Agents of SHIELDcast

Forza Motorsport 3 (X360)

The Nurburgring is a 13-mile-long race track in located Nurburg, Germany. Nicknamed the "Green Hell", it was built in 1927, has 72 corners, constant elevation changes and is considered one of the most dangerous race tracks ever constructed. And for about $15, anyone can drive on it.

A lot of games have included the Nurburgring on their list of locales to simulate. The latest is "Forza Motorsport 3," which claims to be the most "realistic racing experience ever." "Forza 3" gives Xbox 360 owners the option of taking on the Nurburgring and dozens of other tracks in a collection of SUVs, exotic sportscars and purpose-built racers.

My brother and I had flown to Germany for the express purpose of driving on the legendary track. And we'd do it in a rented Mercedes C230 sedan.

Once you arrive at the public section of the Nurburgring, also called the Nordscliefe, there's an unassuming booth that stands between you and the track. I walked up and handed the attendant 75 euros and received a license that allowed me four laps on the track.

That was it. No lengthy safety lecture. No car inspection. It would have been harder to get on a roller coaster at Universal Studios.

Safety lessons weren't needed, though. On the drive up to the track, we crossed paths with a tow truck carrying the remains of a Porsche 911. The front end was nonexistant, and the roof was crushed from an obvious rollover. While Turn 10 Studios has improved the collision model in "Forza 3" over the previous installments, even on the highest setting, a rollover won't result in the carnage featured on the back of that tow truck. That's the sort of damage Forza 3 doesn't simulate.

I drove to the entrance of the Green Hell and waited for the yellow-clad track worker to give the "go" signal. The gate lifted and I headed down the first straight. This was it. I was on the 'Ring. My brother sat in the passenger seat as we sped by the series of cones that guide the cars down the first part of the track. After I left the coned area, I was tentative about speeding up. Part of me didn't believe I was actually driving on my dream course, and another part kept picturing the metal carcass or the Porsche.

When I got to the top of the first incline and headed into the initial collection of twists and turns, I began to feel at home. I knew the corners well. Games like "Forza 3" take pride in how closely they can recreate real-world tracks. A long downhill straight opened up in front of me and I pressed the accelerator to the floor. The 2.3 liter engine of the Mercedes pulled the car up the hill, gaining speed. The curve at the top looks a lot less severe than it actually is, a lesson learned from "Forza." I lifted off the throttle and eased the car into the corner. It hugged the road perfectly, the body rolling to the outside while the tires stayed planted on the tarmac.

"Nice," my brother said. I agreed. That gave me the confidence to launch into the next corner, a sweeping right-hand 90-degree curve, at full speed.

I aimed for the inside of the turn. What happened next was a sharp reminder of the difference between a game and real life. "Forza 3" gives you the option of putting a colored line on the road, telling you when to hit the brakes. There's even an option to let the game apply the brakes for you, making it accessible to just about anyone who can hold a gamepad.

I didn't have those helpful lines here. Nothing was going to step on the brake pedal for me as I hurtled towards the trees that bordered the turn. I heard the screeching of the rear tires as they struggled for grip. I heard the sound fade away as they lost that struggle and began to slide toward the outside of the corner. The sensation of unexpectantly facing one direction while your body travels in another is eye-opening. Thankfully, the C230 regained its composure quickly. While it doesn't have all the driving assists of "Forza 3," it does have traction control, and that stepped in to cut power to the rear tires, ending the slide.

The sequence only lasted a split second. But for a split second I was drifting on the Nurburgring. For a split second I was out of control on the Nurburging. For a split second -- I was terrified on the Nurburgring.

I maintained my speed down the decline and back up into a set of 'S' turns that I looked forward to tossing the car into. A motorcycle was ahead of me, and I had to rethink attacking the corners. I was right up on his tail as we entered the turn and there was little room to manuever around him. Instead of risking an incident, I decided to just follow his slow lead into the section. When we exited, I pulled out beside him and passed. At anytime, there can be dozens of other vehicles on the Ring. Even though "Forza 3" excels in allowing diversity in its multiplayer offerings, the fact that a maximum of eight racers can share the road is disapointing. Add to that the fact that unless you have enough people to create a private match, your multiplayer experience will be limited to the scant few modes available in the game's matchmaking system.

