Conversations with strangers

I got a new phone last month.  Ever since then, I've been swarmed with texts and calls from people looking for an "Emily".  At first I was polite, and told them this was no longer her number.  A month and a half later, I'm screwing with them because they just won't stop.  Here's a transcript of the latest:

Texter:  Hey Em??
Me:  She's getting dressed.  What's up?
T:  Who is this?
Me:  The guy who just took her to "pound town".  If you know what I mean. ;)
T:  I'm Young... So no... Lol
Me:  Well Young, I get at least 5 texts/calls a day from people thinking this is Em's number.  Best I can figure is that she has a new number and didn't tell you.
T:  Whooooo sry
Me:  Not your fault.  Have a happy new year.
T:  U to!  I was just with her this is weird!  Who t u
Me:  I'm a guy who got a new phone last month and has since been plagued by people calling Emily.
T:  I'm sry!  Emily is like my mom so idk y
     Have a good new yr
Me:  Again, not your fault.

I'm not a total ass.  Could I be?  Probably.

Parasite Eve: The 3rd Birthday trailer

I've been waiting for a proper sequel to the Parasite Eve series since I finally got around to beating PE2 a few years ago.  Is this the sequel I've been looking for?  Time will only tell, but with Square's habit of screwing the pooch as of late, I'm a little concerned.


For those in the know, or those that don't live on Mars, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is out.  It's the last big hit of 2010 and I don't know if I can jump back in.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love World of Warcraft.  From the lore to the incredibly immersive world, Blizzard has crafted what I consider a perfect fantasy world.  What absolutely kills it for me each time I come back is the community.  Granted, I play on one of the oldest servers in the game, but WoW has a reputation for making Xbox Live look like and example of tolerance.

What draws me back is the chance to play with old friends again, new classes, and a totally revised world.  I really want to create a Worgen and unleash the fury as a warrior.

What gives me pause, is the community.  I hate them with a passion.  Stories like this are what keep me at bay.  It's a community full of elitists unwilling to help.  Thankfully, I have a group of friends to play with, but do I really want to get back on the crack pony?

December 2010 Release Calendar

December 1:
Unbound Saga  (360)
Lucha Libre AAA Heroes of the Ring  (Wii)
Trials HD Big Thrills  (360)

Venetica  (PS3)
Kung-Fu Live  (PS3)
Blimp: The Flying Adventures  (PS3)
Bejeweled 3  (PC)
SBK X: Superbike World Championship  (PS3)
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm  (PC)
Tron Evolution  (PS3, 360, PC)
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Duel Transer  (Wii)

December 8:
Marvel Pinball

December 12:
Super Mario All-Stars Wii  (Wii)

December 14:
Marvel Pinball  (PS3)
Under Siege  (PS3)

December 17:
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions  (PC)

December 21:
Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam  (360, PS3)
Trackmania DS  (DS)

December 22:
A World of Keflings  (360)

Release Calendar November 2010

November 1:
PokePark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure  (Wii)
Intellivision Lives  (DS)
Robox  (Wii)
Hello Kitty Party  (DS)

November 2:
Atari's Greatest Hits: Volume 1  (DS)
MAG: Escalation  (PS3)
Goldeneye 007  (Wii, DS)
Minute to Win it  (Wii)
Hoard  (PS3)
Auditorium  (360, PS3)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011  (PSP, PS2)
Busy Scissors  (DS)
Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011  (Wii)
James Bond 007: Blood Stone  (360, PS3, DS)
The Amazing Race  (Wii)
Wheel of Fortune  (Wii)
Ys: The Oath in Felghana  (PSP)
EyePet  (PSP)
MegaMind: Mega Team Unite  (Wii)
MegaMind: Ultimate Showdown  (360, PS3)
MegaMind: The Blue Defender  (DS, PSP)
Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2  (360, PS3)
Blood Drive  (360, PS3)
Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage  (360, PS3)
God of War: Ghost of Sparta  (PSP)

November 4:
King of Fighters: 2002  (360)
Xbox Kinect  (360)
Kinect Sports  (360)
Joyride  (360)
Kinectimals  (360)
Kinect Adventures  (360)
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved  (360)
Dance Central  (360)
The Biggest Loser Challenge  (Wii)
Sonic Free Riders  (360)
Fighters Uncaged  (360)
Motion Sports  (360)

November 5:
Knights in the Nightmare  (PSP)
Babysitting Mama  (Wii)

Novmber 7:
FlingSmash  (Wii)

November 8:
Nickelodeon Fit  (Wii)

November 9:
Karaoke Revolution Glee  (Wii)
SingStar: Dance  (PS3)
Beyblade: Metal Fusion Battle Fortress  (Wii, DS)
John Daly's ProStroke Golf  (360)
Zany Golf  (Wii)
Just Dance Kids  (Wii)
Dungeon Raiders  (DS)
101-in-1 Sports Party Megamix  (Wii)
Family Fued Decades  (Wii)
H.A.W.X. 2  (Wii)
Call of Duty: Black Ops  (Wii, 360, PS3, PC, DS)
Monster Jam: Path of Destructionn(PSP, 360, PS3, Wii, DS)
Majesty 2: Battles of Ardania
The Sly Collection  (PS3)

November 10:
Guwange  (360)

November 14:
uDraw Game Tablet  (Wii)
Pictionary  (Wii)
Dood's Big Adventure  (Wii)
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem  (DS)

November 15:
The Sims 3  (Wii)

November 16:
Hello Kitty Season  (Wii)
Dance Dance Revolution  (PS3)
Battle vs. Chess  (PS3, 360)
Barbie Groom and Glam Pups  (DS, Wii)
NBA Jam  (PS3, 360)
NatGeo Quiz!  Wild Life  (PS3, Wii, 360)
Apache: Air Assault  (360, PS3)
Split Second  (PSP)
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon  (Wii)
H.A.W.X. 2  (PC)
Create  (PS3, Wii, PC, 360)
Mortal Kombat: HD Arcade Kollection  (PS3)
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Predator  (PSP)
EA Sports Active 2.0  (360, PS3, Wii)
Pac-Man Party  (Wii)
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit  (Wii, PS3, 360, PC)
Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet  (PS3, Wii, 360, DS)
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood  (360, PS3)
Sonic Colors  (Wii, DS)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows  (PC, 360, Wii, PS3, DS)
Football Manager 2011  (PC)

November 18:
Game Party in Motion  (360)
Adrenalin Misfits  (360)
Dance Masters  (360)
Zumba Fitness  (Wii, 360)
Sniper Elite  (Wii)
Deca Sports Freedom  (360)

November 21:
Donkey Kong Country Returns  (Wii)

November 23:
Splatterhous  (PS3, 360)
Majin: The Fallen Realm  (360, PS3)
Hot Wheels Track Attack  (DS, Wii)
Crazy Taxi  (PS3, 360)
Michael Jackson The Experience  (Wii, PSP, DS)
Worms: Battle Islands  (Wii)

November 27:
Gran Turismo 5  (PS3)

November 29:
Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos  (360, PS3)
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn  (DS)

Mass Effect 2

My impressions of the first Mass Effect were mixed. On one hand, I really hated the Mako driving sections. On the other hand, the game kicked all kinds of ass when I was focused on the story. I was playing when the second had come out, so I was torn on whether or not I should continue Commander Shepard’s journey. Thanks to the phenomenal ending sequence in Mass Effect, I was sold and out buying Mass Effect 2 days after the last credit rolled.

