Sunday, September 27, 2009

Xbox 360 Review: Halo 3: ODST

Halo 3: ODST has taken over my life.

Ever since the game came out I have found time to play it every single day, which is kind of unusual considering my otherwise hectic schedule. With that being said I have some mixed feelings about the game.

Campaign: So the campaign is pretty good. The story is nestled well into the Halo universe and there's no denying the atmosphere is incredible. Basically it follows the exploits of an elite team of ODSTs (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) on a special mission. Things go wrong as they are on their way down to the streets of Mombasa and the squad is separated from each other. As the Rookie of the squad you scour the darkly lit streets by yourself trying to find your fellow ODSTs. As you come across "beacons" you'll experience a flashback that puts you in the shoes of the other members are varying points. The game deftly strings the different stories together and the characters are interesting enough to pull the rest of the experience together. The thing that's important to note is that you won't miss Master Chief and Cortana. Things are handled so well here that the Halo motif is kept intact without the famed Spartan.

The gameplay is traditional Halo, except the ODST members do not regain health and they have a visor that helps in darkly lit areas. This all means you have to play the game differently, since you can run in guns blazing Rambo style and expect to make it out unscaythed. Imagine going up against a Hunter on Legendary as a significantly more human player. It's kind of scary.

Now, when you play the campaign you have the option to go at it solo or with some help, should you happen to have some friends to play with. Both play out like you'd expect, though the additional team members definitely helps through some of the tougher parts. With that being said two friends and I plowed through the campaign on Normal in about 3 hours. That's the negative aspect of the campaign game. It's just not long enough. And at the end it also kind of, well, just ends. Let's just say it leaves you wanting more.

Firefight is the other mode you'll find on the ODST disc. This one is an interesting mode very similar to Gears of War's Horde mode. Basically you and some buddies go up against wave after wave of Covenant. Five waves make up a round and 3 rounds make up a set. As the rounds progress the game turns more skulls on to increase the challenge. The amount and difficulty of enemies also progressively increases. Running low on ammo and getting swarmed by Hunters and hammer-wielding brutes is more than challenging enough. Oh, and you also share the amount of lives and there's a cumulative score that increases with each kill. The problem with this mode? You can't search for games. You can only play with people on your friends list and that can leave you high and dry sometimes. Come on Bungie! Give us the ability to find Firefight members!

There's a second disc included here, but all that is featured there is the complete Halo 3 multiplayer. I must admit I haven't played this since 2007, and after joining a match only to have my eardrums blown out by someone screaming obsenities and racial slurs, I was reminded why I stopped playing. There are good and bad here of course, but you really have to pick and choose when you play and what you play. The multiplayer component is still incredibly solid and fun so it's a good addition.

All in all, Halo 3: ODST is more than just an afterthought of marketing ploy. It's a well-produced game that expands the Halo universe even more than the main franchise has done. I'm in love with Firefight and am always up for helping someone through the campaign. Drop me a line if you're looking for another teammate since, after all, you can't exactly search for one through the game.

Halo 3: ODST gets 4 sticky grenades out of 5.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Oldie, but goodie

So, I've been without internet for a while. Funny thing is it was the router that died, and yet it worked for the 360, not my PC or laptop. Huh. Anyways, this time away from all my world wide web internets surfing has had me climbing the walls looking for something to do. Lucky for me I have a boatload of backlog titles that have accumulated over the years! The other day I pulled out Culdcept Saga for the Xbox 360.

In case you missed it, Culdcept Saga came out in 2008. It's the successor to the original game for the PlayStation 2, but in all fairness both versions are roughly the same. Basically it's like Monopoly met Magic: The Gathering and had a wild night of lust that resulted in a baby being popped out. Just had a mental image of Uncle Pennyworth getting it on an elf. Anyways....

So yeah, Culdcept Saga. FREAKING AMAZING! I loved the original for the PlayStation 2 and this version is every bit as addicting and fun to play. You basically have a deck of cards full of creatures, items, and spells. With that deck you go up against the CPU (or another player via Xbox Live....oh, wait, that feature is no longer available) and that match takes place on a gameboard. Each player takes turns on the field. Basically you role the die, move, and play a card. If you land on a block where your opponent has set up a, creature... you can either pay the toll or fight for the land with one of your creatures.

