Tag Archives: Xbox

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!

P is for Plastic People.

Busy, busy weekend.

On Friday we had a “team event” at work. My team consists of five peons and one overlord, and we decided a month or so ago that we’d all like to see the Bodyworlds 2 exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center. Most of us ((All but one, who opted to drive his motorcycle and wound up having to leave before dinner.)) piled into the MVoD at noon and within moment escaped the gravitational well of the office. We had lunch at ¿Que Tal? and then it was off to the Science Center.

The exhibit was fascinating. That Gunther Gebel-Williams von Hagen is either a straight-up old school mad scientist or a stone-cold serial killer. Either way, he put together an impressive array of human cadavers that provides unprecedented insight into human anatomy. I came away amazed that the world doesn’t break us into tiny pieces on a daily basis.

After the exhibit ((We also saw Mystery of the Nile at the OMNIMAX theater. It’s the story of the first expedition to ever successfully navigate the Nile from its source to the Mediterranean Sea. It was breath-takingly beautiful and the music was excellent. I’m hoping there’s a soundtrack CD available online.)) we proceeded to the New York Spaghetti House for dinner. We all split the mozzarella marinara appetizer and I enjoyed a raspberry martini, house salad (excellent dressing), lasagna and tiramisu. It was all excellent.

Saturday morning I was supposed to go cycling with Bob, but it rained, ((Well, it threatened to rain. We argued that the precipitation factor was simply too unpredictable to chance. We’ve both got caliper brakes on our bicycles, and they don’t work all that well when wet.)) so we opted to forgo the cycling in favor of breakfast at IHOP. To make up for not doing 10+ miles on the bike, I practiced my power-eating on four pancake-wrapped sausage links and a large orange juice. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as aerobic exercise.

Project Gotham Racing 2
After breakfast, the Xbox LAN party commenced. ((While I was getting my game on, Laura and her mother spent the day shopping for porn corn. I’m told that they actually bought some sweet, juicy porn corn, too, but I won’t get to experience it until this evening.)) There was much playing of HALO 2 and Project Gotham Racing 2, which lasted until at least one wee hour of the morning. I got home at about a quarter of two on Sunday morning and was just as surprised as Laura to find me still in bed when she got home from church at one in the afternoon.

Laura and I had lunch at Red Robin, did a little shopping, then went home so I could get the printer connected to her newly-moved PC. I played a little Tetris Worlds while Laura napped, then I mowed the lawn. It was just the sort of hectic, fast-paced, action-packed day that separates our thrill-a-minute lifestyle from the mundane, humdrum existence of “normal” folks.

Apart from learning that Laura is eighteen weeks pregnant, that pretty much sums up our weekend.

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.

Master Chiefs and Minute Men


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.

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…

We love the stuff!

Recently added to my DVD collection:

Daredevil: Director’s CutDaredevil: The Director’s Cut

I wasn’t aware that there was a director’s cut of Daredevil until I saw it in the used bin at GameStop. Though it certainly doesn’t measure up to some other recent superhero movies (Spider-Man, X-Men), I’m comfortable saying that Daredevil is still leaps and bounds better than some of the stuff we’ve seen in the darker past (Captain America), not to mention the horrid television version of the Man Without Fear that some of us remember from The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, which featured Rex Smith (who’s he?) as Matt Murdock/Daredevil and John “Sallah” Rhys-Davies as The Kingpin.

The ShadowThe Shadow

The Shadow and The Phantom (starring Billy Zane) top my list of underappreciated superhero movies. Next to his turn as Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October, this is my favorite Alec Baldwin performance to date. Baldwin’s voice is excellent and the special effects that transform Lamont Cranston into The Shadow are top-notch. Throw in folks like John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle, Ian McKellan (yes, that Ian McKellan) and you’ve got a fantastic, fun popcorn movie.

Tetris and Star Wars: Clone WarsI also picked up a used copy of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars/Tetris Worlds disc that used to be included in the Xbox system bundle. GameStop was selling this for $8.99 used, but their sticker price on a used copy of the standalone version of The Clone Wars is $12.99. Go figure.

