Sunday, March 30, 2008

Madden Turns 20

Release date, bonuses confirmed - I'll let the (abbreviated) press release do the talking.
Electronic Arts announced that Madden NFL 09 will be available in retail stores in North America on August 12, including a special collector’s edition in celebration of the 20th anniversary of one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time. The Madden NFL 09 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition will be the ultimate interactive NFL experience - featuring full versions of both Madden NFL 09 and the all-new NFL Head Coach 09, exclusive classic Madden NFL gameplay, and an extensive library of exclusive bonus video content.
“The Madden NFL franchise has a rich history, and we’re proud to be celebrating it with this definitive video game package,” says Peter Moore, president of EA SPORTS. “Featuring two deep and innovative new standalone games, as well as a host of exclusive bonus content, the Madden NFL 09 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition is the ultimate interactive offering for both long-time Madden NFL fans and anyone who enjoys football on Sundays. I can’t think of a better way to get your NFL fix than to enjoy everything that’s unique about both Madden NFL 09 and NFL Head Coach 09, and then connecting and sharing content from both.”
Madden NFL 09 will be available for the Xbox 360™ video game system from Microsoft, PlayStation®2 and PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment systems, Wii™, Nintendo DS™, PSP™ handheld entertainment system and is rated RP by the ESRB. NFL Head Coach 09 is scheduled to ship only as a part of the Madden NFL 09 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, which, at a suggested retail price of $89.99 for the complete package of Madden NFL 09 and NFL Head Coach 09 plus additional exclusive bonus content, will ship on the Xbox 360 and PLAYSTATION3. For more information about Madden NFL 09 and NFL Head Coach 09, please visit
Jeff Gordon is so dreamy - Cover art and more info on NASCAR 09
As announced on March 12th, Four-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jeff Gordon will grace the cover of the all new NASCAR 09, scheduled to ship on June 10th . Not only is Gordon featured on the cover of NASCAR 09, but the four-time champion will take you under his wing and guide you through some of the key aspects of the game. Working with you through an all-new interactive 3D menu interface, Gordon will guide you through the game’s major features and advise you throughout your career, just as he has done with real-life protégé Jimmie Johnson. Players will use Gordon’s advice as guidance in preparing to challenge the best drivers of NASCAR in an all-new career mode and in the Sprint Driver Challenges to earn reputation and become a NASCAR champion. With NASCAR 09, your reputation is on the line and your mentor Jeff Gordon is your guide.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Tribe Has Spoken

Polls (with a +-3% degree of accuracy) never lie - It seems fitting that the pic for this post is of a game with 360 box art (Don King Presents: Prizefighters, set for a June release) considering the results of the latest As the Gaming World Turns poll. When asked to choose their favorite console, gamers overwhelming chose the Xbox 360. The turnout was significantly higher with this poll as 102 people voted (80 more than last time!) with 78% of gamers choosing the 360. The PS3 and Wii each earned 8% of votes and 3% were still nostalgic for the Atari Jaguar. It seems that despite some nagging issues (RRD, Xbox Live isn't free) that the Xbox 360's positives (great online service, excellent game library, Achievement Points, tons of downloadable content) far outweigh its negatives.
Will Microsoft be able to retain its console's popularity? That depends on the answers to the following questions: Can the Wii maintain its high sales rate or will the novelty finally wear off? How much ground will the PS3 make up with some long overdue console exclusives (most notably MGS4), the launch of Home and the emergence of Blu-ray, or can it even overtake the 360 and the Wii? Will this be the year Microsoft feels the loss of its exclusive developer agreements (Bioware, etc.) and can Rare step up to the plate? By the end of 2008 we should know the answer to these questions and have a clearer understanding of which console is going to dominate gaming for the next 5 years.
Prizefighter giveaway, Don King wig not included - If you're interested in winning a free copy of Don King Presents: Prizefighter, read the following press release I received today.
Don King Productions and 2K Sports today announced they will team up for an exclusive giveaway of five copies of the most anticipated sports release this spring, Don King Presents: Prizefighter, during the launch of King’s very own digital network, A spectacular “Meet Me in St. Louis ” championship doubleheader will be presented, plus several special attractions free to boxing and sports fans worldwide on tonight at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, live from the Scottrade Center .
“This is another new and exciting adventure for us,” said Don King. “Like the Gateway to the West, we will be taking St. Louis and this trailblazing fight card worldwide via the internet. Fans will be able to see IBF 154-pount champion Cory Spinks take on Verno Phillips and undefeated 140-pounder Devon Alexander against Miguel Callist. We want as many people as possible to see just how great our technology is, so we’re making four exciting hours of action available free of charge.”
The five lucky winners to receive Don King Presents: Prizefighter will be chosen at random by a computer from viewers who log on to watch the live webcast fight between Cory Spinks and Verno Phillips, while the other ten runner-ups will receive a copy of Major League Baseball® 2K8. Don King Presents: Prizefighter delivers the deepest, most authentic and entertaining boxing experience available. The action within the ring accurately mimics the sport’s tactics and hard knocks by allowing players to create angles and openings using a full arsenal of true 3D, motion captured movement, and punch mechanics found only in the real world sport, until now.
The life of a boxer is about more than just a night at the fights; it’s about building a career and rising to stardom. 2K Sports has captured that in Don King Presents: Prizefighter – players must train, overcome adversity, get promoted, and avoid temptation to rise in notoriety, all while watching the story of their rise to champion unfold in a unique, live-action, sports documentary style that features real-life legends from the world of boxing. Don King Presents: Prizefighter, will be available June 10, 2008 for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and this fall for the Wii™ home video game system from Nintendo and the Nintendo DS™. For more information, please visit:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dark Sector Giveaway

