Archive for October, 2006

31
Oct
06

Gears of War: So Far, Believe the Hype!! (Multiplayer Looks Awesome!)

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On this spooky Halloween night, I thought I’d check out my boys over at Xbox360Fanboy.com to see what was new and interesting. They ran this story talking about GameTrailers.com and how people were posting multi-player videos of Gears of War. I needed to investigate.

(One quick preface before I talk about the videos — I am not a multi-player first-person-shooter kinda guy. I didn’t play a whole lot of Halo multi-player and I don’t feel the need to be where the masses of gamers are all the time. Most of the folks who line up for Madden every year or who spent so much time playing Halo probably never bothered to check in with other great experiences to be found in Katamari Damacy, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, or even Metal Gear Solid. But, I digress. My point was that I’m just not the guy who’s drawn to a multi-player experience even if I make the decision to buy a first-person shooter. The last game that I spent any real time with in the multi-player combat mode was when the Prey demo hit Xbox Live. It’s just not my thing.)

That having been said, I think I will be spending some serious time with the Gears of War multi-player maps. Seriously. You’ve gotta see these movies. I read all the hype and the interviews that Cliffy B was putting out about how his game was going to have all of these compelling features and after a certain point, I just shut down. For me, Gears is coming at the right time because it’s gotten so much hype that anything short of a 10 out of 10 or a legendary Halo like status is going to be considered missing the mark. If these videos on GameTrailers.com are any indication of what the rest of the game is like, then perhaps I can wait out that first round of PS3 shipments.

First of all, it just looks beautiful — you know, in a “post-apocalyptic” kinda way. In the movies that were posted, I saw three of what I believe will be twelve maps. There’s a graveyard map with mausoleums and other stone structures that will serve as cover. Another map was of what might have been a construction site(?) The last map I saw (and probably my favorite) can best be described as “the set of the military house from 28 Days Later”. (And if you haven’t seen that movie, what the hell are you waiting for. One of the best horror films in years.)

The characters are very bulky, but they move pretty deftly. The “CNN war camera” (a view when the player runs and a shaky cam follows their trail) is going to pleasantly surprise the few who haven’t already seen it. I can’t tell much about the gameplay and how evenly balanced the weapons between the Locusts and the Marines are, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that (like Tomb Raider earlier this year) you weapons don’t disappear into an invisible bag. You basically have two weapons — the one you’re holding and the one on your back. (This should be the norm for the next gen. No need to go to a menu screen to see my inventory. Show me what I have. These systems can handle it.)

So what hooked me on the multi-player? A few things. First, Cliffy made the best decision when he limited the amount of players for the multi-player experience. The four per side that I saw was just the right amount. The players were few enough that they were able to run through areas of the level and not worry much about “soldiers everywhere”. But the map was small enough that you didn’t have to spend too much time finding players.

Probably the best thing I saw in the movies was the fact that when you get hurt up to a certain point, you’ll drop to a knee……but you’re not dead — yet. You are dying, but not dead. You’re bleeding to death. There’s a brief period of time when the Locust/Marine that wounded you (or any opposition player) can come over and “finish the job”. But it can also be the case that your teammate can save you and give you health. It sounds simple, but it works REALLY well. (They even play a little victory theme when you save someone or when you get saved.) I saw a movie where a Marine was wounded by a Locust and you could just see the Locust coming in to finish the kill. Out of nowhere a Marine totally sideswiped the Locust and dropped him to a knee and came over and saved the Marine — at which point the saved Marine got the ultimate redemption and stomped on the head of his would-be killer. Sounds like a bit of conjecture? If you’re thinking that, then go watch the movies.  (UPDATE 11/1: The movies appear to have been taken down by GameTrailers.  Their message board indicates that they might have been asked by Microsoft to take them down.  They should be back up sometime today — but I wouldn’t hold my breath.  Take my word for it — the games look incredible.) Continue reading ‘Gears of War: So Far, Believe the Hype!! (Multiplayer Looks Awesome!)’

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25
Oct
06

Review: John Legend – Once Again …(is this the same dude??)

