Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nothing Like Christmas Vacation

Hey there, fellow Achievos!  We hope that you had an awesome holiday and are enjoying all of your fun, new games.  Naturally, we are spending all of our free hours glued to our fabulous consoles and computers, and assume you are too.  That said, we here at Achievos are giving ourselves a little Christmas vacation to play our new games and recharge our batteries for 2012.  We'll be back to full force blogging after the New Year.  Until then, we'll still be active on our Facebook page, so don't forget to like us on there and not miss any of the action.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reach for It

I have recently been playing Halo: Reach.  Yes, I took a step away from the little kid games and mindless arcade games and am playing a real, "grown-up" FPS again,
It's good to be back with the team.
And, if you can believe it, even though Reach released in September 2010, this is the first time I've played it.  Me.  Lover of all things Halo.  I'm not going to hassle you with a full on review, because obviously at this point in the game most everyone has played this game and knows that it is a great addition to the franchise.  I have to say that it is crazy to me that I haven't played a Halo game in years and it is like riding a bike.  The controls are a little different, and I still find myself hitting B to melee instead of being able to wrap my mind around the RB.  Old habits die hard.  I also can't seem to understand the armor bonuses, except that the hologram thing is really super fun.

So two things have come out of me rejoining the Halo world.  1) It is crazy to me how much I really do love these games and their story.  It is such a good, enriching, fully developed world.. And I still skip cut scenes.  Isn't that awful!?  I tell myself that I'll go back and watch them in the video room, or when I play the campaign alone and have more time... But honestly I'll probably never get around to it.  I'm notoriously bad about being patient through cut scenes.  So then I'm missing out on the story line and I'm not 100% sure where Reach fits in to the canon...and that makes my nerd-self sad.

2) I am completely torn on going back to multi-player online.  I am playing the campaign multi-player with my hubby and brother-in-law, but what I'm really talking about here is getting on, joining a lobby full of strangers, and becoming their target.  I have a longing to rejoin that community.  I used to love it so much.  Goodness knows there's nothing like pwning n00bs late into the night... but the problem now is that I am the n00b.  I can not even remember the last time I played Halo 3 online.  I can't even imagine trying to wrap my brain around learning new maps on Reach and being any kind of competition yet.

That's the problem with these FPS.  There is a learning curve, and you miss it quick.  I always  think Debbie is just a little crazy when she talks about playing new CoD iterations for the first week so that she's not behind, but it is so true.  Imagine my dismay at wanting to join a game a year after its release.  Siiiigh.  I guess I'll just have to take the leap eventually.  You know I want those achievements.  ;-)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Embrace Your Cloud


Microsoft recently released a slew of updates for the Xbox 360.  Everything from the dashboard to all new content have been made available, helping to truly make the Xbox a well-rounded entertainment console.  But you hardcore gamers need not fear, there is something very special just for you, the cloud.

The basics.  Cloud storage or cloud computation is a phrase that references the ability to use software as a service, leaving very little responsibility to the end-user.  That means files and information are stored and maintained somewhere other than your computer or device.  You probably already use "cloud" technology and don't even realize it.  Email, apps, Google docs, and even this blog could easily be considered cloud.

So how will this storage option benefit the Xbox crowd ?  Game saves can now be stored on the cloud.  Having your save out in the universe is super beneficial in multiple scenarios.  Starting with the most obvious, but maybe not the most useful, game saves can be accessed from anywhere.  I have multiple Xboxs at home and one at work.  If I want to play somewhere other than my primary console, I don't have to lug around the entire Xbox or make backup files.  My game content is saved and ready to go.

That frequently topless Honorary Achievo Kevin WK recently had some sad news when he realized that his Xbox had completely erased all of his data.  The only things lost that he couldn't get back were game saves.  He was almost completely done with Dead Island and all his progress was gone.  With his attention span, there was no way he was going to start over from the beginning.  The other significant loss was the finished games from Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.  In the series, games can be imported into the next successive title.  So the custom character and choices made in the game can be imported and influence how you will play Mass Effect 2.  The same will happen when ME3 is released after the new year.  Unfortunately, all of Kevin's game info is gone.  I used his situation as a warning (and you should too), and back up important game saves to the cloud.  If your Xbox bricks, your saves aren't lost forever.


There are restrictions to the cloud.  Each account is granted just over 500MB of storage.  It doesn't sound like much, but it is more than enough for dozens and dozens of save files.  Most games only have one file and it gets replaced with each subsequent save.  But some franchises, like Elder Scrolls or Fallout, frequently make new files every time you enter an area or create your own save.  I already have hundreds of save files in Skyrim and each one is 8MB.  So instead of assigning the bigger games to automatically save to the cloud (which would use up the 500+ MB in no time), I keep them on my local device and periodically transfer a copy.  It might not be the most current version of my game, but it will definitely protect me from having to start over scratch.

The cloud saving is a huge advantage to the hardcore gamers, especially those rocking the giant RPGs.  Do yourself a solid and take advantage of this amazing and free service.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Livin' La Vida Loca

I'm channeling Ricky Martin when I play Disney Universe.  Sounds like a jump, right?  Spend 5 minutes in the Universe and you will see why.
The video gives you a little indication of what it's like.  I just watched the trailers and they don't indicate the extreme madness that this game offers, so I had to link the actual gameplay to show you what you're going to get.  There is always 800 billion things happening on screen.  There are puzzles which are usually extremely simple to complete, especially with the assistance of the blue helper arrows (they guide you exactly where you need to go) but trying to solve the puzzle with A) thirty spastic bad guys stomping all over you and B) the "assistance" of a 4-yr-old player two is not easy.  When the kid and I play this there is a lot of this happening:

     "K, go over there."
     "Where?"
     "Over to the arrow.  Step on that button.  DO NOT MOVE."  (I go to required location activated by button, she moves, I die.)  "AGgggghhhhh I said don't move."
     "Well can I go there?"
     "Umm..not yet."  (Because it is a step in the required puzzle to move forward in the level and if she tries to complete it it'll take 10489208 hours longer than I am eager to spend for her to drag a wheel to its location etcetc...)   "Now, step on the button.  Don't move."
     I complete the step.  Bad guys spawn.  She jumps off a cliff 12 times.  

