Finished the Gears of War

Gears of War is one of those popular games that came out for the Xbox 360 during its early days that I’m really interested in playing. Unfortunately, I had no intention of getting the Xbox 360 so I had to wait till the PC version was released.

Even though it was available for a while now, I didn’t buy it immediately because there were other games I was interested in. Also, I had to pay a subscription to Xbox Live just to play it online, so that was a downer. I have no intention of paying a subscription. In the end, I just wanted to play the single-player campaign. I heard good things about it.

It started out great. The graphics were amazing. The musical score was very engaging and inspiring. At first, I had a bit of trouble getting used to the new cover mechanic introduced in Gears of War (and made popular by it) but I soon got used to it, though sometimes annoyed by it.

However, it was only half-way through the game did I recall a very important reason for why this game was so popular. A lot of reviewers said that they enjoyed the game mostly because of the co-operative play. That is, because they were playing through the levels with a buddy.

I was playing by myself. No buddies. I played the game on the easiest difficulty level possible and yet it was still very hard not to get killed multiple times in some areas. Those parts really frustrated me. I died mostly due to those creatures that cause instant kills. And the worse part of it is that whenever my character gets killed, I had to sit idly in front of my PC for more than 10 seconds while the game reloads. What the?!

I could see how the game is a lot easier if I have an actual thinking person as a buddy in the game helping me out instead of the stupid AI buddy I had that only always gets itself taken out of action.

It was very very frustrating that I had to jump out of my chair in rage a few times. But I pressed on. I wanted to beat the stupid game. The end boss was specially difficult but eventually, I was able to kick its stupid butt.

In the end, I wasn’t so happy with the game. It looked gorgeous but there wasn’t much in terms of story. I also felt that the game design could have been a lot better. Now that I’m done, I can finally sell this game on eBay. Good thing I haven’t even used its free one-month subscription to Xbox Live. Maybe that will help sell the game at a higher price.

Now that’s out of the way, I can finally go back to playing the game I really wanted to play for the past week but never had the chance — Assassin’s Creed!

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Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 11:36 pm  Comments (2)  

Sightseeing around medieval Jerusalem

I’ve always been a big fan of first-person shooter games (such as Doom, Half-life and Unreal Tournament). However, I only recently noticed that I’m no longer into it as much as I once was.

Nowadays, I’m finding myself enjoying the sandbox-type games a bit more. These are games that allow the player to roam freely and explore the gaming world and environment. Sure, there are still game objectives but the player is allowed to proceed in anyway they wish and not be railroaded into a predetermined path in the game.

What I like about these games is that I sometimes feel like I’m actually moving about in that virtual world whenever I’m playing. It’s as if I’m taking a virtual tour of that virtual world. This is specially true for sandbox games that are also first person shooters because I’m viewing the world through the eyes of the character. But it doesn’t have to be first-person. I enjoy the world just as much in third-person view.

An example of a third-person sandbox game is a game I bought recently — Assassin’s Creed. It’s basically a game about an assassin (think Medieval-era ninja) on a mission in Jerusalem during the time of the third crusade! I love medieval history and biblical history. Playing this game allows me to see what it was like to be in that world and move around it! It’s amazing! The graphics is almost realistic and the sounds are very convincing. It really puts me into that world. Right now, I’m just enjoying a little bit of sightseeing around medieval Jerusalem.

I think it’s a lot easier for you to see what I mean rather than me explaining what the game is about:

Well, the gameplay shown in the video was for Xbox 360 but it looks just as gorgeous on my PC. Also, the setting in the gameplay above is in the city of Acre and not Jerusalem but you see what I mean. I can’t wait to advance in the game so I can see not just Jerusalem but also Acre (as seen in the video above) and Damascus.

Another game that gave me great pleasure in just exploring its virtual world is Oblivion. It’s basically a first-person fantasy role-playing game. There are different cities and locales to explore in that game and it really is an escape to another world.

