Thursday, December 30, 2010

Goal accomplished

Well after looking down and out in November I've managed to complete a fairly impressive fifteen games in the last two months. It was still looking unlikely as I got nearer the finish line, so I had to resort to playing a few nice and easy arcade games at the death. Still completing a 'game a week' throughout 2010 is something to be proud of, as there were a few tough nuts in that bunch.

I suppose Gears should automatically come top of the heap, but I've also completed things like Bayonetta, Bioshock 2, COD: MW2, COD: BLOPS, Halo: Reach, Left 4 Dead, Naruto and Fallout 3 so I think the quality this year has been a lot higher. Sure, there have been duds and easy games just for the points - but for once I've actually played and completed a bunch of games shortly after they were released which is unusual for me I can tell you.

What is also worth noting is that even some of the easiest arcade games can take longer than a full retail title. It took me about an hour to get 1k from Truth or Lies, yet a simple arcade title like Gunstar Heroes took me two hours and Wolfenstein 3D (which turned into an almighty grind if truth be told) was a whopping seven hours. Not bad for an arcade title indeed.

I've also splashed out on some new arcade fodder through the recent sales - not to mention a good bit of DLC for things like Mass Effect 2, so I suppose I really should get around to playing them at some point. I also bought my other half a Kinect for Xmas, on the proviso that she only use it on her tag.

I'm sure you can guess what happened next......

My tag was left logged in and some achievements were unlocked on Kinect Adventures. Sigh. At least I avoided getting Dance Central on there, but it now means I will have to devote some time and effort into at least two games (the other being Harry Potter, which has a few Kinect chellenges for me to finish off).

The technology itself is pretty impressive, and it has certainly impressed our families as we have been dragging that little bugger to every house we went to over Xmas. The games are a lot of fun, and would certainly do more from a fitness persepective than the Wii ever would, but there is my problem. The Wii was marvelled at and fawned over by everyone when it landed too - and now it probably does little more than catch dust underneath a TV in most homes. In fact out of all the people I know personally with a Wii (six - in case you care), none of them still use their Wii at all, to make matters worse two of them have no other console and the others all use a 360 and/or PS3 regularly instead.

My concern is that, just like the Wii, the Kinect will sell by the bucketload but then be a graveyard for shovelware and half assed titles which never do more than the bundled in software did. I do hope I'm wrong as I feel Kinect has way more potential than the Wii ever did, but time will tell.

Anyway, I digress.

I had hoped to get somewhere near to 250k by the end of the year too but I will be just shy of 230k instead, which is still pretty decent but means I am way off the next major milestone of 300k. At the moment though my main goal is going to be tidying up a bunch of games (again) and getting my completion percentage back above 90% (again). I had hoped to add Borderlands to my list of completions this year to be honest, but the Mad Moxxi DLC is proving to be the tedious grind that everyone said it was and has rather held me up. At least it will give me something to polish off in the new year. I've also still got Gears 2, Fallout: NV and a host of others to polish off so my to do list never seems to shrink.

All the best to everyone - and may the gaming times roll on for you all.

Friday, December 10, 2010

2010 - A year in the Life

I think on the whole I've enjoyed 2010 - it has been a pretty busy year for me personally, with a lot of upheaval in terms of work and at home (marriage will do that to you). From a gaming standpoint I've had a pretty solid year as well, and my achievement hunting has been a lot more focused and less reliant on just pure crap - though there has been a touch of that too.

I'm sure my personal life does not really need airing much here, so suffice it to say that I'm enjoying the married life and would heartily recommend a similar big day to anyone. I will also mention the fact that I even managed to squeeze achievements into my wedding speech too, ha ha, doubt many people would be able to claim that. As the speech went down a treat then it cannot be all bad I suppose. Plus, a wedding is a great excuse to go on a really kick ass holiday too - though trust us to land in L.A when they were experiencing record temperatures, even the natives were restless.

In a gaming sense I have to say that it has been a very good year for reviews from my own point of view, as I've managed to crank out thirty nine reviews for retail titles and a further five for DLC (though some of them like the Lips add-ons and Dragon Age: Awakenings perhaps are bordering on being a bit more). I also did a lot of write ups from Gamescom which was another highly interesting trip, but more on that later. Another interesting stat is the fact that of those reviews, I actually bought twenty of them myself - so I do not rely totally on handouts or get bribed by publishers with free stuff (which seems to be a common misconception).

Anyway, let's get started. I thought a fun way to do things would be to go month by month and highlight what has happened along the way. Throw in a few stats just because I can, and I think things should be fairly interesting. So let's go.

January

Reviews: 4 Completions: 6

New Year's Resolution was certainly to tidy up a few of the games on my tag. Did not get an ideal start as my run through of Where the Wild Things Are glitched on me, so I had to play the entire thing through again on New Year's Day - not exactly a rocking start to the year but what are you going to do? I was also involved in some co-op dabblings on Lego Indy with my future wife, as well as thoroughly enjoying Darksiders and Bayonetta which are still two of my favourite games of this year even in Decemeber.

In fact Bayonetta is probably my personal GOTY (I'm calling it right now) even if it isn't to everyones tastes. In fact that might have been what appealed to me so much, as I just loved the characters, the style and the action. Just ticked all the right boxes for me. Hell, even my other half loved it which was more of a surprise considering the.....provocative, nature of the leading lady.

Highlight of the month was FINALLY getting the 1k people Online achievement in NBA 07. I had been all set to attend the previous successful attempt a couple of years earlier but, wouldn't you know it, my Internet went down two hours before and came back on about an hour after wards - by which point there were only 900 people online. Gutted.

This time around, I was ready with two hours to spare. It was funny as the achievement popped about half an hour early and then I was frantically sending messages to my friends list telling them to get on NBA like NOW. Ha ha, they came running I can tell you. Though I also suffered my second Red Ring of Death a week before which had me in a major funk - so major that I was finally allowed to buy a second 360 while mine was off for repair. I don't think I can emphasise enough how useful a second box is for anyone that is serious about gamerscore.

I also let myself be talked in going for Seriously on Gears of War. Cue a few months of hell.....

February

Reviews: 3 Completions: 7

The perils of boosting reared their head in February. As while boosting Gears I actually managed to fall asleep. In my defence it was about 2am and, of the four people boosting, I was the last person to do it while we were still playing. Still it just goes to show how mind numbing late night sessions can be, and the fact I managed to nod off with my headset still on is quite impressive. I did try to make sure that we mainly played on weekends but there were a few midweek sessions that went on for a while resulting in me being amazingly tired at work.

For anyone on a similar quest the most important advice I can give would be to find people in similar timezones. Three of us were Brits and one was in the US, so it did make things awkward in terms of meeting up. Also, take regular breaks if you can - or start a bit earlier so you can still get some rest. I would also say that if you are going to pull an all nighter then do so on the weekend, when it doesn't matter when you get up.

Obviously that kind of commitment is not for everyone, but as I'd racked up a few thousand kills by now I was in it for the long haul. We did take a break for a week or so to boost Bioshock 2 so at least that was something a bit different and a lot less time consuming. As a sequel Bioshock 2 was never going to live up to the first game, but it was still pretty damn good and even the MP was decent to play though not exactly overpopulated online.

It is interesting to see that the less reviews I do then the more my completions shoot up, though February was helped by a week off where I did nothing but play games, ha ha! If you get the chance then I would recommend it. The best way to do those pesky half finished games is just to dedicate a couple of solid days work into them. A week here and there can really clean up your tag let me tell you.

March

Reviews: 4 Completions: 3

Tip from the top here kids: if you are trying to complete games and boost your percentage then do not slap a 100+ hour RPG on your tag. Exactly what I did with FFXIII in March. A game that I have barely touched since then and really need to go back to.

In all honesty I have a bit of a history of doing this with Final Fantasy games, as I'll play them for hours only to get bored at some point and never go back. Usually I do return to the game and finish it up but it just hasn't happened in this case so this is certainly on my to do list. I would also say that it is one of the weakest entries in the series by far, which is part of the problem.

There were also a few games this month that were too shoddy for me to slap on my main gamer tag. I may play games for points but I also have a bit of OCD about completion, and will always strive to finish off every game I play. Just look at things like FIFA 06 and Gears, which have literally years between the first and last achievements. So if I'm reviewing a game and don't want to go for the full 1k it will go straight onto one of my various back up accounts (depending on whether online access is required). This prevents my to do list from spiralling out of control and means I can subjectively play through a game without worrying about guides or collectibles. It makes a refreshing change of pace.

I also recall getting into a big old scrap on TA about the merits of DLC, and whether or not they should be counted towards game completion or not. Frankly I think their insistence that DLC be treated separately is amazingly archaic and does not really mesh with the achievements system. MS make the rules - so by choosing not to follow them can you really claim to be comparing people fairly?

I don't really use the site anymore (not for this reason though, I'm not that fickle, ha ha) as I tend to keep an eye on my own stats rather than trust those of other people as things can sometimes get messed up. I found that the TA feed would often be quite slow in updating and I didn't really use the boosting features or forums a lot, as there was quite a lot of flaming and 'in crowd' style behaviour plus a couple of instances where my guides from x360a had been blatantly plagiarized. Ah well, c'est la vie. I do like the idea behind the site though as I'm always a sucker for stats and they do tend to lure me in.

