Much of the gaming "scene" is defined and driven by "twitch" games. Also known as the First Person Shooter. Doom started it all. Since that time, hardware, performance, and frames per second are the measure of the day. Wanna be cool? Well, you can't just have a computer. It has to be a "gaming rig".

Doom led into Quake, into Half-Life, into Counterstrike, into Unreal. Okay. Maybe not that order, but those are the games that define twitch. Those games where your reflexes have to be at 110%. When that single pixel appears on your screen as an enemy starts to round a corner, and you slam your thumb down, "BLAM!". Twitch, twitch, twitch.

Our next twitcher for the Xbox comes out momentarily: the long-awaited release of Doom 3. Half-life is on deck for (maybe!) next spring, and Timesplitters 3 for later next year.

When playing with friends, it can be great. I'm usually up for a Halo deathmatch, but while I'm pretty good, I know that there are zillions of players who could totally school me. For shooter games, I tend towards the more strategic and tactical games. Things like Splinter Cell, or Rogue Ops, or Soldier of Fortune. These are games where you can slow down and use your brain to dominate the game, rather than reflexes.

I just want to conclude with a shout out to Angela in Illinois. She reminded me of where gaming really started. Doom has certainly started the latest era of high-power gaming, but the true roots of video gaming originate back in the 80's. I want to stick to the Xbox in this blog, but for those with a bit of nostaliga, please raise a toast to Drol, Marauder, Bilestoad, and all those other games you grew up with.

Sudeki is out...

I've got an "inside" in Microsoft (the publisher of Sudeki), so I'm going to order the game via my friend. However, it hasn't shown up in their internal, online store yet. I would probably just pay for the whole thing and start playing it right away, but I'm out of town all next week. May as well do the slow order and have it when I get home...

Very exciting. New RPG. Woot!

Tho I did read a review that said it is about 20 hours. That's a little on the short side for an RPG, but that also means a great chance of finishing the thing. (tho I finished Morrowind after untold hours, so maybe "short-ish" isn't really necessary...)

And Fable comes out in September. Life is looking good...

Crash! Boom! Kablooie!

Earlier, I mentioned how Need for Speed: Underground is so completely immersive. You fly along the city streets at a breakneck pace. Lights go zooming by, taillights reflect in the light sheen of water on the pavement, you barely keep the car on the road as you careen around that final corner... NFSU simply moves. Everything about the game puts you there.

There is another driving game which deserves at least as much praise. It's a series called Burnout. This game started out as a basic racing game with a bit of bonuses for driving dangerously (catching air, drifting, driving against traffic, and near misses). All quite competent, but what captured everybody's eyes (and commentary!) were the crashes. Burnout didn't simply send you spinning out, maybe with a little explosion or somesuch. In this one, your car is literally demolished. Parts flying, glass shattering, a shorn off bumper sliding across the pavement, and the twisted remains of your car body hurtling into that little compact car tooling up the cross street. The crashes were simply impressive. Nothing had been done like it before.

Along comes Burnout 2. They knew where the bread was buttered. This game had a crash mode. The entire goal was simply to crash your car and cause as much damage as possible. Well, "as much as possible" generally means playing pinball with cross traffic. The strategy is to hit the cars just so to create a pile-up like that and then bounce over there to cause a secondary pile-up. Bing! Bing! Bing! The dollars of damage ring up as you watch your car get shredded across the highway leaving twisted hunks of family cars, semis, and busses in its path. The experience is exhilarating.

I seriously lost it when my brother-in-law plowed into a big-rig tanker just so and caused that sucker to fly into the air end-over-end. Sure, just a bit unrealistic, but the adrenaline of watching that much metal spin into the sky... unnatural, but so, so satisfying as it crunches back to the hard concrete and skids into the barrier.

Burnout is fun. Pure, visceral fun. It doesn't have quite the driving immersion as NFSU, but when you're flying down a beach highway on the wrong side of the road, twitching into the other lane to avoid some oncoming traffic, and just hoping that, as you crest that low rise, you won't suddenly find yourself nose-to-nose with a car... it's a serious rush. The game is largely about the magnificent crashes, but the driving portions and the unlockables are also fantastic.

Rent this game. Now. And when Burnout 3 comes out this September -- buy it. Okay. Maybe wait for the review if you're timid. But after you play the game, you'll understand. This game is a keeper.


Oooh. EBgames is currently running a 10% off special. Any in-stock game gets the discount. Great discount, but oof... if I wanted the game, then I would have ordered it by now. I want a discount on all pre-orders, dammit.

Of course, this is a good time to review those old games which I passed up. They may have dropped in price since they first came out, and with the extra discount, they might be kinda nice. For example, Rallisport Challenge 2, or MtG: Battleground. Undecided...

Mosh Pit. Chinese Style.

Ever feel like committing wonton destruction? Walking through wave after wave of opponents, cutting them down? Watching the enemy run at you, knowing he's going to call you "Daddy" in a few moments?

Okay. Maybe you don't. But I do. There is a definite satisfaction to simply cause a bit of mayhem every now and then. My favorite game for this is Dynasty Warriors. I first picked up DW 3 for the PS2 a few years ago, and then got DW4 for the Xbox last September. I would consider Dynasty Warriors to be a modern day Robotron. It just makes me think of that old Star Trek episode where they run into Jack the Ripper's spirit, and he's yelling out, "Die! Die! Die! ... you'll all die!"

Well, Robotron is like that. But Dynasty Warriors has got even more going for it. Your warrior gains in experience, opening new slots for weapons and other items. Your character's attack and defense strength grows. Your primary weapon also gains experience, powering up to become a true badness bringer of death. Throw in items to collect, which have various power levels, increasing mission difficulty, and huge numbers of unlockables. You can play this game over and over and over.

So the characters have stories of their progression towards hero status, back in feudal China. I've played entirely through the story for about five or six characters. Unlocking more powerful items. Powering up each of the characters. Opening new maps.

And battling hordes of enemies. But it still isn't just that simple. You start on a map, with various officers and groups of enemies under those officers' control. Your job is to cut down a specific general (or one of a few other goals). Yet you have to plan your way to get through the masses of enemies and get to that general. And maintain morale. And keep your own general alive (generally by killing their hordes before they kill your horders).

The game can be a bit repetitive, but it is deep. For that late night, when your brain is pretty well mushy... this game rocks. The graphics aren't exactly something you'd write home about, but it certainly has a gameplay that you would.

Samurai Warriors is going to be released in about two weeks. It is also from Koei and has pretty much the same game play. Some early reviews (of the PS2 version) note a more limited set of unlockables. This one is set in Japan rather than the Nth Chinese setting. I'm on the fence about it, and will wait for the Xbox reviews to come in.

Until then... I've got DW4...