BioWare took what worked in the first game and made it better. Then they went the extra mile and took out everything that made the game unbearable and banished it to the lowest circle of Hell. Gone is the tedious leveling system and the absolutely terrible Mako exploration. In place, there is a sleek and focused leveling system. A planet scanner replaces planet exploration and makes gathering resources a little more exciting. Gone are the vast amounts of armor and weapons. This outing features upgradable weapons and armor that you can customize to your personal style.

The story takes everything that I loved in the first game and builds upon it. The story is longer and is fleshed out, answering many questions while asking a few new ones of its own. A majority of the side quests actually play into the larger picture with you exploring your crew’s personal quests. What doesn’t fit into either of those categories are bite sized missions that are perfect for quick gaming sessions.

The worlds, or worlds, or Mass Effect 2 sucked me in with the increase in detail and overall design. From the sprawling city scapes to the incredible variety of terrain on the planets you’ll explore, there is no way to resist the immersion that happens while playing. The sound track plays in perfect harmony with the gameplay. So much so, that I needed very little persuasion to buy the sound track. I haven’t bought a game sound track since Final Fantasy VIII.

Combat takes a huge leap forward, with tighter controls and an easier control scheme for team mates. Shepard doesn’t handle like a drunk anymore and my partners carry more of the load than the first crew. Mixing and matching powers is made easier than ever with the new leveling system. I was impressed with some of the combos I was able to pull off.

While I loved almost every member of my crew in the first game, Mass Effect 2 turned them into one of my all time favorite groups. With fleshed out back stories and the always superb voice acting, I couldn’t help falling in love all over again. Even characters that I wasn’t sure about at first quickly became regulars.

I can’t think of one person I wouldn’t recommend this game to. It is the pinnacle in current gen gaming and will be a title that I play over and over. At least until Mass Effect 3 comes out.

Fable 3

I have been a slave to the Fable series. From those first few fateful steps into the world of Albion to the resurrection of my dog, I haven’t been able to get enough. Lionhead sank its claws into me with this series. I had been watching the third installment for a long time. Did Lionhead manage to sink their claws in further, or is this my chance at escape?

Fable 3 doesn’t start like the previous entries. In fact, there’s not much that it does follow. Fable does away with many old practices and introduces many new features. Unfortunately, not all of them panned out the way they were intended. For example, Fable 3 does away with the traditional menu and brings out “The Sanctuary”. When you press start, you are transported to a room where your butler, voiced by John Cleese awaits. From here, you can choose where to go and manage your property from a map in the center of the room. Or you can use any of the other rooms to pick an outfit, choose weapons, change game settings, or manage your fortune. While a novel idea, it quickly wears thin hearing John say you have new items that aren’t really there or repairing all of your property individually. Quite literally, it takes at least fifteen minutes to go from house to house and repair them. Why a “repair all” feature wasn’t included is beyond me.

Traditional leveling up is gone as well. Instead, you are on a forced march down the “Road to Rule”. What doesn’t make sense is that you have to buy abilities that should already be available like buying property or getting married.

Coming from Fable 2, Fable 3 just doesn’t feel finished. They took what worked and got rid of it. Instead of picking the way you interact with NPCs, you’re forced to use whatever expression the game has picked out. In my case, I was forced to dance with everyone I met. Man or woman, it didn’t matter. I did the same expression over and over and over.

Despite the flaws and obvious omissions, I enjoyed Fable 3. That was until I hit the end of the game. I had sacrificed everything for my kingdom. I gave them freedoms they had never experienced. I turned the homeless shelter/orphanage into something that rivaled my castle. I even removed a drinking limit. How did my subjects repay me? They threw up on my boots. I can’t take five steps in any town without seeing the stumbling drunk masses vomiting in the streets. Even the caretakers in the orphanage were vomiting in the facility I rebuilt. After doing everything to the best of my abilities, I finally lost it. I went on a murderous rampage that ended with the death of everyone in Bowerstone industrial.

It makes for a great metaphor. The entire game is enjoyable, but it just kind of throws up on you in the end. The game is buggy in many spots, from iffy controls to NPCs floating in the air. I felt like Fable 2 brought much more to the table. The graphics haven’t improved and the musical score has lost that haunting undertone. Fable 3 just feels like a mess when compared to its predecessor.

I enjoyed Fable 3, but it could have been so much better. There was so much potential that went to waste because Lionhead thought we wanted to go on countless hand holding escort quests. Had they taken the time, fixed the bugs and lackluster menu, this would have been a triple A game. As it stands, even the truly devoted may feel like they were robbed by the meager offerings of this outing.


Today was the hardest day of my life.  Today, I held my unborn son. 

We found out last Friday that we had miscarried.  Even if she had stayed in bed the entire time, we still would have lost the baby.  I don't know how or why.  I thought we were safe, making it through the first trimester.  Yesterday, we went back to the doctor for the confirmation.  We were scheduled to have the remains removed today at noon.  This morning, the baby passed on its own.  At 6:45am, I held my unborn child's lifeless body.  I doubt I will ever experience anything more painful.

He was the best part of me.  His tiny body fit into the palm of my hand, and I could not let him go.  This was my son.  I've never loved anything so much in my life.

We headed to the hospital right away.  An ultrasound was performed, with Mom being in optimal health.  It was then that we handed our baby's body to the doctor.  I will never see him again.  I will never hear him laugh, or feel his warmth as I rock him to sleep.  For a brief 15 seconds, I heard his heart beat.  It is a sound I will never forget.

We named him Jack.

To Jack

You know what I've realized?  Life is good.  I have a wonderful life.  I have a woman who loves me, a child on the way, and one hell of a video game collection.