Other similar games I’m interested in getting in the future are Burnout Paradise and Grand Theft Auto 4 (GTA4). Burnout Paradise is actually a driving game. But unlike other driving games with fixed race tracks, this game allows the player to drive around an entire virtual city. You can drive anywhere and take short cuts. You don’t even need to race anybody. You can just have a virtual joy ride around the city which looked marvelous. As for GTA4, the virtual city is modeled after New York City. So, if you want to see what it’s like to be in New York, you can do so by riding around in car, walking or taking a taxi in GTA4. Unfortunately, neither of these games are available on the PC at the moment. But I’ll be picking these up once they are.

I heard that there is actually a Simpsons modification out there for the Quake 4 first-person shooter game. With this modification, the player can move around the entire town of Springfield, home of the Simpsons. I got to get myself that game and that modification.

I just wish there are more games like these which will allow the player to have virtual tours of virtual environments. Actually, it doesn’t even need to be a game. There should just be a program that allows the user to explore fictional places and even actual cities in first-person view. It’s like seeing the world without leaving your desk.

In the meantime, I’ll be going back in time to the twelfth century to look around Jerusalem some more.

Published in: on July 9, 2008 at 12:42 am  Comments (2)  

Midnight run to Kmart

DSC01051Raquel has recently been hooked on playing the Nintendo DS (which we have to thank Alma and Shane for). The first DS we have was a hand-me-down from my brother two years ago. This is the non-“Lite” model which was a bit bigger but we didn’t mind because neither of us used it that much until recently.

Now that Raquel is more addicted to playing the DS, I thought it was time for her to upgrade to the newer, lighter and sexier Nintendo DS Lite. I figured it would be a nice birthday gift, too. The timing is also good because the major shops are all having a big toy sale around this month.

After a lot of research, we have concluded that the DS promotion offered by Kmart is the best and the most bang for our buck. The DS package deal included the actual DS portable, of course, a DS game from a selection of four games and a starter pack (includes case, screen protectors and earphones). The Kmart promo started July 3, Thursday, with a special 12 midnight opening day.

In order to avoid running out of stock of the black DS Lite, we decided to go to Kmart on the midnight of the first day of the sale. That meant staying up late on July 2, Wednesday, to go to Kmart when it hits midnight.

I thought it would be the best time to go. We usually sleep late anyway so staying up till midnight to go to Kmart shouldn’t be such a big deal. Also, I thought that by going to the midnight launch, we’ll avoid the crowd of people wanting to buy heavily discounted products.

With the idea that it would just be a quick hit and run, I didn’t even bring my coat when we drove to Kmart on Wednesday night. I didn’t even bother to bring my iPod (which I usually have with me so that I can listen to my podcasts whenever there is a lull).

When I stepped out of the car, I was immediately greeted by very cold air accompanied by gusts of wind. I regretted not bringing a thick winter coat right then. I was just thankful that I at least had a jumper on and warm jogging pants. Then when we finally entered Kmart, I was dismayed to see the place packed with shoppers! There were long queues for the check-out registers so I decided to quickly find and get the DS and head straight for the register queues.

Unfortunately, the DS couldn’t be taken right off the shelf. All gaming consoles like the Xbox 360, Wii and DS must be taken from the lay-by service counter. The problem was that there were a lot of people wanting to buy gaming consoles that night. This resulted in one very long queue to the lay-by counter. And it was a slow going queue because a lot of people in that line also wanted to avail of the lay-by service which require some paper work!

We ended up standing in line for two hours! I finally got the DS at past 2 AM. That’s right. Two o’clock in the morning. That’s two hours I could’ve spent listening or watching podcasts if I had brought my iPod with me. My legs and feet were also so tired and stiff by the time we got to the counter. I was just thankful that we could pay for the DS on the same counter and we didn’t have to queue up at the check-out exit counters again (which still had long queues at that time).

When we got out to the car park, I wished that I had parked the car nearer the Kmart entrance. The air had grown a lot colder since we got there two hours prior and the wind was blowing a lot more, too. It was freezing and I didn’t have a coat!