It is maddening to say the least.  I have yet to play this single player, but I'm hoping that I can get through some of the levels easier and get the achievements I so desire by playing alone.  But it is a blast to play with the kid, since dying has little to no consequence (you just lose some of your gold) and she thinks it's a really fun game.  I don't know if she could play this one on her own just yet... I think it's a little too advanced as far as the puzzle solving requirements go.

The graphics, sound, and levels are all fun and cute, but they do add in to the general chaos.  For example, we played the Lion King levels earlier today and there is all the crazy stuff going on already, plus the level around you is on fire and everything got kind of wavery looking.  For a minute I thought my Xbox was trying to give me 3D graphics.  I was very confused and got a little nauseous, but luckily that has only happened in the one section of the one level.  And I seem to be extra sensitive to video-game-induced motion sickness so it might not even be a problem for the general public.

There are tons of items to find and unlock in each level, and each suit can be leveled up by finding and collecting stars in the levels.  It definitely has replayability based on just having to level up all the suits.  And kids would totally find a favorite level and play it to death, because that is how they roll.  If you have young'ens who love Disney, make sure you have this one wrapped up under the tree.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Breathe ......... Breathe

Microsoft released a major update to the Xbox dashboard.  There is a lot of misdirected gamer rage floating around the internet.  We are going to take this opportunity to clear some things up.

The update was originally scheduled to be released in the early morning hours on Tuesday.  After some unexpected delays, the download wasn't available until Tuesday night between 9 and 10 PM depending on where you live.  We all quickly found out why they don't release major software updates in the evening.  During the peak hours of Xbox usage, the download was accessed by so many people that it clogged up LIVE.  But rest easy, an hour or so later, most people were able to connect and successfully complete the download.  Those that weren't, could certainly do so this morning.

Some people (myself included) downloaded the update successfully, but were unable to sign in to LIVE or certain aspects of LIVE like Netflix or Zune.  Most of these problems have been resolved and continue to improve throughout the day.  There are still hiccups here and there, but the Xbox team is working on it.

And lastly, the aestetics of the dashboard have changed.  Times like this are an unfriendly reminder that people freak out when something familiar changes.  Remember the dozen times that Facebook has changed?  Every time the layout was played with, people totally lost their minds and went on profanity laced rants only to soon forget what the previous layout even looked like.  I expect that this is a similar situation for the Xbox dashboard.  I personally like the new look.  There is no more scrolling up and down to see your categories, almost all of them are visible from the main screen.  Plus, you can now control everything using the Kinect.


Here's a picture of the "old" dashboard.  In a month you'll have forgotten what this even looked like.
As for comments about "fixing things that aren't broken", remember that this is all going to be much bigger.  In the very near future, Xbox will have the ability to stream television and cable programming in addition to several other advances.  Microsoft made the decision to roll out these changes in steps; instead of one monster download/update, it is split up.  They are setting the foundation for even bigger changes next in line.  In my opinion, this seems like a great idea.  I would be lying if I said my Xbox didn't struggle a little as the update was installing.  I can only guess the damage that might have been done if they performed every change at once.

The lesson here is to relax.  The kinks in the network will be fixed and people will grow to love the new dashboard just like they did the last time it changed.  If you need more up to the minute information, I highly recommend that you follow Major Nelson on Twitter, @majornelson.  And while you are over there, hit up @achievos.


And an added highlight for one Achievos out there: We have a winner for our Fruit Ninja giveaway.  ModernDruid (Alex K.) you have won a full download of Fruit Ninja for Xbox Live Arcade!  Please email us at achievos @ gmail.com to receive your code.  Thank you everyone for your comments.  Stay tuned for another giveaway coming soon.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kevin WK: Jus' Riffin About Saints Row: The Third


If you had told me last year that I would have access to amazing games like Skyrim, Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, and Uncharted 3, yet only play Saints Row: The Third (SR3), I would have laughed and taken you off my friends list.  Well, I would've had to eat those words, because that is now my reality. 

I have never laughed so hard and felt as addicted to a sandbox game as I have with SR3.  I start to watch the city and how it reacts to everything, from random people getting pulled over by the police to Professor Genki, (a man in a cat suit with his own TV show), going on a random killing spree.  I could spend all day posing for pictures with people, performing wrestling moves on old women, and calling in airstrikes to a gang of Mexican wrestlers.

Even though this is a sequel, you don’t need to play the first two to get into the story; they refresh you from the beginning.  The Third Street Saints have gained a reputation as the best in Stillwater.  They have now taken the nation by storm with a great marketing staff and stores that sell their logos and likeness.  They are gangsta celebrities; when not taking over the streets, they are signing autographs or doing product placement in Japanese commercials.  They are both loved and hated the world over as other gangs get jealous and want a piece of the pie.  You can guess where that goes next. 

The first thing you do is bring your custom character to life.  There are actually a ton of different options; gender, hair, and clothes are at your disposal.  You can even change your characters voice.  I started with a Zombie voice that just yelled and mumbled, which was great until I realized I would like to know what he is saying.  Seriously, even the subtitles just say “mumbles” when he talks.  Once you have your character, you can upload them to the community and others can download your creation as well.
In case you somehow forgot what Kevin looks like in his boxers

The gameplay of Saints Row is very similar to GTA in the form of a living, breathing world.  When walking down the street, people will recognize you.  NPCs may even want you to pose for pictures, and what better way than giving a DDT to a helpless old woman.

The missions in SR3 are plentiful and include everything from survival missions to escort missions.  Even insurance fraud scenarios that were in the previous releases made it into this latest installment, and they are still super fun to play.  You can buy property and make money off of the businesses by the hour as well as get discounts for being the big boss.  You go on missions for all kinds of different characters like Ex-FBI agents, pro wrestlers, and a pimp with an autotuned voice (my personal favorite).  His intro to the game is one of the most outrageous moments I have ever had in a video game experience, yet so fitting to this game.  Warning: as the screen shot below indicates, this video is not safe for work or those easily (or even moderately) offended.  Language, sex, guns ..... you get the idea.


