Monday, December 27, 2010

Black Ops, You are Breakin' My Heart.

Last month saw the release of the newest edition to the Call of Duty line up. Black Ops broke sales records on every platform and has made hundreds of millions of dollars in profits so far. Its just a shame the game sucks.

Okay, that was shock value. The game does not completely blow, only marginally. When looking back at the history of amazing first person shooters, CoD has definitely earned the right to join the ranks. Call of Duty 3 and 4 were both amazing games that were extremely well rounded. Even World at War brought some new ideas to the table. But Black Ops in no way compares to any of these games.

The more I play Black Ops, the more I realize how it is like a refurbished version of Modern Warfare 2. Its no secret that MW2 was shit. Both the lack of a sufficient Beta and an excess of poorly designed weapons contributed to the games failure for its first six months. Black Ops seems to have taken MW2 and simply changed the maps and fixed the glitches.

The look and feel of the game is incredibly similar to its immediate predecessor. I was really wanting something new. It seems like the only new attributes to the game are gimicky weapons like exploding crossbows and an exploding rc-car.

But there are some good changes. Thankfully, the designers made adjustments like removing the ability to play using nothing more than grenade launchers. They also added some new game types including wager matches and specialty rounds like One In The Chamber. There is now so much more customization. Of course some players are dicks that make reticule and emblems that look like ... well... dicks. But some of them are surprisingly cool and original.

I think for me, this is all just too little too late. I feel like I've been playing the same mediocre game that I was playing for the previous year. I'm waiting for it to become new and exciting but it really just doesn't strike me as amazing. It certainly didn't live up all the expectations I had. So maybe in the end it's my fault. I was ready to be blown away but maybe my hopes and dreams were just too big.

The single player is really good. I can't hate that. Its far more difficult than the last few and the changing of scenery through time travel is appreciated. But who plays Call of Duty for the single player ?

Black Ops has finally provided me with that proverbial straw that broke the camels back. I'm over the Call of Duty series. There are so many other games I could be playing and I would rather dedicate my time to them instead. Now I do realize that a lot of people disagree with me. They play the new game and swear its the best thing ever. And there are literally millions of gamers that log onto the Black Ops servers on a regular basis so I'm sure they all would have an argument or two. But for me, as much as I don't want to walk away from a series that I used to love; I have grown as a gamer and it is time for me to move on. Goodbye Call of Duty, you will be missed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Halos vs. Horns

I'm pretty sure we have discussed playing games through as good or evil before.  And if we haven't, then I have to say it's something that is always in the forefront of my mind.  I recently started playing Mass Effect (yes, I'm back on console!  Soon to be back on Live! *gasp!*) -- and I am approaching that game with the knowledge that it is, arguably, one of the most user-affected games out there.  Every decision I make has the opportunity to change the happenings and outcome of my game.  And not just my game in Mass Effect, but my future game in Mass Effect 2.  I can't take the stress!  (Ok, I totally can.  But I do way over think things.)

With these heady life-changing decisions looming around every corner, I look back on my choice in games past.  I, inevitably, play "good".  I can't help it.  I'm the helper.  In Fable 2 my character was so good they were blindingly bright and had a halo.  I've never gotten to see the ugly, evil horned version... and do I want to?  I've never taken the time to go back through one of these huge games and replayed as the opposite.  Would it be more enjoyable to me to go through a game and fight against my every tendency to help?  Would I feel as immersed, or maybe even more so?  I'd be playing as a character that wouldn't be making the decisions that real-life Linz would make...and that could be wonderfully fun.

I was discussing this with Debbie earlier and she said she also plays as the 'good'.  But my friend Chris always plays evil.  He can't help it; he has to do it.  He loves the power.  But he also is a re-player. He's gone through Fallout 3 three times, twice evil, once good.  He enjoyed both.  Maybe I let the karma-systems get into my head too much.  I'm just not sure if I have enough of the dark side in me.  I had to make a decision whether a captured evil witch should be freed or killed in WoW yesterday.  I choose to kill her, and it's been driving me crazy ever since!  What if I had let her live?  So to go on and slay a shop-owner and steal all his goods?  Choose to abandon the family starving in the desert so that I can turn in this quest item that much sooner and, therefore, receive a higher reward?  The idea could certainly be freeing.  "Hey, I want your coat."  "No way."  *bang*  "Muahhahaha..."

