Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tank traumas

Well I finished up WET this week and the game grew on me over time, at first it seemed that it was just a cheap imitation of Stranglehold and I wasn't too enamoured with it. But after playing through the game four times and finishing off all of the Boneyard challenges I can honestly say it was a lot of fun. Normally multiple playthroughs really start to get on my nerves but for some reason that wasn't the case here - in fact I'd often find myself chaining together high numbers of kills and acrobatic moves in the arenas when I really didn't need to. Ha ha, good times.

I also got together with a few friends to boost the new L4D DLC which didn't take much time at all. The only things I'm missing are completing the regular campaign (as Versus does not seem to count) and getting 4k more kills. The rest were fairly easy to set up and a lot of fun too. I really got into the game and it reminded me just how fun it was in the first place. The new campaign was hardly steallar though with a few choppy frame rate issues and scenery that looked far too familiar. Still for what it cost I would certainly recommend it. Now I just need to go back and get that last bloody campaign done on Expert.........

I also started playing through The Maw for something different, and the game is a lot of fun. It could certainly have made it into a full retail title if it had been fleshed out a lot more and had a bit more money chucked at it. My only main concern is the fact you seemingly cannot die so there is no real challenge. Still a cowardly, jelly like blob is always good for a few laughs.

Finally, Need for Speed: Shift..............

I don't really like it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why do I even have a to do list?

I seem to take two steps back for every meagre step forward at the moment. It seems that for every game that I manage to finish off another two will step in to take their place, I really need to pace myself a bit more and perhaps relegate a few more review titles to my back up account until I actually have time for them.

A case in point would be Need for Speed: Shift. It actually came out a week or so ago but as no one was entirely willing to review it the burden fell to me. Obviously I have been working on WET, Mini Ninjas and Raven Squad so it had to wait until now. I had a look at the list before hand and it seems like a fairly easy 1k - which makes a change as driving games are hardly my speciality. So in my stupidity I went and slapped it straight on my card and saw yet another hit to my ongoing quest for luscious completion.

In fairness though the game IS fairly easy, and I milked it for over 300 points in just a few hours. The same effort again tonight will see me practically double that, then I will have to grind out all of the stats required for twenty Epic badges. Nothing too taxing though so I should be able to manage.

Also still stinking up my card are games like Damnation, NBA Ballers, C&C: Kanes Wrath, Brothers in Arms (with a paltry one ach: for playing on Sept 17th), Spiderman 3 and Project Sylpheed. A lot of work there and most of them are still less than half complete. Ugh.

The bane of my life is also rearing its ugly head. Yes, DLC is back and corrupting all and sundry. I have a rented copy of Fable 2 so plan on finishing up the full 1350 on that fairly soon, the L4D DLC also drops today so will require some time and effort. I'm still one expert campaign short of finishing the original 1k (Blood Harvest - yikes) and then need to farm the 53k worth of kills. I'd love to get the full 1250 though before the sequel turns up. As despite Valve's promises I can't imagine that any more DLC or points will be attached to the original.

It promises to be a busy week all around, hopefully I can make some progress on a bunch of titles and get close to finishing them off - or at least close enough so that I can be happy with my efforts.

Fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New games and slipping targets

I just noticed that my proposed goal of 90% completion is coming up at the end of this month and there is no way I'm going to hit it. This is mainly down to the number of new games I've been playing (mainly for the purpose of reviews) and the fact I haven't been able to finish them all off.

I have reassessed the situation and changed my target to a whopping 92% by the end of the year. A pretty big ask but one I think I'm capable of, plus it would mean my score was high enough to stay above 90% every time I started a new game. So hopefully that will be the case.

The end of the year promises to be a busy one though as there are a rash of games incoming. Halo: ODST turned up on my doorstep on Tuesday and I had totally forgotten that I had even ordered it. The game is meant to be fairly easy though so no big deal on getting it done hopefully, I'll just need to rope in some co-op partners in a bid to romp through the story. I've also got all of the Halo 3 maps now so maybe I should go back and work on that somemore. I only have 800 points in the game and haven't even played it since a couple of months after it first came out.

Still - that is all for the future. This week I am desperate to finish off L4D or at least get a good chunk of the work out of the way, it seems that some new DLC with achievements may well be on its way so I would like to have the original 1k done with before it lands. I can but hope. I've also got a copy of Fable 2 heading my way so I will be able to polish off the two DLC packs in short order (hopefully) and that will be something else done with. I'm also hopeful of finishing off WET fairly soon, as I romped through the challenges (which were not very challenging) and just need to run through the game a couple more times to be pretty much done.

