Friday, March 31, 2006

Far Cry Instincts Predator (X360)

I picked this up last night for $60. I sure hope there is a sale soon so I can price adjust.

- I've only played about one hour so far. I did boot up the old xbox far cry so I could compare back to back.
- Graphics are pretty good but don't particularly look next gen to me. This is definitely an upscale version of the original xbox game. Now granted I thought the original xbox version looked great. I was just expecting more of an update on the X360. It didn't look like they reworked much of the textures or models. Water does look nice but overall I expected much more. Framerate is good.
- It didn't help that I just watched the GDC Crysis trailer. Now THAT looks next gen:
Port this to X360!!!!
- They lock you out of chapter 2 until you complete chapter one though you can unlock it with the cheat code "GiveMeItAll"
- I've read the checkpoints are more frequent in this version. Once nice touch is if you hit a checkpoint with say only 5 health when you die and respawn you always start with at lest 50 health.
- The controls feel a bit off. It's almost like there is a bit of a lag. The acceleration curve is all wrong. It takes too long to get going (when panning around). Then, once you start turning around it goes way too fast. It needs a more gradual acceleration curve over the entire travel distance of the analog stick. So basically it feels mushy and over sensitive at the same time. Adjusting the sensitivity doesn't help a whole lot. The xbox version also has this issue to some extent but for some reason it seems worse on the X360.
- I still haven't tried multiplayer or the map editor.

Overall I'm still enjoying this game but I expected a bit more of an upgrade on the X360. I hear chapter 2 is kind of short. If you haven't played Instincts then this 2 for 1 deal is great. But if you are like me who already purchased instincts on xbox then I feel a bit let down only getting an upscaled version of the xbox game plus what amounts to an expansion for $60.

Some impressions on XBOX instincts
First impressions (about 1-2hrs of play)

- xbox exclusive.
- very pretty for the xbox. not quite as nice as the pc but close. there's some pop in on the foliage. They tried to do some pseudo HDR lighting and I personally don't like it. Some things just look too bright in the sun. But other than that very nice graphics.
- This game shares NOTHING from the PC version except the characters, setting, and probably some of the storyline. So far there hasn't been a single duplicate map/mission. It's all new.
- Gameplay feels more linear (but that isn't really a bad thing). You rarely get lost. You always know where to go next (it's shown in your compass). The controls are spot on (very halo like). Weapons feel nice when fired. The gun play and battles are great. There are some innovative gameplay elements I haven't seen before like setting traps or get this. You can go prone, crawl under one of those island huts on stilts, turn around and lie on your back, and shoot the enemies between the floor boards. That is way cool. AI seems almost as good as the PC version.
- Check point save system that hasn't been too bad so far. No difficulty settings but there is a place to enter cheat codes.
- extensive live support that I haven't had a chance to test yet
- Levels are HUGE.

Overall this is an excellent shooter for xbox and is highly recommended.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Battlefield 2 Modern Combat (X360)

I tried the demo for a couple games last night.

- gfx look good but IMO not as good as GRAW
- controllers are fine but it takes too long to switch between prone, crouch, and stand. I miss the knee slide and dive from GRAW
- As usual the focus is on all the vehicles and less on infantry. I'm really tired of over powered vehicles. I much prefer infantry combat.
- Play was smooth and lag free. Framerate was good too.
- Gameplay is pretty much like battlefield 1942. It has none of the innovations that the BF2 on the PC had like the commander RTS and squad spawning elements that really progressed the series.

I think I'll pass. I like GRAW a lot more.

Logitech Cordless Controllers

top to bottom: PC, PS2, XBOX

After falling in love with the X360 wireless controller, any controller with wires was starting to bug me. Here is a nice set of Logitech controllers that work pretty well. I'm usually very picky about my controllers and almost always prefer the first party controllers.

- Common: 2.4 ghz wireless, 30ft range, uses standard 2XAA batteries (NIMH rechargeable work great!), good battery life, NO LAG or interference with other 2.4 devices (I have my 802.11g AP and bluetooth in the same room as these controllers and there are no issues on either side), auto frequency hop so you can use multiple controllers simultaneously, good rumble, good weight, solid construction feel, size is just about right

- PC: $20 when on sale, usb, works great with mame, ps2 controller layout but with a superior digital pad IMO. This controller works and feels the best out of the three. If you don't mind wires though I still like the wired X360 controller as that is my favorite gamepad of all time right now.

