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Malik (11/21/05)  

Time for some random thoughts. I could focus on some solid subjects today, but I think an overview of what's been going on in gaming is a needed commodity right about now. 

Spike had their video game awards. While most of the winners make sense (like how Guitar Heroes had the best soundtrack...more to come on this...), but how can 50 Cent: Bulletproof be nominated for an award? I ask because the game came out only a couple of days prior to the awards, and to give a nod to a game that hasn't been fully played is like me giving a review of GTA:LCS before I played the whole game and could formulate a full opinion. In other words, 50 Cent's game should have been involved in next years awards (if it was good...and word on the street says it's not). This also applies to True Crime: NYC. To give a game an award for best of the year, it should have been fully evaluated, and not just given a brief glimpse before the awards. Also, a nominated game should have been in the publics hands long enough for them to understand what it's about. This is best seen in how the Oscars don't commence right at the end of the year, but rather they happen long enough afterwards for the public to see the material being awarded. 

I played Guitar Heroes like a madman this weekend. All I can say is that I hate rhythm games and this is the most addictive game I've ever played. So, if that doesn't make sense, I'll just say it's damned good. If you have a love of old-school rock, and you have an urge to rawk-out, then this is the game you need. I just hope that Harmonix will release more expansions of different songs. Considering how this game has far outsold expectations, I don't think this is too unlikely. 

I finished GTA:LCS this weekend. I said I wanted to wait to write a review until after finishing the game. I can now write one, and I can give you a sneak preview; it won't be nearly as beautiful as the fanboys would like. I may be about the biggest GTA:SA fan there is, but I can separate out my fanboy instincts and say this without a single doubt in my head; GTA:LCS is a mixture of poorly designed missions and a poorly designed system (Sony, for the love of all that's good, you should not make any more PSPs until you have a working/responsive analogue nub). Also, the last two missions on this game were the single worst missions I've ever seen on a GTA game, just due to the frustration factor. When you cannot easily do a drive-by, don't make a mission that is heavily based on protecting another vehicle from a swarm of enemy cars by using drive-bys. As for the final mission...let's just say that someone is following you that you must protect...and there are piers...and people follow you by the shortest possible path. This means that when you run down the pier and then turn, you friend does the same, and ends up swimming with the fishes...and then your mission, and the time you wasted getting that far, is all for nothing. 

XBox 360 is coming tomorrow. While many are waiting in line until midnight, I'm not doing such a thing. Seriously, I have more important things to do (sleep) considering I have work at my day job tomorrow. Also, I want to make sure my 360 is hooked up properly before I start playing. While it may seem fun to half-ass the hookup to my entertainment center so I can leap straight into the game, I know better. I am a technophile, and this fact alone lets me see that I will want to do things right. Also, with a system that finally will fully use my HD and surround sound receiver, and with the media center functions, I want this done right the first time. So, don't expect an early post tomorrow going off about how the 360 is uber-1337!!!111!!!11! No. Expect a post later in the day, or maybe on Wednesday about that...if it is that good... 

There is a FFXII demo out there, for those who didn't know (which would be a whole 2 people). It's included with Dragon Quest 8. I can't comment on the demo, since I'll have to wait on DQ8 until around my B-day or Christmas (I can't buy everything I want, or else my family is left with getting me socks for the holidays...). However, I can say that it sounds like FFXII is still looking pretty damned lame thanks to a poorly conceived MMO-style combat engine. For the fanboys who can't wait, I have to say that you need to get over yourself. I personally found that link to be one of my favorites for understanding the thought process of fanboys. It's basically a forum thread about how the Penny-Arcade people "arent very professional" and how their are spouting off "bull****" about FFXII. I should point out that I have to fully agree with them when I consider what I've read and seen of FFXII. Anyway, if you know a fanboy and want to understand how they think, try the link. You can see everything from denial, to anger, to acceptance...well, not acceptance...but that's usually the final step when people go through these things. Fanboys, however, never reach that step or else they wouldn't be fanboys. 

