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Articles

2012 Video Game Report Card

This is an ongoing post where I’ll keep track of all the games I finish (or abandon in anger) in 2012. (Note: I am not a girl.)

Finished in November

  • Medal of Honor: Warfighter (360) | Grade: B- | There are some really great driving sequences in this. Unfortunately the game is not called Wardriver. Everything about it is just mostly okay. The story makes little sense and focuses on the wrong things.
  • Forza Horizon (360) | Grade: A | Challenging yet relaxing, colorful, fun racing title with atmosphere galore. Really solid game.
  • WWE ’13 (360) | Grade: B+ | Best story mode in a wrestling game ever, one I hope continues and thrives as the standard for WWE games.
  • Need for Speed Most Wanted (360) | Grade: B+ | The 2012 version of Most Wanted is Burnout Paradise with cops. Needed more personality and character in the single player mode.
  • Call of Duty Black Ops II (360) | Grade: B+ | Not as engaging as the original BLOPS and takes some weird turns as far as who you play as in certain segments. The last 3rd of the game is amazing though before it kinda all falls apart at the very end.
  • The Walking Dead: Episode 5 (XBLA) | Grade: A+ | Game of the Year. No question. Maybe even my favorite of this entire generation of games.
  • Asura’s Wrath (360) | Grade: A- | Interactive anime quick time event beat ‘em up weirdness. Loved it, despite the bullshit ending.

Finished in October

Finished in August

Finished in July

  • NCAA Football 08 (360) | Achievement point whoring! 1000/1000
  • NCAA Football 07 (360) | Achievement point whoring! 1000/1000
  • NHL 2K6 (360) | Achievement point whoring! 1000/1000
  • Front Mission Evolved (360) | Grade: B- | Don’t ask me what this game is about other than giant mechs and space elevators. You get to shoot stuff. Someone in the game might be your Dad, and he might be a good guy or a bad guy.

Finished in June

  • EA Sports MMA (360) | Grade: C+ | Completed the story mode twice and got all the offline achievements (online play is no longer possible). Technically sound, but still long loads times and a sport I don’t care about.
  • Madden 06 (360) | Achievement point whoring! Completed 1000/1000 Gamerscore while watching E3 coverage.
  • Major League Baseball 2K6 (360) | Achievement point whoring! Completed 1000/1000 Gamerscore while watching E3 coverage.
  • Madden 09 (360) | Achievement point whoring! Completed 1000/1000 Gamerscore while watching E3 coverage.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (360)Grade: B- | Super condensed version of the movie. Play the scenes that could easily be a video game, watch the rest. Spell casting is fun.
  • Homefront (360) | Grade: C- | So it’s Red Dawn, from the writer of Red Dawn, done so damn poorly. The story is more epic than anything you end up doing, and you never feel like you’re part of the bigger picture. Disappointing.
  • Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters (360) | Grade: B+ | Surprisingly not bad, and actually better than the feature film. Action/beat ‘em up with Ryan Reynolds actually providing the voice for his character.
  • Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (360) | Grade: B+ | Prequel to the first game and superior in every way. Worth a playthrough, even worth two playthroughs (one as each main character).
  • Madden 08 (360) | Achievement point whoring! 1000/1000
  • Fight Night Champion (360) | Story Mode Grade: A- / Overall Grade: C+ | Easily the greatest story mode ever in a sports game. The overall game has some serious technical flaws though.
  • Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut (360) | Grade: A | Why couldn’t you have done this the first time around, Bioware? Game still has some jank but the ending is much improved.
  • The Walking Dead: Episode 2 (XBLA) | Grade: A- | Still some of the best storytelling of this generation with some amazingly difficult moral choices, but technically this episode needed a little longer to cook.

Finished in May

  • Pac-Man: Championship Edition (XBLA) | Grade: A | Just needed one more achievement to reach 200/200, finally got it. Great update to the original Pac-Man.
  • Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (XBLA) | Grade: A- | Same situation as Pac-Man: CE. Only knock against this game is that the previous one was just a little better.
  • Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (360) | Grade: C+ | Strip away all the stupid bullshit about Rock being an ancient force and a giant Gene Simmons battling a robot, and there’s a surprisingly deep rhythm game with tons more features than Rock Band 3. Only 40% of the soundtrack is any good though. Thanks for killing the genre guys.