- PS2: $32-40, everything is great about this pad. It has a really small dongle. The only very minor complaint is the resistance on the analog sticks are a bit on the light side. I find aiming in fps a bit too sensitive and too easy to over shoot your target even with sensitivity lowered in the game. Make sure you get the latest redesign and not the older design with the clear blue analog sticks. The new one has the black textured rubber like the other controllers

- XBOX: $32-40, This one isn't bad but It's my least favorite out of the 3. You can't use a headset. The memory slots are on the dongle so it makes it rather large. The trigger buttons have too much resistance to them. I can see maybe your hands hurting after long play periods with say a racing game that uses those triggers for gas and brake. The face buttons require a bit too much force to register. I've also read some possible long term reliability issues with those face buttons. The right analog stick is just a tad too far to the left so your thumb has to stretch just a tiny bit. The analog sticks are a bit loose for my taste just like the ps2 ones.

Overall I recommend all 3 products. Even though I had several issues with the XBOX controller I still think they are pretty minor and none of them are deal breakers.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Blazing Angels (X360)

I just completed the demo.

- You get quite a bit of gameplay in the demo: 3-4 single player missions, about 45min worth of play time.
- graphics are good but didn't really blow me away. I guess I expected more detailed ground elements (villages, city buildings, ships, etc). For some reason the game didn't look quite as good in motion as it did in screenshots.
- target boxes are pretty tiny. So is your crosshair. I found my self squinting a lot trying to line up targets.
- Water didn't seem all that impressive
- Explosions were a bit underwhelming
- damage/fire/smoke effects are excellent. As you get shot up you start catching on fire which makes it a bit hard to see things.
- goofy german radio chatter that can get quite annoying
- very arcadey/simplified control system. You can't roll independent of turning. You can do loops and even stall. Those of you that like the advance control settings of ace combat might be a bit disappointed.
- The lock on camera view takes a bit getting use to but after you get use to it, it works pretty well. Still I wish there were more hud elements even though it's 3rd person. Maybe a few carrots around the edge of the screen would have helped tracking enemy planes to supplement the lock on camera.
- missions are pretty long with multiple objectives and an in mission check point save system. Any damage sustained is persisted between checkpoint restarts.
- framerate gets a bit choppy once in a while
- Annoying invisible walls. You'll be lining up a shot then all of a sudden it goes letterbox and turns your plane around for you.
- gameplay is still pretty fun and exciting for the most part.

Hmmm I was pretty excited about this title and was planing to pick it up. Now I'm not so sure unless there is a really good sale. Maybe multiplayer will be better. I have to say I was expecting more and came up a bit disappointed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Oblivion (X360)

Well, I picked up the X360 version today for $45 at compusa. I've only just finished the tutorial dungeon, got outside, and dove into the next dungeon for a bit( a bit less than 2hrs of play).

- I've never played any of the elder scroll games before (except very briefly with daggerfall and morrowind). So far I like it and I'm pretty darn impressed with the graphics. Everything is normal mapped and shadowed. The LOD outside textures really didn't bother me at all. The Load/save times on the x360 are pretty darn fast (maybe 3 seconds to save, 6 seconds to load). Oh and umm it really isn't too dark in the dungeons. Torches are your friend :-) So far the controls/interface seem to work pretty well on a gamepad. Aiming is still no as precise as a keyboard/mouse though. They make it really easy to switch between torch/melee/ranged weapons and you can use magic pretty much at anytime with a click of the right bumper.
- I'm digging the combat. It's all very real time and plays a bit more like a FPS.
- The implementation of the havok physics engine works well.
- framerate seems pretty good so far.
- great soundtrack by Jeremy Soule. All dialog is spoken.
- uses the Gamebyro engine
- I worry a bit if the story is good enough to pull me in. I think the elder scrolls have always been more about incredible freedom to do almost anything, a huge world to explore, lots of loot. Don't expect the deep character driven stories of Japaneses/bioware rpg's. This might change since I'm still so early in the game.
- As open ended Oblivion is they really have some nice features to make it accessible to everyone: multiple saves, save/load at anytime/anywhere, a difficulty slider that greatly affects combat difficulty that you can change at anytime, instant travel to points on the world map and any points of interest you've been before, compass markers for location of objectives, and a nice journal system to track your quests so you always know what needs to be accomplished next.
- some people have reported some issues on the x360 with pauses. Here is a fix:
Though so far my game has been pretty darn smooth and responsive. No real issues here.