By the time we got home, I was hungry, freezing and feeling a little ill. I had to call in sick the next day because I felt like I caught the cold. Still, I’m just glad that Raquel is very happy with her new DS Lite. It makes all that suffering seem worth it in the end.

Would I do this kind of thing again? Unlikely. But if I ever do, I’ll probably be better prepared. Next time, I’ll be bringing drinks, snacks, a stool and maybe something to read, listen to, and/or watch.

Published in: on July 5, 2008 at 10:14 pm  Comments (2)  

Duty calls

It’s time for EB Games’ annual mid-year stock-take clearance sale. I went there during my lunch break hoping to get lucky and find Call of Duty 4 on sale. I’ve been wanting that game since it came out but I just found it too expensive. I even contemplated on buying it off Valve’s Steam service which sells it for how much it sells in the US. With the Australian dollar exchanging to almost one-is-to-one against the American dollar, I’d be a fool not to buy it off Steam. However, the publishers of Call of Duty 4 caught on and increased the game’s price on Steam if you are from Australia! The short of it is that it is no longer cost-effective to buy the game off Steam. I’ll just have to wait for the price of the game to drop, is all.

Anyway, when I got to EB, I quickly saw at the entrance that Stalker was at half-price. It was about $50 bucks to begin with and at half-price, that comes down to about $25! I held on to that, just in case that was the last one.

When I got to the PC section, I also saw that Bioshock was on sale. But I’ve decided a while back that I’m going to get that from Steam. It’s almost just as cheap but with the added bonus that I can install Bioshock on any machine I want with Steam. Bioshock bought at a retail shop will only install on two PCs and then no more, as far as I know. I skipped Bioshock and saw Gears of War for the PC. It’s originally selling for $80 but has a “$30 Off” tag so that brings it down to about $50. Woohoo! I held on to a copy of that, too.

And then I saw it. What I was after. Lots of boxes of Call of Duty 4. Originally selling for $99 but now has a “$20 Off” tag on it. I quickly grabbed that game, too. I then had three games in my hands. I couldn’t justify getting all three so I put down Stalker as I was least likely to play that if I had COD4 or GOW.

I actually thought about getting both games but I know that I won’t be able to play both right now. In the end, I just bought COD4 as I’m more excited about that game than GOW anyway.

I was very excited to try the game out at long last. The problem was that when I got home, I realised that I needed 8Gb free space on my hard disk just to install the game. And I only had 3Gb space left. Doh! I had to write some of the files on my hard disk on to a DVD just to free up more space for the game. I wish I had gotten a laptop that had a bigger hard disk. That’s something to keep in mind for my next PC purchase.

In the end, I got the game installed and played the first two chapters of COD4. It was awesome! It’s like watching and being a part of a big blockbuster movie about the military. The first chapter in the ship was amazing and exhilarating. I don’t want to give anything away but if you don’t mind First-person shooters, then I really recommend you get this game. Well worth the cash I laid out for it.

Published in: on June 4, 2008 at 12:46 am  Comments (2)  

The games we play

In case you’ve been wondering why there hasn’t been a post here for nearly two weeks now, it’s just that we’ve both been busy. Hubby has been busy with his newly acquired Guild Wars game while I’m busily solving the puzzles being thrown my way by Professor Layton!

I’ve first heard of the Professor Layton game from one of hubby’s downloaded podcasts and we’ve been anticipating its release here in Australia since then. It was released last Thursday and we promptly bought it from JB Hi-fi. I originally intended to get my copy from Target when I saw that they had the best price in their catalogue but it seems like when Target said it would be released on 11/04/08, they actually meant 12/04/08. When we asked for the game in the shop’s CBD branch, they told us to come back the next day!

Fortunately, it was in stock in the neighbouring JB Hi-fi where the price has been reduced from its pre-release price of $69.95 to $59.00, almost a full dollar less than we would have paid for in Target. Ha! Bonus.