Freebie Day! - Its been awhile since I've given out any freebies but a package came in the mail today that reminded me that I need to be more generous. My FedEx guy brought a big box this morning and inside was a Dark Sector 360 copy for review (the game comes out tomorrow), plus a Dark Sector faceplate, comic book, and poster. I'll be keeping the game but since I already have a faceplate (Master Chief took that spot a few months ago) I'm looking to give it away along with the comic and the poster. To sweeten the pot I'm going to throw in a 1600 point MS card to buy whatever you want on Xbox Live Marketplace.
Of course to earn these prizes you're going to have to earn it. I'm looking for a paragraph (keep it short, 8-12 sentences) on what your favorite gaming console is and why. I know what you're thinking, this must be for Xbox 360 owners only because of the prizes. Wrong! Don't let the results of the current poll fool you, I'm an equal opportunity gamer. Even if you're a PS3, Wii or...(gulp) PC gamer, you should participate. If you don't have a 360 you probably know somebody who does, imagine how much more they'd like you if you gave them some gifts. The contest ends a week from today so get your entries in soon, send them to the email address at the bottom of this post. Best email gets the prize.
Here's a freebie you don't have to compete for - In case you've missed it, Rainbow Six Vegas 2 came out last week. Go get it, its an awesome game and I'm looking for someone to play co-op with. There have been some free stuff for it floating around online but if you haven't seen it, here are the codes for a free assault rifle and multiplayer map.
FREE GUN: At the main menu enter the follow button commands at the Main Menu of Rainbow Six Vegas 2: (Hold RB) Down, Down, Up, Up, X, B, X, B, Y, Up, Up, Y
FREE MAP: From main menu select "extras"Select "comcast gift"Enter "COMCAST FASTER"
And finally - Okay, I swear this is the last time (not really) but here's another link to some downloadable game coverage I've done for GamePro. Yeah, yeah I'm sure you're all sick of it by now but I'm a writer, which means I have to pimp myself out every chance I get. Which reminds me, sometime this week I'll be on Tron Simpson's morning radio show on AM1530. Guess what I'll be doing? That's right, pimping myself out, talking about the children's book I wrote about a year ago and gaming stuff. I'm not sure which day I'll be on or what time but since I'm calling in, my guess is it'll be after 10 (I'm a late sleeper) either tomorrow or Wednesday.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rainbow Six Vegas 2 Achievements

