Game finished: 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
Image via Wikipedia

Continuing my trawl through games I started then set aside, last weekend I completed 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. This is a dumb, fun, 3rd person cover based shooter. It’s a riff on the same gameplay mechanics in Gears of War 1 and 2 with an over the top plot and mixed production values. The story follows the adventures of 50 cent and his crew in the middle east. They get ripped off by a concert promoter who offers them a jewel encrusted skull in lieu of payment. This also gets ripped off and 50 cent and his buddies spend the rest of the game shooting and cussing their way through various middle eastern locales in their quest to retrieve the skull. This game has no pretensions of grandeur – it’s the videogame equivalent of a B-movie and it pretty much delivers. The graphics, models, and audio are all middle of the road, but the feel is solid and the game isn’t long enough to wear out its welcome. It has a bit of arcade scoring in the mix, where stringing together insults and combos raise a score multiplier, but for the most part I just ignored this and blew through the levels. I only busted out a curse/combo now and then as I unlocked new curses, for the laughs rather than to help with the score.

You can find this game for under $20 new and often for under $10, and it’s worth it for the laughs at under $10. It won’t win any awards for originality but it’s a fun ride while it lasts.

Video below of some gameplay and cutscenes to give you a sense of it. I finished it on the xbox 360, it’s available for the PS3 as well. It’s got an average of ~72 over on metacritic, and that feels about right to me.

Game Finished: Gears of War 2

Gears of War
Image via Wikipedia

I’m still on a roll, finishing games at a rapid clip. Susan was out of town for several days at a conference which also helped.

It’s clear Gears of War 2 was written for 15 year old males, and for the most part I hated it. I disliked the first one and traded it in before finishing it, and ended up with the sequel because of a buy 2 get 1 free sale at Gamestop. I’d heard the sequel was an improvement on the original, and it probably is on a technical level, but the abysmally stupid plot, awful dialog, and mediocre game mechanics all drag the thing down into ‘don’t bother playing this dog’ territory. The script writers are channeling braindead hollywood action flicks from the 80s, think, say ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando‘ level dumb dialog. Lots of folks loved this game (it’s got a 93 rating over on metacritic for example) – I guess I’m just not in the target audience for this one. My appreciation for it wasn’t helped by the fact that I played it right after Halo ODST, a game with a refined combat and gameplay aesthetic that Gears of War 2 compares very poorly to. The one positive thing I can say is that the game does have some imaginative settings with impressive scope, especially when you venture underground into vast cavernous areas with ancient temples, sunken cities, and a giant worm out to get you – that part was a visual treat. Everything else…I disliked.

The clip below plays some of the cutscenes from the game and gives a pretty good idea of why I disliked the game. Video quality’s not that great but the audio is really the point. Don’t play this with other people around, it’s definitely NSFW.

Game finished: Halo O.D.S.T.

Halo 3 - Master Chief
Image by Ricardo Saramago via Flickr

I finished Halo O.D.S.T. (aka Orbital Drop Ship Troopers), the 4th game in the Halo series (or like the 8th, if you count the Marathon games as the spiritual predecessors they were) over the weekend. I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected. I’ve solved all the Halo games at this point, including 2 of them in coop, and I figured I had seen everything the Halo games had to see at this point, plus Halo 3 concludes the Master Chief‘s story arc, and I sort of figured without the Master Chief I wouldn’t be interested.

I only ended up getting the game because Toys R Us had a buy 2 get 1 free sale after Thanksgiving and I couldn’t find anything else I was interested in. My first session with the game seemed to confirm my suspicion – been there, done that, I thought, and I quickly set the game aside for others. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to clear out my game backlog before buying any new games though, and I love buying new games, so I returned to it and warmed up to it as I played.