Growing up, I wasn't sure what I was going to do with my life.  Five years ago, I still wasn't sure.  I've taken life at a very laid back pace.  For a long time, my philosophy has been, "Whatever happens, happens."  I think it has worked out.  Life is on track for being awesome.

For the first time in a long while, I feel content.  I sit at the in laws, just having eaten.  I'm fat, happy, and very warm in my fleece.  It's truly the little things that add up and make everything sublime. 

For a long time, I've wondered what my purpose in life was.  What role I was meant to fill.  I'm shocked to admit that once I learned I was going to be a father, I felt like I had acheived my purpose.  The primal drive to pass on one's genes.  It's so simple, I didn't think it would feel this wonderful.  I'm going to be a father and love something for the first time in my life on a totally different level.  I still feel that I need to make something of myself, but now I have one more reason to do so.  It seems cliche, and I'm sure that millions of others have experienced this.  It's something we can all relate to, those that have passed on their legacy.

My goal now, is to make sure my child has a legacy worth inheriting.

October 2010 Release Calendar

October 3:
Wii Party  (Wii)

October 4:
Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs  (DS)
Shantae: Risky's Revenge  (DS)
Racer's Islands: Crazy Racers  (Wii)

October 5:
Castlevania:  Lords of Shadow  (360, PS3)
Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Cosmic Destruction  (PSP, PS3, 360, PS2)
John Daly's ProStroke Golf  (PS3)
NBA 2K11  (360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, PC)
Def Jam Rapstar  (Wii, 360, PS3)
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light  (DS)
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West  (360, PS3)
NBA Jam  (Wii)
Left 4 Dead 2: The Sacrifice  (PC, 360)

October 6:
Comic Jumper  (360)

October 8:
Lionheart: King's Crusade  (PC)
Dragon's Lair Trilogy  (Wii)

October 11:
Sonic the Hedgehog 4  (Wii)

October 12:
Who's That Flying?!  (PSP)
Alan Wake: The Writer  (360)
Sonic theHedgehog 4  (PS3)
ZhuZhu Pets: Featuring the Wild Bunch  (DS, Wii)
Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals  (DS)
Sniper Elite  (Wii)
Invizimals  (PSP)
Borderlands: GOTY Edition  (PS3, 360, PC)
Everquest: House of Thule  (PC)
Lucha Libre AAA Heroes of the Ring  (DS, 360, PS3, PSP)
The Shoot  (PS3)
Arcania: A Gothic Tale  (360, PC)
Just Dance 2  (Wii)
Sengoku BASARA Samurai Heroes  (PS3, Wii)
Super Scribblenauts  (DS)
Medal of Honor  (PC, 360, PS3)

October 13:
Pinball FX 2  (360)
Sonic the Hedgehog 4  (360)

October 15:
Lost Planet 2  (PC)

October 17:
Kirby's Epic Yarn  (Wii)

October 18:
Cars Toon: Mater's Tall Tales  (Wii)
Busy Scissors  (DS, Wii)
Power Gig: Rise of the SixString  (PS3, 360)
Fallout: New Vegas  (PS3)

October 19:
EA Sports  MMA  (360, PS3)
DJ Hero 2  (PS3, Wii, 360)
Vanquish  (360, PS3)
Saw 2  (PS3, 360)
Fallout: New Vegas  (PC, 360)
Active Life Explorer  (Wii)
Time Crisis: Razing Storm  (PS3)
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2  (PS3, 360)
Dragonball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team  (PSP)
Blazing Souls Accelate  (PSP)
John Daly's ProStroke Golf  (360)
CSI: Fatal Conspiracy  (Wii)
Flip's Twisted World  (Wii)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011  (PS3, 360)
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures  (PC)
Rock of the Dead  (360, PS3)
Empire: Total War - Gold Edition  (PC)
SBK X: Superbike World Championship  (PC, PS3, 360)

October 20:
Super Meat Boy  (360)
Casper's Scare School Spooky Sports Day  (DS)

October 25:
Art Academy  (DS)

October 26:
Deca Sports 3  (Wii)
Monopoly Streets  (Wii, PS3, 360)
Tony Hawk Shred  (360, PS3, Wii)
Monopoly  (DS)
Backyard Sports: Rookie Rush  (Wii, DS, 360)
Lego Universe  (PC)
CSI: Fatal Conspiracy  (360, PS3)
Dora's Big Birthday Adventure  (Wii, PS2)
Dora's Cooking Club  (DS)
Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles 2  (DS)
Fighters Uncaged  (360)
Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman  (PSP)
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Duel Transer  (Wii)
Stronghold: Kingdoms  (PC)
Rockband 3  (PS3, 360, Wii, DS)
WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011  (Wii, PSP, 360, PS3, PS2)
The Sims 3  (DS, PS3, 360)
TV Superstars  (PS3)
Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011  (PS3, 360, Wii)
Hasbro Framily Game Night 3  (360, Wii, PS3)
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's Tag Force 5
Crafting Mama  (DS)
The Fight: Lights Out  (PS3)
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2  (360, PS3, Wii, PC)
Fable 3  (360)
Shaun White Skateboarding  (360, PS3, Wii)
Bakugan: Defenders of the Core  (Wii, 360, PS3, PSP, DS)
Intellivision Lives  (DS)
SingStar: Guitar  (PS3)
Mindjack  (PS3, 360)
SingStar: Dance  (PS3)
PokePark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure  (Wii)
Now that I've realized I can post pictures and videos in IE9 with compatibilty mode on, here is that picture of my offspring.

Dragon Age: Origins: Witch Hunt

Me being the sucker I am for what I consider the greatest RPG of the past decade, was estatic to hear that I could mend ties with the wayward love of my first character in Dragon Age: Origins.  After playing it, I want my admission fee back.

Witch Hunt takes place after the main campaign and promises to tie up loose ends with the most enigmatic character in the game.  This is a lie.  Witch Hunt takes two hours at the absolute most to complete and I'm fairly sure my unborn child could beat it, it's so easy.  Quite literally, I didn't have to set up any tactics.  I just let the party do what they wanted and breezed through the DLC on normal.

But it's not about the length they say.  That's a lie as well.  The focus on this expansion is Morrigan and finding out what she's up to.  Long story short: you meet up at the very end and talk for five minutes.  Nothing is resolved, and you're left with a $7 teaser for the next game.

This is by far the worst piece of DLC I've ever played.  Had it been put in with the rest of the main campaign, it would have left a huge imapct.  As it stands, I'm a little ticked off.  Buyer beware with this one.

