gaming, xbox comments edit

I’ve tried out a bunch of game demos over the last few days on Xbox Live Marketplace and thought I’d share some feedback and maybe save you some time.

The Good Ones…

Bioshock Gamestop Limited
EditionBioshock:  Possibly the richest first-person shooter environment I’ve ever seen, this game takes you to the underwater city of “Rapture,” an exquisite art deco masterpiece, where you take on a society of genetically modified citizens in an effort to uncover the mysteries of the city and escape.  I couldn’t put it down, my dad couldn’t put it down… it’s amazing and compelling.  I found a Barnes & Noble gift certificate I had and just now pre-ordered the Gamestop Limited Edition of this for the additional $10, which comes with a soundtrack CD, behind the scenes DVD, and action figure.

UPDATE 9/5/07: The availability of the limited edition changes so the links to it are flaky.  If you want to see more on Bioshock, check out the regular version or try finding one new/used at Amazon.

Overlord:  Tired of being the good guy in games?  Be the bad guy!  This game lets you “construct your evil empire” by ordering your minions about to carry out your nefarious deeds.  You run around in third-person as the “overlord” and send your minions to fight, overcome obstacles, etc.  I was struck by the humor in this one and had a blast with the demo.  Not sure I’ll pay a full $60 for it, but if I find it used for cheaper, I’ll certainly look twice.

John Woo’s Stranglehold:  I like John Woo, and while I wasn’t overwhelmed by the awesomeness of Hard Boiled, this game was definitely a lot of fun and very stylish.  You play Tequila, the Chow Yun-Fat character, a cop trying to track down some cop killers.  Running around shooting the bad guys is fun, and the special powers you get and the interactions with the environment make it cool to watch and play.  Even Jenn was commenting on how cool it looked as I showed her the demo.  Very easy to pick up and play and even comes with a “Casual” difficulty so you can just have fun with it.  Again, maybe not $60, but definitely on the list.

The Not-So-Good Ones…

Hexic 2:  I played the first one because it came for free with the Xbox 360.  This one adds an incomprehensible “battle mode” and removes the easy-to-see colors of the original interface with a washed-out set of colors that makes the whole thing just confusing and hard to play.  Deleted.

Fatal Inertia:  Spaceship racing with weapons thrown in - hey, never seen that before.  Oh, and if you could make it more difficult to control and basically cause me to lose the race if I mess up one turn, that’d be great, too.  Deleted.

The Darkness:  I collect comics, and I read The Darkness, so I was actually hoping for some serious coolness here.  It was sort of neat, but generally I just ran around confused and disoriented, not really knowing where to go or what to do.  I got to a point in the demo where I was running around outside some sort of compound and ended up just quitting the demo because I couldn’t figure out what to do next.  The idea was neat, but the execution… not so much.  I think if I saw it for like $20 I’d consider it because when I was able to figure out what to do, it was fun.  Can’t imagine putting myself through that torture for $60, though.

Track and Field:  Message to Konami - please stop porting crappy games to the Xbox Live Arcade.  Seriously.  Just quit.

Ecco the Dolphin:  Didn’t this suck when it came out the first time?  I, uh, swam around aimlessly for a while, basically not getting it, dying a few times, and called it a day.

media, movies comments edit

I really need to get past the fact that the Bourne movies have no relation whatsoever to the books with the exception of general character naming.  Ever since the first movie, they’ve gone on such a diverging path as to make the two almost incomparable.

That said, if you let all that go, The Bourne Ultimatum is a pretty cool movie.

I re-watched the first two this week in preparation.  In The Bourne Identity, we find that Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a black ops assassin trained by the government during an operation called “Treadstone.”  In The Bourne Supremacy, some people in on the “Treadstone” operation try to frame Bourne for some evil doings in an attempt to use Bourne’s reputation as a cover-up.  Each of those movies ends with Bourne basically going off into the sunset to try and live his life in peace, but realizing that the government is still after him so he’ll always be on the run.

The Bourne Ultimatum is Bourne trying to find out more about his past and stumbling upon a larger operation - apparently “Treadstone” was just the beginning.

The movie was an action-fest, and none of us left the theater disappointed.  Great stunts, lots of fun, and very entertaining.  I didn’t feel like my entertainment dollar was wasted.

That said, you really couldn’t analyze it too closely because the plot starts looking like Swiss cheese with all the holes.  Normally I can let a lot of that stuff go by virtue of the fact it’s an action movie and generally implausible anyway, so a couple of details this way or that way don’t matter.  There were two details that bugged me about The Bourne Supremacy that I’m having trouble getting past.

First, by the end of the second movie we see that Bourne has kind of made peace with things and has accepted that he’ll only know just so much about his past.  He goes off to live happily ever after.  At the beginning of the third movie, he’s back in full gunslinging action, apparently on a search for… his past again?  I thought he was over that.  Eh, fine, they needed something for him to get worked up over.