This month also saw the breakdown of our Gears boosting group, as we struggled to meet up with our US team mate and then he seemingly dropped off the grid entirely. It left us with a few weeks of non-boosting and wondering when we would ever be done.

April

Reviews: 2 Completions: 6

April was all about one solitary achievement: Seriously. What had started as a quest to do the easy Gears online achievements in December had transformed into over four months of late night boosting, frayed tempers and a last minute charge. In the end we probably got as many kills in April as we did in the three months that came before it combined. By this point we had all just about had enough, and even my other half wanted me to finish it or quit. Hence some late night grinds and one mammoth 12 hour session that yielded well over 1k in kills.

When it popped all I actually felt was relief and an urge to go to sleep - so I wouldn't expect elation to kick in when you are going for something this ridiculous. In honesty I probably wouldn't do the same thing again if given the choice, so bear that in mind. Plus having to go nearly two thousand kills past the 'supposed' requirement was not a fun experience.

I also dragged my better half into a run through of Resident Evil on Desperate Escape, ha ha! It was actually a lot of fun and she performed better than I ever would have expected. So if you ever need a hand with an achievement do not be afraid to rope in whoever is willing to help - you will be surprised how quickly games can be picked up.

May

Reviews: 7 Completions: 4

May was a nightmare in terms of reviews, it used to be that you could pretty much guarantee a few of the lull periods throughout the gaming year but now things have just gone a bit strange. Instead of the usual deluge of games at the end of the year there seems to be a whole host of stuff being released around Easter time instead, usually games that were pushed back by COD or something similar.

Still I started the month in relaxed fashion with a week off to do nothing but game. I find that it you do have a stretch of free time then that is ideal for polishing off some niggly games. I personally used it to finish up Castle Crashers, Fifa 09 and the online portion of NHL 09 plus I blasted through Iron Man 2. To be honest a lot of people, once they have stopped playing a game, will never find the time to go back to it for one reason or another. So a holiday gives you just that opportunity. For any completionists out there I would certainly recommend this kind of planning ahead to make sure you keep on top of older games.

Plus I find that once you polish off a few old games then you get in the mood for more of the same. So I went back to Operation Flashpoint and Damnation too and even did some Annex mode on Gears - which is almost as boring as going for Seriously. All of this in a couple of weeks and all of a sudden my tag is rosy again. Most games are really not as tough as they once seemed especially if you have a bit of time away from them to recharge your batteries.

Oh yeah, and I hit 200k this month too. A fairly minor milestone but nice to hit nonetheless and I think I've rambled about that enough in the past.

June

Reviews: 3 Completions: 6

June saw the formation of a specific X360A forum for dealing with cheaters. I'd been doing some behind the scenes work with Creech for a while on checking out reported tags, highlighted cheated games and reporting them. The procedure got a whole lot more official though as a team was set up to deal specifically with this task.

At first I devoted a lot of time to the work, as reviews were a bit scarcer on the ground at this time of the year, plus I enjoyed the investigative side of things. However, as the reviews came back in force and my wedding drew closer I found that I had less and less time to help out. Plus, things like Gamescom didn't help as that meant I had a lot of previews to sort out as well.

The recent xbox.com change has rendered the process moot though, as the new site does not allow people to browse through gamertags in the way we used to be able to. Plus the individual timestamp on achievements has gone too. Luckily the change has apparently made things easier for the actual Enforcement Team who have other ways to track cheaters regardless. Creech actually took his work to the show regardless, and joined MS as a consultant on all things gamerscore related. So kudos to him.

Games wise I had a mixed bag this month, with a plethora of review titles coming and going. I finished off a whole batch of older games but also started things like Cricket 2010 and Lego Harry Potter. What I would say from a gamerscore front is that a quick easy 1k game can really freshen things up. If you get tired of grinding out a long winded game, then just take a few days to putter through something simple like A Train HX or Ben 10. Both of those games are decent enough fun, but also nice easy completions. Seeing a few games keeping your tally ticking over can really motivate you to stick to your guns and finish off some of the big boys.

I hit the wonderful mark of over 90% completion this month too, which was a major accomplishment considering I had to acquire almost 2k worth of points in games I'd already started to even move up 1%. I'd started the year at about 85%, so a personal triumph indeed.

July

Reviews: 4 Completions: 2

In July I was told by Webb that I would be having a full hour hands on with Fallout New Vegas when I went to Gamescom. He said, "I'm sure you've had plenty of experience with Fallout 3 right?"

My response: "Errr, bought at when it came out.....and never played it."

Cue a whole month of me playing pretty much nothing but. In truth I'm glad this happened as my motivation to really stick with an RPG game is usually quite low, so it was awesome to be able to dedicate some time to a game for once.

Aside from the joys of Fallout I also succumbed to peer pressure and got to level 100 in Gears 2. In truth it only took about five nights at 10x XP so wasn't a major hassle to be honest, though it now meant that I had the desire to actually play the single player. Gears was yet another game that I had bought at launch and pretty much NEVER played.

In fact, let's take a moment for me to just say. DO NOT BUY GAMES WHEN THEY COME OUT UNLESS YOU ARE 100% SURE YOU WILL PLAY THEM!

Honestly, I still have games on my shelf that were bought, for full price, years ago and still have not been touched. If you are going for gamerscore on a budget then just buy games as you play them, then trade them in when you are done. One of my few saving graces is that I trade in practically every game once I've 100% completed it. There are about five games that I have liked enough to make exempt from this rule, but the rest get shuffled off to fund newer stuff. So do yourself a favour and have the following system (if you can):

1) A rental company - this is for games that will take under 10 hours and second copies of games for boosting (assuming you have a second console)
2) Buy used/sale items - if there is a game you want to play, but time coinstraints stop you from doing so then WAIT. Games drop in price with alarming speed and can often be picked up at a fraction of the price a couple of months later.
3) Trade in games - once you are done with a game then trade it in ASAP, as the quicker you get rid of it then the more money you will get. You could obviously sell them on ebay or whatever too.
4) New games - only buy new games that you intend to keep or devote a LOT of time to. No point shelling out for Monopoly Streets when you will finish it in a day.

Obviously these rules are only applicable to anyone looking to increase their gamerscore exponentially, plus you will have to have the finances to fund a rental scheme or regular purchases.

Anyway, Gears 2 can be done in co-op with only one person on Insane difficulty to boot. So assuming you have two pads then do not even bother finding an online buddy, just do that thing yourself and feel even more badass at the end of it. This rule holds true for a lot of co-op games too, so keep that in mind.

August

Reviews: 0 Completions: 2

Zero reviews? You are probably thinking that I should have pulled my finger out, but this was of course Gamescom month. Anyone who followed this blog at the time will probably still be reeling from the amount of information I threw at you, ha ha!

After meeting with a bunch of journalists though while I was out in Cologne, it became clear that I wanted (well, needed) to make my blog a bit more professional. Hence the fancy links and images in a bid to step up matters. It is something I plan on going back to as well, as only time constraints are stopping me from doing it at the moment.

My game playing was fairly minimal beforehand as I just kept going with Fallout 3 to pretty much finish it off. I also spent some time doing a bit of research on the games/companies that I would be seeing at the show too, as it always helps to be prepared.

I really love going out to Germany, and meeting up with Mr Webb of course. As he is a fun travelling companion as well as being my evil overseer. It was nice to meet up with Alex (RoutineX) as well, and the three of us had a grand old time despite the fact that Minty managed to not show up, after the good old U.S. government left him high and dry without a passport, ha ha! Maybe next year.

The great thing about Gamescom is not only the show itself, but also getting a chance to see all of the work that goes on behind the scenes at the site plus taking part in some networking (As Webb puts it). Which is basically staying up until 4am with other writers, ha ha! I only managed to do so for four of the seven nights, but Webb managed the whole shebang with aplomb. I didn't manage a late night on the days when I had appointments, as I'd hate to turn up for an event looking knackered - so how Webb managed it the whole week was impressive, I think he has secretly surpressed his yawn reflex.

Shoutouts to the pleasant folk I met on my travels: Thrungus, GZ_Dave, Seedhouse, Startdashselect, ASpasticTiger and the rest who I don't have twitter/tags for. Ah well. You know I love ya.

September

Reviews: 5 Completions: 1

September was more of the same, as I was still cranking out preview material from Gamescom while also getting ready for my upcoming wedding, which was at the end of the month. The only game I completed was Dead Rising: Case Zero, as I really did not have the time to do much else. You haven't known stress until you've planned (and paid for) a wedding, let me tell you.

My stag do was slightly different to most peoples. I don't drink or smoke, so no doubt could be considered fairly boring, ha ha! Still it means that a regular night of debauchery was ruled out. Instead we rented out the local cinema and watched High Fidelity - which was amazing on the big screen in all of its crackly glory. You forget about all the little marks that were on 'film' back in the day as everything is digital now, but it was nice to relive the good old days.

After that we basically played games all night, including marathon sessions of Halo multiplayer and a wee bit of Firefight to boot. Good times.