If you write this off as another Grand Theft Auto cash-in, I challenge you to give this game a try.  It will be more than worth your time.  If anything, GTA should take a cue from The Third Street Saints.
_______________________________________________
In the very remote chance that you have never read our blog before, Kevin WK has been a fixture here at Achievos, both in text and video form.  Below is his latest YouTube contribution. And don't forget that we are in the middle of a contest ! Comment on the blog or on the blog's Facebook page between now and Dec 5th for your chance to win the full game download of Fruit Ninja for FREE !  In the meantime, bask in Kevin's naked, hairy glory.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Coming Out of the Turkey Coma + Giveaway!

How was everyone's Thanksgiving?  Did you eat a lot of turkey?  Have fun with family?  Play a lot of games (board, video or otherwise)?  More importantly, did you go Black Friday Shopping?

I love Black Friday shopping.  I think it's so much fun.  The thrill of the hunt in a sedentary society, and all that.  Every year I hit the games and DVDs pretty heavy.  That said, this year I only got a couple DVDs (cheap TV seasons) and ... brace yourself ... ZERO games.  I didn't try to get into the madness around every electronics department, and I didn't even go to Best Buy.  Unheard of.  In my defense, I am 7 months pregnant and when I was at Wal-Mart two fights broke out at the electronics department.  And at Target the entire area was ringed with people 6-7 deep.  There's no way I was trying to break through all that.

If only we could go at these crowds Dead Rising style.  Then every game would be miiiiine.
But even more than my burgeoning belly, I didn't buy because I was so mad.  I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had picked up 3 new games at Target because they were Buy Two Get One Free.  This was just within the last month or so, so I spent $100 on 3 new games - Dance Central 2, Disney Universe, and Once Upon a Monster.  All three of these games were drastically price reduced for Black Friday.  I believe I saw DC2 for $15 somewhere.   That made me want to punch someone.  (Maybe I should've gotten into the electronics fray...)   Debbie had a similar experience.  In the last month she has purchased Batman Arkham City, SkyrimBattlefield 3, and has Assassin's Creed waiting on reserve.  Of all those games, only Skyrim wasn't at a $30 or less price point.  Do the math: that's $90 that Debbie could've saved by waiting two more weeks.

This isn't about our lust for instant gratification and buying games as soon as they come out.  If you've put any math together about me as a gamer you know that's not true.  I'm more likely to wait a year or more to play a game just to get it used for $30 or less.  The bigger issue here is that it is holiday season and we gamers are barraged with all the awesome game releases in early November... and with each barrage we are further assaulted by the entire game industry encouraging us to buy on the release date to speak to the developers about what kind of games we want.  There are midnight parties to hype releases.  And we are given bonus content for reserving the game before it's even out.  Well, we at Achievos are here to tell you that an in-game weapon or t-shirt for my avatar does not heal the wound that a $30 price cut a week and a half later inflicts.
Is looking at this picture of a gun worth $30 to you?  It's about that satisfying to play it in the game too.
Heaven knows I've been burned on price before (did anyone else buy Lego Indiana Jones when it was full price, only to be $20 a month later?)  But maybe I've learned my lesson.  Maybe I'll just hold off on buying any new games, especially in early November, before I can try to buy them on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  Were you burned this year?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments section or over at our Facebook page.  From the comments we will choose a winner for a free Fruit Ninja game code for Xbox Live Arcade.  I guarantee that a free game will soothe your soul.  Contest closes 11:59 pm on Sunday, December 4 and the winner will be chosen December 5.

Friday, November 25, 2011

To Prestige or Not To Prestige ....

Every time a new Call of Duty game comes out, I play chicken with myself over prestiging.  I look over my weapons and think about how much I have grown to love them.  Do I really want to let go of my favorite gun?  Will I even enjoy the game without access to Dead Silence ?  And I promise you that my maniacal giggle will be absent without C4.

The only installment from the entire franchise that I have maxed out my prestige on was Call of Duty: World at War.  I tried to do the same with Modern Warfare 2, but I only cycled around four times before the next game came out.  By the time I was ready to prestige in Black Ops, they were announcing the next Call of Duty.  With that in mind, I never rolled over once.

Each time a new Call of Duty game comes out, the max level increases.  It started with level 55 in Call of Duty 4, and has increased all the way up to 80.  With progressive leveling up to such a high number, it feels like it will take forever for me to reach the top.  Sure, there are challenges and double XP to soften the blow, but I can't imagine wanting to make that super long journey again.  On a side note, I really hate this idea of getting double XP codes from stuff like Mt. Dew and Doritos.  Why does it have to be attached to the junkiest food on the planet ?  Activision makes more than enough money on sales alone, so can we please let go of this cross-marketing thing ?  It's annoying, expensive, and majorly unhealthy.

This year has been huge for single player games.  With my life dedicated to other titles, I just don't see myself having time to play nearly as much Call of Duty as I used to.  I know prestiging isn't a requirement, and I find the game totally fun without it.  But it would be nice to have something else to go for once I've reached the max level.  Maybe I will just obsess over stats and golden guns.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Give the Gifts that Keep On Winning

We all have gamers in our lives, and we know that what they really want this Christmas is a gift that gives them reason to isolate themselves for countless hours in a dark room.  That's right, they want more games.  And with all the great releases this holiday season, developers have totally helped out the gift givers, but there is a huge selection, so if you feel like you need a little heads up on which direction to go for your specific gamer, read on.

Teens & Adults:

Syrim, rated M which means 17 and up.  We would probably let ages 16 and up play it.  If they already have Skyrim or you are looking for something cheaper, try DragonAge 2 or Fallout New Vegas.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, rated M and we recommend sticking with that rating, not necessarily for the gory gameplay, but because the online play has almost no filter from crazies people.  If they already have this or you're totally not dropping $60 on Little Timmy this year, Battlefield 3 will be on sale at Best Buy and possibly other retailers for $30.  Also, Homefront and Resistance 3.