More on the FFXII demo; While I can't comment on the demo itself, I do have to say a couple of things. I imagine it's probably a very weak combat system since it sounds a lot like the system of .hack. That's not mentioning how FF games have been going downhill for quite some time. Also, considering they put this game in the world of one of the few FF games that only a fanboy could love (and they did...FF Tactics Advance), I am not expecting as much as one should be able to hope for. I hate to say it, but I think it's now safe to say, considering that a tech demo for the PS3 of FFVII visuals is the most anticipated "game" for the PS3, how FFTA was so bad but so loved, and how the old games (which were once praised) are now being bashed by FF-fans, this is a series for the fanboys. If you're into new FF games, and you don't think you're a fanboy...just take a moment and re-evaluate yourself. You are either a fanboy, or you need to step back. 

Last of all for today; I am working on a GTA:LCS review. It may take a little time to get posted since we are heading into my best gaming weekend of the year. Nothing like the long weekend of Thanksgiving for over-indulgence of food, games, and football. Also, it may take some time to sort out the failings of GTA:LCS caused by Rockstar Leeds versus the failings caused by the PSP hardware. At least I can safely say that I still feel like, considering it's the most expensive handheld I've ever owned, that Sony owes me about $200 worth of entertainment still on the PSP. 


Malik (11/22/05)  

First off...this is pretty damned f#@$ed up. If you need a 360 early so badly that you'll rob a store at gunpoint, then you are one seriously f$#@ed up individual who needs some serious help. If you're doing it for having the system, you are insane, and if you're doing it so you can sell it online for a're still f$#@ed up. I can't wait to see if Jack Thompson shows us all how this was inspired by games, and thus the 360 needs to be banned along with GTA. 

Speaking of the master of all that makes no sense...he's back in the news. If you haven't been paying attention, Jack Thompson was representing the families of three people killed by a kid. This kid killed three police officers and then said something about how life is a game. This made Jack Thompson go after Rockstar, Sony, Wal-Mart, the Universe, all existence, and anything else involved in the sale and development of GTA. Ok, those last couple were made up, but it seemed fitting. Anyway, he tried to leave the case when his bad publicity became a problem (as he said, paraphrased, he was becoming too much of a media point rather than the case itself). Well, recently the judge on the case decided that Thompson couldn't leave, because instead of letting him leave, the judge would rather "fire" him from practicing law in Alabama (think along the lines of, "you can't quit because...YOU'RE FIRED BIZ-NATCH!!"). 

Well, Thompson decided to fire back with a tirade about such things as; 

In the document, Thompson further needles the court in its decision to remove him from the case: "Did this Court somehow, in the last three weeks, manage to repeal the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution?" Thompson asks. 

Wow. I am amazed that someone who is proud to call himself a censor, and is proud to fight against people being able to make video games or music (2 Live Crew anyone?) in the way that they want could even refer to the First Amendment. That is like a Kansas school board member saying that Charles Darwin is his/her hero. That is about as big of a hypocrisy as one can find. 

Anyway, this little battle of wits will probably not end anytime soon. Which is sad since it looks, to me, that Jack Thompson has not only lost, but he has no possible ground to come out even at dead even. He lost. He will continue to lose. Most of all, as he keeps this up, this black-eye on his legal career will only keep growing. The smart move, which Thompson doesn't seem to understand, is the act of quitting before he falls further behind. 

Anyway, you probably didn't expect me to go off about Jack Thompson or other crime related news. The XBox 360 did come out this morning. Also, since the thing is damned heavy, and since I live in a crappy neighborhood (if someone is shot to death at least once every 10 months directly in front of your apartment, you live in a very bad neighborhood...and that's my situation), I wanted to drive to pick up the system. Also, since I live in the city with some of the worst traffic in the US (at least in the top 5), the best time to drive is midnight (amazing how a caffeine fueled city like Seattle is also one with so early of a bedtime). So, last night I drove down to EB, and I joined the line of the damned. 

I have never joined in any midnight madness crap before, and last night showed me why I may never again. Between the uber-nerds (the ones who said lines like "G4 should be here filming us!!!11!!!" the way, this is all in the basement of a closed-after-9PM mall with a line of a whole 20 customers) and the parents with kids younger than a quarter my age, this is not a good line to be in. I had not felt so out of place since the last time I saw a Star Wars movie on opening night. 