- I also had a chance to very briefly try the pc version (15 min)
- It recommended 1024X768 with most graphic settings set on high
- fraps reported fps between around 24 - 60. When there are 3 npc's battling a couple of bad guys the fps would drop into the mid 20's. When I was by myself fighting a few monsters the framerate stayed around 60. I haven't been outside yet.
- I prefer the mouse keyboard controls for combat but it seems like the journal/inventory system was really designed for a console gamepad so that part actually works better on the x360.
- load/save times are very fast (<1 sec). You also get a quick save/load.
- no HDR support on a x800xl. It is grayed out. WTF?

I think both versions are excellent and look and play very close. In the end I just rather play oblivion on a 40" hdtv vs a 20" monitor. Plus more gamer points!

Mid game update (20 hrs) 3/27/06
- My character is basically the Lifetaker (mage,combat,stealth) from the strategy guide with a bit more focus on strength and blade. I wanted to carry more stuff so I thought strength but maybe I should have focused more on alteration to use some of the anti encumbrance spells. Level 4.
- I've just closed the second oblivion gate. joined all the guilds (fighters,mage,thief,dark brotherhood).
- finished the arena battles (became grand champion). You get some pretty nice armor. You can also bet and watch arena matches instead of participate in them. One time I slept in the gladiator prep room and in the morning I came out and there in front of the arena bookie was a dead girl stripped of all her things that wasn't there the night before. About 20ft further out was another dead guy. Looks like some npc's went crazy during the night :-)
- In the beginning, if you just follow the main mission to the priory and make sure you talk to everybody. You get a free horse.
- The quests are of excellent quality so far. They are really well designed with a good variety. Even the few fedex quests are dressed up nicely. I'm trying to not take too many side quests right now (and there are a LOT of them). I'm focusing on the main story quests first, then I'll probably do the guild ones next if I have time.
- I'm enjoying the story and the characters more now.
- Most of the female character faces (at least the commoners. The royalty are a bit better) are all kinds of ugly. I'm not sure if they are trying to make it a more realistic medieval feel or what but I'd rather be looking at super models like in guild wars! Does anybody else think Martin looks a bit like Fabio? Makes it kind of hard for me to want to protect him.
- great journal system and markers so you always know where to go next. You can even place your own marker that shows up on the map and the compass. I kind of wish for a little pip map option.
- Combat has been pretty fun so far. I usually like to start with a sneak arrow attack (the stealth element in this game works pretty well. It's not quite thief but close), then maybe a bit of fire magic, and finally sword if they are still alive. I keep difficulty just a few notches toward easy from the default. Since npc's that are critical to a quest can't die (only go unconscious for a short time then get back up) you can pretty much use them like tanks. They do a pretty good job at combat and tend to get all Leeroy on you.
- creatures and loot level along with you and so far it's been working ok for me. I hear there is a bit of a penalty if you level too quickly though I haven't really noticed. Then again I'm only level 4.
- make sure you go back and repair all your equipment after each major battle/quest. Some of the higher end magical loot can't be repaired in the field with a repair hammer.
- Accidental Friendly Fire (doesn't apply to main quest npc's, just the occasional red shirts that tag along). I really hate this. On quests when you have npc's that help you, they tend to jump right into your line of fire. If that npc is low on health and you kill them, boom instant murder with 1000 bounty on your head. The next time you head in to town guards will chase you down on sight. The problem is during the heat of battle sometimes you don't even know you are the one who killed the npc and not the monster. I had to redo an entire oblivion gate quest because after I finished it I had 1000 bounty on my head. Now I just let the NPC's do most of the fighting at the start and hopefully the monsters will kill them off. Then I get to loot their bodies and everybody is happy.
- Really nice physics and ragdoll. You can "grab" almost anything and move/drag it around. You can grab individual body parts and watch the ragdoll physics work.
- load times. At first they don't seem that bad. But later in the game when you fast travel a lot and have to jump from town to town a lot those load times really start to add up and really start to annoy you. Also, there isn't a single button quick save/load (out of X360 buttons) like there is on the pc. So every time you want to save you have to hit start, save, pick a save slot. The PC has this beat hands down.
- I found a repeatable freeze/lock bug. If I go to this shrine (near azura's shrine), activate it to get a magical set of weapons for a period of time, mount my horse (it says something about not being able to unequip the weapon), ride off into the next load it will lock hard. I was able to duplicate this. It was easy to work around but still a pretty bad bug. That was about the only issue I had over 12 hrs of straight play.
- framerate issues. It does dip down into what looks like the 20's. It doesn't affect the gameplay much but it is noticeable.
- does AA and HDR (pc can't).
- I hear there is a memory leak or something in the pc version and after several hours you will see some performance degradation.

