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Why Game Developers Should Take Note of Portal’s Success

April 24, 2011 Leave a comment

I love video games.  I also like critical thinking.  It might sound weird at first, but sometimes I really do just sit and think about stuff.  Why this or that is the way it is, reflecting for far too long on a decision I made that day, etc.  Needless to say I also love subjects like philosophy.  I had a professor (economics, not philosophy) in college that I absolutely hated but he told us one thing I still carry with me that can be summed up like this:  Don’t let your brain get lazy.

He didn’t use those words but he emphasized the importance of challenging yourself mentally on a consistent basis.  It could be reading a book and not only think about what you’re reading but keep a dictionary nearby to look up new words you encountered, doing a crossword puzzle, or even something small like organizing a grocery list.  In other words staying mentally sharp is a valuable commodity that will allow you to “perform” at your best in all types of interactions.  It may even make you smarter.  Lastly, you might even *gasp* start having fun doing it like I do.  That’s why I love Portal and its newly released sequel Portal 2, both by Valve Software.

Valve is a really cool developer and I could spend another entire article making general arguments about why the industry as a whole should begin to mimic them.  They’re not like Electronic Arts or Activision who both publish good games in their own right, but whose objective is mostly to throw as much crap at the wall as possible and hope more of it sticks than not.  They don’t own a bunch of other developers and don’t publish a new game every two weeks with mixed results.  However what they have produced is a nice, tidy list of hit games that are incredibly well thought out, simple but fun, or both.  Everyone loved the Half-Life series when it first broke onto the scene for the PC.  This spawned “expansions” like Team Fortress and the original Portal that were also well received.  All of this, including the Hall of Fame-worthy Half-Life 2, were including in what was named The Orange Box; essentially a collection of all valves accomplishments to that point.  They also developed Left 4 Dead and its sequel.  It was a no brainer “fight tons of zombies with your friends” formula that was a smash hit.  They’ve been using the same graphics engine for over a decade and still manage to churn out quality games that are easy on the eyes.  They created Steam, a system/website that allows games to be downloaded quickly and easily instead of running to the store amongst countless other uses.  Through Steam they also regularly hand out free downloadable content for their games.  In other words, if you’re a video game consumer they’re your kind of company.

All that stuff is great and some of it is arguably more important than what I’m going to focus on here, but I need to make this clear:  Valve’s Portal and Portal 2 represent what should be the future of gaming…….but probably won’t be.

You see Portal really was an expansion, an excuse to play with Half-Life’s engine and create a puzzle game with it.  It took place in a lab from the first person view of a test subject armed with nothing but a portal gun.  Shoot a portal at the wall next to you and another on that ledge 100 feet over your head and jump right through.  There, you’re now 100 feet above your previous location.  Also you can pick up blocks with it.  That’s it.  With such a basic tool Valve managed to create a puzzler that was nifty at first and then slowly but surely gained cult status, the culmination of which only moved slowly because frankly gamers were surprised such a game existed and that they could like it.

And that’s kind of the point I’m making.  Have you ever heard someone proclaim that kids only act the way they do because they’re not treated like adults?  Whether that’s true or not game developers have been treating gamers like kids for the last 5-10 years.  Just because a kid likes throwing food at his brother doesn’t mean he wouldn’t enjoy building a model airplane.  To make it more age appropriate, just because someone likes dumb action flicks or Maxim magazine doesn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy Schindler’s List or Moby Dick.

These days the best-selling games every year are the latest Madden incarnation or (for now at least) Call of Duty installment.  Not bad games really.  Not at all.  The problem is that when a publisher wants to make money they need look no further than Call of Duty and instantly a clone appears.  Then another, then another.  That’s not to say gaming is completely stale.  There are more games available than ever before and they come in all kinds.  The problem lies in the fact that not too many of them really make you think.  Sure a lot of them make you consider every so often and force you to make decisions, but we need not actively seek out an activity that allows us to do those.  We can simply walk out the front door for that type of thing.  Exercising your brain on the other hand is a very different animal, and that’s where Portal comes in.

Like I said, shoot portals and carry blocks.  That’s all you need to make a brain buster rolled up in a great video game.  The other beautiful thing about Portal is that it takes the ever-present graphics issue out of the equation.  It’s not that they’re good or bad (for the record they’re average or slightly above), they just don’t matter.  Now name me one other quality game that’s come out recently that can say that.  Sound?  Sure it’s there, but who cares about sound?  Your brain should be busy sorting out how to catapult over laser sighted robots to toss a block through a portal and onto a big red button that will allow you to advance to the next stage!

I mentioned crossword puzzles earlier.  Ever done one of those (or a word search) and worried about how pretty the paper was or how the letters looked?  Of course not.  Not everyone likes stuff like that so how about hooking up a surround sound system or building just about anything?  You’re not worried about the aesthetics, you’re busy problem solving.  That’s why Portal and its sequel are amazing.  They are designed around a medium that is still very much about flashy lights, big explosions, and macho trash talk and have managed to give people the same satisfaction by using their minds.

It really is a tribute to Valve and should be a strong message to other developers:  gamers like to think and feel rewarded by their games aside from simply “beating” them.  Using your brain is rapidly becoming an afterthought in our society.  It’s great to see games like Portal 2 become successful.

Did I mention there’s a co-op mode?  Two players, four portals, bigger puzzles?  I don’t know if my brain can handle it, but it’ll be fun as hell to find out.

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Here’s a Video Game Ramblings Grab Bag + Mini-Reviews

July 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Haven’t written anything in awhile so I figured I’d just note some things I’ve been thinking about and relay what I’ve been doing in the world of games recently.

First off I purchased Ninja Blade a few days ago.  The game is over a year old but that just means it’s at a good price and quite frankly there isn’t jack shit in terms of $60 games I want until September.  To be quite honest the gameplay is a pretty big rip-off of the newer Ninja Gaiden games.  Am I upset about that?  Hell no!  In truth this game isn’t nearly as good, but there’s still fun to be had with it and I don’t regret purchasing it.  By the way I scored a brand new copy for $32 so I would assume a used one is at about $20 right now.

