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Malik (10/24/05)  

Supposedly GTA:LCS is being released today. I just thought I'd throw that one out since there's no way that I'll see it today. 

However, the game that took over 48 hours to ship last week is finally in my hands. Despite how so many overly vocal geeks rejected and turned their backs on Fable, I still have love for the game. In fact, I have enough love for it to have dropped another $17 on the game to get the Lost Chapters. 

Just like the original Fable, I've been loving every minute of this game so far...well, every minute I'm actually playing and not just watching my XBox slowly deteriorate into DRE hell (I hope Microsoft is done with the DVD drive fiasco for the 360). Anyway, to get back on topic, I have already, in about 4 hours of playing, seen plenty of new additions to Fable. While some of the additions are relatively minor (but still worth finding), a good deal of them are plot elements and quests. 

Also, I'm not sure if the visuals have been boosted (remember, I got my HD-TV a couple months back, so I never gave the original a shot with a good TV), but either way, the visuals are so damned good on 480p. 

While much of the game is old news to me (only, supposedly ~1/4 - ~1/3 is new), it still is fun to replay this game since there are a few options that can easily change your game from one play-through to the next. I figure I should be able to get through this game without any real problems to find how much was added. The only frustration I've found in F:TLC so far (besides my DVD drive sucking...sorry...I need to vent) is that the blank demon door just outside the Hero Guild is still very blank. While I haven't had much time to explore yet, it is sad to see that one of the most commonly bitched about parts of Fable is still here to be bitched about in F:TLC. I don't mean the door itself (but it is annoying), but rather the feeling that there were some things left unfinished (not "not added", but rather "implemented, but not carried to completion") in the final game. 

The following I say in all honesty, despite how many of the FFX fanboys and the Fable flamers (many people probably fit in both categories if they fit into one of them). At least this game is still far more fun and interesting than anything Square Enix has dumped on us (I may change my mind after DQ8, but it's still not officially "dumped on us") this millennia. 

On a final note before I split for the day, I did see Doom, the movie, this weekend.  Yeah.  So, where do I begin?  Let's just say that it is a movie that all geeks need to see.  Just don't pay for it.  Wait until this pile of crap is on cable, and then watch it with a few friends (make sure one friend has a name like Jack Daniels).  It's not that this movie is completely without charm, but it still goes to show that the next big potential action star (The Rock) is still without a movie to really make him an action legend.

While Ah-nold has movies like Total Recall, Predator, and Commando, and while Stallone has Rocky and Rambo, The Rock is still serving up movies that just won't have lasting power.  When The Predator comes on cable, I always stop what I'm doing to at least watch a few scenes.  If Doom was on TV, I wouldn't even bat an eye.

Anyway, the movie is essentially a predictable and unimpressive waste of time.  The acting is horrible (at least The Rock can pull off a few one-liners...but then he had the ultimate lesson in those by being a wrestling star) and plastic by most of the cast, the visuals remind me a little too much of Doom (many reused textures), and there is nothing to give the movie any real merit.  Worst of all, for the Doom fanatics out there, the plot is basically RE.  I think someone wrote a script that they thought would be an awesome survival horror movie treatment and then realized that RE had already been, they looked for another franchise to milk some money from, and Doom was there.  This is probably not what really happened, but it's how it felt to me.

In fact, the only use of the word "hell" is to imply that Mars is a personal hell for one of the main characters.  There is no portal to hell, no demons, no imps, no baron of hell, no masterminds.  There aren't even zombie soldiers (there are zombie scientists and civilians...but that's not the same, now is it?).  This is just not Doom.  If Mars wasn't even involved (which is wasn't needed), this would have no grounds for being Doom except for how the BFG is present.  So, I guess you could say it's more of a movie about the BFG than about Doom.

So, if you have $10 burning a hole in your pocket...well, couple that with $10 more and get Fable:TLC.  If you have more than that...well, I still wouldn't recommend paying for the pain of seeing this movie.


Malik (10/25/05)  

Well, it's a week of pointlessness. While some big things are coming our way this week, like GTA:LCS and Civ4 (which shouldn't be the same PC nightmare of Civ3, so I have to say I'm excited), there is also some really pointless shit being announced or released. 