Batman: Arkham City, is accurately rated T for teen which is 13 and up.  This should be in everyone's budget since it will be on sale for multiple consoles for $30.  They already have Batman: AC?  Try Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood or Revelations.

Uncharted 3, rated T for teen, we would probably keep it 15 and up but that's pretty conservative.  This one will also be on sale for $30.  Assassin's Creed might be a decent replacement for this one too since its very story driven.
  
Dance Central 2, for anybody who can dance!!  (Or, more hilariously, for those who can't.)  This one has already been advertised at $27 at Target as a Black Friday deal.  Alternatives could be the first Dance Central, or the Just Dance games.

Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword is the newest game in the Zelda series.  It looks amazing, but we haven't had a chance to play it yet.  Zelda games are typically a pretty safe bet if your gamer is into the other Zelda games.  You could get them Twilight Princess if they somehow like Zelda and haven't played that yet (doubtful), or just punch them and tell them to buy Skyward Sword on their own.

The Younger Set (and, let's face it, most of the older set still):

Disney Universe is fun and crazy for the kiddos who will recognize their favorite Disney characters.  This game is also in the Target ad for $27 on Black Friday.  Alternatives for this game would be New Super Mario Brothers.

Once Upon a Monster is a kids game for the Kinect that will not totally drive the parents bonkers.  Yes, it has Elmo, but he is not as abrasive as he could be.  And the kids, of course, love it.  Alternatives for this would be Kinect Adventures or Xbox Points for Fruit Ninja on Xbox Live Arcade.  Kids love flailing around in front of the Kinect, you can't go wrong.

Super Mario 3D Land brings everyone's favorite plumber back to the foreground with a fun, new adventure filled with old friends (Tanooki suit FTW!)  Alternatively you could pick up Super Mario 64 DS at Gamestop for $30 or less (depending on new or used.)  You can't go wrong with any Mario title for a gamer, young or old.

Kinectimals with Bears is a Kinect game where your little sprout can raise, train, and interact with a baby wild cat.  The game is really cute and the kids get a kick out of their pet mimicking their movements.  Alternatively you could pick up the first Kinectimals without the bears for about $20.  Same fun, no bears.

Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 has recently released and we haven't had a chance to play it yet, but you can't go wrong with a Lego game either.  If your gamer has played and enjoyed any of them, or is a Harry Potter fan, this one will be a win.  If they haven't played the first Lego Harry Potter, pick that one up to get them started on the franchise.

Consoles:

Black Friday is a great time to pick up that console you've been considering.  There are always great sales and bundles.  The Target ad alone has a 3DS bundle with the new Mario Land 3D and the system for $170.  The Kinect is a low $99.  Best Buy and Gamestop will also have doorbuster deals for PS3 bundled with two games for as low as $200, same for the 250GB Xbox 360, complete with totally respectable titles.  Maybe it's time to turn yourself into an Achievo.

So that's a run down of some of the new titles you'll see out there this holiday season from the Achievo point of view.  If you still feel totally overwhelmed, don't forget that you can always snap a picture of your gamer's game library and show it to the people at Gamestop (or wherever, but I can't make any promises for the baffoons at Best Buy) and they will help you find something that your gamer will enjoy.  And you can never go wrong with picking up Nintendo/Xbox Live Arcade/PSN cards full of points for purchasing games and content online.  There are even Xbox Live 3 Month subscription cards out there for $10 or less.  Buy with confidence - your gamer will appreciate your efforts (just don't forget the gift receipt.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Modern Warfare Military Guns Shooter Team Kill GO GO GO

Are you ready for another military shooter ?  Of course you are.  Not only is this far from the first Call of Duty, its also isn't the first Modern Warfare.  This franchise doesn't mess around, and even with Sledgehammer at the helm, we know what to expect.  The graphics are great, the upgrades are extensive, and players are jerks.  Lets talk about whats new.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare brought in kill steaks.  Modern Warfare 2 kicked it up with 15 kill streak options including the Tactical Nuke.  Modern Warfare 3 still has 15 options, minus the nuke, and players are allowed to choose three; it's now called the Assault Strike.  But this title blew the whole thing apart by adding the Support Strike packages.  The support streak acts exactly like a kill streak. There are 15 options and each player chooses three.  But players don't have to stay alive in order to get the rewards; they tally up throughout the match.  There is now also the Specialist Strike package that allows players to unlock extra perks to stack on top of their existing selections.  


Initially, these new additions really irritated me.  It seemed like there was just so much stuff to pick and chose and worry about.  My concerns were that I wouldn't be able to compete when the top players had all these amazing extras.  The more I play, the more I realize that these extras benefit my rookie friends even more.  Jumping into a franchise like Call of Duty can be intimidating.  Even players that are familiar with the series but not that skilled will be happy to get the occasional reward of their own.  It really cut down on how quickly they became frustrated.

There are more guns, especially sniper rifles.  The upgrades, attachments, and weapon perks outnumber the previous titles.  The maps are really reminiscent of MW2 in that there is a lot of multilevel action.  But unlike the first two games in the MW series, there are no maps that are super conducive to sniping.  That makes me very happy, but makes others very sad.

One of the other numerous changes that I would like to touch upon is the addition of a game type called Kill Confirmed.  The basis if the gameplay is team deathmatch, but every time a player dies they drop a set of dog tags.  Players must retrieve the enemy dog tags in order for the kill to count towards the overall team score.  Players can also recover their own tags and those of teammates to prevent the opposition from getting the points for the kill.  It is tough to win this game with someone hiding up in a corner with a sniper rifle camping it out, or players that spam grenades and launchers across the map.  I am not usually a fan of TD, but Kill Confirmed has a very fast pace and encourages an aggressive close quarters combat technique, and I love that.