The Halo series does a pretty good job with their basic combat mechanics, and their level design focuses on setting up repeated ‘situations’ or skirmishes that require tactical thinking, skill, and sometimes a little luck. The same skirmish can play out wildly differently each time you approach it after a failure too, which helps enormously with enjoyment. In terms of what ODST brings to the party this time around…well, not much new. Some tweaks to the weapons, graphics, vehicles, a lack of the more resilient Master Chief, and that’s about it. The relatively short plot follows the misadventures of a squad of soldiers on a mission in a city under siege by alien invaders. It’s told non-linearly, and while in the end it’s not that exciting, by the standards of most first person shooters it’s actually pretty solid. I played on normal difficulty and either the game is fairly easy or I’ve played enough Halo games to do really well at them, because I mostly found it pretty easy.

The one new thing that ODST does bring to the table is a multiplayer mode called Firefight that’s pretty fun – it’s basically the human players versus increasingly powerful waves of AI characters in skirmish battles. It’s tough, frantic, and a good deal of fun. The rest of the multiplayer is basically what you see in Halo 3 with a bunch of additional maps included, including some which were DLC for Halo 3.

So – would I recommend it? Qualified yes – if you’ve played Halo games and really enjoyed them, no question, you should pick it up. If you’re a singleplayer only player, well, it’s a tougher call. The single player is fun and well designed and has an above average story for the genre, but it’s also fairly short. If you’re a Halo 3 multiplayer fan, it’s probably worth picking up just for the Firefight mode alone.

Game Finished: Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty

Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty
Image via Wikipedia

I’m on a roll thanks to one of my New Year’s resolutions. I finished Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty earlier in the week. It’s a short coda to the previous game, Tools of Destruction, and explains how Ratchet figures out where Clank is after he…disappears at the end of Tools of Destruction. I scored the next game in the series, Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time on sale over Christmas and I wanted to finish this game so I could move on its sequel. This is the 8th (!!!) Ratchet and Clank game and it doesn’t bring much new to the table. There’s more of a focus on puzzle solving than in the previous games, and it’s really short, maybe 3-4 hours long, but it’s still got the trademark Ratchet and Clank humor and I enjoyed it well enough. The series features run and gun arcade adventure with some light puzzle solving, a lot of saturday morning cartoon humor, and generally great graphics. I’ve played all of them and solved several of them, including this one, but if you’re going to skip one, this is the one. Counterbalancing that is it’s cheap – I got it for $9.99 from the Playstation store as a download. Below is an ~8 minute video showing off some of the gameplay. Bottom line, if you’ve played the previous games and enjoyed them, you’re likely to enjoy this one as well.

Walking Dead comic series coming to AMC

The Walking Dead
Image via Wikipedia

The Walking Dead is a comic book series that riffs on the original George R Romero premise of slow, shambling undead hordes destroying civilization, borrowing liberally from other mainstream zombie fiction as it goes. I’ve read 8 or 9 volumes of the series at this point and overall I like it. I was pretty happy to see that the network that gives us Mad Men (probably the best dramatic series, ever, imo) has greenlit production of a television series based on the Walking Dead comics. I have high hopes for this and can’t wait until it starts. More details including an interview with the writer can be found here on, and some details on the recent greenlighting of the series are here on

How much is your Steam account worth?

Image via Wikipedia

A little friday fun of a different kind, we’ll call it the  ‘scare the spouse with your gaming expenditures’ edition. Steam is the most successful of the PC gaming digital distribution platforms. I’m a big fan and have been using it for years. The folks at ddgamer have put together a little tool to calculate what your account’s worth. Remember when you look at this that the numbers are based on the current value of the software, not what you actually paid. For me this means my account looks like it’s worth a lot more than I actually paid because I so often take advantage of the weekly and holiday sales Steam offers. Caveats aside, here’s my account, which today is worth $1,603.26. Change the username to your own to calculate the value of your account. A side note – folks have actually been selling off their Steam accounts, so if the number makes you feel sheepish and you want to try and recoup some of that money, you can try selling it on Amazon zshops or ebay or whatever. Mind that Valve (owners of Steam) may not approve, it’s probably a violation of their TOS, etc etc.

