Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ups and downs

It's strange how one week I can play games pretty much every night and then the next I will hardly play them at all. I've been in a bit of a lull since my last post and not really devoted much time to any game in particular, though my overriding goal has been to chip away at FFXIII as much as I possibly can. I'm about twenty five hours in now and the linear formula is still very much the same - though I'm surprisingly not as bored as I would have expected to be, so the story is clearly making up for the games obvious gameplay failings.

I've also made a concerted effort on the Resident Evil 5 DLC as well, mainly because I've had the evil Versus mode on my hard drive for months so I just wanted it done. Typically this completely breaks with the formula I'd worked out in order to achieve 90% completion but what are you going to do? I play things as the mood takes me really. In any event I've done all of the two player achievements I can, and now I'm just waiting on Rich and Smit so that we can do all of the Team achievements. Frankly the MP is a total snore fest and grinding out 30 wins in each mode is amazingly unfun, it takes about three hours per mode so you are looking at a major investment of time for something that is not that much fun. I also played the Lost in Nightmares DLC which was fun for the most part, but fairly generic. Just need to tackle it in Pro mode and then I'll be done. That would just leave me with Desperate Escape to complete - I'll probably tackle it solo in order to unlock Pro moe and then get a buddy in to finish it off.

Secondly, I finished off the Dragon Age: Awakenings DLC and wrote a review for it. Frankly it was a lot shorter and simpler than I was hoping for, with a lot of clearly borrowed content from the original title and some very poor glitches. Fair enough that you can't bring all of your uber equipment from the original game when you import a character - but having to watch the opening cutscene with your leader in a pair of pants is a little much. Just bad testing methinks but it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth and there are numerous other examples of sloppy worksmanship.

I also did my first bit of Gears boosting in about a month so hopefully it will become a regular thing again as I really want to put that bad boy to bed once and for all. Have to get back to Annex mode as well - sigh.

Last night I broke loose though and started Prison Break, managing to get more points in the first chapter of that game than I had over the entire preceding week. Methinks it will not take long to complete it fully so I will press on and do so, then get a review sorted too. With the next batch of Lips DLC on its way to me the reviews will be coming thick and fast for the next couple of months. Anyone who has seen the line up of games that are due will know what I'm talking about.

Bring on the pain.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Minor update

Checked my xbox.com stats and it seems that I am 3725 points away from hitting 90% completion. That's quite an improvement on what I worked out about a month ago, though the continued addition of DLC to games will always make my target an annoyingly fluid one.

I discovered the other day that I actually own the Ultimate Team DLC for FIFA 09 - plus there seems to be a reliable way to easily do the online tasks too - so I'll be attempting to get that stuff done after all at some point. Woo hoo! What I will not be doing is the ridiculous tasks on NFS: Shift which would require 200 online podium finishes, yeah right. I might attempt the newer, and easier, DLC to get a few more points but we shall see.

Sorry I got sidetracked there...............

Anyway, my quest for 90% could well help me to get towards a lovely 180 retail games completed before 200k too. I've worked out that if I finish off the following:

Castle Crashers, Damnation, Operation Flashpoint, Dragon Age (DLC), Left 4 Dead, Lego Star Wars, Brothers in Arms, Lips (DLC), Gears of War, Where's Wally and NHL 09.

Then that will get me to within 35 points of my completion target, add another seven retail completions, two more arcade completions and two more 100% games in terms of DLC. I suppose I could add the 40 point DLC in Dante's Inferno that I'm missing to that list and that would be 90% - yay!

It would also mean I'd be at 196,637 points overall (assuming I don't get any points in any other game, probably not possible). So there would still be the chance for me to complete another 3 or 4 games for sure.

No doubt I'll stick some other game in the machine just to muck things up but at the moment things are looking pretty good.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When is a completion not a completion?

An interesting 'debate' is sort of raging over at TA. I say sort of raging because it seems that there are only two people on the same side of the fence as myself while everyone else has the opposing view, ha ha!

Anyway, the problem (as I see it) is that for the purposes of TA they count DLC as basically another game entirely. So the calculations say that DLC only counts if you have earned one DLC achievement rather than if you have played the original game. It means that the vast majority of DLC is practically worthless and that DLC is generally ignored in terms of completion percentage and number of games complete.

