Just my luck: no functioning consoles

So my primary hobby is gaming, and I spend a fair amount of time and money on it. What are the odds that in the same timeframe Sony Playstation’s PSN service would go down for a month+ due to being hacked, and my just over 3 year old (read: just out of warranty) xbox 360 would Red Ring of Death? 100% likely as it turns out. Just a couple of days after the PSN network blew up, my Xbox died as I sat down to watch a movie on it. I’m especially pissed about the xbox because I intentionally held off buying one for several years because the RROD issue became well known and I decided to hold off for a hardware revision, assuming Microsoft would address the issue. They didn’t. Supposedly it’s addressed in the newest ‘slim’ models (I bought an Elite shortly after they came out), but at this point, having had my first generation xbox die and now my 360 die, I’m not so sure I want to buy back into the platform. It’s a real dilemma though, because I have literally dozens of games for the thing, as well as many peripherals (the controllers alone go for $50/pop and I have 4 of them), and selling everything off will earn me pennies on the dollar. Plus, I’m figuring my soon-to-be toddler would enjoy the Kinect motion control stuff MS is pushing these days.

So…what to do. I can’t decide. I’m sitting pat for now. E3, the biggest gaming industry trade show, is next month, and I’m going to see what comes out of that before doing anything.  I should note that while the PS3 still works, mostly, aside from multiplayer, I’m worried trophies won’t sync correctly when the network comes back up, so I’ve been staying off of it. Meantime, it’s back to gaming on the PC primarily.

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.

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.

Finished Dead Space on PS3

Susan and I finished Dead Space on the PS3 last week. All in all it’s a pretty great game. I handled the controls while Susan played copilot, mostly because of her lack of familiarity with 3d gaming. We had a lot of pretty creepy fun playing through it. The game’s a 3rd person action adventure game which seems to be inspired by the Resident Evil series of games. In many ways it’s superior to most of the games in that series. It’s also clearly been influenced by the System Shock series and it has some light RPG elements in the form of suit and weapon upgrades.

Graphically the game is beautiful – in fact it’s one of the best looking games I’ve played on the PS3. There’s great use of light and shadow, very detailed textures, excellent models and animation, and great art direction.

Audio is similarly superb – it’s one of the best sounding games I’ve played on the PS3 as well and the voice acting was great.

Gameplay is a mixed but mostly positive bag. On the downside, the game’s fairly repetitive, and while the ship is realistic and the game breaks up the corridor crawling with some great action set pieces in very large spaces, there’s still a ton of corridor crawling and it can get old. The controls are tight but the weapons are a mixed bag – some seem much more effective than others no matter how you upgrade them and it’s difficult to know where to spend your resources effectively. The difficulty seemed pretty fair on medium. There are a number of physics and logic puzzles to work out, often while under fire from multiple enemies, and these were some of the highlights of the game.

The plot was just ok – it starts out like a riff on the plot from Aliens, with you and your crew dispatched to rescue an orbital mining operation that sent out a distress signal then stopped communicating, but it morphs into a muddle of religion, government conspiracy, double crosses, alien artifacts and a mutating alien lifeform that’s has some similarities to the one in the classic John Carpenter movie The Thing. It wasn’t bad by any means but by the end Susan and I were weary of it.

The game has one other superb attribute – it’s got one of the best interfaces I’ve seen in a game. Most everything you do and interact with in the game you do via a 3d computer interface that projects out of the spacesuit you’re wearing or out of objects you encounter. It’s really well done and I hope more games mimic it.

I picked this up used for $35 but would have been just as happy paying $60 retail for it – it’s a really great game and well worth a look.

Here’s a video to give you a sense of gameplay and graphics:


Game finished: Monster Madness

This is possibly the worst game I’ve ever finished. Susan and I played through the action game Monster Madness, finishing last night after a couple of weeks of chipping away at it level by level. If you’re familiar with the old arcade game Gauntlet, or more recent action brawlers like the Xmen series of games on consoles, you have a general sense of the gameplay – top down camera, 1-4 players romping through the gameworld bashing the badguys.The best thing I can say about the game is that the concept was solid – fight your way through a modern day world overun with all the monsters from horror movies and legend colored with a satirical spin. Everything else? Terrible. The audio was apparantly downsampled or recorded at a really low bit rate, the voice acting was awful, the plot itself (4 heavily stereotyped teens out to save the world) was terrible, and the game was full of bugs – your character gets stuck on and in things, you randomly warp around the screen if the game gets bogged down, the framerate is highly variable but trending towards too low, and while it featured a ton of variety in weapons I ended up spending most of the game just whacking things with my default melee weapon because it was just overkill with the gadgets and dozens of alternate weapons.

Why we managed to finish this thing is hard to say. We like playing through coop together in games and we didn’t have any other handy options is I guess the main reason why. Anyway stay far away from this even if you find it cheap is my advice. I think I paid around $15 for it and that was too much. It’s available on PC, XBOX360 and PS3. We played on the PS3. Here’s a brief video to give you a sense of how the game plays: