Saturday, June 13, 2009

Greetings from Big Surf Island!

I've been off from work this past week, taking a mandatory furlough, like many people are having to do in these harsh economic times. While I am hoping to go on an exciting trip or two in the not-too-distant future, as I wasn't being paid this week, I didn't want to spend too much money, so I stayed in town. That doesn't mean I didn't have a kind of vacation, though. I've visited the following exotic and exciting destinations during my time off:

Big Surf Island: I was absolutely mad about Burnout Paradise when it first came out, and Big Surf Island has gotten me pumped about it all over again. The island is a bit smaller than I imagined it would be, but it's positively packed with outrageous jumps and all the other stuff that makes Paradise such an exhilarating game. The dune buggies you find there are a blast to drive, too, with a great rough-and-ready feel to their handling. I've already completed 40/45 billboards, 13/15 mega jumps and 74/75 smashes. I just know that finding that last one is going to be a real pain. I also have just one event left to complete: a stunt run. Those are the bane of my existence. I'm not generally a completionist, but Paradise compelled me to get 100%, and I know I won't stop until I've jumped every jump, smashed every smash and every billboard, won every event and ruled every road in both the Time Road Rules and Showtime (AKA Katamari CarCrashy AKA Michael Bay Directs a Car Wreck) modes on Big Surf Island. It's good to be back in Paradise.

The Ring: When I was a kid, I could beat Mike Tyson without breaking a sweat. It seems my reflexes aren't what they used to be. My current record in Punch-Out!! is an embarrassing 20-67, and I'm currently facing Don Flamenco in the title defense section of the game. But I don't mind. On the contrary, I'm very pleased that the game is so challenging. It goes easy on you for a while, but once you get to defending your belt, Punch-Out!! is no joke. At this point, the bouts are tough enough to quite literally get my pulse racing, and each victory feels like an accomplishment. It's hard in much the same way that the NES game was hard,but I think it's harder, thanks to more complex attack patterns from your opponents, which you need to learn during the first phase of your career and then completely re-learn during title defense. If the game had ended when I'd won the world championship, I would have felt like I could have better spent that $50, as fun as the experience was up to that point. But this game has proven to have lasting value and to keep the excitement comin'. I'm thrilled to see this franchise get reinvigorated like this.If only the game shouted "BODY BLOW! BODY BLOW!" like the arcade games did, it would be just about perfect.

Unnamed Middle Eastern Country: In the past I've never really been one to spend much time with online shooters, but I've gotten back into Modern Warfare's online multiplayer in a big way this week. I don't consider myself to be all that great at shooters so I generally shy away from exclusively team-based games like Gears of War 2's multiplayer (that way I can't let any other players down) but free-for-all deathmatch in CoD4 is so exceptional, I keep coming back to it again and again.It's easily the online shooter I've enjoyed the most. Here's a question for anyone here who might play this game online: If I play exclusively free-for-all deathmatch, is it worth it for me to spring for the map pack that contains Creek, Broadcast, Chinatown and Killhouse?

Temeria: This compelling land is the setting of The Witcher, which I downloaded off of Steam this week. I'm utterly taken with the setting, which is rather unlike the setting of any other fantasy RPG I've played, It feels rougher, more lived-in and worn, bleaker, and more believable. I haven't yet been able to spend as much time as I would like with the mysterious Geralt of Rivia, but you can bet I'm eager to do so.

The Sprint Studio: Lastly, I've been enjoying the beta season of 1 vs. 100 on Xbox Live. The game itself couldn't be simpler, but I'm excited about the way it's being implemented. I think the opportunity to join a live game that's being played by tens of thousands of other players, that involves answering trivia questions rather than, say, killing orcs and earning loot, is really exciting. (It helps that I am a huge sucker for trivia questions.) I also like the fact that up to four people can play from a single console, as it just feels like a party game that would be way more fun when shared with friend. In fact, I think I'm gonna invite some friends over for some pizza and beer and 1 vs. 100 one of these weekends.

I also want to say just a few things about E3.

When I was a kid, it really bothered me if someone abused a stuffed animal, even though I was well aware that the thing had no feelings of its own. Apparently there's still part of me that harbors that irrational perspective, as the first thing I imagined after seeing the Milo demonstration was thousands of people unleashing verbal abuse at their Milos. It made me sad. Apparently Milo won't respond to abuse, though, so that's good. Maybe if it's utterly pointless, people won't bother to engage in it. Of course, I'm assuming that Milo is actually going to be as amazing as it appeared in the demo, but then, I have no reason to doubt that it will be. After all, it was presented by Peter Molyneux of all people.

There are too many games I'm excited about to mention, but one announcement I'm particularly intrigued by is Metroid Other M. As a huge fan of most of the 2D Metroid games, I always felt that the Metroid Prime games really missed one hugely important aspect of what makes Samus so much fun to play: she's quick and agile. Metroid Other M looks primed to rectify this issue in a big way, so I'll be keeping my eyes on that one.

So, how 'bout you? What are you playin'? Any E3 announcements strike you as particularly promising or exciting?