To summarize you play a ninja who’s about as bad ass as any ninja I can ever remember seeing.  Japan is overrun with parasites that essentially turn humans into monsters.  Pretty standard ridiculousness.  You have a handful of weapons and specialties to upgrade somewhat and the moves are simple but look great.  Finishing moves can also be pulled off if you so desire.  I like the fact that, again similar to the new Ninja Gaidens, this is really an action game from years past converted to 3D.  You fight your way through each level, encounter a sub boss, fight some more, then you face the big boss.  The bosses by the way are huge, which is cool but admittedly they all start to look the same after a short while.

The game definitely has its flaws.  It uses quick time events (QTEs) A LOT.  Any time a cool cutscene happens that involves some type of action you’re required to execute timely button presses when prompted on the screen.  If you don’t perform them properly the game rewinds and you try again.  I thought QTEs were a neat idea when I first played them in Shenmue for the Sega Dreamcast, but they’ve never really been pulled off well.  Seems like developers want to use them but can’t figure out an appropriate punishment for failure.  No one wants to fail a little Simon Says game and have to replay the last 5 minutes of gameplay, but simply trying again defeats the purpose entirely.  That middle ground has never been established, if it even exists at all.  If you’re not familiar with quick time events check out the video below for an example.  It might be hard to notice the button prompts, but they’re right in the middle of the screen.

At any rate as you can see they’re a little silly, especially after the twentieth one that you’re asked to do, but it doesn’t bother me all that much.  Like I said there’s just no penalty whatsoever for failing you just try again.  That being said it’s hard to argue why they’re there at all.  Oh well.

I’ve read some old reviews saying the environments were boring and I agree however most of it is cities lit up at night which is a theme I always liked so I was fine with it.  A park or something would have really helped to mix it up though.

In summary if you’ve already played the best of these action games such as Ninja Gaiden, its sequel, Devil May Cry 4, etc. and you’re looking for more definitely pick this up.  Heck if you’re like me and you just need something to last you a few days still pick it up.  As I mentioned a used copy should run you about $20 so give it a shot if you’re bored with what you already have.  It’s not perfect by any means and I would never have paid full price for it but it’ll get you your fix.

Another game I played recently was Black Light: Tango Down on Xbox Live.  It’s a new downloadable first person shooter with a $15 price tag.  I played the demo and I’m not going to talk about it endlessly because frankly I didn’t care for it at all.  The only reason I was interested in the first place was because I heard you could rank up and unlock guns and upgrades.

The graphics are fairly shitty even for a $15 XBLA game.  I realize this isn’t a full budget title but games like Shadow Complex look ten times better.  The visuals are generic as all hell with some futuristic theme we’ve seen a billion times.  The guns feel like shit as well.  I’m not sure but I don’t think there was even any vibration which really kills it.  You don’t think about it much when you’re playing a game that does have it but when one doesn’t, trust me you notice…..a lot.

You certainly can unlock weapons but that’s boring as well.  You just have a long list of SMGs, a long list of assault rifles, etc. etc. etc.  Also, they’re all blue and look almost exactly the same.  Booooring.  I also tried to jump in an online game and waited about a full minute.  How exciting.   As you may have noticed in the video above the game is excessively quiet as well.  The maps might be too large or something.  Regardless something’s wrong.

My advice would be don’t waste your money on this or at least play the demo.  To be frank that’s all I played, but hey that’s supposed to make me want the full game right?  Plus the demo was of the timed variety so I did have a full hour to play what was essentially the full game.  Just don’t bother with this.  There are a ton of good XBLA games that are better buys than this or if you absolutely must have a shooter suck it up and pay full price for a good one.

OTHER: Well that’s about all I’ve played other than the usual lately.  I traded in Red Dead Redemption because I did just about all their is to do without being redundant.  One last time I’d like to mention it’s an amazing game.  I’ve played some Peggle again, a lot actually.  I’m cheap so I didn’t spring for Peggle Nights and instead replayed the original, which is fine if it’s been awhile.  Some day I’ll shell out for the sequel.

I’ve officially given up on tearing Microsoft Game Room a new asshole.  The last few game packs have been the same old shit I’ve been complaining about so I think I’ve made my point.  It seems like everyone’s wish to have late ’80s arcade games, Sega Master System games, etc. isn’t going to happen.  If it is I don’t know what MS is waiting for.

I finally re-beat Shenmue for the Dreamcast and am now in the middle of the sequel for the original Xbox.  Frankly the beginning was terrible.  It’s starting to get better though and reading some old impressions of it it seems that’s most people’s experience with it.  I’m hoping it’ll be worth the time I’m putting into it.

I wish I had a few extra bucks right now because I’m dying to playing some old games (read: purchase them).  The more I read about retro gaming the more it pains me that I sold all my old Sega stuff eons ago to a friend.  I’d have a nice library of Genesis games, as well as some from Sega CD and 32X, not to mention the Master System.  I have no idea what I ever did with my Sega Saturn but I sure as hell don’t have it anymore.  Oh well, something to look forward to I suppose.  I still have my Dreamcast with most of the games I ever purchased for it.  In a perfect world though I’d like to have all that stuff again so I can work solely on NES and Super NES stuff, two consoles I don’t even own but would love to.  Some day…….some day.

Post-E3 Want List

June 22, 2010 Leave a comment

I felt like my last feature about E3 was heavy on the negative side so I decided to reaffirm what’s coming out in the near future, more specifically the games I want and how many of them there really are.  While I’m in agreement with most of the gaming public about Microsoft’s conference and somewhat E3 in general, people are overreacting far too much.  Hell, there was a person on the Xbox forums claiming they were putting their console on eBay!  Seriously everyone calm down.  Just because you didn’t like the conference doesn’t mean the games you’re looking forward to went away.  It’s so strange how people come to these type of conclusions.  “Kinect sucks!  I’m done with Microsoft!”  Why?  You were probably like everyone else before E3:  You have at least 3-4 games on your radar to buy before the end of the year.  Those games are still coming out people.  You’re still going to play them and probably enjoy them whether Kinect sells one unit or one million.

But I digress.  To prove you’re all insane I’ve compiled a list of games I want or am highly interested in that are on the horizon.  There’s even a few more I won’t even get into because they’re not my taste (Fable 3, Crackdown 2, etc.).

Metal Gear Solid: Rising I’m pretty excited for this series to come to Xbox 360.  Admittedly Konami’s morphing of the series into a movie/game bugs the crap out of me, but the gameplay will most likely be there.  Snake is long gone (at least for now) so we’ll have to deal with Raiden but at least the sword play looks very well done and very fun.  No release date yet.