Overall I'm still loving this game.

As far as pc vs x360 I would say they are very similar:
+ achievements
+ nothing to install
+ get to play on a big hdtv and sit on a couch
+ future content over live
+ hdr with 2xaa
+ inventory system built with control pad in mind
- longer and eventually annoying load times
- some framerate issues
- no mods
- harder to aim ranged attacks with control pad (it hasn't been too bad though)

+ fast save/load (this is a big advantage IMO)
+ superior (IMO) keyboard mouse controls for combat
+ can run at crazy resolutions if you have the machine
+ lots of tweaking through the ini
+ easy to cheat/experiment with console commands
+ future mods
- no hdr with AA (and no hdr support at all with ati unless you have an 1X00 card. Sheesh and I got my x800xl just last year and it's "out of date")
- inventory system a bit clunky with mouse
- no achievments!
? stability issues
? will future live content be available for the pc for free

If you have a really powerful pc then go with pc otherwise go with x360. for me it was the combination of achievements and getting to play on a hdtv sitting on the couch that sold me on the x360 version.

UPDATE 4/12/06
Finished (well the main quest anyways. I don't think anybody ever "FINISHES" obilvion)
421 saves
level 7
Joined all the guilds (still lowest rank)
finished the arena
did a very small handful of side quests and optional dungeons

Man so much more still to do.
- Some really large epic battles toward the end there. I had to lower the difficulty (ok I'm a wimp). I might go back and try to do the last part at a harder difficulty.
- Some really impressive graphics at the end. Nice sense of scale.
- Story is pretty predictable and kind of "ends" like you expect it to but still enjoyable.
- You get a pretty nice reward for finishing so it might be to your advantage to finish the main quest and then do the other quests.
- You think you can put it down after the main quest but you can't. Now, I want to go back and finish all the guild quests.

Probably one of the best values in gaming today. Everybody is playing Oblivion right now and for good reason. You should too if you aren't already.

UPDATE 4/13/06
I just watched the Bonus Disc. It's a standard dvd video disc.
- The making of is a bit over 40 min and is really well put together. It covers each area of making the game (dungeon design, AI, art, testing, animation, voice talent, and forests) and then leads up to the demo and trailer shown at e3 2005. There weren't any spoilers that I noticed so it's pretty safe to watch at anytime. It's in nice 16:9 too.
- Other extras included are stills of poster art and art galleries. Also, the full trailer is included.

UPDATE 4/17/06
Apperently I forgot to sleep I went on a sleeping/leveling/training beinge. I'm level 19 now. 46 hrs
- finally got into the academy
- journeyman on all 7 major skills
- got the skeleton key (#11)
- fyi you can turn in any 4 daedric artifacts to martin. You will probably want to keep azura's star for yourself (of course I didn't know this at the time and gave the star to martin).
- bandit level in thiefs guild
- picked up my game completion award
- tip on opening locks (of course once you get the skeleton key this is all moot). The sound method didn't work too well for me. Always use the analog pad. Keep tapping up and it usually alternates between fast and slow. Just click on the slow/long ones. Do this for every tumbler.

Here's a nice little guide:
Also you've got to check out this video on the item duplication exploit:

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

V for Vendetta

I just saw this in an all digital DLP theater. The tech looked great! The movie wasn't bad either. I came into this film knowing nothing about it or the comic it is based on.
- amc uses multiple projectors. While you are sitting around waiting, they play the ads on this horrible low rez projector. You could really see the pixels (major screen door effect). I was getting worried that this was what pro DLP was like. It looked like 480p blown way up. Then right before the real trailers start it switched over to the "real" DLP projector. They even do this funny film melting DLP promo. WOW! Now that is pro DLP! Btw the silent hill trailer looked VERY GOOD. It might be the best video game movie yet (ok I guess thats not actually saying a whole lot).
-It needs more knife fights. More Knife Time!!!
- good performaces all around, good Wachowski writing. Production values look good for the 50 million they spent on it.
- Natalie needs her hair.
- Some of the political points get hammered into you over and over and over. Ok we get it! I think about 20 min of editing would have helped the film a lot. - Overall it wasn't quite what I was expecting but I still enjoyed it and made for some good discussion aftewards. Just remember this really isn't an action film.