With a ton of upcoming reviews, games on pre-order and a massive back catalogue of unfinished work I'm sure I'll be plenty busy for the forseeable future.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The great trade in rip off

No doubt you all already know where I am going with this, as I'm sure it is pretty much a global phenomenon rather than one limited to just the U.K.

My issue here is the dubious prices and practices that a lot of games stores seem to adhere to when it comes to trading in old games. No doubt a lot of people will simply say that I should use ebay to sell them on (for more money and outright cash) but frankly I'm far too lazy for such things and once I get stung for fees and whatnot it really does not seem worth it.

At the end of the day I want to take a game down to my local shop and be given a fair price for it - end of story. The first thing that pisses me off is that most stores will give you almost half as much for your stuff if you want cash than if you want credit - how the hell is that fair? Considering the ludicrous mark up when they sell pre-owned stuff then I doubt they are losing out by much. Though I appreciate the argument that certain stock may never sell etc etc.

Next up is the fact that you can't tell by a pre-owned games price just how much is will be worth to trade in. Case in point: I went into Gamestation to trade in my copy of Mini Ninjas, it had cost me £28 online and I had played it, reviewed it and finished it so wanted to get credit while the getting was good. I ended up getting £28 in store credit, meaning I had effectively lost nothing. Good deal. Then I spotted a copy of the first Broken Sword game for the Playstation sat in a cabinet - the case was dirty and cracked but the price was a whopping £29.99 pre-owned - WTF? I have a mint copy of that game sat at home (along with a bunch of other PS1 titles) so asked how much I would get for it on trade. The answer? A measly £3. So a game that would only net me £3 in credit is being sold on for £30 - how the hell is that mark up anywhere near justified? I also learnt that my pre-owned Mini Ninjas was going to be stuck on the shelf at £42.99 pre-owned too - a mere £2 cheaper than the price for a new version in-store and about £12 more expensive than you would pay anywhere online.

The mind boggles.

How can companies continue to offer such pitiful values when it is completely unrealistic to do so? It also kind of narks me that an ancient game like Broken Sword was worth £1 more than my mint copy of Rainbow Six Vegas which netted me a whopping £2. I now have literally hundreds of pounds worth of credit at Gamestation and no real inclination to spend it due to their insanely high prices (£45 for new games), rubbish offers (only 2 for £20 on really old pre-owned stuff) and generally naff sales.

It is strange as they used to offer two for £30 on decent pre-owned titles and two for £40 on the newer stuff. Not to mention the fact they never offer any kind of extra incentive deals or cards like you see in the US.

No doubt folks over the pond think they have it bad too, but judging from the various trade in deals, Edge cards and rebate coupons I've seen floating around it is certainly a lot better system - though still not perfect. Frankly if we had in one tenth of the amazing pre-owned offers I've seen on the US Good Deals thread then I would be a happy camper but I doubt it will ever happen.

At least with the festive season coming up I should start to see some good offers creeping back in - I can but hope.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another big gap

Yet again I seem to have been AWOL for a couple of weeks, no particular reason behind it this time but I have been swamped over the last week.

Strangely I actually had the week off from work but that didn't neccessarily equate to more time spent gaming sadly. First I had to clear the garden of a bunch of chopped down conifer trees - sounds easy right? Unfortunately these bad boys happened to be 17 feet tall and numbered about twenty. It took us about ten hours to load them up into a car and shuttle the crap up to the recycling plant - I can't even remember how many trips we did in the end but I was shattered afterwards.

The fun didn't stop there though as we also redecorated our large spare room, which has been little more than a dumping ground since we could afford for our last lodger to move out. So we had to move all the furniture we no longer needed then repaint all of the walls and the door. I then spent a whole day building all of the new furniture which included a big old rocking chair, three big bookshelves, two large CD towers and a TV table. Fun times. It looks amazing now though and the CD shelves in particular are ace - as the alternate CD's (well, duh) and a bunch of random things including fun cups, Final Fantasy figures and cute plush Totoro toys all the way from Studio Ghibli in Japan. Yaaay, for geeky spirit.

In between all of that I found time to review two games: namely WET and Mini Ninjas. I enjoyed both for different reasons. WET was good old fashioned fun, though a touch too similar to Stranglehold for my liking, and is definitely worth a rent at the very least - though it lacks the legs to justify a full blown purchase. Mini Ninjas is a great family game, but only a decent one for hardcore gamers who will have seen it all before. It's certainly cute and fun but a tad too simple and repetitive. I'll stick the links up when I get a minute.

