8:21 AM 1 comments

How Lara Got Her Groove Back

Tomb Raiding has never felt so good!

lara-croft

Vanquish Xolotl
Regain the Mirror of Smoke

Gamerscore = 25    Acquired 10/9/2010

I really liked Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light.  There, I said it.  I didn’t realize before I purchased this game just how much I was to enjoy it.  You see, I have had a history with Lara Croft .  There is some water under the bridge between us, and we have jumped over it.  The difference between Tomb Raider of yore and today’s Lara Croft is that ‘jumping’ that water has never been so effortless and exciting at the same time!

LC

Lara Croft has always been synonymous with the Tomb Raider franchise which is, for good or ill, one of the most storied in gaming history  Tomb raider of course spawned movies, comics, and numerous games.  In my opinion, Lara Croft got by on her looks for some time after the initial smash hit that was Tomb Raider, but it was clear to me that with each of the ensuing games in the series, each had less of that Lara Croft magic than the original. Developers would continue to resuscitate and reinvigorate the franchise with varying degrees of success and failure, but each refresh only momentarily recaptured my imagination.  That was until the developers at Crystal Dynamics took a gamble on the biggest shift for the series yet.  A gamble that in my opinion has paid of handsomely.

LC_GoL_10_xlWhat is first striking about Lara Croft is that it has abandoned the Tomb Raider name.  Using exclusively Lara Croft rather that the recognizable Tomb Raider is a clear effort to separate this game from its past, and I think it is for good reason.  If this game were carrying the Tomb Raider brand, gamers may expect a Tomb Raider game.  Lara Croft is not a Tomb Raider game… well not exactly.  The first major difference is this is a downloadable title, a first for the brand.  With a downloadable versus a boxed game come expectations of length, quality, and fidelity.  While Lara Croft delivers a full retail experience, it is presented in this fashion.  Another major change is the game isometric perspective.  I could not help but think of Sonic the Hedgehogs' foray into the isometric with Sonic 3D Blast and what a disappointment that was.  Fortunately Lara Croft does not suffer the same fate.  The transition to the new perspective was in my opinion a very smooth transition.  The action and platforming elements do not suffer at all for it.

Now Lara Croft may be exceedingly different from its predecessors in many ways, but at the same time it still capture the essence of what made the Tomb Raider popular in the first place.  Personally, I like to call Lara Croft a Triple-A game.  Not in the way that it cost $80 million dollars to create, rather that this genre is an Arcade Action Adventure.  The arcade refers to with the speed the action plays out as well as the score and time-attack elements of the gameplay are integral to the experience.  This game can travel at a break-neck pace, or you may need to take the time to solve the numerous, yet fair, puzzles that populate the gamescape.  The games looks and sounds like a Tomb Raider game as well, the difference being your character model is very small on the screen to allow for the bevy of monsters, mazes, and traps that make up the rest of your perspective.  For a downloadable game, it is a real looker.

What would a tomb raiding game be without loot?  For me, this is what really separates this game from the rest.  Your ability to accomplish tasks and solve puzzles will give you the opportunity to uncover loot such as ancient relics and treasure, weapons, and upgrades.  From there you can customize your character to take on those quests you may not have been able to accomplish your first time around.  Lara Croft also supports co-op gameplay.  Unfortunately I was unable to explore this feature as the online component is still yet unavailable.  But if you do have a friend nearby there is always the couch co-op option!

LC_GoL_08_xlLara Croft has done an another amazing thing, it has me believing in Tomb Raider as a franchise again.  To be honest, the next game I would like to see is another Lara Croft title.  While I was thinking about this game and writing this particular review I was thinking of  a way to describe this game.  It then popped into my head that Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is the ultimate evolution of Activision’s Pitfall for the Atari 2600.  If you sit back and you think about it, you will see what I mean, and I will leave you with that.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

-SG

8:21 AM 0 comments

How Lara Got Her Grove Back

Tomb Raiding has never felt so good!

lara-croft

Vanquish Xolotl
Regain the Mirror of Smoke

Gamerscore = 25    Acquired 10/9/2010

I really liked Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light.  There, I said it.  I didn’t realize before I purchased this game just how much I was to enjoy it.  You see, I have had a history with Lara Croft .  There is some water under the bridge between us, and we have jumped over it.  The difference between Tomb Raider of yore and today’s Lara Croft is that ‘jumping’ that water has never been so effortless and exciting at the same time!

