Driver 3

So I've spent a couple nights playing Driver 3, aka DRIV3R. It has taken a bit of time to get used to the car physics -- in particular, how tightly a car grips when going around a corner.

The game looks great (if you can forgive some pop-up), and the cars (and damage to them) looks fantastic. But the character movement is a bit touchy. Car handling seems quite fine. The missions are kind of a bitch, though. You'll find yourself trying a particular mission over and over. One wrong move and it's off to retry-land. Missions in GTA are much more forgiving. I never had to retry them so much.

The guns are very good, along with gun combat. I wish you could peek/lean around a corner, though. Way too often, I end up moving out from a corner simply to get somebody into my gunsights... BLAM! Down I go. And back to retrying the mission. Sigh.

Vehicles are neat. I've already been in multiple cars and boats. From a demo scene, it looks like motorcycles, too. Oh, and a cop car. With sirens.

The game is very linear so far. From one mission right to the next. I'm not sure where the variety is here. You can certainly "free drive" around the city, but I haven't tried that yet, so I'm not sure what it gives you. Within the missions, there is very little variability. "Follow this guy" or "Go over there and wax some guys." Not a lot of strategy there.

So far, it is nice. The gameplay doesn't beat GTA though. While I still have some more game to go, and might get blown away, I'd highly recommend going for the GTA double pack instead of this one. If you've already done GTA and want some driving/mission gaming, then this game certainly seems fine.

I want my Nova!

You know. Nova. The hot babe in Starcraft: Ghost. Sigh. One of the developers (Nihilistic) was working with Blizzard on the game. They just left the project. So the game release has been pushed out to at least next February.

Crap. And it was supposed to have come out this month.


Starts slow and easy, then it starts stepping up.

During the first part of the game, it's a hand-to-hand brawler. Much like some of the pics that I've seen of Breakdown. So you're moving through the game beating the crap outta various people. The combat is pretty good -- various blocks and different types of kicks and punches are possible. It can get a bit crazy, but not a big issue.

Then you get a gun. And "slow and easy" just doesn't apply any more. You have to be fast and hella accurate with your assault rifle. If not... BOOM! You're down. Of course, it may simply be that I've cranked up the difficulty :-)

The reviews say the game is relatively short. I'm not sure how replayable it is, so that's why I cranked the difficulty. It would kind of suck to just blow right through the game. Have to work for it...

The way that your goals are defined is also really cool. It is always totally clear what you need to do. There is sort of a running list of your goals. As you complete each part, it changes to the next thing. Very slick.

The game has been awesome so far, and it is way cool to see more of the Riddick universe filled in through the game story. I worry about the length, but let's see whether that will be a problem by the time that I finish.


I mentioned the game Sudeki earlier. Big, beautiful RPG coming out next month. All the screenshots look great, and some of the previews about the story line sound excellent. And how can an RPG be bad?!

Ah, but sadness. It just got pushed back to July 20th (from the 13th). Not a very good sign given how close that is. Hopefully, it is about production and distribution issues instead of last minute game problems.

I typically buy my games from EB Games. There is a very good wish list system there, which I use to track all the games that seem "interesting", but are not out yet. Last year, I used to use Amazon for this, but they didn't have Rogue Ops on their site. So... off to ebgames. Where was I going with this? Well, ebgames has got about 100 screenshots of the game. GameSpy has fewer, but they are a bit larger.

Whatever the case... go check out the screenshots. Some amazing detail and vivid color. There is an excellent variety of areas, characters, and oh-so-pretty effects.

Now if it would just ship...

Almost there

I thought I was just about done with the new Splinter Cell. Capture Sadono, and I'm good to go! Did that. Oop. There's more.

Can't really complain though. Both Splinter Cells are so cool, that having more levels to play is a Happy Problem(tm).

So I think just one more night, and that should clear up that game. Then I think I'll turn to the Chronicles of Riddick. I just saw the movie last weekend (awesome!), so I think completing the game is the right move...


I believe THE most beautiful game on the xbox is Otogi: Myth of Demons. Of course, Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball runs a close second, but for entirely different reasons. Otogi has got excellent models, scenery, and a wondrous use of color and light. It simply amazes at every point. The battles are flashy, stylistic, and very engaging. This game does not sacrifice gameplay for beauty.

It can also be a great hack and slash. On some levels, there is significant respawning going on. (I forget the level, but the one with the wizard yelling out, "None Shall Pass!" is the best) You can seriously sit there for 30 minutes just cutting down the monsters to level yourself up. When you're done, turn around and give the smackdown to the boss.

The main character has got some excellent jumping, and the gliding... Wow, the glide! His clothes flutter in the breeze as he descends across the level. This thing oozes style. And then you have the levels with big crystals, and the one with monster blobs, and the nifty chrome skulls, and ... Fine. I'll stop.