Finished in April

  • F.E.A.R. Files (360) | Grade: B+ | Two non-canon expansion packs. The first is better than the original game, the second is sadly more of a shooter than a creepfest. Still, great stuff.
  • The Walking Dead: Episode 1 (XBLA) | Grade: A | Impressive as hell, great look and atmosphere, nicely done all around. I hope the next 4 chapters can live up to this.

Finished in March

  • Mass Effect 2 (360) | Grade: A+ | Second playthrough, this time with all the DLC. Still one of my favorite games this generation.
  • Mass Effect 3 (360) | Grade: A- | Technical bugs and a totally disappointing final scene hurt what is otherwise still a terrific game. Look for a No Quarters spoilercast soon with lots of in-depth talk on this one…
  • F.E.A.R. (360) | Grade: B+ | Holds up surprisingly well for a launch era port, with some great atmosphere and some legitimate creepy moments. Story is nonsense though.

Finished in February

  • Syndicate (360) | Grade: B | Solid first person shooter, short on story. Guns feel great, and you feel right at home playing through it. Not as robust as Deus Ex though.
  • Red Faction Guerrilla (360) | Grade: B- | I could only play this in hour long chunks. Not much story, which makes most of the game feel repetitive and lackluster. Still, I love smashing buildings and watching them fall onto EDF troops.

Finished in January

Abandoned

  • Call of Juarez (360) | The gameplay is woefully outdated, which is a shame because playing as both sides of the same story seemed interesting.
  • Operation Darkness (360) | A Japanese turn-based, grid-based RPG about World War II with Final Fantasy-esque characters fighting Nazis, and then eventually vampires. Not as fun as that sounds.
  • Castlevania: SOTN (XBLA) | Just not my kind of game anymore. Didn’t feel like playing more than 10 minutes of it.
  • Star Trek: Legacy (360) | It took 5 years, but finally I’m ready to say it. F*ck this f*cking game.
  • Thor: God of Thunder (360) | Conceptually interesting, lackluster graphics, poor level design. Gave up during the finale, which is so badly realized that you can end up playing it completely wrong and prevent completion of the game.
  • Madden 12 (360) | The NFL isn’t doing it for me much anymore, and so I got the easy achievements (about 570/1000 in only a couple of games) and got out.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (360) | Played for about 30 hours, hadn’t played it in over a month, no desire to return. Got what I needed to get from it.
  • Burnout Revenge (360) | Since the online servers were shutting down, we thought we’d play some multiplayer and get those achievements. Sometimes you can’t go back. And I can’t go forward in this game anymore. Hit the wall.
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (360) | With this game I realized just how “over” the Star Wars universe I am. Force powers are fun, but the blind jumping, poor checkpoints and insanely radical shifts in tone were just too damn annoying.
  • Trials HD (XBLA) | Time to give this game two middle fingers and call it a day.
  • Pac-Man (XBLA) | Yes, the classic arcade version. There’s one achievement I’ll never get, so that’s that really.
  • Game Room (XBLA) | You can still go there. Games are still $3. And to get any more achievements, I’d have to purchase more games. Not gonna happen. Great idea, horrible execution. Way to fuck up something potentially awesome, Microsoft.
  • Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (360) | One achievement left to go (950/1000) but it’s one I’ll probably never get. Nice compilation though, and a disc I’ll be keeping in my collection.
  • BCFX: Black College Football The Xperience (360) | Achievement point whoring! Completed 690/1000 Gamerscore while watching E3 coverage. (Would have gotten the entire 1000, but the game really, REALLY sucks.)
  • Madden NFL 07 (360) | Achievement point whoring! Completed 945/1000 before declaring the rest of the achievements unattainable.
  • Beijing 2008 (360) | Olympic games should be better than this by now. Deleted from my profile entirely.
  • NCAA March Madness 07 (360) | Achievement point whoring! Completed 700/1000 before declaring the rest of the achievements unattainable.
  • MLB Front Office Manager (360) | Started playing this for points, then the “What the hell am I doing?!” realization hit me.
  • Eragon (360) | Started out as a mildly decent licensed game, grew extremely tedious as it went along.
  • Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed (360) | Well done Mario Cart clone that’s better suited for multiplayer matches. Was a fun rental.
  • Street Fighter IV (360) | Took me about 7 minutes to realize that I do not like Street Fighter games. At all.
  • Super Street Fighter IV (360) | And adding Super to the title doesn’t help.
Articles

Down the Gobble Hole

As predicted, I’ve gone and lost my mind.

