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Malik (2/17/09)

The NBA All Star stuff really loses it's punch when you don't have a team to give a shit about. More so, it means that the players you once loved as hometown favorites are now a mixed emotional I like them for once being Sonics, or do I hate them for being a part of the evil Clay Bennett empire? It's especially hard when Kevin Durant is so damned awesome.

Anyway, today is a great start of a great week for games. Nobi Nobi Boy comes out on Thursday for the PSN side of the PS3. Better still, White Zombie is rocking on Rock Band today. I know I can't be alone in feeling the surge of excitement for More Human Than Human. Such an awesome song that will be hilarious to see done on vocals.

Best of all, GTA4 gets it's long awaited DLC in The Lost and The Damned today. This is something that I initially was excited about. Then when it was massively delayed to nearly a year (around 9-10 months is close enough to a year) after the original GTA4 came along. However, with the promise of new weapons, vehicles, improved motorcycle control, new radio stuff, a whole new storyline, and basically all the additional stuff you'd expect in the PS2 era of being on a new GTA game, but without a new city, I am excited. In fact, it's enough to make me wish I was home today instead of having yesterday off from my day job.

I think the game (and I will call it a game instead of just DLC) will be amazing. I mean, when has Rockstar let us down when it comes to a GTA game? I honestly cannot think of any, unless you dare to consider the portable GTA games as part of the real franchise. I know I don't count them.

On a final note, I did put in some effort this weekend and finished Uncharted. Just like with Indiana Jones 4, I have one big exclamation/question. This time it's not "ALIENS!?!", but rather it's "ZOMBIES!?!" You have to be kidding me that this fit in with the game, at all. The zombie addition is beyond ridiculous. At least, beyond that little twist, the game did satisfy me, despite how lame chapters 4 and 5 were. I think it also helped to keep some advice I got from a friend in mind; think of the game more like an action movie than a Tomb Raider or Prince of Persia puzzle type of experience. While Naughty Dog did a bad job trying to market the game as being filled with adventure (when they should have focused entirely on the action), it was a good action movie in an interactive form.

Also, having the unlockables in the game that were present does make for a fun experience. Once you unlock the weapon select bonus reward, it makes a second play through look a lot more appetizing.


Malik (2/18/09)

While waiting for The Lost and Damned (I should stop adding the extra "the" before Damned, like I should only call Noby Noby Boy that instead of Noki Noki Boy or Nobi Nobi Boy) to download, I picked up the White Zombie songs for Rock Band. While I only played them on vocals, they are definitely going in my list of favorite songs to play on vocals. From watching youtube videos, I can say the guitar doesn't look too bad, but White Zombie has always been more about the vocals than anything else. Although, a full band setup would be even more ideal for this type of music.

I also did many other things while waiting for TLaD to download. I had to, after all, since the thing took me two hours to download. It's not a surprise when it's a 1.8GB file on it's launch day and it is the first DLC I know of to have this type of following and hype. I mean what other DLC gets this level of advertising on television?

If you can get over Nikko not being the star of the show, TLaD is awesome. Luckily, while I did enjoy Nikko as a protagonist, I can accept other stars in my GTA games, so this is no problem for me.

TLaD reminds me a lot of the Stories games for the PSP GTA universe. That is, it's not a full new game, by any means, but it's just shy of that requirement by having same settings and locations as a previous GTA game. Beyond that, you have new vehicles, weapons (sawed-off shotgun in a drive-by is sweet), improved motorcycle controls, more radio stuff, new missions, and some extra added mechanics (like gang features that go beyond anything San Andreas ever offered). In other words, this is well worth the wait and the delays.

Having only played a few missions, I still cannot formulate too much of an opinion. However, I do already enjoy this DLC on a level that makes me glad to have spent my $20. Assuming the game doesn't end abruptly after three more missions, I know I will not regret this purchase.

The only part of this package that makes me sad is the removal of the rumored "City of the Dead" multiplayer. Originally, this rumored package, was supposed to be present. In it, you would have faced zombies, instead of pedestrians, in a free roam environment. Similar to the classic "citizens riot" cheat, but with multiple players and far more refinement. While I'd love to see this return via an update, I can still hold out hope since at least one more DLC package is due before GTA5 comes along the retail chain.

I'll have more opinions on this DLC tomorrow. For now, I think to talk too much about it would only be a mistake until I truly get a full feeling for the game. Of course, tonight I will not have to kill two hours I could be playing by sitting around waiting for a download. So, major thoughts will come along soon.

Until then, just one last thought; I had forgotten how clunky walking motion was handled in GTA4. I guess Uncharted did get one thing down correctly and more completely than Rockstar North could hope for.


Malik (2/19/09)

It might not mean much, as he's getting up there in age, but nostalgia is a powerful thing. I grew up, in the 1980's and 90's with some definite memories that helped to define what I loved in life. One of those was the glory years of the Seattle Mariners. There were some awesome players back in those days. Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Harold Reynolds, Randy Johnson...the list goes on and on with the top always being Ken Griffey Jr.

So, while an over the hill player may not mean much to the M's standings come August and September, it does a lot for my nostalgia factor to see Jr. back in Seattle.

I am still playing through The Lost and Damned. I was just planning to skip the majority of the side events since they came down, often, to bike races, and races have always been my least favorite part of GTA. However, the races in TLaD are awesome. For one thing, the motorcycles control smoothly. For another, it's like the old game Road Rash. You don't just race, but you also get to try to knock people off their bikes with a baseball bat. It just adds another level of fun to this greatly improved part of TLaD.

