Tag Archives: xbox360

Reports from the sofa

I’ve been unwell on and off since around December.  Repeated colds which would come and go, and much more frustratingly, a cough which would come and go, and which at one stage was very bad indeed.  Eventually, my GP diagnosed it as whooping cough (yes, I know), and some antibiotics sorted it out.  It flared up again a few weeks ago, but only lasted a couple of days, and I’ve been pretty okay since.  Reports suggest it can take a few months to really get back to full health, we’ll see how it goes.

The reason this is important (in terms of this blog post) is that during the worst bouts of coughing, where I was basically coughing every 30 seconds, having something to absolutely focus on was the only way of either controlling it or ignoring it sufficiently to not go insane.  The two things which allowed me to achieve this were watching movies and playing computer games.

In March, I have spent a lot of time playing computer games.  This then, is a summary, a report from the sofa.

MasseffectlogoMass Effect

This wasn’t the first Mass Effect game I ever played.  I played the 2nd first, because I picked it up cheap when I first got the Xbox.  However, after loving it, I bought this as well.  This play-through, which started in February and ended in March was probably my third or fourth complete run through the game.  BioWare did two things with Mass Effect.  They delivered an amazing, interesting story supported by accessible game-play, and they learned from the experience when they went on to make the second game.  I’ve got all the DLC (downloadable content or add-ons) for the game, and the full play-through took 42 hours.  Decisions you take in the first game impact the second and third in the series (if you import your character), and so I was careful to make all the decisions in the way I wanted them to play out in the next two games.  I romanced Ashley, despite hating her bigoted opinions, because I’d never picked that option before.  I was planning to romance her through the 3rd game as well (staying true to her in the 2nd, by not romancing anyone) – but it didn’t work out that way.

I loved this play through as much as I did the first time.  I find as long as I leave enough time between play-throughs to make the dialogue fresh and interesting again, the game is as enjoyable as ever.

ME2LogoMass Effect 2

The 2nd game in the series fixes the most annoying feature of the first one, which is the equipment/loot system.  In the first game, you spend a lot of time sorting out gear for you and your party.  In the second, the whole system is streamlined and handled at a much higher level.  That alone would ensure I loved Mass Effect 2 more than 1, but it’s not the only thing BioWare made better.  Dialogue is more interesting, choices are more interesting, the missions are more varied and the general world in which you play is fleshed out in greater detail.  The one thing I preferred in the first game over the second was the layout of the Citadel.  In the first game it’s a sprawling location you can roam around as well as use fast travel stations, but in the second, it’s locked down more tightly and feels a lot smaller.  Considering the supposed size of the Citadel in-game, that can be disappointing at times.

Thanks again to owning all the DLC and being addicted to side missions, this time it took 48 hours to complete the game, finishing around the 9th March.  It should have only taken around 46 hours, but thanks to being an idiot, I had to take the collector base 3 times to get the ending I wanted.  Mass Effect 2 is the near perfect gaming experience for me, a blend of story, humour and action, with real in-game consequences of taking particular actions.

Mass Effect 3 LogoMass Effect 3

Up until this March, I’d only played Mass Effect 3 once.  I was pretty vocal about how much I hated the end (read here, massive spoilers), and the other issues in the game.  I’d never played any of the DLC other than the Prothean one released on day 1.  Since then, BioWare have released lots more DLC, including a free pack which updates the end.  BioWare promise it doesn’t change the end, it just clarifies what’s going on.  I was dubious, but I wanted to play the new DLC, and give them a chance.

Well, I still think there are issues, but I’ll give it to BioWare, they significantly improved the end for me.  There are three choices at the end, and on the first play-through there was really only one that gave what felt like the ‘right’ end.  Now, all three (four if you include the ‘no choice choice’) give far more satisfying ends and are described in a way which resolves many of my primary concerns.  I won’t spoil them here, but essentially, all the endings make sense now, and all of them result in some kind of victory, the only question is what are you prepared to give up to get that victory.  I’m still a bit sad that I had to be let down by the ending the first time, to get the better explanation the second time, and the new endings were tainted a bit by my memory of the originals.  However, you have to hand it to them, they realised they’d made a mistake, and they fixed it as well as they could without fundamentally changing anything.

Overall, the new DLC’s were excellent (Leviathan, Omega, Citadel), and I enjoyed this play-through much more than my first.  The game is quite happy to poke fun at itself, especially in the Citadel DLC, and that humour really shows how much the writers love the game, the characters and the fans.

