Tag Archives: 360

Fallout 3 – Totally Stuck in a Rock

This is my character in Fallout 3 being totally stuck in a rock.

This is also me being really sarcastic about my character being stuck in a rock.

Better still, I demonstrate how to get stuck in a rock all by yourself in your own game of Fallout 3! Yay! Fun for everyone, truly.

The video quality kinda sucks (I was testing out recording, editing, and uploading all from my 3GS and the lighting left something to be desired), but really, this is me stuck in a rock. How much quality do you really need?


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Review: F.E.A.R. 2 – Sweet, Sweet Parthenophobia

Let’s not delude ourselves any more than necessary. F.E.A.R. 2 is little more than a long string of horror movie and shooter cliches strung together into one tidy package.

Stop me if any of this sounds familiar: creepy little girl, long black hair, scientific experiments gone awry, traveling through subways, hospitals, and elementary schools…

You get the picture.

But as such, it becomes a prime example of how a game can be perfectly enjoyable despite not bringing much new to the table.

In F.E.A.R. 2, you play as a different character than the undoubtedly poorly-fated soul you inhabited in the first game. This fresh perspective on the world allows the game to retell and clarify much of the backstory. F.E.A.R. 2 even begins before the ending of the first game. Far from seeming redundant, this recapping actually managed to tell many of the hazy details of the first outing better than the original, so it is much appreciated.

Our dear little psychotic Alma is now all grown up, on the loose, and seriously pissed off. You will spend most of the game chasing after her and trying to put an end to her shenanigans. That’s pretty much what you need to know. It’s a simple setup, but since the game carries the added burden of making sense of the original’s heap of poorly-told nonsense anything more would have bogged it down too much.

Not to worry though, as there are plenty of twists and turns in store and the yarn is much more satisfying and clearly delivered than in the first game.

The gameplay will also seem familiar, but in a pleasant, comfort food sort of way. Not much has changed, but it’s so well crafted that it didn’t really need to. A few new guns are added to the mix, the AI has received a notable boost in intelligence, and you can now make cover for yourself in case you ever felt jealous of the enemy’s ability to do so in the original F.E.A.R.

The combat isn’t terribly original, like the rest of the game, but it’s immensely satisfying and provides that perfect roller coaster of fear, tension, and release as the game moves from scary bit to action bit. Adding to this are a couple of sections where the player is given the opportunity to control a mech and mow down legions of enemies. Monolith has totally nailed the sensation of piloting one of these things like no other game I can remember, and if these mechanics aren’t fleshed out into a full game it will be a true shame.

Even the slow-mo, which could feel seriously dated, unnecessary, and overused, remains great fun. It’s hard to define exactly why slowing time and blasting foes into tiny bloody bits never gets old in this game when it wears thin so quickly in so many others.

The gorgeous graphics and terrifically disturbing blood effects certainly don’t hurt. This is one extremely gory, visceral game. In fact, the presentation here is easily one of its biggest strengths, from sound design to graphics to special effects. The whole shebang is quite an impressive package.

Occasionally, however, the lights do shine a little too brightly in this haunted house and expose a few of the more shoddily built props for the cheap skeletons they really are.

Most notably for fans of the original F.E.A.R., Monolith doesn’t seem to have learned too many new scare tactics for this newest outing. Alma still pops up randomly, lights flicker on and off, and hallucinations haunt you from time to time. The entertaining “dream” sequences from the prior outing are also more infrequent than I would have liked.

This, by far and away, is my biggest complaint. The atmosphere is stellar, the shooting is just as fun, and the environments more varied, yet this one fault comes dangerously close to making the game feel uninspired.

All is not lost, however. The game certainly does have enough cool, creepy, and even genuinely scary moments to keep you on the edge of your seat. I’m not about to spoil them here, but there are definitely some treats in store.

Monolith has thankfully addressed one of the biggest complaints about the original F.E.A.R., and to great effect. The environments are both impressively detailed and varied. Gone are the days of the endless series of cloned office corridors. Sure we may have seen the themes before, but never once did they feel sterile or uninspired, as if they simply chose these overdone location themes because they couldn’t think of anything better. All of them served their intended purpose and were suitably creepy, unnerving, and memorable.

Also, other games should pay attention to F.E.A.R. 2 when it comes to endings. It’s no secret that few horror stories, no matter the medium, actually end properly. The first F.E.A.R. was certainly an example of this and the sequel is no different.

What separates Monolith’s two games from the rest of the crappy horror endings (and indeed the innumerable games of late that seem to relish in not having an ending, instead choosing to set things up for the inevitable sequel) is how well they are constructed. In the first F.E.A.R., you knew Alma was far from gone and the story far from over, but the arc of your particular character, and that of the game’s slice of the overall story, had been told and concluded, in suitably epic fashion.

F.E.A.R. 2 is even more of a cliffhanger than the first game, but the ending is so spectacular that it doesn’t matter. The entire sequence, from the last level to the final confrontation to the story twist saved for the very last moments, is one of the outright coolest endings I can remember playing in a long time.

I can only hope that the, yes, inevitable sequel will make good on it, because they’ve already sold me.