Halo: Reach Halo 2: most fun I’ve had with an FPS.  Halo 3?  Hated it.  Hated the maps, hated the bubble shields, hated the 800 types of grenades, hated that the noob combo wasn’t removed.  Reach seems like a compromised between the original Halo and its sequel.  No dual-wielding, which I think will strip it down for the better, but everyone can equip one of a handful of wacky “powers” (jet pack, super sprint, charging blast, etc.).  Sounds good to me.  Seems like it will remind us all of the days where we would kill to take Halo online on the original Xbox but there will be just enough spice thrown in to make it a great new installment in the series.  September 14th

Call of Duty: Black Ops I’m not going gaga over this one or anything, but if I’m in the market for a new game the month it releases I’ll pick it up.  If we can learn anything from history I’m sure the campaign will be really exciting yet short, and there will be millions playing it online.  Manning vehicles and the Vietnam setting inject a little life into the series, which it does need when you really think about it.  This franchise isn’t as entertaining as the equivalent of the number of gamers who purchase it, but they’re still very good games.  November 9th

Fallout: New Vegas Like many people I’m really clamoring for this one.  Sure it looks almost identical to Fallout 3 when you’re out in the wasteland, but it’s the wasteland!  Plus from the little amount of video we have you can see the settlements and New Vegas itself seem pretty well done.  Word is there are four different casinos where you can actually gamble and there will be good or bad consequences depending on how you play.  Awesome.  Cannot wait.  October 19th

Dead Rising 2 I thought the original Dead Rising had its strengths but I also wasn’t blind to its weaknesses.  The save system was very bad and the game made you shoot guns a lot, which wouldn’t have been a bad thing if the shooting mechanics weren’t the worst I’ve seen since the PS1.  This is one of those where if they stopped and listened for two seconds about what gamers had to say, this sequel will be a helluva lot of fun.  You’ve already got the zombies, the humor, and the everyday items used to create crazy death bringers, now all they have to do is polish the technical side of things.  The multiplayer looks like it could be a sleeper hit as well.  One game has you running around collecting blenders to plop on top of zombies to shred their melons to bits.  August 2010.

Portal 2 Just got into playing Portal: Still Alive again and I’ll be sure to pick up the sequel when it eventually comes out (2011 release).  A great puzzler that can at times be a brain buster.  Just goes to show how simple a game can be if you have creative people behind it.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior The title sounds like a Tom Clancy game but it’s not.  It’s by a mostly unknown publisher (to me at least), City Interactive. You’ll play a sniper doing the sniper things we all love to do, but you’ll also play a normal soldier as well.  I’m not sure if I like the second part but the game is going to be $39.99 at release and doesn’t look cheap from the screens I saw.  One to keep an eye on if only for the price.  June 29th.

EDIT:  I don’t think I’ll be picking this one up.  From what I’ve read it seems like the development actually wasn’t up to snuff.  Incredibly cheap AI and restrictive gameplay take this one off my want list.

Medal of Honor I’m reaching a bit here but I personally liked what little I saw of Medal of Honor. Yeah, it’s another shooter set in modern times but it looked fun and it seems like there’s a leveling system as well.  We shall see.  On the other hand what are the chances I’ll be investing in three shooters this fall?  As the British say, not bloody likely.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Okay I’m cheating with the next two because they’re not coming out until next year and probably not early next year.  I thought they should be mentioned though.  MvsC3 needs no introduction.  If you had the last one you’re getting this one and if you’re not into fighters you’ll pass.  Those of us that do like fighters will be in heaven though come February 2011…….or June 2011……or whenever it’s coming out.

Brink Another one to keep an eye on for next year, there’s not much footage of Brink so far but it’s essentially an FPS that pits a bunch of parkour guys against each other.  In other words you run, shoot and kill each other like normal except you do it all while everyone is leaping, bounding, climbing, rolling, and sliding all over the place.  I think it’s a neat concept and if nothing else it’s something different considering most of us play a bunch of shooters anyways.   Fall 2011.

XBOX LIVE ARCADE

Hydro Thunder Hurricane I was nuts for the original Hydro Thunder on the Sega Dreamcast.  Despite a bit of slowdown in a few of the more scenic parts of certain tracks, it was arcade perfect.  Now a sequel will be appearing on Xbox Live and probably in the next few weeks (it appears first in line whenever the Summer of Arcade titles are presented).  If you’ve never played it, think San Francisco Rush with boats and even crazier tracks.  I’ll have a lot of fun with this one.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair I couldn’t get into Symphony of the Night. I have no idea why, but at first I thought I’d grab this and enjoy it since I knew more what to expect.  Then on top of that I see it’s a dungeon raid game for 1-6 players with the Castlevania mojo attached.  Sounds great to me, as I’m sure Konami will bring the challenge that’s required too.  August 2010

Limbo This could be something really cool and different, much like Braid was when it came out way back when.  It’s a 2D platformer/puzzler with a very nice black and white aesthetic.  Lots of potential, hopefully it hits the mark.  Summer

Comic Jumper

I knew this was being developed by the creators of ‘Splosion Man and that was just enough for me to file it away to get more information on later.  Then I saw the HD trailer available on the Xbox 360 dashboard.  I really think this is going to be a great one in terms of XBLA.  The gameplay looks varied and the themes look great.  You play a comic book superhero that gets involved in action across different genres of comics:  contemporary comics, fantasy/mythology, silver age comics, and manga.  Best of all these all have their own totally unique graphical styles.  It really LOOKS like you’re in a silver age comic or a manga.  To top it all off the game boasts 200+ unlockables!  Now a lot of it seems to be crap like developer commentaries but I think it’s a safe bet to assume there will be a lot of gamer pics, avatar items, and in-game tchotchkes too.  I’m pretty much sold already unless it somehow ends up a complete disaster.

So there you have it.  More than enough to keep you occupied until the end of the year and probably until the next E3 rolls around.  I didn’t even mention Crackdown 2, Fable 3, Gears of War 3, Star Wars: The Force Unleased 2, Dead Space 2, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Rock Band 3, Crysis 2, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Bulletstorm, XCOM, Madden 11 (NHL 11 for me), etc., etc. etc.

What in the world do you care if someone else buys a Natal when you can’t stand the sight of one?  Play your games and enjoy them!!!