Even my wedding day was not totally game free, as I brought up Gears of War in my wedding speech - and commended my bride on her ability to put up with me playing it for months on end. Though I did also mention the fact she suffered through Will Ferrell licking poo in Step Brothers too, hmmmm, maybe should have held that one back.

October

Reviews: 4 Completions: 0

I may as well call October the Dead Zone, as I was on honeymoon for the first couple of weeks and then got back to be welcomed with four different reviews to sort out. It pretty much put paid to any gaming that I personally wanted to do, but at least it kept me busy and away from drugs.

I kid, I kid.

The weird thing was the fact that I had barely played games in close to a month but hadn't really missed it at all. A lot of people say that people with high gamerscores are addicted, but frankly I managed to cope just fine, and I certainly was not straight back onto the 360 straight away upon my return. In fact I had a few game free days upon my return and only really played stuff that I had to review - it was a nice relaxing change I can tell you.

November

Reviews: 6 Completions: 9

November was one of my busiest months in terms of reviews and completions, mainly because I was driving towards completing 52 games by the end of the year and also getting reviews out for a bunch of games that had slipped through the cracks. Plus, Black Ops of course.

You may also remember my lengthy rant about achievement haters, and they fact they label anyone with over 100k as having no life. I would hope that my argument clarified things a little and offered more than a few facts for people to dwell on. I have no doubt that people will keep on hating but at least they cannot claim ignorance. Also a further congrats to Cru, whose milestone of 200k started the whole thing in the first place, ha ha!

I finished off a whole bunch of outstanding games as well as a batch of new ones. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 proved to be the biggest disappointment of the year for me. As after the promising showing at Gamescom the final result was short, rushed and not all that much fun. It was certainly not the worst game I've played but I just felt that it could have offered so much more.

Nine completions in a month might seem a lot but with good planning you can finish off some older games in double quick time. Plus some newer games are still surprisingly easy, and things like Star Wars TFU2, Black Ops, Ben 10 etc can be rinsed for the full 1k in short order.

December

Reviews: 2 Completions: N/A

December is mercifully quiet in terms of reviews, though I did have to struggle through the horror of the new Harry Potter game. Please do not torture yourself in the same way I did - I beg of you.

The rest of the month will see me gearing up the Xmas and hopefully clearing off some more crap from my tag. No doubt I will get a deluge of new games as presents, so my ever swelling shelves are unlikely to diminish any time soon. As for what the New Year holds? Who the hell knows. I hope to keep going with my work on x360a and hopefully keep on playing a good mix of stuff that I enjoy and some easy points titles too.

A couple of people have mentioned that they would like me to go into a bit more depth about the reviews I undertake and this is a good idea on the whole. Obviously my work mainly belongs to x360a but I don't see any harm into throwing out a few of my thoughts.

To be honest there have been a few reviews where I thought of something to add after the event or regretted not mentioning a specific flaw/moment of inspiration. So it would be nice to have a forum to air those little things, and what better place than here?

On the review side of things, and specifically for Thrawn, the way to get more involved at x360a is to be more proactive really. Ever since Razzle stepped down his workload we have had pretty much no promotional stuff stateside, as I'm sure you know. However, as I've already said - at least half of my reviews are games I've gone out and bought/rented myself so it isn't all about the free stuff. I regularly check on upcoming games via sites like Play.com or Amazon (or whatever site you trust) then I go directly to Webb and see what, if anything, he has covered.

Obviously, in recent times, we have started to receive more debug or advanced copies of games that only Webb or Rich can handle, so I keep myself busy by taking on a lot of the smaller games or games from companies that generally do not send us much. The notable issue with this approach is that it is going to cost money, sadly, but I try to sell/trade games where I can to keep the costs down and make sure I keep on top of things.

Onto the stats thing - which people seem to dislike seeing, both in my blog and others. To be honest the stats are mainly for my benefit (selfish I know) so that I have a saved marker of where I'm at and what I'm doing. There is no real need for me to publish them, though I will say that a couple of people have started to keep similar lists for themselves so at least it was helpful on some level. Plus, as the year has gone on I have done far less of the stat heavy posts as I have, I hope, had far more interesting things to yak about.

I'd also tie that in with my regularity of posting. I've done 72 new posts this year, so that is more than one a week plus the figures were messed up by my two months of absence for marriage related reasons.

I would like to blog more, but blogging tends to come a distant last behind life, work, gaming, and reviews. I do try and get on here as much as I can and part of me making this blog better comes in the form of more interesting posts and superior presentation. Sadly that takes up time and, as others have said, when you only have a few regular followers/readers it is hard to keep motivated to continue. Luckily for you (or unluckily as most people would put it) I do enjoy typing away so will continue to publish away. The same goes for expanding my blog really, I do post links up on twitter and have a link on my x360a tag, but beyond that I don't really know how to grow things and I don't want to make too big an effort really.

Well that sums up my long winded year, so if anyone has any comments or just hit the keyboard as they dozed while reading, then it is all good. Have a grand Xmas kids and a lovely New Year (just in case I slack off again, ha ha).

Just been shown this too, ha ha! http://www.xbox360achievements.org/author/lee-abrahams/

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Coming up

I figured at some point that I would do a year in review, basically a post about the best and worst things about a life in gaming and some of the stories along the way. I'm not just going to waffle on about my favourite games, as I'll also have a few stories that have come about from gaming in general - be it multiplayer, games conventions or falling asleep on the sofa while playing, there are always countless things going on that are either caused by or affected by gaming in one form or another.

Personally speaking it has been a bit of a mixed year for me, with plenty of high points personally speaking (and on the gaming front too) but also a few disappointments. Gaming wise nothing surprises me anymore, as certain games are expected to be bad in one sense, but every now and again things just bog down life in general.

If anyone has any suggestions then feel free to fire away. Plus, any questions about anything I do, any games I play or the reviews I've published are more than welcome. Also any opinions about this blog in general, good or bad, will be happily received. I don't expect many (if any) as I doubt this blog is particularly well read, but the offer is there.

I think I will get started either tomorrow or over the weekend. So expect a long winding post that is me rambling on about all things gaming over the last twelve months. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Halo Reach

It has been a while since I devoted so much time to playing an online game (without boosting it that is, ha ha) and yet I have been playing Reach pretty much every night for the last week or so.

Ostensibly, it is still with an achievement in mind as I have managed to grind my way up to Captain rank and have my sights set on Lt Colonel too. I've already accomplished all of the other online tasks, barring the DLC stuff that I'm not really prepared to shell out for quite yet. In a short space of time I've managed to rack up well over 200k in credits with very litte effort, mainly by playing matches with friends in Invasion mode and Team Objective/SWAT. We do not always win but at least there is plenty of fun to be had, even when my own performance is fairly variable. Some games I can struggle to do anything but come dead last and then the next match I'll be topping the boards - I cannot really explain it, ha ha!

What I would say is that snagging all of the daily/weekly challenges really can help to rack up the points in a very short space of time. At this rate I could well have that last online achievement in another week or so which is really not that bad going. We shall see.

I've also struggled through the latest Harry Potter game, which is truly a poor piece of work and one that you would do well to avoid. Judging by the fact I was in the Top 50 for most of the challenges (after one attempt) it would seem like the game has hardly sold well regardless. Sadly I will have to complete the game twice more as the difficulties do not stack - great design there, ugh.

I've also dabbled a bit more with Scott Pilgrim which is a barrel of laughs especially in multiplayer. I would highly recommend it to anyone, though I have to say that the spike in difficulty on the last level is a bit harsh to say the least. Oh well, the more I play it then the better I get.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dull Stat Attack - the Revenge!

RETAIL

Assassins Creed: BH – 35/1000
Battlefield 2: MC - 315/1000
Beatles Rock Band – 130/1000
Beautiful Katamari - 1050/1250
Bladestorm - 150/1000
Call of Duty: WaW - 1000/1500
C&C Kane’s Wrath - 130/1000
Dante's Inferno - 1220/1290
Dragon Age – 1550/1750
Fairytale Fights - 165/1000
Fallout New Vegas - 155/1000
Final Fantasy XIII - 230/1000
Front Mission Evolved – 710/1000
Gears of War 2 - 1410/1750
GRAW - 752/1000
GRAW 2 - 1000/1250
Guitar Hero 2 - 320/1000
Halo ODST – 25/1000
Halo: Reach – 315/1000
Harry Potter: DH Part 1 – 120/1000
Hellboy: SoE - 310/1000
Lego Star Wars TCS - 260/1000
Lost Planet - 350/1000
Naruto UNS 2 – 880/1000
Perfect Dark Zero - 150/1000
Planet 51 – 90/1000
Project Sylpheed - 60/1000
Risen - 70/1000
Spiderman 3 - 10/1000
Splinter Cell: DA - 670/1000
Star Wars: Republic Heroes - 365/1000
Supreme Commander - 110/1000
Table Tennis - 630/1000
The Sims 3 – 10/1000
Tomb Raider: Legend - 1000/1250
Vampire Rain - 650/1000
Virtua Tennis 09 - 545/1000
WSC 2007 - 550/1000
You’re in the Movies - 140/1000

TOTAL - 17632/42040

ARCADE

Boogie Bunnies - 115/200
Eets: Chowdown - 40/200
Geometry Wars - 40/200
Puzzle Quest - 200/250
Scott Pilgrim – 70/200
Texas Hold ‘Em - 105/200
Wallace and Gromit - 100/200
Where's Wally - 40/200

TOTAL - 710/1650

Been a while since I did this and it is probably just as well as things are looking pretty lean at the moment. Things like the Sims, Assassins Creed BH and Halo ODST have been added with only a few points on each - talk about taking a major hit.

