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."
     "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 @ 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.