Anyway, the graphics of the game is simply amazing and I do love the art style. The puzzles are of varying levels of difficulty, although some people might find the placement of the puzzles a bit contrived. I mean, how odd is it that everyone you meet in the town of St. Mystere wants Professor Layton and his apprentice to solve a puzzle? I don’t mind though as I knew that going in and I like that it has an underlying story while getting the player to solve interesting little puzzles on the side.

If you own a Nintendo DS (Lite) and love some puzzle solving, I couldn’t recommend this game enough. Meanwhile, I better finish up with this post so I could get back to my game!

Published in: on April 17, 2008 at 7:21 am  Comments (3)  

Boggled

Last week, we had some friends over for a game of bowling. It had been a long while since we had played bowling so we thought that was a valid excuse to come together. Unfortunately, the bowling centre was running a tournament that day and didn’t allow for any casual players (even though there were lanes available).

Instead of bowling, we just went back to our house for some snacks and story sharing. We decided to go out for dinner afterwards because we didn’t have any dinner prepared at home. On the way out, we noticed the old box of Boggle sitting on the bookshelf near the front door. I bought this several years ago to keep me amused during those first few years of being alone in Canberra. I love word games so this certainly did its job back then.

After dinner, we got out Boggle and refreshed ourselves with the rules. It all came back to me soon enough. We also established some house rules. One of which is that for challenged words, we would consult the dictionary we have in our library. It’s by no means the official Scrabble dictionary of allowable words so there would be valid words that won’t be in there. So, we agreed that if the word isn’t there, it won’t be counted even if it turned out to be an actual word. It just makes things easier.

At first, our writer friends was taking lead with her long words. In the end though, I was able to catch up to her and eventually take the lead by the time we decided to call it a night. Well, if we had followed the rules and stopped when somebody had reached 50 points, she might’ve been the winner because it took me a while to catch up to her score.

In the end, I quite enjoyed our game of Boggle. I usually played it either with my friend Randolf or with Raquel only. I have never played it with four players since college. It was certainly more fun with more people playing. More people meant that more common words get removed from the list of any player and made the game a bit harder, too.

I hope our guests genuinely enjoyed the game too so that we can invite them for another round of Boggle.

Published in: on January 19, 2008 at 12:19 am  Leave a Comment  

I Bought a Game I Returned

For those of you not living in Australia, June is the time of the year when shops offer huge discounts in order to clear their stock before the end of the financial year. So, I thought it’s a good time as any to buy a game for playing on my new laptop.

After much thinking and research, I decided on getting the popular role-playing game called The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I wanted to get it for the Xbox 360 back when I was still considering that console some time ago. Now that I have a more powerful PC, I can just get the PC game version instead.

I looked at EB Games’ website to find out how much the one year-old game was selling for. Recommended retail price was about $50. But because of the sale going on at EB, the title was selling for only half the price! It was an offer I couldn’t let pass.

The problem was that I couldn’t find a copy of Oblivion in any of the EB Games shops I went to. The employees told me that it was sold out. It was that popular a game, apparently.

I really wanted the game so, yesterday, I went to the next best shop for cheap electronic games (in my opinion, at least): JB Hi-fi. The first JB shop also had Oblivion sold out. Later that day, I tried another JB branch in the city. At last, it was in stock. However, it was selling for $48.

After thinking about it for a couple of minutes, I decided to but the game despite its more expensive price tag, as compared to EB’s. I did try to haggle the price saying EB was selling the same game for only half the price. They did their research though as the JB employees told me that EB has sold out all its copies of Oblivion. I ended up paying the original price.

It didn’t bother me much because I thought $48 for Oblivion was still a bargain. That was, until Raquel told me that JB’s latest catalogue listed Oblivion for the PC as only $34! I felt robbed. I wanted to get back the $14 difference.