Viva Las Vegas! - I was tempted to put up a pic of uberbabe Ann-Margaret but then I saw this picture and I dumped Elvis' former squeeze. What's more important, a pic of chesty Ann-Margaret or a pic of a shootout at a Major League Gaming event? Did some gamer dressed like Neo finally lose it during a competition? Hopefully Rainbow Six Vegas 2 will answer this question. In the meantime, here are the Achievement Points for this great title.
1. That Wasn't So Hard - Complete a scene as Bishop's teammate, Knight, in co-op Story mode at any difficulty. (5 points)
2. Completed Pic des Pyrénées - Complete Pic des Pyrénées in Story Mode at any difficulty. (25 points)
3. Completed Old Vegas - Complete Old Vegas in Story Mode at any difficulty. (25 points)
4. Completed Recreational Center - Complete Recreational Center in Story Mode at any difficulty. (25 points)
5. Completed Convention Center - Complete Convention Center in Story Mode at any difficulty. (25 points)
6. Completed Theater - Complete Theater in Story Mode at any difficulty. (25 points)
7. Completed Nevada Desert - Complete Nevada Desert in Story Mode at any difficulty. (25 points)
8. Completed Estate - Complete Estate in Story Mode at any difficulty. (25 points)
9. Freedom Shall Prevail - Complete the Story Mode on Realistic difficulty. (75 points)
10. I Like the Sound it Makes - Kill 150 terrorists with a Shotgun. (25 points)
11. Weapon Collector - Unlock every weapon in the game. (30 points)
12. Rappel King - Kill 25 enemies while suspended from a rope. (20 points)
13. My Name is Sam - Neutralize 5 terrorists in a row by performing headshots using a Sound Suppressor. (25 points)
14. Gimme a High Five! - Complete 5 scenes as Bishop's teammate, Knight, in co-op Story mode at any difficulty. (10 points)
15. Here's for a Wicked Five! - Complete 10 scenes as Bishop's teammate, Knight, in co-op Story mode at any difficulty. (20 points)
16. Novice Hunter - Complete your first Terrorist Hunt mission at any difficulty. (5 points)
17. Veteran Hunter - Complete 5 Terrorist Hunt missions at any difficulty. (20 points)
18. Natural Leader - Lead your team to Victory 20 times in Team Leader with at least 6 players present. (15 points)
19. Extreme Hunter - Complete all Terrorist Hunt missions on Realistic difficulty. (50 points)
20. Bring it on! - Complete a Terrorist Hunt mission at the hardest difficulty. (10 points)
21. Pointman - Kill 50 enemies in multiplayer adversarial with at least 6 players present. (10 points)
22. Triggerman - Kill 150 enemies in multiplayer adversarial with at least 6 players present. (20 points)
23. Gun Shark - Kill 300 enemies in multiplayer adversarial with at least 6 players present. (25 points)
24. Eye of the Sniper - Kill 500 enemies in multiplayer adversarial with at least 6 players present. (30 points)
25. Don't Mess With Me - Kill 1000 enemies in multiplayer adversarial with at least 6 players present. (45 points)
26. Ace of Spades - Perform 5 consecutive kills without dying in an adversarial match without respawns (15 points)
27. The Ace Always Wins - Win your first ranked match online. (5 points)
28. Double or Nothin' - Win 2 ranked matches in a row. (10 points)
29. Three of a Kind - Win 3 consecutive ranked matches in a row. (15 points)
30. Royal Flush - Win 100 adversarial matches with at least 6 players present. (30 points)
31. The House Always Wins - Host and win 10 matches with at least 6 players present. (15 points)
32. My Hero! - Rescue both Hostages 10 times in Attack & Defend with at least 6 players present. (10 points)
33. Kamikaze - Plant and detonate 10 bombs in Attack & Defend with at least 6 players present. (10 points)
34. Demo Expert - Defuse 10 bombs in Attack & Defend with at least 6 players present. (10 points)
35. Covert Ops Specialist - Extract the intel item 10 times with at least 6 players present (10 points)
36. Cluster Bomb - Kill 3 enemies at once using explosives with at least 6 players present (10 points)
37. Sidearm Frenzy - Kill 100 enemies using a Pistol with at least 6 players present. (25 points)
38. Come Closer - Kill 100 enemies using a shotgun with at least 6 players present (20 points)
39. Spray and Pray - Kill 100 enemies using a Sub-Machine Gun with at least 6 players present. (15 points)
40. Short Controlled Bursts - Kill 100 enemies using an Assault Rifle with at least 6 players present. (15 points)
41. One Shot, One Kill - Kill 100 enemies using a Sniper Rifle with at least 6 players present. (30 points)
42. Machine Gunner - Kill 100 enemies using a Light Machine Gun with at least 6 players present. (20 points)
43. Private First Class - Achieve the rank of Private First Class. (10 points)
44. Officer - Achieve the rank of Officer (30 points)
45. Elite - Achieve the rank of Elite (50 points)
46. Haute Couture - Create your own custom camouflage. (10 points)
47. True Identity - Use the Xbox Live Vision to create a character with your appearance. (20 points)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Halo 3 Maps

