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Malik (10/17/11)

It is amazing to see UW ranked in football for the first time in...I can't even remember how long it has been. UW, who would once be one of the most amazing of the PAC-10 teams fell from grace and remained in the basement for far too long. Now that they have an amazing QB (forget the past talk of Jake Locker...this is Keith Price's team), still have one of the best (maybe the best) rusher UW has ever seen in Polk, and a coach who knows how to lead a team, this is a new age for Huskies fans. Of course, this will all change next week, since UW will have to face Stanford. However, even with Stanford and Oregon on the schedule, UW is going to end this season up from last season, which was up for many seasons before.

It was also good to see the final home Sounders FC game of the year end in such a great way. It was the final match for Kasey Keller to be a regular season MLS player in front of the Seattle crowd that has so much faith in him. In fact, Seattle had the largest attendance ever for a home MLS game that they ever had. More than 60,000 people came out to send Keller off in the best way. It helps that the Sounders helped in this as well by pulling out a 2-1 win. The only way the night could have been better is if Keller could have ended with a clean sheet.

Anyway, I have been killing time while waiting for Skyrim. My form of killing time is to finally crack out Mass Effect 2. I got the game last year for $10 at a Black Friday sale. I have had the game sitting on my shelf since then. I wanted to play it, but I also feared the game since ME was such a poor example of trying to fit too many ideas into too complex of a package. ME, the original, had so many parts that brought the experience down. You had a cast of characters that showed little true variety or distinction, a world exploration method that was flat out boring, and a vehicle combat system that was beyond impossible to enjoy. ME2 solved all of that. It's like one of my friends told me; ME2 is like a real game while ME was the beta test version.

I really am enjoying how the entire experience was simplified. I'm not a fan of simple RPGs, but that was the cure for ME2. You can simply scan planets for resources (and eventually you can skip this when you realize you have more than enough to get all upgrades through resource farming), you have nearly no vehicle stuff (as far as I know, only a small dose remains in one DLC mission; The Shadow Broker), and you have a team that doesn't appear to be completely stupid with AI issues. Of course, some AI issues remain (I always have one party member who decides cover is for wusses and proceeds to certain death...damn you, Garrus!) and some small room for improvement exists. However, it is a better experience.

I am surprised to see that there is actually a fair amount of carry over from my ME save. I was told how the game didn't incorporate much of your ME choices, but this is just not true. It's only some major choices that didn't get carried directly over, but look to be important in ME3. I mean I have many small side missions or dialogue paths based on my decisions of ME. The only problem is that I simply don't remember ever making these decisions until long after the new dialogue. I mean ME was a long time ago.

I've also been having fun and motivation to download some of the more expensive DLC. I bought both the Kasumi and Liara DLC missions. I've played both and have really enjoyed them. The Shadow Broker DLC (Liara's mission) adds another playable character (only for that mission), and some really cool back-story. You also have some amazing combat situations that really make for a great showing of ME2. The final boss is truly the most enjoyable boss fight I've had so far.

Kasumi's DLC (Stolen Memories) is beyond amazing. The loyalty quest for Kasumi is without a doubt one of the best missions in the entire ME series, so far. It's a lot like living out a James Bond style story, involving sneaking into a fancy party and having to find a way to steal an item from a megalomaniac's vault. You also get to find the best SMG I've found so far, with it's own cool story ("the gun that killed two presidents"). Bioware made the DLC well worth it, in both price and content.

I went from hating the ME universe after the original game to now being excited for the next chapter to come out in the spring. I actually feel invested in making sure I get the best ending possible so I can carry over a great save for the next game.


Malik (10/19/11)

For the people who loved to act like idiots and talk of the 3DS failure, Sony is going to give you more to sound off like a fool about. Yes, the Vita (is it wrong to just call it the PSP2?) is coming next February. What does this mean?

It means another portable game system is coming with a larger than comfortable price (especially in this economy) incredibly far off from the best release date of the year. If a system comes in around September through December, it will sell due to holiday demands ("mommy, I NEEEEED a for !!!"). If it comes out in January, then kids will spend their holiday money on it. If it comes after January, and before September...well, you get another incident like the 3DS launch...or the Sega Saturn launch...or the Dreamcast launch...or...well, any console you name that came out off season has a slow and painful launch, until at least the next holiday season.