In other news, Bob is turning into a damn cycling nut. Not only did he ride our route again Sunday, but he alleges to have ridden six miles this morning, too. And me? I planned to go out for a while yesterday evening but wimped out. I need to see if I can fix the head and tail lights that Laura bought me. They no workee, and I don’t want to cycle after dark (when it’s no longer 90+ degrees) without ’em.

Home Alone: Day Five – Productivity’s Last Gasp

I carved another notch in my Xbox controller last night after Miscellaneous G™ and I completed Dungeons & Dragons Heroes. This is the third game that we’ve battled our way through, the others being Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance and Hunter the Reckoning.

As anticipated, we also played Pimp the Backhanding last night. My record is 1-2 so far mano a mano. Miscellaneous G™ and I both agreed that the dynamic of the game would likely change with additional players. Nonetheless, it’s a fun (if politically incorrect) game with a fairly straightforward mechanic.

Thanks to some scheduled time off, Thursday is the new Friday. At least for this week. That means staying up until stupid-thirty tonight playing video games and/or watching movies and crawling out of bed at the crack of noon tomorrow (see previously revised scheduleThat’s right, no colorful table today.).

Yes, I remembered to take my lunch again today. Each turkey-bologna sandwich not left in the fridge is a gold medal in an Olympic event for me, and I’m gonna jump and holler, ’cause I’ve saved up my last two dollars. ((Giddy Up Oom Poppa Omm Poppa Mow Mow. I was a coach for the Special Olympics held at Central Michigan University back in the early 90’s. I forget which year it was, exactly. I’d been a counselor at a week-long camp for special kids a few times, and one of the administrators asked me to be a coach that year. The Oak Ridge Boys played at the closing ceremonies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier group of people than those kids when ORB played “Elvira.”))

Note to Self: In the future, please check the blade depth before trimming your beard. Seriously. Take a picture of yourself and tape it to the bathroom mirror if you need a reminder of why this is important. Ass.

You take the Good, you take the Bad…

The Blockbuster nearest my house is closing in approximately two weeks. Their lease recently expired, and as near as I can tell the owner of the building opted not to extend it. I’ve heard a rumor that the entire plaza is being levelled and replaced with a housing project of some sort.

I’m not thrilled with the idea of having to drive to Eastlake for my movie and game rental needs. The Eastlake store isn’t miles upon miles away, but it’s far enough away that I’ll be cancelling my GamePass and not renewing my Blockbuster Rewards membership.

On the upside, the Willoughby Blockbuster is selling their stock of used Xbox games at a 50% discount. A used copy of Red Dead Revolver, for example, would normally go for $22.99. With the discount, it was $11.49.

I had already made and paid for my DVD selection (Angels in America Disc Two) when I learned about the sale. There were signs plastered everywhere, but I had managed to ignore them. I had actually opened the door of the MVoD when I decided to go back and look at the used games. In the end, I picked up five games for fifty bucks and change:

  1. Red Dead Revolver
  2. Deus Ex: Invisible War
  3. Freaky Flyers
  4. Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes
  5. Goblin Commander

Yeah, I’ve already got too many games and I really shouldn’t be buying more. But I did. It was a deal I considered too good to pass up.

X Marks the Games

Despite having never played I through XII, I picked up a used copy of XIII for the Xbox yesterday. This is a cel-shaded first-person shooter in which the main character (voiced by David Duchovny) appears to have assassinated the President. I rented XIII when it was first released, and it appeared to be a fairly decent game, so grabbing it for thirteen bucks seemed fairly reasonable to me.

I also picked up a used copy of Hunter the Reckoning: Redeemer, but when I got home I discovered that there had been an accidental switcheroo and I’d received a copy of Hunter the Reckoning (if the title sounds White Wolfish, there’s good reason) instead. I’ve already played the original all the way through, and I couldn’t see any value in owning two copies, so I went back to Funcoland and they corrected the error.