I could actually go on and on and on about this game.  I was really skeptical of it in the beginning, but it's starting to grow on me like all the Call of Duty games do.  I think Modern Warfare 3 is fun and I recommend it for old fans and beginners.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Secret Footage Revealed

We here at Achievos are all about your entertainment...so we snuck behind the scenes and got this secret footage of Debbie dominating at CoD MW3.  She will destroy you.

Warning: Explicit Language Abounds


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

[Insert Call of Duty Pun Here]


I don't need to give an introductory statement about the Call of Duty franchise.  We don't need any witty comments or stupid little jokes where I pretend to have never heard of this monster series.  It's not clever or worth our time.  So jumping into it, Modern Warfare 3 is amazing and you need to own it.  While your temptation might be to stop there and rush out to purchase this game thanks solely to the last sentence, I encourage you to read on.  Right now, I'm going to just talk about the single player campaign. 

There have been some pretty memorable moments in past CoD games.  Players remember the first time they had a shoot out under a Ferris wheel, tore through an airport full of civilians, or realized that the main character is not quite what he seems.  But Modern Warfare 3 brings a whole new level of amazement with several scenes that will certainly find themselves solidly rooted in videogame history. 

MW3 takes us all around the world; New York, London, Sierra Leone, Berlin, Somalia, Paris, India, in the air and under water.  Each of these cities seems to have their own major event that took my breath away.  I can't describe most of the scenes since they would be huge spoilers, but I can say this without giving anything away; there was something wonderfully cathartic about shooting up Wall Street. 

The graphics are amazing, as per usual, and the game play and controls are pretty standard.  Sledgehammer didn't really break the mold with MW3, but they certainly brought some Jerry Bruckheimer entertainment to Xbox.  I am confident in my statement that this solo campaign is far better than the last three titles.  And for that I say, Thank You.

This game has some serious blood and touchy topics.  If you are a sensitive soul, you should probably walk away.

Monday, November 14, 2011

We're on Facebook!

Welcome to the 21st Century, am I right?  Join us on our Facebook page to keep up with our updates and other fun things.  We foresee giveaways using the Facebook page.  And albums of all our Achievo brethren gaming their hearts out.  Join us.  Love us.




Saturday, November 12, 2011

Skyrim: First Impressions

Instead of trying to do some kind of review, or tell you everything you've already read before release on all that is awesome about Skyrim, we here at Achievos have decided to hit up our friends and give you snippits of what their first impressions are after a day of play.
That repetitive date couldn't have come soon enough for many of our friends.
Mini Bezz says:
When I started the game I was excited and was ready to see if this would be better than Oblivion...and guess what IT IS. Skyrim is so amazing that I've had the game only 30 hours and I have already been playing the game for nearly 20 of those hours. It's graphics are amazing, the controls are easy and feel natural, and the views and environment just leave you staring at it thinking 'OMG is this real'. With Oblivion, I had spent at least a good month of my time playing....with Skyrim, I think its going to the rest of my life playing.


Parker says:
Skyrim is massive; in terms of content and scale.  Possibly one of the best examples of this is demonstrated upon the first dragon battle.  Not only are you small on screen next to the dragon, but the power difference is daunting.
Debbie's original hunch was right: there ARE dragons in this game!
Rob says:
I've just finished a 13 hour marathon session of Skyrim and haven't even scratched the surface (only one Nirnroot so far!)  The game dwarfs the size and scope of Oblivion.  I'm enjoying the gameplay more as I get comfortable with the controls and work out the intricacies of customizations, leveling, and all that RPG gooey goodness.  You have the ability to switch between 3rd and 1st person perspectives at will.  I used the 1st person in the dungeons, giving them a very Halo-ish feel.  Very interesting, and for me, it works very well.  Standard issue plots (so far) and menus.  Unspectacular AI and I did think the environments would look a little more polished.  However, I'm nitpicking and the total world immersion makes up for a lot.  I'm in for the rest of the weekend.  Gotta make my run at 10,000 now!

Dylan says:
When I first started Skyrim (after Character creation) I was speechless. Right from the start I felt myself falling into this world. I felt the terror and exhilaration as I was escaping Helgen, felt a little torn for a moment when deciding who to follow, was in awe of the beauty of the landscape as I first ventured out of the caves into the daylight, I even felt a little cold when I was high in the mountains! My heart was racing as I went toe-to-toe with a bandit warrior that caught me trying to sneak into a fort occupied by bandits, and I found myself moving my head from left to right in sync with my character, dodging arrows as I tested my marksmanship against his three archer comrades. I knew I would not be able to play any other game for a long time after playing Skyrim for an hour.


And finally, Debbie weighs in with her opinion:
This game blows my mind.  I bought Modern Warfare 3 on Tuesday.  It's a good thing I played for those three days because Skyrim is the first game to take me away from Call of Duty and it doesn't bother me at all.
Debbie's laying it on the line.
Are you already entrenched in the world of Skyrim?  What're your first impressions?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kevin WK Likes Dragons

If it's good enough for Kotaku then it's good enough for us.  Of course I am slightly partial to Kevin's videos, probably because I live with him.  But please believe me when I say that you are going to feel a lot sexier after watching this. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More Celebrating!

Today we could easily post a blog about MW3 and all the time Debbie has already devoted to it..but that would just be too predictable.  I could let you know how my trials and tribulations have been going as I play Disney Universe with my 4-yr-old...but there's always time for that.  Instead, today we will continue the celebrating.  Last blog we celebrated our 200th entry.  This time: I celebrate hitting 10,000 GamerScore.


It all happened last night, with Debbie & Mini Bezz at my side.  I was at 9,975 and I was going to sleep on it, resting with the sweet anticipation of hitting the 10k mark today.  But then Debbie dropped out of her MW3 game and insisted I relish the sweetness of the big G's with her in party.  Who was I to resist??

Needing only 25 points felt both exciting and daunting.  I was afraid that many of the achievements I had for 5-10 were already completed, and any for 20+ would take a major time crunch (did I mention this all started at 11 p.m.?)  So Debbie started researching what achievos I had available, and we figured my best bet would be in Dance Central or Fable 3.

