Monday, December 31, 2007

Mass Effect (XBOX 360)

Warning: Potential very minor spoilers:

- finished in around 36 hrs and 445 saves (Yeah I save a lot), level 50, normal difficulty. Finished almost all side quests (except for a couple of the collection ones).
- great save system. You can pretty much save anywhere anytime except during combat.
- I went soldier -> Shock Trooper (akuze). I wanted to play this more like a shooter so I maxed out Assault rifle pretty earlier on. I went almost pure Paragon.
- Do the find Liara (Artemis Tau) mission first. You will get a new squad member. Actually I ended up using Liara and Tali for most of the game. I also finished the romance thread with Liara.
- Turn auto leveling completely off. You can still hit Y to see what auto leveling would have assigned which you can undo if you don't agree with it. For Liara I just pretty much auto leveled her (make sure she has good first aid though). Tali I would focus on Decryption and Electronics. If you get them high enough you should be able to open every container and salvage all the debris.
- The way the game works for first aid, decryption, and electronics is that it takes the highest stat of any member in your party and applies that. This means Liara covers first aid and Tali covers the other two so I don't have to spend any points on those skills.
- After about level 20 combat got pretty easy. This is true all the way to the end. I had no problems with the last boss fight. I don't know if this has to do with me grinding out to level 50 or not.
- Make sure you buy all the licenses, grenade, and medi-gel upgrades that you come across with the merchants.
- Talk to your crew after every major mission and even after some side quests especially if you leveled up.
- The spectre gear is the best. It was pretty much better than anything I found in the game. You'll get a chance to buy a second set that's even better near the end of the game.
- I went all out assault rifle then sniper (which I used only once in a while), I gave Liara the best pistols, and had Tali go shotgun. By the end of the game with 2 heat reducing mods I could fire my assault rifle on full auto indefinitely. Before that though use overkill a lot (along with adrenaline boost).
- Money isn't an issue in the end game. I got to a point where I maxed out my money at 9,999,999 which at that point the game just stops rewarding you money until you go spend some of it.
- To level up faster never kill anything inside th Mako vehicle. Instead soften them up with the mako guns, then get out and finish them on foot. You get a LOT more experience points.
- side quests suck. I mean they really really suck: boring, repetitive, cookie cutter, unimaginative....just a complete grind. You can waste a good 10-15 hrs doing these but you can make good money, items, and experience.
- driving the Mako just plain sucks. Steering while in reverse is opposite of what you expect. You can't shoot at targets below you. It's bounces around like crazy. Climbing steep hills suck. The thrusters are completely worthless (if they had just stuck them on the back to give me a boost up mountains it would have been so much better). All that mako driving just made those side quests that much less enjoyable.
- Long load times. I've never seen so many elevators in a game before.
- Inventory management got really tedious. You do get to hold quite a few items though (150).
- Story was great. Most of the dialog and voice acting was good too (Seth Green is Joker). There were some really great dramatic moments. I went back and replayed some of the hard choices and it didn't seem like it made that big of a difference. I'm hoping that they will use this save file in the rest of the trilogy and maybe see some greater impact down the road. The "love" scene was amusing. Great satisfying ending.
- Music was pretty good. Sort of what Tron would sound like if Michael Bay directed it.
- I really enjoyed the combat especially since I played it like a shooter. Your teammates get a lot less useless at the higher levels.
- Don't bother with the cover system. Circle strafe/side stepping works better most of the time anyways.
- Graphics/art are beautiful. Frame rate is acceptable most of the time. Some minor texture popping on initial load of an area. It didn't bother me much.
- In the 36hrs of play I had one freeze on a loading screen. I also got stuck once but managed to free my self by crouching and wriggling.
- I might go back and spend some time in the Codex. There is a LOT of information in there.
- I turned off film grain and motion blur.

Highly recommended especially for fans of bioware RPG's. I can't wait for the next Mass Effect game. Here's hoping they fix the mako and spend some time making quality side quests.

UPDATE: 1/2/2008
Major spoiler warning!
Here is a video of the ending with my character.
I've also started reading Mass Effect: Revelation

Friday, December 21, 2007

Nintendo Wii Zapper and various compatible games

- $25. Comes with the plastic wii Zapper and Link's Crossbow Training.
- The zapper is pretty well designed. Everything fits nicely together, and cables are hidden and managed really well. The trigger works fine. I just wish it was further back like in a typical gun instead of way up front.
- The biggest appeal of light gun games for me has always been the ability to use the actual sights on the gun for aiming. There usually isn't a big crosshair on the screen. In stead it took some actual skill and psuedo realistic aiming of the light gun to do well. With the zapper there are no sights. So basically all the games have a big crosshair you move around on screen shooting from the hip. It's almost like playing a light gun game on the PC with a mouse. It just doesn't pull you in as much. Having said that it's MUCH MUCH easier for younger kids. But for adults who grew up on Virtua Cop, Time Crisis, and House of the Dead series this is a pretty big disappointment. Somebody needs to make a more realistic light gun (maybe ditch the wiimote entirely and make a true 3rd party light gun controller) that has real gun sights.