Luckily I had planned on arriving only about 5 minutes before opening, so at least I was spared the time wasted that some of these people had gone through (people showed up hours ahead of time despite how it was only guaranteed pre-order systems that were being sold). Also, at least the line was moving shortly after I arrived. 

I'll stop describing the horrors of the line. I'll just summarize it like this; if you've ever seen a G4 report on a midnight release line for anything, then it was just like that, but with only 20 people who didn't realize that they were only 20 people. 

Anyway, I do have my 360. It looks pretty. I don't think I can say much else since I'm a working man. In other words, I was up before 6:30 and I need to get enough sleep or I can cause some serious harm at my job (no sleep and dangerous bacteria and chemicals make a very...ummm...HazMat-ish day for Malik). So, I'll play with the thing tonight. However, I do have a few comments on the overall look of this thing. 

First off, it's freakin' heavy. Don't let the looks fool you. It weighs more than any of my non-Microsoft consoles ever have. Throw in the power supply (aka "The Brick") and you have a ton-o-fun. 

Secondly, the HDD is pretty intelligently designed. It's easy to remove the thing, it's easy to re-attach it, and it actually makes the system look better. This has to be one of the best (in terms of looks) designed add-ons I've seen for a console. 

Last of all, I have to wonder something. Microsoft is smart enough to add some long as hell cables. The network cable is freakin' long, the AV cables are long, and the USB cable for the charge kit (for the controller) is also really long. So, why does the brick fail in this area. The cable from the brick to the wall is a few feet, and the able from the brick to the 360 is the same. It leaves it where, if you have the system on a high up location (and with wireless controllers, there's no reason not to), you will need to be creative with the power supply. It's not like this breaks the system and makes it worthless. It just seems to be counterintuitive to the whole long cable theme. 

Also, for those of the two main groups right now, I have something to say;

If you got a 360...kudos to you.  I'm one of you and I know this is a fine day.

If you didn't and are going ape shit about need to chill.  This is not because of global conspiracies to limit the supply to force a fake demand (it's a global launch and only so many systems can be made at an individual amount of time and these need to be shipped across the globe from China).  If you think Bill Gates in particular is being greedy, then I have to say you're wrong.  I used to dislike Mr. Gates, but that ended when I entered the biotech world (that includes the job field dealing with infectious disease) and saw that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gives more to helping the world in this area than most people ever will see (and for this, I tip my hat to Mr. Gates).  Last off, if you're saying the system sucks because of the short supply, then I have to just say that you need patience.  The 360 is not the first console, by any means, to have a shorter supply than demand.  When you combine this with the holiday season being around the corner, you have to expect this.  Just, please, don't be crazy and buy a $3000 system off of eBay.

I'm tired and need some rest so I'll play the 360 now, and tomorrow I'll post some first impressions. 


Malik (11/23/05)  

So, I did get in that much needed 360 time last night.  I must say, however, that I think I spent more time in the 360 Dashboard (the system menu) than I did in actual games.  There really is a lot of things to enjoy with this system.

In short, I tried a little of everything I can get out of the system last night.  I started with trying out a download or two after I entered my Live account registration (which is a lot easier if you have connected a passport login with your Live account...just check out for details).  There is nothing like being able to download HD and standard definition versions of game trailers for free onto the system that will play the final game.  Unfortunately, I am sad to say that I have yet to find the supposed free demos of games like King Kong (although the free Kameo demo is up).

After that, I spent a little time connecting my PC to the 360.  For details, just check out this link.  It will install some software onto your PC that will allow you to select what folders are shared with you 360.  Unfortunately, and this makes no sense, you cannot watch videos from your PC on your 360 (at least without Windows XP MCE...which is only available if you buy a PC with it pre-installed).  This seems like a minor annoyance since the 360 should have the ability to play PC based videos.  However, you can view images and listen to MP3s from your PC on your 360.  Best of all, if you want to listen to music from your PC on the 360 while you're playing a game, you can easily do this.  It's ideal for any racing style game that has a bad soundtrack, but it won't match the music to the game like custom soundtracks on the XBox did.