I started in Dance Central.  The achievement?  100% a song in Break It Down mode.  Poker Face is easy enough, and so I headed there.  I was doing great.  This was really happening.. Then in the last section of re-cap I broke under pressure and moved an arm wrong, getting only 97% of the song and missing the 25 point achievement.. but accidentally getting a 15 pt achievement for getting 80%+ on a song in Break It Down mode!  I was kicking myself!  How could I mess it up on one stupid move!?  And now I only needed 10 pts!?  Brain explosion!  And then Debbie and I realized that it was a blessing in disguise, because had I gotten 100%, I would've gotten 2 achievements at once and not been able to relish the beauty of the clean 10,000.  It would've been a dirty, horrible 10,015.

And then Fable 3 came to the rescue.  A simple remodeling of 5 houses and I was there.  It was beautiful  The achievement popped, I saved and exited and took in the beauty of avatar Linz standing there next to those five digits.  I even dressed her up for the occasion.

And I looked like this in my excitement.
It was truly awesome.  I feel justified as a gamer.  I feel accomplished.  The last 3 years of Xbox ownership have culminated into this.  And now...?  Now I look forward to 25k I guess.  And I long-distance enjoy this:
Because your best friends make you cakes when you hit GamerScore milestones.  Huzzah!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Our 200th Post and First Date Jitters

Replace the word "homeschooling" with just "schooling"
Hey, its our 200th post !  Thanks for sticking around the last couple years and reading all the brilliant gems we have spewed forth.  For all the guest bloggers along the way, thanks so much for being a part of our little internet adventure.  And if anyone else would like to step up and guest blog, we always love hearing different opinions.  Just shoot us an email at achievos@gmail.com.  That being said, lets get on with the show !

I will be attending one of the numerous Modern Warfare 3 midnight release parties tonight. I used to absolutely love the franchise unconditionally, but it has grown into a love/hate relationship. If nothing else, my positive emotions towards Call of Duty come in unpredictable waves regardless if it's Treyarch or Infinity Ward at the helm. I am more optimistic about Modern Warfare 3 than I have been for the last two titles. Modern Warfare 2 was a great change, but had so many glitches that it was almost unplayable for the first couple months.  Black Ops was a solid title, but it was sort of the same of song and dance.  Maybe this one will blow my mind and leave me in that euphoric state of morning-after gaming bliss. 

So, as I get ready to grab my copy of MW3, I will anxiously shift my weight from one foot to another.  While people in line are laughing and sharing virtual war stories, I will be smoothing my hair and straightening my shirt.  As the store worker unlocks the door at midnight, I will nervously walk up and awkwardly offer to shake his hand like arriving on the doorstep to pick up his daughter for prom.  Then, after driving around with my copy in the front seat, I'm gonna take it back to my place and have my way with it.  I'm a creeper.

This is exactly what I'm wearing to pick up my date ...erm, copy of MW3.

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Fire is Burning

I've got a fire burning on the dance floor, that's for sure.  And if I don't have it 100%, I'll do a break-it-down mode and get my groove on until it's perfect.  I've also got unrelated fires burning in my back, arms, legs and hips from being unable to stop playing the Kinect once I get started, but that's for another post.

I just picked up Dance Central 2 this week and am thus far totally loving it.  Today is actually the first day I've played it so I am far from completely through it, but I feel confident in blogging it because hello, it's a dance game.  I doubt there will be any life-changing end-game content.

"Linz!" you say, "It is so unlike you to buy a game when it is this new and expensive!  What has come over you?  Are you suddenly independently wealthy from the ad revenue from this blog?"  Why thank you for asking, loyal reader, and sadly no - Debbie and I have not yet been able to quit our day jobs and focus solely on gaming and blogging.  Darnit.  I was actually tempted into spending money now on new games instead of later on used games because Target is running a buy 2 get 1 free sale.  Last year I took advantage of this same sale and got Fable 3 (which I just started playing this week as well. What is wrong with me?!)  So this year I got Dance Central 2, Disney Universe and Once Upon a Monster.  I swear those last two are for the chitlins, not me.  Sort of.  And I've already played DC2 so I'm winning compared to last year!

I was definitely torn on buying DC2 already because I have not even fully gotten through Dance Central 1, but I am a sucker for dance games and wanting more and more variety in my playlists.  I thought about buying the DLC for the first game, but it was as expensive as buying the 2nd game so why not treat myself this time?  There are a lot of really fun songs in the 2nd game, but I have to say there seem to be more that I don't recognize in this title than there were in the 1st one.  Plus, they included a weird cover of Britney Spears' Toxic which makes me sad because that is like, my favorite Brit song and it's not the real thing.

The thing I love about dance games is that they never seem to get old.  You can replay the same songs over and over, trying to perfect the moves and best your last high score.  So I'd say replayability for this type of game is at an all time high.  I can't even begin to think of how many hours I sunk into the DDR franchise in college, and moving your feet on to 4 arrows is about a tenth of a percent as fun as actually doing dance moves you can recognize from the music videos.

I can't even get into the whole 'downloading your tracks from the first game into the second game' issue because I haven't tried to do it yet...but I can say that I think it's majorly B.S. that you have to have a code from the first game AND pay 400 Microsoft Points.  I don't want to pay an additional $5 for songs I could play by switching out the game disk.  I would guess you could download your songs and pay the money and then sell your copy of DC1 and maybe that would be worth it??  I don't know.  If anyone can shed some light on this, please feel free to in the comments.

When it all comes down to it, this game is fun. If you played Dance Central 1, you will like Dance Central 2.  It's the same concepts, same simply menus, same rocking moves and awesome beats.  I have found that it seems to be slightly more difficult, although it might just seem more difficult because I keep getting more and more pregnant.  If it's not the baby belly to blame, I would say the "easy" difficulty on DC2 is comparable to the "medium" on DC1.  Pick it up now, pick it up later, just don't miss shaking your groove thing.
This is happening.