The best example is the Gizmondo is here. Well, it's here, but not even as promised. It's not like any real gamers are caring one way or the other on either front (being released or coming with the GPS program). In fact, while Tiger may say the Gizmondo is "receiving an enthusiastic reception from US consumers," I would be willing to bet good money that this is the same type of PR that came from Nokia when they said the N-Gage was doing great in it's first month (when it sold a whole few thousand in the US). I just wish these handheld nightmares would end already. While I know enough to not buy an system with an expiration date somewhat akin to the one on a carton of milk, some kids may not realize the facts...and while it may be nice to laugh at them, it still shouldn't happen. 

Beyond the Gizmondo, and it's Sticky Balls (if there was ever a launch title to make fun of while drinking, this title is it), a new kart style game is coming out, and it's bound to be another one that fails next to Mario. Yup. The master of trying to rip-off Mario games is back in Pac-Man World Rally. It's like Namco just doesn't realize a few things. First of all, no one remembers Pac-Man as anything beyond that bad party game. Second off, they need to quit tarnishing the name and image of a legend like that. Finally, they cannot make a good Mario rip-off to save their lives (like with the Pac-Man party game that was an obvious attempt to make a Mario Party clone). 

Also, I should mention that the people who are waiting for a must-have PSP title can get used to this type of news. So, it shouldn't be a big surprise that a GT game is being delayed, but at the same time, Sony really needs to release a good PSP game. While GTA will probably fill this role, it's about time that Sony stops having to rely on either Rockstar or Solid Snake (who failed with a card game in this situation) to define their systems. While Sony may have more games for their systems than Nintendo or Microsoft could ever dream of, they shouldn't just be a bunch of forgettable titles and then GTA and Solid Snake filling the role of headliners. It's like with the PSP there is only GTA, so far, and with the PS3 it's all about Snake and pre-rendered videos. 

If you are noticing that I'm pissed off today, you would be quite right. If the situation was slightly different, I'd probably be very happy, since I spent a long time playing Fable:TLC yesterday. However, most of that time was me resetting the XBox. I have been dying to play this game since I first heard of rumors of it about a year ago, but instead I'm learning how crappy the Thompson Drive is in the XBox. 

For those who know little of the XBox's actual hardware, the DVD drive was made by three (and a half) different companies through the XB's lifespan. Most of these drives were sweet. Well, I don't know if I'd say sweet, but they worked. Meanwhile, one drive, known as the Thompson Drive, was faulty. Think of the PS2 and it's DRE issues, but only on some XBoxes instead of all of the consoles. Well, if you can't guess, I have a Thompson Drive, and my XBox is on it's way out. However, since there's no easy way to transfer saves from one XB to another (thanks memory card that cost me about $40 was definitely worth it...jerks), so I can't just buy a new XB like I did with the PS2. While some would argue that I could wait until next month and use my 360 for backwards compatibility, it's just not that simple. I have a lot of shit unlocked on Burnout 2-Revenge, and I want to finish my current game of Fable. 

I'm surprised that Microsoft wasn't the subject of a class-action lawsuit about this drive like how Sony was about their DREs. It's not like this is a rare problem. 

Anyway, I'm bitchy and should have GTA soon, so I'll probably be more relaxed tomorrow...unless my PSP decides to explode...which wouldn't surprise me since it's Sony... 


Malik (10/26/05)  

I have to wonder if there's any logic in this. So, in less than a month, the 360 is coming out, which is more adept at handling higher technological requirements than the XBox, yet Half-Life 2 is coming out on the 15th (1 week before the 360). So, I can't help but wonder why Valve didn't just push the technology limits less by making this a 360 game (which would probably show fewer technological limits than the XBox). It would've been delayed by only one week and it would look more comparable to the PC version (which can handle higher resolution than the XBox version ever could). 