Link's Crossbow Training
- This is a great little game that really makes the wii zapper worth getting. You basically have 9 levels each with 3 stages. The first stage is always some sort of target practice, the second is defend, and the third lets you move around using the nunchuck. This game is great for younger kids.
- There are a tone of hidden targets to find and shoot. Not missing lets you chain up a big score multiplier and is key to doing well. You can also charge up your shot for a bigger blast.
- Throw in a few boss battles, and it's a great little game.
- We finished this game pretty quickly though.
- No simultaneous two player. It's just take turns.
- Great price.

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
- I've only finished the first level.
- I think I find it more comfortable to play without the zapper. You can configure the controls to either use the zapper or not.
- Nice selection of weapons which you can upgrade.
- Lots of breakable items in the environment with hidden goodies.
- Supports two player co-op.
- A nice rail light gun shooter more for the adults. I need to spend some more time with it to get a better impression. This is one of the meatier zapper games currently out for the wii.

Ghost Squad
- Now this is my kind of game. This is classic Sega light gun game similar to Virtua cop. Embrace the glorious campy cheesy aspect of it all!
- Some difficulty and immersion lost b/c of lack of gun sights and a big crosshair on the screen.
- up to 4 players on the same screen at the same time or how about two people dual wielding!
- A few branches for replay.
- Variety of weapons.
- Cheap 2nd level end boss.
- Pretty darn short.
- Plays great even without the zapper.
- Ninja mode!
- Graphics won't impress but are pleasantly retro.

I hear Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 is suppose to have great controls and a rail shooter mode. I might have to go pick it up.

Overall I recommend the zapper and all the games. There really is something for any light gun enthusiast. Now, lets see some ports of all the old classic light gun games!

UPDATE: 9/28/08
I highly recommend the nyko wii perfect shot over the official wii zapper.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Assassin's Creed (XBOX 360)

- I'm a few hours into this game now. I just finished up the investigation part and I'm about to start my second assassination.
- Graphics are really incredible: ability to render an entire city without load times, incredibly detailed textures, some of the best animations in any game, good frame rate most of the time, and great shadows and lighting.
- Pretty big learning curve. You won't get a feel of this game until you complete your first assassination. Once you hit rank 2 and gain the ability to counter, combat becomes much easier and much more enjoyable. Once you get use to the unorthodox controls it really does work quite well. Tip: you'll want to read the manual on this one.
- I can see the mini missions in the investigation part getting a bit repetitive.
- Voice acting is pretty good so far. Story is pretty average. The Music is great.
- Combat is excellent and is all about timing. Do NOT button mash. The death cam animations never get old. I especially like the running jump hidden blade kills. Free running works great. After a while you get good at spotting which parts of the city you can climb. The vertical exploration aspect of the game kind of reminds me of crackdown like finding that one path to get up to a very high tower..
- The pseudo stealth using the crowd in daylight works well too. Also, there isn't much penalty if you decide to go all out killing either. This ain't GTA where they just keep escalating the number of guards.
Usually you can kill a group of 5 or 6 and then quickly blend into the crowd before more guards show up.
- The kingdom (overworld) is kind of bleah.
- Fighting on horse back doesn't seem to work that well.
- The actual assassination parts are obviously the best parts of the game. For my first hit I screwed up the stealth assassination. So the dude bolts and I have to go chasing him through the crowded streets. I finally corner him and kill off the few guards that are with him and finally my target. After that I head to the roof tops for a free running chase to break line of site and then hide. Now that's exciting and compelling game play!

This is one of those games you really need to give it a few good hours before you "get" it and all the things start clicking. After that you'll discover something truly unique and incredibly fun.

Highly Recommended!