film 7/10
DLP 10/10

Monday, March 20, 2006

Burnout Revenge (X360)

I spent some quality time with this title over the weekend.
- picked it up for $48 at frys
- Graphics are kicked up a notch. Explosions look quite a bit better. Incredible sense of speed. Crash mode really looks great now.
- Online is a complete blast. It plays great, smooth. I've already made a few rivals.
- Revenge is structured into classes. Each class has a good mix of events (races, crash junctions, etc) to earn medals in and to earn stars. Stars = your aggression level in the event. You increase this rating by boosting, drifting, checking traffic, takedowns, big air, etc. Sometimes you may even want to skip some shortcuts for more aggression opportunities. The highest level is 4 stars (awesome). Finally, your medal either subtracts a star (bronze), keeps it the same (silver), or adds a star (gold). To get a "perfect" on an event means not only getting a gold medal but also achieving an awesome aggression level. When you earn a certain number of stars another class is opened. To earn any of the single player achievements you have to get perfect for the entire class. I just did that for harmless and unsafe classes which took quite a few hours.
- On some races you get crash breakers. I want more of these! There's nothing quite like getting taken down, then immeidately activating your crash breaker to get instant revenge.
- burning lap tips: first I usually run through it a few times without boost just making note of all the short cuts and plotting my path. Once you get that down getting gold isn't too bad. Now some of the burning laps are really short (49 sec for gold) so getting your aggression level up is a bit tougher. Boost the entire time. Never let go of boost. Look for traffic early on to check so you can boost right at the start. Look for big air opportunities. Never let go of the boost since the longer you boost the quicker you earn aggression. If you let go (say for a turn) then it kind of resets things. Drift by applying a bit of break at the start of the turn but again never let go of the boost.
- I really like the game so far even though getting perfects can get a bit frustrating with a lot of repetition and memorization. But the good thing is once you get perfect on a burning lap you KNOW that course inside and out and that will pay off in online races.
- Local multiplayer only seems to allow 2 player split screen. I kind of wish it had at least up to 4 player split screen.

Highly recommended especially if you didn't already buy it on current gen.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A 3 month look at XBOX 360. Should you get one?

Xbox 360 has been really great for me so far and this month has made it even better.

Current games I own:
* Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter
Burnout Revenge
* Fight Night Round 3
Need for Speed Most Wanted
King Kong
Call of Duty 2
Dead or Alive 4
* Kameo
Ridge Racer 6
* Condemned
* Project Gotham Racing 3
* Perfect Dark Zero

* = finished single player

You know I've always considered myself primarily a PC gamer in the past. I pretty much buy all the consoles and loads of games but I always find myself coming back to the PC after a month or so with a new console. I only play the AAA titles that really interest me and then I'm usually right back on the computer for the majority of my gaming. I'm a big fan of FPS and I do prefer the mouse/keyboard control.

Having said that I think I've gamed on the PC all of about 1 hr total since I got my X360 back in December. Now granted that is partly due to the fact there hasn't been any killer PC titles released recently that interest me. The X360 has been getting some very top grade titles especially recently.

Don't let the Internet hype on faulty machines, etc scare you. It is all very greatly exaggerated. Just use common sense. Keep it in a well ventilated area (including power supply), don't move the console while a disc is spinning, etc. I personally know two other people who also have no issues at all (my other friends are still having issues finding the premium pack). Early lock up problems like viewing the gamer card in pgr3 while online were dashboard related bugs which have been now patched. The system isn't perfect but I wouldn't call it glitchy either. As far as fan noise goes I guess it is louder than current gen but I can't tell. I've got three 24/7 computers in the same room so I can't hear it over the pc's anyways :-)

I built my a64 with ati x800xl not 10 months ago (for quite a bit more cash too) and already my x360 looks better and plays at a better frame rate at an equivalent resolution than my pc.

I think the other big factor for me is getting that 40" LCD HDTV. Don't under estimate the impact of gaming at 1280X720 with 40" widescreen with a nice dd5.1 sound system. Trust me, it's hard to go back to even our nice 20" dell 2001fp. It makes a bigger difference than you think.

I've really enjoyed the games so far and the quality just keeps getting better with recent releases like fight night round 3, graw, burnout revenge, and very soon Oblivion and far cry (must buy!). further out you've got Gears of war! Then you also have the incredible live integration, live arcade (geowars! and sf2 and Texas holdem poker soon), playable demos (I would not have considered buying FNR3 if it wasn't for the excellent demo), and those darn addictive achievements/gamer score.

