Category Archives: Games

It’s [cl/sl]obberin’ time!

Fantastic Four (Xbox)Fantastic Four (Xbox)

The new Fantastic Four Xbox game had two things going for it that the recently-released Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction game did not:

  1. It has a cooperative multiplayer mode.
  2. Blockbuster had it in stock last night.

Miscellaneous G™ and I played for about two hours last night and it appears to be a decent game. There are some silly camera angle problems that developers (of any video game, really) should have been able to eliminate by now, and we ran into a couple of areas where characters became unexpectedly stuck or unable to move without falling to their death. Oh, and the voice acting is consistently dreadful throughout. Sometimes having the cast of the movie upon which your video game is based doing the voices for their characters isn’t necessarily a good thing, I guess. Still, the execution of the various powers works well and the game is about as entertaining as most other multiplayer co-op beat-’em-ups I’ve played. Whether the single player game will be up to par remains to be seen.

On a mostly unrelated topic, it turns out that my wife is still a nerd. I know that there are one or two people on the planet who don’t frequent the forums at KJToo.com, so I’ll share her haiku triad here:

Kris has hit the mark:
His spawn is in my belly.
(Pass the ginger ale.)

What chance does it have?
With our genes, (s)he’ll doubtless be
Blind, blond(e), and nerdy.

O, how life will change!
Soon, no more sleeping til noon…
And no more Xbox.

Her dire predictions of an Xbox-less existence will not come to pass. They cannot come to pass! I’m going to buy one of those mini controllers for Baby Johnson. S/he’ll be playing Soul Caliber II before s/he’s off the teat!

Firefly, vampires and superheroes (but mostly Firefly).

Firefly: The Complete Series (DVD)Laura and I finished watching the fourth (and final) Firefly DVD after dinner last night. Now we’re all set to see Serenity when it is released in theaters next month. I think Laura likes the series more than she lets on, though I’m sure she’ll deny it. One thing we do agree on: the theme song sucks. Not the music, mind you, the music is good. The lyrics (and the guy singing them)… that’s another story. Die-hard Firefly fans get all weepy about the theme, but I fast-forwarded through it after hearing it twice. No thanks. I do listen to the instrumental version that plays over the end credits every time, though. That one I like.

I completely missed Firefly when it was on Fox. Not surprising, since I tend to avoid Fox (except for Family Guy and occasionally The Simpsons) whenever possible. Don’t even get me started on the local Fox news program. By missing Firefly, I also missed the hubbub surrounding its cancellation. I know that there was a massive fan outcry that led to Serenity being green-lighted, but I wasn’t part of it and really didn’t think much of it until I actually sat down and watched the series.

And? It’s a good show. The concept (Stagecoach in space) sounds a little weird at first, but it works surprisingly well. It helps that so much attention has been paid to the look and feel of the universe as a whole. The particulars of the story are very interesting, and the primary cast is quite good. I wasn’t all that taken with Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Filion) at first, but he kind of grew on me. The crew of Reynolds’ Firefly-class spaceship, Serenity, is an interesting bunch. There are nine altogether (including Captain Reynolds), so I’m not going to get into each of them, but my favorites are Book (Ron Glass), Jayne (Adam Baldwin) and Kaylee (Jewel Staite). Book is a mysterious “Shepherd,” a wandering holy man with a hidden past. Jayne is a straight-up mercenary who is entirely capable of selling out his shipmates if the price is right. And Kaylee… sweet, sweet Kaylee is a dream made real, the embodiment of innocent beauty. To quote Wash (the ship’s pilot), “Were I unwed, I would take [her] in a manly fashion.” Yeah. She’s something else. Oh, and I guess she fixes the ship, too.

After we watched the last three episodes and a couple of the special features, I went upstairs and fired up Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption.

Alas, it just wasn’t good night to be a vampire. Christof, Wilhem and Serena were given permission by the Kindred Prince of Prague to enter Ardan’s Chantry to learn more about the disappearance of several humans and Kindred. Ardan is a member of the Tremere clan, and his Chantry is occupied by numerous Tremere Regents, Neonates and Apprentices, most of whom can cast fireballs. Vampires don’t much like fire. After several unsuccessful attempts to defeat the Tremere and their creatures (gargoyles and annoying, frog-like beasties called “hoppers”), I decided to trade in my fangs for spandex and superpowers. I completed a couple of missions in City of Heroes and then went to bed.