Sick Days

What sucks about sick days is taht you have to be sick to get them.  What is nice about being a gamer on sick days is that I get to catch up on my backlog.  Today's agenda looks something like this:
1.  Download and move my saves onto my new 16GB memory card for the PSP

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Cool Boarders
Final Fantasy VIII
Hot Shots Golf 2
Jean d'Arc

2.  Download Left 4 Dead 2 and all available DLC for only $6.79 on Steam

*3:  Track down that bitch, Morrigan in Dragon Age: Origins and find out what happened to my kid.

4.  Enter a state of nirvana

What are your plans for the day?


Left 4 Dead sale!

Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 are on sale in the Steam store.  Normally $20, you can pick up a copy of either game for $6.79.  Get both for $10.19!  Throw in that Steam has free DLC for both and you have one hell of a deal.

Borderlands: Claptrap's Revolution: A Micro Review

So, the saga that is Borderlands, comes to a close.  Unfortunately, it closes on a rather weak note.

Claptrap's revolution finally addresses the final scene in Broderlands, the activation of the Interplanetary Ninja Assassin.  Claptrap has since then gone beyond his programming and raised a robot revolution to free the enslaved "race" of claptraps.  It is your job to bring him down.  Funny thing is, you've been hired by the people that activated him to kill you, Hyperion.

Compared to other DLC offerings, Zombie Island and General Knoxx especially, Revolution is on the meager side.  Start to finish, I had it beaten in two hours.  Of course, I was doing this on my 61 siren against play through #2's level 50 enemies.  Long story short, there was little to no challenge.  My 41 hunter on the other hand, is having one hell of a time.  It would appear that it is a balancing issue. 

Revolution sticks to the comedic gold that makes Borderlands what it is, but like the length of the campaign itself, the portions are much smaller this time around.  The character interactions and reintroductions of Knoxx are toned down to another grind/fetch quest with Tannis, and bland quest giving from the head of Hyperion.

As far as any other additions like weapons or items, there's nothing that I recognized as being new.  The promised level cap increase to 69 has yet to strike, and it's a shame, because this would have been perfect timing.

As it stands, Revolution isn't so much another chapter for Borderlands, as it is a short and unsatisfying epilogue.  Is it worth the $10 admission ticket?  I'll leave that up to you.

Borderlands and the goons that inhabit it

I love me some Borderlands, that's no secret.  But there's a stipulation with that.  I usually only play solo or split screen with my girlfriend.  Now, you may ask, "Why don't you play online with everyone else?"  Well, put simply, 90% of the Borderlands community (for 360) are cheaters. 

The very large majority of people I have played with break the game to the point where it isn't even fun to play anymore.  They give their characters extra levels and talent points outside the normal amount (Level cap at this writing is 61, going up to 69 shortly and players are running around at 70).  They have modified guns that kill anything with one shot.  They have shields that can't be broken.  They use talent point generators to fill out their talent trees.  It goes on and on. 

What astounds me, is that I'm the weird one because I dont' want any of these perks.  "Why wouldn't I?", you may inquire.  Well, I play games for the challenge they pose.  I take no joy in running around screaming "Boom!  One shot!" into my headset as I essentially break the game with an over powered gun and shield that never breaks.  Sadly, that last example comes from my last online session.  As it stands now, I feel that I'm one of the VERY few who doesn't play with modded items or characters.

Sure, it can be fun to play with a god mode.  But to play all the time like that?  Where's the fun?  Have I gotten so old now, that I think the younger generation of gamers have become lazy?  That they don't appreciate the challenge that comes with taking down an especially challenging level and the thrill of victory that follows?  Are games moving towards instant gratification, with no real challenge to players?  I believe to an extent, they are.  Borderlands isn't exceptionally challenging, so why break it so?

I hosted my last online session, letting players hop in and out as they please.  I was on my level 42 hunter, plowing through the Dahl Headlands on the second play through.  Suddenly, a player who had been quiet for some time asked me, "Are you actually playing the game and doing the quests to level up?"

"Why yes", I replied.  "It's a game, that's what you do."

"Do you want to join my game and get power leveled?"

"No, I'm fine like this, thanks though."With that, he left my game, lost to the series of tubes that make up Xbox Live.  It was a bizarre interaction.  Neither of us understood the other's method of play. 

I suppose that until Gearbox cracks down on the number of cheaters out there, that I should stick to my offline play.  But, still, I ask myself "Am I the only sane one left in the mad world of Pandora?"

Sorry guys.

I've been AWOL.  And with no real good reason.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I'm going to be a father!  ...And for whatever reason, I can't upload a picture.  Oh well, edits and updates are in order. 

Due this week: reviews!  Specifically Halo:Reach and Borderlands: New Revolution.  I'll have more later.

Borderlands Level Cap Increase

At the Gearbox panel at PAX yesterday, it was announced that the level cap in Borderlands would be raised to 69.  The current cap is set at 61.  Oh yeah, this is also going to be free.  Expect the bonus levels to drop around the same time the Game of the Year edition releases in October.

via Kotaku

September 2010 Release Calendar

September 1:
Alien Breed Impact  (PS3)

September 7:
NHL 11  (PS3, 360)
Dragon Age: Origins: Witch Hunt  (PS3, 360, PC)
Brunswick Cosmic Bowling  (Wii)
Otomedius Excellent  (360)
Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker  (360)
R.U.S.E.  (360, PS3, PC)
101 in 1 Sports Megamix  (DS)
Kung Fu Rider  (PS3)
EyePet  (PS3)
Start the Party  (PS3)
H.A.W.X. 2  (360, PS3)
The Sims 3 - Fast Lane Stuff  (PC)
Dawn of Heroes  (DS)
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep  (PSP)
NHL Slapshot  (Wii)
Sports Champions  (PS3)
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions  (360, PS3, Wii, DS)
UFC Undisputed 2010  (PSP)
Aion: Assault on Balaurea  (PC)
Batman: The Brave and The Bold  (Wii, DS)

September 8:
Amnesia: The Dark Descent  (PC)
Plants vs Zombies  (360)
Dance!  It's your Stage  (360)

September 10:
Racers' Islands: Crazy Racers  (Wii)
Recettear  (PC)

September 12:
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future  (DS)

September 13:
House M.D.  (PC)

September 14:
Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Swamp  (DS, Wii, PS2)
Gladiator Begins  (PSP)
Swords  (Wii)
Patrician IV  (PC)
Halo: Reach  (360)
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest  (Wii, PS2, PSP)
Gormiti: The Lords of Nature  (DS, Wii)
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole  (Wii, PS3, 360, DS)
Truth or Liews  (Wii, 360, PS3)
Cabela's North American Adventures  (Wii, 360, PS2, PSP, PS3)
Intellivision Lives  (DS)
Dragon's Lair Trilogy  (Wii)
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Duel Transer  (Wii)
The Guild II: Renaissance  (PC)
Racquet Sports  (PS3)