What do you play as?  Do these karmic decisions affect you as much as they effect me?  And have you ever gone back through and played a game in the opposite way than you did the first time?  I'm going to do it...eventually.  And then I'll get back to you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Unsolicited Holiday Buying Advice. You're Welcome.

It always seems like it would be so easy to buy a gift for your favorite gamer. Then you, the not-gaming-type, walks into a game section, or, God forbid, an entire game store - and you go blank. What is it they play? X-Station Infinity? Wii-Play-3? Well we are here to help you sort through all the ruckus. We suggest making a list before you wander into somewhere. And if you don't have the time to sit there and write it all down, take a couple pictures of your family's gaming collection with your camera phone and reference that in the store. Let's categorize this to make it even easier...

Your gamer probably likes to shoot stuff. Who doesn't ? If they don't have them all ready, check out titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, or MAG. If you are shopping for a little one, be aware that some of these games are disturbingly violent and definitely not for everyone. If you have a sensitive gamer, check the ratings to match the player.

If you have a die hard RPG fan on your list, try out games like Oblivion, Fable 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and the Mass Effect series. Maybe you have a WoW-er in your house who didn't grab Cataclysm on the release date (unlikely), but if so, you'll make their season bright by allowing them to dominate a giant dragon in the upcoming months.

Does your nerd thrive on virtual action and adventure ? Look for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Batman Arkham Asylum. The Force Unleashed 2 is on the scene, and since it's an exceptionally short game, its one that someone isn't likely to buy on their own but would still love as a present.

Do you or your loved one prefer to flex their brain more than that trigger finger? Take a look at Tomb Raider or Uncharted 1 and 2. Even games like Limbo, Portal, and Super Meat Boy all add high elements of timing and strategy. If your gamer plays puzzle games that aren't so fast paced, check out Brain Age or Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. (There's also Diabolical Box, or Curious Village if your gamer hasn't gotten into the Layton series at all.) The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series is also a great hand-held puzzle game.

Already played all those games ? Don't forget accessories ! Rechargeable battery packs are a must. Even if they have some, they tend to slowly wear out so it could be time for new ones. Almost every gamer plays with friends online, make sure they have the equipment to do so. There are some nice options for high-end headsets for all consoles and PCs that range anywhere from $40-$200. You can also buy skins to help customize consoles and controllers with their favorite colors and characters.

And lets not forget stocking stuffers ! Buy some AAA batteries for those headsets ! A sweet mousepad for your PC gamer. You can even buy prepaid cards for Microsoft and Wii Points. Also keep an eye out for that worn cable that could be replaced or maybe a cool thumb drive to keep their game saves on for when they play away from home.

Here are a few straggling tips to remember. Used games are totally acceptable. I would much rather have two used games for the cost of a new one. But if you buy a used game, check the disc before you take it home ! Sometimes those games have been to hell and back and that person behind the counter doesn't always take the time to look at the condition of the disc as carefully as they should. Watch out for Game of the Year editions. Batman Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, and more come out with ultimate editions that contain all the additional content. Its so obvious; ask for help. Show the sales people that picture you took with your cellphone. They will be able to give excellent recommendations once they know what games your gift receiver likes to buy. Lastly, create a gamer if you don't have one. With the Nintendo DS, the Wii, the PS Move, and now the Kinect, everyone can find a game that they love to play.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Its Like the Bourne Identity Minus The Intrigue and Excitement

A lot of people are going to be receiving PS3's, Xbox Slims, and computers for Christmas. If you use these systems to game over the internet (and we highly recommend you do), you are going to have to pick a tag or handle. It will replace your real name, be completely unique, and become your new internet identity. Here is a list of basic Do's and Don't's for those new to the online universe.


The first trick to picking a really good name is knowing what you are comfortable with. This is how people will address you whenever they see you online, so its best to go by something that isn't going to get annoying. There are a lot people I have met on XBL that I talk to on the phone or hang out with in real life. Many of them call me by my tag even in person. So think to yourself "Am I cool with someone introducing me to a friend as AssClown842 ?"

Be yourself. The nerd blood runs deep in public gaming. People might not understand that "Hackers" reference in the real world, but give a nod to Crash Override and you will earn some respect. Pick your favorite band, movie, food, anything and give a gentle nod. The masses will respond favorably.