If you think this will be different because Sony is promising major games at launch...well, you're sadly mistaken. Yes, an Uncharted title is a nice way to introduce a system, but not when there is plenty of Uncharted (or Mod Nation Races, or whatever else) already out there. Many of this big name games are either getting a fresh installation this holiday season on the PS3, or are already somewhat fresh on the PSP. If you want a major selling point in the form of a game for a console launch, you need something new, but familiar. Not something overly familiar to the point that it just looks like more of the same. Or you can go with the best console launching strategy; use a holiday season as your launch point.

Anyway, considering how the Vita is being marketed, I'm not even interested. I have a PS3 for playing those games that are supposed to be of PS3 quality on the Vita, and I have no time in my life for using a portable system to do anything besides play games. Well, I have small chunks of time, but that's usually when I am stationed at my BBQ cooking for ~12 hours...which just requires my 3DS and the Netflix app.

Plus, if I wanted an all-in-one 3G capable multimedia device that costs a load of cash upfront, I'd just do like many Americans and get an iPhone.

On a serious observation; why do companies that know the holiday season mean so much to them keep finding ways to entirely miss that cash cow?

Anyway, I predict for the Vita the same thing I predict for the 3DS, but one year after the 3DS does so; the holiday season will see a major boost in sales after an incredibly slow start. I also see the 3DS pulling out better sales numbers just due to the 3DS coming in at a more gift-giving friendly price point. I cannot help but doubt any crazy Nintendo style price drop on the Vita in the first 2 years of the Vita's life. Sony doesn't roll that way, to both it's benefit and to it's onw doom. Just look back at the PSP, PSX, PS2, and PS3 for examples of how Sony stands by their prices.

I'm still wrapped up in Mass Effect 2. I think I'm getting closer to the end, which means I may have to drop some more money on DLC. After buying Stolen Memories and The Shadow Broker, I am quite confident with paying money for ME2 DLC. At least the mission packs. I don't need to pay for alternate costumes, but more missions are sweet and have both, so far, been well worth the price of admission. Plus, I'm hoping some of these will carry over, in terms of choices, for ME3. I mean The Shadow Broker tied in to my save from ME1 (in terms of Liara's dialogue), and I believe I've read that Kasumi (from Stolen Memories) may be in ME3. If this is true, I'll be quite happy to see where my extravagent spending on DLC leads in the spring when ME3 arives.


Malik (10/21/11)

After becoming addicted to Mass Effect 2, I have started to read up on ME3. Well, "read up" means hitting Wikipedia and reading what little information is currently really available at one easy reference. Of this information, the one part that struck me is that ME3 continues more-or-less from a ME2 DLC. Since I'm going crazy with DLC and ME2, I decided I would just break down and pick up all mission related ME2 DLC. This only left two that I didn't already have.

The Arrival is the DLC that bridges ME2 and ME3. It's also one of the most expensive DLC packs (tied with The Shadow Broker). I already felt like The Shadow Broker was worth the price of admission, so The Arrival was almost a no brainer. After playing it last night, I can say it was well worth the price.

Without spoiling what happens in this DLC (for those who haven't tried it), I have to say it's pretty damned amazing. You have some fun ways to play the missions included with some unique twists versus the normal missions of ME2. For one thing, just because an enemy is on your radar doesn't mean you always want to shoot first. In fact, there's an achievement for The Arrival that requires you to break into a maximum security prison without taking any hostile actions, thus preventing the guards from noticing you're infiltration. Definitely not a normal ME2 style of game play, and it is quite fun to try for the challenge of being the stealthy character you are normally encouraged against being.

You also see some other unique events that you barely touch on in the normal game. You actually play most of the mission solo. This brings about some fun challenge as you face some powerful waves of foes while not being able to rely on anything other than your skills, weapons, and how well you made your character up to this point. Didn't plan to fight robots alone? You'll have some trouble. Didn't count on fighting humanoids? You'll have trouble. Didn't count on facing up close or far off combat? You're in serious trouble. It all comes down to how smoothly you can work within the confines of your single Sheppard design. Also, if you're afraid to lose any battle, you'll be in trouble (spoiler: you do have a single no win fight against a giant mob).

In the end, the DLC really ties up what you've been seeing in ME2. It also gives an obvious jumping off point for ME3. It's basically like The Arrival tells you what will be starting ME3. It also leaves anyone trying to be a paragon at all times with one hell of a bad conscience.

Anyway, my weekend will see me trying to conclude ME2. It will also see me watching what should be one of the best UW football games in the last decade, or more. UW goes to Stanford this weekend and it will be an amazing chance for UW to show if they have been lucky to become #25 on the BCS poll, or if they are the real deal. It will also give Stanford a chance to show if they are for real or if playing only the worst of losing teams this year has been why they look so good. One way or another, a team is going to have to prove who they really are.


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