Monday, October 31, 2011

We're Back With Guns Blazing


After an unplanned absence, we have returned with more gaming knowledge to cram in your face.  First up, lets take a look at Battlefield 3 (BF3).  Even though BF3 is a sequel to the 2005 game, Battlefield 2, I am going to be throwing out a lot of comparisons to 2010's Battlefield: Bad Company 2.  There's a couple reasons for this; first, I never played Battlefield 2, and second, it doesn't seem fair to compare a game to it's six year-old predecessor. 

The solo campaign in Battlefield 3 takes place in the Middle East, and features a military rush on extremist rebels.  Following the token recipe for first-person shooters, BF3 is played almost exclusively in tight, urban backdrops with the occasional open area to romp around with armored vehicles.  One of the big differences between Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 is the super visceral feel.  Shooting weapons, jumping over items, and shifting weight while reloading are all expressed really intensely.  The graphics also give a very realistic feel with dramatic detail and impressive, natural lighting.  While all those features were great in Bad Company, they are that much more impressive in the newest title. 

I can't decide if it's harder or easier for me to review the multiplayer.  I have played the last two Bad Company games and spent several hours playing Battlefield 3.  With that amount of game play under my belt, I am far from an expert on this particular franchise, so this review will simply be some of my rookie observations.  As with the solo campaign, the multiplayer has great graphics; it looks great on the Xbox 360 and downright amazing on the PC.

Matches run a little bit longer than I care for, but that is probably due to my short attention span and Call of Duty preferences.  I noticed a lot of people camping, but that tends to happen more when a game is new and people are less familiar with the maps.  There is only so much hiding that can be done when players are allowed to control tanks, helicopter, and fight jets.  One of my big pet peeves with this game is that you can't back out of the lobby in between games.  Players have to wait until the game starts before they can go into menus to drop out; the only other option being to kick all the way to the dashboard.  It's a minor inconvenience but its a pesky thing I wish they would've changed. 

When the vehicles are not in play, Battlefield 3 seems to be more for the hardcore shooter fan.  It doesn't really break the mold of the genre, but it still makes for a great addition to your gaming library.

I was happy to see I could now go fully prone, until I spot guys doing this.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Finally Feel Your Pain

I didn't play Batman: Arkham Asylum; despite this, I was really excited to get my hands on Arkham City.  Most of our readers are well aware of this games outrageous reviews.  The top names from print to online have given it perfect scores thanks in large part to the title's amazing graphics, super villain lineup, and intense action.  I usually do more research then just reading a handful of reviews, and I still regret that I never checked out Batman more.

Skipping back a few years, Linz has always had a propensity for motion sickness when it comes to videogames.  I have always felt sorry for her, especially when one of the games she couldn't play happened to be one of my all-time favorites, Oblivion.  But the tables have turned and I am the one reaching for a sick bag.  Lindsey's condition and my lack of research crashed together when I realized that Batman: Arkham City is played in the third person.
This doesn't look impossible, but it sure feels impossible.
Not all third-person games get my stomach moving.  While I primarily played Oblivion in the first person, switching to the third was not a big deal.  And other games like Fable never gave me a problem despite my dozens of hours of play time.  But that tight, over the should, third person perspective is definitely going to be the end of me.  I had problems with Gears of War; I couldn't handle watching them run in multiplayer without wanting to upchuck, and I never did get the aiming under control.  In Arkham City, it's the characters' walk, especially the overly-sensual sway of Catwoman's hips, that makes me queasy.  If a seductive little strut can make me want to barf, imagine what diving, flying, and swinging through buildings does.  For the first time ever, the graphics in a game are too good.

We'll just say she's a tough act to follow.
I'm not really complaining about this particular title, I'm more upset about my total inability to pick up this game type.  Almost any game that comes out today, I can get the hang of the controls and game play pretty quickly, usually within 15 minutes.  Racing used to be my kryptonite, but I have even managed to get a grasp on driving.  Still, I cannot play over the shoulder games for the life of me and it is beyond frustrating.  They have become my personal, final frontier.

So this is a call out to you, the reader.  If you have any tips or tricks for conquering the third person gaming experience, hook a sister up.  Shed some light on this for me, because without it, I might never be able to restore order to Arkham City and its prisoners.  And finally, to Linz, I'm right there with you.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Psychosomatic Gamer

Guest blogger Kevin WK recently admitted his ADD in a post, and it got me thinking.  And by thinking I mean "self diagnosing".  And I have realized that I have a whole range of mental issues that have stemmed from and are fed by my gaming, shall we call it, addiction?  Basically I'm warning you that this is pretty much a series now where I figure out that I have an issue and then tell you about it.  But while admitting it's a problem, I still think it's kind of awesome because I love to game and anything that assists me in that is FTW.

Today's problem: dependency.  I was going to say co-dependency, but after researching I find that isn't quite the right diagnosis.  See, co-dependency is defined as "unhealthy love and a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one's relationships and quality of life" (Thanks Wikipedia.)  Whereas dependency is defined as ": something that is dependent on something else" (Thanks Merriam-Webster.)


I thought I was co-dependent because I have devolved into this kind of gamer who doesn't want to play unless someone else is online and I can talk to them while playing.  But that's not co-dependency, it's just normal old dependency!  See how mentally healthy I am!?
  
I love you.
So what is my deal?  I have the desire to play games like Mass Effect 2 (which got shelved months ago - *shameface*) that require my full attention...yet I sit down to put them in, check my friends list, no one is on...and I leave the Xbox.  That's right.  I turn my back on my old friend, because it can't have a conversation with me.  I don't even want to play Halo or something multiplayer, I only want to play with people I know and can talk to.  And I only want to play when I'm talking to them.  SO not only is the amount of time I'm gaming suffering, but the quality of games I'm playing, because really I max out at Peggle and Bejeweled when I'm talking in party.  I just miss out on every iota of a game's story if I try to play Fable or Mass Effect.


What is wrong with me?!  I used to play alone!  It used to be enough for me!  I've been spoiled by Xbox Live and readily available friends, and now I've been ruined by Xbox Live and friends many time zones away from me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The New High Price of Gaming

In today's tumultuous economy, it can be difficult to stay on top of the latest gaming innovations without breaking the bank, but buying used games is far from a new trend.  Convincing consumers to spend $60 for a new game is harder than ever before, but some companies are making it tough to just stay in the black as a gamer.

