Tag Archive | xbox 360

Gamer in Exile

People know I’m a gamer.

I am often asked for my Gamertag and what games I’m currently playing. When I tell these people that I don’t have an Xbox Live Gold account and won’t be able to play whatever game with them, they are shocked. I try to explain this to them and it seems to fall on deaf ears. How could one conceivably have an Xbox and not be playing online?? Here’s the brutal truth of the matter:

I have never been a huge fan of online multiplayer games.

See, I like to win. I also like to think I’m pretty good at video games. As long as I’m playing in single player mode dominating computer controlled opponents, these two facts can come true. I get to believe that I am skilled because of my victory over the system. Beating a game has always felt like an accomplishment to me. For me, as a gamer, it’s about the finality. It’s about the skill and determination that it takes to power through those endgame stages to defeat the final boss. It’s about completing the story then putting the sticks down on that particular game and, if it was good enough, picking the sticks back up and going through it again in a few years after you’ve forgotten at least the fine details of the plot if not what happened entirely.

By playing multiplayer, this entire experience is lost to me. I will (not even might, will) lose. I will be dominated. I will be cussed out by my teammates, scoffed at, and called n00b because I am not nearly as “hardcore” as the people who regularly play the game, nor have I (probably) been playing it since release to know all the places on the maps to hide, all the archetypes that suck, and all the weapons that are considered n00bish in their application. There is no story. There is no completion. There is no sense of satisfaction unless my team wins and, even then, it’s usually a hollow victory because I had little to nothing to do with it.

I also don’t particularly care for the open-chat feature which is almost required by the current generation multiplayer games. I understand it’s an incredibly useful tool for communication, which is key in most multiplayer games, but I also don’t need to be cussed out by a fifteen year old because I’m too much of a n00b who should LTP before he jumps into a room like this, then being summarily removed from said room by its creator, because he thinks I’m too much of a n00b, too.

Sure, skill is key. Do I have it? Not particularly, at least not in FPS (which is the majority of pick-up multiplayer). I am hardly a n00b to its ways and do not like to be thought of as such. I earned my online handle (precizzion) by being one of the baddest-ass FPS snipers out there through my early multiplayer career. Return to Castle Wolfenstein was where I really earned my stripes. Long long ago. You might call me out of date, but I would argue that the only real changes to FPS since then have been the graphics.

My skills have since rusted away, my tastes have changed, and I now prefer the single player missions to the rigors of online multiplayer. Voice chatting was what really did it in for me, honestly. The only game in which I was ever a big talker was World of Warcraft, mostly because I got to know my guildies or I was talking to people I knew in real life. We really talked less about the game and more about everything else, which was fun.
It seems much less appealing when you put forth the prospect of some armchair veteran screaming in your ear about where you should be and where you shouldn’t be in an FPS fight. I don’t enjoy taking orders from anyone, especially some angry douchebag meathead I don’t even know.

I’m sure I’m going to take flak from the gaming community on this one because some of you out there are the armchair veteran angry douchebag meatheads, and that’s actually ok. I don’t care what you are or how you spend your free time, I’m just telling you that I won’t be joining you.
I’m not trying to build any kind of case against you or say that you’re ruining things for everyone, because you’re not. You’re making sure a bunch of schlubs work together as a unit in an environment with which you are intimately familiar. You’re increasing chances of victory. This is not a bad thing. This is the way you gain fulfillment from gaming and, if it works for you, I can’t say you’re wrong.

Multiplayer has a way of connecting people. I still have good friends in Denmark because of the time I’ve spent playing MMOs. The competition, however, has become too much for me and has caused me to quietly retire from the ranks of online players. MMO, FPS, RTS, Rock Band. all of it. I’ve withdrawn because I’ve realized that no matter how good I may be, there will always be someone out there better than me and they will absolutely not hesitate to rub that shit right in my face at the first opportunity. If I’m going to smack talk someone and get smacked back, I’d rather it be with a couple of my friends, in person, at my house than any random dickhead who gets a leg up on me. I’m willing to concede superiority to my friends, but I am certainly not about to let my pride down when it comes to a stranger.

I would rather play Rock Band with my actual “band” in my basement and I would take a split-screened FPS or Co-op game over the online deal any day. Even a nice round of Tiger Woods or Wii Sports in an actual location, with real people, is preferable to any other method of multiplayer gaming.

As a more mature gamer, I don’t have as much time as I would need to devote myself to anything I couldn’t put down right away. There’s the matter of real life that I have to be concerned with. Y’know, work and a wife and RL friends and stuff. I like getting off my couch every once in a while (read: not frequently) and actually spending time interacting with things other than a controller and a headset. I know that, if I allowed myself back into the realm of online multiplayer (MMO or otherwise), I would get just as sucked in as I was during my Warcraft years, and I don’t want that anymore.