LC

Lara Croft has always been synonymous with the Tomb Raider franchise which is, for good or ill, one of the most storied in gaming history  Tomb raider of course spawned movies, comics, and numerous games.  In my opinion, Lara Croft got by on her looks for some time after the initial smash hit that was Tomb Raider, but it was clear to me that with each of the ensuing games in the series, each had less of that Lara Croft magic than the original. Developers would continue to resuscitate and reinvigorate the franchise with varying degrees of success and failure, but each refresh only momentarily recaptured my imagination.  That was until the developers at Crystal Dynamics took a gamble on the biggest shift for the series yet.  A gamble that in my opinion has paid of handsomely.

LC_GoL_10_xlWhat is first striking about Lara Croft is that it has abandoned the Tomb Raider name.  Using exclusively Lara Croft rather that the recognizable Tomb Raider is a clear effort to separate this game from its past, and I think it is for good reason.  If this game were carrying the Tomb Raider brand, gamers may expect a Tomb Raider game.  Lara Croft is not a Tomb Raider game… well not exactly.  The first major difference is this is a downloadable title, a first for the brand.  With a downloadable versus a boxed game come expectations of length, quality, and fidelity.  While Lara Croft delivers a full retail experience, it is presented in this fashion.  Another major change is the game isometric perspective.  I could not help but think of Sonic the Hedgehogs' foray into the isometric with Sonic 3D Blast and what a disappointment that was.  Fortunately Lara Croft does not suffer the same fate.  The transition to the new perspective was in my opinion a very smooth transition.  The action and platforming elements do not suffer at all for it.

Now Lara Croft may be exceedingly different from its predecessors in many ways, but at the same time it still capture the essence of what made the Tomb Raider popular in the first place.  Personally, I like to call Lara Croft a Triple-A game.  Not in the way that it cost $80 million dollars to create, rather that this genre is an Arcade Action Adventure.  The arcade refers to with the speed the action plays out as well as the score and time-attack elements of the gameplay are integral to the experience.  This game can travel at a break-neck pace, or you may need to take the time to solve the numerous, yet fair, puzzles that populate the gamescape.  The games looks and sounds like a Tomb Raider game as well, the difference being your character model is very small on the screen to allow for the bevy of monsters, mazes, and traps that make up the rest of your perspective.  For a downloadable game, it is a real looker.

What would a tomb raiding game be without loot?  For me, this is what really separates this game from the rest.  Your ability to accomplish tasks and solve puzzles will give you the opportunity to uncover loot such as ancient relics and treasure, weapons, and upgrades.  From there you can customize your character to take on those quests you may not have been able to accomplish your first time around.  Lara Croft also supports co-op gameplay.  Unfortunately I was unable to explore this feature as the online component is still yet unavailable.  But if you do have a friend nearby there is always the couch co-op option!

LC_GoL_08_xlLara Croft has done an another amazing thing, it has me believing in Tomb Raider as a franchise again.  To be honest, the next game I would like to see is another Lara Croft title.  While I was thinking about this game and writing this particular review I was thinking of  a way to describe this game.  It then popped into my head that Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is the ultimate evolution of Activision’s Pitfall for the Atari 2600.  If you sit back and you think about it, you will see what I mean, and I will leave you with that.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

-SG

10:09 PM 0 comments

Xtra Points: Prologues and Epilogues

DRCase0

A Taste of Things to Come
Built a combo weapon. Necessity is the father of invention.

Gamerscore = 10    Acquired 31/8/2010

Purchased my prologue/game trial for Dead Rising 2 yesterday which is aptly subtitled Case 0.  Because of my schedule I literally had seconds to play, but in that time I was able to snag the above achievement.  I look forward to diving into the game tonight and see what all the fuss is about.  Should help me decide if Dead Rising 2 is still a must play this fall amongst a sea of Triple-A heavy hitters.

MinervasDen With BioShock fresh on my mind with the exciting announcement of BioShock Infinite I have recently had a hankering to return to my BioShock games.  With the release of the BioShock 2 DLC, Minerva’s Den, i can have my wish!  Once I get my fill of Dead Rising Case 0 I will once again return to BioShock 2 for some more Big-Daddy action.

cowboystadium1 I thought this was kind of neat.  The impressive Cowboy Stadium will be one of the available venues in the upcoming EA Sports MMA title.  I would like to see an event here in real life someday.

l4d2

MUTANT OVERLORD
Play 6 Mutations.

Gamerscore = 30    Acquired 30/8/2010

Nailed the MUTANT OVERLORD achievement.  Now awaiting the next round of L4D/L4D2 DLC.