Also, before I get to the obvious, I just have a side-bitch to say. Many companies offer technical support via email and phone, yet the ones I've dealt with via email all suffer the same flaw. When Comcast (It's Comcastic!!!11111!!!!111!!!1) f#$%ed up my cable box by dropping a channel (yeah, that's smooth...drop a channel while the satellite services are bragging about having more content than cable) that I had stored as a favorite, I contacted them via email since the hold time for a phone call to them is usually in the 15 minute range (it was actually 18 minutes when I resorted to calling them in the end). Their solution to my slightly messed up cable box was to make sure my TV was turned on. I wrote back and explained my problem again, and their solution was to make sure I understand how to use the remote control...which is nice, as a reminder, but not all Comcast customers are idiots...even if they charge outlandish prices for their service to make us look like idiots. I wrote a third time explaining the problem and how I'm not an idiot, and the told me of how they appreciate my criticism and will note it, with no actual advice. I had to call them in order to simply get them to reset my cable box, which was the ultimate solution for their failings. Why did I even have an option of email if they don't actually treat email customer service requests as actual requests for assistance? 

Well, with my XBox starting to have DVD-drive issues, I wrote the Microsoft XBox customer support group. They told me to clean my DVD. I wrote again and then told me I'm shit out of luck and that I need to call them. I actually just asked them what they will tell me if I do call them; how do I get it repaired and if there a place I can take it as opposed to sending it via mail? It's the same crap, and I honestly have more time to email for support than to wait on hold for upwards of 30 minute just to hear that my hardware is f$%#ed and needs to be repaired. 

So, for the record, I just want to say that email customer support for hardware issues is just PR bullshit. It makes a company look up to date, but it really serves no further purpose...unless you're dumb enough to need the wonderful advice of "You will also want to make sure that your TV is on the proper channel to work with your converter box" (actual Comcast advice on how to stop my cable box from going to channel "-53..."). 

I also want to add, for the record, that I miss Sega. So far, of all the systems that have been mainstream and have used optical disks, Sega is the only company that I never had an unusable system due to DREs with. True, some Dreamcasts may need to be turned upside-down, but they will work in the end. I've had 3 DRE plagued Playstations, one DRE plagued PS2 (I'm still waiting for the PSP to do the same), my XBox (I'd give the 360 about 2 the most), and my GCN. Out of all of these, I can only say one nice thing; Nintendo was good about offering me a location to bring my Nintendo in for service, they let me play video games while I waited, and it only took about 35 minutes from the moment I stepped in the door to when I sadly put down the game I was playing to take my GCN home. I guess the moral of this story, to be quite vulgar, is that when you get f#$%ed by a console maker, Nintendo is a gentle lover. Meanwhile, Sony, as so many PS2 owners know, is rough and into some freaky shit. I still can't say fully on Microsoft, but I bet they are rather unfeeling when they have their way with you. 

Ok, enough bitching and bad sexual overtones. 

I did get GTA:LCS last night, and I did play a little. I didn't play too much since IT DOES REQUIRE FIRMWARE V. 2.0! So, I spent a long time trying to find a way to still use my homebrew (and found it...but it does carry the possibility of frying my flash memory...don't use unless you are insane, like me). 

While the game looks damned good, and the story is shaping up to be one for a real GTA (not just some portable rip-off title), there are some issues. First of all, the PSP nub is not the ideal control from Toni (the protagonist). A lot of time I've found myself walking at a slight angle due to the awkwardness of this device. Also, the customer audio tracks...long story short, they are in the game, but the instructions won't tell you how to use them. Also, the audio options menu will say they are "unavailable". It would've been nice if Rockstar mentioned somewhere (or blanked out that menu option until it's unlocked) that you must unlock this feature. It is lame that you must wait to use them, but at least they are in the game. It's just too bad that the quality of the music selection is pretty bad (think GTA3...back when they didn't have the budget for a San Andreas style sound track). 

Overall, the game is shaping up quite nicely. The controls, beyond the nub, aren't too bad for a system that's lacking two buttons and a second analogue stick. It still would be nicer if Sony made the PSP so that it's easier to use the d-pad while still using the nub, since the d-pad changes weapons and radio stations. It also would've been nicer to have a better way to look left and right while driving (for doing a drive-by) since using the L+nub means you can't steer while shooting. However, for being on a system that's not really designed for a GTA game (due to the buttons that are lacking compared to the PS2), this is still masterly made to use the PSP controls. 

