The Ones that Slipped Through the Cracks

With having a new baby and recently going back to freelance work, my schedule/routine has been thrown off quite a bit. It’s pretty tough to plan… anything, actually. Let alone, setting aside some dedicated time for gaming. I’ve basically just been parking my ass on the couch whenever it’s free and the baby’s either sleeping or occupied by someone else. Surprisingly, I’ve been able to get in a bit of gaming every other day or so, which is far more than I anticipated. But as you can tell by the frequency of my posts lately, there isn’t much time left over for other things. Since Christmas, I’ve played a ton of games, but only written about a handful of them due to time constraints. Here’s a summary of those that slipped through the cracks, and a recap of others I’ve been playing in chronological order…

Project Gotham Racing 4

I played the crap out of PGR3, but wasn’t overly excited about PGR4. It could have been the timing – it was released on a few months after Forza 2 and around the same time as so many other huge titles. Regardless, my local video shop had a 2 for $40 sale on previously played games, and PGR4 was too good to pass up.

I played it for a couple weeks and had a lot of fun with it. I really enjoyed racing the bikes, which was surprising. The revamped career mode is much more fun than the previous iteration, although it was frustrating losing an event (like an invitational) and having to wait until the next season to try it again. I was also surprised by the Achievements – PGR4 basically just hands them out like candy for the first few hundred. In my first sitting, I was over 200 points. I’d like to get back to it and finish up the career, but not sure when that will happen.

Tomb Raider Anniversary

A Christmas gift from my wife, Deanna – she got me Lara! Tomb Raider Legend was the first game in the series I played through entirely, and was really looking forward to the Xbox 360 version of Anniversary. Since I never played the original game (Anniversary is a loosely based remake), I was stoked to have the opportunity to check it out without having to resort to playing the original 10 year old game.

It’s built on the Legend engine, so it looks pretty nice. That also means there’s all kinds of slow-downs. Even worse than Legend, I’m sorry to say. But the gameplay is great, and fighting dinosaurs is more fun than shooting humans. Some of the puzzles are absolutely massive and take over an hour to complete, and I found myself having to resort to a walkthrough on more than one occasion. It took longer than I expected to get through, but in a good way.

Halo 3

While Hannah was on Christmas vacation, the three of us (Deanna included) played a lot of Halo 3 multiplayer. I’m not huge into online gaming at all, so it was pretty cool getting a fair amount of hours in. I even got my XP up over 100, which I never thought would happen.

We haven’t been playing much recently at all, but I have a feeling we’ll get back into it when the Legendary map pack is released.

Rock Band

About two weeks before Addison was born, I got all stoked on Rock Band and ordered it. I played it nearly every day leading up to the birth, as I figured there wouldn’t be many opportunities to rock out once the baby was here. Which is true, to an extent.

Anyway, Rock Band is ridiculous fun! It tops Guitar Hero on every level, hands down. Especially when it comes to content. There have been at least 3 new songs added to the Rock Band catalog every single week since the game’s launch. In some cases, a band pack is released consisting of 5 or 6 songs. And best of all, nearly every song is a master recording – hardly any lame covers. But of course, the additional instruments is what really gives it the edge. Playing drums on hard or expert is amazing! It’s nothing like guitar on the harder difficulties, which doesn’t resemble anything even remotely close to playing guitar. Drums are beat-for-beat, how you would play the songs on a real kit. Granted, you have more things to hit than four pads and a pedal. They really did a great job of making the drums fun and as close to a simulation as possible.

Half-Life 2: Episode 2

When I picked up The Orange Box back in October, Episode 2 was the first thing I played… after Portal, of course! The original Half-Life was one of the games that really got me into gaming back in the day. And Half-Life 2 raised so many bars, I can’t help but get excited when there’s a new installment.

Episode 2 was probably my favourite of the series to date. The story just seemed more captivating, and the dialog between the main characters has definitely come a long way. And that’s saying a lot, as it’s always been great! My only beef is with the vehicle controls. The car in particular is so frustrating with a controller. Acceleration, brake and steering is all done with the left analog stick. Not fun! I put the game down for a few months at the last battle (where you’re off the Striders), as I swear I was pretty close to throwing my controller at the TV. One day I decided to pick it back up, and I finished it after only a couple tries. Fantastic ending!