September 15:
Sonic Adventure  (360)
House M.D.  (DS)
Flight Control HD  (PS3)

September 16:
Ferrari: The Race Experience  (PS3)

September 17:
Brunswick Pro Bowling  (PS3)
Lionheart: Kings' Crusade  (PC)

September 18:
Horse Life Adventures  (DS, Wii)

September 21:
Civilization V  (PC)
Kidz Bop Dance Party!  (Wii)
Flip's Twisted World  (Wii)
New Carnival GAmes  (Wii)
Zany Golf  (Wii)
Etrian Odyssey 3  (DS)
Cladun: This is an RPG  (PSP)
Family Party Fitness Fun  (Wii)
Club Penguin Game Day!  (Wii)
Death Spank: Thongs of Virtue  (PS3)

September 22:
Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter  (360)
Death Spank: Thongs of Virtue  (360)
F1 2010  (PC, PS3, 360)

September 23: 
Darksiders  (PC)

September 27:
Samurai Warriors 3  (Wii)

September 28:
Front Mission Evolved  (PC, 360, PS3)
Phantasy Star Portable 2  (PSP)
SBK X: Superbike World Championship  (360, PS3, PC)
John Daly's ProStroke Golf  (PC)
Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland  (PS3)
Dead Rising 2  (PC, PS3, 360)
Greg Hastings Paintball 2  (Wii, 360)
Battle vs Chess  (360, PC, PS3)
Quantum Theory  (PS3)
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light  (PC, PS3)
Shaun White Skateboarding  (Wii, 360, PS3)
Guitar Hero: Warrios of Rock  (360, PS3)
MorphX  (360)
Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2  (PS3)
FIFA 11  (PC, Wii, PS3, 360)
My Sims SkyHeroes  (Wii, 360, PS3, DS)
Rapala Pro Bass Fishing  2010  (360, Wii, PSP, PS3, PS2, DS)
FIFA Soccer 11  (360, PS3)
Haunted House  (Wii)
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest  (PS3)
Sniper Elite  (Wii)

September 29:
Hydrophobia  (360)

Exteel comes to an end

Exteel, a free to play MMO from NC Soft will shut down its servers September 1, 2010.  The statement from the official site reads:

"All good things must come to an end

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 —

NCsoft has made the decision that the Exteel franchise is no longer financially viable. On September 1, 2010 at normal maintenance time, all Exteel servers maintained by NCsoft will shut down permanently.

This is a global shutdown, and not based on our server alone.

NCcoins will no longer be available for sale through our website, and Game Time Cards can no longer be used to add additional coins to any account. Current Game Time Cards that have not been applied can be used for any other NCsoft game. New game account and forum account creation will be disabled. We encourage anyone who has coins currently on your account to spend them as soon as possible. Please use all of your coins as no refunds will be provided.

In late August, we will have an event where all items will be available for 1 credit only so that everyone has the chance to experience any weapon, mech, build, etc that they ever could have wanted. Your coins should be used before that time. Additionally, we will be rewarding our loyal players who purchased NCcoins for the time and money they have invested in Exteel. More information about the loyalty rewards will be available in late August.

We know that we have many loyal players who love Exteel. Although this decision was a painful one, in the end it was a business decision that had to be made. We encourage everyone to play and have fun with the game that you love in the time you have left."

This is a shame as Exteel was a fantastic mech based shooter that had a wonderful fan base.  It was a joy to customize my mech and then take it into the field of battle (capture the flag).  I stopped playing back in October, when I upgraded to Windows 7.  I am currently running the 32bit OS, and Windows saw Exteel as a threat and would shut down each time I tried to play.  Supposedly, the 64bit version was not affected and NC Soft made no announcements on fixing the issue.  I had always looked forward to playing again when i upgraded my computer.  Sadly, it doesn't look like I'll have that opportunity.  Goodbye, old friend.  You will be missed.
Exteel official site

Bioshock Infinite debut trailer

City of Heroes: Going Rogue launch trailer

Dragon Age 2 debut trailer

August 2010 Release Calendar

August 2010

August 1
Alter Ego  (PC)

August 3
Superstars V8 Racing  (PC, 360, PS3)
Monster Rancher DS  (DS)
Disney Sing It: Family Hits  (PS3, Wii)
Dora's Big Birthday Adventure  (DS)

August 4
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair  (360)

August 9
Enjoy Your Massage!  (Wii)

August 10
Madden NFL 11 (PS2, PS3, PSP, 360, Wii)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World  (PS3)

August 11
Monday Night Combat  (360)

August 12
Burn Zombie Burn  (PC)

August 13
Academagia: the Making of Mages  (PC)
Victoria 2  (PC)

August 15
Xyson  (PC)

August 17
City of Heroes: Going Rogue  (PC)
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days  (PC, PS3, 360)
Ys Seven  (PSP)
Everquest 2: Extended  (PC)
Top Gun  (PS3)
Gold's Gym Dance Workout  (Wii)

August 18
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

August 24
Crazy Pig  (DS)
Elemental: War of Magic  (PC)
Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar  (DS)
Mafia 2  (PC, PS3, 360)
NHL 2K11  (Wii)
Grease: The Official Video Game  (Wii, DS)
Ivy the Kiwi  (Wii, DS)
Gunblade NY & LA Machineguns Arcade Hits Pack  (Wii)
Martian Panic  (Wii)
Shank  (PS3)

August 25
Shank (360)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World  (360)

August 26
Worms Reloaded  (PC)

August 27
Ship Simulator Extremes  (PC)

August 30
TNT Racers  (360, PS3, Wii)
Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island  (PC)

August 31
Horrid Henry  (DS, PC, Wii)
Guilty Party  (Wii)
Metroid: Other M  (Wii)
Hydrophobia  (360)
KORE  (Wii)
Ace Combat: Joint Assault  (PSP)
Valkyria Chronicles 2  (PSP)
Dead Rising 2: Case Zero  (360)

Updates, or lack thereof

Well, holy hell, it's been a long time since anything has been posted.  A few things can contribute to that.  One being a new full time plus job.  The other being my current subscriptions to three MMORPGs, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, and Aion.  "Why?", you may ask.  I don't have a good answer.  All three are time sinks for the one thing I don't have much of, time. 

I should probably impose a strict schedule for my gaming to allow for regular updates.  But as I've covered before, I feel that gaming isn't something that should fall prey to a schedule.  Gaming is a release, something done to unwind after a long and stress filled day.

