Monday, April 27, 2009

Birthday Games Flood

So, my 43rd birthday was last week - yes I'm inching closer to renaming this blog "Elderly Gamer", thanks very much - and I acquired quite a few games to add to my already huge backlog of unfinished / unplayed titles. I haven't had time to try them all out yet, but I'd like to log a few initial impressions, and later, if they warrant it, I'll write more about each one.

Guitar Hero 3 - Legends of Rock (XBox 360)
I've tried this game before, while visiting friends, and while I enjoyed it, I wasn't sure if it held enough appeal for me to spend the seventy dollars to buy it for myself. Enter the Circuit City liquidation sale back in February, where my wife Monique and I saw this game at half price. I told her I wanted it for my upcoming birthday, and she went back and bought it, hiding it from me the whole time.

I suck at this game. It requires the use of my left hand's middle, ring, and pinky fingers, which normally are dormant during game sessions. Plus, it's a rhythm game and I have no rhythm. Nonetheless, I have finished a career on Easy mode and am having a great time. It's a lot of fun and I now understand the appeal of these games. When you get it, get into a good streak of unbroken playing, it really feels like you're rocking out. All the bells and whistles attached to it - songs to unlock, things to purchase, boss battles - make it a much deeper experience than I'd anticipated.

Mirror's Edge (XBox 360)
My brother-in-law and his wife got me a $20 gift card from Target, and there I found Mirror's Edge for the XBox 360, marked for clearance at that exact amount. It's hard to believe this game came out last fall for three times that much and has dropped this far in price.

I played the demo last fall and, like Fracture, I decided to wait for a price drop. I didn't think it'd be this soon, because this is really an excellent and original game. It's a first-person platforming game with some mild combat elements thrown in. Players run across rooftops and through buildings, often with the police in pursuit. It's stylish, challenging, and fast-paced. But it's a game of trial and error, and I go splat A LOT.

Grand Theft Auto : Chinatown Wars (Nintendo DS)
My mother-in-law got me a Gamestop gift card, which I used to get this amazing DS title. Like the earliest GTA games, it offers a top-down view, but this time at an angle that allows the city to scroll by in a gorgeously rendered 3D display, with remarkable detail.

Rockstar has once again crafted an amazing rendition of Liberty City - nearly the same one as in GTA IV, minus the western third part of the map (Alderny). I've only done a few missions, but the formula of the GTA series - fun gameplay with strangely compelling psychotic characters - works well. Throw in some DS touch screen features like using the stylus to hotwire cars and play scratch-off lottery tickets - and you've got an awesome, fully loaded GTA game that's portable. More on this one later.

The Elder Scrolls IV : Oblivion (XBox 360)
My sister-in-law and her family sent me an e-gift card for Target, which I turned into this game. I had heard whispers, rumors, and rumblings among the dozen or so people worldwide who love the King's Field games that this expansive and gorgeous RPG has the same first-person gameplay and appeal.

They were right - this is a modern King's Field, and I couldn't be happier. I completed the tutorial mission and have been turned loose on what I can only assume is an enormous world of swords and sorcery. I can't wait to sink my teeth into this one when the time comes.

Assassin's Creed (XBox 360)
The weekend after my birthday brought a sale at Gamestop - buy two used games and get the third one for free - and this was the first title I picked. It's a strange story of an assassin (duh!) in the Holy Land during the crusades, sneaking around gorgeously rendered ancient cities like Damascus and Jerusalem.

Assassination is just part of it - there's clunky combat against gangs of hostile guards, collection quests out the wazoo, awesome platforming aspects, and side missions. I'm not sure how much I like it yet - I've done an assassination assignment in Damascus, and moved on to Jerusalem for another, and already the gameplay is feeling repetitive. The stealth aspects of sneaking around are also getting on my nerves. Maybe this title just needs some more time to grow on me.

Saint's Row (XBox 360)
The second game I got at Gamestop's sale was this early, pre-GTA IV sandbox title, which offers many similar elements, but also throws in territory acquisition, a la Just Cause. In this case, it's gangs fighting over turf, and so far it's a lot of fun.

It has occurred to me that I may be a sucker for these sandbox games. Time will tell if I can get into this one as much as I did GTA IV and Just Cause.

Condmened : Criminal Origins (XBox 360)
The free game I choose at Gaemstop was this one. Condemned is some sort of detective-horror game that came highly recommended by a few co-workers, but I haven't tried it out yet.

All in all, not a bad birthday! Seven games that should keep me busy until at least June - except Oblivion, which will probably keep me busy until the end of the year.

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