After thinking about how I’m going to get the difference back, I returned to the shop a couple of hours later. I told the cashier I wanted to return the unopened PC game (PC games are generally non-returnable items) because my friend who I was planning to give the game to already has it. They said that was OK and took back the game. I won’t get a cash refund though. Instead, I’ll be getting a gift card with the amount of the returned Oblivion game.

Of course, I really wanted the game. So, while the cashier was processing the refund, I asked, how come their catalogue listed Oblivion as only costing $34 and yet the sticker price was $48. She said that it was probably an error in the label. So, I said, “instead of returning the game, can I just get the price difference?”

She said that she couldn’t just give me the difference. Fine. I allowed her to proceed with the full refund of the game. After a minute, I got the gift card worth $48. I asked her if I could immediately use the gift card. She said I could but the credit may not yet register in their system if I use the card in a different branch. That’s fine with me.

I went and looked around the shop for about a minute and then returned to the cashier with the same box of Oblivion I returned just a few minutes earlier. I said, “on second thought, I’d like the game for myself. And since you’re catalogue has this game listed for $34 only, can I get it for that price?” She deducted the $34 from my new gift card and gave me a totally new card with the remaining $14 in it.

In the end, I got the price difference and it might have saved JB one plastic gift card if they’ve just given me the price difference when I asked for it the first time.

Published in: on June 21, 2007 at 11:49 am  Leave a Comment  

The Quest for a Game

My current favourite video game is a sort of puzzle-rhythm game for the Nintendo DS called Elite Beat Agents. My brother introduced me to the game when we were home in the Philippines last December. It’s a good thing, too. I’ve been playing and enjoying the game since January while the game only got released in Australia just a few days ago.

The thing is, I’ve already played through the default level once and almost done playing the more difficult level. I just felt like it was getting a bit old. Although I still enjoy it, I want to be able to play new or different songs. I then realised that I should’ve also bought the original Japanese version of the game called Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! while I was still in the Philippines. I was pretty sure it was available there as my brother had one.

Then, a few weeks ago, I felt fortunate that we were going to Japan. I could just buy the Japanese game when we get there. As a side note though, the sequel of the game will be released in Japan a week after we return to Melbourne! Damn. Anyway, I’ve placed Ouendan on my what-to-do-in-Japan list.

I only started to actively search for the game about mid-way into our stay in Japan. I thought that it would be very easy to find. Just go to the rack where all the other Nintendo DS games are and pick it out from there. But, no. I didn’t find it in the first electronics shop I went to. In the second shop, I decided to get help from one of the sales people on the floor.

I tried asking him: “Osu Tatakae Ouendan wa arimasu ka?” I hoped I said “Do you have Osu Tatakae Ouendan?” correctly. Right or wrong, he started talking to me. Here’s the problem: I may know how to ask the right question, but I’m not fluent enough in Nihongo to understand the reply. I tried reading his body language but there was nothing. His face was expressionless and he wasn’t making any hand gestures as he talked.

I clarified to him that I don’t really speak Japanese very well: “Nihongo ga hanasemasen.” Translation: “I don’t speak Japanese.” which is actually a bit ironic since I’m saying it in Japanese. He started talking again and he was moving his two index fingers and thumbs to form a rectangle in the air this time. The gesture didn’t help any as I still couldn’t understand what he was saying. He could still be speaking in Japanese or a heavily accented English. I can’t really tell. I finally gave up, apologised (“sumimasen”) and left the shop. They probably didn’t have the game, anyway. I was definitely regretting my failure to brush up on my Nihongo before we went to Japan.

On our last full day in Japan, we went to Akihabara, an area in Japan known for lots of electronics shops. I didn’t realise that the place also had lots of manga and anime shops! Anyway, I digress. If there was a place I’d find the game, it must be there at Akihabara. We also did our homework before hand. I had Raquel write down the kanji (Chinese characters) for the name of the game on a piece of paper so that I could just show the piece of paper to the sales person next time. That should avoid any further confusion as to which game I really wanted.

