Saturday, March 28, 2009

Far Cry 2 (XBOX 360)

- Finished the single player. Haven't tried multiplayer.
- The game took 34 hrs. I subverted all main missions, did all cell tower and weapon dealer missions, and found all tapes except 1 and I can't remember which one I missed. I did quite a bit of diamond hunting in the north but not much in the south because by then I had bought pretty much everything I wanted.
- Stats:
21/40 side
5 underground
11 buddies
9 dead
10 rescued
870 diamonds
20 weapon bought
favorite weapon as50
32,482 shots fired
17% accuracy
308 wounds healed
time played 33:43:02
125km walked
257km driven
3km swam

- This game is beautiful. I love the lighting, weather, sunsets, etc. It has an amazing sense of place.
- They really nailed the combat. The weapons are very satisfying and feel and sound great. They AI is pretty good at taking cover and flanking.
- PC version has save anywhere. Console versions have save points that you have to find like in safe houses. This annoyed me a bit at first but I got over it.
- The amount of land to explore is massive with a nice variety of environments.
- Side and even main story line missions follow a pretty rigid structure without much deviation. You'll find yourself doing the same types of missions over and over again with just a few slight variations and a change in locale. But it nails so many core aspects I don't mind the repetitive nature of these activities. It reminds me of Assassin's Creed in this respect. I didn't mind the repetition because I was still enjoying myself even after 30 hrs.
- You will definitely want to subvert the main missions to get the upgrades to your safe houses.
- I did all available weapon dealer missions first because I wanted to unlock my weapons first.
- Favorite weapon load out: AS50, M249, M79. For the earlier part of the game I used: Dragunov SVD, PKM, IED
- I love the vehicle with the mounted grenade launcher. You can burn down entire villages and checkpoints.
- Fire looks cool and affects gameplay. It spreads like a real fire does.
- Malaria isn't too bad. You only run low on pills once you advance a certain amount in the main missions. So you can work on side missions without ever worrying about running out of pills.
- Weapon jamming is a bit more of an issue. Just make sure you go by the weapon dealer and swap out weapons every couple of missions.
- There are many ways to approach an objective especially depending on your play style and weapon load out. I'm usually a mid range assault rifle kind of guy but I quickly fell in love with sniping.
- It is by far one of the most satisfying sniping games out there. I pretty much only used the Dragunov and then switched to the AS50 as soon as I was able to unlock it. Things get way intense when they start shooting mortars at you. You are frantically trying to fend off guys that are charging and flanking you while still trying to find that damn mortar dude (which the AI has amazing accuracy with).
- The ending was a bit short but overall a very satisfying game and a very long one especially for a shooter. The story was rather confusing. I really didn't care who was who or with what faction. Leadership seemed to change almost between every mission.

Highly recommended. Looks great and plays great. If you dig the core elements of this game and don't mind a bit of reptition, you are in for a great experience.

Madcatz Street Fighter IV Fightpad and Street Fighter IV (XBOX 360)

- I picked one up from gamestop for $40
- Sucks that it is wired. Why won't microsoft license out the wireless stuff to any 3rd party controllers except for fake musical instruments??!!?? Cable is pretty long but I added a usb extension cable.
- The size and shape of the pad is just right. It feels really good in the hands.
- The d-pad is very responsive and works great for SF IV. It feels a bit loose and the travel distance is a bit more than I would have liked but it doesn't seem to have any negative impact.
- The buttons are pretty responsive though I find the X and A buttons a bit harder to reach depending on the size of your hands.
- The turbo feature works well and lets you toggle turbo on/off for each of the buttons on the fly. Settings are not persisted between power cycles of the xbox 360.
- Pulling off special moves, typical 3-4 hit combos, ex's, super's, and ultra's are all easily done with this pad.
- Pulling off more complex combos like ones that use focus cancel are pretty difficult to do mostly due to the buttons. I usually like to play with using my right thumb to press the buttons but switching to using your right fingers helps a bit if not quite as comfortable (and you can't hold the pad as steady). I think you really need an arcade stick with nice big buttons to play at that level consistently.

Street Fighter IV
- I am by no means an expert. I'm pretty limited in skill though I played a bunch of SF II back in college. I haven't really touched the series since then.
- I've unlocked all the characters including Seth (which is pretty nerfed as a playable character).
- The graphics and animation are great. It all runs smoothly even over xbox live (well most of the time). The network code really is pretty amazing.
- I love how they stuck mostly to the old school gameplay with an added level of depth if you wish to explore it.
- It took me a while to get use to the two button throws but I really like how you can counter/cancel them now.
- EX, super, ultra moves are a nice addition. I'm not sure how I feel about focus attacks though. It changes things quite a bit, and so far it's one of the harder new aspects for me to grasp and use effectively.
- Characters for the most part seem balanced with a few exceptions.
- Inviting friends over live works great.
- Quick match/player match is mostly broken. If you feel like playing random people just set it so people can challenge you during single player arcade mode. That way you are always playing either against the cpu while you wait for a challenger or some random internet person. I find this works much better than trying to go through quick/player match.
- No quarter mode.
- Being able to map the bumper buttons to all punches or kicks sure helps with some of the special moves.