Despite my lifelong gaming career, I’ve never owned any kind of arcade machine. Never even been close to owning one. For the most part, classic games I’d want to play have been recreated on PC and other gaming platforms, so if I ever got the itch to play Dragon’s Lair there’s always an easy solution.

Then pinball came along.

The Xbox 360 releases of Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection, Pinball FX and Pinball Arcade have reintroduced me to the world of pinball. Now I wasn’t entirely unfamiliar mind you. Growing up in arcades as I did, pinball machines were always available. The local pizza parlor had a 1980 Gottlieb machine called Star Race that I put many of my parents’ quarters into. But as video games progressed, pinball seemed to die out, and I never really gave it a second thought. After playing these recent recreations though, I slipped into old man mode and started wishing for “how things used to be”.

See, you can recreate classic video games, most of them perfectly. But while you can make a digital version of a classic pinball machine, it is not the same nor will it ever be. And this became the appeal. I can download a billion ROMs and play every video game I never got the chance to, but pinball machines… once they break down and die, that’s it. They’re gone. And so I wanted to play them.

There are 50+ public machines in my local metropolitan area available to play, most of which are in lousy locations and/or don’t work properly. So I investigated further, and found there are at least three pinball festivals a year in the state. After attending my first, that was it, I had to have one of my very own. Sure I knew practically nothing about maintaining one, but why let some pesky detail like that get in the way? Must own pinball machine.

I wish I’d come to this realization 10 years or so ago, since the market for pinball was quite different back then. Everyone is aware of the scarcity of pinball these days, and so unfortunately tables come at a premium. But luckily, after a couple weeks of searching, I found one on Craigslist for a very reasonable price. So reasonable that even if I ended up breaking it trying to repair it, other components could still be sold off to make up for the loss.

And so I now own a Williams table from 1964, called San Francisco.

It has some minor issues. The first player score reel won’t reset properly at the start of the game, some bulbs need replacing, and someone did a terrible job of painting over the original cabinet art which must be corrected immediately. Other than that, plays fine, just needs some minor cleaning. The playfield though for the most part is pretty great.

I’d totally consider owning a Dragon’s Lair machine now by the way.

After the break are some videos related specifically to the maintenance and display of this machine. They’re there mostly for my sake, but if you’re curious by all means check them out.

More…

Video

No Quarters has a Pinball Summer at Game Warp

A quick look at the NQ crew’s trip to Orlando, FL for Game Warp 2.

Articles

Final 2011 Video Game Report Card

Continue reading for thoughts on the 24 different games I finished up in 2011. Also, if you want to actually hear my thoughts on some of the best games of the year, listen to our year-end episode of No Quarters.

Continue reading…

Articles

Celebrate 25 Episodes of No Quarters, With Me, Smarmy Jerkface!

Episode 25 of the No Quarters podcast is now live, which features me as a special guest rapping with the NQ crew about such games as Duke Nukem Forever, Brink, Vin Diesel Wheelman, Child of Eden, Deadly Premonition and even the immortal classic Sneak King.

You guys know what needs to be done at this point. Head over to No Quarters, check them out on Facebook, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes… anything to show your support. It’s a good show and you should enjoy it. Nay, you WILL enjoy it.

Articles

In Defense Of: Duke Nukem Forever

Full Disclosure: I have never played a Duke Nukem game before playing Duke Nukem Forever. Also, after sales and credits I spent $12 on a new retail copy of this game, which I promptly sold upon completion for $39.