E3 2010 Impressions

June 16, 2010 Leave a comment

No I was definitely not in attendance for E3.  Hopefully I will have the chance someday.  The good news though is that every year the Electronic Entertainment Expo is so popular that many sites on the net allow you to stream live footage from the show.  Not just some, pretty much all of it.  Through some live viewings and some recorded viewings I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what new stuff “The Big 3” each have to offer, especially Microsoft.

Let’s crack into the others first.  Admittedly I didn’t see all of NINTENDO‘s show but I certainly saw enough to tell me that regardless of who you think “won” the show, Nintendo knocked it out of the park.  Everyone knows what the Wii is, what it does and what makes it different.  This allowed Nintendo to take a different approach than Microsoft and Sony did, who both had new peripherals that needed some justification.  Nintendo simply said “No new knick knacks or add-ons, we’re going to assault you with awesome new games.” and that’s pretty much what they did at the end of the day.

A new Zelda game is on its way in the form of The Legend of Zelda:  Skyward Sword and despite a bad demo that had nothing to do with the game itself (the infrared sensor on the Wii was getting too many signals from people’s devices in the crowd), we all know it’s going to be great.  GoldenEye is making a long-awaited return, which will rouse excitement in pretty much anyone that’s played the original.  A new incarnation of NBA Jam was also introduced, boasting 100+ unlockables and the possiblity, but not promise, of online play.  I’m still fuzzy on whether this is going to be a Wii-exclusive or not, but I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else.  Lastly a new Kirby game is here, and god damn does it look good.  I was so impressed with the minute or so of footage.  Called Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the title is taken quite literally since everything in Kirby’s world is made of cloth.  Kirby has a whip-like implement that lets him grab/swing onto things and manipulate the environment, creating a cool effect as if you’re pulling or pinching a piece of fabric.  Got a jump that’s too far to land?  Just lash out and scrunch the background to move the other ledge closer.  There are so many possibilities for this type of gameplay.  I’m very excited for Nintendo owners on this one (and jealous, hopefully I’ll own one soon!).   The biggest surprise was a return of Donkey Kong Country on the Wii.  To be honest I’m sure it’s great but it looked a lot like the old game for N64 just with updated graphics.  Fixed side-scrolling game play without much depth.  Nintendo fans will probably go crazy for it anyway, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  I’m sure it will still be a solid game at the very least.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention how they closed the show:  By officially introducing the Nintendo 3DS.  Now the only negative of this segment was that the 3D technology wouldn’t show up on screens and obviously someone playing on stage would be too small for people to see.  That’s what I’m assuming at least, since Nintendo only talked about it and offered a chance to experience it at their booth after the presentation.  People in the know have reported it’s the real deal though:  3D technology you don’t need to wear glasses for.  I’m very, very interested in this.  I haven’t seen one single negative comment about it so I’ll go ahead and assume it’s as cool as it sounds.  They did unveil a 3DS game old-schoolers will be chomping at the bit for:  Kid Icarus Uprising. Yep Nintendo was bringing out all the old favorites this year.  Also announced were Paper Mario 3DS and StarFox 64 3DS. No one is sure whether these are ports of the same games or brand new installments however with the “64” in the StarFox title at this point I’m convinced they’re remakes until I hear otherwise.

All in all I thought Nintendo kicked butt.  People can speculate on E3 all they want, but let’s be honest.  For us gamers we just want to see new games that we want to buy.  Nintendo gave us that, and with the 3DS it seems like they probably covered the “new technology” aspect at the very same time.  Overall a nigh perfect showing if you ask me.

So how did SONY do?  Well we learned Gran Turismo 5 is coming on November 4th.  Thank god.  I’ve never seen a release date as enigmatic as this one for a game so many people have been ready to buy for years.  Oh well, probably for the best quality-wise.  Killzone 3 was also unveiled for February 2011 as well as a new Little Big Planet game.  Sony did their job as far as keeping their main franchises front and center with PS3 owners.

Sony also announced (not in these words of course) that they’ve found a way to charge people for their online service.  Looks like it’s going to be $40 or so per year.  Can’t hold it against them quite frankly.

Of course the big deal was the PlayStation Move.  With Microsoft also planning to reveal more details of their motion control device, Sony wanted to make sure they could counterpunch.  To be honest, I don’t like this thing.  It’s operated by two wands with glowing bulbs on the top that look like something out of a cheesy ’50s sci-fi movie.  They look very cheap.  Also, since last year I could never get over the fact that you wave the wands yet you still have a bunch of buttons to press.  Seems more like an unnecessary tweak to the Wii controller more than a revolution.

One thing I will say though is that Move performed very well.  Those buttons I hate so much enable you to do a ton of things.  Shoot guns, manipulate the environment, and anything else you can think of.  Basically it’s a simple upgrade to a normal controller, but you’re doing everything your character normally would do with a standard controller but you’re actually controlling their movements.  Okay, I don’t even think I can convince myself.  I’m just not much into these devices.  Sorcery was the demo everyone was praising, but I wasn’t totally impressed.  It looked fun, but I’m not sure for how long.  It also didn’t really speak to the possibilities, if any, that would open up for developers using Move.  Check out the video below and judge for yourself though.  Overall not a mind-blowing show for Sony, but they showed up and did what everyone hoped they would do.

Now on to MICROSOFT.  Ehhhhhh.  Okay I’ll admit it:  I still have a little bit of fanboy in me.  Now I’m old enough to not hate on other consoles (if you have one I hope you enjoy it, what do I care?), but on the flip side I want Microsoft to be the king because I’m an Xbox guy.  I don’t want to ever doubt the purchases I make with them.  Well I wouldn’t say I’d go that far when expressing my displeasure with their presentation, but man I really was disappointed.  I saw the negative comments going around, I didn’t get sucked in, but after watching I can’t do anything but agree with them.

So the show started with the trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops. Okay let that sink in for a second………they started the show with a multi-platform game……using a trailer that we’ve already seen.  Yeah, way to get everyone psyched!  Show how you’re different from the others Microsoft!  Seriously, WTF was with that?  Okay fine, I’m over it.  I’d wager that Black Ops is going to be cool so we’ll let it slide.  Then they follow up with Metal Gear Solid: Rising. The trailer amounted to a minute or two of cinematics then some gameplay.  This game looks great.  It looks a little more sword-oriented than I would have hoped (I want Snake and I want guns) but I was still pretty excited after seeing it.  You can run around like crazy with a katana slicing anything in sight like awning supports, whole cars, even watermelons lying around (and slice them in perfect wedges I might add).  You can also slow down the action and adjust your cuts on enemies and yes the cuts are accurate and the body parts chop up exactly like you want them to.  Really cool.  I’ve been pretty put off by how many cutscenes are involved in the Metal Gear series lately, but I like what I see so far and I’m still anxious for the newest one to be on the Xbox 360, even though it’s still another multi-platform game.