There is a balance somewhere, I just need to find it. 


Limbo is the first entry in Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade.  It's a 2D platformer/ puzzle game with a simple design and premise.  Don't be deceived though, Limbo will test your abilities to the fullest.

Limbo follows a boy in his adventure to find someone.  There's no written story, no cinematic or interactions that reveal anything about our protagonist's motivation.  Limbo is a monochromatic world where you must continually move forward.

The design is simple with the boy and most objects being blacked out.  The background is filled with shadows and brilliant points of light.  It is enchanting and haunting at the same time.  The only sounds heard are the boy's foot steps and ambient noises based on his environment.

The game starts off as a platformer and then ramps up into a puzzle game.  The transition comes about an hour into the game.  The difficulty of the puzzles increases exponentially.  This can lead to some incredibly frustrating moments.  In contrast, once you figure out the solution, it's silly how obvious it was.

I played through it the first time with three over people over Xbox Live.  We made the game easier than it probably would have been by sharing tips and tricks as we progressed.  Still, Limbo was a fantastic little journey that was different from most games I've played.  It's easily one of the best examples of games as art because it leaves the player to interpret everything, from motivation to setting.

Limbo is available on Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft Points ($15).  It lasts three to five hours on the first play through and is much shorter once you know the puzzles.  It's well worth it if you're looking for something different to play.

Decide the fate of Carmine in Gears 3!

From the official Gears site.

"The fate of Carmine lies in your hands! For the first time in franchise history, Epic Games and Microsoft are giving fans the chance to decide the fate of a character in Gears of War 3. By purchasing avatar gear on Xbox LIVE Marketplace, fans and gaming communities around the globe will decide the destiny of the newest Carmine brother set to appear in Gears of War 3, with all the proceeds going to the Child’s Play Charity.

Keeping with the series’ tradition, Clayton Carmine will be introduced in the trilogy’s final chapter, and like Anthony and Ben, the newest rookie brother runs the high risk of meeting an early death. However, unlike in the previous games, the Xbox community will choose whether Carmine lives or dies by purchasing special Gears of War 3 avatar gear on Xbox LIVE Marketplace. Starting July 29, two new avatar t-shirts will be available on the Avatar Marketplace on Xbox LIVE—one shirt reads “Save Carmine,” and the other reads “Carmine Must Die.” By purchasing the “Save Carmine” shirt, you’re casting your vote to let Carmine live in Gears of War 3. Conversely, purchasing the “Carmine Must Die” shirt means you want to see Clayton follow the fate of his brothers.

Fans attending Comic-Con International in San Diego this week will also be able to cast their votes early by purchasing real-life limited edition “Save Carmine” or “Carmine Must Die” t-shirts at the NECA booth (#3145) for $20.00. Gears fans can also visit the Xbox 360 booth (#5153) to be among the first to play Gears of War 3 Beast mode throughout the show. Finally, the team from Epic Games, including design director Cliff Bleszinski, executive producer Rod Fergusson, and lead writer Karen Traviss, will be signing Comic-Con–exclusive posters at the Xbox booth on Saturday, July 24, at noon PDT.

Child’s Play is a community-based games industry charity dedicated to improving the lives of children around the world. Through their network of more than 60 hospitals and through the generosity of their community of donors, Child’s Play raises millions of dollars each year to donate games, consoles, and toys to sick children. The proceeds from the sales of the “Save Carmine” and “Carmine Must Die” avatar gear and limited edition NECA t-shirts will go to Child’s Play, so cast your vote, donate to charity, and get cool Gears of War gear! Fans can get up-to-date information about the fate of Clayton Carmine by visiting

Published by Microsoft Game Studios and developed by Epic Games, the Gears of War franchise has won over 30 “Game of the Year” awards, sold more than 12 million copies worldwide, and redefined the third-person shooter genre for this console generation. The Gears of War series is exclusive to Xbox 360, and its riveting multiplayer action makes it one of the most popular titles on Xbox LIVE. The trilogy finale, Gears of War 3, will release on April 5, 2011, only on Xbox 360."

Carmine in Gears of War 3!

Finally!  Clayton Carmine has been revealed for Gears of War 3!  My multiplayer experience will be complete! 

What Grinds my Gears: Modern Warfare 2

What happens to games when they become popular?  They become filled with scammers and douchebags.  When playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, I receive multiple messages from scammers (both text and mumbled voice), promising instant levels through the use of the mysterious 10th prestige lobby.

What is the 10th prestige lobby?  A fabled place where those who have leveled up to 70 ten times over can host a game where they set the rules.  Rules like, a single kill will net you a level. 

The idea is that you pay 1200-1600 Microsoft Points ($15-$20) for a match and you'll snag some easy levels.  What boggles the mind is that you don't unlock new weapons or skills.  All you get is a title and emblem.  Something that can be earned with time and dedication.

That's assuming the seller is on the up and up.  More often than not, you'll pay the price and then never hear from the seller again. 

I can't say I feel bad for those that fall sucker for this.  Don't pay someone to complete the game for you.  The entire point is to enjoy the game and eventually earn these things on your own.  Unfortunately, I have to waste my time and feed these messages to my ignore list.

Xbox's summer of arcade

July 21 - Limbo
July 28 - Hydro Thunder Hurricane
August 4 - Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
August 11 - Monday Night Combat
August 18 - Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Buy all five and get 1200 free Microsoft Points.  Buy three and get 400 points.

Too many buttons on a controller?

Bob over at Insert Token posted this question.  I typed up a rather long opinion.  What is yours?

From an outsider's perspective, it can be intimidating. The Xbox 360 controller has 11 buttons, plus two analog sticks and a d pad. But everything is intimidating if you lack knowledge. Think of your first day on any job and how scared you were of messing something up. The same thing applies to controllers.

Because of this, just like training a new employee, I start with easier games to initiate those unfamiliar with the controller. As they grow more comfortable with the controller, I increase the complexity of the games played and soon enough they can use the controller without difficulty.

I'm of the opinion that if a chimp can learn sign language, you can learn how to use a controller. You just have to get rid of the mindset "There's too many buttons, I'll never learn to use it." You are awesome, you can do anything, including kicking your kid's butt in their favorite game.

This fear is why motion controllers have become such a phenomenon. The problem with this is that, in my experience, the motion controls are nowhere near as responsive. Often, I'm left flailing and getting the same results as the carefully orchestrated movements in the instruction manual. I'll gladly take a classic controller over motion controls any day.