Second, in the end of the first movie when Bourne confronts his old CIA handler, Conklin (Chris Cooper - a man who always plays the best corrupt government agents), about his identity, Conklin does a little disclosure monologue saying how Bourne was supposed to kill some guy, yadda yadda yadda, and that Bourne picked the place it would happen, picked the time it would happen, and picked his cover for the hit - Bourne picked the name “Jason Bourne.”  In Ultimatum, they contradict that statement by saying Bourne was given that name during training.  Huh?  I hope I’m just remembering the end of Identity wrong, but I just watched it and I swear that’s what happened.  So that stuck in my craw a bit, but I guess I can let that go, too.

Anyway, The Bourne Ultimatum was pretty cool.  I liked it better than The Bourne Supremacy, and there was a lot less of that shaky-cam crap that The Bourne Supremacy overused.  Check it out, you’ll like it.

General Ramblings comments edit

Even using Akismet for anti-blog-spam (which seems to work pretty well), I’ve noticed that as far as trackbacks/pingbacks are concerned, I only get two types:

  1. One of my own articles tracking back to itself for cross-referencing.
  2. Spam that slips through Akismet.

So I’ve disabled trackbacks because they’re just a pain in my ass to moderate.  If anyone can provide a decent argument why I should re-enable them, I’m all ears.  Comment away.  (Comments are still enabled.)

The Blue Angels do their famous delta
formation.The Oregon International Air Show was this past weekend and it was pretty cool.  Since Jenn and I live near the airport, we get a pretty decent view of the show just by sitting on our front porch, so we popped some chairs out there and watched the Blue Angels literally fly down our street.  (The photo is from the Blue Angels web site, but the view looks almost identical from our house.)

After the air show, since we were outside anyway, we decided to do some much-needed garage cleaning.  We “inherited” a lot of stuff when we moved into our house because my parents moved into a condo about the same time.  Stuff like two big boxes of slug and snail bait.  Bottles and cans of substances I don’t think they’ve actually manufactured in my lifetime.  Time to get rid of it.  So we gathered all of that stuff up into a couple of boxes and prepared it to go to the chemical disposal facility.  (Gotta dispose of that stuff in a safe manner!)

Oh, and I can’t remember the last time I used a hand saw, but somehow I have three.  Fine, I’ll keep one, but the other two went to the Goodwill donation truck along with the four spare hose nozzles and other redundant implements.

We also made a Home Depot run to get some boxes and such to better organize the things we decided to keep.  Net result - we’ve reclaimed the garage.  You can swim in the space in there.  We didn’t even get through all of it, either - I can see where we can do some additional optimization and reclaim even more of the space in there.

Why?  We’ve been wanting to get bikes for some time now, but the garage has been so jam-packed there was nowhere to put them.  Now that we’ve reduced the amount of crap in there, I can see some storage opportunities for those babies.  You know when the last time I rode a bike was?  Neither do I.  It’s time to get back out there.

Oh, before I forget - Sunday we went to see The Bourne Ultimatum with a couple of Jenn’s friends, Angela and Keaka (cool people).  We left during the Sunday showing of the Blue Angels, figuring we’d beat the traffic.  Not so - traffic was worse than ever.  Why? The ridiculous freeloading morons who decided to park along the side of the road so they could watch the show.  It wasn’t just a few cars - there were so many cars lined up on the freeway it was like they had pulled over for an emergency vehicle and just decided not to drive again.  Motorhomes pulled off into fields adjacent to the freeway and dropped anchor.  Cars lined up like it was a drive-in movie, pulling off the road with their rear ends in the ditch.

Now, I’m glad that they pulled off the road rather than trying to drive and watch at the same time.  (We passed a totalled car that was pretty obviously the result of the driver trying to watch and drive at the same time.)  But I feel pretty strongly that if you’re going to watch the show, maybe you should go pay your $20 and support the show.  I realize it sounds sort of hypocritical considering I parked my butt out on my front porch, but then, the airport has a noise easement over my house for this sort of thing, so I kind of feel like my property taxes already go to support these things.  My house is the one the pilot’s going to crash into if he goes down.  You people parking on the side of the freeway?  You were on the way to the store and decided to get a free show.  That’s bullshit.  Either keep driving or go get a ticket, you freeloader.

traffic comments edit

Coming out of the grocery store yesterday, I swore I heard an ice cream truck.

It started quiet, sort of peaceful, like that background music you hear sitting outside a decent coffee shop.  Second by second, it got louder.  And louder.

Looking around, I saw this car come tearing into the parking lot.  Tires squealing, careening around other cars, totally unsafe style, and coming this way.

At this point, the music was so loud it was like I was listening to my own headphones.  It had changed, though, from ice cream truck music a la The Entertainer to something more lilting, bringing visions of castles and ponies and princesses to mind.  Like Zamfir, but with more birds chirping and crap.

The car screeched into a parking spot and the driver stepped out, the music immediately silenced as the car turned off.  The driver, acting far more important than I’m sure he’ll ever be, strutted into the store.

I’m not a big fan of those cars that crank their music up to share with the neighborhood, but I mind it a little less if it’s at least halfway decent music.  I’d even take some ridiculous hardcore gangster rap over this fluffy-pink-clouds garbage.  If you’re gonna blare music, at least make sure you’re blaring good music.