Sweatin’ to the Newbies

My arms are sore from the video game playing.

That’s right, playing video games has left me with sore arms. How is this possible? Well, Miscellaneous G™ brought his PlayStation 2 over last night, along with his Taiko drum and (more importantly) EyeToy.

After Taiko Drum Master taught me that I am devoid of rhythm, we connected the EyeToy and started fighting ninjas, popping ghosts, spinning plates, washing windows, smacking ratmen and disco dancing. This went on for no less than two hours as we went through all twelve games included on the EyeToy disc.

Clever, clever Sony, disguising exercise as a video game. By the time the last ninja flew off-screen, I was so worn out that I didn’t feel the slightest bit of guilt over not riding my bike after work (which I will do tonight, mark my words). It’s a pity that both the EyeToy and the Taiko drum are exclusive to the PS2, as the games were enough fun that I’d grab Xbox versions in a heartbeat.

Lo-cal weekend wrap

I didn’t ride my bike at all this weekend. Because I suck.

Actually, I woke up with an upset stomach on Saturday morning and the idea of stopping at the side of the bike trail to allow my breakfast an encore appearance didn’t appeal to me at all. So, I called Bob and wimped out on him.

Later in the afternoon, when the sun was high and hot, I was feeling much better, so I decided to punish myself with some yardwork. I spent two hours and change edging, mowing and cleaning up the lawn. This was the first appearance of the edger this summer, ((As an edger, anyway. I used it as a trencher in the spring, when I was trying to define the boundary between lawn and flower bed in the front of the house.)) and it performed its task admirably. The lawn had so encroached on the sidewalk and driveway that I feared the edge could not be found with anything less than a backhoe. Not so. My little Black & Decker EdgeHog tore through grass, weeds and dirt with ease. Or what I thought was ease. My arms later informed me that it wasn’t quite so easy as it seemed.

Sunday afternoon my in-laws had a house-warming party. My mother-in-law, expecting between thirty-five and fifty guests, prepared food for two hundred. She bought two huge meat and cheese trays and at the end of the party the second one was still in the refrigerator, unopened.

In addition to meat trays, there were pasta dishes (Laura made some excellent ground beef and Italian sausage sauce in the crock pot), pizza, breads and dips (including BLT and white pizza dips, both delicious), chips, beans and more. And desserts. Eleven thousand desserts. Blueberry crumble, chocolate cake, cookies, eclairs, cream puffs and lemon bar.

I grazed almost non-stop from 12:45 until 9:00. The food was incredible, the amount I consumed insane.

Vampire the Masquerade: RedemptionAfter Laura and I got home, I waddled went upstairs and installed Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption on my PC. I bought the game immediately after its release but (you guessed it) never finished it. In the twelfth century the noble Crusader, Christof Romauld, is wounded in battle and left in the care of the nuns at a Convent in Prague. Regaining his strength, Christof descends into the silver mine and destroys Ahzra, unholy mistress of the horrors lurking deep within the mine. On returning to Prague, Christof is hailed as a hero, but his travails are far from ended.

Christof finds that he is smitten with Anezka, the lovely nun who nursed him back to health when all others had abandoned hope. Alas, the Archbishop Geza—who clearly lusts after Anezka himself—declares that Christof’s feelings are an affront to the Lord and will damn both him and the young nun. Geza orders Christof to go out and patrol the streets of Prague after dark, an order that is tantamount to a death sentence. After sunset, the streets of Prague are plagued by undead beasts, including vampire servants known as Revenants. None are a match for the powerful Christof, until he meets a vampire more powerful than he imagined possible. By the time I turned off my monitor at 2:30 this morning, Christof had been “embraced” by Ecaterina, leader of the Brujah clan in Prague. Now Christof, who so valiantly battled godless heathens and monstrous creatures in the name of Christianity, is himself an unholy abomination, doomed to walk in darkness for all eternity, feeding on human blood to survive.

So he’s got that going for him.