I played Otogi straight through. Then I played it again, all powered up with my kickass weapons from the frist play through. Rock.

And the best thing of all? Otogi 2 is coming out in October. Hot frickin' damn.

More Games A-cometh

I debated on whether to order Shadow Ops: Red Mercury or not. I've got a lot of games to play, and it was debatable on whether I needed Yet Another Shooter Adventure. But I broke down and did it anyway. I like the game genre, and the production value on Shadow Ops is quite good. I'll put it in line behind Tenchu or something :-)

Also ordered Psi-Ops: the Mindgate Conspiracy. Definitely had to do that. "Mr Bad Guy -- meet Mr Wall. Oh? Did that hurt? Sorry. Here, meet him again so you stop talking." Telekinesis, baby!

Lastly, I ordered Driv3r (aka Driver 3). Just can't pass up a good GTA clone.

The first two should arrive later this week. Driv3r isn't out until next week. Oh, and for chuckles, the Psi-Ops also comes with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. I don't really want/need that game, but maybe a friend is interested.

RPG Goodness

One word: Morrowind

Three words: sucked my life

Two years ago, Morrowind came out for the Xbox. That was the impetus for my purchase of the Xbox. I went out and bought an Xbox + Morrowind. And then I proceeded to dump hour upon hour upon day... for many weeks. I really don't know how many hours that I put into the game. Hundreds. If I counted, then I couldn't dodge the question when somebody asked me just how insane I was. "A lot" is way better than "oh, about 300 hours"

In a nutshell, Morrowind defines freedom. There is no other game on the planet that has its open-ended play. GTA? Not even close. I spent a ton of time just doing side-quests and character development, rather than following the main storyline. Eventually, I returned to the story, but only after having a seriously kickass time.

Fable was also slated to have similar open-ended play, although I recently read that it may have been narrowed into a little more linear scope. We'll see when it ships. I'm really waiting for that one. For the intervening months, I think that I'll occupy myself with Sudeki which comes out in July.

If you haven't played Morrowind yet, then I'd highly recommend the Game of the Year edition. It's got all the extra goodies. And for thirty bucks? Hell yah.

Shooter Adventures

Two new action/shooter adventure games are coming out this week. Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, and Shadow Ops: Red Mercury. I'll probably pick them both up.

These follow in the lines of Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix, or Rogue Ops. Though the latter is a bit more stealthy than shooter. Most games like these nowadays have some mix of shooter, stealth, and puzzle. Generally an exploration and mission style. Right up my alley!

Psi-Ops has a cool twist with its psychic powers. I played a demo of it. Very awesome, and the physics are great. I'm looking forward to the "mind drain" power -- it sucks the life outta people. Woo!

Shadow Ops is more of a shooter. Also played a demo. It looks very mission-based, with mostly gunning and light on strategy. Simply tactics. Fast-paced, unlike something like Ghost Recon where you can plan things out and move a bit more slowly.

Game reviews

For game reviews, I tend to check out metacritic, and GameSpy. At one point, I used to use GameSpot, but they went for-pay and now they suck.

For game information, GameFAQs rock. There are walkthroughs, item lists, stage/mission/level descriptions, and more.

Fast. Very Fast.

Driving games can be great. Very little to learn to start, so "put in. hit start. woo!" works well. But to be very good, it takes a lot of practice to really understand the driving physics, your car, the surface you're on, the turning, etc. Driving games have a subtle depth to them.

For the xbox? Midnight Club II is an excellent game, and really set the bar for the xbox. It is a sequel to the PS2 only game, Midnight Club Street Racing. I played MC on the PS2, and it rocked. Very addictive and very fun. Gran Turismo was beautiful, but it didn't "grab" you like MC. MC has attitude. When the second generation came out, and was available for the xbox... I was in line. Okay, virtual line. But still. Big anticipation, and I wasn't disappointed.

MC II is a great looking game, and pushes the envelope. Great jumps. Fast cars. Varied race types. And some wonderful online play.

But the master? Need for Speed: Underground. While it doesn't have the rad jumps of MC, it has the varied races, fast cars, and great scenarios. But it turns up the graphics. A lot. This game is frickin' beautiful. And you get to tweak your car to make it your own. You want baby blue break calipers to match that light pink paint job on your car? No problem. You're a pansy, but no problem.

And the sense of speed. Phoooo. Everybody repeat after me: immersion. Great. One more time: immersion. Good job, people!

This is most apparent in the drag races. When you car hits about 120 mph, the controller starts to shake. The screen starts to shake. Motion blur around the edge of the screen. And wind noise. Whoever thought about wind noise? Well, the NFSU guys did. And it works. As you fly down the streets, up-shifting through the gears, your adrenaline starts to pump. It is really awesome. This game puts you right into the car. No other driving game compares.

