Friday, November 28, 2008

Guitar Hero: World Tour First Impressions

I was fortunate enough to have had a lengthy two sessions with a complete (Drums, Bass, Guitar and Microphone) copy of Rock Band, err, Guitar Hero.

It is really good. Why? A number of reasons. Firstly, the drums are great fun, much funner (and harder) than the guitar. It has what makes the guitar fun (and hard) and then increased it. When you are getting a good streak with the drums and you are hitting pads all over the place, it feels really cool - just like when you have a long continuous streak of notes on the guitar.

The problem with the drums is two fold. Firstly, the learning curve is very steep. Even at easy, you must use ALL the pads and the pedal. I understand for it to be fun, pads have to be on opposite sides, so how about leave out the green pad (in the middle) and the pedal - which requires an extra layer of co-ordination.

The other problem is sensitivity. The pads on the your left, a slight tap is enough, any more is excessive, but the pads that are hit less often do not register. This is slightly off putting. The pedal is also really hard to use, and not just because it is not with your hands. Personally, I think it would be better, if a little strange, if it activated star power, as that is also absurdly hard as it is and you use it less frequently than the pedal as it stands.

Despite all this, the drums are great fun. The microphone, on the other hand, feels quite gimmicky. It does have a nice weight to it, and it doesn't look tacky, but actually playing it is more a matter of luck than skill. You can say anything you like, as the game is only measuring the pitch. While I am sure there will be some people who can control their pitch perfectly, the role feels somewhat superfluous and silly. If the game came with a stand, so you could play a instrument at the same time, it would be good, but seeming as the real singer still sings over the top, it just doesn't have the same satisfaction factor as the other real instruments.

So how about the guitars, well they still hold their own. It is easy to forget that amongst all this plastic it was they who started all this 3 short years ago. It is incredible to see how far this genre as come, from ELC style guitars with covers of unheard of records to this - a complete band kit with unembarassing style and a large and impressive set list featuring huge bands.

Which brings me on to my final point: the track list is fantastic. Normally, I am forced to stick with a few indie (in the modern sense, not the non-recorded sense, such as the Killers or Razorlight) tracks and maybe a David Bowie song. GH:WT covers all tastes, with plenty of songs that I like. It is a shame that they removed so many songs to sell back to people (there are giant gaps in the playlist that are being released for DLC, it sucks).

Overall, here is a game that has shown how to refine it's game play to the extreme. They haven't added a lot to this game - open strumming for the bass, a solo thing for the guitar - but it all fits in well to the game mechanics. Now, just don't realease any more, just sell song packs... cheaply?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

NXE First Impressions


What, you want me to say more? Well NXE (New Xbox Experience) came out yesterday and was quick download. The avatar creation system is OK, very similar to the Wii, same good parts (quite fun) same problems (quite limited). It seems to me like they have obviously left gaps for DLC.

The new menu system is OK. The old blade system, in my opinion, was an effective way of displaying information. This system is a little confusing as you can't always see every option so you must memorise the order. It is a stab at being Apple with the reflections, but over all, it is more confusing. Maybe I will get used to it, but personally I thought the blade system was excellent.

And then there are parties. Group chat, the actually useful part to them, should have been introduced MONTHS ago. Launching in to a game doesn't actually jump you both in to the game, it just invites all the members to play.

I guess it is fine, but it hardly warranted the over the top video at the start.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gears of War 2 First Impressions

I got Gears of War 2 yesterday at a tidy price of £34.99. My impressions are limited as an annoying string of events that stopped me barely getting past the tutorial (which was a stupid decision - I knew it all already) So, I will save my thoughts on the campaign till later.

What I did get a chance to play on (one of the things that stopped me playing on campaign) was horde. And it is rather good. Scrap that, it is fantastic. We weren't playing it on a particularly hard level and you were already forced to work together as a team. We got to level 13 then the host had to go.

The other thing I did get a chance to play was the online. I had hoped to play a quick game, but it was uber close, 5-4 being the final score (having said that, we were 4-0 up) it took 45 minutes. Maybe it was just because it was such a close game, but the tense gameplay that was so great in Gears 1 is still here.

Overall, although my time with this game is limited the message is clear: everything that was good with Gears 1 is still here, and while the improvements are minor, they all fit well within the scope of the game, keeping it balanced, tense and fun. A solid sequel. More to come.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Childs Play Charity

Penny Arcade is hosting it's annual charity event: Child's Play. It gives money to help children in hospital enjoy the wonders of video games. You can either donate through paypal/bank etc, or you can choose to buy them something off their Amazon wish-list.

Although PA is expecting less this year, due to the economic crisis, as even the video game industry is, surprise surprise, not "recession proof", please give where you can for an honourable cause.

Follow this link to Child's Play Charity

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tom Clancy's EndWar First Impressions

I downloaded the demo of EndWar today. For those who are unaware, EndWar is a RTS for the Xbox 360. Normally, I avoid these with a a vengeance, so what is the difference? It is controlled by your voice. So what it it actually like?

Well, actually, it was rather good. Technically, the voice recognition is fantastic. My only gripe with the actual tech is that is always tries to assign what you said to something. Whilst this is good to a certain extent, when you use the wrong word for rifle men, say infantry, you might accidentally deploy a tank. However, that is a small gripe - providing you say the right word, it is 100% perfect in my experience. The thing takes a couple of seconds to respond, making giving orders to multiple units quickly difficult. However, this is resolved with a easy to use grouping system.

Commanding with your voice may be a good laugh, but it is also a very effective way of controlling your forces in the absence of your mouse. You will be pleased to know that haven't been excesive, as is the case with some Wii games, and it really does feel like it has got the balance between your voice and your controller allowing efficient control of your troops. The whole game is suited to the voice command, the battle's happen before your eyes in a very up-close manner. The whole experience is very hands-on.

Even when you take away the voice control - how this game is controlled is suited to the console. It is possible to play without the mic, and I think this is a perfect demonstration of how an RTS can be adapted to the console. Simplify, zoom in and limit. The mouse and keyboard gives the user so much control, obviously a PC player can handle more. This is why I have faith in this and Halo Wars, console-only is the only way that you will get a game that controls well. A player can't manage a huge army, buildings, an economy and still form a logical plan of attack with two joysticks.

As for the actual gameplay, it is suited well to the controls. You must take objectives. Your units, of which there are a thankfully limited 8, all have simple strengths and weaknesses. The aim is to capture key points - which can only be done with infantry. However, you must protect the infantry, as they do not stand a chance against tanks or helicopters. While tactics aren't hugely diverse- defend your troops while they take the points, use special powers towards the end - as the points are scattered across the maps, your forces must maintain cohesion if you hope to hold on to the ones you have captured and captured more.

That is, if there is a higher difficulty. As per with all demos, this game was very easy. It did, however, offer a nice rating system that ranks how well you performed in the match (on both combat and mobility) One of the most exciting features about this game - a persistent battle world online - was not available in the demo. Online was, but I have not got round to trying it yet.

On a side note, I have completed Fable, posts, reviews etc. coming soon.

"All your base are belong to us"