Dead Rising 2 Offical Site

-SG

10:18 PM 0 comments

Xtra Point: Mass Effect 2

mass_effect2

Doppelganger
Help the Justicar resolve her mission

Gamerscore = 10    Acquired 22/8/2010

The best game of 2010 I hardly play would be Mass Effect 2.  I have put in over 40 hours into the game, so it is not like I haven’t played it, its just usually gets put to the back of the list in favour of the newer games.  I am going to try and make a more concerted effort to complete the game, but with new DLC coming out such as Lair of the Shadowbroker, will Mass Effect 2 ever be done for me?  Soon it will rival Fallout 3 for DLC.

More Xtra Points:

  • More DLC for Left 4 Dead 1 and 2:  Some more reasons to keep coming back to your L4D’s. Valve is bringing DLC packs “The Sacrifice” as well as an updated “No Mercy” campaign.  All that an a digital comic the expand the story! Not sure how this will all be consumed, but I am sure Left4Dead411 will have more soon!  Also, I am still working on getting the Mutations achievement, I just have to wait until a new one that I have not played comes into rotation.

BioWare | Mass Effect 2

-SG

10:26 AM 0 comments

Xtra Points: Peggle Nights

pegglenightslogo

Go ULTRA!
Ultra extremely cleared all the pegs in a level.

Gamerscore = 15    Acquired 20/8/2010

Peggle Nights: I finally purchased Peggle Nights yesterday.  My son has really been into Peggle as of late and I wanted to give him more levels to play through as he already ground through all of the originals.  You can’t go wrong for 400 MS Points.  As you can see by the achievement above I have taken part in Peggle again as well.  Some good, clean fun to be had for certain.

Lara Croft GoL: The XBLA game that keeps on giving!  I made my way through 2 more levels last night and I still have a way to go.

The Elusive Man
Break 5 tackles in a game with one player (no OTP)

Gamerscore = 25    Acquired 20/8/2010

Madden 11: Continued with my Franchise last night by hammering the J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!  I would like to complete at least one season before NHL 11 comes out in early September.

Halo Waypoint: I have to remember to keep an eye on this as the release of Halo Reach approaches.

Peggle Nights

-SG

5:59 PM 0 comments

Introducing: Xtra Points

If you have been reading my blog over the last 5 years, you may have noticed I have struggled with consistency.  Mostly that is due to family and gaming obligations.  I have often wanted to be able to produce more, if for no other reason to keep things fresh on the page.  With the advent of twitter we are certainly getting used to bite-sized updates and comments that do not stop coming.  So every day or two I plan on dropping some Xtra Points of interest from my endeavours in gaming culture.  Now it does not mean i will no longer have larger features, it just means hopefully that there will be more content. 

Xtra Points: Featuring Lara Croft

lara-croft

Overachiever
Complete any level-specific Reward Challenge

Gamerscore = 15   Acquired 18/8/2010

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light: Very pleasantly surprised with this game!  The Summer of Arcade is now ever, and for me they saved the best for last.  Played for the better part of 3 hours last night and had lots of fun. I hope to have a more extensive feature on this soon.

Madden 11: Another August winner!  I played my first co-op game last night and hope to play many more.  Check out the attached video to see the game-winning touchdown!

Left 4 Dead 2:  Need 1 more mutation to earn the MUTANT OVERLORD achievement.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

- @superghost

9:27 AM 0 comments

Halo Highlight Reel: Reach Beta Post-Mortem

The beginning of the beginning of the end!

Goodnight BetaIt is almost hard to believe after all the months of waiting in anticipation for the Halo Reach multiplayer beta, that the beta is all but a distant memory.  In my travels the prevailing sentiments over the beta have been mixed.  While many of the gamers were impressed with the great new modes and armour abilities, others ere taken back by the lack of polish on the visuals and some of the way the game was playing.  Fortunately the issues that most gamers’ had could be chalked up to the beta state of the game.   There are still a lot of coats of paint to go on the final product, in fact I recently read on Bungie.net that the blandest of all the maps, Sword Base, is well into receiving its overhaul and will look quite different in the final product.

The main thing that I took away from the beta is that Halo Reach is still Halo, but is Halo ++, Halo on steroids, it had made the game exactly the same yet completely different at the same time.  I know that this will come off sounding weird, but long time Halo gamers will understand what I am talking about.  When Bungie built the first Halo, they came up with the ultimate console FPS.  With each iteration they have always left the core gameplay intact but have kept tweaking the formula.  The guns, ‘nades, and melee combination is still there, but now with the inclusion of armour abilities and a host of new weapons the gameplay is more varied than ever!