There was a time when I’d go to J&R Music World or a CD store and have so many albums in my hand that I’d have to stop and start making choices. “Gee — seven CDs? That’s a lot. Gotta put two down…. but who??” Nowadays I don’t have that problem anymore. As a matter of fact, I rarely buy CDs at all. Last album I bought….(wait — going to rack to check….)…. Kanye West – Late Registration. (And that was a disappointment.) Last album before that? I can’t remember. The point is that either one of two things is happening: either I’m becoming the old fart I told myself I would never become and I just can’t keep pace with the changing music…. or music right now is complete garbage. I think it might be a little bit of both.

There are a few artists that hold a place in the “inner sanctum” of my music collection. Artists whose new releases I wouldn’t think twice about buying. Without hearing a note from the track, I’d make my way to Best Buy, look for the CD cover and take it to the check out counter. The list of artists who hold that distinction is getting smaller, but John Legend was one of a about 15 artists that had recently found his way onto that list.

Back in 2004, my sister asked me if I’d heard his album yet. At the time I brushed her off. I mean, I had already given it a shot. I opened Napster and listened to the first four tracks of Get Lifted and John Legend just struck me as one of these artists who had talent, but wasn’t quite suited for the up-tempo songs he was singing. It’s like listening to a fast Babyface song — most of the time it just doesn’t work. But, on the recommendation of my only blood sibling, I gave it another shot one lazy afternoon.

I logged into Napster and (free of charge, of course) I played Get Lifted again….from the very first track. As I suspected, it was a lot like listening to a Brian McKnight album during the sections where he’s singing up-tempo songs. You just wanna reach through the stereo and smack him. But this time I held my patience and listened a bit farther into the album. And while the up-tempo tracks on Get Lifted aren’t quite as bad as those of Brian McKnight, a funny thing happens if you hang in there until the ballads kick in on Track 8. Somewhere between the end of Track 7 (I Can Change) and Track 8 (Ordinary People), Get Lifted takes on a completely different persona. The entire complexion of the album changes. It goes from faux up-tempo “me too” unoriginal, average R&B album and slowly becomes a spiritual, soulful, emotional, trip. Ordinary People — for all the thousands of radio and music video plays that it got in 2004 and 2005 — is still one of the most incredible ballads. Apologetic in it’s claim — “we’re just ordinary people…we don’t know which way to go” — it’s a rare ballad that doesn’t promise women the moon and the stars. It simply admits it’s faults — basically, being human — and suggests something that perhaps more of us should consider in our relationships — “maybe we should take it slow?” Continue reading ‘Review: John Legend – Once Again …(is this the same dude??)’

14
Oct
06

PlayStation 3 – The $600 Question

ps3.jpgOne of the big inspirations behind ‘Random Digital Musings’ emerged from my frustration in not being able to pre-order a PlayStation 3…. even though I saw “system shortage” the tidal wave coming. (In the past I’ve been rewarded for my foresight by pre-ordering — thus getting access to the system where others who acted late were denied.) But as I’ve been following this long, strange march towards the launch of the PlayStation 3, the same question keeps coming up in the minds of gaming enthusiasts — is there any game (or even a combination of games) that makes the sacrifice of $600 (particularly in this upcoming season of incredible options) really worth it?

To answer this question, I went straight to the source — PS3 pre-ordering customers. Now, while I didn’t make it out to the PS3 pre-order race on Tuesday at EB Games/GameStop, strangely enough, most of the folks that were on line for the Wii pre-order on Friday were greeting each other again — having met already on Tuesday standing in the line for the PS3.

“Hey – you back again?”

“Yeah, man — I gotta pick up the Wii also.”

“Yeah, me too. I might end up using the $50 to reserve the Wii for a PlayStation 3 game, but at least I want to be able to buy the system if I change my mind.”

I leaned in and observed several conversations like that. Actually over the past year and a half since the PlayStation 3 was announced, I’ve observed several other similar conversations while standing in game stores pretending to be reading the backs of game cases.

“You guys taking PS3 pre-orders?”

“No, not yet. But you can pre-order the games, though.”

A few times (when the mood was friendly enough), I’d ease my way into the conversation. And this is where I made observation number one.

“So, you’re excited about the PlayStation 3?

“Yeah, man. The PS3 — I gotta have it.”

“Wow, $600 is a lot of money.”

“Yeah, I know — but I saved up and it’s worth it, man.”

“So, what games are you looking forward to playing?”

“………Metal Gear Solid for sure.”

“That doesn’t come out until the middle of next year.”

“Yeah, but I’ll definitely pick that up.”

“OK, so what about the games at launch — what are you gonna get with the system?”