Both are highly recommended. They really go great together. Once you play SFIV it's really hard to go back to SF II Turbo HD remix which I though was great before but is a bit of an eyesore in comparison. With the pretty much broken d-pad on the original xbox 360 controller, I can't imagine getting one without the other.

iSkin Solo Case for iPhone 3G
- Only after a few months the leather started separating from the inner plastic lining on the corner on my Griffin Elan Form case. Sure it was still under warranty but you have to ship the case back and then what are you suppose to use in the mean time?
- A co-worker had the iSkin Solo. It wasn't your typical super sticky silicon skin. It had a smoother plastic texture, yet still slightly rubbery with a slight grip. I like to keep my iPhone in my front pocket, and this way it doesn't invert your entire pocket when taking it out. I still prefer the feel of the leather on the Griffin but the seam where the two halves of the case join also bothered me a bit. The solo is a nice single solid piece.
- It also has more complete coverage including the sleep and volume buttons.
- It's a bit pricey but I found it cheaper on ebay (about $22 shipped). Acutally it's only $21 at amazon right now.
- This case isn't as rigid as the griffin so my guess it probably offers a bit less protection in some ways.
- Also, be a bit careful about the finish on the case. It's possible to permanently damage it if you aren't careful.
- I'm using this case along with the Power Support Anti-Glare Film which I already had installed.

Highly recommended especially if you can find it at a discount.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Prince of Persia (2008) (XBOX 360)

- Finished in under 12hrs. The Epilogue took me over 2 hrs.
- I've pretty much played all the prince of persia's since the very first PC game and its many ports including the most excellent XBLA version. I even played the horrible Prince of Persia 3D a bit. I loved Sands of Time but never got around to playing its two sequels (which I will someday). So I was quite excited about this reboot of the series.
- I loved the stylized graphics. It's not exactly cell shaded though it does share quite a few similarities with that style. I loved everything about the way this game looks from the the character design, to the intricate architecture, to the beautiful backgrounds.
- The musical score was also quite excellent. I never got tired of the healing grounds theme which embodied the feelings of wonder, mystery, and hope.
- The gameplay feels closer to sands of time than it does to dragon's lair. It's not quite as on rails as some people might lead you to believe. The "no dying" actually worked better than I expected. It didn't make the game too easy. Instead, it just shifted the challenge to other areas. Frustrating pixel perfect jumping is replaced by environmental based navigation puzzles. This especially comes into play when you start orb, errr light seed, collecting which has some of that same addictive quality as Crackdown did.
- Combat is also quite satisfying. Timing is pretty tight for countering. Combos are pretty easy to chain together. Just make sure you learn the 14 hit combo (which also earns you the sword master achievement) early on since it will make the combat much easier and enjoyable for the rest of the game. Plus, it just looks cool with some amazing animation. Speaking of which the animation throughout the game is quite varied and excellent. I'm a bit tired of all the mini QTE events that are sprinkled throughout the combat (similar to God of War). I'd be a happy man if I never have to do a another rapid fire button press QTE again. It's fine for a while but gets a bit tedious toward the end.
- I really enjoyed the two main characters and the way their relationship developed. I constantly chatted Elika up to see what they would say next. The writing was excellent for the most part and so was the voice acting. It's not quite Uncharted levels but close. Both game leads were voiced by Nolan North which I'm becoming quite a fan. He sort of reminds me of Nathan Fillion but for video game voice overs. I found most of the witty banter quite amusing.
- The story was just average mostly due to the cheesy ,unsatisfying, cop out, lets set it up for a sequel ending. I really didn't like how they don't give you much of a choice on how it ends where it really felt like there should have been a player choice.
- The $10 DLC Epilogue was mostly worth it to me. I got a good 2+ hrs of play out of it. It had some nice environmental puzzles though the combat was pretty repetitive and a bit frustrating. Quickly defeating the boss that keeps repeating depended more on your QTE skills. The ending even in the epilogue kind of sucked where it just kind of stops and sets it up for the sequel. Also, I didn't think it adequately explained your actions at the end of the main game.
- Speaking of recycled material. You revisit each area: once dark/corrupted and again light/healed which is fine because they feel quite different, and your objectives are different (reaching the healing grounds vs orb collecting). You also fight each of the 4 main bosses 6 times each. Yeah the setting changes each time. There are some minor differences (especially for the warrior) but yeah there is quite a bit of asset reuse. It's no where near as bad as say Devil May Cry 4 but still it's pretty blatant.
- Did all the speed run achievements which were quite entertaining.

Highly Recommended. It was a thoroughly enjoyable, highly accessible experience. It definitely lives up to the Prince of Persia name.