Overall, the play-through was 57 hours (which is just over half of what I spent playing Skyrim).  For a third-person shooter that’s not a bad amount of time!  This time around I even played some of the co-op on-line content and really quite enjoyed it.

Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 have to go down as one of the most legendary gaming experiences ever, surely.

dishonoured logoDishonoured

I don’t know how many hours I played Dishonoured for.  I’ve already traded it back in (bought for £15, traded back for £7), so I can’t load the save game and see what the played time was.  However, HowLongToBeat says it’s around 15 to 28 hours depending on how much stuff you want to complete.  I’m a fairly slow player, cautious and sneaky in games like this, so I’ll guess at around 22 hours.  Dishonoured is an excellent sneak-em-up set in a mysterious steampunky world and populated with some truly horrible people.  You can play the game in your own style, using a combination of violence or stealth to complete your missions, and despite essentially being an assassin you can choose to leave as many or few people alive as you like along the way.  The ending apparently varies depending on how many folk you dispatch, but while being fun, I didn’t feel the need to replay in a different style.  Conversation is interested, but the choices are limited and while there are side missions, they’re few in number and actually feel more like edges of the plot than truly side elements.

Actual game-play was really fun and the game easily kept me interested and engaged, despite playing it almost straight after the Mass Effect trilogy.  I completed the game with only about 5 kills, and some of those were accidental, honest.

Dungeon Siege III LogoDungeon Siege III

I’ve had this for ages, but had only played for around 2 hours.  After Dishonoured I was looking for something to really absorb me, and restarted from scratch.  I was pretty hopeful early on, but the game slowly became more and more repetitive, and essentially, a button-mashing 3rd person combat game.  It’s nothing like the original two games, which included full sized parties, and was based around a pause-and-go, click combat system.  Number 3 limits your party to two, the combat is real-time and requires control of your character and a limited number of skills with power bars and the like.  If you like button-mashing combat, then it may be for you but after 8 hours I gave up.  The story isn’t interesting enough to keep me trying to beat enemies that wipe me out in seconds with no obvious route to success.

Army of TWO TDC LogoArmy of TWO: TDC

We finally traded in the PS3 and all the associated gubbins, along with a few games, and as part of the trade-in deal put a pre-order down on Army of TWO: TDC after playing the demo.  I was looking for a FPS which was fun and relaxing, and Army of TWO fits the bill.  I knew it would be short, and I knew I wouldn’t play it more than once, but it was still enjoyable and satisfying.  Essentially, picked this up on Thursday, finished it, and traded it back in on Saturday afternoon (~£24 trade in).  I guess it was around 14 hours over those three days to go all the way through the story with a couple of stop-starts when I had to redo most of a complete chapter.  Fun, and essentially free, but not the kind of lengthy campaign I really enjoy in single player games.

Far Cry 2 LogoFar Cry 2

While I was trading in Army of TWO I looked around for something to play that could keep me busy for a while, and picked up Far Cry 2.  I know #3 is out, but I thought I’d give #2 a go initially, since it was in GAME’s 2 for £10 range (I picked up Bulletstorm at the same time).  I’ve played for around 3-4 hours, go through the tutorial and tried a few missions.  So far it’s fun.  I’m struggling a bit with the lack of feedback in terms of how stealthy you’re being (if at all), and the ‘no cover’ system is a little frustrating.  Otherwise, I think if I get into the game’s mindset I could find myself playing this for a good few hours.  However – I took a break to check out Bulletstorm and, well, read on …

Bulletstorm LogoBulletstorm

Well well well.  I played the demo when this first came out and while I thought it was interesting, I was clearly not in the mood for an irreverent, puerile first person shooter.  Apparently, this week, I’m absolutely in the mood for it.  Bulletstorm has some very high quality voice actors (from Mass Effect, in fact), some hilarious dialogue, a lot of swearing, some very annoying enemies, and some interesting weapons.  Technically, it’s a very solid first person shooter, with the feel of Gears of War without the cover-mechanism.  However, where the game really shines is the method of rewarding points (so you can buy weapon upgrades, ammo, etc.)  Each basic kill earns some points, but more complex kills earn more points, and the first time you perform a particular kill you get extra bonus points.  For example, shooting a bad guy nets you 10 points, but kicking that bad guy backwards and then shooting them, earns you 25 points.  Kicking the bad guy off the edge of a platform (earning you the Vertigo kill) is worth 50 points.  Add in blowing things up, an energy whip which can pull bad guys around, a combination of weapons and enemies, and the action is both frantic and humorous.