The good thing about Akihabara was that more employees at the shops speak English. They were able to tell me that the game was just sold out, at least. After going through several shops, I finally found a shop that has the game in stock! At last, my search was over. I promptly bought it, of course. Mission accomplished.

Published in: on May 8, 2007 at 10:23 pm  Comments (4)  

Next-gen Console Wars

Lately, I’ve been thinking of getting one of the three next-generation gaming consoles: Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3. Sad to say, I can afford to spend money on only one so I have to choose carefully. After selling our old Playstation 2 recently, I only played games on either my PC or laptop. Although I still love playing Counter-strike on the PC, that’s about all I can play on it. The newer PC games have steeper minimum requirements and I have to upgrade my PC (again!) every couple of years maybe just to play those.

Unless I pay up for expensive top-of-the-line hardware, I’ll only get a mediocre to decent media experience out of these newer PC games if ever. At least with a console game, I won’t have to worry about minimum requirements and upgrading all the time. Any game I buy for the console I own will always play the way it was meant to (and as reviewed by game reviewers) and a console should last about five or so years.

Of course, consoles aren’t cheap. But if I compare the cost of the console to the cost of hardware needed to bring my current PC up to spec (or buying a totally new cutting-edge PC), I get to save a lot of money in the long run. Another advantage of consoles over PCs is that whenever I want to play a game, all I have to do is place the CD in the console, boot it up then play. On a PC, I have to boot up Windows first, then run the game I want to play. This takes quite a while specially if you don’t have a top-end PC. Since I don’t have a lot of time to play nowadays, being able to get into the game as quickly as possible is a big bonus as every little minute counts.

Another cool thing about playing console games is that it doesn’t require installing anything. And here in Australia’s EB Games at least, if I buy any console game, I can return it within 7 days if I’m not happy with it. It’s a good way for me to try games that I’m not sure I’d like. I can’t do this for PC games though.

So, I want a gaming console. But which one? I had to do a lot of research on the Web, comparing features of the three current consoles to get to my choice. Each console has pros and cons, so it was a bit difficult to choose from among the three.

Here is my personal pros and cons list for each console:

Nintendo Wii
Pros:

  • Cheapest of the three.
  • Great family and party games due to its user-friendly wiimote motion-sensing controllers.
  • Free online gaming.

Cons:

  • Not a lot of games I’d love to play for now and the foreseeable future.
  • For games that I’d like to play, there is a version of the same game on the two other consoles and provides better graphics.

Microsoft Xbox 360
Pros:

  • Lots of awesome games I’d like to play right now.
  • XBox Live. The online features on the 360 are well developed and the community is already large.
  • Can be used as a media centre.

Cons:

  • The Xbox Live Gold service isn’t free. That means, I have to pay a subscription fee just to play online against other players.
  • According to users who post in forums, there is a big chance of getting a machine that conks out in about a year or so. hence the popularity of the terms “red ring of death” and “bricking” in gaming circles.
  • Wifi adaptor costs extra.
  • Downloaded content only works on the hard-disk and Xbox 360 combination it was downloaded on. Meaning, I wouldn’t be able to view the stuff I bought on my hard disk if I use it on a different Xbox 360.
  • Supposedly, very noisy.

Sony Playstation 3
Pros:

  • Plays a lot of popular Playstation 2 games including God of War II and few more of my old favourite PS2 games.
  • Free online gaming.
  • Built-in Wifi capability.
  • Built-in Blu-ray Disc player.
  • Controllers get recharged via USB cable.
  • Slots for standard-type memory cards (like SD and Memory Stick).
  • Easily upgradable hard disks (and cheaper than the proprietary hard disks used by 360).
  • Can be used as a PC if Linux is installed.
  • Can be used as a media centre.

Cons:

  • Most expensive of the three.
  • Not a lot of games I like at this moment but according to release lists, there are games I’d like to play to be released soon.