Duke Nukem Forever will probably not end up being this year’s worst reviewed game, score-wise. But it will be remembered as the game that brought the most hate-filled reviews from the most gaming outlets. Even if they don’t come out and say it, most of the reviews seem to come from a “How dare you!” mindset. While not said within the reviews themselves, the gist of the opinions seem to be “You made me wait 12-14 years and this is what you give me? This was the best you could do?! HOW DARE YOU! F-! Zero out of 10! Go to hell, Duke Nukem!”

Only continue if you have balls of steel…

Articles

No Quarters Gets All Smarmy

Recently I was a guest on Episode 24 of the No Quarters podcast. Gaming topics we discussed include L.A. Noire, Wheelman (starring Vin Diesel!), WWE All-Stars and more.

I had a great time on the show, and would love it if you guys could help bump their downloads up a notch. Head over to No Quarters, check them out on Facebook, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes… anything to show your support. You know you want to have me all up in your ears.

Even if you aren’t into gaming, I think you’ll still find the show entertaining as it’s a bunch of jokesters being all jokey and stuff. But they know their stuff too, and I kinda know a few things about a thing or two. So please, look into your heart and help inflate them. Er, their numbers.

Fine, I just want to be invited back.

Post

The Pile of Shame: ONECHANBARA-BIKINI SAMURAI SQUAD (360)

The "pile of shame" is literally a pile of unplayed video games that
every true gamer has.  We buy games we want to play but then get caught
up in something else and most of us never get back to the pile.  I'm
stopping the cycle and playing through all my old games before I allow
myself to buy new ones.

If you didn't already know this about me, I tend to be drawn to movies and games that no one else has ever heard of.  I'm not entirely sure why that is, I guess sometimes I just like trying to discover hidden gems instead of going with the flow.  Unfortunately this game is no gem.

Bikinisamuraisquad Onechanbara is an ongoing budget line of games in Japan, two of which have been released here in the States.  And damned if I know what the hell is going on in the Xbox 360 edition, Bikini Samurai Squad.  While there are English subtitles, all the voice acting in the game is Japanese, and each mission is preceded by a loooooong, scrolling wall of text that might as well not even be translated because it never makes a lick of sense.  (You can read about the series here on Wikipedia, it's the best I can do.)

Basically here's the deal: you're a scantily clad zombie killer, and along with your equally inappropriately dressed kid sister, you roam the streets hacking and slashing zombies.  Lots of zombies.  Literally thousands of zombies in each level.  Sometimes you're on a motorcycle while you're killing zombies.  Sometimes the zombies are dogs or policemen who have grown to twice their normal size.  And the zombies always spawn from the ground, no matter if you're standing on grass or concrete or on the fifth floor of a building.  The zombies ALWAYS come from underground.  There's even a scene in a hospital where you're in a morgue, and instead of the zombies coming from the vaults they're coming from underground.  They'll just bury you anywhere in Japan, it seems.

Please don't misunderstand, I'm all for totally over the top absurdity in video games.  In one of this game's cut scenes for example, you're trapped in the back of an armored car, and you escape by literally slicing the truck in half with your sword and jumping out.  I'm okay with that.  That's what made this game bearable, for a brief time.

Graphically the game is all over the place.  The cut scenes are decently done CGI (aside from some pretty bad screen tearing), and had the game looked like the cut scenes throughout it would have helped matters.  Instead the actual gameplay looks like a pretty Sega Dreamcast game. Unfortunately it also plays like a game from a few console generations ago too.

The main problem is that the gameplay is beyond repetitive.  Each level features at least one but sometimes more "zombie arenas".  You reach a certain point where spikes come up from the ground, trapping you inside with hundreds of constantly spawning zombies.  To get out of each area you eventually have to destroy a mini-boss zombie, but the game never tells you this.  So for the first few levels you could stay inside one of these things for 20-30 minutes wondering if the spawning will ever end.  Also, normal attacks aren't enough to kill these mini-bosses, you have to use combos that have you pressing two buttons on the controller at once.  Again though, the game never tells you this, or even that you CAN do this.