The other issue is that I play games to relax. I don't want to jump and windmill my arms like I'm having an epiliptic fit when I'm playing a game. That's not relaxing. I work hard for a living and work out every day on top of that. Somedays I don't want to get out of bed, let alone jump up around the living room as a form of entertainment. With a regular controller in hand, I can relax comfortably on my couch with a cool Mountain Dew at my side and just immerse myself in the game of the week.

If you're still thinking controllers have too many buttons, consider for a moment, PC gaming. Imagine having an entire keyboard laid out before you with a mouse that can open all sorts of menus and perform any number of functions. How many keys (buttons) are there? How many possible combinations could be used in a game? Suddenly the Xbox controller is a lot less intimidating.

Like I said before, "You are awesome, you can do anything." So pick up that controller, learn it, and take your kid/friend/loved one to school.

No more 1 vs 100 for Xbox Live

Today is a sad day for everyone on Xbox Live.  Microsoft has announced that they will no longer continue 1 vs 100.  This is an absolute shame.  For the past two seasons, Kim and I would log in almost every night to play.  It was fun and different.  It made for an excellent break from sawing the Locust Horde in two.

For the announcement, click here.

Gaming backlog

I have a lot of games.  Last count put me in the lower 200s.  I have a lot of games I need to review.  I have a lot of games that I need to beat so I can review them.  I feel kind of trendy typing this up on a laptop.

Supposedly the folks at Penny Arcade have this same problem, only they don't do so many formal reviews.  They've put into place a white board with a gaming schedule on it.  While I like this idea, it frightens me that my collection has reached a point where I need to set a schedule to make sure I'll play every game I buy.  At the moment, the games I own but have yet to beat are:

Alan Wake
Devil May Cry 4
Divinity 2
Final Fantasy XIII
Infinite Undiscovery
Overlord 2
Prince of Persia
Red Dead Redemption
Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope
Tales of Vesperia
X Blades
Mass Effect
Dead Space: Extraction
Monster Hunter Tri
Trauma Center: Second Opinion
Persona 4
Phantasy Star Potable
Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria
Haunting Ground
Pokemon: Soul Silver

Add to that any of the numerous MMORPG's I'm currently playing and I have a nasty backlog.  So what I ask is, how large is your gaming backlog halfway into 2010?

Gears of War

Epic games have been in the business of revolutionizing the gaming industry. They started with Quake and continued with Gears of War. It was released in November 2006.

Gears of War follows the members of Delta Squad on the planet Sera. Players assume the role of Marcus Fenix as he fights the subterranean race of Locust Horde. The Locust are hell bent on wiping out the human population and it’s up to Delta to find a way to map their massive subterranean tunnels and deploy the Light Mass bomb and wipe them out.

Where Gears is truly revolutionary is the gameplay. It is played from the third person perspective. It uses a cover system that has since been mimicked in nearly every shooter made since. The “A” button controls everything from sprinting to enter cover and taking evasive maneuvers. Popping out of cover is as simple as holding the left trigger to take aim and the seemingly never ending horde of enemies.

To make things easier, players have access to an impressive lineup of weapons. They run the gambit of handguns to shotguns and crossbows that fire explosive arrows. The fallback, good for any situation weapon of choice is the Lancer. It’s your standard machine gun with a twist. It has a chainsaw attached. This makes for an excellent way to dispatch of foes in a very personal manner.

There are numerous multiplayer modes to play in addition to the story. Players are grouped into teams of four, one side playing the members of Delta and the other playing as the Locust Horde. Matches are split into standard deathmatch and a capture the flag mode.

Graphically, Gears set a standard in 2006. The game has aged well considering this. Despite this, Gears is a dark and gritty game. The graphics fit the theme of the game very well as it is a story of survival in a harsh and terrifying world filled with monsters.

Gears is an enjoyable game but is not without flaws. Often when using the Lancer, I would perform the animation and see an enemy who was in front of me be teleported five feet away. The game is also plagued with lack luster AI. When played solo, the AI takes control of your partner Dom. Dom has an annoying habit of soaking up enemy rounds and refusing to take cover. Then he has a tendency to die. This wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t give a game over and send you back to the past checkout. The final boss is especially tough because of Dom’s inability to perform. Thankfully, there is the option to play with a partner through splitscreen or Xbox Live.

Gears or War is a turning point for games. Not so much for the story as the way the game is played. What flaws existed have since been fixed and the game improved in the sequel. Still, no one can deny the impact this game has had on many games released since.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 DLC returns

I bought Marvel Ultimate Alliance a while ago and then purchased the DLC.  My brother-in-law purchased it a few months after me and was unable to find the DLC.  Turns out it was a limited time offer.  Yet I never read anywhere that this was the case.  To compound the issue, players with the DLC couldn't play with those that did not have it.  The player base as effectively grouped into two, the haves and the have nots.

Well, there has been a lot of complaining on that point.  Now the DLC has returned.  But once again, only for a limited time.  You only have until December 31, 2010 to purchase the DLC.

For those not in the know, the two primary DLC are as follows:

Juggernaut playable character

Psylocke, Magneto, Cable, Black Panther, Carnage and four new simulation missions.

Why your tech wants to murder babies

I have a love hate relationship with working on computers.  Generally, I love the technology and by relation, fixing said technology when something goes wrong.  But when people can't take simple precautions such as installing an anti virus program or not opening every email and clicking every link, it makes me want to do bad things.  I just spent six hours doing work like this.  While it is easy, my inner rage is rising.  The catch 22 is that if people took the time to learn how to do these little things, I'd lose 80% of my business.

World of Warcrack

Well, I'm back on the crack pony.  The editor and my good friend Bob Presswood of Insert Token paid me in WoW accounts for contributions to the July issue (order yours today!)  I thought it was fair.  But now I must manage my addiction to this game.  And I really need to get Dirtelf some better gear.  It's been nearly a year since I've played.  So if you play on Mannoroth and are an Ally, drop me a message and we'll get something going.

July 2010 Release Calendar

July 5
Furry Legends  (Wii)

July 6
Persona 3  (PSP)
Despicable Me  (Wii, DS, PS2)
Crackdown 2  (360)
Tournament of Legends  (Wii)

July 7
Monkey Island 2: Special Edition  (360, PS3, PC)
ArmA 2  (PC)
Blacklight: Tango Down  (360)

July 9
Battlfield 1943  (PC)

July 11
Dragon Quest IX  (DS)

July 13
DeathSpank  (PS3)
NCAA Football 11  (PS2, PS3, 360)
Mytheon  (PC)

July 14
DeathSpank  (360)

July 16
Puzzle Quest 2  (DS)

July 20
7 Wonders II  (DS)
Trackmania  (Wii)
Arc Rise Fantasia  (Wii)
Need for Speed World  (PC)

July 27
BlazBlue:Continuum Shift  (360,PS3)
Starcraft 2  (PC)
Clash of the Titans  (PS3, 360)
Ace Combat: Joint Assault  (PSP)
Guilty Party  (Wii)

July 30
Commander: Conquest of the Americas  (PC)

Soul Calibur 4 wallpapers

Whipped up some SC4 wallpapers for the loyal fans of this series.  Nothing fancy, but still ready for proud display on any screen.  All the images are 1280x1024 resolution.

