Dear (gaming) Diary: Week of Nov 23, 2008

A weekly log of the games I’ve played accompanied by some random thoughts about them

[S-L-O-W-L-Y catching up on my backlog of gaming log entries. Rest assured, I played something nearly every week, I just got backed up writing about them.]

Monday, November 24, 2008
Guitar Hero World Tour
Guitar Hero World Tour screenshot - Billy CorganA good friend dropped off a copy of Guitar Hero World Tour (the guitar pack) for me, so of course I had to try it out. I spent most of my time checking out the depth of the “Rock Star Creator” customization Neversoft put into the game. Although I prefer somewhat edgier, more hip — dare I say somewhat indie rock — aesthetic in Rock Band to the design choices Guitar Hero makes, I was quite impressed with how far the customization went. The character creation is somewhat limited and the band logos were done in the same way as Rock Band (layering art, shapes and text), however without a restrictive guitar license, it allowed Neversoft to allow players to customize their instruments to quite a deep level. Ok, at least their guitars as I haven’t checked out the bass, drum or mic customization.

Impatient as ever, I had to go check out the game play. I only played the first two songs, which really was two songs plus an encore because I forgot that is what the Guitar Hero franchise does. I picked the Sweden playlist with “Beautiful Disaster,” “Obstacle 1” and “The One I Love” as the encore. I don’t think any of the songs had one of the sections where the notes where strung together so I could use the touch sensitive pad on the guitar controller neck, so I didn’t get to see how that worked. I quit after that, but I’ll be back to finish the game off over time.

Friday, November 28, 2008
Soulcalibur IV
Soulcalibur IV screenshotAlthough I had jumped at the chance to snag Soulcalibur IV from an Amazon Gold Box deal this week, it hadn’t arrived in my possession by the time it was loaded up at a day-long post-Thanksgiving occasion. I had to try it out. Of course, playing in a group situation meant I wouldn’t get a chance to go over the character customization features, but I’ve seen just how involved it can get. Either way, I guess this was a preview of sorts… once we actually got an extra controller so two of us could square off.

I’m really no good at fighting games. Really no good. I don’t know if I’m just not patient enough to learn the timing or I don’t really spend too much time memorizing the moves, but I’m probably just a hair above the average button masher. Actually, I would try to learn the moves, but having sat through the command list in Dead or Alive trying to learn some of the moves, I realized I’m hopeless at really remembering most of the moves without some real focus. This isn’t Street Fighter II Turbo, where it seemed just a little bit easier to remember them for me. Maybe it was just because I was young and now I’m old and senile.

I’ve also never played a game in the Soulcalibur series before either, so weapon based fighting is somewhat new to me, but it sure was fun.

Saturday, November 29, 2008
Gears of War 2
Gears of War 2 screenshotThe other game DMoTsunami and I have played through in co-op between us was Gears of War. That means we just had to get together to play through Gears of War 2 in co-op as well. Unfortunately DMoTsunami was a little impatient with me and finished the campaign the first weekend after he bought the game, leaving me in the dust. We managed to set aside quite a bit of time and made some righteous progress in the game, making it up to Act 4 tonight, completing “Tip of the Spear,” “Denizens” and “Gathering Storm.”

Initially, I wasn’t impressed by Gears of War 2, I’m not sure if I was just expecting a greater leap in graphics and gameplay based on the GDC 2008 presentation or maybe it was something else. I’m definitely not prejudiced against the game, so there had to be some reason. Unfortunately I never figured out what it was that gave me this initial impression. As I kept playing through the game I was impressed by little things here and there — the entire scope of the game, trying to imbue a sense of purpose and solid narrative to the game.

So far I’ve been paying close attention to how linear the campaign may feel, given that the environments are pretty narrow and the story is pretty linear. I’ve been impressed that, to me, it doesn’t feel as claustrophobic as it could be. I haven’t really gotten a sense where I’m just being pulled through each level and environment, even though there is no room to explore or anything. I would’t expect there to be, this isn’t a sandbox game, but if you really look at the level design, there are a lot of choices on where to position yourself, but you’re essentially in a space that ranges from maybe 20 meters to 50 meters wide at most.

The co-op campaign has been fun, a little improved over Gears of War so far based on how you do have to work together more when the paths split you up, rather than just splitting you up for a different type of fight or perspective over the combat. It’s good, but the game doesn’t force you to do quite as much teamwork in an action oriented way as it seems Resident Evil 5 may be trying to do based on the gameplay footage I’ve seen. We’ll have to see when that releases to know for sure. Also, while I haven’t finished it, there’s aspects of Army of Two like the aggro system that seem to feel like a more integrated portion of core gameplay as well.

Hopefully I can finish Gears of War 2 soon, it’s definitely been fun to play so far and game length hasn’t seemed much of a problem despite how for we got in one day.

Mirror’s Edge
Mirror's Edge screenshot

I’ve been looking forward to playing Mirror’s Edge since I tried the demo way back on November 1 — the combination of fast paced running and platforming, along with a pacifist subtext to the game and combat really piqued my interest and I wanted to see how well DICE managed to combine all of these ambitious elements and pull off a compelling game.

That being said, my exuberance to play the game didn’t match the amount of time I had available to really get started and all I managed to complete was the tutorial and prologue. Not much of a start and much of it was just a rehash of the demo, but I shall focus my time on working through Mirror’s Edge real soon.


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