Next Cliffy B took the stage to demo Gears of War 3, along with 3 friends playing across the way opposite him.  Yawn.  I’m not a Gears fan, but I didn’t see anything different from the first two games.  Run around, shoot alien brutes from cover, repeat.  I don’t have anything against the game, it’s just not my taste, but there wasn’t anything to make Gears enthusiasts slobber and nothing to make people like me want the newest version.  It was just…..four people hanging out playing Gears of War. The forced chatter between players was annoying too.  “I’ve got a gun for you Cliff, here!”.  “Save me!”  “All right, all right, take it easy.”  Bleczinski then said there was a new mode called Beast mode that you could play at the developer’s booth, then promptly left the stage.  Pfft.

Peter Molyneaux came out to say “Hey Fable III’s still on the way” then show a short trailer.  Frankly the one I saw on the XBL dashboard was way better and it’s not even close.

Then we were treated to a live action, overly dramatic trailer showing extreme close ups of a gladiator, with the title Codename: Kingdoms appearing at the end.  Anywho….

Then we were treated to a lengthy gameplay presentation of Halo: Reach. I have no problem with this, but I think anyone who has any interest in Reach has already played the beta or at least scoured the net for videos and/or info.  Showing more was a no-brainer, but we know what we have on our hands here.  See a pattern forming?

Well thankfully that pattern ended with Microsoft finally unveiling more about Project Na-….ahem, Microsoft Kinect.  Yep that’s the new name for Natal.  I liked the “codename” better, and I frankly haven’t found anyone who cared one way or the other who disagrees.  What’s in a name?  In the marketing age, pretty much everything if you ask me.  Oh well.

So last year we got the gist of what Kinect could do.  No controller required, you just stood right up in front of your TV and Natal scanned your profile and mimicked your every move on screen.  We were shown a paint program and a simple dodgeball-type game.  Nothing special, but it got the point across.  If done right this was taking “active gaming” to a level the Wii just can’t match.  Kudo Tsunoda of Microsoft (who I hate) even took verbal shots at Nintendo, citing that the Natal worked with your entire body as opposed to “preset waggle controls”.

So what has changed a year since then?  Microsoft had pretty much any heavy-hitting developer you could think of on board when Kinect was unveiled in its Natal form at E3 2009.  What did MS have to show for it?  Not a whole lot compared to what we’ve already seen.  Nothing too far forward from what we came to expect from the basic demos of last year and a lot of content that was a little too far on the casual side.  There definitely wasn’t a killer app, and I don’t think Microsoft was trying to fool anyone by acting like their was one either.

I don’t want to go too nuts on the negativity here simply because I’m sure not everyone feels the way I do, especially if they have kids and are interested in something like this for them to play.  I’ll just post the vids and you can judge for yourself.  In my summarized opinion I think Microsoft has spent a lot of money on something that might not do nearly as much as they once thought.  Most gamers don’t want to physically run in place to play Call of Duty for example.  What’s left (again, in my opinion) is something only the most casual gamer would be interested in while still being a video game player at all.  Check out the demos and I’ll close with a few other comments:

Okay I lied I’m going to make some comments, take ’em or leave ’em!  Anyhow, Adrenaline Misfits doesn’t look that bad.  Sort of like an SSX but geared towards the younger crowd.  Let’s see what else there is……

Okay this is a fitness application.  We’re well aware of the Wii doing this and it’s a natural fit for Kinect so why not?  Getting warmer…….sort of.

This is painful to watch, which is why I chose this one!  Dance Central is DDR adapted to Kinect’s abilities.  As you can see while cringing at this vid, it can even teach you how to dance if you so desire.

I know Forza nerds are up in arms about this one, fearing a true sequel will be skipped in favor of this game.  I’m sure they’ll be fine and won’t be neglected.  I don’t think I would ever play this but one thing is it’s absolutely stunning.  The cars…look….amazing.  The fact that you can sit in each car is really neat too, just like you’re in the showroom.  Well not exactly.  You can’t swivel your head and look around too much you just select certain things that the game shows you in more detail.  No clue who would want to hold their arms up as if to drive a steering wheel for an entire race, but here it is if you want to.

This looks ridiculous to me.  It looks like a “for all ages” racing game for kids on the Dreamcast or something.  Just terrible in my opinion.

Seriously what the flying hell is this?  I realize there has to be a virtual pet game of some kind (I guess) but this is a joke to me.  You can’t tell me this wouldn’t get boring in five minutes even for a small child.  How many different things do you really think they’ve programmed for that animal to do?  I’d put the over/under at eight.  This is shovelware with good graphics.  If it were anything more we would have been shown that it was.

Okay I have no idea what the fuck is going on here.  I’ve watched it a handful of times and still can’t figure it out.  It seems like some sort of motion control riff on Rez, at least that’s the closest I can come up with.  Liked the music at least.  Who knows, there could be a really addicting game hidden underneath.

This one was disappointing to me.  You bother to get LucasArts on board with a Star Wars game no less and this is it?  It’s on rails!!!  This really makes me fearful for what other “hardcore” games we’ll see for the Kinect.  This could have been that killer app I mentioned.  No other console would have a similar version.  I know the technology is new but is this the most it can do?  I’d pay no more than $20 for this game as a huge Star Wars fan.  Very scary and hopefully not telling of what to expect in the future.

I admit I think the first mini-game looked fun.  How long that fun would last I can’t say, but it seemed to demand just the right amount of movement from the player.  You feel like you’re using Kinect for its intended purpose but you’re not flopping all over the living room either.  The raft entry was dull.  After one or two runs you’d never play it again, and you certainly wouldn’t be giddy as hell like those two girls playing it.  Eff you.