I sped around the cyclist and headed into the next set of curves. I glanced to the left and was greeted by a bright blue sky. It was a beautiful scene. "Forza 3" has some of the best graphics ever seen on the Xbox 360, but even they wouldn't have compared to the vista that spread out from the edge of the mountain. Then it dawned on me that I wasn't just driving on a road or a track. Beside me was a cliff. A cliff elevated a few hundred feet into the air. And there wasn't a lot to stop me from going over the side of that cliff.

I checked the rental car's rear-view mirror and saw an A-Class Mercedes storming up behind me. I figured I'd just need to stay in front of the minuscule vehicle for the next few turns, and once we hit the upcoming straight, I'd easily pull away. I was wrong. The nimble car was on my bumper before I reached the final turn entering the next straight. My ego tried to convince me that the tiny A-Class had more than the standard 100hp that it's born with. Maybe the owner had taken a page from the "Forza 3" book and modified the engine with a large turbo, added racing tires, and tuned suspension parts, transforming what was once a normal automobile into a fire-breathing racing machine. But it was more likely that the Mercedes A160 was simply being driven by a better, more experienced driver. I clicked on my right turn signal and moved over to let him pass.

Up next was the Karussell, a banked section of the track that almost begs you dip into it. It's a turn that can do one of two thinggs: Help you traverse it's hairpin radius at an insane speed aided by centrifugal force, or launch you up and over the guardrail like a ramp.

I knew this turn was coming, and I knew how dangerous it was. I told myself earlier that if I didn't feel comfortable, I could always stay on the outer, non-banked section of the turn. I didn't feel comfortable. Still, I dove into the banked section of the Karussell. I could feel the suspension compressing and pushing the car into the road as it was cradled around the curve. My brother and I both let out a scream of joy. "That was awesome!"

Again I checked the rearview mirror. In the distance, I was able to make out the distinctive white silhouette of the "Ring Taxi." The Ring Taxi is a service run by BMW, where for 200 euros, you can be a passenger in a 500hp V10 BMW M5 driven by a professional race driver. Currently, the Taxi was far behind me, but the race-prepped M5 would be on top of my borrowed C-Class grocery hauler soon. I concentrated on the sharp corners ahead, hitting the apexes and accelerating out of each one. The motions were smooth and fast. I checked the position of the Ring Taxi again, expecting him to be a few corners behind me. Instead, the shark-like grill of the BMW loomed impossibly large in the mirror. It was right behind me. How fast was that car? I knew I had to get out of the way as soon as possible.

The next turn was a narrow left-hander and afterwards was a fairly straight section that would make it easy for the Taxi to get around me. I planned on taking the corner as fast as I dared, staying wide, setting myself up to end the turn on the outside edge and thus, giving the fierce BMW a lot of room to pass. But halfway through the maneuver, I looked to my left. There, I was surprised to see the white and blue markings of the BMW M5, taking the inside of turn at twice my speed. I didn't see the driver, or the passengers. I was looking at the rear of the M5.

It was going through the corner sideways.

I can't explain the feeling that went through me. What I can do is describe how my brother and I both yelled as we saw the BMW beside us. I can explain how the instant rush of adrenaline felt and how my accelerated heart rate made time seem to slow to a crawl. But the feeling itself? I was in Germany, on the Nurburging, in a Mercedes, on the edge of traction, and less than 3 feet beside me was a roaring BMW M5 with the combined power of 500 horses harnessed by a professional driver going double my speed, sideways.

It felt ... incredible.

And we still had 5 miles left to go in the lap.

"Forza 3" has a lot to offer driving enthusiasts. It's as close to a simulation that you can find on the Xbox 360. It goes to great lengths to welcome players in with numerous assists and customization options. Theres still something missing that I don't believe any game will be able to capture -- the visceral look and sounds of driving on the edge. I doesn't convey the fear of knowing that you cant lose concentration for a second. For many people, that's probably a good thing. But I remember the feeling of losing control for a moment while heading toward a tree, glancing over the side of a cliff and knowing only a quarter-inch thick guardrail was protecting me, and seeing that BMW sliding past me close enough to touch. You can't simulate that.

We drove a total of four laps during the trip. We had flown 4000 miles, and driven another 150 miles on the autobahn, just to go around a 90-year-old stretch of road four times.

I would do it again.