My Oddball I could go into a deep analysis of what Halo Reach had to offer as far as modes and the back-end had to offer, but that would take up a serious amount of page real estate. Instead I thought I would highlight and briefly describe my favourite components of the Halo Reach beta:

  • Level Up: Persistent character creation and modification has arrived to Halo and much like it has in other shooters.  We just had but a taste in the beta.
  • Cool New Game Types and Modes: Arena, Invasion, Headhunter, and Stockpile were the highlights of the beta for me.  It is nice to have some fresh game modes to add to the already legendary library of Halo game types
  • Armour Abilities: Running, flying, sneaking, and shielding are all cool new additions to the game, and your choices effect how you approach each match and situations within each match.
  • File Share: While not new to Halo, I really explored this feature in the beta.
Halo Reach Invasion Mode: Closing Moments

Now that the beta is over and Bungie prepares for its recently announced September 14 release date there is still much to be revealed regarding the single player as well as the multiplayer.  I believe we have only scratched the surface of what Halo Reach has to offer.  I remember looking back post Halo 3’s release and thinking what a complete package that game was.  Reach will have the feature set of Halo 3 plus all off the newly announced features, and perhaps we will even see Firefight make it over from ODST.  June’s E3 will reveal that much more for us, and I can hardly wait.

-SG

9:53 AM 0 comments

Re-Emerged Into Gears of War 2

It is good to chainsaw together! 

HordeFight

Battle-Tested Gear
Reached level 25 in multiplayer

Gamerscore = 30   Acquired 11/5/2010

I have had a passion for Gears of War since the earliest days of its announcement.  In fact if you dig way back into my personal blog archives you can find some Gears dedicated blogs that I posted, in particular, focusing on the Locust and what they may be like when we finally got our hands on the game.  All the information I had on Gears at that time was taken from interviews with Cliff Bleszinski or from an online scan of Destroyed Beauty, an art book of sorts introducing people to the Gears universe.  I played the life out of the first Gears, playing through the campaign several times and many, many hours of multiplayer as well.

Next we had Gears of War 2, and like Cliff said, it was bigger, badder, and more badass.  The launch of Gears 2 even had me standing out in the cold Saskatchewan winter awaiting its midnight release.  I took to the game straight away, ripping through the campaign, and loving the new Horde mode as well as all the multiplayer improvements, but one day I just stopped playing.  I can’t really pin down why, I think other games just stepped up and I never looked back.  Fortunately for me I have some friends who were dedicated, day in and day out, Gears of War 2 multiplayer players.

CanalsRecently I decide to take up my friends invitation to return for some matchmaking.  It was a rough start.  What skills I may of possessed before had severely atrophied, that and the fact that everyone else had their skills finally tuned making game after game a quick march to death for myself.  So why would I continue taking this punishment?  Usually repeated spankings drive me running for cover in game-land.  What kept me in the game was the lure of the achievements.  I had scanned which achievements I could relatively earn quite easily, there were quite a few just within reach.  So I took my punishment and earned some achievements, but along the way I started to get my Gears legs back again, then I started to run, then I started frag some fools!

So even in the face of the Halo: Reach beta, which I have putting most of my gaming energy into, I have been finding myself wanting to put in some Gears multiplayer each day.  I still have some attainable achievements to earn and I am having some fun in the process. The recent announcement of Gears of War 3 has only driven me closer to Gears.  I expect to be playing a fair amount of Gears 2 before its launch so when the last chapter arrives, I will be ready with Lancer in hand!

Gears of War - Official Site

-SG

6:27 PM 0 comments

SG’s Arcade: My Game Room Launch in Review

Insert Quarter to Continue!

Game-Room I managed to circumvent the initial hurdles that Xbox LIVE had thrown at me (inability to load Game Room, server connection issues) on day-one and get into the thick of the Game Room experience.

My initial impressions of the Game Room are extremely positive.  The other evening I garnered the ‘4 Hour’ achievement for time spent playing games in the arcade.  I have also won my first challenge!  Game Room really takes me back to my gaming roots, I look forward to see what other great games are coming down the pipeline in the next several weeks so that I can relieve other great moments from my youth as well as discover those games that eluded me.

As for the initial batch of games I added 4 to my arcade (after all, what is an arcade without games).  I actually have been very pleased with my initial purchases. Here is a quick rundown of my purchases, year released, weapon of choice (controller preference), my high-score, and a twitter-sized impression.  Enjoy:

icn_arc_asteroidsdeluxeGame:  Asteroids Deluxe (Atari)

Released: 1980

Weapon of Choice: Arcade Stick

Hi-Score: 23,560

TwitteReview: #AsteroidsDeluxe: Reflexes will be tested! Fast paced shooter w/ enemies galore! Use your shield to advance! Best #GameRoom Day1 purchase!