I've also got a bunch of games that have some DLC still needing to be completed, which is going to be a total pain in the ass. There are also a whole bunch of games with just a few points unlocked here and there which I really need to get out of the habit or doing.

I think I need to just pick out a list of ten or so games that can be knocked off in short order and then just focus on getting them done. Whether or not I can stick to my guns and get it all done is another matter, as I do tend to get distracted very easily.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What a difference.......

A weekend makes.

After going for nearly two months without a completion (pretty much all of September and October) it looked like my goal of 52 completions over the course of the year was going to be nothing but a pipe dream. However, this last weekend may well have just saved it from total extinction.

I managed to polish off CSI on the Wednesday but it was my few days of rest that sealed the deal. On Friday night I set about grinding out the last few matches I needed to play on HAWX 2, in truth I had no idea how long it would take as I had stupidly forgotten to keep track. Thankfully I only had to go through about eight to ten games (I didn't learn my lesson on the counting thing) before it unlocked - even better news was the fact it was a free Live weekend so I didn't even have to use a 48 card for my backup account. Bonus.

After that, Sam suggested I play something new and fun - but I already had a ton of new and unfinished games clogging up my card so I chose a simple arcade game: Comix Zone. It was fun to play for a while but also kind of annoying in places too, it would certainly have been more trouble without the save feature. As it was, I managed to breeze through for the full 200 in a couple of hours for a nice quick completion.

The next day I set about playing through Ben 10, but halfway through I got a message from Omega Deez to say that he had Monopoly Streets if I wanted to play it. Sounded good to me, so I downed tools and popped that into the drive. A couple of hours of grinding later and I had that game done and dusted, plus Omega had gone from zero points to nearly 600 in the same amount of time with just the simple solo stuff to deal with. A nice little earner all around, ha ha!

I then went back to Ben 10 and managed to finish it off at about 3am. It took a little longer than it should as I managed to miss one of the collectables on the Amazon level. I realised at the time and then went back to get it (unlocking the level specific collectable achievement) but then died and forgot to pick it up again. So when I picked up the final collectable on the last level I missed the achievement for getting them all, which was a bit of a WTF? moment. Meaning I had to play through an entire level again to snag the last item, which just so happened to be right at the bloody end - bah! Still another game down.

Probably my most awesome revelation was the fact that you can apparently complete all of the zombies achievements in COD: Black Ops solo (well split screen with a second controller). It may be a little cheap, but there is a way to hide on the war room table on the map FIVE, meaning you can kill zombies with impunity. I had already snagged the Hands Off the Merchandise achievement legit, so this was a way to get those last three in the bag.

It took some time though as my first game saw me stuck between collecting weapons and trying to get the crossbow/knife needed for the other tasks - resulting in me accomplishing neither and dying hideously. After that I focused on getting the Collector achievement out of the way, which was much easier. I had a bit of cash left so though I may as well gamble on the mystery Box and, wouldn't you know it, I got both of the weapons I needed first time. Unfortunately my route onto the table had been destroyed so I had to risk moving my second pad into the open and then reviving him. This worked a treat, but when I went for the crossbow shot I was mauled to death. Cue another restart and a series of frustrating attempts.

I finally got the crossbow and even made it back to the safe spot - but no matter how many times I stuck my partner and how many zombies I killed, there was nothing doing so I called it a night and played some Firefight on Halo Reach. I gave it one last try this morning and finally got it (pro tip: shoot your partner BEFORE he gets downed, I think that might be the kicker). That gave me my fifth completion in just a few days and has me sitting at 46 for the year now (including all of Family Game Night as one title).

However, I have pretty much exhausted all of my 'nearly' complete games, with only Naruto being close to completion at the moment. Once I rent that bad boy then I should have completion 47 so I just need five more in about a month to hit my target. A couple of arcade games could be easily done in a day but I'd like there to be some retail stuff on there too so we shall see what I can plan out.

Talking of Halo Reach - I managed to get 7,000 points from the Slot Machine after one match. Anyone else been so lucky? The most I've had before is a hundred or so, so it came as a bit of a shock to rake in over 8k for one ten minute match. Not that I'm complaining as I'm closing in on my Captain rank which is nice considering I haven't boosted the game at all or even played the campaign. I had a couple of awesome team games last Thursday too, going 15-1 in one match, and 33-8 in another (with 21 Sniper headshot kills). I normally do alright but not amazing, so both of those came as abit of a shock.

Well I still have plenty of games to get back to, so I had better get cracking.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chipping away

Well I forgot to mention that I finally finished off Madden 11 a week or so ago, which was a blessed relief as I started it ages ago but then got bogged down with the ludicrous Madden Moments and then had other stuff to review.

Once I'd cleared the decks a bit after my honeymoon I figured Madden should be my next logical completion really, so I buckled down and got it done. Now I really do think that the IDEA behind the Moments is a good one - as you replay key moments from games in the previous season and either make sure they are successful or turn them on their head. So far so good.

My issues is the fact that some of them are based purely on luck rather than skill. Returning a kick for a touchdown, recovering an onside kick off to score and stopping the offence when they are at first and goal. Seriously? Can you honestly say that these would be attainable every time? Of course not, so that means you have to just keep on replaying the same moment over and over again. Which is more annoying when there is no Restart button unless the time runs out. Nice. The only other option is to spend ages Editing your opposition until they are utter garbage but I tried to avoid that unless in extreme cases, as it was the most boring task known to man.

Thankfully I persevered and got yet another completion under my belt. Meaning there is only Madden 10 missing from my tag now - mainly thanks to the tacked on DLC that they added. For shame EA, for shame.

I also blitzed through Star Wars Force Unleashed 2 which was major disappointment. How a game can get released with just three unique levels is a travesty and paying full whack for a game you can complete in three hours is absolutely shocking. This was yet another review but I had to part with my hard earned cash to get a copy, so that made it sting all the more I can tell you. The game is just far too linear and easy to boot as, while it is fun to toss foes around like ragdolls, when they are presenting you with no challenge at all then what exactly is the point? I never thought that wielding the force would be so dull and it is kind of sad to play the game and be so disappointed.

On the plus side this is a pretty straight forward completion with the only exception being some of the annoying challenegs that you need to get Gold medals on. Prepare to be annoyed. A lot. As in pulling out your hair, screaming at the neighbours and destroying your marital home style annoyed. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration but you get the point.

After all that fun I had to bring myself down with something pretty damn terrible. Step forward CSI. A game I managed to polish off this week as well, and that was a lot less hassle. The game is just as god awful as all of the other titles in the series but at least it was amazingly easy. I managed to finish off the game and my review in double quick time, so feel free to read all about the glory (or should that be horror?).

AFter all of that hard work, what better way to muck things up than to chuck a fresh new game onto my tag. I really am a glutton for punishment it seems, as this time it is the new Ben 10 game which is pretty drab if I'm being polite. Hopefully it will not take too long though and then I can move onto Harry Potter.......sigh.

Come december the stream of new games will be down to a trickle and I'll be able to pick and choose what I play. Hopefully. If not I could end up going slowly insane while playing Hyper Child Generic Shooter Investigate 10, or something similar.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Things to do

I seem to be struggling to find any free time at the moment, which is probably understandable with Xmas fast approaching. Still the top of my gamertag is littered with games with less than 100 points and a few others that are just shy of full completion. I don't think it has ever been in quite such a mess before, and yet I do not seem to be too overly concerned at the moment.

Part of this may be some kind of new found maturity after getting married - though I doubt that. I suspect, mainly, my reason for not caring is simply because I now have the attitude of "I know I can do it some day" for most of the games.

I would deeply like to finish off COD: Black Ops, as there are only three achievements left all of which are tied to zombie mode. I have tried to round up a posse of folks to help out but all of my online chums have either done the achievements already or are not really interested. Gutted. No doubt there will be DLC in teh future but I just want to get the original 1k done with and then trade in the game if possible.

I also have HAWX 2 on the verge (need 100 online games played), Monopoly Streets just needing online achievements (should take less than an hour when Omega gets his copy) and CSI Fatal Conspiracy nearly over the finish line. I'm also waiting on a rental copy of Naruto so I can finish up the online achievements and then be done with that too. Woo hoo!

After that things get a whole lot more complicated. I need to do ALL of the campaign achievements in Halo Reach and ODST, plus the higher ranked online stuff. I have 10 measly points in the Sims 3 which my wife now refuses to play (I bought it as a gift for her) after I tried to ask her about it and she said I was harassing her. Plus, I started the new Assassin's Creed so I could enter the X360A competition and have less than 50 points all told. Throw in Front Mission (need to do online stuff, lots of it) and Fallout New Vegas (30 hours in for 155 points, ugh), not to mention that I have some DLC to finish up on both Dantes Inferno and Dragon Age, plus all the Horde DLC in Gears 2. All in all it adds up to a shitload of games to play and no time to do it.

