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Malik (10/25/10)

I'm glad the Seahawks won. I mean a W is a W and it brings Seattle, once again, into first place. Actually, for the first time this season, Seattle is the sole top team in the NFC West. So, this helps.

However, I could almost swear I watched Super Bowl XL yesterday. I don't mean the often thought of "bad ref" situation. I mean how it was two teams that both needed a win and both played like the lamest excuses for NFL teams possible. Between Seattle and Arizona, the first half was nothing short of a very pathetic joke. Not much for yards (more yards were gained on kick and punt returns than on actual offense), poor passing, sad running, and it wasn't even from great defenses.

When Max Hall was removed as the Card's QB at half time, the excuse given was he had a minor head injury. I don't believe that for a second. Anderson was brought in because if Hall was doing poorly from a head injury, he sure as hell had it going in to the game. Hall is not like Bradford (Rams), McCoy (Browns), or Kolb (Eagles). Hall is a first time starter this season (and only recently) at QB and played like that. He played like a rookie who couldn't handle the pressure. Of course when the 12th Man is in full effect in Seattle, as well as the start of a nasty storm from that brought wind and rain, not many veterans can even look how Hasselbeck looked like a rookie in the poor weather. However, at least Hasselbeck made about five times more completions in the first half.

It wasn't until Anderson came in and showed how a QB should look (3 for 3 and a TD on his first drive) that even Hasselbeck took notice. However, this was a little after the special teams games went to shit. Numerous dropped receptions on kicks and punts, and even something I never saw before; two kicks on a kick-off. First Mare kicked it to the Cards, then their receiver kicked it to the side and it ended up in Seattle's hands in the red zone.

I'm just glad Seattle has Mare. If not for his amazing foot (holds the current record for consecutive field goals), things would have been different. Hell, Mare had the standing record of field goals in a row before putting up five on Sunday. That's five, might I add, on about 12 attempts due to numerous penalties. It's nice when Arizona keeps lining up off-sides to help bring Mare closer or to un-do their one blocked field goal (it's easier to block when you start off-sides). It's sad when the same Seahawks is called for holding two attempts in a row turning a completed 31 yard field goal into a completed 41 yard...and then into a completed 51 yarder. Good thing Mare seemed to take each bit of stupidity as a practice kick instead of letting his anger get the better of him.

Anyway, in the end, yesterday was just goofy. The Bills looked like demons in the first half (up by a few touch downs over the Ravens, and forced overtime). The Browns, with McCoy leading the team at QB, looked pretty good while Brees looked like ass (4 interceptions) against the Saints. The Dolphins barely lost by one point against the Steelers, which could've been adverted if they hadn't wasted a time out before the field goal that ended the Steelers' final drive.

Most of all, the Raiders, on the road in Mile High, looked like a high ranked college team playing against an unranked college team called the Broncos (and I don't mean the awesome Boise State Broncos). Seriously, the Raiders had nearly 60 points on the road!? How the hell does that happen? Hopefully that is all they can muster for the season since the Seahawks are heading to Oakland next Sunday.

Without a doubt, I think this is one season that reminds me that it is good to not be a betting man. If I played the odds, I'd be out too much money to count right now...after only six or seven weeks.


Malik (10/27/10)

I did pick up both Rock Band 3 and Fable 3 yesterday. Both games continue long standing franchises (well, if it's more than just one prior game in the modern money centered gaming world, then it's long standing in my eyes) and take them in some rather usual directions.

To get started, there's RB3. I have to say my first impression is that Harmonix failed to deliver on one area right out of the gate. I'm talking about the pre-order DLC bonus offered through Gamestop and some other outlets. They failed by not accounting for the server attack this would cause, making much frustration for anyone who wanted to download these extra tracks. I gave up after about five attempts to enter my code.

Beyond that, which is somewhat expected for a major new launch, I do have some immediate complaints. First off, I don't dig the idea of ditching the audience sing-along sections. Now, even with old tracks like Baba O'Reily, which did great on audience participation, you cannot get an audience reaction for doing great beyond just occasional cheering.

Also, RB3 now has ditched the old methods to gain fans or money. In fact, money is gone entirely. To unlock and get new clothes, you have to beat pseudo-achievements. These include a huge list of band, instruments, and technique based challenges. For example, if you want to get one challenge done, which is probably one of the hardest if you play expert only, is to hit 100% of the notes on every song in the game. This will unlock a bunch of fans and will offer you a few new duds to wear. This is opposed to the old method of getting fans and money from completing gigs, with larger venues and longer sets gaining more money and fans than single songs in small dives. Combined with the challenge selection/overview menu instead of the man/venue select screen, and you definitely find a new experience that is not always for the better. In fact, I'm not really enjoying the change here at all.