Destroy a representative sample of humans…

Destroy All Humans (Xbox)Well, it’s time to return Destroy All Humans to Blockbuster. I’ve apparently completed 22% of the game, which is interesting. Why? Well, because I’ve visited three towns in various parts of the United States of America. Nothing even approaching a major metropolitan area, and I haven’t actually destroyed all the humans in any of those towns (yet).

Last I heard, the United States was populated by right around 270 million people, give or take. Suppose that there are 6 billion humans on the planet Earth (that’s probably low-balling it a bit, but I don’t have time to do a full count right now). Even if we inflate the U.S. population to 300 million, wiping out every last human between Canada and Mexico (plus a handful in Alaska and Hawaii and, hell, throw in Puerto Rico, too), that’s still only 5% of the entire planetary populace.

So how can I be 22% of the way through Destroy All Humans? Something doesn’t add up here. Am I meant to destroy every last humanThose pesky Kulku only needed to “process” eight million humans to fulfill their quota. Amateurs. or not?

Y’know what? I bet the answer has to do with exponents. I’ll just bet.

Freedom Force Finished!

Freedom Force vs. The 3rd ReichFreedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich

I just wrapped up Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich, which can mean only one thing: the game was too short. I installed it on 01 August, a mere seven days ago and finished it without using cheats, walkthroughs, user forums, or any other assistance. To complete a game in a week is simply unheard of around here. I demand more!

The nice thing about the game is that I can go back and play it through again at a higher difficulty level and/or using different heroes for each of the mission. Before each mission, you assemble your team of four (usually) heroes. Sometimes, certain heroes cannot be selected for one reason or another, and the Freedom Force roster grows as the game progresses. I definitely favor some characters (I use Bullet just about any time he’s available for a mission, El DiabloEl Diablo was the inspiration for one of my City of Heroes characters, Conflagrante. The two have similar powers and ethnic backgrounds, though their origin stories are quite different. is another favorite and Man-Bot is a walking tank) and shy away from others (Mentor is a wimp in the early game, as is Law), so it’d be a challenge to run through the game with characters I don’t normally use.

Though I’ve only had it for a week, Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich managed to suck up hours of time at a sitting. The game combines an engaging story with well-developed (yet very familiar) characters and excellent play mechanics.

The story takes place in both the Silver (1956-1974) and Golden (1938-1954Dr. Frederick Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent had a hand in bringing the Golden Age of comics to a close. Wertham blamed comic books for pretty much everything that was wrong with young people in America. The guy would have had a field day with modern video games.) Ages of comic super heroes. In 1962, the heroes of Freedom Force grow restless after the defeat of the Time Master (in the original Freedom Force game). The reappearance of an old enemy sets in a motion a series of events that leads them to travel through time to 1942 in an attempt to stop Germany from winning World War II. The plot is a good blend of Silver and Golden Age storylines, complete with outlandish, stereotypical villains and over-dramatic heroes.

The characters in Freedom Force tend to be interesting and clever versions of one or more classic comic book heroes. Minute Man is a flag-waving Captain America type, complete with a Bucky Barnes-like sidekick named Liberty Lad, while Man-Bot is a cross between Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk. Law and Order are very similar to Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, and Bullet is the Flash with a southern drawl. Man-o-War is a fishy cross between Aquaman and Sean Connery and Mentor is a hybrid of DC’s Martian Manhunter and Marvel’s Professor X.

This might seem like mere copycatting, but Freedom Force is more an homage than it is a ripoff. The familiarity of the characters is part of how developer Irrational Games managed to capture the feel of classic comics. Everything about the game owes something to those classic comics, and even the load screen for each mission is presented as a comic book cover (price: 12 cents).

Gameplay is fairly straightforward: select a hero and then give him or her a command (run/fly to a location, attack a villain, activate a specific power). The action can get pretty hectic, and the ability to pause the game to issue orders to your heroes is absolutely critical; without it, the game would be pretty much unplayable. Pausing lets you jump from one hero to another, coordinating various aspects of combat to ensure that each super-powered crusader is doing his or her part in the fight for truth, justice, and … well, you know.

All in all, Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich is a worthy successor to one of my favorite PC games in recent memory. Everything that made the first game so enjoyable has been preserved and expanded upon. New heroes and villains (complete with new powers) have been added to the mix. The graphics have been updated, though not to such a degree that they lose that Silver Age feel, and the game features the same wonderful, cheesy voice acting as the first installment. My only complaint is that the story was far too short, though I’m hoping that the wide variety of heroes will give it a decent replay value.

