Once upon a time I made a blog about video games. And this is what's left of it (mostly tweets).

6 August 2009

What’s up with the number of Xbox demos that only work online (with a Gold subscription) these days?

IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey (360 demo)

In arcade mode (the default), this a pretty great flight combat game: the graphics are okay, the planes are top-of-the-line WW2-era (which means even missiles aren’t guided, and that makes air combat much more interesting), controls are pretty good (although I’m not a fan of controlling engine speed with the right stick — nobody needs the precision of setting it from 0% to 100%, at least in arcade mode), and the physics engine feels perfectly real (contrary to what I thought when I watched videos of the game).

In simulator mode, though (which is completely optional, thankfully), well… I have no idea what’s going on — I haven’t been able to do such a simple maneuver as banking, then pulling up, to turn around, without the plane going into an uncontrollable spin. Maybe planes are insanely more complicated than you’d ever imagine, and maybe the full version has a tutorial to explain how to master that, but in the meantime that mode is just unplayable.

Fortunately, the arcade mode satisfies quite fine. It looks like missions ought to be varied enough (as much as they can be in a flight combat game), and as a bonus the game offers an unlimited “continue” whenever you crash — resetting you just where you were, like a Bioshock vita-chamber. And even simulation mode doesn’t prevent you from using that option (but nobody forces you, either, since you have to press a button to continue). The future The present definitely belongs to games that don’t penalize death.

I’ll add that I read someone’s comment that they couldn’t adjust to the controls because they were so used to Battlefield 1943. And all I can say is: I weep for that person.

Couldn’t try the online mode, since I’m not a Gold customer these days. But this is definitely a must-download if you’re interested in planes at all (plus, it provides quite enough gameplay to warrant the download). Probably less fun and accessible than Hawx, but more interesting, more real — think Project Gotham Racing vs. Burnout.

Overlord II (360 demo)

I’m going to make this short, because (1) the demo didn’t exactly just come out, (2) it’s a sequel, and (3) I’ve already written a long (highly positive) review about Overlord, even though I never finished it or posted it.

So Overlord II is more of the same, quite unabashedly so, and there’s nothing wrong with that, because the first game was awesome on quite many levels. Rather famously, the sequel starts with your minions clubbing baby seals, which is a great touch, and that’s part of what you’ll be playing with in the demo (which I think is just a tad too short — it doesn’t give the game time to show how the gameplay develops a bit).

I like the game’s additions, like mounts for your minions (it’s gimmicky, but cute), but the main hope for this sequel was that the controls would be better — controlling your minions had always been a little awkward. And, lo and behold: they’ve made it worse!

Apparently, people couldn’t cope with the lack of camera controls (even though all you had to do was just turn your own character around), so the right stick now controls both the camera and the minions, so that you can’t, for instance, look somewhere while you’re pointing your minions elsewhere (which can be useful, particularly in boss fights). Also, in the five minutes the demo lasted, I failed several times to send my minions to sweep the terrain — nothing I did could make them move.

It could be that the developers think that sweeping minions is the “wrong” way to play the game, that it’s just there as a crutch, and you’re really supposed to select targets and dispatch minions to attack one by one… but that would be a weirdly stupid misunderstanding of what’s actually fun about their game: it’s all about sweeping the horde of brown minions and watch them destroy everything in their way.

Still, you should download the demo anyway… then decide to buy the original Overlord, which you’ll find heavily discounted at your favorite store. Countless hours of fun with your little gremlins.

As for Overlord II itself, I don’t think I’d be in any hurry to buy it.

16 August

Really, Xbox, you can’t give me a list of my friends who played the same game as me, so I can compare our achievements?

18 August

“PS3 Slim hits September 1 for $300”

Oh my, what a totally unexpected surprise. (Well, actually: announcing it in the middle of August?) Anyway… I know how technology works — and I know Sony did the same with the PS2 — but I just can’t imagine how they can make a smaller PS3, with the same functionality (and no backwards compatibility, damn), and sell it for $300 only.

But, hey, the point is: PS3 Slim, please meet my Amazon wishlist.

20 August

Red Steel 2

Not that I’m suddenly gonna be interested in the Wii, but this game just looks really cool and well done — I’ll be curious to see it running once.

Dirt 2 (360 demo)

If the first Dirt was an interesting draft, with hardly acceptable framerate drops and a general sterile feel, it seems like the developers learned very aptly from their lesson; Dirt 2 looks like an absolute must-buy.

Everything’s just about perfect: the graphics, sound, physics, the damage system, and even then menus. I’ve only got one issue, and it’s both rather major (as in, when I get the game I’m going to end up cursing it a lot) and somewhat superficial: the mini-map that displays upcoming turns is so small and faint it’s damn near unusable, and makes it absolutely impossible to win a race until you’ve memorized the whole track — or I guess could stretch it a bit and decide that it’s a feature, making you play the game longer.

Multiplayer works fine and, obviously, people behave like assholes in the race modes that handle collisions… but it looks like the full version will let you choose to only race in modes with, or without, collisions, depending on whether you prefer the fun of bumper cars or the seriousness of time trials against ghosts.

Oh, and I love little touches like being able to customize your cockpit with, among other things, you Xbox Live avatar hanging from the rear-view mirror.

Lost Planet 2 (360 demo)

This is 2009, and I have to pick an online game session from a list? And then pick again because I’ve been told that it was closed or full or whatever? Oh hell no, Capcom. I’m going back to Battlefield.

(Well, I did try the single-player option… and left after two minutes. I’d also given up on Lost Planet at the first boss fight. Just can’t be bothered.)

23 August

25 August

“Guitar Hero 5 Matt Bellamy Trailer.” Gaaah.

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