I'll come clean and say that I don't count DLC in terms of my completions, though there are a number of games I've done all of the DLC on too, but that is mainly down to my own laziness at not wanting to purchase and play DLC. I still agree that DLC is part of the game no matter what other people say.

At the end of the day MS makes the rules. They have said that DLC counts towards completing a game and also that ANY game could have up to 1750 in points. So just ignoring DLC is akin to saying those 1750 points never existed.

The arguments for leaving the ratios as they are now:

1) It is the fairest system as less people are penalised for not having DLC.
2) People don't want to buy DLC.
3) Changing the system would mean that seemingly easy achievements would have unfairly high ratios.

Now, for me, the first and last arguments are fruitless. The TA system states that the ratio (or difficulty) of an achievement is measured by the number of people who have attained it. The system is not perfect as a tough and time consuming achievement like Seriously has a lower ratio than far easier achievements on something like Supreme Commander - but less people have played SupCom so it shows up as being harder, which is madness. Now DLC is available to everyone who jas played the game it is tied to, so if people wanted to get those achievements and make them fall in line and have lower ratios they can, conversely if they don't want to shell out and play the DLC then the ratios will remain high. The same as with any game - as if more people bought and played SupCom then the ratio would be lower. What is unfair about that?

So the only real argument is the second one - that they don't want to shell out. I agree that DLC is a rip off but can you really base a fair system on whether or not people have the finances to support it. That's like saying people who can afford to buy less games should be able to shoot up the leaderboards just so it is fair. If you can't afford DLC then that sucks - but the achievements are still a part of that game so why should you demand your score be improved just because you can't don't want to buy DLC.

What has also been suggested is a system that lets people display their stats with or without DLC (which they can sort of do already) but that really doesn't solve the issue, as all that will accomplish is splitting the community. As if people have different ways of working out the preferred scores then surely that would lead to seperate leaderboards, comparison tables and the like. A pointless exercise.

Now maybe I'm thinking too much into this and DLC is truly the creation of Satan to be shunned and ignored, but it would be nice to hear some thoughts on the matter.

In other, less rant worthy news, I've completed Batman: Arkham Asylum. The last Predator mission that I had to do fell before me in about ten minutes which was a nice way to end the game really. I then decided to get started on grinding out some wins for my Be a Pro career on NHL 09 - I need 150 in total, plus two trophies, to snag my Legend card. So I'll be working on that for a few weeks no doubt. I'm only at 10 wins so far, though I can zip through games in a couple of minutes so it shouldn't be too much effort.

The next game I have near to completion is L4D so that will be the next target, plus I plan on tackling the Resident Evil 5 DLC in the near future too as a second copy is on its way to me from Lovefilm as we speak. I'll be able to do pretty much all the solo Versus stuff and everything barring the Pro difficulties on the extra chapters. After that I'll be needing some assistance no doubt. Bring on the pain.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What happened to the RPG?

Well here is my opinion of Final Fantasy and, frankly, what is wrong with it. There may well be some mild spoilers along the way so I apologise/warn you for that in advance.

First and foremost they have taken everything that an RPG should be and thrown it out of the window. I'm about eleven hours into the game now, not an amazing amount I know, and it is still amazingly linear. In fact it was only an hour or two ago that I finally stopped receiving gameplay tutorials, seriously who needs that amount of hand holding? An RPG, for me, should be about freedom of choice and exploration - so what were the developers thinking by just forcing you down a very straight path with no control over where you will end up?

Webb has told me that you cannot really break free of this formula until you are over twenty hours in - but how many people are going to put up with walking down a path, fighting some monsters, then walking some more for twenty hours? I want to explore, do some side quests, pop into a town and level grind to my hearts content. None of which is really possible.

The side quests are kept to a minimum and can only really be attempted in earnest AFTER you complete the game - SAY WHAT?! In fact you cannot level up properly until you complete the game either as beating the last boss unlocks the final level of upgrades available to you, meaning grinding up to badass proportions is kind of pointless until post game. Great. There are also no towns at all to stop off in with all of the shops stuck in the save points, ugh!