Did I mention that I still need to play and review the new Harry Potter, History Channel Medieval Battles and Ben 10? None of which are exactly inspiring me.

Oh yeah, and the little matter of trying to complete 52 games by the end of the year. I'm currently at about forty.....

I think my first priority is going to be all those nearly finished games, just to clear the decks, then I'll focus on big titles like Reach and COD. As getting those out of the way would be a treat. Next up will be DLC stuff just to round my completions off and polish off some bigger titles like Dragon Age and Gears 2.

I try not to plan too far in advance as reviews tend to take priority, plus I tend to only game when I have the time and the wife is occupied with something else - which is not as often as it used to be.

Right about now I really need a week off, with no distractions, just to game. Last time I did that I managed to polish off five games in varying states of completion and that would be just the ticket right about now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Time flies

I would love to say when I'm having fun, but frankly it was more about being busy than anything else.

Since coming back from my holiday it has been all work, work, work with very little time to settle down and just relax. Even when I do have some time it has been pretty much taken up with reviews and generally doing stuff around the house, not to mention going out and about for parties, meals and the cinema.

In fact this coming week will be the first one since we got back that I don't have at least two nights out planned in one form or another. In fact it will be nice to just do whatever I want to each night and put my feet up for once. Well kind of......

I still have reviews for some of the years most anticipated, or should that be questionable, titles. My work load includes the new Dragonball Z, CSI, Medieval Battles, Ben 10 and Monopoly Streets. Surely a line up to cause envy in all of my friends, but frankly there may be the odd surprise along the way. Plus, after getting the chance to review Fallout, Naruto and Call of Duty then I don't mind doing some of the regular stuff.

Though I also had to review Saw 2........hmmmm. I suppose on the plus side I'll be able to boost up my gamerscore a little bit so that will be something. I had hoped to hit 52 completed games by the end of the year (a nice round one completion a week) but things are looking a touch dicey on that front. I'm up to 39 at the moment so I'll need another 13 by the end of the year, Naruto should be one of them and hopefully I can add a bunch of the easier stuff to that list too.

Frankly, with reviews coming thick and fast I've had very little time for snagging points from any games that I'm not actually writing about. Still as things inevitably slow down heading into Xmas I'm sure to be able to find some free time to finish up a few things here and there. Hopefully.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Achievement haters, stats and having a life.



Recently a good friend of mine, Cru, managed to hit 200k in gamerscore. Obviously, she is not the first person to have done so nor will she be the last but what is notable is the fact Kotaku based an article around her endeavours in gamerscore.

The first article was, in my opinion, fairly harsh in its assessment of achievement hunting in general even questioning whether of not it was having a negative impact on other aspects of her life. Naturally the anonymous masses of the internet took this one step further and started with the hate, insults and even ridiculous youtube videos. Considering the fact most of the people who would have read that article would be gamers too - can they really justify such a reaction? Sure you may give up some of your social life to game, but saying that you are a bad wife or a bad mum? That crosses the line.

Obviously everyone is entitled to their own opinions but when they stray into insults and vulgarity then do they even have a valid point to make? It seems like they are just hiding their own issues and jealousy behind the safe anonymity of the internet. Seriously. If someone wants to spend their spare time earning achievements then what harm is it doing? Real life always comes first for even the most dedicated gamer and a lot of the haters out there seem to forget that.

The original article was a fair while ago now, but after Cru hit 200k there was a follow up piece to see if she was done for good. Cru is a gamer through and through, so she will no doubt keep picking up points here and there, but anyone who follows her on Live or Twitter will know that she plays a lot more casual games of COD with friends than crap for points. Plus, her twitter feed is full of social activities that I can only dream of. So it is safe to say that she is happy with her level of gaming. Sadly though there was still the same level of negativity even when she said she would only play for fun - what is the dillio?

A lot of the negative input is simply down to ignorance. People see a gamerscore of over 100k and generally assume, wrongly, that such a person must game all day every day and has no life. Same happened with Cru, they saw her score and thought that it MUST mean she never had time for anything else which couldn't be more wrong.

Let me break it down in words that even the biggest haters can understand:

The Xbox 360 was launched in November/December 2005 - so has been around for five long years. So 200k over that amount of time is only 40k a year, sounds a lot but let me go further.

There are currently 763 (roughly) retail games available across all regions, some of which also have DLC worth up to an extra 750 points. Add in about 344 Arcade titles worth 200 points each, some with DLC too, and you have a big old pot. So you are looking at 831,800 points to go at - which does not include multiple versions of the same game, PC games, DLC or anything else. With all that on top then the figure is probably approaching 1 million.

Some retail games (eg Bioshock, Fallout 3, Batman AA) can be played more than once on the same gamertag to gain more points. This is due to either GOTY editions or region specific versions, which have exactly the same achievements but class as a different game in terms of xbox.com and your profile.

There are over 100 games that can be completed in less then ten hours (assuming you get the full 1k, if you settled for 500-700 points you could halve this time). In fact there are games on this list that can be finished in as little to three minutes to an hour for a full one thousand points. See here: http://tinyurl.com/ltp2c3

There are also close to 200 games that can be easily done in between 10-25 hours (some dependant on skill and online play) and again that is assuming you are going for ALL one thousand points.

There are also, obviously, dedicated websites, guides, and players should you so wish - which all helps cut down the time it takes to complete titles.

Assuming you played all of the easy games (and I'll use the max time of ten hours for arguments sake) then you could get 100k in 1,000 hours of gaming. Which is 41.66 days of work. So that is 8.3 days a year over the five years since launch. So that is 200 hours of gaming a year and that, in turn, works out to about 35 minutes of gaming a day (or just over 4 hours a week).

THIRTY FIVE MINUTES A DAY!!! Oh my God, this monster has no time for friends/family/Jesus etc. In case you were wondering - that was sarcasm.

So that is just how easy it would be to get 100k. But what about 200k. Again we will assume you did all of the above and then a bunch of 15 hour games (50 of those) and 25 hour games (another 50). So that is roughly 3000 hours of gaming, over five years would be 600 hours a year, which is roughly one hour and forty minutes a day. Or about 11 and a half hours a week if you like.

Still hardly excessive. Especially if you were a stay at home mother whose kid was at school. Same would apply to students, unemployed gamers or even billionaires (would they so wish).

You could argue that players will also play harder games, some games would take longer than I stated etc. But on the flip side you could get 10k in less than a day too, I didn't include arcade games which can be amazingly quick to complete, and DLC can also be chalked off in short order. Not to mention that even the hardest games (which never factored into the lists) can give up an easy 500 points most of the time. So if anything I think the times stated are rather overstating things.

Obviously the regular gamer does not see this, or even care, they play games how they want to and anyone with such a high score is treated like some kind of pariah that spends all of their time glued to the console. How many 'regular' gamers spend over 11 hours a week on COD, the Wii or a PS3? Probably a lot, but because some people choose to use that same amount of time chasing achievements somehow makes them different when, in fact, it doesn't. We all choose to play games how we want to so why not just leave it at that. Some people play a game once and then never return to it whereas others have completed Mass Effect 2 over 23 times - why? Because they enjoy it.

At the end of the day people can do what they like with their own consoles, so why should the world at large see fit to judge them just because they feel a sense of superiority? Let people play how they want to play, as I'm pretty sure no one with a high achievement score has ever gone on a hate campaign against those with lesser scores.

Sure I may be slightly biased, as I'm sure that will be the first accusation for anyone looking at my score, but in my five years of 360 ownership I've also permanently had a full time job, met and married my wife, got a new house, had amazing trips to Cologne, Prague, Rome, Tokyo, L.A and Hawaii and generally enjoyed myself to the max. I also write reviews for x360a which severely hampers my points pimping - but I wouldn't want it any other way.

So for all those who think gamerpoints = no life, I urge you to think again.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Business as usual

Well I'm finally back, over a month of no blog posts (assuming anyone missed them) so I figured I should check in. I'm now a married man and have enjoyed a blissful two week honeymoon sampling the varied delights of L.A and Hawaii. I would recommend both to anyone (I spent a month in L.A a few years back and it's still good times) though Hawaii is a total tourist trap and some of the prices were ridiculous - I mean $25 for a medium pizza? You're having a laugh.

I did buckle though and visit the Cheesecake Factory a few times, even paid $8 for slice of the good stuff too, which was nice. I suppose when you are on holiday you can justify splurging a little, though I certainly wouldn't do it at home, ha ha!

Before I headed off I went and decimated my tag with a bunch of games, so on my return I had hoped to tidy the mess up somewhat. FAT CHANCE!

Instead I had a bunch of games waiting for review, namely Front Mission Evolved, Fallout New Vegas and Naruto Shippuden 2. I figured I would feasibly want to get the full 1k on all of them in time so went and slapped them in my card. Front Mission gave up the points easy enough, and I just need to finish off the hidden items and online modes. However.........