I totally failed to finish off any of the games I had wanted to - and adding a couple of new ones didn't help my completion percentage any either. On the plus side I did get the full 1k for Mini Ninjas and also for Ice Age, which turned up from Lovefilm, as both were short and straight forward. WET still needs a lot of work as I need to get weapons kills, Ultra Hard mode, all the challenges to Gold etc etc so that may drop onto the back burner for a while.

I did manage to complete one of the four scenarios on L4D on Expert (thanks to Omega for the help) but now need to polish off the other three, which I'm desperate to do. I also still need 44 Yahtzee wins and 16 Battleship wins to finish off Family Game Night - ugh! Completing Castle Crashers was a lot more fun and now I just need the online points and a couple of other random tasks to be done with it. My last niggle is Damnation and I need to bug Cru about it so we can sit down and finish it off - I blame myself for ignoring the game but it is truly woeful. WOEFUL I TELLS YA!

Such things may have to wait though as Raven Squad is my next review, so I'll be needing a co-op partner no doubt. Plus there are a bunch of other games due out fairly soon so I will have very little time on my hands it would seem. My 90% completion target is looking like a forlorn hope at the moment.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Steady progress

I forgot to mention that my quest to finish off Rainbow Six Vegas finally reached its conclusion last month. I managed to get to Elite literally the day before jetting off to Gamescom, which was a major bonus. Then upon my return I just had to sit down and make my way through the story in co-op, a feat made much easier by the use of a second controller and a bit of care and attention. Job done.

After that I had to mop up a few loose ends in GI Joe (the game that apparently killed Fro's interest in points) but thankfully it was all ridiculously easy, even on Hardcore mode. To be honest the game wasn't terrible and is certainly an easy 1k for those interested. Though if you are after a quality title then you could do better, a lot better.

Also, I finally finished off Damnation boosting over the weekend which is a major relief as the game was wearing a little thin. Just have to plow through the campaign on Insane now and then I can be shot of that awful game forever. To think that I wasn't even going to put it on my card originally.........

Another plus point is my steady progress on Left 4 Dead which has come out of nowhere (for me) and now stands on the verge of completion. The game had been sat on 550 points since January and I had never given it a second thought, but over the last week I have managed to complete a lot of the achievements I was sure I'd never get. Things such as Nothing Special, Stomach Upset, Jump Shot and all of the Versus tasks have now been done. I'm left needing the two big kill achievements (for 1k with the chaingun, and 53k total) plus the two Expert mode achievements and the one for finishing without any friendly fire. I'm hoping to tie in one of the Expert mode completions with the friendly fire task but then I may well need to find helpers to finish off the other Expert finales. We shall see but I suspect the AI isn't going to be up to snuff.

Family Game Night is also on the verge of being complete (other than those accursed Scrabble achieves that will forever be barred from me) as I only need to get to fifty wins in Yahtzee and twenty in Battleships and Sorry Sliders. How hard can that be?

After that who knows. I'll be going back to Batman and probably NBA Ballers, which has been given a long layoff due to recent boosting, plus there is obviously Damnation to squeeze in. I also suspect that the reviews are going to start heating up now that we are entering the festive period - as both Section 8 and Raven Squad need handling for a start. Fun times ahead.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Points, points, points

Well after the fun and games (plus no small amount of work) following Gamescom I am now back to a bit of normality. My whole week following the event was spent writing up previews for a bunch of games and compiling the top ten list with Webb - the controversy, ha ha!

Then I had Batman: Arkham Asylum on preorder which needed reviewing, so I swept through it on easy on my better halfs account in order to sample everything on offer and have just commenced my own hard playthrough on my own tag, replete with 240 collectibles to hunt down, woo hoo! Still it is one of those games that I am genuinely enjoying playing through, so the second run through will be a blast not to mention the fact that hard difficulty makes it all the more fun. It will definitely be joining the elite ranks of games that I have bought and not traded in (I think that list is comprised of Dead Rising, GOW and Blue Dragon).

As opposed to the less glamorous ranks of games I've bought and have yet to play...........

Onto the achievement front and it has been a busy week all around. I started my hard playthrough of Batman but have only reached about 25% complete so far, mainly due to the fact I've been flitting about somewhat. Firstly I decided to spend my massive stockpile of MS points on a bunch of arcade games even though I generally avoid them. I picked up Castle Crashers (which my girlfriend has been bugging me to get for ages - glad to finally oblige), Cloning Clyde, Shadow Complex, Wolfenstein 3D, Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Comix Zone, Penny Arcade Episode 2, Family Game Night (all of them - only to realise I can't play Scrabble without a US console, doh) and a few bits of DLC for Mass Effect, PoP and Star Wars: TFU.