To show I'm not entirely filled with anger towards the game, I do have two great examples of improvement. No, I didn't try the keyboard, so I don't count it as good or bad. I'm talking about unpausing the game leading to a short rewind of the song to get you back into the rhythm instead of either immediately jumping back in or just getting a countdown timer (like in Beatles). Also, you can now have a song play if an instrument is present but has no part. Combined with the ability to instantly pick up or drop out any part in a song, and it just makes it more fun to play anything the game offers. For example, I played a set on guitar, but when Imagine came on, with no guitar part, I jumped in on vocals for the song with no penalty.

I feel about the same way, with mixed emotions, about Fable 3. I mean I can see the value in the game, but I can also see the faults in ways I cannot just ignore.

As for value, the visuals and plot are both amazing. When you add in a voice cast like this one, it only becomes a more epic source of escapism. I can also say they improved the controls of the game to make the experience incredibly smooth and easy to pick up. Best of all, the menu lag is gone from Fable 2...

...or is it? I guess you can say that while Fable 2 had a poorly coded (lag) menu with simple and intuitive features, Fable 3 has a quickly loading menu that is beautifully coded, and a great feast for the eyes, that's absolutely slow and unusual in execution. Instead of actual menus, you transport to your "sanctuary" when you pause the game. In the sanctuary, you can interact with the world map, equip yourself, check some limited stats, and examine your accomplishments. However, this is all played out in a large enough of environments to make the process quite slow and tiresome when you simply want to change you weapon. Gone, however, is the ability to check your inventory (unless you try to sell something at a pawn shop), the mini-map for the area you're in, a quest log, and any semblance of hit points. You do have hit points, but the game doesn't tell you what they are at and how close you are to needing to fear for your life.

While I understand that Molyneaux wanted to make a more immersive game experience, menus are needed. In real life, I can reach into my pocket and check what I'm holding. You cannot do that in Fable 3. In real life, I see a world from my eyes and can get an innate sense of direction. In Fable 3, you need to memorize the world around you in ways that border on tiresome. In real life, I know when I feel injured. In Fable 3, you wait for the quick shortcut to use a health potion to show up. This is not as much immersive as it takes one from the action when you teleport repeatedly to the sanctuary for every damned minor detail. Give Fable 2 and it's lag plagued menus or Fable 3 with it's non-menu...well, I'd take the annoying lag any day of the week.

I'm not giving up on the game by any means. However, I definitely feel that the idea of removing almost all menus from a game with solid RPG elements is about equal to Scribblenauts removing all words based on fantasy. In other words, it's just not right for the game style.


Malik (10/29/10)

I've seen comments in reviews and on message boards about the non-menu system of Fable 3. Most of these comments start out by saying something about how it's unusual and hard to fathom at first, then it becomes comfortable, and in the end it is just as good or better than a typical menu. This is partially correct, but only partially.

As I said before, when you start, the non-menu idea of hard to get one's mind around. It's so foreign to a typical gamer. If you want to equip something, check you inventory, look at your stats (what few the game has), change you clothes, or even check your achievements, you have to find new ways from what you'd expect. It's not an easy proposition. Then again, nothing new is usually easy to those accustomed to the old.

With time, you do get used to this weird concept. At least you begin to work within the confines of the system. It doesn't feel like something natural, but it feels like something you can manage.

The lie is that it's as good or better than a normal menu based system. In one simple area, the entire scheme feels entirely frustrating. It's not fun to not know what is in your inventory unless you try to sell something (you cannot check on your items even in the non-menu sanctuary). It's not ideal to have no idea if you already have certain you-only-need-one-ever items (like dog training manuals). However, when it comes to checking quests and managing your current quests, that's where it becomes a giant pain in the arse.

Each time you get a new quest, which can be often since you need fetch quests (at least the game is nice enough to actually call them what they are; "Fetch Quest") to improve relationships with villagers. If you are like me, you're trying to get some friends in almost every village since it ensures a nice supply of free gifts from your admirers. Well, to set any given fetch quest as active, you need to wait until a certain point passes in the game and then select the quest from the map. This quest will not be described well. You're not always sure if a quest is one thing or another thing that you've started up. You'll also find all currently available quests that you can start up. You have basically one menu in the game, and it's so random and vague that it feels like Molyneaux didn't want you to actually have more quests than the main plot driven ones.

The only thing to add more hassle is where quests can go beyond the non-menu. If you select a quest that you started but didn't finish yet, you get "the glowing trail" from Fable 2. This glowing breadcrumb like path shows you where to go. However, due to the streamlining of the game (for loading times), the path is usually the first thing that doesn't appear when you may face frame rate issues or slow down in processing. That's not good, but it can be expected since Fable 3 is probably a hair too much for the poor old 360 to fully use. However, this path can also glitch (I assume it's a glitch) at times when it sets your next target as the quest giver instead of the location they have assigned you to go to.

Anyway, in the end the quest journal issues are not game breakers. However, they do give the game a smudge of dirt on what could have been something I'd consider near ideal. If I had to give the game a grade, it would get a solid B so far. With a few tweaks, it could be my favorite game of the year. Still, a fun game with a good amount of play time (so far I'm at about 15 or so hours, I'd wager, and I have plenty left to do) is nothing to complain about.


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