Looking at Uncharted 3, the multiplayer portion will require an activation code.  When this title is purchased brand new, the code is in the case and will just need to be redeemed at no extra cost.  However, the code is only valid for a single use.  So when a player trades in Uncharted 3, the person who buys it behind them will not get multiplayer unless they purchase an additional code from the PSN store to activate the online content; the cost being $10.  Within the first few months of a major title release, like Uncharted 3, the savings are typically not very big, somewhere between $5 and $10.  Doing some math would show that buying a used game for $55 or even $50 will grant you absolutely no savings when taking into account the $10 activation code.  At that point, you might as well buy it brand new on release day.

Want to follow Catwoman around Arkham City?  If you buy it used, it's going to cost you.
Uncharted isn't the first title to employ this technique.  Resistance 3 had a very similar system for accessing their entire online multiplayer experience.  Video game giant EA has taken it a step further by asking people to pay for an online pass for all their sports titles.  Access to online or even regular in-game content will be restricted by single-use codes.  EA has outright denied that this kind of behavior is to increase profits by cutting down on used game purchases or piracy, and that they have chosen to do this to enhance the customer experience.  Understandably, there has been very little explanation from EA as to how something like this is beneficial to the customers.

It doesn't take much thought to realize how this is detrimental to a huge demographic of gamers.  My glorious co-blogger Linz almost never buys brand new games.  Now she must do more work research before buying to make sure that she isn't going to be missing content that might have been part of the title's appeal in the first place. 

Did you tap into the Cerberus Network when you bought ME2 used?  Probably not.
The other demographic that will be missing out are renters.  The $15 per month that someone is spending on Gamefly will no longer guarantee them the full content that is expected.  The same goes for renting from Blockbuster, Red Box, and eventually Netflix.

Policies like this make me furious.  I completely understand that the video game industry is first and foremost a business.  Their goal and the goal of shareholders is to make as much profit as possible.  While developers and publishers have the right charge as much as they want, I have the right not to pay, and that is exactly what I intend to do.  Some titles will be unavoidable for me.  I refuse to pass up on the new SSX which is published by EA.  But outside of that, I will make it my goal to avoid buying games that employ the single use code as much as possible.

I won't be able to avoid buying every game that utilizes single use codes.  And I am fully aware that my not purchasing these games won't make anyone change their policy, but at least it helps me feel like I took a tiny little stand for all of us broke gamers out there. 

EA apparently eats money the same way it eats my soul.  They have found a whole new way to make it rain.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Defense of Duke Nukem Forever


In Defense of Duke Nukem Forever - Because Somebody's Got to Do It
by Elyse Schuler-Cruz

And so it seems twelve years worth of hype is a damn hard thing to live up to.  Everyone and their mother got so worked up over the long-awaited release that it came as no surprise to me when it failed to meet the lofty standards that had been set for it.  I mean honestly, what did we expect?  The Godfather?
 
(I'm talking about the Oscar-winning film; not EA's repetitive GTA cash-in.)
I hate to break it to you.  Yes, they hold their hands in the same manner.  No, they are not of the same caliber.
We've had over a decade to create this ideal game in our imaginations.  There was no way that we could ever get what we wanted.  Personally, I wanted a touching look into the childhood and repressed memories of Duke in relation to their current effects on his motivations.  That and I wanted the aliens to also be Nazis, so I could double my murderous satisfaction.  What can I say?  I'm a simple girl with simple tastes.

One of the common complaints about Duke Nukem Forever was the inability to carry more than two weapons at a time.  Yeah, I know the Duke of the 90s could carry two-elventy handguns, five shotguns, numerous rifles and a howitzer, and it was really inconvenient to get to a boss fight only to realize that I was lacking the right boomstick for the job.  Then I'd have to go back to a previous save and play through again whilst keeping the needed gun on me...oh wait.  That never happened because the right gun for the boss fight was conveniently located at my feet.  If you're judging a game's quality on how many weapons can be carried then you probably 1) hated Fatal Frame, and 2) should revise your rubric.

Now, I'm not too biased as to claim that this was Game of the Year material.  It wasn't.  All I'm saying is that just because it's not the ideal game you created in your imagination doesn't mean it's an abomination.  I reserve that title for Legend of Dragoon, and nothing's managed to usurp it in over ten years.

But seriously, that air hockey was bullshit.
Really, Duke?  You want me to win 7-0 for 30 gamerscore?  I can not even do this in real life.



 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Elyse Schulyer-Cruz, today's guest blogger, has been gaming since it was old school.  She started out on the NES/Master System, and has always had a soft spot for Sega.  She went to college with Debbie & Linz, majored in theater, and has recently returned to school for a teaching degree.  That's right, she could one day be schooling your kids both on the quality of game remakes and how to use a comma correctly.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hi, I'm Captain Basch From .... Where ?

Those guys from Mega64 gift the world another classic clip.  As an intense fan of Final Fantasy, I found this video particularly entertaining.  I hope it brightens your dreary Tuesday like it has mine.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hear Ye, Hear Ye !

It's a Trapp !!!
It's announcement time with just a couple quick reminders to start your week off right !  First up, our winner of the random package of PAX goodness is ...... Jimmy Trapp !  What did he win?  Jimmy will be receiving a t-shirt, some buttons, a sticker or two, and any other random item I feel like tossing in there; his dreams really are coming true.  Congratulations Jimmy !!!


Remember, we still have a lot of prizes left to give away including a free OnLive console !  We only had five entries for this last contest so your chances of winning in a future giveaway are great.  But the only way to win is to read and comment when the time is right !!!

Last, but certainly not least, that rascally bunch at Pixeldom.com are having another midnight launch event !  Go say hi to the crew from PixelsnPopcorn and the Sugar Gamers at the Game Stop at 2603 N. Elston here in Chicago !  They are kicking off the release of Batman: Arkham City tonight; prizes and good times await you.