Other sequels on the shelves: Spider-Man 2 (which greatly improves upon its predecessor), Prince of Persia Warrior Within and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: There’s Probably A Sub-Sub-Title. While I’d like to buy all of these, I own the first title in each series and have yet to finish them. [EDIT: Prince of Persia The Sands of Time isn’t actually the first title in the series, but it’s the first released on the Xbox. It is also one of the few games I own that tells you how much of the game you’ve completed. When I last checked, I was something like 80% of the way through it.] With KOTOR especially, that is enough to keep me from either plunking my money down on the counter or putting it on my wishlist.

Also on the shelves is Dead or Alive Ultimate. I own (and have completed) Dead or Alive 3, so I guess I’m justified in wanting this one, which is technically not a sequel, but upgraded versions of both Dead or Alive (which was originally released on the SEGA Saturn) and Dead or Alive 2 (which was not released on the Xbox). This one should really be on my wishlist, as I enjoy watching scantily-clad, impossibly-proportioned animated women kick each other’s shapely asses (though not enough to buy Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball).

Oh, and then there’s HALO 2. You guessed it, I own HALO but haven’t completed the game yet. Miscellaneous G™ and I are working on this one at the rate of an hour or two every couple of weeks. Still, I’ve played the sequel (my brother bought it while I was in Upper Michigan) and I’m not in a rush to pick it up just yet. Maybe my tune will change when (if) I get Xbox Live!I swear that the exclamation point used to be a part of the service name. I used to feel that I was was conveying a false sense of excitement whenever I mentioned the online service, but always included the exclamation point for the sake of correctness. Looking at current references to Live on the official Xbox website, I find no exclamation points at all. Were they ever really there?

Other sequels on the way:

  • MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf – Yes, I own the original, no I haven’t completed it. Lots of fun, though.
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – This will be the third installment in the series. I’ve got (but have not completed) both predecessors and they both rock.
  • Crimson Skies: The Unnamed Sequel – Okay, this one is wishful thinking on my part. I’m actually on what I believe is the final mission of Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, and I would love to hear that a sequel to this excellent game is in the works.

Burnout 3: Takedown

Burnout 2: Point of ImpactFor the record, I love Burnout 2: Point of Impact. In one session, Miscellenous G™ and I played for twelve hours straight this past spring. It was absolutely ridiculous. We spent hours and hours passing the controller back and forth, trying to complete the 30+ crash zones. We spent more hours unlocking races and vehicles or in furious competition with each other. The marathon session started at 0200 and concluded at 1400 hours (that’s right, we didn’t begin playing until 2am). There were times when I was falling asleep on the couch with the controller in my hands, but still we played on.

The unmatched sense of speed, the playful physics, the promise of unlocking better, faster vehicles, and – most of all – the wanton destruction puts Burnout 2 at the top of my list of racing games. To me, there was little room for improvement.

Burnout 3: Take downThen I rented Burnout 3: Takedown from Blockbuster. I’d played the game before, at the House of Baab, but we hadn’t even scratched the surface. We played the Party Crash mode, where one controller is passed around the room as each player attempts to create the mother of all traffic accidents in a busy city intersection. It was a lot of fun, and I could see the differences between this installment and its predecessor, but it wasn’t until I sat down in my own home and started playing from the beginning that the game really began to shine.

Everything that I like about Burnout 2 has been amplified in the sequel. The sensation of speed is now completely insane. When I kick in my boost, it feels like I’m controlling a barely-contained lightning bolt. The physics still give a wink and a nod to realism, but each car does handle differently. I can almost feel the difference in weight between the compact and the muscle car, in everything from acceleration to cornering to how each impacts other vehicles in a crash. Thus far, I’ve only played with these two types of cars, but there is a veritable automotive feast as yet undiscovered; everything from classic hot rods to Formula racers to fire engines and garbage trucks.

Throughout the single player game, barely a race goes by where something is not unlocked: a new event, a new course, a new vehicle. It’s not necessary to win a race to unlock something, either. There are dozens of different goals that open new content. Takedown goals, signature takedowns, crash totals, burnout totals, and more. The “score” in this game is measure in so many different ways that it seems I’m always hitting some milestone or another.