Nintendo's E3 2010 presentation

Nintendo got its turn in the spotlight today at E3.  They revealed a line up that was predictable.  Here's the new line up:
  • Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Epic Mickey
  • Kirby's Epic Yarn
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising
  • Metroid: Other M
  • Goldeneye 007
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
  • Mario Sports Mix
  • Wii Party
So, to summarize, Nintendo is releasing new games on their key franchises.  They do this every year and the masses eat this shit up.  Mario gets a new game and there's another title that starts with "Wii".  Big shock.  This is why I loathe Nintendo at the moment.  Instead of trying new things, they release the same games with new wrappers. 

Don't get me wrong though, the new Zelda looks great, except that series creator Miyamoto couldn't control the game as well he thought.  Motion controls are a fad that need to go the way of the dinosaur.  During the demo, Miyamoto could not demonstrate three of the weapons, because there were signal errors which were jokingly blamed on audience members using wireless devices.  I love the Zelda series and this entry's art style is rich and vibrant with color while still being realistic.

The game does look like it would be fun, if you could use a regular controller to play.  I like the idea of the whip and the different ways to throw bombs (bowling and shotput).

Metroid: Other M looks like a must have title for me as I haven't played a Metroid since the Super Nintendo.  I loved the dark and isolated feeling the trailer gave and look forward to Team Ninja's take on this classic series.

The title that did blow me away was Kid Icarus: Uprising.  It will be a launch title for Nintendo's 3DS, the new 3D gaming handheld.  It instantly turned me from indifference to must have.

Some major developers will have titles ready for the launch of the 3DS, including Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, and Kingdom Hearts.

All in all, I was impressed with Nintendo this year.  Despite them giving us the same games over and over.

Metal Gear Solid: Rising E3 trailer

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood E3 Trailer

A fantastic video of what's to come.  Just mind the ad for GameStop at the end.  That voice wrecks the entire experience and makes me cringe each time I hear it.

Fable II

I prefer my games to be on an epic scale when played. I want to be overwhelmed, blown away, and locked in a constant state of awe. Fable II has been one of the few games to bring me this feeling. From the quiet beauty of the world surrounding the character to the emotional surges felt for the NPCs you meet, Fable defines what gaming should be.

Much like any great story, your character starts from humble beginnings. An orphan on the streets of Bowerstone, your character does anything to scrape out a living with their sister, Rose. A meeting with a cryptic gypsy leads to a music box and a trip to the local castle and its lord. Terrible things happen in your character’s youth and set the stage for an epic tale of revenge.

The story is rather straightforward with the trappings of the original Fable still adorned. If played straight through with no side quests taken up, Fable II ends up being a relatively short game. You start as a child, take on a quest for revenge, compete in a tournament, spend time in a prison, and make it back in time to stop the bad guy from destroying the world. It’s nothing original, but Fable II tells it in such a breathtaking fashion that it’s hard not to be swept away.

Much like the original, you are free to develop your hero as you see fit. This time around, the hero can be either male or female. You gain experience orbs from defeated enemies and the orbs reflect the way you dispatched them. Use a sword or other melee weapon and you’ll net red orbs for investment in strength skills. Use a ranged weapon and you’ll come up with yellow orbs for skill, such as increased speed and accuracy. Magic use gains blue orbs for a wider array of spells and increased power. Your character physically changes depending on how you spend skill points as well, becoming more muscular for strength, taller for skill, and gaining more glowing blue mana lines over their body if they’re a proficient magic user.

Choice has always been the focal point in the Fable series. Your choices have a more widespread and visible effect this time around. Even choices made early on in the game will have a dramatic effect on the world you later experience. Much like the original, these choices alter your character’s appearance. Do good deeds and your hair takes on a lighter tone and your skin a golden hue. Do evil and your hair thins and turns black while your skin pales and appears to rot. Add to this, a purity scale. Pure players gain a halo while corrupt players develop horns over time.

Unlike the previous entry, players do not earn cold hard cash by completing quests or exploiting merchants with supply and demand. Fable II has an economy ripe for plunder, provided you start early. Nearly every piece of property in the game can be purchased, and depending on the state of the property itself and the world around it, you’ll gain a tidy sum of cash for rent every five minutes. This time includes time when you’re not playing. It makes it easy to grind for cash when the game does it when not played. Because of this, creating multiple characters has never been easier. Well, that and the addition of multiplayer.

Fable II can be played co-op with a friend over Xbox Live or on the very same couch. To give your new character a vast fortune, simply load your new character into your existing character’s game. Set the scales so that they receive all the money from rent. If you haven’t played for days at a time, they’ll receive that initial lump sum and be set for the rest of their game. The only drawback to playing with another player is that whoever is playing as the henchmen cannot complete quests and must pick a generic premade character while in the host’s game.

Co-op aside, you’ll spend 95% of the game playing with a partner. Early on, your character rescues an abused dog and gains a lifetime companion. Your furry partner can assist you in a fight and help you find buried treasure across the broad lands of Albion. Be this money, weapons, or condoms, each has its purpose. I am hard pressed to find a more valuable partner AI in any game. I truly believe Lionhead perfected it with the dog in this game. Much like your character, the dog’s appearance changes depending on the choices you make. Do good deeds and your dog has a healthy white coat. Do evil and your doggy turns black. Later DLC, “See the future”, lets players choose the breed of their dog. A simple potion can turn your faithful hound into a Dalmatian, Bloodhound, or Husky.

Graphically, Fable II is stunning. From the vast fields of flowers to the darkest caves, it is candy for the eyes. The lighting is done to fantastic effect and each setting blew me away. The only flaw is that there are only a handful of character models. So in larger towns, you’ll find many of the same NPCs milling about.

The soundtrack was composed by the remarkable Danny Elfman and Russell Shaw. Nearly every piece gives me goosebumps as I play as they produce such a sense of awe. The music fits wonderfully with its respective setting and I never found myself wanting.

Fable II sets a benchmark in gaming that is hard to meet. It has a simple story, but one that is well told. There is an incredible amount to do beyond the main story and you’ll find yourself spending countless hours enjoying this masterpiece.