After all of that, I still didn't get to playing my two 360 games.  There was still too much free stuff to play with.  I ended up downloading some game demos (not 360 demos, but old-school demos of Joust and Gauntlet).  This is the whole "casual gamer" thing that Microsoft was banking on for attracting middle-aged women.  There are basically demos for most games with an option of buying the real game if you want the full allotment of levels and the ability to share your score from that game online and on your gamercard...which looks like this;


...which is another nice new feature of the new XBox Live.  You can now, if you have an online place to enter html coding, share your gamercard with people.  I don't think I'll be going apeshit about this, but if you see this guy online, you now know who it!

Anyway, to elaborate, this card will explain what games you (or in this case, Malik) has been playing.  It also shows my gamer score.  The game score is derived by what games you've played.  For example, I have 10 points from playing Perfect Dark Zero and scoring 10 kills in a single deathmatch game.  Each game has unique goals (and I imagine RPGs will have these too, since every game is supposed to be tied in).  The goals can be anything from getting so many kills, to beating the game, to beating certain levels, to beating a level while playing co-op, to...well, it can be anything.  When you complete a goal, the system will tell you that your gamer score went up and you can use the dashboard button on the controller to check what changed.  It's all a nice way of, if you're an uber-geek, to say you are better than someone else.    It is not important to playing, but it's not a bad thing.  Also, if you were wondering, you can only add images that are pre-installed on the 360 or that you buy to be your avatar...hence I'm a monkey and not my good old CoH hero (The Flaming Yuppie).  Personally, I wish Microsoft would've given the ability, since we can view pictures from our PCs on the 360, to add an avatar icon from a PC image file...oh doesn't ruin anything, but it doesn't make things as cool as they could've been.

Anyway, all of that aside, I did play some of both Kameo and PDZ.  I am quite happy with Kameo.  I played through only the intro level, but it showed that this game has some nice promise and it should definitely give me a lot of fun.  While many are calling this the 360's first platformer, that is wrong.  This is almost a new genre made up of about 50% platformer, 25% brawler, and 25% adventure (Zelda-style).  However, getting back to the game, it is beautiful on an HD-TV and is a lot of fun.  While the game is a bit brutal in how it throws you into the action with little time to learn the controls (the first level was a bit frustrating for the first 15 minutes), it gets better.  Once you start to understand the abilities of Kameo to change forms on the fly and how different puzzles can have multiple solutions depending on what forms you want to use, it becomes a fun game.  Plus, when you get into a massive brawling session, there is nothing like choosing new forms for the fight to learn  new combat maneuvers.  While it's a bit early to form any solid opinion, I think I'll get a good many hours of fun out of this game.

The other time killer I went at was PDZ.  I only played through a few deathmatch games with bots, since I was more interested in learning the ins and outs of the game than playing the actual one player/co-op game or playing online.  I have only a few comments on PDZ so far.  The first comment is that those who say the visuals looked bland; go f#@$ yourself.  The game is pretty to behold.  For those who complain about no jumping; I agree that no jumping is a shame when you can't jump onto a subway platform when it's only a couple of feet high.  Also, the guns are really fun to play around with since each weapon has multiple usages (either two or three functions) and they are great to experience in a volatile (deathmatch) situation.  Last of all, I have a beef with the visuals.  Not because of the quality, but rather because the displayed image size did not, for some sick reason, match my 16:9 widescreen TV.  This made no sense at all since my TV is fully 1080i and 720p compliant and has a display ratio of 16:9.  The game doesn't offer any way to re-size the image and neither does my TV (since 16:9 in HD is set in size), and this is the first anything that was displayed wider than my TV could handle.  I think it's safe to say that there is probably some bug with PDZ on this, and it's sad since it cuts off the displayed messages on the side of the game when playing deathmatch.  Besides that, the game is looking pretty good so far.

Anyway, I need to play some more and see what all is still in store for me with the 360.  I can say, so far, it's obvious that Microsoft is freakin' brilliant with the new console, two of the most well known launch games (Kameo and PDZ...this will probably be the last time we see more than one Rare game released within a month) are solid, and it's definitely clear that Microsoft has learned a lot about online from the XBox, and this will probably be a shining point for them over Sony in the next-gen.  Like I said, I need to play, so I'm out.  Don't expect posts tomorrow or Friday, since it's Thanksgiving.  Happy Thanksgiving to all, and stay safe out there.


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