At least, not until Diablo III comes out. Then all bets are off.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

PS – My Gamertag is precizzion, if you’re interested in being my friend. No, I will (probably) not play with you.

Bidula’s Last Word: BioShock 2

Ah, Rapture.
The most glorious city at the bottom of the sea. Hell, the only city at the bottom of the sea. How I missed this submerged dystopia since last we met. The place is still as dank, dark, and leaky as I remembered. The only thing that’s changed is that, this time, it’s twice as crazy.

BioShock 2 is probably the first time I’ve anticipated a sequel so ravenously since Super Mario Bros. 3. The original BioShock, as you’ve seen, easily made my Ten Best Video Games of the Decade list, and with good reason.
BioShock was unique in that it was a first-person shooter with an extremely immersive story. One could easily get lost in the plot, sometimes only fighting off the hordes of splicers or beating down a Big Daddy so that you could grab that one tape recorder or see that one crazy piece of graffiti or get to that next radio message. If you’re anything like me, the plot and the atmosphere were the driving forces of the game with the excellent FPS action being a welcome vehicle to make things progress.

In a completely spoiler-free bit of story exposition (I’ve not finished the game, so I don’t know the whole thing), this takes place in 1968, almost 8 years since Jack (the player-character from the first BioShock) rolled through and did what he did. You are on what seems like the other, seedier, darker side of Rapture from the original adventure and many familiar names and faces pop up, sometimes post-mortem via diary entries. It’s nice to see so many familiar characters and hear so many familiar voices. There are some expositions and short blurbs that make the experienced Rapturite chuckle. I know I did.

BioShock 2 brings the same deep story and gloomy art-deco feel, this time with amped-up action. And, when I say amped-up, I mean amped-up. I’m probably about halfway through and I’ve already offed more splicers and Big Daddies than I did in the entirety of the first game.
This time, rather than being a “random” discoverer of the city of Rapture, you’re one of its marquee residents. You play as one of the very first Big Daddies, referred to throughout the game as Subject Delta. The big differences between you and the standard Bouncers and Rosies we all grew to love on our first trip to Rapture is that you have the ability to use multiple weapons, the ability to use plasmids, and the often-taken-for-granted ability of autonomous thought.
The first two weapons you can use are the weapons you wish you could have looted on your first trip down here, namely the Bouncer Drill (replacing the trusty old wrench as your chief melee weapon) and Rosie’s Rivet Gun. The rest of the weapons are equally beefed up and awesome looking. All are equivalents to the original BioShock weaponry, but somehow, a touch nastier. Wait until you see what they used to replace the crossbow. KA-THUNK! Heh heh heh…
Plasmids have changed a bit, but not much. All the old powers are here without much new. You still get your big three of Electro-Bolt, Incinerate, and Telekinesis. The main change to the plasmid system is the manner in which tonics are handled. Instead of using three different types of tonics, you now have one large 18-slot chart of tonic slots available for unlocking. There are some really good additions to the pool and, even when your slots are maxed out, you’ll be scratching your head over which ones you should use and which ones you should shelve.

One very notable change is the way in which gaining Adam, the substance needed to purchase plasmids, via Little Sisters is accomplished.
Previously, it was all about killing Big Daddies, then taking their Little Sisters on a rescue-or-harvest basis. Now, things are a bit more interesting.
Seeing as you are a Big Daddy yourself, the Little Sisters trust you. You can choose to adopt the girls and allow them to ride on your shoulder for their normal Adam retrieval duties. They will guide you to certain corpses (read: “angels, Daddy!”) which are ripe for Adam harvesting. While they’re working their needle-poking magic on the dead, splicers will flood the area trying to get their dirty junkie hands on your little one. Defense of the Little Sisters can be difficult in spots but, with some clever use of traps, plasmids, and security hacks, you’ll get through it. It’s actually kind of fun figuring out a strategy for each gathering point.
The funniest part about this new aspect is that, while the Little Sister is riding around on your shoulders, she periodically adds twisted little girl commentary. Lighting a splicer on fire with Incinerate prompted one to enthusiastically shout: “Yay! Marshmallows!” and electrocuting another prompted a giggly: “Look, Daddy, he’s dancing!”

Hacking has also changed from the play-pausing pipe dream-like mini-game to an action-oriented button timing affair. There are still auto-hacking devices, but the action-based hack system allows you to achieve bonuses for well-timed button pushing. You may find yourself trying to actively hack unless it’s extremely inconvenient. This game also introduces remote hack darts, fired from a small gun, which can allow you to peg a turret, duck around the corner, and worry about hacking it without staying in the line of fire. Yes, there’s still hacking buyouts with some machinery but, trust me, save your money. You’ll need it for First Aid and ammo.

New enemies include the Rumbler, a new design of Big Daddy with some new tricks up its sleeve, and the much touted Big Sister; a female variant which is essentially a Big Daddy crossed with a plasmid-wielding ninja and twice as tough. Like I said, save your money and buy some ammo.