There is a lot wrong with this game in terms of how it plays and it just doesn't feel like a Final Fantasy game at all. The constant flashbacks mean the story is revealed in a slightly confusing piecemeal fashion too, though at least it is vaguely interesting and the characters are a lot of fun. I certainly plan on finishing this bad boy and hope things pick up, but I have to say that I think Square have dropped the ball on this one and created a kind of RPG lite to appeal to the masses rather than a wonderful world of exploration that I would have expected. Oh well.......

I'm probably going to focus most of my attention on Final Fantasy and then play the odd game alongside it to keep things ticking over. I still need to finish Batman, but after that I'll probably give Brothers in Arms a whirl and go back to grinding towards both NHL 09 and GoW Annex wins. If I can finish up both of those games prior to hitting 200k it would make me a very happy bunny!

Other games on my semi-complete hit list remain the same: L4D (need to bug Thrawn, Wreckon and anyone who'll listen), Operation Flashpoint (need to bug Webb) and Damnation (need to bug Cru: BUGGED VIA TWITTER, ha ha!). My goal is to hit between 175-180 retail completions before 200k and I'd also like to have polished off every arcade game I own barring about 3-4 that I either don't play or are impossibly hard (Texas Hold Em and Geometry Wars mainly).

Monday, March 15, 2010


And other air combat related comments.............

Considering I had left HAWX on the backburner for about 18 months (since I completed it for a review) it has taken me a remarkably short amount of time to finally finish it off. Aided and abetted by my online wingman (not in that way......) Creech, we managed to polish off the trickier online tasks. Namely killing two people that have been hit by an EMP strike, deflecting a ton of missiles and getting to the rank of General.

I also helped him get the annoying repair task out of the way and we went through some of the god awful counter support challenges too - though we couldn't for the life of us get the Cannon/Missile supression combo of perks. We would inevitably get one or the other to show up but just couldn't pull it together. Still it is the only online task he has left to do so we did a pretty good job.

Getting General meant I finally had the full 1k in the game and it was a nice end to the weekend. Plus, it means yet another title I can sell off to try and thin out my ever growing horde of games, ha ha!

In other news I also blitzed through the rest of Arkham Asylum on Hard difficulty too. I'd gone through the game a while ago in order to get the review done, but I never really allowed myself the luxury of finding all of the riddles etc (plus it was on my girlfriends account so why work hard for points?). Because I had left it so long I had totally forgotten how the combat system worked which led to an awful button bashing mess - followed shortly after by my gruesome death at the hands of some goons. It took me a while to get back into the swing of things and master the timings again, thankfully I soon picked it back up and had a great time doing so. I felt it at the time, and I still do, that the last boss was a tad too underwhelming and easy - but aside from that it was top notch entertainment all the way through.

I also dipped in and out of the combat challenges too, and strangely I found the Sewer Bat (Extreme) level took me longer than anything else. Perhaps because I tackled it without the armoured suit and triple batclaw. Wisely I left the last two challenges until I was fully kitted out and they were a hell of a lot easier than I thought they would be. I'd been dreading Shock and Awe (Extreme) but managed to three star it within an hour. Rumble in the Jungle (Extreme) was a bit more of a pain and in one agonising session I managed to complete it with 49,940 points - bloody 60 points shy of the rating I needed. ARRRRRGHHH!!! I did it a couple of tries later though so all was well. I'm currently only one Predator challenge away from the full 1k now - as they were remarkably easy in comparison to the combat ones.

At the moment I'm going to work on the new Moto GP game for an upcoming review, and also dip back into FFXIII too. I'll probably try to work on Gears some more as well as polishing off NHL 09 at some point. All in aid of that lovely 90% completion ratio, yay! I'm closing in on my target of 175 completed retail games too, so maybe I could up that figure to 180 before hitting 200k. Though that would only be possible if I only finished games I had already started I suppose.

Choices, choices...............

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Good times

Well there is yet another roadblock on my way to 90% completion though this time it is totally self inflicted. I made the mistake of starting FFXIII yesterday and no doubt it will take up a damn large portion of my time from here on out, as I'll probably be looking at about 100+ hours to get that bad boy wrapped up.

On the plus side I am enjoying the game so far, though the story is a bit convoluted to begin with and the fact you have to get three hours into the game before you can even start levelling up is just plain ridiculous. Still I do enjoy a bit of RPG goodness and it has been a while since I let myself get lost in one of this kind of depth. I still have a whole bunch of similar titles on my shelf too - such as Two Worlds, Risen, Lost Odyssey, Tales of Vesperia, Eternal Sonata, Magna Carta 2, Mass Effect 1 and 2 etc. I really need to find time to go back to some of those games, well to go and start them would be more accurate, ha ha! Plus, Resonance of Fate is out soon too and I'd love to get stuck into that as well. So many games so little time.