Also, don't forget the great media capabilities like streaming music and photos. Add HD video to the list if you've got a MCE PC. The x360 has become my center piece for providing hdtv content to my HDTV: games, dvd progressive scan movies, local broadcast HDTV tv shows recorded on my MCE and streamed over my network to the x360, and HD WMV files like the entire terminator 2 movie (only $10 at DeepDiscountDVD).

For me the decision was simple. I pretty much buy all the consoles. Now if you only plan to get one next gen console then the decision gets tougher. I would wait at least until march 15 when sony is suppose to make some big ps3 announcements. If the ps3 gets pushed back to xmas or even next year then I see no reason to wait. Get the x360 now. Enjoy nextgen gaming now because make no mistake it has arrived. By next year you will probably have the budget to get the ps3. Besides you can justify it by saying it's a "cheap" blu ray movie player oh and it also plays games :-)
If the ps3 is still going to hit the spring date (even if it is only in japan) then I would wait. At least you'll have a lot more hard facts to compare the two consoles and make a more informed decision.

So far I've felt it's been worth the $400. Also, check frys ad often (wed, fri)! You can almost get every major x360 release for $45-50. I got FNR3, GRAW and burnout revenge for $48 each. The Outfit which comes out this week is onsale for $50. You can even just buy it at best buy (which gets it a day earlier than frys usually) and just bring in the ad to price match. Gamestop sometimes runs a buy 2 get 1 free on used games. Also, check out for more used x360 games.

If you can't afford an HDTV and the x360 you might want to wait a bit. I finished a few games on the x360 before I got my hdtv and it looked and played great. But when I got the hdtv I felt like I got a new console all over again.

I highly recommend the X360 (premium only, tard pack is a rip off).

UPDATE: 3/15/06
Sony has just announched that they are delaying the ps3 world wide launch until november so might as well go pick up a X360 now.

- PS3 delayed until nov
- global launch in nov. only 1 million units and another million in the following month. SHORTAGES!
- lots of psp integration stuff, psone emulator on psp - you download and play the games off of memory stick
- full backwards compatibility with ps1 and ps2 and upscale to HD
- lol final dev kits aren't even out yet (not until june). Spring release HAH!
- PlayStation Network Platform - live like service. basic (can you say silver) service is free.
- 60 gb hd required, linux

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter (X360)

These are some early impressions of the game. I'll be updating this post as I get further in the game.

- I played a couple of hours single player(about 4 missions including the training one)
- wow, really nice graphics, the level of detail is simply amazing, good explosions with really good sound.
- Pretty steep learning curve but a very well designed, intuitive, consistent interface. Read the manual since not everything is covered in the training mission. After about 1 hour you'll get the hang of things.
- Great dense urban setting. Lots of action and shooting combined with some tactical aspects like deploying your squad like in the Brothers in Arms games but doesn't require the strict suppressive fire/flank structure. You also get to deploy unmanned drones to scout out the area. Besides commanding your squad at certain times you can control vehicles (tanks, helicopters) in a similar fashion giving them orders to attack, move to a specific position, or rally at your location. Nothing quite like sending in an apache to destroy armor and infantry when you are up against overwhelming odds.
- Best hud yet with lots of info. You can toggle on/off the colored outlines on people.
- default view is 3rd person over the shoulder. You can also switch to first person view (but no gun model). 3rd person works just fine.
- You can't just run and gun. Cover is your friend. One of the best cover/hug wall/popup/look around corner/shoot systems yet. You can go prone.
- Seamless mission structure. All the missions are connected and you usually get moved around by helicopter speaking of which....
- you get to kill hordes of baddies using the side mounted mini gun on the helicopter.
- continue points within the levels so if you die you don't have to completely start over. So far it hasn't been frustrating.
- amazing draw distance that goes on forever.
- stick with the default gun. I tried using the one with the grenade launcher and then realized you lose the scope on that gun. You only get to change weapons every so often at certain rally points.
- the aiming seems to be pretty forgiving.
- from what I've read it seems that this version of GRAW is different than all the other versions (including the pc). so basically it's an x360 exclusive.
- it's the best of tom clancy games + brothers in arms + full spectrum warrior all rolled into one.

Yeah I'm really enjoying this so far. Next Gen gaming has really arrived. Go buy it!