After close to thirty hours on Fallout (not including the time spent reloading bits when I changed my mind on a decision etc) I've only got 155 points. It's my own fault really as I tend to take on all of the little side missions I come across, and explore random little nooks and crannies that yield nothing but a few semi useful items. Time I probably could have spent advancing the story or doing some of the quests that yield points. Ah well, at least I'm having fun.

I do stand by my dislike of Hardcore mode though, as I know Thrawn has spoken about his difference of opinion with my review which is fair enough. I'm sure that people who enjoy the minutae of the Fallout universe and got a lot of pleasure from playing the first one multiple times etc will really get into it. But, for me, all if really adds are three more 'radiation' equivalents that are constantly increasing. Let them get too far and you will suffer ill effects, or you can click a few buttons and solve the issue. The thing is, every location has a variety of food/drink items and usual a bed as well, meaning there is no real challenge to finding anything you need to survive. Instead it is just a laborious task that takes away from the fun side of the game namely quests, combat and exploration. I do like the gradual healing though and need for a doctors bag, but again they don't really add anything but a nuisance and I personally don't play games to experience realism.

Is surviving in a post apocalyptic wasteland hard? I've no doubt it is, but I'm not going to run off into a desert to try it out so why would I want the boring nitty gritty in my games either - which are meant to be an escape from reality. If you like it, great, but I think I'd rather focus on having fun myself.

The real shock is that I managed to tear myself away from Fallout at all as it was doing a good job of sucking time away from me - especially after I sank nearly eighty hours into Fallout 3 only a few months ago, ha ha! Instead I've been captivated by the newest Naruto title.

My Naruto style love actually started with the last game, Broken Bonds, which impressed me so much that I immediately went out and started watching the manga. It is safe to say that I loved it, hell even my wife got into it and she hates manga normally. So I was totally looking forward to this game, especially after playing it at Gamescom where the graphics just looked amazing. The final game is not perfect, as it can drag in place, the loading times are ludicrous at times and newcomers probably will not have a clue what is happening, but I'm loving it anyway. I've already spent sixteen hours on the adventure mode and will probably put much more than that into it too. Considering it is basically a fighting game too, which I normally steer clear from, I'm shocked by how much fun I'm having.

Despite my love of Naruto, and the time spent, I've only snagged 200 points thus far - as it is one of those games where all the points will come in a deluge right at the end. So it means three new games added, oh make that four as I started Halo Reach before my blessed marriage too, and my card is even more of a mess than ever. Throw in a bunch of other games that I've chucked on there: ODST, Planet 51, Beatles Rock Band, Lego Star Wars, Madden 11 and things look murky. I guess the foreseeable future will involve me cleaning up all of this crap. Ho hum!

Expect me to pop up another post with all of my recent reviews and shenanigans over the weekend at some point too. Yay!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

With my impending wedding looming ever closer, things have been more than a little hectic. Especially as I've still had stuff to review in amongst doing all of the chasing around after suits, speeches and a reliable DJ. Good times.

The reviews I mentioned in my last post are now up in all of their glory (or hideous shame, if you are that way inclined). So you can go here:

http://tinyurl.com/35x9o2j - for Madden 11.

http://tinyurl.com/35qunrc - for Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days.

http://tinyurl.com/34a74dl - for HAWX 2.



The next game on my list of review style goodness was RUSE. I played it on my better halfs tag, but I'm kind of tempted to go for it on my own at some point in the future. The ideas behind the game are truly novel, and the control scheme is simply the best I've encountered on a console. Creech has offered to do some co-op stuff with me in future so it is kind of swaying me towards taking the plunge. Though having said that, I have C&C3 and Supreme Commander both still sat at under 200 points a piece. Choices, choices........



Nest up was a bit of Spiderman action. I'd played a bit of the game at Gamescom so pretty much knew what to expect. In fairness though the full game puts the demo to shame (as it should) as some of the st piece moments and individual levels are superbly structured. The camera though is nothing short of woeful, which is a real shame. There is a lot of repetition too and only one of the four heroes feels vastly different from the others. An interesting game nonetheless, but not one that is going to set the world alight.

I was also hoping to get NHL 11 done and dusted, but I think that is going to be too much of an ask now. Especially as I get married in three days. Luckily Webb had the same thought and will ship it off to Mr Walker for some care and attention. I think it will be the first NHL game I haven't reviewed for the site, so that kind of sucks a bit but what can you do?

In other news I have pretty much wrecked my tag in terms of completion. Firstly, I went and started Halo: ODST with my friends in a marathon stg night gaming session. We only played MP and Firefight so I have a measly 45 points. I then purchased Beatles Rock Band for my lovely lady, and we have snagged a whopping 65 points thus far. When you consider how many achievements rely on being able to play on Expert difficulty (I can barely do Medium) then you can see that I'm not going to be racking them up any time soon. I've also got a mere 90 points on Planet 51. With HAWX 2 still stuck at 600+ points, and me still having to do the rest of the Madden moments of polish off Madden 11 then I really needed to crack on with some stuff.

So why did I go and start Halo Reach? I've pretty much only played Firefight and MP so far (and what a great MP experience it is) so have a paltry 200 points or so. Oh dear, oh dear.

So once I've got this pesky wedding out of the way (kidding.......) I'll be back trying to clear up some of this crap that is cluttering up my world.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Review shenanigans

It has been a busy few weeks. First of all I had the joy of fifteen previews to write and then there was the small matter of the review backlog to contend with. Seeing as myself and Webb were out at Gamescom a few games had kind of fallen by the wayside, so it was on us to try and catch up.



First onto the chopping block was Madden 11, which is pretty much the same old thing that we have seen year in and year out. I do actually enjoy NFL games even though I've never really followed the sport itself, hell I've been playing Madden games since way back in the Nineties on my trusty SNES. In fact, now that I think about it, my tactics have really changed very little since then. I almost always use shotgun plays and rarely rush the ball - I'd probably be amazingly predictable if I played online often enough.

I actually did enjoy this version, but I wondered (as I always do) just how long EA can continue to release the same game with one or two tweaks? The question has always bobbled around, but in this shiny, new age of digital downloads it becomes more pertinent than ever. After all, EA could easily make new modes and roster updates available as DLC. I doubt they will mind you - but there is nothing really stopping them if they wanted to. Other than the crushing loss of revenue these yearly sports updates bring, of course.

Anyway, my review should be up on X360A in due course so I'll pop up a link when that happens.



Next up was Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days.

Hmmm.........

Thinking of something positive to say is tricky for this one. Oh - the game is only about three hours long, less if you play co-op probably. So that's a bonus. To be honest it was one of the worst games I've played in a while - and when you consider the crap I play, that's a pretty big statement. I think it was more disappointing because of the developers involved and the fact it is a fairly big budget title. I expect smaller games to be worse on some level, because they don't have the chops to keep up with the big boys, but when a high profile title is a letdown it is more noticeable. K&L2 was far too short, the story was non-existant and the characters are just annoying at best.

On the flipside you have the wonderfully innovative multiplayer (probably should have filed it under 'good things to say' a bit earlier). As trying to pull off a heist with teammates that could turn on you at any second leads to pure fun times. However, even massive online games like COD have a decent single player campaign attached to them - which this game most clearly does not.

I would say better luck next time, but I really hope there isn't one, more Hitman instead, if you would be so kind.

I seem to have taken this review away from achievements and more towards random chat, and my writing shenanigans of course, so it may well stay that way. I do enjoy talking about all things games, so I'll try and keep things entertaining. I've just started on my review of HAWX 2 so you can expect some banter about that - and I'll probably wax lyrical about achievements too.

All in good fun.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The final batch - don't cry my friends..........



Apache Assault was one of those games I knew very little about going into Gamescom, but it pleasantly surprised me. The game actually looks like it could be good fun - although the fact it is a simulation first and foremost means that it could well be tough as nails. Still for a first time viewing it looked like a bit of alright.

Check out my in depth thoughts (such as they are): http://tinyurl.com/2ue93gc



Finally we have Def Jam Rapstar, which gets bonus points just for the awesome presentation I sat through with the Def Jam rep, Chris. He was a pretty good rapper too, ha ha! Still the game is looking like a hip hop version of Lips, but with a far more interesting community aspect. If the game takes off then the amount of user generated content could be staggering.

Check it out hither: http://tinyurl.com/3yfjutd

That brings to an end my specific Gamescom coverage. I hope you enjoyed it or even read some of it (doubtful but hey). I'm back on the review trail already as the games have piled up slightly since we were away, and even more so seeing as we were swamped in previews and Webb was off at PAX.

I've already sorted out a review for Madden 11, and the new Kane and Lynch title is next up. After that I'll move onto HAWX 2 and then we should be up to date - as by that point Webb will have sorted out Mafia 2 and Halo Reach. It's nice to be doing so much writing to be honest, as I find it quite relaxing and entertaining. Though with the amount of games en route come the winter rush I may well change my tune.

Any comments, feedback about any of my coverage - leave it here. Cheers.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Sick of previews? Tough........



We all love Lego games, well unless you have a heart as black as coal maybe, so I was quite excited to see another Star Wars title heading our way. The new features are really just tweaks but they do seem to add a bit of something to the series so that can only be a good thing methinks. Plus there has been a bit of a graphical facelift too which can only be a good thing. Lightsabers at the ready!