Remember that you can use spaces and capitalization. You don't have to just type and cram your words together if you don't want to. Throw a space or some capital letters in there to break it up. This is especially helpful if you have a name consisting of more than one word.


Here is a rule that a lot of guys follow, if she has to tell you she is attractive, then she usually isn't. Don't cram your sexuality down everyone's throat. We get it. You are a female gamer. And I'm sorry to break it to you, but its not that big of a deal. Almost 40% of gamers are female. You may pick certain words because you think its sexy or cute, but using words like "hot", "sexy", "princess", or "baby" make you look super desperate for attention.

This is a version of the girls' rule. If you have to tell people that you are a Lady Killer, than you probably aren't one at all. Stay away from names that tell people you are the alpha male. Keep in mind that there is always someone out there better at games than you are. And with such an assertive name, you are certainly going to made fun of every single time you aren't in first place.

Avoid cliches. Some trends die hard and once you have picked the latest greatest fad, remember that changing your handle is going to make you lose some of your identity and could even cost you money. Some overused words to avoid: Panda, Penguin, Ninja, Pirate, Assassin, Master, Deadly, Doom, Real, Doll, Guy, etc. Tags with these words are found in almost every room. It doesn't make anyone less of a competitor, but you will definitely fall into the crowd. And it shows your lack or creativity. Also, stay away from posting your nationality. No one cares. I promise.

Don't try so hard to be funny. Dick and fart jokes are great, but being addressed as MrBrownPants is going to get old quick. You can compensate by picking a funny movie character that you like or a funny quote. But just throwing the word "toilet" in there is hella lame.

Clan tags are a special thing all on their own. If the clan you are joining does not require you to change your tag, then I highly recommend that you don't. Many of these online gaming groups come and go. They all think they are going to become some MLG powerhouse, but really, they dissolve inside the first year. And if this happens, you are going to be stuck with the name. Keep the name changes for clans that are reputable for having been around for a long time.

Lastly, don't put X's and O's around your name. Its something that is frequently done by younger players. Leave the decorations out and choose a name that can stand alone. Its common to use 1's and 3's to replace letters, but over doing this can make your name really hard to read. Keep it simple. If you have to change that many letters to numbers, then someone else probably has that exact name and you should pick something else.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bad TV Turned Great

I have avoided these freaky little rabbits in the past, because I thought they were ugly, probably annoying, and maybe even a little frightening.  I may have been wrong.  They are ugly, a little annoying, and still the stuff of nightmares -- but they are also hilarious!  And this game is so fun!

My siblings came over for a game night and we spent a long time playing Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party.  It is a blast.  If you have ever read this blog you have deep and abiding knowledge of my love for mini-games, and the Rabbids provide.  The entire game is playing mini games that are based on television programs that are on now.  There are "Pimp My Rabbid", "Rabbidass" (Jackass), "American Choppy" just to name a few.  And they are really hilarious.  The games are organized on to channels, which are mockeries of HGTV, Spike, MTV...  My favorite channel is the cult movie channel, and the games are a blast.

The gameplay is all fairly easy, although I was having some trouble with my Wii-mote responding correctly.  There is a dancing game where you move your nunchuck and Wii-mote according to the "dance coach" , and for whatever reason I could not get it.  This could be partially due to these two things: 1 - I don't have the little extra gyroscope add-on for the 'mote.  2 - I don't have the rhythm.  Ok, who are we kidding?  It's clearly the lack of the gyroscope.  But other than that small issue I was having an absolute blast.  Each of the channels has a couple of game styles to play with tons of variations.  Like the Cult Classics channel is shoot-at-target games, which I adore, but every time I played it it was based on a different movie and you were shooting at different things.  I feel like this game would have a lot of replayability just going through and seeing all the different shows they chose to mock.

The Rabbids are ridiculous.  The gameplay is simple and fun.  My siblings and I were cracking up over the hilarious Rabbids, and the more hilarious watching each other play.  The game can use the balance board peripheral, but I don't have it, and it adjusts the gameplay accordingly so you don't need it.  The Wii doesn't get a lot of love around these parts, but it's games like this that make me think I should dust off the old 'motes and give 'er another go round more often.  That and I have Mario Galaxy 2 waiting in the wings.