There is another point which I found amazing. Say you're flying up a gentle incline and hit an intersection. Well, intersections are always level (think: cross-street can't exactly be driving on an incline). So you have this lip that your car flies off of. No problem, every car game handles this. But NFSU? As you're driving, there is always a background noise of your car tires on the pavement. When you catch air, it disappears. Subtle, but oh so perfect. And when your car hits? SQUEAK! on the springs, with an accompanying SLAM!, and your controller jumps in your hand. You can really feel yourself in the car slamming back to the pavement.

There are so many things in this game to just make it scream. You like cars? Driving games? Speed junkie? This is it. A total must have game.

Post Long, That Was

Fine. Here is a short one:

Looking forward to: Fable, Jade Empire, and NFSU2.

(I got a lot more on my list, but those are the high points)

Hitman: Contracts

One of my newer games is Hitman: Contracts. I just finished it a few nights ago.

But back up a step. A year and a half ago, I rented Hitman: Silent Assassin (aka Hitman 2) over the Thanksgiving break. I played that bugger right on through the weekend. Fantastic gameplay. Very open and large levels, varied ways to approach the problem, excellent graphics, and a reasonable storyline.

Well, let's just say that my rating was usually Mass Murderer. My gameplay style was a bit, umm, direct. "You moved!" BLAM! "I see you over there!" BLAM! Of course, all the cool folks would go for the Silent Assassin rating. But holy crap is that hard. No other kills besides your target, no alarms, no injuries, etc. So I just killed everyone. Even the half-naked bimbo in the hot tub.

So this time around, with Contracts, I cranked the difficulty up to Hard. There are four levels: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Expert(?). I've played enough of these stealthy games that I figured Hard was quite doable. Replayability for this kind of game can be a bit low (once you figure out the best approach to a mission, then why try again?) And then I tried to be less of a walking death machine.

Well, it is still quite a bitch. I was definitely able to reduce the body count, but only got the Silent Assassin rating once. Of course, that felt cool as hell to do that. Got myself a nice unlockable for it, too.

And the game? Even better graphically. Great missions. The story line was not really present this time around, however. It is a series of flashbacks to prior hits, and you play through them again. But that also means they are disjointed. No problem, of course, when the whole goal is whacking some fat executive. The AI in this game is really quite cool, when you alert some guys and they start to search for you. Not quite as smart as the Splinter Cell guys, but hey.

A good amount of the game is trial and error. Thankfully, the load times are decent. (Morrowind is an awesome game, but you can make a trip to the grocery store while it loads a saved game) So in this, you'll find yourself experimenting with different approaches. This is a great part of the game: very challenging, and it makes you think. And when you get frustrated, just pull up a walkthrough on, and get a few hints. It means you won't ever get totally pissed off and just give up.

The final mission was a real bitch. I tried it over and over with various approaches. Finally got a few hints, and got through the level. I exited with an Expert rating, but I think I can do a Silent Assassin on it. Gonna have to load it back up and try...

For some stealthy, murderous action... Hitman: Contracts is a winner. A bit short (10-15 hrs), so a very solid weekend can do it as a rental.

Stealth Games

Thief is credited with starting the whole "stealthy" game genre. However, the genre remained pretty subtle until the original Splinter Cell blew open the doors. Splinter Cell is a technical marvel. The animations, the lighting, the unfolding storyline, the lead character Sam Fisher, and the sound all create a hugely compelling and awesome game.

And immersive. The best example of the immersion is when you're creeping along and somebody hears you, or maybe spots some motion in the shadows. At that point, the "other guys" become alert and will start looking around more actively. But here's the kicker: at the point that they become alert, the game issues this sort of "bong!" sound, which then kicks off some suspense-y music. But that initial bong -- you totally tense up and freeze. You stop and listen to what the guard might mutter. You quickly look around to see what is going on; where the guy might be; is he coming your way? But you physically tense up and react.

That is immersion. And it rules.

You're Kidding, Right?

Yes, it's true. At this point, I have upwards of 60+ games for my Xbox. I've always been ready to buy whatever looks good, but the real pile-on began last fall with the release of a gazillion games for the holiday season. I think that I bought about a dozen over a six week period, and threw another four or so onto my wish list for xmas. Then another couple here, a few there.

My most two recent games are Thief: Deadly Shadows, and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. (dang that's a long title) I've put a couple hours into each to check out their legs. Both are great games, and I'll talk more about each later on.

But why am I starting this blog? Well, I enjoy playing games on my Xbox. I've got lots of them, and I've put a ton of time into playing them. I do have a life outside of playing games, but I manage to squeeze in some time with the Xbox. The other day, I was thinking, "if I were to have a blog [when I grow up], it would be cool to have a little tag on the side that said, 'Currently playing: FOO'". Just sort of a little marker that said what I was up to at the time. But that ballooned into "Dang. I've got a lot that I could say about all these games and my experiences with them. Let's make a blog about it."