Usually I get tons of press releases on Tuesday, not this week. Today my inbox was flooded with a boatload of information. Because I like to keep my readers informed (and I'm lazy) the press releases are listed below in italics.
Halo 3 Legendary Map Pack
More than 7.3 million copies of “Halo 3” have flown off store shelves, upwards of 500 million hours of frag-tacular online gameplay have been logged on Xbox LIVE and the Heroic Map Pack has been downloaded by 1 million plus gamers and counting. But it’s not over yet…Microsoft and Bungie today announced that April 15 will mark the release of the next wave of “Halo 3” downloadable content. Available exclusively on Xbox LIVE Marketplace for 800 Microsoft Points, the Legendary Map Pack will introduce three new maps to the title’s award-winning multiplayer experience, Ghost Town, Avalanche, and one map yet to be revealed. And with the addition of some exciting Forge options, fans can explore new ways to create and share their custom “Halo 3” content.
Ghost Town is a battle-scarred maze of narrow passages and dangerous ruins outside the once-prosperous city of Voi. Collapsed ceilings and shell-battered buildings provide both valuable cover and deadly traps, as catwalks and stairways take the fight from claustrophobic ground combat to dizzying rooftop battles. Ghost Town is a mid-sized map ideal for Team Slayer games and smaller, objective types. The second map, Avalanche, is a tribute to Sidewinder, a “Halo: Combat Evolved” fan-favorite. This massive, vehicle-oriented objective map adds a twist to its classic predecessor with all new interiors, dramatically reshaped exteriors and brand new vehicle variants. Take a ride and admire the visual variety from the cockpit of the retuned Hornet. The third map to be included in the Legendary Pack has yet to be announced, but stay tuned to for full details on another returning classic… fans of smaller Slayer maps, it’s time to get excited.
I'd be a little more excited if these maps were 400 points instead of 800 but that's what I said when the first Halo 3 maps came out. Speaking of which, the first pack was supposed to be free when this April pack is released. I still hope that's the case but this press release says nothing of that.
Sims 3 coming in 2009
Electronic Arts Inc. announced today the first details on one of interactive entertainment’s most anticipated games, The Sims 3. Featuring a brand new engine that has been in development for nearly three years, The Sims 3 allows you to immerse your unique Sims in an open living neighborhood right outside their door. The initial feature-set unveiled includes the new seamless, open neighborhood, new Create A Sim, new realistic personalities and new unlimited customization. The Sims 3 will launch globally in 2009. The Sims franchise has long been recognized for its appeal to a universal audience, both male and female, and at any age. Its broad appeal and loyal The Sims community has vaulted the franchise to an impressive 98 million games sold around the world and translated into 22 different languages. Celebrated for its creativity, humor, and community, The Sims franchise has become a global and cultural phenomenon since its inception in 2000. Now, The Sims 3 is being designed to be the next-generation flagship game from The Sims Label.
New Seamless, Open Neighborhood—Explore the Neighborhood Freely.
See the sights with your Sims! The new seamless neighborhood architecture allows your Sims to roam freely around the neighborhood and visit their loved one and friends—or foes. Discovering other Sims homes and families, traveling around to new locations like City Hall or the local park will create a whole new way of life for your Sims. Storytelling options will multiply as your Sims stroll downtown to meet new acquaintances, head across town for lunch, spy on their neighbors and bump into the boss when they least expect it
New Create A Sim—Create Any Sim You Can Imagine.
In addition to the open, living neighborhood, the all-new Create-a-Sim interface will feature easy-to-use design tools that allow you to make truly detailed Sims that are more realistic than ever. Create-a-Sim gives you the incredible freedom to customize just about any Sim you can imagine. From thin to full-figured to muscular—everything in between and even the extreme! In addition to determining your Sims body shape and size, you will also be able to fine-tune every feature on their faces, customize their hair style and select their skin tone, all from a vast selection of options. With so many choices to choose from, it is fun to create more realistic characters that look like you, someone you want to look like, or even a famous personality.
New Realistic Personalities—Every Sim Is A Unique Person, With A Distinct Personality
With the innovative and proprietary Realistic Personality System in The Sims 3, you can attribute each character with five distinct personality traits, helping shape your Sims behavior and how they interact with others and their surroundings. This new system will empower you to create extremely complex and diverse in-game personalities. Will you create the nosy, inappropriate, kleptomaniac grandmother who loves to meddle in other people’s business? Or the commitment-phobic, hot-headed punk rocker whose rude nature and childish disposition keeps him from scoring a date? In The Sims 3, Sims will go beyond the basic set of day-to-day needs to be distinct individuals with multifaceted personalities, who can focus both on short-term opportunities and long-term goals. With a wide selection of personality traits to mix and match, more than 700 million combinations of Sims await. You never know who’ll meet in The Sims 3!
New Unlimited Customization—Everyone Can Customize Everything!
New and accessible creativity tools in The Sims 3 make it simple for anyone to customize anything, anywhere! From floors to flowers, fashions to sofas, wallpaper to window shades and more, The Sims 3 gives you all the flexibility and options you need to be the architect of your dream house or explore your interior design skills to outfit your ultimate home. Your Sims can make home an ultra-deluxe mansion, a cool bachelor pad, family’s dream home or charming cottage. The choice is yours in The Sims 3. For more information visit
ESA Foundation Offers Scholarships for Future Video Game Developers
With entertainment software holding its place as one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy and becoming a new field of study at colleges and universities, the ESA Foundation has established a scholarship program to help train and educate the next generation of video game developers and designers. Computer and video game companies posted record revenues of $9.5 billion in 2007 and the industry grew by 17 percent from 2003-2006, four times the growth rate of the national economy. More than 200 colleges, universities and technical schools in the U.S., and 400 worldwide offer programs and courses in video game design.

The ESA Foundation’s Scholarship Program makes available $45,000 in scholarships for women and minority applicants pursuing careers in video game development. Full-time undergraduate students can apply online for a $3,000 scholarship until May 15, 2008. The program assists women and minority students who plan to continue their education in fields supporting video game development, including graphic design, computer science, animation or programming, digital entertainment or software engineering. Scholarships are offered each year for full-time study at accredited four-year colleges and universities. The ESA Foundation plans to award 15 scholarships of $3,000 each to students for the 2008-09 academic year. Scholarship Management Services administers this program. For more information and to complete an application online please visit:
Cast announced for Street Fighter Movie
Capcom, a leading worldwide developer and publisher of video games, is proud to confirm the main cast for its live-action Street Fighter movie based on the hugely popular video game series.The story revolves around fan-favorite Chun-Li, who will be portrayed by actress Kristen Kreuk (of Smallville fame). Michael Clark Duncan, Neal McDonough, and Taboo of Black Eyed Peas are also on board to round out this all-star cast. The film will be made in conjunction with Hyde Park Films, and will be distributed by 20th Century Fox for a scheduled 2009 worldwide release.The Street Fighter movie is only one of many projects Capcom has planned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Street Fighter. Summer 2008 will see the Japanese arcade release of the much-anticipated Street Fighter IV. Street Fighter was first released in 1987 to critical acclaim for its innovative features. This was followed up in 1991 with the smash hit Street Fighter II, which broke records by being available in 500 thousand arcade cabinets and selling over 25 million units on home systems. These records cemented Street Fighter’s reputation as one of the most popular fighting game series of all time and ensured that the fighting genre would become a staple of the gaming world.
The cast so far includes:
• Chun-Li: Kristin Kreuk. Plays the role of Lana Lang in the WB television series Smallville .
• Balrog: Michael Clarke Duncan. The Island, Sin City, Daredevil, The Scorpion King
• M. Bison: Neal McDonough. The Hitcher, The Guardian, Minority Report, Band of Brothers
• Vega: Taboo. Member of popular R&B music group Black Eyed Peas and recipient of three Grammy Awards.
• Charlie Nash: Chris Klein. We Were Soldiers, American Pie
Haahahahahaha! Chris Klein?!?! Hahahahahahah!
And finally - Check here and here for some downloadable games I reviewed for GamePro. I have some bigger stuff coming up with the site but I'll let you know more about that later...Next week I'm planning on heading up to Denver for my tour of the SOE Denver studio so hopefully that post will go up next week.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Guitar Hero: Beatles Edition?