Read about it here: http://tinyurl.com/34n5pga



Next up is Alien Breed 2: Assault, which is the next in the seires and will be hitting XBLA fairly soon. It was a pretty good blast them up really and should provide a few hours of entertainment for anyone willing to splash out the cash, I certainly had fun with it after a quick run through the first level and an eight minute salvo on one of the survival maps with my Team 17 partner. Good times.

Check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/38ftnnh



I've saved the best for last, as From Dust was quite simply one of the best games on show at the whole of Gamescom. The visuals, imagination and scope were just breathtaking. It was kind of hard to convery in a preview just how brilliant the game looked, but after speaking with a lot of other writers and sites that attended people were unanimous in their praise. Hard to belive that it will be an XBLA game too.

Read this, I beg you: http://tinyurl.com/2wszlls

In other news I finally finished up Fallout 3 and will miss wandering the Capitol Wasteland, it was a good run while it lasted and at least I'll have New Vegas to look forward to in the near future. I can't wait.

I've also completed my run through of Dead Rising: Case Zero, which was a blast, though I kind of ruined it for myself by pretty much completing it at Gamescom. When Capcom just let me play as long as I wanted then what was I gonna do? Ha ha.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A plethora of previews



First up is a bit of Pro Evolution, a series that has been on the decline somewhat in recent times. It is a shame really as I used to love playing the game year in, year out, so having FIFA overtake it kind of narked me off. Though I cannot complain about the quality of the recent FIFA games - just that I wish Pro Evo had done more to keep up.

Read all about it here: http://tinyurl.com/32he9zn



Following that is some Mortal Kombat action, a series that looks set to embrace its traditional roots and bring us the game that people have been clamouring for. Things are certainly shaping up nicely and I really hope that the franchise gets the reboot it deserves.

Read all about it here: http://tinyurl.com/2ulnq88



Next up we have the interesting Lord of the Rings: War in the North. The gameplay reminded me a lof of Borderlands, with a blend of team based combat and looting - so that can only be a good thing really. Can this be the game that finally makes good use of one of the most popular stories in literary and film history?

Read all about it: http://tinyurl.com/32jzr4d



An annual update more reliable than EA's sports games - or at least that's the way the Guitar Hero franchise seems to be going. To be honest the new Quest Mode looked like it could be a bit of fun, and the challenges should add some value to new songs and all of that old stuff you have kicking around from the last fifty zillion games (that figure may not be accurate). Will it be worth investing in though?

Find out here: http://tinyurl.com/3xv5ev2



Finally, and excitingly, we have Force Unleashed 2. The game is looking like a bit of alright barring a few frame rate issues, and the level of force style carnage is once again pretty impressive. I'm actually more excited about this game now that I've had a go with it than I was before.

Once again, a handy link: http://tinyurl.com/3ynmhyj

So plenty of preview style goodness to keep you occupied. Any questions or other information that may float your boat, then just leave a comment and I'll get back to you. SHAZAM!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Warhammer Space Marine - time to kill some Orks!



Space Marine could well be a lot of fun, but I think there are a few tweaks that could do with being resolved first. Hopefully the game will have co-op too (as it was certainly hinted at) and that the multiplayer will be awesome sauce.

Read my preview here - http://tinyurl.com/2wrnjgf

More preview goodness


Yes this time I have a look at Fallout: New Vegas thanks to a very pleasurable hour long hands on with the game - it is certainly on my wish wist and I am just finishing off the last bits of DLC for Fallout 3. Hopefully Webb won't mind me swiping an image seeing as I'm linking to my own preview on the site, ha ha!

Here is the link : Fallout: New Vegas - http://tinyurl.com/37gvrrn

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wrestling fan? Prepare for some Gamescom flavoured updates.

I had the chance at Gamescom to go hands on with the upcoming instalment of Smackdown vs Raw, plus I got a fun taster of WWE All Stars which seems like a more arcadey style alternative - with over the top, buffed up wrestlers and ludicrous moves.

To be honest Smackdown seemed like more of the same, with a few minor tweaks but All Stars could turn out to be a fun little game if they get the mix right.

Read all about it here:

http://www.xbox360achievements.org/news/news-6121-Gamescom-2010--WWE-All-Stars---Smackdown-vs--Raw-2011-Hands-On-Preview---In-With-The-Testosterone.html

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More Gamescom previews

So I've already posted up our overall Top 10 games at the show, now I'll give you some links to the specific games I dabbled in. Expect an in depth preview for each so that your appetite for games can be well and truly sated.

First of all we have Dead Rising Case Zero: http://tinyurl.com/33xd36a

Next up is Fear 3 (or F3AR if you prefer that): http://tinyurl.com/344nvpc

Watch this space, as today should see previews for some upcoming wrestling titles (if that floats your boat) and that will be followed tomorrow by Space Marine and Fallout New Vegas.

I'm just too good to you really.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gamescom Top 10

As compiled by myself and Webb.

http://tinyurl.com/3y4sgwz

Suffice it to say that Webb saw more of the big game names on show, mainly because he'd had the opportunity to see them first hand at E3 so would have a better idea of what was new content and what was the same old stuff from a couple of months ago.

There are a few games on there that we both got to try out, and I'm particularly happy that I managed to score the From Dust developer session as that game looks truly awesome.

Feel free to disagree with our choices.

But you'd be wrong, ha ha!

What it did get me thinking about was just how many games I'm going to end up buying this year and whether or not I should hold off on one or two of them until they drop in price. I do have a habit of buying games and then leaving them sat on a shelf for days, weeks and months......alright even years, you got me.

Perhaps it is time to cull my preorder list.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gamescom (in case you were interested)

Well as the end draws near I suppose I should babble on about the highs and lows of the week and how the event compared to last time out.

To be honest the whole week seems to have flown by, whereas last year seemed to last a lot longer for some reason. Perhaps you can attribute that to the fact it was my first big event last time out whereas this time things seemed a little more familiar and I could be a bit more relaxed about everything.

I only managed to miss one appointment too, which was Mortal Kombat, but the good folks at Warner were kind enough to let me just turn up later on and scope out the presentation anyway. In my defence it was only because their FEAR 3 demo was delayed that I was late at all, ha ha. I think the main thing I learnt this year is that, with a press pass, the developers and publishers will bend over backwards to help you out. Obviously that will only get you so far - as getting time with the gems on offer (like Bioshock etc or some juicy interviews) will require extensive PR work. For those wanting to see the basics though you can expect everyone to be amazingly helpful.

The show floor was packed as ever, though my schedule was that hectic that I really didn't get to spend much time out there until the weekend. A shame really as it meant missing out on some decent shows and hands on experience but I'm more than happy with what we saw and what I hope to write about.

Biggest surprise had to be From Dust (formerly Project Dust) by Ubisoft. The game looks like an absolute stunner in terms of scope and presentation. All this from an arcade title too - it really puts a lot of the other things on show to shame. I strongly suggest you check it out when it does land as I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

Biggest disappointment had to be Kinect (shock) which was roundly lambasted by every single member of the press that I spoke to. The games look pretty woeful at this moment in time, especially the god awful Harry Potter title. MS really needs to tighten up the camera recognition before launch or they are going to have a bunch of disgruntled customers on their hand. I'm not saying it cannot be great - I'm just saying that, right now, it is looking pretty unlikely.

Obviously a lot of other stuff falls somewhere inbetween, but these are the extreme differences in quality on show. I'll also give an honourable metion to Portal 2 as even though the presentation was fairly bog standard it did whet my appetite for the game nonetheless.

In the last couple of days we managed to snag a bunch of photos from the show floor which you can see HERE.

We'll also be posting up our top 10 games from this years show, so I'll slap up the link a bit later on.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gamescom 2010

Well here we are again in Cologne and it has been a hectic few days to say the least, but hey as long as there are fun games to play and media people to chat with then I'll power through the pain. Just for you people. It's all for you.

Kind of.

It is mainly for x360a of course, but considering the games on show it is still nice to get out and play some stuff that I'm secretly hankering after. Plus, it is always nice to meet people from other sites and magazines - I suppose they should be the 'competition' but how can you say that when everyone is so amenable.

Game events like this are always full of swag too, though this year seems to have been a lot leaner than last year. Plus every bit of swag I take means a bit less for the actual paying public, so I've tried to just leave stuff alone unless it was being handed out in the Press only sections. So far I've managed a very nice FEAR 3 t-shirt, a fine Space Marine bag, a lovely Portal 2 t-shirt, an awesome CAPCOM pen (you had to be there, ha ha), a Rapstar t-shirt that I thought I was going to have to lay down some tunes for and a fun Worms t-shirt from Team 17. So mainly clothing really but I'm hoping to give a bunch of it away via the site as it is only fair.

What I also noticed is how PR people tend to 'attach' themselves to known writers and certain magazines and sites get better treatment. A clear enough indication that you need to get to know people in the business if you want to get the best interviews and footage. Such is the way with anything though.

Anyway, I'll be doing previews of all the games I've seen on x360a so I don't want to go into too much detail here. But to whet your appetite here is a list of the stuff I've been checking out (though not all will be getting previews).