Game finished: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I was surprised how much I liked this game. I finished it on the PS3 over the weekend. On paper, you’d think I would hate this game – there’s not a lot of variety in terms of the enemies you face, by and large it’s a slightly disguised corridor crawler, the graphics are pretty good but the framerate can get low at times, some of the boss battles are really tedious (Gambit, who you fight like 97 times), it’s incredibly repetitive, you can exploit the combat system (grabs are really powerful) and there are a number of annoying scripted quicktime events (ie you have to press the correct button or sequence of buttons at the correct time). The game has two really important things going for it though – the combat is fast and fluid and an absolute blast (and it’s what you spend 99% of the game doing) , and the game captures the essence of Wolverine as ruthless baddass more than any game ever has. It’s one of the best superheroes in tights videogames ever. *

The game loosely follows the plot of the recent (mediocre, I thought) film, fleshing out various areas of the plot with more opportunities for combat and adding in a huge section of flashback material that’s only slightly touched on in the film, but it also strays far afield in parts. The game’s actually up for an award for the script which surprised me when it was announced – not that the game’s script is terrible or anything, it’s above average for this genre but really, that’s not saying much. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s basically an origin story but it jumps around in time a fair bit to tell the story.

Gameplay wise it’s an arcade brawler at heart, with a thin veneer of rpg layered on which allows you to increase the power, number, and styles of attacks, recuperative powers, and special abilities Wolverine has as the game progresses. There’s also some light collectathon stuff going on in the form of dogtags on the corpses of fallen comrades and wolverine statues which unlock challenge missions.

The game’s sort of the videogame equivalent of junkfood – nothing beyond capturing the essence of Wolverine is done especially well in this game, most of the gameplay systems are mediocre riffs on mechanics you’ve seen before, but on the whole it comes together as a fun little brawler.

Below is a video of one of my favorite sections of the game, wherein Wolverine manages to take down a Sentinel. Few things will make you feel more baddass than that 😉

* One caveat here – I have not yet played Batman: Arkham Asylum yet, and it’s supposed to be even better.

Blowing up the Champlain bridge

A minor bummer for me, a major bummer for the local residents. Some months ago engineers discovered that the Champlain bridge was so compromised structurally that they immediately closed it down, and over the christmas holiday, they blew it up. There’s a video of that demolition below. The minor bummer for me is that I’ve travelled extensively in that region of upstate NY, and several times drove past that bridge without ever crossing over it. I’d even planned to several times as part of the annual kids camping weekend trip at Roger’s Rock Campground, but just never got around to it. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, it was the only drivable crossing of Lake Champlain, and local residents are now faced with using the seasonal ferry or daily commutes approaching 100 miles. They’re trying to work with the federal government to  get a replacement bridge constructed, but even if they succeed it’s going to take many years.   Here’s the location of the bridge on google maps, and below a local tv station’s footage of the demolition.

So long old friend

Herbie the Elm, courtesy of Flickr

Well, here’s a minor bummer. I lived in Yarmouth, Maine for like 7-8 years, and right around the corner from my house was the largest living Elm tree in the US. I used to jog by it almost daily when I exercised. It went by the name Herbie and it had a plaque at its base explaining how it was still around despite Dutch Elms disease. turns out that it finally lost the battle with the disease after a ~50 year fight, and the town is taking down the tree. There’s a piece about this on the Portland Press Herald site, plus more details and info on chotkes they’re going to make from the tree on the Yarmouth website


The first color ebook device to make it to market

The Consumer Electronic Show was last week while I was laid up. I missed out on most of the coverage, but one thing I did notice was that the first color ebook readers are shipping in Japan (at $1k +) and that Qualcomm announced a promising new tech for color ebooks that’s superior to the other solutions I’m aware of. They’re promising products this year using this tech at reasonable prices. We’ll see. Anyway the product is called Mirasol and truth be told I don’t quite get how this works, but the gist of it is there are two plates, one suspended above the other in a magnetic field, and the proximity of the two plates to each other controls the color of the refracted light. Or..something. Anyway you can read more about it here on, plus check out a video of the tech in action over on engadget.

I’m pretty interested in this stuff. I’d really love an ebook, but not until they’re in full color. Those are definitely coming, and it’s not guaranteed that this Mirasol tech is what will be in the devices we buy, but in terms of price/performance/battery life, this is the most promising development I’ve seen.