But my main question about Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad is this… what the hell is up with Japan?  Certain japanese games seem to take being a pervert to a whole new level.  For example, boob jiggle.  Japanese game developers have almost elevated this particular type of physics-based coding to an art form.  What I want to know is if boob jiggle code programming is entry level grunt work or is it something you get promoted to.  I'm betting it's the top job in the programming department.  Something you strive for all your life.

Now watch this video, which is the game's first or second cutscene, and tell me if it doesn't just creep you out with how pervy it is.  In case you can't guess, it's NSFW:

Even weirder than that is the "Dress Up" mode in the game, where after unlocking outfits and makeup during the game itself you can dress up your character and have a little hack 'n' slash fashion show.  I'm sorry, I like skin and all, but video game skin just doesn't do it for me.

By around level six or so I decided life was just too short and abandoned the game.  The story was non-existent, the gameplay repetitive and frustrating, and the way the characters are being displayed was downright embarrassing.  And you only score achievements if you either finish the entire game or finish each level on three different difficult levels.  Fuck that noise, ain't happening.  Listed it on Half.com and within an hour I sold it for twice as much as I paid for it.  Silver lining achievement unlocked.

Post

The Pile of Shame: GUITAR HERO SMASH HITS (360)

The "pile of shame" is literally a pile of unplayed video games that
every true gamer has.  We buy games we want to play but then get caught
up in something else and most of us never get back to the pile.  I'm
stopping the cycle and playing through all my old games before I allow
myself to buy new ones.

I am a fairly hardcore Guitar Hero and Rock Band player.  I play guitar/bass, almost always on Hard, and can play for hours at a time.  I realize I'm not a real rock star, but I enjoy the level of interactivity with songs that I enjoy listening to.

Smash The reason I've embraced the Rock Band series over the Guitar Hero games is that Rock Band "speaks" to me more than the other.  What I mean by that is that Rock Band just feels right.  I feel like I'm playing along with lots of my favorite songs.  Guitar Hero, on the other hand, features a lot of songs from genres I cannot stand, and charts those songs in the most frustrating ways, seemingly catering to hardcore music gamers who end up building robots to play the game for them.  I'm not knocking Guitar Hero for this, I'm simply stating why one series works better for me than another.

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is a collection of songs from the first three games in the series, along with a handful from GH: Aerosmith and GH Encore: Rocks the 80s.  All 48 songs now include full band support, and unlike in the past, all the songs are master recordings from the original artists.

I didn't start this series until Guitar Hero 2 came out for the 360, and therefore was never able to play the first game or the 80s edition since they were Playstation only releases.  Unfortunately, the bulk of the songs in the playlist come from the games I've already played to death, and considering that I only play guitar/bass, the game essentially offered me nothing new.

Playing through the career mode quickly became a tedious chore, as the songs got worse and worse as I progressed, eventually becoming nothing but the finger-melting squeal-fests that I can't stand.  And of course the game concludes with "Through the Fire and Flames" which if that song was a person I'd punch it in the ovaries.

For a small fee there is an export feature where you can download 21 of the 48 songs to your hard drive to play in newer Guitar Hero games, and that was fine for me.  I got to export "Freebird" and "Nothin' But a Good Time", which is probably all I would play anyway.  After the export, there was no reason for me to keep the game, and I managed to sell it on Half.com for three times what I paid for it.

So yes, this became the first Guitar Hero or Rock Band game that I didn't keep in my library.  I think that says it all.

Post

I admit it, I’m a cheater

My only New Year's resolution this year was to play through games in my pile of shame and sell them off before buying more.  And well, technically I've done that.  But I might have screwed up the ratio a little bit…

First off I totally blame my spouse, who bought me both Mass Effect 2 and Bayonetta for my birthday / Valentine's Day.  But then I also got some birthday cash in the mail, and well there was a sale at Gamestop and New Egg, and so purchases had to be made.

But worthwhile purchases!  Games that sound so absurd that there was no way I could NOT play them!  Games like 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, which finds Fiddy in Iraq trying to get paid for a concert.  Or Operation Darkness, which takes place during World War II but features Hitler, zombies, werewolves, vampires, Jack the Ripper and dragons!  Holy shit!

The most absurd purchase though looks to be Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad.  Just look at this video!