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Malik (2/23/09)

Without sports that I care about, it seems like Mondays are just turning into a slow day with far too little to post about. I mean in the fall and winter, I used to have the NFL, but it's now a big empty of the off season. With having no NBA presence in Seattle (the 13th largest market), it makes the NBA look worthless.

I suppose I need to find something else to keep myself entertained. I just didn't realize how much of a sports fanatic I was becoming until it was too late, and then I had nothing to fill the void between NFL seasons and MLB or MLS.

Anyway, I am still working on The Lost and Damned. This DLC is not disappointing me since I've already clocked in close to twenty hours (mainly in races and gang wars) and still have a good amount of missions to go. That's more than I'd expect from most $60 games, and this is just a $20 DLC pack.

I think my favorite aspect of this DLC is how it ties up some confusion in GTA4 and it's main plot. For example, there's some diamonds that come up as the subject for a few missions for Nikko in GTA4. However, you never knew where they came from, yet TLaD answers that quite well. You also have some additional background on characters like Bernie (and his boyfriend in the government), where the heroine came from for the Elizabeta missions in GTA4, what happened to Elizabeta after Nikko was done with her missions, and a few other cool background bits. It's not like Rockkstar just tacked on some additional materials for shits and giggles. It's all fluid and tied in to the main plot, just like it's a compendium to the main game.

Anyway, I'm now in a bit of a race to finish the game. If Demon's Souls comes along when it is released in Asia (and isn't massively backordered like it's been in Japan), I have until about the end of this week or start of next week to clean my plate of games to play. I have a feeling that Demon's Souls will require a good amount of my time. I also need to get in more time with Noby Noby Boy during all of this. For being the late winter, 2009 is pretty damned solid with new releases.


Malik (2/24/09)

I was going to have to skip posting today. It is just too damned crazy of a day. Then someone messed up their job and it trickled down to my job, and now I'm in cruise control. Works out well since I finally beat The Lost and Damned last night and wanted to share some final thoughts...spoiler free final thoughts.

For one thing, TLaD is longer than one would expect for DLC that cost 1/3 the price of a full game. I clocked in at around 12 hours when I finished. This doesn't count reloads. While the game (including GTA4) lets you restart a mission from the start, if you die or get arrested, it's sometimes better to reload.

For example, if the mission restarts not far from your save point location, you may have to think of picking up some new armor, tracking down a good motorcycle (a good amount of missions and side events require one), or stocking up on needed weapons. In cases where it would just save me the hassle of re-buying or re-finding everything I needed, I would reload.

My actual play time is far closer to twenty hours. Some missions were hard, but others just showed off my sloppiness when I was in too much of a hurry. For example, either of the beach based motorcycle races saw a lot of reloads as my bike was lost in the ocean and I didn't want to waste the time to drive back to the safe house to find another good quality racing bike. Yes, you can call Clay for a new ride, but he will not do so if you've already done it recently.

Most of all, TLaD is harder, on average, than GTA4. The only real exception is if you compare final missions. The final mission of TLaD is pretty much a cake walk with a free fully supplied Johnny when you start the mission (including free unlimited rocket launcher refills). There's also no clumsy bike chase mission on the beach to make things that much more aggravating.

The average mission on TLaD is a definite step in the more challenging direction, but without being frustrating. It's like a well planned and choreographed movie action sequence. It may look difficult and frustrating at a casual glace, but in reality it's all well choreographed and just requires one to think in the moment.

Best of all, for myself, as I played TLaD was how well it did tie in with Nikko's adventure. Nikko encountered diamonds, a kidnapped cousin, a heroine deal gone wrong, and was responsible for killing a couple members of The Lost MC. As Johnny, you get to see why the diamonds ever entered the scene, how Roman was kidnapped, where the drugs came from and who owned them originally, and how The Lost felt the loss of two of their more important members. These games really do go hand in hand when it comes to plot.

The only complaint I have at the end is that Nikko cannot use Johnny's stuff. The improved bike physics, the new weapons, the new cars, the new bikes...none of it enters into the original game. This is especially sad when the bike physics and the new weapons are so damned awesome. Most of all, there's the new grenade launcher, sawed-off shotty (awesome for bike drive-bys), and street sweeper assault shotgun (best weapon ever in a GTA).

Still, for a price of $20, I feel quite happy. If GTA4 gave me about 35-40 hours for $60, then TLaD giving me around 15-20 hours for $20 is a bargain.

I just hope Rockstar doesn't pull a Valve. Another episode is due out before GTA5, and I don't want to see it dragged out for all time like Valve has done with Half-Life Episode .


Malik (2/26/09)

First off, again with the snow. The Seattle area gets, usually, one or two days of snow a year. We're now running in the "nearly a month" range after three weeks of snow on the ground in December and another hit in January. Add in a little snow on various days and then another bit of accumulation this morning and even I (who loves snow) can get tired of this.

Anyway, I was taking a small break from gaming. After finishing The Lost and Damned and having put Uncharted to rest before that, my next game goal was to play and have some good fun with Demon's Souls (Asian version). Well, the game is in great demand, but From Software (don't know who the publisher is) has failed to deliver a great enough quantity. The Japanese version, which came out earlier this month, has been sold out and each new batch is immediately sold. The Asian version was also limited in it's initial offering and is AWOL right now for many people, including those who pre-ordered (like myself).

I guess this is a good sign, since it means the game must be that damned good. However, it's also a bad sign when I've been informed that my order should ship by the "end of March, 2009". This was going to be my big game to play for the next month, and now I will not see the game for at least the month I should have been playing it.

Makes me wish I was interested in this game a few months earlier (when I didn't know yet if the Asian version would be fully in English, like I learned about later and encouraged my import attempt). Then I could have been more likely to be on the first shipment of pre-orders.



Malik (2/27/09)

Next week will see the Stevie Ray Vaughan's Texas Flood for DLC on Rock Band. It will also feature New from No Doubt (a single track). The usual price deal of $2 per track is in effect with the album of 10 songs going for $16. Not bad.

Of course, it's also feeling quite late when this album has been all but forgotten when it comes to RB DLC. It's not like Harmonix owes any band or customer anything in terms of DLC, but it seems a bit weird for this to have been announced back in August or September and to not see the light of day until March. Actually, it seems a bit tardy, which is worse than weird when you have a community of rabid fanboys obsessed with tearing apart your every move as a company.

Of course, I'm fine with this coming along, no matter how long it takes. Still, I think it would have been even cooler to get SRV without any build up. If the album just materialized without any prior notice, it would have just looked like pure awesomeness.

I would add some thoughts on New from No Doubt, but I don't know any of their songs by name...except maybe the most popular singles (many of which were already released to Rock Band in December). Plus, I'm trying to wrap my head around how bad (challenging) of songs Texas Flood will feature and how bad (poor quality) of playing I'll be doing on expert guitar to deal with them. This will definitely not be an album for guitarists and vocalists who are faint of heart. Of course, it will also be a crappy album for full bands since there's some instrumental work in there and a lack of vocals means a lack of ability to play all of these songs as a full band.

I still wish we'd have the option of picking songs without vocals even when a vocalist is present. Not having them feels like a let down, and I still say that even after the long delayed YYZ already showed us how Harmonix handles such work. I can see these instrument/vocal lacking songs not being in a random set, but to not allow them in a full band without first booting the vocalist feels like too much work and effort to put in on the band side of things just to play a couple quick songs.


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