Greatest. Rock band. Ever. - We all know that Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is coming this June, but could we be seeing a Beatles version of GH? According to this article from the LA Times today, its possible.
The latest sign of a video-game "Revolution"? You may soon be able to plug in and play guitar in "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Martin N. "Marty" Bandier, the top executive at the music publishing company that owns the John Lennon- Paul McCartney copyrights, said he liked the idea of a dedicated Beatles edition of Guitar Hero, Activision Inc.'s hugely popular video-game franchise. Activision announced last month that Aerosmith would be the first act with a dedicated version of Guitar Hero. "It's something we have talked about and something I'd like to pursue," said Bandier, who last year took over as chairman and chief executive at Sony/ATV Music Publishing. The company has loosened its approach to the Beatles' music. Producers of " American Idol," for instance, had for years sought permission for contestants to perform Beatles hits on the show but were turned down again and again.That's changed: Tonight's episode is the second week of an "all-Beatles" format for the show, which Bandier calls "a wonderful way to get this legendary music in front of an audience of 30 million people in an exciting way."
Now we're talking! Personally I can't stand American Idol and could care less if a bunch of glorified karaoke singers didn't get to sing songs from the greatest band ever, but the chance to play Beatles tunes in a game like Guitar Hero would be awesome. And considering that Rock Band is a far superior game, it would actually give an older gamer like me (and possibly younger gamers with a sense of rock history) a reason to buy GH over Rock Band. If we see The Beatles in Guitar Hero, who knows where else we could see them in other games. Rock Band would make perfect sense to be sure but maybe licensed Beatles songs could be in other games as well. Maybe on a classic rock radio station in GTA perhaps?
The keepers of The Beatles catalog have been awfully quiet for a long time. So far the people in charge have done a great job of not selling the band out and being respectful of its amazing franchise. You don't find the band being whored out like the Rolling Stones or Elvis. Heck, they're not even on iTunes (although all of the band members solo work is) and you'll rarely hear a Beatles tune in a commercial or some other cheesy advertisement. But with the band not having released an album in over 30 years, maybe its time The Beatles did reach a wider audience. Having a Guitar Hero: Beatles edition would be a sweet way for gamers to experience the greatest rock band ever.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Confessions of an Achievement Junkie

Better than a picture of Nick Cage from Leaving Las Vegas - Its time to come clean. I have an Achievement Point addiction. I've had it ever since the Xbox 360 came out. What the heck is it about the sights and sounds of earning an Achievement that make them so addicting? Its pretty simple, we're Americans, we like to be the best. We are an ultra-competitive country and want to be #1 in everything. We'll make a competition out of anything, even eating, so feeling good about having the high score in a game should come as no surprise.
Back in the day gamers used to spend their time in arcades, earning high scores and putting their three initials on a scoreboard that did the bragging for them. Or better yet, a true arcade hound would slap his quarter on the glass and take all comers until he loses. Nowadays, unless you live in Japan, the arcade is dead. There is no place where players go to show how good of a gamer they are or brag about their mad skills (although I do love kicking ass every summer in Bubble Hockey at the arcade on Lake Winnipesaukee). With the dominance of the home console, gamers lost that connection to other gamers and we were left competing with ourselves. Sure friends could come over and you could battle them one-on-one in different games but unless you had the exact same game and were playing it for the same amount of time there was no true way, especially in a single player game, to compare skills. Eventually gamers got used to this and forgot all about how great it felt to be the high scorer. Then Achievement Points showed up and that primal need to be the best reared its head once more.
But Achievements are a different animal than a high score and in many ways are much better. They're visible to so many more people so now you can brag to anyone you play against. Because points are assigned specifically for each game, a comparison of points between friends actually means something. When I compare my Halo 3 gamerscore to my brother's score I can rub it in his face that I have 35 more points than he does. Then we can settle who the better gamer is in an online match that we don't have to be in the same room or city or state to play. Even for people you don't compete against, once another gamer sees or knows your score it gives you a certain amount of cachet. Other players know you are a serious, die-hard gamer.
Of course Achievement Points aren't without their critics. There are some people who think people who play just for points are worse than gamers who used to play just for a high score. Even worse, depending on the game, points are given out way too easily. I played Avatar a couple of weeks ago and earned 1000 points in less than 2 minutes. Not exactly a lot of skill involved there.
But just like in the glory days of the arcade, players are drawn to earning high points because its part of the fun of playing a game, its that innate desire to be the best. As long as you're not obsessive compulsive about it (I wouldn't recommend buying games from fast food restaurants, that's a sign you might be going a bit too far) there's nothing wrong with padding your score. There's a sense of accomplishment when earning one, its like being rewarded for playing. It also extends the life of a title as many gamers are certain to go out of their way to earn points or play through a game a second time or more. Isn't getting as much enjoyment you can out of a game what players really want?
When it comes right down to it, earning Achievement Points is just plain fun. They aren't for everyone but one of the best things about being a gamer is you have so many choices. No one can make you care about earning points, just like no one can make you play a certain type of game or play on a particular console. If you weren't one of those guys who was proud of having one of the highest scores on an arcade game Achievement Points probably won't mean much to you but if earning points is your bag, have fun with it. Its in your American DNA so don't fight it. And if you have a friend who is really into points but you're not? Keep an eye on them, just to be safe.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Top 5 Titles Gamers Should See in Stores