I've also been working on the Gang War side events. Like the races, there are a few dozen of these around the city. You start with your gang and are given a target, much like the police/vigilante work you can do in GTA4. However, there's no timer and it's just you versus the enemy with one of several aims. These come down to either "find and kill all foes", "find a target vehicle and destroy it", or "take a stand against a small army of foes" scenario.

Lastly, I have also been working on the plot, to a smaller extent. This means I have now seen the infamous full frontal nudity part of the game. For one thing, I don't have an issue with this mission or this event (except for how I had to lose my grenade launcher). I actually have no problem with an R rated cut scene in a M rated game. These ratings are supposed to be identical, in theory. However, since games are often seen as something only for children by the people who make laws and enforce outbursts of anger at games, despite these people typically lacking any gaming credentials, this doesn't usually stand. R, in these peoples' eyes is not the same as M, despite having the same description (not for those under 17 without parental consent).

Most of all, I like how Rockstar North is handling this, at least how I see it. By adding full frontal female nudity, there would be outbursts of how these games corrupt youth (despite the M rating), since games are seen as something enjoyed only by young males. Well, add a penis and it's no longer sexual, but rather it's something these "kids" would not enjoy and find wrong. Well, the next logical step is probably for Rockstar to push things with female nudity in a non-sexual way. If complaints arise, they can now declare precedent by saying that hypocrisy is present if male nudity is fine.

If Rockstar North is thinking like I'm guessing they are, they are probably doing something akin to equalizing things, not just trying to be shocking for the sake of being shocking. In other words, the best way to finally get R and M equal, like their descriptions claim to be, is to force the issue in smaller steps. Once that is accomplished, it would allow more freedom for game makers to escape the death sentence of AO while still trying to keep a vision intact for their products.

At least that's how I see it. The question is if Rockstar is really doing this, and if the people who get so damned vocal about "youth being corrupted" will bow down to the hypocrisy argument if it comes along. This one addition of a virtual penis can be a really big thing in the long run of bringing common sense to the game rating industry.


Malik (2/20/09)

After playing Noby Noby Boy for an hour or so, I have some initial thoughts. First off, this is not a game. It's closer to a tech demo, but then's not. If anything, this would be a series of toys. A game is something with rules and a goal. Meanwhile, a toy is more of something to play with without the constraints of rules or a ultimate purpose. You can make a game out of toys, but you cannot call it a game beyond you're own loose interpretation. When you're in a single player environment, then the game part is almost entirely gone.

Anyway, I'm still not sure if I just don't care for NNB or if it's pure genius. If anything, it's a mix of the two. I think I need to go into this without expecting anything, and that's when it will become amazing. Plus, if I ever need any expectations or rules, I could always then go for trophies. In fact, I think this is the first game I've seen that's better off with achievements or trophies, since it's the first video game that's without a purpose that I've played that is not a tech demo.

If you need to understand NNB in order to decide if you want it or not, I just cannot help you there. It's an impossible task to define this experience without having played it. It's like explaining a color or a sound with no previous visual or auditory experience. It is what it is, and that's all that it is. The only real things I can explain is the following;

You can freely stretch your Boy (the name of your main...errr...toy) and freely control his front and back half independent of each other. You can also eat or grab objects in a simple world of people, animals, plants, and other objects. If you eat something and are not stretched out any (done by walking the front and back half away from each other), then you immediately poop out the object. You can also shrink at any time by clicking in two buttons. Beyond that, you can jump and fly. As you grow, you can report your total size to Girl (who is in space and is growing towards other planets), and she will grow accordingly. All growth is shared across the PSN network and you are all working together to unlock new planets as Girl grows to them. However, this is definitely a single player game with multiplayer vague hints.

Confused? I know I was until I played, and ever after playing I'm still slightly confused. That's the name of the game, however, as you are not playing a game. It's up to you how you want to ultimately play with this toy. Do you want to eat everything? Have people ride Boy? Just run around? Knock stuff over? Have fun eating and then pooping? Whatever you want to do, it's your own call if you do indeed try it.

On to something more structured;

I have now done all 12 races (and two extra) on The Lost and Damned, as well as more than ten gang wars. I think the races have unlocked what bikes I can request from Clay on the phone, but the Hexler is still always the bike of choice for me. So, you could say the races can be very unrewarding, except for the cash prizes and the joy of hitting people off their bikes with a bat.

The gang wars, however, have a purpose. For each ten you accomplish, you unlock a weapon pickup at the base. This is pretty nice since you do have some risk of death in the gang wars. You also boost the strength of any backup members in the war who survive, which can pay off in future missions. Definitely more rewarding and fun than the races, but I guess it's a classic risk/reward scenario (more risk means more reward) versus the races.

I doubt I'll finish TLaD any time soon. I want to finish before my Asian copy of Demon's Souls comes to me, but that's about a week or more away, depending on shipping time. So, it's not like I'm in a hurry to rush through this masterpiece of a DLC package.

Speaking of DLC, the Rock Band DLC for next Tuesday is a five pack of alternative country ($8.50 for the pack) or a three pack ($5.50) of Jimmy Eat World. I'm not imagining a purchase of the alt country stuff (just not my idea of money well spent), but the JEW stuff is possible. I guess it depends on what these songs are since I only know Sweetness and The Middle by name when it comes to their music.

Still, it's good to see something more than three single tracks or a single three pack for release again after so many smaller recent weeks.

Also, Jimmy Eat World, abbreviated (see above) really makes me look like I'm calling out a certain group in interweb loud speak (all caps). I think I may avoid abbreviating them in the future just for the fact that I'd love to avoid that level of awkwardness.


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