BioShock 2 absolutely delivers. It’s everything I hoped for. If you’re going to pick this game up, I strongly recommend you play the first one before you do. If you’ve already played the first one, it might be worth it to make another run through Rapture the first time around to refresh your memory before you pick up the sequel.
I haven’t yet tried out the new multiplayer feature, but I plan on doing so soon. I don’t really think this game needed a multiplayer feature to be good, but, give the people what they want, I assume. It doesn’t take away from the story and can only add to the replay value.
Now, go to the store and pick up both of these games, would you kindly?

Bidula’s Last Word: 9.5/10

Bidula’s Last Word – I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1NIT!!!1

I have been skeptical of Microsoft’s Indie Game program for the 360 since its inception.
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I wasn’t sure what sort of garbage would start turning up if you let the world make video games. How many half-baked bullshit ideas would surface? How many crap games would inexplicably float to the top of the pile, showing off excellent screen shots and delivering on absolutely nothing? How many dumb and repetitive ideas would be presented?
At first, I was convinced that my apprehension was righteous. I would scan through the indie titles in the “most downloaded” section and be treated to the sight of such gems as “Fart Machine – includes 50 different fart effects!”, “Math Tutor”, and approximately 3000 different synth-drum programs so that those of us with a Rock Band bent could pretend we were actually making music.
Though I’m sure there were some gems, I largely left the library undisturbed. I didn’t even bother looking because I felt that there would be nothing good buried under all of that shit.

Then, recently, I started giving indie games more of a chance.

It started with a few awesome flash games, most of them available at armorgames.com including Demolition City, Test Pilot, and Clockwords. These have been my most recent obsessions and have helped me come to the conclusion that indie game creation is a marvelous thing. Why wait for the big companies to try and shove the latest ultra-realistic epic down my throat when there’s plenty of fun to be had in 2-D with simple concepts and clever puzzles? FPS is only fun for so long, I have to take long breaks between RPG Epics that devour my time, and WoW (for me) is played out. I needed something more. I looked to the independent media because anything free and fun, especially in this economy, is well worth the search.

My faith in indie games renewed, I started looking through the X-Box Live Arcade indie games pile again. A few drum machines were still there and almost deterred me from continuing my search for something cheap and fun. I was about to back out of the menu when a game title grabbed my eye.

I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1NIT!!!1

The title was written on the card in blaring white 8-Bit letters on a black background.
I chuckled. I was intrigued. I decided to check out the screenshots. Looked like a fairly solid game graphically.
I paid my dollar (80 MSP) and hit start thinking I had nothing to lose. For a dollar, I had no idea what I would gain.

Z0MB13S is absolutely awesome.
It’s a 2-Joystick Shooter which harkens back to the days of haunting mall arcades and playing rounds of Smash-TV when the line for Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat was too long.
You’re set in the center of an open field and zombies start to spawn all around you. You’ve got to shoot and avoid, often jamming the joysticks enthusiastically, to blow away the encroaching hordes.
Power-ups materialize in the form of 4-bit icons, looking out of place but awesome for a game with fair graphics, and offer about a dozen different methods of undead disposal.
From the beginning, it has you laughing. From the l33t-sp34k title card of the game (same as the box) to the soundtrack of the first level – a slow punk song describing the simple objects of the game with a chorus that announces “I made a game with zombies in it!” – its amazingly entertaining.
The game is challenging, as well. As the numbers of the horde increase, you start to feel the pressure, moving around the screen and blasting in every different direction. Different enemies show up through different stages (not all zombie related), each with a different pattern of movement and toughness level. This isn’t what makes the game truly challenging, however.
As you find out when the soundtrack of the first level reaches its chorus, this game uses the surface under your character to flash large messages and introduce different effects. From large 4-bit font words to pure epilepsy inducing black and white and colored flashes, which can get rather distracting. Add to that dance-hall style lights from the edge of the screen while being surrounded by dozens of enemies coming in from every direction and you’re bound to lose a life or two.
I think the way the soundtrack contributes is probably the best thing about this game, though, going from slow punk to metal to an instrumental interlude and even into techno before the game is over. Each stage has its own background, its own effects, and its own enemies to go along with the particular music. The soundtrack is limited, however, which means so are the stages. When you reach the end of the track list (a remix of the first level song), you’ve reached the end of the game. Potentially, the whole thing takes about 15 minutes to reach the very end, if you survive. Perfect, bite-sized, and fun.
The game also incorporates 4-player co-op mode and does not work through LIVE but can be incredibly fun if played by 4 people in the same room.

If you’re looking for a cheap thrill, this is it. Get the game W1TH Z0MB13S IN1T!!!11!1

Bidula’s Last Word: 9.5/10

I defy you not to get the theme song stuck in your head.

—end transmission—