Score 8/10

  • Published in Xbox 360

The Little Pawn Shop That Could

Royal PawnRoyal Pawn

 When garbage collectors are called sanitation engineers, and used cars are referred to as certified pre-owned vehicles, it's refreshing to notice a place, though small in size, that goes simply by the name of Royal Pawn.  Why?  Because it is an actual pawn shop.  Unlike another establishment I visited during my video game field trip that was called "Cash Converters" when it was in essence a  pawn shop, the store I visited for my video game field trip was a bona fide pawn shop.  It's a place where you can pawn items it you want, or if you prefer, you can just shop around like I did, and find out what they have to offer in the way of video games.

Before visiting Royal Pawn, I went to their website and saw lots of pictures on the walls, as well as musical instruments and other merchandise displayed in glass cases.  I have visited similar looking places, and would more often than not be told that they do not sell or trade video games.  When I visited Royal Pawn and walked closer to the glass door opening of this store, I saw the sign  "We Buy Gold” -- which heightened my doubts that video games would be sold in this pawn shop.

When I walked in the store, I was greeted by a salesperson.  I was going to ask a leading question such as, "You all do not have video games or video game systems here, do you?" -- when I decided to take a more positive approach and just ask if they had any video games. I was surprised when the salesperson said that they not only sold video games but had video game consoles as well --  which were located in an area behind where I was standing.

Xbox 360's at Royal PawnXbox 360's at Royal Pawn

 I asked the salesperson if there were any PS4 or Xbox Ones in stock, and his reply was that it was too soon to have the new systems. However, he mentioned that about two weeks ago, this store had a PS4, which was bought within a few minutes after it was put on the shelf.  Of course, this could have been a fabrication; however, judging from the busyness of this store, this was a possible true story. When I asked about the prices of the video games, he said that most of their video games sold for $10.00, unlike the "Game Box" down the street that sells games for $50 and up.  When I questioned "Game Box," he said that he meant to say "GameStop."  Having visited GameStop the previous week, I can attest to the fact that the used video game prices at Royal Pawn were more reasonable. An added plus was, from what I saw -- the video games included some recent titles.

Here are some of the video games displayed in the locked glass case.Here are some of the video games displayed in the locked glass case.

 When I asked to look at a game in the glass case that caught my attention, he went to another area in the store and brought a key back with him to open the case.  The video game that caught my eye was Gears of War for the Xbox 360, which  was in a new-looking metal case.  When he opened the metal case, the game along with the external and internal packaging were intact.  I was expecting this game to sell higher than $10.00 -- but when I asked, he told me the price was $10.00.  I was tempted to purchase this game; however, I did not particularly like that there was a red skull on the front of the packaging, similar to the skull that's on Call of Duty Ghosts. The salesperson jokingly said that he would remove the skull if I liked, and I knew obviously,  he was just kidding.

To make a long story short, after much contemplation, I passed on the Gears of War game and did not purchase it.

I would describe this video game field trip as an enjoyable one.  Not only was I looking around for video games in a pawn shop that was also known as a pawn shop,  but I was being assisted by a salesperson who was very helpful as well.

If you want to look for your favorite older video games in a place that seems like it's not out to take your money, I recommend you visit a similar type establishment  in your area. If there are no video games in the pawn shop that you are interested in, there may be other type merchandise that you may want to check out.  It is likely that should you decide to look for video games, consoles, or other merchandise,  there is a pawn shop waiting for you to frequent.  Hopefully the salespeople are just as friendly as the merchandise is inexpensive.

 

Ten Best Consoles of 2013

 

tenbestconsolesof2013 

2013 was a big year for gaming consoles. We were on the brink of a new generation of systems, but the current gen wasn't showing any signs of going away. Huge games like GTA V and Call of Duty Ghosts proved that you didn't need to drop hundreds on new hardware to experience the best gaming had to offer. The influx of Android based platforms finally hit store shelves in a big way. Now low priced, HD games were were available to anyone with $100 and an HDMI cable. But would games that were fun on a phone translate to the big screen? You can't forget the impact that portable gaming made on the industry because when you talk of the best games released this year, a good chunk of them will fit in your pocket. 

AllGames has taken a hard look back on this epic year and come up with a definitive list of the Top Ten Consoles for 2013. If you disagree with some of the placements, additions, or ommisions (let's be honest, you -will- disagree), leave a comment and let us know how you would have ranked the best gaming consoles of 2013.

 


 

 #10 Ouya

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The Ouya started off with a bang, but a dearth of AAA titles and lack of graphical punch really hurt it. Hopefully the upcoming Ouya 2.0 will solve some of the problems, but it’s not the only android system on the block anymore and other consoles are already nipping at it’s heels.