From my list above, you must’ve guessed by now that I’m leaning towards getting the PS3. Sure, it’s more expensive but it has most of the things I wanted out of the box. With the Xbox 360, I still have to buy a separate Wifi adaptor and an extended warranty. After that, I still wouldn’t have a Blu-ray player, a recharge kit and only a 20GB hard disk. As for the Wii, it may be the cheapest in the market now, but I really think the novelty of the games I’d like to play on it would wear off after a while. And the type of games I’d probably want to continue to play (like first-person shooters) are better played on either the 360 or the PS3.

One of the major draws of the 360 for me is its large and growing Xbox Live community. This meant that there are a lot of players I can go up against in games. My main problem with it is that I have to pay $79 per year for the benefit of playing against other players online. And if Raquel wants to play online too on her own account, that’s another $79 a year. This wouldn’t really be such a big deal if I had lots of free time to play because I’d be getting my money’s worth of online gaming time. As it is, it’s possible for me not to play for days, weeks or even months. That’s why free online gaming provided by the PS3 appeals so much to me. I can skip playing for a month and I won’t feel like I’m throwing my money away on a subscription service I’m not using.

Another thing that turns me off from buying a 360 is that, according to reports on the Internet, the 360 is a lot more noisy and literally hotter than the PS3. There’s also that off chance that the 360 will scratch and ruin my gaming CDs if I’m unlucky (I’m not sure if this problem still happens though). At worst, I’ll get the infamous Red Ring of Death where my 360 will become “bricked” and unusable. It’s scary to think that the machine I’m buying might become useless in a year or so.

It’s good if the 360 breaks down before the standard one-year warranty ends. I can ship it off to Microsoft to get get it “fixed” (which could mean getting a different refurbished machine instead). But according to my research, there are quite a number of people who got their 360 bricked after year one. So, to be safe, I should get an extended warranty that’ll cost extra but at least I can just have the 360 replaced with a brand-new one in the event my the one breaks down within two years of purchase.

As for the Hi-Definition (HD) aspect of the 360 and the PS3, I don’t care much for it right now because I don’t own an HDMI TV yet anyway. Supposedly though, PS3 does have the better HDMI capability at the moment. That is, until the Xbox 360 Elite (a more beefed-up but more expensive version of 360) comes out some time this year.

Nevertheless, I’d like to be able to play HD movies eventually. To do that on the 360, I’d have to purchase a separate external HD-DVD drive while the Blu-ray drive comes built-in on the PS3. Note that although these two formats are both HD, these two are incompatible with each other, hence the format war going on between HD-DVD and Blu-ray. In my opinion, Blu-ray will likely win though because more film studios (including Disney and Sony Pictures) support Blu-ray whilst only a couple of studios back HD-DVD. So, Blu-ray seems like a safe bet and the ability to play those movies already comes built-in on the PS3.

And even if the Blu-ray format loses the HD format war, the built-in Blu-ray drive will still guarantee that games for the PS3 can contain a lot of content as one Blu-ray disc can hold up to 46GB of data. On the other hand, the 360 only uses DVDs for its games which can only hold up to 8GB of data. The 360 can probably get around this limitation by using multiple discs and swapping between them when needed or make use of the hard disk for pre-storing of important data like 3D textures and sound effects.

That reminds me of another thing I’m disappointed about the 360. Microsoft released a Core version of the 360 without a hard disk. This made the hard disk an optional requirement for 360 games. So game developers should assume that there is no hard disk that can be taken advantaged of when developing a game. That meant, no hard disk caching of data during game play that could result in slower loading times. I suppose eventually, they can program the games to still use the hard disk if it is detected by the game at start up. We’ll see if this happens. Last generation of consoles, Xbox has this advantage over the PS2. This generation, it’s now the PS3 that has this advantage over the 360 as all PS3s come with a hard disk.

Still, I may want to buy a 360 solely for its great games (like Gears of War, Lost Planet and the upcoming Command & Conquer Tiberium Wars) and the ability to play with or against countless other gamers on Xbox Live (if I’m willing to pay for it). However, I can’t be sure I’d get to play all the time. It just seems like a big waste of money to be paying a periodical subscription fee for a service I’ll only use on occasion.