Also, while this game is in the same city as GTA3, it's nice to see that Rockstar did change some things. After all, this does take place a few years before GTA3. The hidden packages are placed in unique areas, the safe houses are moved, some territory is in different gang hands. 

Best of all is the addition of a couple of new mission styles. So far, the most enjoyable side mission I've found is an optional one that starts like the old RC bombing runs. You start by getting on a certain motorcycle. Then you are put on the bitch seat and given some crosshairs...along with an uzi. It's up to you to shoot out a certain number of vehicles before time expires, you get hit too many times, or before you accidentally shoot your driver in the head (you can actually do that on this mission, which is one hell of a cool addition to the series). 

So, ultimately I'd say this game offers enough new additions that I'd say the only real shame is that Rockstar didn't put it on a console that could handle the buttons. I know it's doubtful, but I hope Rockstar ports this title to the PS2 or the XBox. It's that far. 


Malik (10/27/05)  

With how much I've bitched about the futility of Tiger trying to enter the handheld market with the Gizmondo, I can't say I'm not surprised to hear that they had a few skeletons in their closets. With such a poorly planned launch and system, it only makes sense that such weird facts as their company having ties to organized crime would come to light. I really don't know how to comment on this beyond saying that Nokia has true competition now for being the handheld with the least possibility of survival and the highest possibility of looking bad to the public. 

So, this is when I was expecting to go off about GTA:LCS. As far as I knew yesterday morning, I was going to get in a lot of GTA time last night and then have some updated impressions of this game. Yup. Well, that was before I made a trip to Best Buy. 

So, after I got off work yesterday and did my post, I played a little Fable. I've been trying to get in about an hour a day before my XBox fries itself (the latest update on that has Microsoft saying I have to go through their phone customer service to tell them that I have a bad XB and then to find out where I can take it...or if I need to send it in) completely. So, I did that, and played enough to see a little new content and a good amount of content I already knew...and loved. 

However, after that, I hit Best Buy, and grabbed a copy of Civilization 4. I mainly got this game since my friend Bastich and I both are avid fans of this series. Our plan was to join forces to force Taoism on a bunch of unsuspecting nations. However, I couldn't just buy the game last night and then wait until a night when I could manage a good old mini-LAN party with Bastich. I had to make sure the game was working on my PC. 

Well, long story short, the game works. In fact, more than working, the game is as addictive as any past Civ game has ever been. I started a game with the intention of making sure my system could handle it (and to make sure there were no bugs), but I instead played until about 1200 ACE (which is no small feat of time). I just couldn't stop playing long enough to play any GTA. 

I do have to say that I'm happy with the direction Civ4 has taken the series. The controls are a little awkward at first, since the town management system has completely changes and there are no solid forms of government as much as there are five fields of government (with five choices each) that you can select to make your own hybrid government method. This actually works quite well since you will continually unlock new minor methods of governing as you play and you can keep installing them (at the cost of a revolution) until you have the form that fits you the most. 

On top of these changes, you have far more control on negotiations with your neighbors, on your individual units (you can upgrade them as they gain experience to be more specific to a task, like attacking from jungles or city defense), and especially on what religion you have. Plus, the game will create special units from time to time (they just will be born in your city at random during a population increase) how Moses showed up in Kyoto (I'm playing as Japan right now) one day in 1000 BC. 

Also, the visuals are awesome. I never really cared about what visuals looked like in a turn based strategy game, but it's nice to see that they can be this pretty. It's not really needed for the game to function, but it also doesn't get in the way. On top of the visuals, the game lets you run a folder of MP3s from your HDD so you can either use their built-in orchestral music, or you can use something more Black Eyed Peas. 

Anyway, I really want to go off about GTA, and I'll see what I can manage tonight. Sadly, this neglect of GTA is bound to happen when I go against my word. I said before that I never should have more than 1 or 2 new games at a time, and I just hit three within a week. However, at least I can say that it is a good sign for the other two games when a GTA game (which is always long as it's a 3D one) is left to collect dust out of these three. 