Fear 3, Mortal Kombat, Smackdown vs RAW 2011, Space Marine, Lord of the Rings: War in the North, Fallout: New Vegas, Dead Rising 2 (and Case Zero), PES 2011, Marvel vs Capcom 3, Castlevania Lord of Shadows, Def Jam Rapstar, Fable 3, Vanquish, Naruto Shippuden Ninja Storm 2, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, FIFA 11, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, From Dust, Apache Assault, Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions and Alien Breed 2.

Some stand out classics in there along with a bunch of sequels that do exactly what they say on the tin really. Though there were a few pleasant surprises in the bunch so I certainly cannot complain.

Obviously that is barely the tip of the iceberg either, as Webb saw a whole bunch of awesome games himself. Though after doing E3 and Gamescom so close together he is a touch knackered (technical term) so it will be light duties at PAX. Though with that only a week or so away and games companies taking the same content - there will not be much new stuff to see. It does seem odd to me that the major conventions are so close together really as it means the same content tends to be rehashed which is hardly ideal - though at the same time it gives US/Euro gamers a chance to sample the new games fairly close together and, unlike the press, it will be their first time playing stuff at least. Swings and roundabouts methinks.

Well I'm off to do some writing but I'll be back soon with information and links aplenty.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Closing in........

Fallout 3 is approaching completion and I'll be a little sad to see it go. All I have left to do at this moment in time are most of the DLC packs (barring Operation Anchorage) and the last two or three missions of the main storyline.

I think I will probably spend some time on the DLC and then wrap up the story afterwards. Once that is done I'll just have Broken Steel to look forward to and it will be another 100% title to add to my list. I'm hoping the DLC adds something interesting into the mix, but even if it is just more of the same then that should be plenty of fun.

I'll probaly tackle Point Lookout first, then move onto The Pitt and finally Mothership Zeta. No real reason behind it but that is kind of the order I'd like to approach them in. I have to say that I enjoyed the Anchorage DLC as it offered something a bit different even though there was a bit of a lack of looting opportunites.

After that is done I'll focus on grinding kills on L4D to finally get it done with too. and that will be two more pretty decent games to add to my completion list. I'll then need to go back and finish up Bioshock 2 for the third time thanks to yet more DLC. The problem I have with drip fed DLC is that it means I'm constantly going back to games I finished months ago - and the content is often not really worth the hassle. I doubt the Protector Trials will be any different either.

At the end of this week I'll be heading off to Gamescom in Germany so all of my game playing will be curtailing for a week or so regardless. Hoping to see some great titles out there and have the chance to get my hands on some upcoming games that pique my interest. I'll be sure to report back on what I see.

Friday, August 06, 2010

As if by magic.

Lego Harry Potter is done. I finally convinced my better half to let us finish up the last few levels in co-op and then, once that was done, I had free reign to mop up the last few achievements solo. There was a heart stopping moment after I'd finished the last level in free play - we ended up back at the Leaky Cauldron hub but my 100% completion achievement never popped up.

I jumped back into a level: nothing. I exited back to the Cauldron and then considered turning the 360 off and on again but, luckily, up it popped. Taking me over 210k to boot. The morning after I ran through the few other bits I needed and it was job done.

The only other game I've played recently is Fallout 3 and I'm getting closer and closer to having that bad boy done. I'm only at 600/1550 in terms of points but I'm pretty much done with exploration now and can just focus on the specific quests I need to finish up. Nothing too taxing really. I'll probably leave the DLC until I'm back from Germany in a couple of weeks, though with my wedding fast approaching it may well be longer than that. We shall see.

What has surprised me most is the fact that, after 30 odd hours, I'm still really enjoying the game and just rambling through the world exploring stuff. Even when I try to rush through quests just for the next achievement I still find myself exploring every nook and cranny for weird and wonderful things to see or loot to swipe. Good times. I'm really looking forward to getting some hands on time with New Vegas if it can maintain the winning formula.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Regular dull recap time.......

RETAIL

Battlefield 2: MC - 315/1000
Beautiful Katamari - 1050/1250
Bladestorm - 150/1000
Call of Duty: WaW - 1000/1500
C&C Kane’s Wrath - 130/1000
Dante's Inferno - 1000/1290
Fairytale Fights - 165/1000
Fallout 3 - 320/1550
Final Fantasy XIII - 230/1000
Gears of War 2 - 1410/1750
GRAW - 737/1000
GRAW 2 - 1000/1250
Guitar Hero 2 - 320/1000
Hellboy: SoE - 310/1000
Left 4 Dead - 1195/1250
Lego Harry Potter - 660/1000
Lego Star Wars TCS - 240/1000
Lost Planet - 350/1000
Perfect Dark Zero - 150/1000
Project Sylpheed - 60/1000
Risen - 70/1000
Spiderman 3 - 10/1000
Splinter Cell: DA - 670/1000
Star Wars: Republic Heroes - 365/1000
Supreme Commander - 110/1000
Table Tennis - 630/1000
Tomb Raider: Legend - 1000/1250
Vampire Rain - 650/1000
Virtua Tennis 09 - 545/1000
WSC 2007 - 550/1000
You’re in the Movies - 140/1000

TOTAL - 15532/34090

ARCADE

Boogie Bunnies - 115/200
Eets: Chowdown - 40/200
Geometry Wars - 40/200
Puzzle Quest - 200/250
Texas Hold ‘Em - 105/200
Wallace and Gromit - 100/200
Where's Wally - 40/200

TOTAL - 640/1450

I haven't done this in a while (and I know people love it) so there is the radom stats that make up my gamercard. I think the only things missing from this list are Chromehounds at 700/1000(not attainable anymore due to server closure), Madden 07 at 990/1000 (last 10 points is only available to NTSC players, thanks EA) and Phantasy Star Universe at 1000/1250 (screw doing the online only subscription DLC).

I've managed to knock three games off the list but I've also added Lego Potter and Fallout 3 so that adds a few extra points. My short term goals are Potter and L4D with a dash of Fallout 3 on top. Once I get those done then I may try and focus on one of my quite low scoring games like Risen or Project Sylpheed. Depends how I feel I suppose, though no doubt some shiny new game will turn up to grab my attention.

GSL is coming up in September and I'll probably use it as an excuse to churn out a bunch of easy games in a short amount of time, which should help me to clear the decks a bit. Things like Hellboy and Fairytale FIghts should be ripe for some easy plundering on my list, along with a whole bunch of things I've not even touched yet too.

After the great progress earlier in the year I seem to have slowed to a crawl, but hopefully things will pick up. Yay!

Finally

Halo 3 is done with and it has only taken me about three years. Ha ha, some games just seem to hang around like a bad smell and I never really get around to them but at least Halo 3 is another one off the list. The really good thing is the fact that I only had the game at about 800 points until a couple of months ago, so doing all of the ranked stuff, metagame levels and DLC has been a fairly swift progression.

I will hold my hands up and say there are a couple of zero point achievements outstanding, which may or may not get done at some point in time. One of them is only for getting 7XP on the 7th of the month, so that's not too bad, but getting four people together for the last level may be a pain. I don't really care for zero pointers anyway so they won't be that high of a priority.

I've invested a bit more time in Fallout 3 as well, mainly scouring the waste for Bobbleheads and the like. At the moment I've tracked down 11 of the little buggers and I'm about to snag number twelve. I figured that I would do all of the exploring first, then focus on the main side quests and then finish off the story. Once that is done I'll concentrate on all of the DLC tasks, though I may just mix them in with my regular exploring if I stumble across anything.

Tonight I'm hoping to get the last Expert level done on L4D, then I can spend next week grinding the remaining kills I need to finish it off. Another game down (fingers crossed). I'm also pretty sure I'll get Lego Harry Potter done at some point in the near future as well. It seems to be taking me longer than expected really but I'm sure it will be sorted sooner or later.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Exploring the waste

I'm really enjoying Fallout 3 at the moment, I'm not sure what it is about the game that appeals to me but being able to ramble through the wilderness exploring every nook and cranny is just so wonderfully entertaining. I think the main appeal is that every new area has something weird, creepy or disturbing to see.

Entering a weird Vault, filled with mind altering gas, and having to cope with bizarre visions as you try to loot the place is just something else. Same goes when you stumble across a town infected with giant ants. Or even a man merged with a tree. It's a great miz of funny and threatening moments and, even though the variety of the swag seems limited at the moment, it keeps on drawing me in.

Early doors I went on a Scrap Metal search spree, as you can use the metal to gain near infinite amounts of XP via a strange theft/speech loop. Which is all good if you ask me. So I went ahead and levelled up to 20 (with brief stops along the way to snag the neutral/evil achievements). I suppose you could say that I have spoiled the fun somewhat (though I am still grinding up to level 30 now) but for me the enjoyment here comes from just roaming the wide open spaces as opposed to seeing what skill is next up on my roster - especially as none of them are that overwhelmingly powerful anyway.

I've done a whole bunch of the main sidequests but not much of the actual story really. I decided to do a bit of Bobblehead hunting first and maybe scour the land for some juicy weapons and the like, the story can come along when I'm ready for it, ha ha!