Its been a long time since I've made a Top 5 list but while talking to my brother the other day about a non-game related top 10, ideas for games that would be great to see started floating through my head. We discusses much more than five concepts but while some ideas made perfect sense (Floyd Mayweather Boxing), others just didn't seem like they would be that interesting (The Office: The Game). We ended up with only about seven solid titles out of many ideas. We trimmed our list down to the best five. Here they are.
1. Star Wars: The Han Solo Chronicles - The Star Wars universe is a veritable potpourri of game franchise opportunities. A Star Wars game similar to Marvel Ultimate Alliance, where a wide range of characters from the Star Wars world could be playable characters, would be awesome. A game that follows the backstory of Emperor Palpatine would be just as fascinating as a Luke or Leia driven game. I could certainly get into a Simcityish title featuring Lando Calrissian (Colt 45 could be an in-game sponsor) and a Chewbacca game would be sweet and rife with opportunities for humor. My brother brought up a R2D2/C3PO game but I quickly shot it down.
While all of these games would be cool, no character has been more overdue for a videogame than Star Wars bad boy Han Solo. The Jedi's get all the love but Han is easily the most interesting character. There are a number of books that cover Han's life before and after the movie series but imagine a Lucas licensed game that takes young Solo from his home planet to rebellion badass. Win the Millenium Falcon from Lando in a game of sabacc, make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, find out the back story behind his relationship with Jabba the Hutt, evade bounty hunters like Bobba Fett, and woo Princess Leia. What Star Wars fan wouldn't play this?
2. Rock Band: iTunes Edition - Rock Band kicks ass and is easily the best rhythm game available. But one of the problems with both Guitar Hero and Rock Band are the limited amount of tracks. According to my wife, I've ruined a bunch of songs she used to like because I've played them so many times. I get pretty tired of singing or playing the same songs as well. Sure you can buy more downloadable tracks but even those are hit and miss. This problem can be easily solved by giving gamers access to their own iTunes library and letting us play any song we want through our consoles.
This might sound impossible but it would be pretty easy to do. AudioSurf, a PC game from Valve, uses your own music library to play a music game that's a blend of Wipeout and Guitar Hero. So how would a console connect to iTunes? Easy, it already does...sort of. The Xbox 360 and PS3 can already be connected to your PC through their wireless network adapters. All that would be needed to play your own music would be a program on the game disc that could take new songs and quickly format them for the game. Then you could finally play along to all your favorite Wang Chung songs.
3. ESPN's Monday Night Football - With EA renewing its deal with the NFL for another 5 years this is easily the one game on my list that is least likely to happen. But with the Madden franchise in a bit of standstill due to a lack of competition, someone needs to come out and shake things up. The best company to do that would be 2K, as long as it had a partnership with ESPN. Sega teamed up with ESPN for a series of pro football games that were great on content and presentation but wretched on gameplay. If 2K, who had some great ideas with All-Pro Football 2K8 and is easily the toughest competitor EA faces in the sports game market, could find some loophole to EA's NFL monopoly, maybe we'd find a pro football game that we could truly get excited about every year.
4. Survivor: The Game - Television shows are a great source of material for games but somehow Survivor, the best reality show ever, has remained untouched. While Survivor has been a boardgame and a fairly generic PC game, I see the world of Survivor as tailor made for MMO's. A Sims-type title where you have to build relationships in a single player universe might be fun but where Survivor really excels is in relationships between real people, a strength of MMO games.
Imagine joining the Survivor network and being randomly selected along with 16-20 other gamers to be placed on an online island. There'd be mini-games for rewards and immunities and all sorts of voice chat/text strategizing to see who would be voted off. There would be actions players could make to either earn peoples trust, play different factions against each other or just plain tick people off. An avatar would walk around each tribes virtual island and hunt for hidden immunity idols or food. Just like in the series, if you were always running around and not bonding with your other online tribemates you might isolate yourself. If you're too busy socializing and not contributing, you could be seen as dead weight and get cut loose. Games could vary in length depending on the amount of time a gamer would want to invest. One players game could last weeks, another a couple of hours. There are a ton of possibilities.
5. The Phillip Marlowe/Sam Spade series - I've always been a big fan of writers Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and their detective characters Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. The movies The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep which star one of my favorite actors, Humphrey Bogart, still stand up. Hard drinking, wise cracking and tough, these two originals could be made into fascinating protaganists for a videogame. Games based on these characters would be similar to Mafia or The Godfather in setting but instead of playing as a crook you'd play as a badass private eye. This might sound old school but some of the best ideas have been around a long time. Why not take some of these great novels that haven't been tapped yet and bring them into a game?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