 


 #9 NVidia Shield

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NVidia’s Shield hit late in the year, and it still managed to make a splash. Packing a lot more power then it’s android based brethren, it also added to ability to stream games from your PC. At $250, It’s high price is it’s biggest drawback in getting gamers to take the leap although the NVidia name will go a long way in gaining clout with the hardcore crowd.

 


#8 Nintendo Wii U

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The WiiU makes the list by just being itself. Nintendo wasn’t fooling anyone with it’s claims of ‘hardcore’ gaming at the console’s launch. Once the WiiU realized that halfhearted ports of Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed cutting it, Nintendo went back to it’s family based roots, and the system finally started to shine. New Mario, Luigi and Zelda releases marked an immediate and strong return to form.

 

 


#7 Sony Playstation Vita

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Sony isn’t giving up on portable. Not by a long shot. By adding a number of CrossPlay titles, and pairing it heavily with the new PS4, the Vita has received a renewed lease on life. The jury is still out on how many Vita based titles will be worth getting, but if you have a PS4, this portable is the perfect companion.

 


#6 Neo Geo X

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The Neo Geo X may not have been a big hit (it may not even survive through 2014), but it has a pedigree that outshines a lot of other consoles. Near perfect arcade ports of near perfect arcade games means that this is one retro console that still looks good on the big screen. And if you’re a fan of fighting games, then you really have no excuse not to own one.

 


#5 Microsoft Xbox One

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The Xbox One had a hard road to its release date with a number of PR missteps. On launch day, none of that mattered because the multifaceted console was able to silence any doubters with one of the strongest line up of titles seen on a system’s release day. With a ton of options including music, skype, movies, and tv, the Xbox One has made a solid argument to being the only entertainment box you’ll need. Time will tell if the lack of focus on purely gaming will be a liability.

 


#4 Sony Playstation 4

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The Sony PS4 was one of the biggest launches in the history of consoles, but it was marred with hardware failures and network outages. Fortunately, it was able to rise up from the ashes with the help of excellent titles like Resogun and Killzone that showed off the fourth Playstation’s strengths. Allowing users to stream gameplay directly from the console went a long way to making the PS4 a popular next gen choice. Now it just needs more games.

 


#3 Microsoft Xbox 360

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The Xbox 360 stood strong in 2013. With hit after hit, the console proved that it still had the power to deliver a great gaming experience. Although Kinect add-on was ignored by both gamers and developers, price drops on the core system helped keep the 360 at the top of the charts all year long. Xbox Live continues to be one of the best online services around and the biggest reason the 360 had stayed viable for so long.

 


#2 Nintendo 3DS/2DS

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Nintendo knows portable gaming.They’ve dominated the space since the original Gameboy and haven’t missed a step. A lower price on the 3DS and the release of the 2DS may have gotten the system into more pockets, but the constant stream of excellent games kept those systems turned on. New Pokemon titles, Animal Crossing, and the best Zelda game released in years made the 3DS a must own platform in 2013

 


#1 Sony Playstation 3

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Sony came strong in 2013 with the PS3. The Instant Game Collection promotion that gave PS+ members free AAA titles every month blew away other online services. Sony managed to deliver some jaw dropping exclusive titles like The Last of Us and Beyond Two Souls, along with a number of award winning Indie games. Even with the release of the next gen consoles looming, the PS4 was able to show that it’s not going away anytime soon.

 

Review: Midnight Club Los Angeles Xbox 360

One of the worst feelings in the world is when you realize you're number two. The 'Backup Plan', the 'Just in Case', the 'If All Else Fails', 'Second'. Because even when you do get to step up to the plate, its only a matter of time before you're back on the bench. It doesn't matter how good you are or how well you perform. You're only there because the first choice wasn't available. It was you or boredom.


That's Midnight Club L.A. It likes to pretend it's a glitzy blinged out arcade racer. It tries hard to impress with a lot of licensed cars and a pseudo representation of L.A.'s streets and highways. But as soon as you load it up and the poorly scripted 'story' starts, it's true nature shines through. Its really just a slightly ramped up version of the driving sections in GTA IV. And you're only playing it because you've already played through Nico's storyline twice.