UPDATE: 12/12/07
(potential very minor spoilers)
- FINISHED! about 20-22hrs if you do all the mini missions in the investigation phases.
- Altair needs to learn to swim. Drunks on the docks that can grab and shove you into the water for an instant death kind of sucks. I just end up killing them.
- I found running a lot didn't seem to attract the guards attention too much as long as you weren't running into a lot of people and knocking over their pots. So don't be afraid to run a lot even on street level. Also, I didn't find holding the blend button that helpful unless you are in a group of scholars.
- Needs a cleaner, faster, easier way to warp between the different maps.
- There needs a clearer indication that you locked on a target (and which specific target). It would also be nice if you had more control over which target gets locked instead of just picking one for you sort of in the direction you are facing. This is especially true when you are doing stealth assassination mini missions (like the last 2 in the game) where it's a lot easier to do with throwing knives from the roof tops. With the extreme downward angle I would end up killing maybe a guy or two before it would lock on to the target I wanted.
- I need clear feed back when a combo attack was pulled off. Enemies have health even though you can't tell how much they have. So if your combo won't kill them it still looks like a block but really isn't (they actually take some damage). I think the "combo hit but looks like a block" animation is slightly different that the "I screwed up the combo timing and so it's a real block" animation but man it needs to be more clear. Without that feed back it's hard for the player to correct and improve their combo attack timing. Health bar for the currently locked enemy would have helped greatly.
- Combat requires quick timing. DO NOT BUTTON MASH!!! That will get you killed quick. Watch and learn all the different attack/grab animations and time your counters correctly. They they are doing a charged slow attack you can easily counter too early and then get whacked.
- I didn't use the charged attack much. It's too slow and leaves you too open.
- You can counter with any weapon even the hidden blade. The only thing the hidden blade can't block so if you screw up your counter timing you will get hit. The nice part is if you pull it off it's an instant kill. This is also true if you knock guys down to the ground and quickly switch to hidden blade for an instant kill. This can greatly shorten longer fights especially with bosses. Odd that you can't beat on bosses on the floor with your long sword. I recommend you at least get some practice in with countering with every weapon.
- Combat is my favorite aspect of the game. Try doing counter, killing a guy, immediately go into a defense breaker on the next guard, and into a combo attack. Lots of fun. Typical combat for me is counter, and if they are thrown to the ground whack them twice with the long sword. Do this until there are around 5 or less guys. After that I go on the offensive with a mix of counters going into combo attacks. I didn't use dodge a whole lot.
- When greatly out numbered (I'm thinking the 9th target assassination attempt which I think is the most difficult combat in the game) try running up to the roof tops. Maybe find a spot where you have at least one wall. Hug that wall and as you counter grab guys there is a good chance you will throw them off the roof. This really helps with the crowd control. It also helps if you clear the area of archers first.
- Tackle actually means more like a charge. This lets you run through crowds without tripping. It's a slower run but helps you bust through really crowded areas or even through those guard blockades.
- You can typically stealth assassinate two guards before they get alerted when saving citizens.
- Best way to take down a running target is to use the hidden blade. You get this really cool leaping stabbing kill animation.
- Make sure you mash buttons during in engine cut scenes. This includes right before an assassination and right after (during the confession) if you are interested in getting the related achievement.
- Punching doesn't alert the guards. It's a good way to get those drunks off of you. Throwing drunks doesn't make them run away, only punching them.
- Throwing 20 women beggars gets you an achievement. Throwing the drunks doesn't count.
- Make sure you wait until after the credits for a bit more game play. Also sit in the animus, scroll to memory block 7 and read the attachment. You can also replay any memory block here to grab flags or finish up some achievements you might have missed.
- Before you start an assassination it's a good idea to review your memories (hit start) that you gathered from the investigation phase. You can usually view several attachments (most are maps). I highly recommend you do this for the book burning one.
- I loved the end game with all the fighting. I thought it was exciting, intense, and a lot of fun. It wasn't even that hard (never died once). I really liked the hordes of enemies yet they seemed to have less health so they were easy to dispatch (makes you feel like a major bad ass: counter attack, straight into a defense breaker, into a combo attack = awesome sauce).
- Controls are great once you get use to them. There is a rather steep learning curve since this game is so unique in so many ways (well except for all the parts that remind me of Crackdown).
- I didn't find the ending quite as bad as halo 2 or even Crysis. Yeah it sets it up for the obvious sequel but I felt it had pretty good closure on this part of the story (that set of memories). All the great fights toward the end was a good pay off for me so I actually felt pretty satisfied with the ending. I liked the story too!
- Sure the game had its share of flaws but I still really enjoyed it. Just from a fun factor perspective I'd easily put it up there with orange box, halo 3, cod 4, and bioshock. In fact I don't think any of those games had me staying up until 2-3am for several consecutive nights in a row. Hmmm I also liked Heavenly Sword a lot more than most people. Maybe I'm just into sharp pointy things lately.
- What this game needs is an arena mode or something. Make a few arenas, stick them in the animus, and let me fight waves of increasing number/difficulty of enemies. Give us at least some re-playability! DL content? maybe??? And no I don't feel like finding hundreds of flags for a few achievement points.

Probably the most fun I've had in a flawed and repetitive game! The good parts are so great that I really didn't mind doing them over and over again. I personally loved this game. Highly recommended (but probably not for everyone).