I was able to grab it a day early from best buy for only $48 by price matching against the wed fry's ad.

ok I've got to briefly try GRAW on regular xbox (about 30-45min still on mission 1). Here are some impressions

- main objectives, story, and general environments are similar but everything else is different. This is a completely different game from the x360.
- pretty impressive graphics for the old xbox. 480p wide screen support. Very good draw distance but a pretty drastic detail reduction. The cityscape from the chopper definitely looks current gen, good current gen but current gen none the less.
- the hud is similar but looses a few things. first the cross com pip shows more of a slide show of what the other person is seeing instead of the nice smooth real time with cool effects that the x360 gets. Also, instead of the color outline on the targets you get just a colored diamond on the center of the targets.
- initial load times are very long but once in the mission it streams most of the data.
- in mission save points and check points
- In a lot of ways the xbox ver plays a lot more like a traditional shooter. Many of the tactical game play elements have been removed. There is more strict mission scripting and less options to the player. The game is still fun but in a more shallow way. In many respects the xbox graw feels like what you would expect from a console shooter and the x360 graw is more what you would normally find as a PC offering.
- No hide/cover mechanic. Instead you get the usual lean controls. They also added a sprint command. No going prone, only crouch.
- You only get 1 additional squad member to control. You get 3 on the x360.
- You don't get to actually control the UAV. You just deploy it to fulfill a scripted requirement and to give context to why you know where the enemies are on your hud. On the x360 you got to control the UAV location and adjust it's altitude. You fly it low for brief periods to scan the area for enemies but then it's susceptible to fire.
- The map is 2d and you can't really do anything else with it. On the x360 you can position and direct all your assets (squad, tanks, helo's) on the 3d map.
- 1st person (with the usual gun models) vs 3rd person
- when scoped on the x360 you have to hold your breath to steady your aim. Not needed on the xbox (at least with the first weapon you start with).
- no variable distance grenade toss. On x360 you have a visible meter to gauge how far to toss a grenade.

I think it's a fun game and probably worth playing but it's no where near as ground breaking in game play and graphics as the x360 version.

UPDATE (3/13/06) FINISHED single player on normal (X360)
- play time 8h 31mn 49s, score 17180, command grade A+, brotherhood grade A+, aim 15%, headshots 117, neutralized enemies 491, destroyed vehicles 37, wounds 52, healed 26, casualties by support 295, lost support elements 0, lost teammates 0, distance moved 28695.56 meter = 17.8 miles, average speed 1.45m/s
- there's one level (counter sniping) that was a bit frustrating (almost as bad as MOHAA and sometimes worse because of the checkpoint save system). At least that section is pretty short.
- when commanding armor, the tanks are on rails. You can only move them forward, back, stop and shoot. You can direct them to a specific point on the map. Everything else you command you can just have them move to a specific point on the map.
- always stick to the default weapon load out they suggest. It switches to the best weapon to use for each weapon so by them time you finish the game you've pretty much tried them all.
- You can heal your buddies (or have them heal each other) an infinite number of times (they also seem to have infinite ammo). You only get healed at specific checkpoints/mission end. Once a buddy goes down (grey box status) you have a set amount of time to patch him up (back to red status). During grey status the time is fixed no matter how much more he gets hit. If you take too long eventually he will die and you'll just have to do without him until you get a replacement (usually at end of mission).
- Fire! Fire! Once you start something on fire (usually by blowing it up) it stays on fire and creates some nice dynamic lighting and shadows.
- I really like the mostly urban settings and the focus on infantry combat and small squad tactics instead of vehicles like in some of the more recent games.

There is really good mission variety that puts you in all sorts of different roles, there are even a few surprises in the helicopter missions. I only got a bit frustrated on one sub mission. The rest seemed pretty fair. The last mission wasn't too bad (don't take position in the obvious spot, try other areas). The ending wasn't too bad but the story for the most part is forgettable.

Overall, a great single player experience.

Now, on to multiplayer!