Sitting across from the table from someone while they wait for their cell phone to ring is not the best way to enjoy a meal. It doesn't matter if you're funny or smart or know how to order the wine in French. Because you're the second choice. They'd happily trade you in for a cold sandwich with someone else. The pasta is bland and dry as you swallow because you know that all it takes is one phone call, and you're eating alone again. Look at those eyes. They're looking through you.
Being second sucks. You're always waiting for the hammer to fall when number one decides that they're ready to take over again. You can never get too comfortable because there's nothing stopping the door from slamming on you. What will happen when the first choice stops showing up at all? It doesn't really matter, because no matter what, you're number two. Someone else will go to the top of the list while you brush up on witty reparte.


Burnout Paradise is what Midnight Club wants to be. It wishes it could have Burnout's style and graphics and falls short imitating its gameplay options. MCLA's modes consist of 'Race from A to B', and 'Race from A to B to C'. Sure, you can plow through traffic like a madman, but it lacks Burnout's wild stunts or crashes. Adding in motorcycles and a race editor don't make up for the yawn inducing treks through the city. It wants to be more, but it falls short.


Being second sucks. Your phone only rings because someone else didn't pick up. You only get invited because someone else dropped out. You're only on the speed dial until they need the room. Midnight Club L.A. is only in the Xbox because Need For Speed Undercover wasn't on the shelves. You'd rather be playing EA's version of cops and robbers than Rockstar's. The cops that roam the streets in MC:LA act like after thoughts. The car customization tool looks like it was pulled directly from old versions of NFS. Nothing is terrible, its just 'okay'. But 'okay' is only good enough until the real deal is available.


Being second sucks. You wonder how it would feel to not get dismissed. No more sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you hear the click of call waiting. What would you do if every call didn't end with 'my other line is ringing, I gotta go'. It must be staggering to have someone's full attention. Being first would be great. Intoxicating.


Midnight Club:LA doesn't do a lot wrong. The rubber band AI, uninspired gameplay, and lax graphics aren't it's biggest flaws. Its biggest flaw is that it's a second choice. And being second sucks.
Score 5/10

Tales from Borderlands: Zer0 Sum Review [Xbox 360]

talesfromtheborderlandsep1 review

Developer / Publisher: Telltale Games

Tales from Borderlands is rich with wonder and mystery, but the most nagging question you'll be asking throughout this point-and-click version of Pandora is, what's the point?

There's the obvious answer, of course: this is a Telltale game; and after knocking it out of the park with The Walking Dead (and to a lesser extent The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones), the studio has earned a reputation for spinning pop culture franchises into point-and-click gold. Then there's the fact Gearbox Software's Borderlands universe – like Telltale's past muses – is teeming with new and interesting stories to tell.

This explains why Telltale picked Borderlands and why any gamer with good taste should feel compelled to check it out. Still, after 4 hours of half heartedly tapping one or two buttons through the series' debut episode, Zer0 Sum, you might yet have trouble determining what kind of game Tales From Borderlands wants to be (or if it even wants to be a game at all).

Borderlands Rhys

Whatever it is, Tales from Borderlands has style. Gearbox's off-kilter universe is captured with almost pitch perfect accuracy, and Zer0 Sum sets up an odd-ball, over-the-top, sci-fi adventure that fits in snugly with Borderlands lore. In it, you'll split your time between playing two characters, Rhys and Fiona, who cross paths after a Vault Key purchase goes south. Despite their seemingly disparate backgrounds – Rhys being a Hyperion employee out for petty revenge and Fiona being a Pandoran scam artist out for a quick buck – both are the kind of lovable rogues who have a knack for falling ass-backwards into ridiculous situations. Which they do. A lot.

Borderlands Fiona

To say anything more would be giving away some of the game's many satisfying twists and surprises. Needless to say, events in Zer0 Sum have a way of snowballing from bad to “holy crap we're dead” real fast and you'll run into more than a few Borderlands celebrities along the way (spoiler: one of them is in the episode's title).

It's a good thing the story is so strong, too, because despite the game's efforts to cast gamers in a meaningful role, Zer0 Sum saves the best scenes for itself. Yeah, you'll see loads of interesting people and locations and you'll witness a fair share of action scenes, but your actual part in the whole mess is largely reduced to bare-bones QTE events, extremely light puzzle solving (move box, enter vent), and pointing Rhys or Fiona in the direction of the next dialogue sequence.