So what do you think?  I’m not too sure this was what we thought would blow us away when the new E3 was just around the corner.  It’s kind of a bust in my opinion.  I mean you’ve got the shovelware/Wii-type simple applications we all knew were going to be there, but where was the ‘oomph’?  I’m starting to believe this is NOT for typical gamers, which might sound obvious but I’m not quite sure Microsoft posed it that way last year.  This was the new revolutionary thing.  It wasn’t going to be as awe-inspiring as the Super NES or the N64 for example, but it seemed like it was supposed to be a smaller but still significant leap in the same way the original PlayStation or original Xbox were, where you felt like gaming had taken the next logical step.  Not so.  The message this presentation sent to me was “We’ve invested tens of millions of dollars to try and lure in anyone that doesn’t have a Wii yet but wants one.”  Really?  That’s disappointing.

Even worse was the fact that of the other games that are listed are mostly more of the same:  another dance rhythm game, two more fitness games, Kinect Disney, etc.  Quite the letdown for anyone that doesn’t need something to keep their kids occupied or desperately wants their parents to give video games a try.  Well, and the fact that there’s already something for those people:  it’s called a Wii!!!!  Also, how much is this thing going to cost?  Sony unabashedly laid down the price of the PlayStation Move:  $99, then $49 for the controller, and $29 for the navigation wand (whatever).  $180 in total unless you already have a Eyetoy.  Wow I can’t believe Kinect will be the better value, unless MS really screws it up.  $150 is what people keep saying but nothing is for certain.  It could be a lot cheaper than that.  Still, it’s hard to imagine MS going any lower than $50 for games knowing their reputation.  PlayStation Move games will be $39.  Hmm.  Seems like the Kinect base price will be an enormous factor in how it’s received.

Hopefully we’ll see what some of these big companies like Blizzard and Capcom are working on for Kinect, but with what we’ve already seen from other influential developers how can we be optimistic?  This doesn’t seem to be going in the direction we once thought it was.  Only time will tell however.  The people working on these games are much more creative than myself and most other people.  Maybe there are some killer tricks up their sleeves.  We’ll have to wait and see though, because Microsoft didn’t give us any more reason to want a Kinect in my opinion.

Last but not least MS announced a slimmer, sleeker, Xbox 360 console will be available in stores by the end of this week (yeah you read that right).  Frankly there’s no way they’re getting another $299 out of me this late in the game but it IS pretty nice is you’re in the market for a new one:  256 GB hard drive, much quieter, and Wi-Fi enabled.  The Wi-Fi thing actually pisses me off somewhat since for years myself and many others have struggled with whether or not to buy the overpriced wireless adapter ($100).  It’s fairly telling to me that this is what Microsoft ended with.  Not much going on on their front save for Kinect and the stuff we all knew about in the first place.  Right now it’s hard to find some good images of the new console but you can go to Microsoft’s site and check it out.

Well, that’s all from my perspective on E3.  There were other things I didn’t touch on like Virgin creating a new competitive gamer network for real prizes and Microsoft’s deal with ESPN to let Gold members watch replays of sporting events for free, but details and full implementation of things like that are still uncertain.  Regardless of your overall reactions there was plenty to talk about as always.

Daily Gaming Experience 05/27

May 28, 2010 2 comments

PROJECT NATAL NEWS

So apparently there are news leaks all over the place that Microsoft’s motion control add-on, Natal, will be priced at $150.  I think it’s fair, although $100 would have been very do-able.  MS has a way of charging as much as possible within realistic limits, for better or worse.  At $100 if I would have heard about a couple of great games for it I would have dove in head first.  At $150?  It’ll probably be relegated to the same category as my future purchase of a Nintendo Wii:  On hold until further notice.  A $150 MSRP for an add-on that I don’t even need to enjoy my console is as steep as it gets.  In my opinion a $100 price tag would have communicated that MS wanted current Xbox 360 users to get in on the fun for a reasonable price knowing that Natal isn’t something anyone needs. It basically would say “we know you can enjoy our product without this, but if you want something different to spice up your gaming, here’s something totally new and unique we’d be happy to sell you one for a reasonable asking price just to get you on board.”  Oh well.  $150 for a Natal and a game sounds much, much better to me.

RANDOM RED DEAD REDEMPTION

One thing I forgot to mention about this game is it does have avatar awards.  I was thrilled when I accidentally unlocked one because I don’t see them in games as much as I expected when they were first announced.  I (inadvertently) shot the hat off of someone’s head without killing and unlocked a sweet sombrero!

Another item in the long list of stuff that pisses me off about MS and their treatment of Xbox 360 users is this:  Why do I have to pay $1 for gamer pics from a game I just paid $60 for?  You’re telling me if I want a John Marston gamer pic I have to pay $1 to get it?  I just dropped $60 on the game a week ago!  For god’s sake give them to me for free.  It’s like buying a house and then the realtor tries to sell you an 8×10 photo of your new house for $10.  Give me a break.

Categories: Video Games (Main)

Daily Gaming Experience 05/26: More Complaining

May 27, 2010 Leave a comment

So I was reading an article on IGN that actually has some good content:  Second Opinions.  Every time a highly anticipated game is released it’s reviewed normally but then a bunch of other editors get together and give their opinions.  It’s a great way to get a bigger sample size of how a game was received by the staff.  This week Red Dead Redemption was the focus.

Coincidentally all editors liked the game despite a few complaints, but my problem lies in their reasoning for all the praise.  About half of them claimed RDR didn’t have a lot of the things that made them dislike Grand Theft Auto IV. That’s fine.  I hated GTAIV as well, but it’s not fine in the sense that IGN had no problem giving that game a perfect 10 score when it was released.  Only now is the truth revealed:  a lot of people simply didn’t think the game was very good.  This sentiment was echoed in the comments section of the article as well, straight from the mouths of gamers just like you and me.  So we have at least half of the IGN editors and at least half of the user comments stating that GTA IV left a lot to be desired, yet we have a perfect 10 as an official score.  Seriously IGN, you leave us no choice but to assume one of three things:  you’re either in these big developers’ pockets, you’re afraid of the consequences of a negative review on a hyped game, or you’re just a bunch of fan boys that get sucked into the hype no less than the senseless variety of gamers.  How else do you explain it?

Okay, on to Microsoft Game Room.  Time for another evaluation of this week’s releases!  Let’s see if any of them are worth $3…………….