Yes, it’s silly, yes it’s slightly offensive, and yes, it’s utterly manic, but I’ve not had this much fun playing a true FPS ever.  The story is no worse than many first person shooters, while being better than some, and having some very high quality voice actors really helps.  Knowing that the actress for voice of the female character is the same as the one which played Female Shephard in Mass Effect gives the line “I will kill your dicks” even more added value.

I couldn’t stop playing yesterday and at times I was crying with laughter.  In one fight, where I dispatched about 20 enemies with a single shot to an explosive barrel, I was waiting for the combat to end, wondering why it wasn’t, but there were no new enemies.  Eventually, about 8 seconds after the explosion, I saw a lone falling enemy, through a window, who floated past us into the ocean giving me my first Fish Food reward.  Truly awesome gaming.  I can see me playing this a lot.

Gears of War 3

Finished Gears of War 3 yesterday after a long hiatus (in which I basically finished Dead Space 2, Mass Effect 1, Mass Effect 2 again, and some other stuff).  Playing GoW3 after finishing ME1/ME2 reminds me of the major difference between third person shooters and third person shooters with roleplaying elements.

GoW3 is relentless.  Kill your way through a bunch of the enemy, moving from cover to cover with the odd moment of heroic full on battle charging thrown in, watch a 2 minute cut scene, and then rinse and repeat.  During the scenes you are an observer, not a participant, watching a scene take place from some eye-in-the-sky camera.

This isn’t a complaint by the way – just an observation (an obvious observation).  I had to take a 5 or 10 minute break after most of the long set pieces in GoW3 just to break that relentless feeling of bullet-powered progression.  It’s probably the exact feeling the game designers were going for.

With games like Mass Effect, there are long stretches of combat (more so in ME2), which can feel pretty relentless, but thrown in you get periods of dialog in which you control the direction, and I think that’s the key about why I prefer those games over just standard 3rd person shooters.  You are more invested in the character, you do feel more part of the story rather than an observer of it.

Anyway, Gears of War 3 was fun, I took too long a break to really say if it was gripping and I can’t say much other than it was pretty much like the first two.  Fun, frivolous and entertaining, but on a different engagement level than Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Fallout, etc.

Mass Effect

Mass Effect 1 and 2 are old hat, been out ages, surely no one in their right mind would start talking about them now when Mass Effect 3 is just around the corner?  Well, I’m not in my right mind.

Grete played (plays?) ME1 and ME2 to death on the PC, she loves them and the Dragon Age games.  I had ME2 on the Xbox 360, played it one and a half times, and then sold it on to fund more games.  I promised myself that’s what I’d do with nearly every game I bought, new or second hand.  I didn’t want to end up with a huge pile of games, played or unplayed.  Anyway I never bought or played ME1.  With ME3 around the corner, Grete wanted to see ME1 and ME2 ‘on the big screen, with surround sound’, so she picked them up super cheap for the Xbox from the local store.

I picked up the DLC’s for them both (the ones I didn’t already have for ME2) and thought I’d give ME1 a shot.  It’s pretty good!  It’s odd playing ME2 before ME1 for a couple of reasons.  First, you kind of know where the story is going, but the flip-side is you go through a lot of ‘aahhhhhh riiiggghhhttt’ moments when you discover stuff that leads to things you did in the second game.  Secondly, the mechanics change a lot between games, and having to handle a million equipment upgrades in ME1 was not fun, especially knowing ME2 gets rid of that mechanic almost entirely.

But what really sets ME1 and ME2 apart from the general gaming population is the story and the characters.  I love it and them, and ME1 proved no less enjoyable than ME2.  In fact, I got 60 hours of game-play out of ME1, and another 45 hours out of ME2 even though it was my second play through.  ME2 straight after ME1 was a much better experience than previously, and being able to bring the ME1 character along made some of the decisions more personal.

I love the setting, the Space Opera style and the world building.  The little details and the massive scale work really well together.  I’ve spent the last two weeks feeling like I want to write a huge epic space opera story myself, although to be honest, what I most want to do is all the world building that goes into it.  Never could find a story inside myself I wanted to tell enough to actually write anything.