I am a huge nerd

Do bears bare? Do bees be? - Saying I'm a huge nerd is like saying the sky is blue or water is wet, its a given. Not that you can tell by my normally manly appearance. Aside from wearing glasses I don't look like the average geek. I'm fairly athletic (I played three sports in high school) and I try to avoid wearing videogame shirts - except for my Fallout 3 shirt I got from E3 last year, that one is really comfortable. Basically on the outside I look like the average 30-something male, but just like every other man I have some nerd tendencies. Or as I like to call it, nerd itch. Every guy and I do mean every guy, has their dirty little inner nerd and occassionally that nerd must be scratched. Whether its stamps, coins, comic books, movies, train sets...every guy has something they like that they're probably not willing to share with the general public.
I'm a Star Wars, Star Trek, Sliders, Threshold, fantasy football, and videogame geek. I've been to a Star Trek convention (with my brother), the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas, a Star Wars thingy (some big event in Denver when Episode I was coming out, again with my brother, we met the guy who plays C3PO!) and E3. And if I ever get a chance, I'd love to go to Comicon because I'm a huge comic book fan. As an adult, I've bought action figures, toys, played a videogame with plastic instruments with my son, purchased a special edition Halo 3 just so I could have the life sized Master Chief helmet and had my picture taken on the bridge of the Enterprise. Wow, that was theraputic.
Naturally, with the exception of this post, I try to keep my inner nerd hidden. There's only so many toys the wife will put up with before she kicks me to the curb but sometimes I just can't help myself. Today I was in my local GameCrazy, trading in the craptacular game Turning Point: Fall of What Could Have Been a Great Game when I saw the two items pictured above. I'm supposed to pass on the new McFarlane Master Chief figure and a new Warthog? No, my inner nerd wouldn't allow it. I left the store without a new game but happy anyway.
So here's my challenge to you dear reader. Tell me about your inner nerd. Share that goofy thing you like that you're just a little embarrased about but enjoy so much you'd never give it up. You can stay anonymous if you'd like but if I can admit my guilty pleasure, so can you. We can start our own support group or something. And if you regulars (Eli, John, Frosty, Phil, etc.) don't put up a post, I'll know you're lying.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty second look

Where's the beef? - This game sucks. Too harsh? I've been told recently that I can be a bit tough on how I grade games but I call them like I see them. For my own reasons (that I can't really get into) I'm a little bit bitter about being urged to give games higher grades than they really deserve. Who does this serve? Not the gaming company that makes an inferior product. Unless you're dealing with kids, telling people what they want to hear doesn't help anybody, especially a gaming company who can use constructive criticism so that they can improve their product. It also doesn't help the person I most serve as a gaming journalist, the consumer. Why blow smoke saying how good a game is and let someone buy a game then find out it stinks? It gives a writer no credibility and bad gaming experiences can sour a casual fan on the greatness of gaming. Sure, all reviews regardless of medium are subjective (I rarely agree with movie reviews) but the job of any review is to give the consumer as much information as possible to make a good decision. A dishonest review, or even worse, a review that's softened so as not to offend anyone, is a lie. Okay, I'm rambling because I'm annoyed about something else, let me get back to my original point.
My first impressions of Turning Point was that it was rental only. I'd stick with that assessment but after playing the multi-player, this games flaws are even more magnified. The online server is a joke as I'd wait endlessly to find a match. I spent so much time in the online lobby that I felt like I was at the DMV. Once I finally played a match it was laggy as hell, had no mapping system to see where you were or where you're going, no radar system to see other gamers, had few weapon options, and the recoil was so bad that shooting a gun felt like holding a fire hose. Having such an important part of a games offering suck so hard sadly reduces the enjoyability of its single-player option. I'd still recommend Turning Point to rent for all of the things I mentioned in my earlier post, but don't bother playing it online. It'll just piss you off.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

R.I.P. Gary Gygax

The ultimate dungeon master - Gary Gygax (second from the right in the pic above, next to Stephen Hawking), co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons passed away today after battling numerous illnesses the past few years. He was 69 years old.
While this won't mean much to many gaming fans, for gamers of a certain age (myself included) this is a sad loss. Dungeons & Dragons were video games before video games. Back in my day we didn't have consoles or PC's! We had D&D and we liked it! It was a game for the mind and heavily influenced much of what the industry has become today. This is what guys played, well nerdy guys anyway, before Halo or World of Warcraft or Super Mario. The universe Gygax invented helped spur the imagination of tons of people who would eventually move not just into the gaming industry but the movie and TV biz as well. When video games became popular, it gave creative people a chance to put the stories and actions that could previously only be represented on paper and through 20-sided dice into a visual medium. Gygax has had just as much of an influence on gaming as Shigeru Miyamoto, Nolan Bushnell, or Ken Kutaragi.
Once I saw the story of Gygax's passing on google today, I couldn't help but think of when I used to hang out with a bunch of middel school friends on weekends playing D&D. We'd scarf down cheetos and grape soda as the dungeon master led us through some crazy adventures. We'd make fun of each other and have a great time and stay up until 3am. Those were great times. Thanks for the memories Gary, rest in peace.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Consoles Defeat the PC