As usual, I’m super eager for the next episode. I loves me some Half-Life 2!

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Having played the ever loving shit out of Lego Star Wars 2, it was inevitable that I would pick up The Complete Saga. Since I had already played through Episodes 4-6 countless times, I wasn’t overly stoked on doing that all again. It took me a few weeks to make it through Episodes 1-3, but I had a lot of fun doing so. Mind you, I pretty much just blew through them without worrying too much about the collectibles. A couple months later, I picked it back up on a lazy Saturday morning and started playing through the rest. I’ve finished them all now, but basically just the bare minimum. I doubt I’ll go back for all the minikits and power blocks at this point. It’s a keeper, though.

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

Somehow, I never wrote about GRAW2 when I first played it. The campaign is one of the best I’ve ever played! So intense and chalk full of suspense. I revisited this game recently after picking it up on the cheap. I totally forgot how much I enjoyed it, and ended up replaying a handful of missions the afternoon I brought it home. Another one I’d like to keep in my collection.

I managed to talk Deanna into playing it, and while I thought she might have trouble with the complex control scheme, she picked it up pretty quick and was fully into it. She actually came down to my office a couple times to update me on her status after beating some tough missions.

Army of Two

Admittedly, I fully thought Army of Two was going to be a huge let-down. And I guess it was, for some. Me on the other hand, I quite liked it! I played through the campaign solo, which was a bit frustrating as your partner isn’t the quickest bunny in the forest. It’s definitely more fun co-op. But it’s still a lot of fun! It’s not Call of Duty 4, and it’s not Halo 3. It’s a bit slower paced and dudes take quite a few bullets to take down. It seems like a lot of editors got caught up on those factors in their reviews, hence the low(er) scores.

After renting it and only making it about half way through the campaign, I returned it to my video store and bought a copy. I’ve since finished the campaign and plan to replay it on hard with a co-op partner. There’s still lots of Achievements within reach, too.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

I’ve had a mixed relationship with Samus over the years. I absolutely loved Metroid Prime on the GameCube. MP2: Echoes, not so much. I only put a few hours into that before trading it in for far less than it was worth. MP3: Corruption, though… holy hell, what a game!

Finally, a Wii game with a stellar control scheme! But not only that, it’s a great game as well. I find it to be a lot more grounded than the previous games. And what I mean by that, is that it’s closer to home – easier to relate to and has a story you can follow. Which is probably why I’m enjoying it as much as I am. I’ve only put about 5 hours into it, and am currently stuck on a boss fight. Since I have so many other games to play at the moment, I moved on and will get back to it eventually.

Unreal Tournament 3

I really haven’t spent much time playing UT3 since I wrote about it. I only have a handful of friends on the PS3 and there’s no more than 2 or 3 online at a time – none of which seem to ever be playing UT3. And I much prefer playing with people I know than randoms.

But anyway, I did fire it up last week when a big update was released, along with a map pack and some killer community character models. I immediately fired up a bot match as Master Chief, while the bots were the Locust horde. Was it ever cool seeing those ugly fuckers in UT! Blowing General RAAM to pieces with the rocket launcher was funny and satisfying every, single, time.

Gears of War

Having got my taste for Locust blood back, I popped GoW in and passed a controller to Hannah. We started playing through the campaign and she’s doing great! Not so hot with the Hammer of Dawn, but I’ve been handling the Berserkers for her. Another fantastic campaign!

It feels good playing Gears again, and I’m even more stoked for GoW2 now.

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

Another one of those October/November releases I simply couldn’t get to, but finally have. I never owned a PS2, so Tools of Destruction is my first adventure with Ratchet & Clank.

I’m having a lot of fun with it, despite it being insanely easy. The visuals are superb – it totally looks like an animated movie, and it runs smooth as butter. The characters and dialog are pretty amusing and the gameplay is top notch. Lots of platforming and puzzles, and a ridiculous arsenal of over-the-top weapons, all upgradable.