Mass Effect 3 demo looks good – very interesting approach offering three play styles.  Story mode – reduced combat involvement, full dialog options; Roleplaying which is the same model as the previous games; Action which reduces conversations down to cut scenes (I’m guessing you can still pick Paragon or Renegade using the triggers) but provides the full combat experience.  If more companies can pick up that approach, offering just as much content but with a range of roleplaying levels it would be excellent.  I’d love to play Modern Warfare with a significantly improved roleplaying feel.

Not sure how the multi-player will work out – and I hope the ME3 mechanics (which look to be somewhere between 1 and 2) don’t overwhelm the play.  I’m sure we’ll find out.

Either way – the Reapers had better watch out, I intend to convince the entire Galaxy to make a stand, and Hold The Line.

Defense Grid: The Awakening

I’m terrible at, but love, tower defense style games.  I usually only play them on the PC (or sometimes the iPhone), but after playing the demo for Defense Grid: The Awakening on the XBox I stumped up the points for the full version.  Spent a few hours playing it on Sunday, and it’s really quite engaging.  So far, the levels have been easy enough to beat with only a few lost power cores at most, but challenging enough to keep me busy.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Picked this up cheaply on Saturday, and played an hour or so before friends turned up for Warhammer.  Enjoyed the first one on the PS3, and playing this was on the XBox.  Pretty similar experience, although it feels significantly more difficult.  I can’t remember now if I played the first one on easy or not, but playing this was on normal was pretty tough going for me.

However, it was nice to see myself improving steadily on the missions and eventually beating them.

I was Left4Dead

About 10 years ago I used to play Team Fortress online.  Not a huge amount, but I’d join the odd random game and run around building mounted guns as an engineer or sniping from the rooftops.  I was pretty bad, but the structure of the game meant I could at least help out a little bit.  I didn’t use TeamSpeak or whatever the equivalent was at the time and I didn’t know any of the other players.  But it was fun, mostly.  A few folk from work ran a shared server for a little while for another multiplayer FPS, can’t even remember which one1, and that was more fun, we knew all the players, and it was a blast, but inevitably there’s going to be someone who’s better than everyone else in a complete person vs. person game, and over time dying all the time (as I did) got frustrating.

That sinking feeling as someone bounced into the room and jumped around like a grasshopper while shooting you to death was all too familiar.  Eventually I realised I was a mediocre FPS player and I probably shouldn’t drag down the other folk by getting in their way.

What followed was several years of playing MMO’s, which provide that shared online experience but don’t require the twitchy gameplay of the shooters at the time.  Taking part in 20, 30, 70 and even 120 person raids in EverQuest was pretty impressive.

When I got the PS3, I dabbled a little with some online play but not really knowing any other PS3 owners who had the same games I did meant I didn’t really get much of a feel for it.  And I never owned a headset, so still no voice.

Now that I’ve got the Xbox 360 I feel a little more compelled to give online gaming a try – specifically Left4Dead 2.  Some of the folk who read uk.games.video.misc were kind enough to invite me to a game last night – which was the first time I’d used the Xbox headset in anger.  I’m still a mediocre FPS player, so I was pleased to give the co-op campaign a go at first.  It’s a lot easier to help 3 other players against a hoard of mindless undead than it is to outwit 3 other real people in PvP style gameplay.

Other than some technical issues, the co-op campaign was good fun, it’s much more satisfying helping someone up off the ground when you know somewhere there’s a real person shouting ‘hey, I’m down, I’m down!’ rather than just the game AI.  We then tried an 8 player vs. game (4 survivors vs. infected + 4 specialist infected).  We got slaughtered over and over no matter which side we were on.  As survivors the enemy infected just nailed us, and as infected it took us too long to work out how to control the different types and use their special attacks.  We were getting better towards the end …

Anyway, I don’t think I hindered the guys too much in the campaign, I did die at the end, only one of our 4-man team made it to the boat alive – but that’s just like in the movies isn’t it?

Me?  I was left for dead.

  1. Aha, Andy reminded me it was Unreal Tournament []

Where have I been?

