october games

I have half a long post about Brütal Legend kicking around on my laptop hard drive, and I may finish that one day, but it’s getting less topical with each passing day so I’ve decided to sum it up quickly instead. I think it’s a great game despite a few flaws, and I think it’s well worth checking out, but opinions on it are definitely mixed. I loved the world, and the story and characters, and I enjoyed cruising around in my hot rod listening to rockin’ tunes while soaking in the environment and looking for hidden treasures. I even enjoyed the vaguely RTS-style battles that make up much of the campaign’s latter half, even if many others didn’t.

One thing I’ll definitely say, though, is the Brütal Legend does a terrible job of teaching you how to play. It spends a lot of time teaching you traditional RTS moves, such as issuing orders to individual squads of troops, when what you should really be doing is building an army and head-long in to the jaws of hell right along with it, using your weaponry, your killer guitar solos, and even your kick-ass hot rod to gain the advantage. Meanwhile, it completely neglects to teach you some very basic abilities, like how to find Motor Forges, the game’s shops.

Despite those problems, I absolutely loved the game, and no trip to work in the car is now complete without cranking up a few tracks from the game’s phenomenal soundtrack, which have conveniently found their way on to my MP3 player.

Speaking of driving, Forza 3 is out, and it’s exactly what I wanted (and expected): Forza 2 with more content. A number of the cars and tracks are carried over from Forza 2, but they all look better here, and the new tracks and cars are great, particularly the point-to-point rally tracks that run through Italian sea-side villas and winding Japanese mountainsides. The new career mode is also a nice addition, giving the game’s sheer bulk of content a nice, easy-to-navigate structure.

Gameplay-wise, it’s actually improved more than I expected. The physics model is very impressive, and the developers have done a great job of tweaking the controls on the standard 360 controller; so much so that I’m playing without the ABS and traction control assists that I always seemed to need in Forza 2. The other big feature is rewind, which lets you stop the game and rewind it at any point in the race, ostensibly to undo the kind of horrible mistake that would otherwise have you restarting the race. Maybe it dulls the game’s tension a touch, but so far, rewind has been a godsend for me.

two things

First thing: my 360 returned today just under two weeks after I sent it in. It has the same serial number, but it seems like a new console — it has a different DVD drive, and runs cooler and quieter. It even has that new electronics plastic smell! There was also a three month Xbox Live membership card in the box, which was a nice way to make up for having to send back my console. Having to send it in still sucked, but MS handled it very well.

Second thing: Brütal Legend, the new Tim Schafer game. The gameplay is a strange blend of brawler/racer/RTS, and so far it’s been a lot of fun, but what really makes this game ate the characters, the story, and the game world, a free-roaming fantasy realm inspired by classic heavy metal album covers and motifs. Jack Black is pitch-perfect as Eddie Riggs, the game’s roadie protagonist, and the metal star cameos, including Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy, come thick and fast. The landscape is littered with monstrous bone piles, massive V8 engine blocks, and crumbling stone monuments, and it’s a hell of a place to explore, especially when you’re gunning your hot rod’s engine and cranking metal tunes from the game’s massive library.

random updates

Just a few more random updates:

  • It’s good to see myself in print again — there’s a feature in the PC Authority that hit the stands today that lists 99 great free apps, and I contributed the Linux portion of it. I checked it out today and I think it came up pretty well!
  • Microsoft finally received my 360 today, after nearly a good few days in the post. I sent it on Friday, and i didn’t think it’d take so long to get a console to Sydney, but either way, they have it now, so I should have it back within a couple of weeks of today. In the meantime, I scored a loaner 360 from a friend, which is awesome.
  • I signed up with iiNet for our home ADSL yesterday, so of course Internode launched new plans today. Luckily, there’s nothing there that would entice me back — iiNet will still be a better deal, even before the DSLAM comes online here. I decided to jump to iiNet now rather than waiting for the DSLAM just to avoid any downtime; doing it now means a churn and just an hour or two of downtime, rather than a disconnection and reconnection and the days of downtime that’d cause.

bye bye 360

I thought I had a good chance of not running in to any trouble with my 360 — after all, my model was a second-revision system, produced after MS admitted the system’s issues, and for two years it had soldiered on without a problem. That came to an end last night, though, when after a week or so of random crashes it finally become unusable, displaying the classic Red Ring of Death.

Thankfully, sorting it out hasn’t been much of a drama yet. Requesting a repair (it’s still under warranty, thanks to the three-year warranty for red-ring issues) was an entirely automated process on the Xbox website, and that gave me a printable prepaid packing label. I packed it in an old box at the office today and dropped it down at the post office, and all reports suggest that I should have it back within two weeks. At least it’ll be back before Forza 3 hits!