 

icn_arc_gravitar

Game:  Gravitar (Atari)

Released: 1982

Weapon of Choice: Arcade Stick

Hi-Score: 14,050

TwitteReview: #Gravitar: Most excited to purchase #GameRoom. Great concept, difficulty spikes quickly! Much practice time required to advance!

 

icn_arc_tempest

Game:  Tempest (Atari)

Released: 1980

Weapon of Choice: Xbox 360 Controller; D-Pad / Analog split

Hi-Score: 26,611

TwitteReview: #Tempest: Always been curious about game. Was better once I discovered #SmartBomb. #QtrMuncher! Surprised how much I like this one #GameRoom

 

icn_int_skiing

Game:  Mountain Madness Super Pro Skiing (Intellivision)

Released: 1988

Weapon of Choice: Xbox 360 Controller; D-Pad

Hi-Score: N/A

TwitteReview: #MountainMadnessSkiing: Good old-skool skiing game. Menu is clunky but once on slopes it is fun! Don’t get sideways out there! #GameRoom

 

Game Room

-SG

6:21 PM 0 comments

SG’s Arcade: My Game Room Launch in Review

Insert Quarter to Continue!

Game-Room I managed to circumvent the initial hurdles that Xbox LIVE had thrown at me (inability to load Game Room, server connection issues) on day-one and get into the thick of the Game Room experience.

My initial impressions of the Game Room are extremely positive.  The other evening I garnered the ‘4 Hour’ achievement for time spent playing games in the arcade.  I have also won my first challenge!  Game Room really takes me back to my gaming roots, I look forward to see what other great games are coming down the pipeline in the next several weeks so that I can relieve other great moments from my youth as well as discover those games that eluded me.

As for the initial batch of games I added 4 to my arcade (after all, what is an arcade without games).  I actually have been very pleased with my initial purchases. Here is a quick rundown of my purchases, year released, weapon of choice (controller preference), my high-score, and a twitter-sized impression.  Enjoy:

icn_arc_asteroidsdeluxeGame:  Asteroids Deluxe (Atari)

Released: 1980

Weapon of Choice: Arcade Stick

Hi-Score: 23,560

TwitteReview: #AsteroidsDeluxe: Reflexes will be tested! Fast paced shooter w/ enemies galore! Use your shield to advance! Best #GameRoom Day1 purchase!

icn_arc_gravitar

Game:  Gravitar (Atari)

Released: 1982

Weapon of Choice: Arcade Stick

Hi-Score: 14,050

TwitteReview: #Gravitar: Most excited to purchase #GameRoom. Great concept, difficulty spikes quickly! Much practice time required to advance!

icn_arc_tempest

Game:  Tempest (Atari)

Released: 1980

Weapon of Choice: Xbox 360 Controller; D-Pad / Analog split

Hi-Score: 26,611

TwitteReview: #Tempest: Always been curious about game. Was better once I discovered #SmartBomb. #QtrMuncher! Surprised how much I like this one #GameRoom

icn_int_skiing

Game:  Mountain Madness Super Pro Skiing (Intellivision)

Released: 1988

Weapon of Choice: Xbox 360 Controller; D-Pad

Hi-Score: N/A

TwitteReview: #MountainMadnessSkiing: Good old-skool skiing game. Menu is clunky but once on slopes it is fun! Don’t get sideways out there! #GameRoom

Game Room

-SG

10:46 AM 0 comments

Mission Accomplished: Left 4 Dead 2

The Greatest Game I Never Play…

left4dead2

BRIDGE BURNER
Survive the Parish campaign.

Gamerscore = 20   Acquired 21/3/2010

This achievement came way too long after the fact.  I remember prior to Left 4 Dead 2’s release that I had proclaimed in my head that this was the game I was most excited to play over the Christmas season.  As it turned out games like Forza Motorsport 3, Borderlands, and Modern Warfare 2 took hold of me in a serious way, leaving Left 4 Dead 2 left behind.

In the months between its release and now I have hipped away at it with a few play sessions, some being more successful than others, but until this past week I had never even seen the Parish campaign.  So I gathered up my brother and decided that enough was enough and I was going to see this level through.

And I did see the game through, but my adventure is not over.  It was recently announced that this game along with the original Left 4 Dead will be expanded and storylines intertwined as The Passing downloadable chapters are added to the L4D epic.  The Passing will arrive before Summer and will carry with it a serious shifting of gears as one of the survivors…will not survive!

I look forward to see how The Passing handles the story integration as well as the death of a survivor.  For me, this really meshes the zombie movie with the zombie video game.  If you have ever seen a zombie flick you know one thing…that Nobody Survives Forever!

Left 4 Dead 2 - HOME

-SG