Master Chiefs and Minute Men

HALOHALO (Xbox)

Chalk up another one in the “W” column. Miscellaneous G™ and I made the final push to complete HALO last night, thus finally finishing the first game I ever purchased for the Xbox. The journey was hectic and often frustrating (jumping sucks in this game) but the outcome was quite satisfying. I was a little surprised with the brevity of the closing cinematics, however. After slicing through the Covenant and the Flood like a hot knife through so much screaming, writhing butter, I expected the finale to be a little more… dramatic.

Afterwards, I installed a new driver for my Radeon 9600 and fired up Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich. I was able to play through the entire “Hunt for Red Oktober” mission without incident, so it would appear that the problem has been resolved. The members of Freedom Force will have little time to celebrate their victory, however, as it appears that Nuclear Winter has pulled a snow job on Red Oktober and plans to bring about an atomic apocalypse. Now that she sees the truth, the witch is only too eager to see her former colleague brought to justice and has provided Minute Man and his cadre of courageous compatriots with details regarding the Russian rogue’s sinister scheme.

In other news, the ‘rents were in Toledo last night and should arrive sometime this evening. I should stop and pick up some of that “Crime Scene – Do Not Cross” tape to put across my office door. Thankfully, untidiness is only a misdemeanor.

Freedom Force vs. CSI

Freedom Force vs. The 3rd ReichFreedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich (PC)

After dinner and an episode of CSI ((I have a love/hate relationship with CSI. On one hand, criminal forensics is fascinating. On the other hand, the show takes ridiculous license with what can and cannot be accomplished with some evidence, particularly photographs. For instance, gleaning the color of a person’s eyes by interpolating the colors from a single frame of black and white security camera video. Huh? Or maybe enhancing a blurry photograph to determine not only who the subject of the photo is, but also that there is a porthole behind the photographer. That’s right, a blurry 3/4 body shot is sharpened to such a degree that the forensic detective is able to zoom in on the subject’s eye and pick out the detail of a porthole in the reflection!

And then there’s the silly stuff like last night’s crossover with the crew from CSI: Miami. During a scene in which a diver is going in to find a submerged car, David Caruso is standing by with a rifle to fend off alligators. Jump ahead 10 minutes and the same diver is now going after a gun. No David Caruso. No rifle. Apparently no fear of alligators.

Watching CSI makes me feel like I’m turning into my dad. Why? Because there’s apparently a limit to how far my disbelief can be suspended. Several years ago, watching Speed with my dad, I rolled my eyes after he said, “There’s no way that bus is still going fifty miles per hour after hitting those barrels!”

Dad, I know how you felt.)) last night, I installed Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich. The installation went smoothly, so I launched the game… and two hours disappeared. This is exactly what would happen when I played the original Freedom Force. After taking a brief break, I returned to the game again and another 45 minutes slipped away and it appeared that I was well on my way to losing another two hours.

And then the game crashed.

Well, it more than crashed. The video changed from a group of stalwart superheroes battling belligerent bad guys to a blank blue screen. The audio stuttered on the last two seconds of music and dialog. No amount of Alt-Tabbing or Control-Alt-Deleting made any difference whatsoever. My computer was completely locked up.

So I reset my computer and tried again. Same mission, identical crash. There may be a pattern here, I thought. The keen observational powers of my well-honed analytical mind are not to be underestimated.

So I did the unthinkable: I read the ReadMe file for the game. In the section labeled “Known Issues” I learned that there are some problems with ATI video cards running outdated drivers. As it so happens, I recently installed a new ATI video card in my computer and neglected to update the driver afterward. That’s right, I’m using the driver that came on the installation CD! My computer geek license ought to be revoked.

Before going to bed, I started downloading the latest driver from ATI’s website. When I got up this morning, I verified that the download completed successfully (as far as Firefox can tell, anyway). Tonight at some point, I’ll install the driver and try the mission again.

It is imperative that Minute Man, The Green Genie, Bullet and El Diablo locate Nuclear Winter’s new partner, the witch called Red Oktober. We must learn more about their fiendish plot! The fate of the world may hang in the balance!