I'm currently grinding my way through 100 online matches in HAWX and hope to get a good chunk of them done before the weekend. At that point I'm looking to get the last three achievements done with - namely Deflector Ace, Sitting Ducks and General. It would be nice to get yet another game out of the way and sold off. Then I can concentrate on NHL 09 as my next project as I only need to grind out the single player career.

My quest for 200k is going fairly well as I only need another 7.8k until I'm there. Within that total though I will need at least 4k from games I've already played in order to hit my other target of 90% completion. It would also be nice if I could have 175 games fully completed at the same time, I'm at 168 thus far but have at least four or five games I could wrap up while gaining only minimum points. Here is hoping.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Back from my break

Not a break as such, more like a week of solid gaming (with some housework and ironing thrown in for good measure) that has seen me make a bit of progress on any number of games.

First and foremost I managed to review and complete the game with the worlds longest title. Yes - Sonic and Sega Allstars Racing featuring Banjo and Kazooie - fell before my might. It was a pretty fun arcade style racer and the mission mode alone was worth the price of admission as some of the challenges were pretty awesome - though a few were also mind numbingly unfair in terms of rubber banding and AI cheapness. On the whole a fun enough game and one that can probably be polished off in about ten to fifteen hours depending on your level of skill and ability to keep track of the various special moves and music you've played to (which I didn't, ha ha!).

Next on my hit list was NHL 09 - a game that has been kicking around my card since I reviewed it over a year and a half ago. Earlier this year I finally got the 5v5 online achievement done and dusted so figured a major assault on the title was needed. Over the course of two days I managed to play through 180 online games. By play through I mean that I probably played about ten full games and then had the second player quit out of the rest - but even that meant you had to stay in a match for five minutes so was no easy task. I managed to get through the ordeal and maintain an A- rating for my player. Along the way I also played 30 Versus games, a full (victorious) match as a goalie and snagged my Russian league win too. With all of my online stuff now out of the way I need to get through the single player Legend card to finally complete the game. Woo hoo!

I then spent some time making a start on the laborious Annex achievements in Gears. I figured I would just play 100 Annex games, of three rounds each, spread over the various new maps - as that way I would work towards the individual map achievements and also the big challenge at hand. I managed to struggle through 30 matches to get me almost a third of the way to my goal, snagging me a few achievements along the way. I'll probably try and do ten or fifteen more matches a week from now on - so that I should get it in the bag before I'm done with Seriously. In terms of Seriously I'm now at about 5.5k so the halfway mark has been well and truly breached. I would like to say the end was in sight but who am I kidding?

As I got NHL 09 out of the way so quickly I sent my second copy back to the rental company and got HAWX in return, yet another game that has languished on my shelf half finished. With two copies in hand I set about the online achievements with gusto and managed to wrap pretty much everything up barring 100 matches played. The only other things I'm missing require at least two more players - for Deflection Ace, Sitting Ducks and General. So I'll put the word out and hopefully get this game in the bag at some point soon.

My other brief project was Lips: Party Classics - which resulted in me belting out some rather tuneless renditions with the aid of my better half. Sadly the developers have completely nerfed the star power system meaning that you seem to get half as many per song as you used to. On a couple of songs we barely managed 200 stars - which is nowhere near enough considering the fact I need to get to 200k.

With all of the other new achievements out of the way I decided to go back to the original Lips game (where stars from both players count towards your total and you can build up power by shaking the mic) to grind out some more points. I racked up about 30k worth (not including 5k that just vanished after I did a song in co-op) before packing it in. Leaving me at 140k overall, hopefully I'll get up to the 150k mark to get the second to last achievement I need and then try to work my way to about 190k after that. Then I can finish that last 10k off when the final add on disc lands at some point this year - as I'll need to play 40 songs on that bad boy no matter what so it makes sense to leave some wiggle room.

So a very busy week really and a fruitful one at that as I am very close to hitting 89% completion at the moment - which means my overall goal of 90% before 200k is well in sight. Boo yah!