Borderlands Talk

To be fair, when Zer0 Sum takes a shot at being a game, it does it well. An intense Loader Bot battle at the beginning hints at more twitch-shooting sequences to come, and the final “boss” encounter succeeds at making rote QTE actions feel important. Aside from these rare moments of gameplay, however, Zer0 Sum still feels as though it's happy doing its own thing while occasionally looking back at the screen and saying, “Oh, you're still here? Fine, press this.”

Borderlands LoaderBot

More troubling still is that when the game remembers you're in the room, your actions don't appear to amount to much. In one seemingly do-or-die stealth scenario, for example, you'll be instructed to sneak up on a guard, subdue him with a QTE sequence, and hack a nearby terminal. That all sounds dangerous and game-ending, except failure to correctly pull off the QTE event (or even press a single button) results in the enemy killing himself. Oh, and that potentially cool hacking mini-game? Here's a protip: select “hack”.

Borderlands Weapons


Even your dialogue choices don't appear to have much influence – at least, not yet anyways. Despite the game's warning that everything Rhys or Fiona says will have a ripple effect on the events to come, and even though the game displays a “so-and-so will remember that” reminder after nearly every dialogue scene, there's little evidence that anyone is listening.

For instance, in one scene I was role-playing Rhys as a complete asshole, yet was later told I couldn't be trusted because I act too professional. In another, I was given an elaborate background story that I was told – in no uncertain terms – was vital to earning the trust of a Pandoran outlaw. Out of curiosity, I decided to flunk every one of his questions to see how he would react and if it was indeed possible to “lose”. Sure enough, instead of eating a bullet or failing the scene, an excuse was made on my behalf by another character and the game continued along as if I'd bothered to take my objective seriously.

In short: if dialogue choices really matter, Zer0 Sum does little to prove it. Likely, my idiot role-playing will come back to bite me in the ass later, but in this episode they don't carry much weight.

So if the most of the real action leaves players sidelined, and there are virtually no puzzles to solve, and the dialogue mechanic is more-or-less window dressing, the question remains: what's the point? After all, there are not shortage of Borderlands games that scratch the itch for real action, and there are plenty of Telltale games that offer more to do. The optimist in me believes the point is that Zer0 Sum is merely laying the groundwork for what will become a larger, more involved adventure (and indeed, you get the impression it is). The cynic in me, however, thinks Telltale coded a wonderfully engaging Borderlands movie and remembered at the very end that they were suppose to be making a game.

Borderlands Boss

Thankfully, Zer0 Sum's story is strong enough to generate interest for the next episode, and those brief flashes of gameplay are compelling enough to keep fans on the hook. That said, if this debut episode is indeed supposed to be an opening tutorial of sorts, here's hoping Telltale takes the training wheels off soon.

6.5/10

NASCAR 2011: The Game - Review

 

nascar-2011-the-game

I’ve driven on two NASCAR tracks in my life. And by driven, I mean  I’ve sat in a car, pressed my foot to the ground, and went around those ovals as fast as my nerves would let me. The first time was at Richmond Raceway, a high banked oval designed for the fastest race cars in the world,  and I was driving a high powered AMG Mercedes coupe capable of 155 mph, courtesy of the local dealership. The second NASCAR track I drove on was Langley Speedway. A small quarter-mile oval that looks like it was paved in someones backyard. And I was driving my own car, a bone stock Crown Victoria LX Sport. Guess which time was more fun.


To call Langley Speedway a ‘Speedway’ is kind of like calling Snookie an ‘actress’. That’s being a little unfair to Langley, but not by much. Unlike it’s heyday in the 70’s and 80’s, where the track was a haven for short track racers on their way to the ‘big leagues’, now it’s mostly used for Late Model and ‘Legends’ races. The term ‘stepping stone’ would be a fitting caption for most of the divisions that run at Langley now. A few times during the summer though, they open the track to anyone with a license and a helmet for what’s called ‘Wacky Wednsday’. That’s where me and the Crown Vic come in. 

Forza Motorsport 4 (X360)

 

Forza4 LogoEvery year, a couple of the local Mercedes dealerships get together and rent out the Richmond International Speedway. They then spend a full day attempting to convince ‘VIPs’ to buy a new overpriced luxury car. They do this by letting you speed around in an assortment of Mercs on an assortment of courses specifically designed to make you want one right now. And being a VIP just means that they’ve sold you a car in the past or they’re pretty sure they’re gonna sell you one on the next week or so. Today, I was a VIP. So that there’s no suspense, I’ll jump to the end. I didn’t leave that day with a new Mercedes. I’m very happy with my Crown Vic, thank you very much. But I did leave with the knowledge of what it means to love driving.