Malik (10/28/05)  

It looks like closure is heading our way on the battle between Penny-Arcade and Jack Thompson. Well, the whole thing isn't ending, but the part involving the Seattle Police is ending how any sane person with any understanding of criminal vs. civil law would understand it to end. In other words, the SPD has seen no sign of criminal issues, and have pretty much sent this little matter on it's merry way. 

I personally find it unnerving that a lawyer would try to press charges over this to begin with, but even more so that my long standing belief has been confirmed...that, if anything, this is a civil matter. To see a lawyer try to turn this into a criminal matter makes as much sense, to me, as someone saying a video game can train someone to kill and then make them commit a crime. In other words, it is flat out bogus. 

There are other people who Thompson complained to about this matter, and I expect them to end up either ignoring the issue (not a bad decision) or to say his complaints are only valid in a civil court and that in a civil court it would be thrown out. 

In fact, the law is pretty clear. There was no slander or libel matters to deal with since PA never said something flat out false about Thompson. Plus, since Thompson has made himself a public figure, anyone has the full right of the 1st amendment to comment and discuss what Thompson is long as they do so in a public forum or media format and the truth is maintained. 

On the note of more complaining, it looks like the custom soundtrack option on GTA:LCS is still eluding people. This includes those who finished the game. So, I just have to wonder if Rockstar may have f#$%ed up by having that option in their menu but actually had no coding to implement it. I think it's about time that Rockstar explains what the deal is with this "feature". Considering the soundtrack has many aspects to be desired and that the PSP is perfectly suited for custom soundtracks, and that Rockstar did include what appears to be a broken menu option, it's about time they either discuss it or release a patch to implement it. 

I wish that was all I could complain about in regards to this game, but I'm starting to feel like GTA:LCS is seriously lacking. While you could not expect a GTA:SA on the PSP, this thing is lacking compared to GTA3, which is a game that the PSP would be able to handle. 

For example, the biggest let down so far, for me, is that the missions seem to only go half way. For example, one early mission finds Toni needing to rescue some Mafia guys from a failed robbery. So, you have to get to the gas station they are holding up before the cops kill them with a classic slowly dropping life bar for the goons. Well, you arrive, pick them up (pretty easily), and drive away. You have three stars and need to hit a Pay'n'Spray. You end the mission by returning to the point where you got the mission. That's it. No drama. No extra side story. No sudden plot twist. Most of all, no time needed to play this mission. 

GTA:LCS may be portable, but the early missions are not even near the length of the early missions on the PS2 GTA games. In fact, the missions pass in the blink of an eye. The only downside is that the place you first receive missions is so damned far from your save point, and since the loading makes one not want to have to repeat a mission, I find myself saving often. After that, I usually am lacking the drive to go back to the mission giver...since it's just another long car ride to go and have a short mission. 

Hell, the PSP is designed for longer missions. If you fail to have the time to complete one, you can hit start (pause) and then put the PSP to sleep. Next time you wake it, you will be right where you left it, with no time passing in the game. 

At least I can say that it still is the best PSP game to date. However, when you consider that the other PSP games round up to either be a bunch of the same extreme racing genre or a bunch of ports of sport games that rock on the PS2/XBox and bomb on the PSP...well, it doesn't say much when a game is called great. It's like how usually someone who swears a lot in public is not considered a good role model...however, if everyone else present is drunk, packing firearms, and using kittens are targets...well, the loudmouth definitely wins as the more respectable role model. GTA:LCS is that cursing fiend. He's not a good person to have influence a child, but he's better than the rest. 

At least GTA:LCS does offer a few new side missions. In fact, these side missions may be the most enjoyable aspect of the game so far. In one, you ride bitch on a motorcycle (I mentioned this earlier this week) while shooting at targets. Another fun one has you trying to sell cars. To do so, you have to drive a certain vehicle how the customer would want to drive it themselves. If you're selling a Cheetah, then the customer will have a need...a need for speed. If it's a station wagon, the customer will want you to drive slowly and show how it's a safe family car. It's all simply, but still pretty fun since it give the play a good chance to hone their driving skills and to make extra cash. 

Well, I aim to have a Civ4 filled weekend. If things work out, I'll probably have some good war stories on Monday. 


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