you can solve by accepting them as they come in on your radio. However, they all end up boiling down to three categories — shoot the bad guy, chase the bad guy, or shadow the bad guy.

The recycled content was probably my biggest disappointment, but at least they make it dramatic. The character of Cole Phelps himself is like a mystery within a mystery; he’s a good cop but also a flawed hero, and the more you play the more you learn about him and his past. There are twists (albeit some good, some bad), great dialogue, and like I said, some emotional moments. The game soundtrack is also incredible.

All of that makes the repetitiveness easier to bear, though at some point I did stop picking up street crime cases all together, not to mention it also took me 3.5 weeks to finally finish L.A. Noire. The game’s formulaic nature (at least for the first half) made it impossible for me to sit through more than one or two cases per play session. At times I loved it; at other times I wanted to hurl my controller at the TV screen, especially near the end when the game took a baffling turn.

Like I said, however, it’s a rare gem that can make me care that much about a story and the characters despite its flaws. I’d rather feel something than nothing.