So, my choice comes down to the PS3. You may choose differently though and that’s fine. For me, the PS3 is the way to go. The PS3 may be more expensive right now, but it would be cheaper in the long run as I wouldn’t be wasting extra cash on subscription fees. And although I won’t be playing the great 360 games, there are still cool games out for the PS3 right now anyway (like Resistance: Fall of Man and Motorstorm) and some games I like coming real soon (like Half-Life, Unreal Tournament 3 and God of War 3). On top of it all, I would also have a Blu-ray player and maybe a Linux PC (after I install Linux on the PS3) that can play XVid and DivX movies. What’s not to like?

Published in: on April 17, 2007 at 11:17 pm  Comments (9)  

More About Gaming

Okay, I’m still officially in a gaming mood this week from all the games we got either from the Pizza Hut PC Game meal deal promo or from EB Games selling games at the bargain prices during their stock-take clearance this month. And as fate would have it, my cousin KP (who doesn’t like being called by that nickname nowadays, by the way) who works in Korea nowadays dropped me a message on Yahoo Messenger the other day. He was going to get a real-time strategy (RTS) game titled Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth. That sparked a conversation about the good old days.

A decade or so ago, KP, his brother, my brother and I often played Warcraft 2 and Starcraft against each other online via modem connection. This was before Internet gaming was popular so we had to resort to modem to modem online gaming at speeds of 28kbps. Still, it was great fun. We did this almost every night. I remember feeling chills of excitement as our two modems connected to one another. I remember thinking, “tonight, I’m going to beat your ass!” Or something to that effect in Tagalog.

In a few years, Half-Life death matches became popular. But with that kind of multiplayer gaming, we had to go to a nearby LAN gaming centre which was still a pretty new type of business back then. By nearby, I mean traveling to Greenhills which was like over an hour’s bus ride from where we live.

Shortly after the popularity of Half-Life peaked, a mod for HL came out called Counter-strike. It was an instant hit with everybody and soon, it was the most played first person shooter game in LAN gaming centres across Metro Manila. My cousins, my brother, some friends and I would set aside one Saturday night to go to a gaming centre we rented overnight and spend the evening till the next morning playing Counter-strike.

Ah, yes. Those were some of the most fun times I had in my life. I had so much fun that when I moved to Australia in 2000, I missed playing games against friends and family.

The big problem for me was that I didn’t know a lot of people when I moved to Australia. If I wanted to continue playing multiplayer games, my only option was to go online for that kind of thing. So, I bought the latest version of Counter-strike and started playing it online. From then on, I’ve been an online gamer freak.

I’ve enjoyed FPS games mostly while KP still preferred RTS games. It’s not that I don’t like RTS games anymore. It’s just that, with my limited free time, I couldn’t commit to full RTS game matches. The thing with RTS games is that you cannot join a game in progress. Much like you cannot just join a chess match in progress. You have to be there at the start. That’s not too much of a big deal though. The big deal is that once the match started, it’s very embarrassing to leave the game.

And like I said, I cannot commit to lengths of time in advance just to play an RTS match. What if 10 minutes into the game, something comes up and I needed to go offline? I would have to forfeit the match. Although my opponent would get a win, that win wouldn’t be very satisfying. And then when I come back from being offline, I have to start over.

With FPS games though, I can join a game in progress. Sure, I would be behind the number of kills of other players already playing, but I can always catch up. And any moment, I can just leave the game. There’s still more of them playing so they’ll still continue to have fun even after I left the round. So with FPS games, it’s instant gratification.

So, where am I going with this? Nowhere really. I just realised I haven’t posted anything in a long while and thought that I just write something that’s in my mind at the moment. And here it is. Maybe next time I’ll write something about a totally different topic.

Published in: on June 7, 2006 at 4:39 pm  Comments (2)