  • Published in Xbox 360

GH101 Xbox 360 and PS3 Restrospectives

gh101 lastgenretrospectives 450

 

 

Fred is joined by an all star list of guests as Gaming History 101 looks back on the longest, most successful, and most diverse generation of consoles. Steve (R9cast) and Norma (Knuckleballer Radio and Zombiecast) come on board to discuss the beloved Xbox 360. They take a deep look at the console launch, launch titles, significant advances, hardware setbacks, and a bunch of other ups and downs in Microsoft's second, and currently most notable, console.

Then Fred is joined by 42 Level One host Andy and Video Game Outsiders own Matt (@MattoMcFly) to reminisce on the Playstation 3. They look back on the launch, early titles, and myriad of ups and downs that Sony struggled with on its third console

 

Click Here for the GH101 XBOX 360 Episode  

Click Here for the GH101  PlayStation 3 Episode

 

Review - Abyss Odyssey [PC]

“To sleep, perchance to dream,” in Abyss Odyssey therein is the rub. Out now for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC Abyss Odyssey presents a very interesting story wrapped in a brawler, a platformer, and a rouge-like game.

Drop into the darkness.
The story is set in the 17th century Chilean capitol of Santiago. Evil creatures are coming up through a hole in the center of town and threatening to overtake the city. You start out as Katrien, a swordswoman who specializes in short swords. As she arrives at the edge of the mysterious hole, the soldiers guarding it tell her to leave, that this is no place for a lady. She tells them they have no idea what they are facing. That they are fighting creatures that are the result of a Warlock sleeping at the bottom of the abyss. Those creatures are being created from the nightmare he is having. With those bold declarations, she drops into the abyss to begin her journey to the bottom in order to confront the Warlock.

abyss screen3 caverns15

Along the way you will die. Several times in fact. Such is the nature of Abyss Odyssey. The first time Katrien dies she reveals that she too is a part of the Warlock’s nightmare, that she died a long time ago. The dying part isn't as bad as it first seems. When Katrien falls she is replaced by a soldier who promises to revive her at a shrine, provided he makes it. The soldier is less powerful, but not entirely helpless. If he does fall in battle, then you are revived on the surface and have to fight your way through again. There are no save points in the game, but you can have temporary checkpoints. At special shrines you can change it into a checkpoint, provided you have the key for it. A note of caution, these checkpoints have a limited number of times you can be revived. Once used up you start at the surface again. This is not necessarily a bad thing either. As Katrien observes, the abyss, like a dream or nightmare, is never the same. Which means that every time you enter the abyss it is randomly generated, making it something new and different every time. It is a nice touch that provides for a lot of replayability.

abyss screen2 bossfight08

While you start out as Katrien you won't play as her all the time. Besides the soldier you will be able to eventually unlock two other characters, the Ghost Monk and Pincoya. Both, like Katrien, have their basic attacks, but also special attacks and weapons. If that's not enough variety of characters for you, there's a way to acquire more. You can capture souls of enemies you defeat. Once captured, you can turn into them and use their powers and abilities.
Choose your weapon wisely.

The characters have some role playing game characteristics in that you can level them up and tailor their fighting styles. You may be slow and sluggish at the start, but carefully choosing how to level up your characters will result in a lean mean demon killing machine. Weapons can be found in the abyss or bought from merchants. A small problem for me was that you couldn’t sell your old weapon. This necessitates spending your money cautiously and wisely. Found weapons can only be picked up if they match your current character's weapon style. So if you are playing as Katrien, you can't pick up pole arms, only small swords.

abyss screen1 plantworld01
Pretty as a picture.
Graphically Abyss Odyssey is stunning. It looks like someone crossed a storybook with art nouveau prints; it's colorful and beautiful. One of the touches I really liked was when you use the block move to stop a hit, a halo appears around them. The halo's design takes on the look that's almost a trademark of art nouveau prints. This art style is present in everything, from the backgrounds to all the enemies. I would love to see an art book created from this game.