The tribe has spoken... - ... and the PC has been voted off the island. The As the Gaming World Turns poll on gaming system preference saw the console defeat the PC by a 68% to 13% margin. And I didn't even vote for either one! I voted for the last choice, you know, the booby one. They always distract me.
Only 22 people voted but the victory was clear. So why such an overwhelming victory for the console? Is it the consoles more reasonable price? Is it games you can actually trade in? Is it mouse and keyboard induced carpal tunnel causing a mass exodus? Or is this yet another sign that the PC as a gaming unit is going the way of the HD DVD player? Its premature to say the PC is dead but unless someone can convince me otherwise (any takers?), its certainly on life support. Sorry PC gamers, this is a console world, and you're just living it it.
Turning Point Achievements - Before I dish out the Achievements for Turning Points: The Fall of Liberty, here are a few first impressions after spending time with it this weekend. Average graphics, occassional lag, and a lot of collision detection issues with Nazi's dying in a frozen pose like Lorne Greene in Battlestar Galactica. Despite all of those negatives I've really been enjoying the game. The premise is solid and the gameplay is fun. Right now, its a solid rental. If the multiplayer is good, and I'm not sure because I haven't tried it yet, it might be worth keeping for more than 2 weeks.
1. Reservation for One - Make your way down to Hotel Langteau on Normal or higher difficulty. (5 points)
2. Sharpshooter - Kill all the paratroopers as you make your way down the skyscraper on any difficulty. (10 points)
3. Defender - Help defend the barricade in New York on Normal or higher difficulty. (20 points)
4. Save Yourself - Escape from New York on any difficulty. (25 points)
5. Need a ride? - Meet up with the rescue team in Washington, D.C on Normal or higher difficulty. (20 points)
6. I Saved the General - Rescue General Donnelly from the D.C. courthouse on Normal or higher difficulty. (20 points)
7. Dolley Madison Award - Save the Constitution from being burned on Normal or higher difficulty. (20 points)
8. Impeached - Oust the false President from office on any difficulty. (30 points)
9. Going Nuclear - Rewire an Atom Bomb on Normal or higher difficulty. (30 points)
10. Oh, the Humanity! - Destroy all the assault blimps at the Tower Bridge on any difficulty. (30 points)
11. Stowaway - Sneak onto the Zeppelin on Normal or higher difficulty. (30 points)
12. Turning Point - Complete the campaign on any difficulty. (25 points)
13. Presidential Medal for Merit - Complete the campaign on Normal difficulty. (35 points)
14. Presidential Citizens Medal - Complete the campaign on Hard difficulty. (75 points)
15. Presidential Medal of FreedomComplete the campaign on Insane difficulty. (100 points)
16. Gravity is a Harsh Mistress - Toss a paratrooper onto the streets below New York on any difficulty. (5 points)
17. TV Repairs - Smash an enemy's head through a TV in the White House on any difficulty. (5 points)
18. Swirly Time! - Drown an enemy in a toilet in the Tower of London on any difficulty. (5 points)
19. Environmentalism - Complete 40 environmental or grapple kills on any difficulty. (15 points)
20. Clingy - Kill 15 enemies in a row by grappling them on any difficulty. (25 points)
21. Run! - Sprint for a total of 30 minutes throughout the campaign on any difficulty. (25 points)
22. Combat Experience - Kill 50 enemies in the campaign on any difficulty. (10 points)
23. Combat Veteran - Kill 250 enemies in the campaign on any difficulty. (25 points)
24. One Man Army - Kill 400 enemies in the campaign on any difficulty. (45 points)
25. Dead-eye - Complete any mission with an accuracy of 80% or higher on Normal or higher difficulty. (50 points)
26. Exploding Monkey - Kill at least four enemies with one explosion on any difficulty (20 points)
27. Master Sniper - Kill 10 enemies in a row with a headshot on any difficulty. (35 points)
28. First Time for Everything - Finish a multiplayer game. (5 points)
29. Next Time Take the Stairs - Fall to your death during a multiplayer game. (5 points)
30. Killer - Get 100 ranked match kills in any mode. (20 points)
31. Killer Instinct - Get 500 ranked match kills in any mode. (30 points)
32. Maybe I Should Go Outside… - Get 2500 ranked match kills in any mode. (40 points)
33. One in the Chamber - Kill a player in a ranked match with the last bullet in a pistol clip. (10 points)
34. Stayin' Alive - Finish a ranked match in Deathmatch mode without dying. (40 points)
35. MVP - Win an 8-player ranked or player match in Team Deathmatch mode with the highest score. (30 points)
36. Team Player - Win 20 ranked matches in Team Deathmatch mode. (25 points)
37. pwnt - Finish an 8-player ranked or player match in Deathmatch mode with the highest number of kills. (15 points)
38. Überdork- Win 5 ranked matches in Deathmatch mode. (25 points)
39. World Tour- Finish a multiplayer game on every map in every mode. (15 points)