For Patriot City!

While at Target after lunch today, I happened to notice that Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich was on clearance for ten bucks.

Given how much I enjoyed the original Freedom Force (it’s one of a handful of PC games that I’ve played all the way through), I simply could not pass it up.

Games I’ve Finished (in alphabetical order and probably not a complete list):

  1. Armed and Dangerous (Xbox) – A lot of fun. Love the shark gun. Way too short.
  2. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (Xbox) – Cooperative multiplayer rocks.
  3. Crimson Skies (PC) – Why is there no PC sequel to this game?
  4. Deus Ex (PC) – Excellent game. One of my all-time favorite first-person shooters, this game has a very cool skills customization mechanic.
  5. Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes (Xbox) – More cooperative multiplayer. I like these games.
  6. Freedom Force (PC) – Pseudo Golden Age Superheroes. Check. Cheesy narration and dialog. Check. Cool Powers. Check. Nazis. Check.
  7. Full Throttle (PC) – Back when adventure games didn’t suck.
  8. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC) – Technically, I completed 60% of the stuff there is to do in this game, but I played the main storyline through to its conclusion, so I’m counting it.
  9. Hunter The Reckoning (Xbox) – Zombies, vampires and werewolves, oh my! The biggest problem with this game was the camera angles.
  10. Jedi Academy (PC) – I haven’t finished Jedi Outcast, but I tore through this one in about a week.
  11. Return to Castle Wolfenstein (PC) – I admit it: I got bored with this game toward the end and turned on god mode to complete it. I loved the “infiltrate the base and steal the secret spy plane prototype” missions and hated the “oh shit, zombies!” missions.

Most of the Xbox games I’ve finished I’ve done so with the help of Miscellaneous G™ over the course of many Tuesday evenings.

Games I’m Terribly Close to Finishing:

  1. Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (Xbox) – One of the best Xbox games I’ve ever played. I’m literally on the last mission, which has proven to be slightly beyond my skill to complete.
  2. HALO (Xbox) – Cooperative multiplayer first-person shooter! Two missions to go and maybe I’ll be able to justify purchasing HALO 2.
  3. Red Dead Revolver (Xbox) – Just one mission to go. As first-person shooters go, this one is just about my favorite on the Xbox. Great story, great setting, lots of fun.
  4. Rise of Nations (PC) – At last, a real-time simulation. I am one scenario away from complete dominance of the world! So why haven’t I played that scenario? Well, mostly because I don’t want to lose.
  5. Splinter Cell (PC) – I’m pretty sure I’m close to the end of this one. A great game with at least one excellent sequel (I haven’t tried the second sequel, Chaos Theory, yet). I haven’t fired this game up in a while. I wonder if my saved games are on a non-dead hard drive…

If I were a true nerd, I’d have all this information in a database…

Christmas in June

More new stuff!

Rebel Trucker: Cajun Blood MoneyRebel Trucker: Cajun Blood Money (PC)

Rebel Trucker is, according to the GameSpot review, a “… huge mess of a game that is riddled with grievous bugs, badly designed in every measurable capacity, and completely lacking in any conceivable dimension of fun.” GameSpot rates it a 1.8: abysmal. I picked it up for $6.98 from Half Price Books because I have an unexplainable compulsion to drive big rigs in video games. I should probably be ashamed of myself.

Iron MonkeyIron Monkey (Siunin Wong Fei-hung tsi titmalau) (DVD/1993)

Iron Monkey is a very fun movie with a Robin Hood hero and some excellent wire-fu. The action is a cross between The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This is the U.S. version (presented by Quentin Tarantino), which is rumored to be superior to the original release in some respects, yet inferior in others. I was surprised to find it at Half Price Books for the low, low price of $4.98. Worth every penny.

Star Wars: Rebel StormStar Wars Miniatures: Rebel Storm starter set

This one was a gift from co-worker Chuck (AKA gator). It’s an assortment of miniature Star Wars figures and rules for engaging them in skirmishes. The set also includes maps and blank grids, and the figures can be used with the Star Wars roleplaying game. This last will likely come in handy when my Star Wars role-playing group starts getting together this summer. Thanks, Chuck!