- about 3 hrs of play
- developed by a different team. Controls are the same and in general graphically it looks about the same. Not quite as nice as the single player.
- The whole cover/pop out mechanic is gone.
- tried a game of ctf that was fun.
- Co-op campaign is a blast and is something really special. There's nothing quite like 8 players (up to 16) all on one side going after an objective based mission using voice comms and controlling the UAC to help each other out. The missions are tough with just hordes of baddies!
- Games were very stable and pretty much lag free.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Black (XBOX)

- gun porn. Shooting a gun has never felt so good. The shotgun has to be seen. Every weapon (even the pistol) feels like a serious weapon. Some of the most satisfying gunplay in any game.
- controls are haloish and are spot on.
- sfx really make the weapons sound beefy.
- amazing graphics for the original xbox, probably some of the best I've seen (including halo). 480p and widescreen support. Lots of explosions. Everything explodes. Explosions are amazing. I shot an rpg into a second story window with 2 bad guys expecting a little fireball and killing mabye one of them (they were spread pretty far apart). Instead it set two floors completely on fire, shattered all the glass, and flung the bodies out. If that doesn't put a smile on your face then I don't know what will.
- framerate is great, no slow down.
- checkpoint save system. so far no frustrations. Normal difficuly isn't too hard.
- Level design and variety of environments so far have been pretty good.
- interesting depth of field effect when you reload your gun. The background goes out of focus as if you are looking at your gun.
- Gameplay is pretty standard fps fair but the action and battles are just awesome. AI doesn't seem too bad. I was flanked a few times. You can use stealth in certain parts of the game, shoot out lights, etc but it's more fun to just blow everything up.
- the muzzle flashes are huge combined with the reload/focus thing did make me a bit motion sick after a few hours.
- finished it on normal. shows only 30% game competition (must be the other 2 difficulty settings).
- 7:50:34; 224 head shots; fav weapon: spas 12; enemy count 1,512; total bullets fired, 19,553
- can we say these are the best explosions in any game I've played. The smoke trails on the rpg's are amazing too.
- docks were pretty tough with a good mix between sniper hunting and all out m249 suppression against the attacking hordes.
- The sound is really great. You hear that rpg shriek you WILL START running and find cover. Same goes for the crack of a sniper rifle.
- Finding the RPG guys aren't too bad because of the smoke trails. The snipers are a bit tougher but you can take a few hits so it's no where near the frustration of say MOH AA. Save those rpg's/sniper rounds to counter rpg/snipe. Don't go wasting their valuable ammo.
- You can only carry a max of 2 weapons which kind of sucks. Many times I really wanted 3. Typically I would carry either a smg/assault rifle, and something with a bit more stopping power like a shotgun or magnum. Switch to single fire and you can pick off enemies at a distance.
- most things are destructible (at least the items that make sense). This adds a bit to the gun fights as you hide behind a crate that gets shredded by m249 fire.
- head shots are tough to pull off (a lot tougher than most games). I seemed to have better luck with a silenced mp5. If you don't get a head shot then it takes many hits to bring down a baddie especially those armored shotgun guys. Grenades are your friend.
- plentiful ammo. You will rarely run out. you can hold up to 500 rounds and clips are about double real world size (ak47 has a 60 round clip).
- overall I never got frustrated with the checkpoints. I probably only died around 3-4 times. Difficulty felt about right. There are a few points in the game with non stop enemy re spawns until you figure out what to do (usually blow up a bunker or something, use rpg or a couple of grenades). The last fight was a bit tough. I finished it and I'm not even entirely sure what happened. See next point:
- Smoke, good looking smoke, lots of smoke. Add to that the splinter cell lighting which looks great at first and the reload blur effect (which gets a bit old after a while), it really makes it hard sometimes to see what the hell is going on.
- the boy needs to work on his throwing arm. He tosses grenades like a girl. If you are expecting counter strike toss distances you will be disappointed.
- AI isn't too bad. Not near the fear or even far cry levels but they usually aren't totally stupid. Fire a shot and miss or hit a buddy and they will start running, taking cover, and advancing.
- no multiplayer. single player only.
- good variety of environments but I love the urban settings.
- reproduces many of you favorite movie gun battles like matrix, the rock, etc. Ahh the bridge level and your first taste of the m16 with m203 is just awesome. Every gun is just so much fun to shoot.
- hmmm no blood at all.
- 2 types of health packs, one heals you immediately, the other you can store in your inventory up to 3 max to use when you want. On hard you don't get any of the latter health packs.
- no jump but the level design is pretty good so you don't miss it much.
- The levels are huge both in scale and length (up to about 1 hour). Good streaming tech.
- not enough music. I don't remember my action movies being this "silent"
- pretty bad abrupt ending with not much explanation of anything and sets it up for a sequel.

If you like FPS you owe it to yourself to check this game out. The moment you pick up the controller you know you are playing something special.

Short but very very sweet. Go pick it up or at least rent it. It's a definite must finish type of game.