Each game has a set winning condition, where you basically rack up a required amount of Magic Points and complete a round around the board. Whether you win or lose, your given cards to edit your deck with. There's a great deal of customization in Culdcept Saga and you can really tweak and change whatever you want. There are a ton of cards to dig through and you can save multiple decks. Awesome!

Not so awesome is the fact that the Achievements suck. In order to get any Gamescore in this game you're going to work for it for, oh, about 200 hours or so? Even then the lack of online play eliminates those aspects anyways. Then again, I'm not playing Culdcept for the achievements. It's a great game for anyone who was ever a fan of tabletop card games like Magic.

Rank: 4 magical cards out of 5.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just Chillin'

No real updates today. Just posting a quick little doodle! Toad's chair is mighty cumfy! (Don't let the snot color fool you.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Quick DVD Review: Second Skin

I just sat down to watch Second Skin, and I gotta say that I was impressed and surprised! This 2008 film released by Liberation Entertainment and Directed by Juan Carlos Peneiro Escoriaza (try saying that 10 times fast) focuses on the addiction of MMORPGs and how the genre has affected the lives of gamers across the globe.

The good and bad angles are brought into light during this film. On the good side of things you'll see a couple hook up after playing Everquest II together, a group of gamers who all moved in together and lived happily ever after, and people hanging out in a digital world when they couldn't in real life. On the flipside there's a guy here whose life was destroyed by his addiction to WoW, there's an extensive look at Chinese goldfarmers, and you'll even see some people's relationships strained due to WoW.

Second Skin is insightful, thought-provoking, and entertaining. More importantly it's fair. The people in this film are exactly like people you know (think pudgy narcaleptic geek), and you really get a good sense of the mentality that goes into making an MMORPG addict. If you're interested in the content even just a little bit you should check this DVD out. It's definitely a good watch!


A Complex Shadow

You know the old story.Guy and girlfriend go on a hiking trip. Girl gets kidnapped by a militant group hellbent on destroying America. Guy grows a pair, ponies up, and takes on a whole army single handedly. The classics never get old, do they?

Okay, so Shadow Complex isn't going to be winning anyone over with its thought-provoking, Shakespearean plot. You know what though? Who the hell cares! This $15 XBLA title that was released about a month ago is without a doubt one of the greatest side-scrolling experiences of the past decade. It's part Metroid (think power-up system, map, and accessibility), part Metal Gear Solid (you sneak around a lot - sorry, not cardboard boxes), and all kick-ass (you, well, kick a lot of ass).

While you start out with just a pistol, a backpack, and presumably a couple of protein bars for the hike (Caramel Nut Balance Bars for the win), you eventually get assault weapons, grenades, and experimental gear that would put James Bond to shame. The game really goes out of its way to give you power and let you do what you want with it. Experimenting with the best ways to kill unwitting soldiers is arguably one of the time killers with Shadow Complex. Unfortunately aside from that the game is too damn short. For $15 you get a whole lot of fun but if you just blast your way through you can easily beat it in a couple of hours, if not less. Despite that it's definitely worth the buy, but don't expect to be coming back to this one much after you beat it.

Riddle me this. Riddle me that.

Who's afraid of the big bad Bat?

So, I just finished up the Normal difficulty of Batman: Arkham Asylum on the Xbox 360. This game turned out to be everything I ever wanted from a Batman game. Awesome gameplay, great boss fights, strong pacing, and it was steeped in comic book lore pulled straight from the pages of DC's archives. It did the franchise proud, which is something you really can't say too often unfortunately. Oh, and Ivy. Sweet, sweet Ivy....

After beating the game and tracking down all 240 riddles on the island I've been spending some time with the Challenge Mode. The combat mode is a great stress reliever and the predator challenges really get those brain cells fired up. You know what's better? More content on the way! The Insane Night Map Pack will be coming out on 9/17 and will feature some more freeflow combat.

I've got a feeling Batman will stay in the 360 for a little while longer. At least until I get through the Challenges and maybe play the Hard difficulty. Then again, by that point Halo 3: ODST will probably be out.