I figured that I was never going to use the points on anything worthwhile so may as well cash them on for some easy arcade games. Pretty much all of the games I bought can be completed solo or with the bare minimum of online help and it will give me something to play when I have a spare five minutes here and there.

I made a start on Family Game Night and suffered the ignominy of seeing my girlfriend roll three legit Yahtzees in only our second game (no wild dice either) while I have yet to get it. My last three games I managed to roll two yahtzees each time but that last one eluded me. Bah. Still I have polished off Connect 4 and Boggle plus only need an achievement or two for Battleship, Yahtzee and Sorry Sliders. A fairly easy 1200 points overall though it pains me to see Scrabble sat there - unable to be completed.

We also got cracking with Castle Crashers and I'm loving it. Easily the best original arcade game available (notice my careful wording there? So Monkey Island can still reign supreme) and one that I can see myself putting some major time into. It is nice to have a game that is just a bit of fun rather than worrying about serious plot. I've only snagged 65 points so far but the rest will come with time and I'm in no rush to get them, which is a change for me. Though it would be nice to find a bossting buddy for the online stuff at some point.

Also on my weekly gaming radar this week were Damnation and Left 4 Dead. I finally got around to snagging some more points in L4D as I boosted all bar one of the Versus mode achievements (just need another 500 or so Special Infected damage to be done) and it has given me the impetuous to go back and try to finish that game off. I really haven't played it since I reviewed it back in the day and it has been sat on about 600 points since then.

Damnation on the other hand was more of a chore, though made less painful by having good partners, due to the stupid online achievements. For a start you need at least four players to start a game - a multiplayer tradition that really pisses me off. Then you have to host 25 games, win 25 games, win on each map, win each gametype etc etc. Considering you have to repeat the process for four players it can soon get repetitive and takes up a goodly number of hours. Thankfully three of us are done and we only need Cru to swoop in and host/win the required number of games. I'll be glad when its done though I still need to finish up the game in co-op.

My main goals for the upcoming week are to try to complete as much of Batman as I can, finish off Family Game Night and hopefully get a good chunk of either L4D or Damnation out of the way. Bring it on.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Gamescom 2009

Well it has been a while since I posted but that is mainly due to my week long jaunt to Germany with Webb and Routine from x360a. Our mission was, of course, to cover the Gamescom convention which is basically Europe's equivalent to E3. I have to say that I really had no idea what to expect and the whole week exceeded what I had anticipated on every level.

Firstly, I managed to snag a room on my own. As that layabout Minty had to drop out at the last minute (don't tell him I said that, ha ha) so Webb and Routine shared while I was all on my lonesome. Though most of our hotel time was spent in one room anyway, as I would read up on details for upcoming meetings, Webb would post news and bemoan the state of the site in general and Routine would play Monkey Island (you can see who had it toughest).

Our first few days consisted of press events and interviews behind closed doors in the business area. The joys of having a press pass can not be overstated in this case methinks. Webb and I had a pretty crammed schedule each day and Routine was busy getting footage of the various show floor halls and shots from upcoming games. Having to wander around and speak to people behind the scenes was certainly an eye opener. A lot of them are amazingly passionate about games and it should really have been obvious to me long before now - after all, who else would want to make games but gamers themselves? It made the whole process a lot easier and I found myself chatting back and forth with them about upcoming projects and asking questions that other players would actually care about.

Some of the time slots were pretty tight but I only had to reschedule one appointment for the whole week (sorry Vancouver 2010). Other than that I managed to bounce between Lucasarts, Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk Ride, Bethesda, SEGA, Konami, Fairytale Fights, Capcom and a few others. As well as getting out and about on the show floor.

Everyone was amazingly friendly and the bevy of free drinks can not be overstated in terms of importance. Not to mention the high levels of free swag that was on offer, I managed to snag a bundle of stuff that will be heading over to x360a in the form of a competition fairly soon. I even went on stage for some Beatles Rock Band so I could grab a t-shirt. Who doesn't love swag right? So if you want to be in with a chance of getting you hands on some t-shirts, a cap, figurines, sweets, stickers and energy drinks (I kid you not) then keep one eye out.

Overall I had a great time and would certainly love to go back again next year, or to any similar event for that matter. I haven't even mentioned the show floor, games or the awesome burgers we discovered at a local steak house as I'm sure that would bore the pants off people. Suffice it to say that I would heartily recommend such an event to anyone that may have been on the fence.

I will get a more usual post up shortly, about my general points status, review status and the normal gubbins. I bet you can't wait...........