“….not sure yet, but whatever I get, I know it will be great!” Continue reading ‘PlayStation 3 – The $600 Question’

13
Oct
06

Attention: George….Your Hot Girl Is Getting Away!

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Uh, Dr. O’Malley — just a small bit of advice. While you console your grieving platonic roommate as she sobs over a guy she probably helped to kill….. while she listens to a creepy posthumous voicemail message….. your incredibly sexy “don’t-quite-know-why-she-digs-you-but-she-does” Latin lover girlfriend is gettin away. While it’s true that ‘nice guys finish last’, sadly, you didn’t have to. Once that homewrecking bad boy ‘puts it on’ Torres, she might realize that there’s more to love than a clumsy-yet-cute disposition. And one more thing…..(and I’m only sayin’ this cause you’re my boy and I care)….. you ain’t gonna do much better than this. Hell, there ain’t been a woman this fine on the show in three seasons! Yeah, I know she’s a little weird, what with the ‘living in the hospital’ thing and all… and then there’s the ‘walking around the apartment nekkid’ habit (if there’s anything that the Seinfeld episode taught me, it’s that it sounds better than it actually is.) And then there’s the matter of her possibly not washing her hands when she uses the bathroom. But those are all un-trainable habits, George! You can break her out of that. Take my advice and dump the platonic “buddies” and develop your relationship before Addison’s man “puts it on” her.

But then again, perhaps you’re not so dumb after all. I mean, now that Izzy’s got a cool 8 Mil (probably more like 5 mil after taxes) you can get some cash and live like a doctor would back in the 80s!! I’m sure some clothes, a nice pair of shoes, a decent haircut and a BMW 5 series would up your stock big time. I see it now…. gee, I guess you doctors have much more than ‘book sense’ after all.
( I know it’s a bit crazy to shout advice at TV characters, but Grey’s is an exception…..)

13
Oct
06

My "Exciting" Wii Pre-Order Story

(For those who follow the site, my apologies for the lapse in posting — particularly in light of the fact that I failed to alert folks in time for the PS3 Pre-Order this past Tuesday at EB Games/GameStop. My apologies. But you might want to thank me come November as I might have done you a favor. Anyhow, I had a few priorities to tend to. I should be back to a regular posting schedule.)

It’s hardly news now that EB Games/GameStop began their pre-order program for the Nintendo Wii today. I thought I’d give you the blow by blow….

7:23am – <YAWN….> “Gee, wasn’t I supposed to do something today? Oh yeah, that Nintendo pre-order thingy.

7:38am – <Showering> “I bet the line is probably all the way back to Waldenbooks by now….maybe I shouldn’t even bother waste my time. Aw, what the hell. What else is there to do.”

7:53am – <Driving> “Wow, there are lots of cars on the road today. Even though I’m miles away from the mall, I bet they’re all going to pre-order! I better driver faster!”

8:11am – “Hmm….seems like there are quite a few cars out. Perhaps I should try to sneak into the employees entrance like I did for the 360 launch. Just swing keys around your arm on lanyard and they’ll never stop you.”

8:17am <Walking though the empty mall> “Gee, I never quite realized that old people wake up every morning just to walk around an empty mall for a few hours. Is this where it all ends up? I might as well go end things now. Nah….still need to fulfill my dream of swinging the Wii-mote around a few times.”

8:19am <Walking up to EB Games> “Uh….this can’t be right. There’s nobody here. Perhaps nobody knew about the pre-order alert?

8:22am <Walking up to other first floor GameStop store> “Let me see….one, two, three, FOUR people? Wow. No love for Nintendo.”

8:26am – Not many geeklike conversations about what games we’re going to pre-order or who’ll win the next gen console race. I think I’ll start one. Continue reading ‘My "Exciting" Wii Pre-Order Story’

03
Oct
06

‘Lost’ in Admiration (A Spoiler-Free Review)

lost.jpg I generally don’t consider myself much of a “follower”. But occasionally a phenomenon will arise in pop culture that will make me wonder, “Gee, what’s the big deal? What’s the fascination with X” In this case, the TV Show ‘Lost‘ was one of the fascinations. I’m not really much of a TV person anymore. I get lost (no pun intended) in all of the choices that 800 channels of digital cable can offer. The obsessive compulsive in me just hates to think that I’m watching one TV show, but there’s something significantly better on another channel. Anyhow, I kept hearing about this ‘Lost’ show. I remember the huge following it had during the first season. And I waited, as I thought it would only last for a season. But it kept going. After awhile, it seemed as if everyone was watching except me. And hey — I’m not on the cutting edge of everything — especially when it comes to TV. If Lost was, in fact, a gem and I’d missed it, this wouldn’t be the first time I was late to the party. I didn’t start watching the Sopranos until Big Pussy disappeared (Season 2).