……………….but first a quick note:  I’ve talked before about how having to download “game packs” in order for the privilege of purchasing games is totally ridiculous.  Now I find out today you only have to do that every two weeks, so this week I didn’t have to download anything but next week I will.  Confusing?  Yes.  Stupid?  Yes.  Whatever, it all makes even less sense now.  On to the games:

Buzz Bombers This is probably the best Intellivision game I’ve ever seen.  That’s kind of like being captivated by a turd that happens to have a sliver of gold stuck in it but nonetheless I thought it was worth mentioning.  Anyways this is basically a slower, more laborious version of Centipede with crappier technology and imprecise shooting.  It didn’t seem too hard either but the game plays like mud.

Haunted House Wow really?  We’re really going to put this game in the Game Room?  Who am I kidding, I’m not surprised.  You’re “in the dark” as much as you can be for an Atari game and you move by moving your own little pair of eyes which is all you can see because well, you’re in the dark!  You can press A to light a match, which basically turns your little googly eyes into a red circle resembling Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I picked up some thing that might have been a key and still wasn’t able to move anywhere else in the house or wherever I was.  This is a bad one.

Looks like a blast I know.

Millipede Okay so we finally have the arcade version of Millipede instead of the abortion that is the Atari version.  I actually really like this game and I could be wrong but it seems like your movement is more fluid than in Centipede. If I didn’t already own that game I’d definitely pick this one up, but then again I’m a sensible person.

River Raid I knew going into it that this was a game close to many Atari fans hearts, and it’s actually not bad!  Is it worth $3?  I don’t think so but if you have any kind of nostalgia for it I think it’s pretty damn close, and I can’t believe I’m saying that but there it is.  It’s a vertical shooter 1942-style and you collect fuel to keep from running out and shoot helicopters and boats while maneuvering around the terrain.  The controls are actually pretty responsive as well and the challenge seems legitimate too.  There even seems to be checkpoints as well!  I wouldn’t call this a diamond but maybe a quartz in the rough of what is the Game Room Atari lineup.

Spider Fighter Holy crap this is the second Atari game in a row I’ve actually enjoyed.  You control some little thingy at the bottom of the screen and shoot upwards just like in Centipede, except there are no mushrooms but instead a bunch of lightning fast spiders that bounce all over the screen and shoot back at you.  I like this one even better than River Raid. I never thought an Atari game would get this close to actually being worth its purchase price!

Strategy X Wow this game is actually pretty good too.  It’s an old Konami arcade game, or so I’m told.  You’re a tank moving vertically through a war zone and you rotate your gun left and right with the X and B buttons while firing with A.  It works pretty well in my opinion.  My only complaint would be that if you touch a brick wall you die instead of just stopping.  Pretty dumb.  Shocked I enjoyed it as much as I did though.  I couldn’t even find an image on Google of this beast so at least demo it for yourself.

Boxing Okay, they really need to update the menus of these games just a little bit.  It’s nice that they want to keep the games in their original form, but that’s part of what contributes to their shittiness.  I couldn’t get past the boxer selection screen.  I pressed a button that made my boxer appear, found another button that changed him from green to yellow, and changed a number at the top of the screen from 4 to 6.  What does it all mean?  How the hell should I know?  Anyways that’s as far as I could go and I was pressing every friggin’ button on the controller.  I at least wanted to try it because it didn’t look bad for an Intellivision game.  The boxers in the demo video are large and there are low, mid, and high punches for each of your hands.  The controls were like an early incarnation of Street Fighter so I kind of wanted to try it from that perspective, but it’s not like I’ll lose any sleep over it.  Another dud thanks to confusing presentation.

All in all there were about 3 games that actually caught my eye this week and that’s saying a lot.  I’m not quite ready to spend $3 on any of them but at least I could see someone else spending it.  That’s one thing I’d like to remind everyone of:  I’m not saying it’s impossible for an old game to be worth $3 in this day and age, I would just like to see games that aren’t total crap so I can at least think about owning them for a minute.


Categories: Video Games (Main)

Daily Gaming Experience 05/25: Red Dead Redemption Review

May 26, 2010 2 comments

Red Dead Redemption is a lot like the movie There Will Be Blood, and I don’t say that just because they’re set in similar periods in history.  If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a realistic and atmospheric tale of one man, and while the pace is pretty slow you’re just so sucked into the aesthetics and the characterizations that you really don’t mind.  You kind of feel like you’re actually there.  Aside from that it’s punctuated by just a few moments of intense action or drama.  Some people think it’s a phenomenal movie and it drives other people nuts because it’s so quiet for long periods.

That pretty much sums up Red Dead Redemption and what factors hinge on you liking it or disliking it.  It’s definitely a RockStar game and it’s definitely similar to Grand Theft Auto, but the theme and some other less noticeable differences make it a unique experience in comparison to open world games of the past.

You play as John Marston, who is a one-time outlaw that gave up his bad habits to settle down and raise a family.  Unfortunately his old criminal buddies are still terrorizing the entire countryside of New Austin, the fictional state where the game takes place.  As a result the government kidnaps John’s family for his past indiscretions and he’s left no choice but to round up all the bad guys that he used to called ‘friends’.  Not the most logical call to action you’ll ever hear but it gives reason enough for the events of the game to take place.  At the beginning of the story John tries to confront his old gang and almost gets killed in the process.  At that point he’s saved by a female farm owner who gives him a place to sleep and a horse to ride and the game takes off from there.

New Austin is very big.  Most of it is wilderness spotted with towns, small settlements, and farms.  Each of these locations usually has more than a few things to do.  You can interact with prominent NPCs to get the story moving along and take part in missions critical to your advancement or you can stroll around and take in many other distractions.

“Story-driven” isn’t really a good description of this game, because every time you pick it up it’s more of a question of “what do you want to do today?” than anything else and the story only moves forward when you want it to.  When you do move it along the game does provide you a diverse lot of characters that you interact with along the way.  All of them have unique personalities and goals and it’s also worth nothing that all voice acting in this game is very, very good.  It’s probably only an average tale for a video game but the characters and voice performances keep you interested.

Much of the story-based missions involve some sort of shootout and the game handles those well.  There’s an easy to use cover system and I actually think the gun fights in this game work much better than in the Grand Theft Auto series.  Ducking and peeking up to squeeze a couple of shots off really marries well with the Wild West theme.  It’s almost exactly like the gunfights you’re used to seeing in old westerns.  Most of them don’t drag either which is another welcome difference from GTA.