The big message in Burnout 3 is “risk = reward.” The more aggressively you drive, the more chances you take, the more stuff you unlock. Burnout points are gained by driving into oncoming traffic, almost hitting another car, smashing into your opponents, tailgating them, getting “air”, drifting around corners, and most of all, by forcing your opponents to crash.

When you manage this last feat (and it’s not terribly difficult to do), the game shifts into Impact Time. Everything slows down to show you the out-of-control heap of steel, fiberglass and rubber that is your opponent’s car smashing into a wall, plowing into another car, or flying off the road. You get big points and the all-important boost bar (more on that in a bit) gets bigger. If you manage to arrange a Signature Takedown (such as Pillar Driller, where your oppenent is forced to crash into a support pillar, or Gone Fishin’, where your opponent sails off the road and into a lake) the points are even bigger. Risk = reward.

But that’s not all. You can even take out opponents when you crash. Holding down the A button after you wreck triggers Impact Time and allows you to apply “Aftertouch,” affecting the direction in which your burning wreck moves. Steer it into one of your opponents and you’ll cause him to wreck too, getting points for an Aftertouch Takedown, and your boost multiplier continues to grow.

Boost is like nitro. When you do crazy stuff, your boost bar starts to fill (with flames, no less). Take out your opponents and it grows, allowing you to boost for a long, long time. Hold down the boost button anytime there’s even the slightest bit of fire in your boost bar and your car jumps forward like a rocket. Boosting anytime is a big change from Burnout 2, in which you could only boost when the bar was full. When the boost button is down, the sensation of speed is mind-boggling. Blue fire shoots out of your vehicle’s exhaust and every fiber of your being is concentrating on the road and what obstacle might be coming up next. The sound of bullets whizzing past your ears is actually the engines of other cars you overtake. One false move and you’re eating concrete.

Boost, as I said, is all-important. It seems impossible to win some events without the boost. Burning Lap events pit you against the clock. Medals are awarded at three different lap times. Even applying liberal doses of boost, I’ve found it extremely difficult to score better than a bronze on some courses. Burning Lap events must be run without error. A single wrong move and any hope of getting the gold is shattered as your car sails over a guardrail.

Other event types include Crash, Elimination and Road Rage. The first has already been discussed: drive your car into a busy intersection and cause havoc. Elimination is a five lap race with six contestants. After each lap, the trailing car is eliminated. Road Rage is just what you might expect: take down as many of your opponents as you possibly can. Each game mode (and there are others) is a different flavor of fun, but they all stick to the same “risk = reward” formula.

I’ve completed less than 10% of this game and I’ve only ventured outside the United States once (there are two other zones: Far East and Europe). I’ve unlocked two vehicle classes and a dozen or more vehicles. I have executed Signature Takedowns, Aftertouch Takedowns and basic Takedowns. I have crowed triumphantly as the only opponent between me and the finish line is forced into the back of a bus. I have marvelled at my luck after narrowly escaping certain doom. I have sworn at my opponents when they nudge me into a median and sparks fly as my car is reduced to a flaming scrapheap. I have sworn in frustration as I crossed the finish line seconds to slow to gain the silver and eons too slow to capture the coveted gold.

And I have enjoyed every last second of it.

The gameplay is simply incredible. No matter how many times I have to repeat a race or a crash zone to try to push my score into gold medal territory, the adrenaline still pumps with every drift, slam, crash and burn. The replay value is immense. Everything I loved about Burnout 2—everything that kept me coming back for more—is back and better in Burnout 3.

If I have one complaint, it is with the Crash Nav, which is to say the course/event selection menu. It seems rather clunky to me. Instead of lining up each course, the menu shows you a map with icons representing different tracks and events. Navigate to a track and you are presented with a list of events at that location. It makes quickly selecting a specific event something of a pain. Still, the gameplay is more than worth a few extra seconds spent navigating through the menu.