Generally when I don’t start watching a show from its inception, I just figure that there’s no way I’ll ever feel at one with the community. Truthfully, a big part of my not watching was because I just didn’t want to add yet another show to the Tivo. I mean, I’m having a hard time watching the stuff that’s queued up on it now. But something lingering in my spirit kept asking, “Is all this fascination with ‘Lost’ over nothing….or is there something there?” I mean, how good can a show about ‘getting stuck on an island’ be? To make things less enticing, I’d heard the there were all of these subtle details that you’d miss if you weren’t watching closely. But for some strange reason, the urge remained. And I had to act on it. Just to satisfy my own curiosity.

And with that, I fired up iTunes on a lazy Saturday and bought the first show. Small investment — $1.99. (My real intent was to watch it as it was meant to be seen on DVD, but I didn’t figure it would take, so $1.99 was enough to give it a try.) I watched the first episode with the eyes of skeptic, hoping with all that I had that this wouldn’t be something else to chip away at my time. It started off interesting. Hmm. Lots of strong characters. Can’t stop with that one show — let me check out the next episode. By the time I made it to episode 3, I just said what the hell and bought the season.

So you may be wondering, what was the verdict? Well, after 2 weeks of intense viewing of 44 minute episodes — one after the other after the other….until I bought season 2 and again watched….one after the other….after the other….. I’m here to tell you — this might be one of the best shows I’ve watched in quite some time. Continue reading ‘‘Lost’ in Admiration (A Spoiler-Free Review)’

03
Oct
06

PlayStation 3 Remote Control and Memory Card Adapter

sce1.jpg I caught a glimpse of these two items over on Gizmodo.com — the original link was to a Japanese site called AV Watch. Anyhow, nothing much to cheer about here. It’s your standard issue cheapy remote. I always hear complaints from the tech community that they’re unhappy with the pack-in remotes for most High Def TVs and other high end components. And while that might be true (especially if you’re spending upwards of $2000 – $3000 for the device), I don’t think you can really call yourself an Audiophile or a Videophile if you’re using the standard issue remotes anyhow. My personal favorite is the Sony AV-3100. But if I wasn’t such a fan of the Sony AV Remote line, I’d probably be looking at the Logitech Harmony 550. (The other more expensive Harmony remotes and the Philips Pronto series never seemed worth the cash to me. I’d say $150 clams is my limit on remotes — and that’s pushing it a bit. I only spent $90 on the AV-3100 and the Harmony 550 can be found for about $100).

The image isn’t of the best quality, but the buttons seem to correspond with all of the buttons on the Sixaxis. Not quite sure that the Blue/Red/Green/Yellow buttons are for — perhaps they toggle between players 1-4 if the remote is used for some gaming function. In the category of “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, the PS3 version of the Xbox 360 controller’s guide button is located in the center of the device. Hey – if you’re going to copy something, copy the best. It will be interesting to see if the ‘PS3 guide button’ interfaces as nicely with the action as the 360’s does.

I’d say the more interesting thing about seeing the Sony-branded PlayStation 3 remote is the fact that it solidifies in my mind the fact that this thing is actually coming! I had this weird feeling that they were going to just push it back again — but that would be holiday season suicide. (I’m sure if they could, they would.)

Almost as interesting a device was another PS3-related accessory featured on the same page. While I can’t read the text, this appears to be an interface for PS3 users to use their old PS2/PS1 memory cards with the PS3. Not bad. Very small and understated. I’m not sure how many PS2/PS1 games I’ll be playing on the PS3, but it’s nice to know that I can pull those old Metal Gear and God of War save games over when I get the itch to play.

Sadly, I see a USB label on the back of the device. I guess it might be too much to ask for this thing to interface wirelessly with the PS3. Oh well, you can’t have it all.

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Images courtesy of AV Watch (Japanese)

Story courtesy of Gizmodo.com