So what else can you do besides the obvious stated above?  Well when you’re in town you can sell your wares and buy new equipment, buy property to use as save points, and best of all:  gamble.  Texas Hold ‘Em, Blackjack, Liar’s Dice, horseshoes, arm wrestling, and others can all be played for money.  If you’re a fan of card games or gambling in general like I am then it’s a fun time and it’s also not out of the question to spend an hour or two with these activities without stopping.  Of course again it depends on how interested you are in games of chance.  One small complaint I have about some of them is that while the animations are kept to a minimum I think they could have pared them down even more.  Games like Texas Hold ‘Em and horseshoes are a chore to play at times simply because all you want to do is skip to your turn.  Overall though I found most of these to be great fun and you can play them in different towns against different players and for different wager limits.

Another major activity that falls somewhere between “time waster” and “plot necessity” is helping out strangers.  When they appear on the map you’ll encounter an NPC asking you to do a unique favor for them.  Their wife could be missing, they could need help persuading someone to sell land to them, or something very unusual.  You don’t have to do any of these but they’re mostly all different and you can often make a moral choice too.

Out in the wilderness there are three main activites:  hunting, gathering, and treasure hunting.  Treasure hunting is more of a long-term endeavor.  You find a map with a vague drawing and in your travels you hope to spot that location and find the treasure, which also contains another map to the next hidden location.  Gathering, or scavenging here, simply has you collecting different flora found on the open range which can be sold or required to complete scavenging challenges (Find and collect 6 desert sage, for example).

Hunting is something you’ll be doing as much or more than any other distraction in the game.  Once you get the hang of shooting a moving target while on horseback it’s really fun.  Spotting a deer in the distance and charging ahead to catch up to it is thrilling.  Hunting also has its own separate challenges to complete if you wish (Kill and skin 5 deer, etc).  Once you skin a dead animal their hide, meat, and sometimes more can be sold in town for profit.  The best thing about hunting is that shortly after the initial thrill has worn off, new animals start showing up.  Given where the game takes place you can probably guess at least a few, but I won’t spoil them regardless.  Seeing and trying to fell new critters keeps hunting fun and always has you keeping your eye out.

In addition to these activities you’ll also encounter random events in the wilderness.  Someone might need saving, lawmen might need help chasing a criminal who’s getting away, or something else.  These events serve to spice up what’s normally expected when out in the wild and while there aren’t quite as many different ones as I would like, they still do a half decent job of perking you up when you’re casually strolling around.

A huge factor that makes traveling on horseback a good, interesting time is the visuals.  They’re about as good as you’re going to get on these current consoles.  New Austin is a vast, sprawling landscape with rock formations, cliffs, and interesting plant life that really make it the great outdoors and the graphics show it all off beautifully.  When you’re out in the early morning and the sun subsequently shines brightly on everything the colors pop wonderfully, and as the sun sets there are some awesome views from high atop plateaus that really could be promotional photos if they were real.

While I’ve gotten a lot out of this game and there are many things to do it does have some faults I feel I should address.  The Wild West theme does hurt a game like this as much as it helps it.  It limits the things you can do because the game’s world simply doesn’t have a lot of technology.  As divisive as Grand Theft Auto IV could be at times, there were just a ton of things to do:  go to an Internet cafe, steal cars for someone, develop relationships, etc.  In this game you obviously can’t do a lot of those things.  Also, the lack of firearm technology is a bit of a hinderance as well.  For a large part of my experience I owned four guns: two revolvers and two rifles.  All of them killed people or large animals with two shots with the odd exception here and there.  There isn’t nearly as much variety as you’d expect from an open world game.  This also goes for the different horses you can break in and ride.  I’ve noticed almost no difference whatsoever in the 4-5 horses I’ve ridden and there’s no stat menu for each horse either.  Aside from one sickly-looking slow horse they all seem the same to me.

Another thing is you can’t interact with nearly as many people.  Many times I accidentally stumbled upon a makeshift camp site or settlement populated by anywhere from 2-10 people, but I couldn’t even talk to any of them let alone perform any tasks.

There isn’t much looting to be done either.  Once in a blue moon you’ll do some exploring and find a chest with some ammo in it (whoopee) but that’s pretty much it.  It’s quite a tease when the game puts you in an abandoned town and there’s nothing to be found.

Also, how did I know John’s back story enough to type it out way at the beginning of this review?  I read a single paragraph describing it in the manual and heard a few snippets of dialogue discussing it in-game.  That’s it.  I know a lot of times us gamers loathe sitting through an opening cut scene when all we want to do is tear into the gameplay itself, but this game desperately needed one of those.  I keep letting the title screen sit for a couple of  minutes hoping a cut scene will start and it just never happens.  You’re literally almost clueless as to John’s motivations if you don’t read the beginning of the manual and even then it’s incredibly general.

Lastly, the more I hear about Free Roam mode the more I’m planning for disappointment.  This was touted as almost another full game on the same disc, but judging by people’s experience with it so far that is quite misleading.  You have free reign of the entire campaign map, but all you can really do is complete challenges and overtake gang hideouts.  That’s not going to warrant a ton of additional play time.  It would have been great to gamble with a few friends over Xbox Live or partake in some co-op specific challenges.  At least the upcoming free DLC will have six of the latter.

That’s a few paragraphs worth of criticisms but in all honesty I still think the game is very good and worthy of a gamer’s money in most cases.  Sure, I just griped about more than a few things but frankly there’s nothing there that the positive aspects of the game can’t allow me to look past.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m disappointed there isn’t more of an RPG flair to the game but when you boil it down that’s my only major issue.

Red Dead Redemption is one of those game’s that could be called an “experience”.  You’re not going to be 100% happy all the time, but it’s a large game with a lot of facets to it so it would be unfair to expect flawlessness.  It’s all about soaking in the scenery and really feeling like you’re a lone cowboy in the heart of the wild west.  With the limited theme it might not feel as fresh at the end as it did in the beginning but there’s more than enough to do to keep yourself interested and having fun and if you still grow tired of it, move right on through the story and you’ll still get your 15-20 hours out of the game.

I’m confident in saying that despite a short list of blemishes most gamers will get their money’s worth out of Red Dead Redemption and usually more.  Do your research and make sure you want to take the plunge, but if you’ve seen even one Hollywood western that you ended up loving then it’s a no brainer.

9.2 out of 10  Like I said it’s “slow and steady wins the race” with this game.  If you don’t need constant stimulation overload from your games it’s great fun.