So while it may not be astoundingly original, while it may have lost a little bit of its fright factor compared to the first game, and while it could still be accurately described as a “ride” just as much as a “game” at times, it is still an experience most certainly worth undertaking for those that fit its target audience. There’s nothing wrong with creating something that’s simply fun, and that’s what F.E.A.R. 2 is: a fun experience that, for the right audience, will provide thrills, chills, and plenty of memorable moments.

For those that don’t fit its target audience, well, I feel sorry for you, because if this game is a ride, it’s a hell of a trip that will leave you wanting more at the end. And that’s what any good story should do.


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This Week in Gaming – 2-16-09

This Week in Gaming returns! Find out what to buy and (more importantly) what to avoid amongst next week’s releases. Entertaining and informative, both at the same time! Revolutionary!


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Best of 2008 Awards: Best Racing Game

Zestful Contemplation’s Best of 2008 Awards

Way the hell after 2008 is a thing of the past, it’s Zestful Contemplation’s Best of 2008 Awards.  I’m not pretending to make my awards comprehensive or unbiased or any of that other pretentious crap.  The fact that these awards reflect my own personal experiences, tastes, and dislikes is exactly the point.  I haven’t played every game that came out this year and I’m not going to consider a boatload of titles I never played.  But I did play a huge number of games this year, and these choices reflect my personal tastes and thoughts about the games I spent time with in 2008.

Best Racing Game

  • Burnout Paradise
  • Mario Kart Wii

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As much as I love Mario Kart and as great as I thought last year’s particular rendition of the game was, let’s face it, it’s not really in the running here.  Mario Kart is fun but this iteration was probably even less innovative than the GameCube installment.  There’s nothing wrong with that mind you, and I had plenty of fun with it, but come on, it’s up against Burnout Paradise.

Mario Kart Wii’s biggest new feature was probably its motion controlled steering, which nobody who actually cared about winning every once in a while actually used.  On the other hand, Burnout Paradise took an already awesome racing series, took a rather spectacular leap into an open-world setting, and made it significantly more awesome in the process.  Seeing your Miis cheering from the sidelines of the race courses, while awesome and much-appreciated, just can’t compare.

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Rarely does an open world game truly feel like it needs to be open world to me.  Most of the time all it means it that you have to walk farther to get to where you need to go instead of being able to select it from a far more convenient menu.  Sure Burnout Paradise should have given up some of its realism for a restart option, but it used its open world setting to its fullest.  Just driving around randomly at top speed for no reason was immensely entertaining.  Every street had its own records to set.  Every stretch of road contained its own challenges.  Showtime mode is addictive in its simplicity and can be played at any time the player desires.  The game is filled to the brim with fun stuff to do and is one of the most refreshingly fun racing games to appear in quite some time.

On top of all that, the developers have produced what has to be one of the more impressive efforts of post-release support for a game seen outside of the Rock Band platform.  The sheer amount of cool free stuff they have released for the game combined with the paid content that is quickly forthcoming has kept this game relevant and continually fun and fresh for far longer than it would have otherwise.  The motorcycle content alone could have been its own $10 download and few probably would have complained.

Plus, we’re getting our restart option now too.  And for free.  It’s nice when a developer listens to its fans.

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Best of 2008: Best Platforming Game

Zestful Contemplation’s Best of 2008 Awards

Way the hell after 2008 is a thing of the past, it’s Zestful Contemplation’s Best of 2008 Awards.  I’m not pretending to make my awards comprehensive or unbiased or any of that other pretentious crap.  The fact that these awards reflect my own personal experiences, tastes, and dislikes is exactly the point.  I haven’t played every game that came out this year and I’m not going to consider a boatload of titles I never played.  But I did play a huge number of games this year, and these choices reflect my personal tastes and thoughts about the games I spent time with in 2008.

Best Platforming Game

Contenders:

  • Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • LostWinds
  • Prince of Persia

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The platforming genre is not as strong as it used to be, which is saddening for me as it has always been one of my personal favorites.  Still, even though there weren’t many entries this year, the ones that did come around delivered some pretty amazing gameplay.  So while we might be lacking in quantity, we certainly had quality this year.

Before anyone asks, yes, I think Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts belongs in the platformer genre.  Just because you’re platforming with cars and boats instead of the feet of a fuzzy bear doesn’t mean you’re not still platforming.  The methods have changed but the genre ha stayed the same.

Though it couldn’t quite compete with the big boys for the ultimate award, I would like to give a shout out to LostWinds here.  It proves what great things can be possible with downloadable games and remains easily one of the best things available on WiiWare.

Nuts and Bolts and LittleBigPlanet have some interesting parallels.  For one, they both have control issues that produce a few frustrating moments but manage to be incredibly fun despite this.  For two, they both emphasize creation of content by the user.

For the big prize, I had to give it to Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts.  It was a tough decision, but here’s my reasoning.  What made LittleBigPlanet fun for me was its environments, its creativity, and playing other people’s levels, not necessarily its gameplay.  In fact, the core mechanics of the game are some of its biggest drawbacks.  Imprecision is an unfortunately common accomplice during play.