I’ve been spending a lot less time in front of the computer at home over the last few months.  That means almost no time in Lord of the Rings Online and not much blogging going on (among other things).  The reasons are many and varied.  Using the PS3 and XBox360 a lot more (Dragon Age on the PS3, Mass Effect 2 on the XBox360, among other things).  Dragon Age especially is a huge time sink.  Partly it’s because I finally got sick of sitting at the PC all day at work – and then doing the same when I got home.  That’s probably because what I was doing on the PC at home wasn’t really engaging my brain enough though to keep me occupied.

I’m probably the luckiest guy alive, I have very few responsibilities that cause me any grief, I have an amazing wife who’s just as much a gamer as I am (computers, roleplaying, larp, board games), and so while many people settle down to an evening of TV, we often settle down to an evening of games of various kinds.  It’s just that at the moment, those games are not in front of the computer.  I’m also trying to get back into (again) painting miniatures, keeping a dedicated space in the house set aside for it so I can paint when the whim takes me rather than having to dig stuff out.  We’ll see how that works out.

The net result is that I’m not sitting in front of a browser all the time and so when I think up the random crap I used to blog about I either tweet a 140 character approximation of it, or I just chuckle evilly to myself and then shoot some more bad guys.  I’m pretty sure everything will go full circle, and when the next batch of new content for LotRO is released I’ll be back in game and at the PC.

XBox360 Games

Got three games free with the XBox (Gears of War 2, Mass Effect 2 and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands).  Half the reason in my head for wanting an XBox was to play Left4Dead (and Left4Dead 2).  I could have gotten them for the PC, but playing games like that on the PC seems like the wrong thing to do – especially when I spent all day using the PC at work.

I picked up L4D 1/2 second hand.  However, as it turns out, Left4Dead (1/2) aren’t as good as I had hoped – not because they’re not good, they are, but they’re not what I was expecting (my bad).  I was looking for a campaign like the Resident Evil series, and although there’s a single player campaign in Left4Dead, it’s really more of a set of cinematic sequences with shooting in them.

But it’s not all bad!  Gears of War 2 was short but enjoyable (although the main character has less charisma than a brick), it’s technically competent.  Mass Effect 2 is excellent, and well worth playing on the XBox.  The roleplaying element is not as sophisticated as Dragon Age, but the rest of the game is really polished and the campaign is nice and long.  It had some flaws (you can back yourself into a corner in a conversation where the only outcome is that you end up starting a mission before you’re ready) but it’s still very enjoyable.

I’ve not tried Prince of Persia yet (not normally my kind of game, but I’ll give it a go).  I have played a load of demos and some stuff from the XBox Live Arcade though and overall I’m very pleased with the XBox.

So, I bought an XBox 360

I had considered an XBox 360 a few times, but I was leery of the terrible failure rate and the fact that wireless connectivity added another ~£40 to the price, so when Microsoft announced the last hardware upgrade (built in wireless) and when I heard there were improvements to the heat management which hopefully reduce the failure rate, I was really tempted.

So tempted in fact, that I’ve gone and bought one.  In my defense, if I need one, I present the fact that as an entertainment device the PS3 has been superb and easily more than value for money.  A policy of buying games cheaply, playing them all the way through and not buying loads means that the £’s / hour we get from the PS3 easily outweigh buying DVD’s, or going to the cinema.

So essentially the PS3 has paid for itself, and I expect the XBox will do the same over time.

So, how do they compare now that I own them both (and have at one time owned a Wii).  Basically, there’s nothing in it between the XBox and the PS3.  They’re both excellent, the graphics are both excellent, the controllers are both okay.  The PS3 has rechargeable controllers by default, which is a win over the XBox battery powered ones that come with the console (although we bought a second one and it’s rechargeable).  Also, the PS3 online gaming stuff is free for everyone rather than a paid service as it is with the XBox, but they’re minor points.  The games are comparable.  I’m sure more hard core gamers will point out tearing or refresh rates or polygon counts, but to an average gamer who just likes the games, I couldn’t tell you if either one looked better, they both look great.

The XBox gets pretty hot, but it’s much smaller than my old ‘fat’ PS3.  If you play from the disc, the XBox is noiser, but once you install the game on the 250GB disk it’s pretty quiet.

Overall, very pleased.  The only difference between the consoles really, are the exclusive games and exclusive content that Sony or Microsoft manage to buy, and you have to wonder how much that costs them to maintain.  So, I’ll be able to play Left 4 Dead (1 and 2) on a console now.

(XBL Gamertag is EightBitTony if you know me, let me know who you are if you send a friend request)