Final word.
Abyss Odyssey is a downright stunning game. The art, music, story, and gameplay come together in a beautiful arrangement. Even when you finally get to the end and finish the story the randomly generated abyss makes the game different every time. On top of that the developers, ACE, have stated that at current count there are about 37 enemies are to be captured and used. ACE has hinted at more enemies and bosses to be added to the game in the future. The game also really challenges you with that rougelike system. Can you make it to the end with no saves and limited checkpoints? It's a game that I really think is a contender for my top 10 of the year. I like it that much. If this sounds like your cup of tea, pick it up now.

  • Published in PC

World of Tanks Xbox 360 Preview Impressions

 

WoT Xbox 360 Preview title

I first saw World of Tanks in a small booth at E3 a few years ago. I played it a little, but at the time, to me the term ‘Free to Play’ meant ‘Not a Real Game Yet’. I admit it, I was biased against F2P games and didnt give it much thought. Every year since then, the World of Tanks booth has grown to the point where now you can expect to see full size WW2 tanks looming beside the game area. I began to think that maybe I had misjudged this MMO version of a tank sim.

A few weeks ago I got the chance to play the new version of World of Tanks on the Xbox 360. I kept an open mind, because when a company shows up at E3 with a tank, they must be doing something right. And they are, World of Tanks manages to solve not only a lot of the problems I have with F2P games, but it manages to avoid the shortcoming of most shooters.

 

WoT Xbox 360 Preview01One of my big issues with shooters (and make no mistake, WoT is shooter, not a sim. Think Call of Duty...but with tanks), is what I call ‘lone wolf syndrome’. No matter what the game developers envisioned, the game is almost always populated with ‘lone wolves’ who sprint around the map like wanne be Rambos trying to take out the opposition on their own. I’ve always said, if you can get just 3 people in a shooter to work together, their team would win every match. "Think Call of Duty...but with tanks"And yet it never happens. But in World of Tanks, you can’t sprint. You’re a tank. A big slow tank. Even the ‘fast’ tanks are still pretty slow. and that’s a good thing. Because now you’re almost forced to work as a team. Because of your speed and size, if you go out alone, you’re just a big target. This means that almost every game, you’re aware of where your teammates are. You cover them, and they cover you. And with that comes an immediate sense of ‘I’m part of a Team’, even in pickup matches with strangers. That’s something that you almost never get in most shooters.

 

WoT Xbox 360 Preview03The next big plus happens when you die. In the modes I played, you only get a single life, with no respawning. Once your tank is destroyed, you can wait around and watch the rest of the match unfold. Or you can leave immediately and start a new match without being penalized any points or rewards you may have earned. No more waiting around while the final two tanks look for each other on opposite sides of the map. That change allowed me to keep playing instead of just sitting back and flipping through the different camera views of other players.

 

"the devs have managed to keep the tedious parts of sims out"World of Tanks is a slightly arcade-y tank game with more than a few simulation style additions. There’s a ton of historically accurate war machines to pilot, with everything from small Shermans to huge Panzers. All of the tanks have the same simple controls. It’s more complicated to drive a car in Forza than it is to move a 30 ton beast in WoT but I’m not a tank buff so I can’t comment on how historically accurate each tank is. I was pleasantly surprised how well WoT uses terrain. For once in a game, higher ground actually means something. Flanking around the side of a hill isn’t just possible, its the norm. Getting into cover means driving behind a house, and not just hitting a button. Somehow the devs have managed to keep the tedious parts of sims out while including all of the ‘cool’ stuff like the damage model that allows you to blow off a tread or destroy a turret while still keeping the tank alive. And there’s a huge draw distance where you can see someone creeping from behind a fence on the other side of the map.


WoT Xbox 360 Preview06Notice I've gotten this far into the preview without mentioning ‘Leveling Up’. Usually in F2P games, the game is obviously secondary to the economy the developer has concocted to get you to start spending money. I know Wargaming.net isn’t a charity and they want to fill their bank accounts like any over dev, but I have to admit, I never felt pressured to hand over my credit card, or felt like I was being held back because I didn’t drop an extra $5 in the jar. The games were matched up in a way that I was always against similar skilled opponents, or on a team that had an even mix of small and big tanks. This is just a preview so I won’t go too deep on how the economy works, but basically, you play, you get money, you buy stuff for your tank (or new tanks).

 

World of Tanks on the Xbox 360 is now in open beta and from what I’ve seen, there’s no reason it won’t make as big a splash on the console as it has on the PC. It manages to have an arcade like control style, strategic gameplay, and is well paced. Maybe ‘F2P’ isn’t such a bad word after all.

 

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