As such, Nuts and Bolts does the core of what it sets out to do better.  Sure its control is plenty wonky, just like LittleBigPlanet’s, but that can usually be mitigated somewhat by altering your vehicle.  This integration of creation with gameplay is the other thing I really admire about it.  While it’s entirely optional to create your own levels in LittleBigPlanet, it’s absolutely necessary to create vehicles to succeed in Nuts and Bolts.  Making the creation aspects not only easy enough that anyone can use them but also vital to success is an ingenious move that is highly satisfying to the player.

So as much as I adore LittleBigPlanet, the prize goes to Banjo.

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Game of the Year Awards: Best Action Game

Zestful Contemplation’s Best of 2008 Awards

Way the hell after 2008 is a thing of the past, it’s Zestful Contemplation’s Best of 2008 Awards.  I’m not pretending to make my awards comprehensive or unbiased or any of that other pretentious crap.  The fact that these awards reflect my own personal experiences, tastes, and dislikes is exactly the point.  I haven’t played every game that came out this year and I’m not going to consider a boatload of titles I never played.  But I did play a huge number of games this year, and these choices reflect my personal tastes and thoughts about the games I spent time with in 2008.

Best Action Game

Contenders:

  • Castle Crashers
  • God of War: Chains of Olympus
  • Grand Theft Auto IV
  • No More Heroes

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Talk about a hotly contested category.  Just about every game in existence could be slotted into this space without trying all that hard.  Still, when you break the categories down as much as I have in these awards there are relatively few true contenders for this title among the games that mattered to me this year.

God of War: Chains of Olympus was incredible, but nothing we haven’t seen before (plus the needlessly difficult ending seriously turned me off).  No More Heroes was brilliant in story and graphics, but the gameplay, as good as the majority of it was, spent too much time in its tacked-on and horribly done “open world” bits to compete for this award.  Castle Crashers was a good little blip of fun, but, while I enjoyed it, I didn’t find it as replayable and addicting as most seemed to.

No, as anticlimactic as it may be, the gold has to go to Grand Theft Auto IV.  As much as a part of me wants to see something else win because everyone under the sun is giving innumerable awards to GTA IV and it would be fun to be different, there’s a reason why GTA IV is hording the awards for itself this year.

GTA IV is essentially a reinvention of its franchise that is a lot different than what many were expecting (much like Prince of Persia).  With this in mind, I think GTA IV pulls off the change the best.  I won’t ramble on for hours about its obvious strengths (although I could), but in short: the graphics are amazing, the world is incredibly detailed, the story missions are actually fun this time, the story is worth caring about, it has a great cast of characters and great voice acting, it has its own damn Internet, etc.

This is the first GTA game I have actually gotten to the end of before getting really sick of it.  I didn’t even feel the need to screw around and pointlessly kill hapless passersby either, although I did sate that urge on occasion.  The main package was strong enough this time that it didn’t need all that pointless haphazard nonsense to succeed, although it was still mostly available if you wanted it.  Niko’s tale was emotionally gripping, enthralling, and fun, making it the best action game of 2008.

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Best of 2008 Awards: Best Music Game

Zestful Contemplation’s Best of 2008 Awards

Just in time for 2008 to be a thing of the past, it’s Zestful Contemplation’s Best of 2008 Awards.  I’m not pretending to make my awards comprehensive or unbiased or any of that other pretentious crap.  The fact that these awards reflect my own personal experiences, tastes, and dislikes is exactly the point.  I haven’t played every game that came out this year and I’m not going to consider a boatload of titles I never played.  But I did play a huge number of games this year, and these choices reflect my personal tastes and thoughts about the games I spent time with in 2008.
Best Music Game

Contenders:

  • Audiosurf
  • Rock Band 2

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I’m just going to be honest here.  Audiosurf was really original and a lot of fun, but when it comes to the best music or rhythm game of the entire year, there was only one real contender.

Music games have become remarkably popular in the last number of years, and so marketing teams around the world made sure that we saw more than enough of them to go around in 2008.  The Guitar Hero franchise alone could have provided enough entries to fill the entire genre.

You’ll notice Guitar Hero: World Tour isn’t even on my list of candidates.  The old girl just hasn’t been the same since she started sleeping around with Neversoft.  What can I say?  Blatantly ripping off most of Rock Band’s ideas but not doing them as well doesn’t help either.  Neither does a lackluster track list.

I could go on, but I digress.

What more can I really say about Rock Band?  RB2 was a game of refinements, not revolutions.  It may be the same basic game as the first one, but the changes and additions that have been made are greatly needed and appreciated.  It also has a downloadable content scheme going that I’m sure every publisher in the industry envies (and one that I wish more developers would learn from).  I’ve probably never logged so many hours (or so much money…) into a game as I have into Rock Band across its two iterations.  Few games can match the sheer awesomeness of the multiplayer experience this game provides with a good group of friends (a category you just might see reappear soon enough).  It’s the best plastic instrument experience out there, and I don’t see it getting old anytime soon, which with my short attention span is pretty damn impressive.

Way to go Harmonix.  Keep up the good work.

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