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.

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!

gaming silly season 2009

With September nearly past us, we’re once again moving toward the silly season, and that means another Mega Holiday Gamesplosion — in fact, you could probably argue that Tuesday’s release of Halo 3: ODST marked the season’s official start. A tonne of games that were due before Xmas have since been pushed back to early 2010, but there’s still a solid line-up of stuff that I’m interested in (though I may have forgotten something):

  • September: Halo 3: ODST
  • October: Forza Motorsport 3, Brutal Legend
  • November: COD: Modern Warfare 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii
  • December: Zelda: Spirit Tracks

I’m as surprised as anyone that there are two Nintendo games in that lot — for all its talk of Wii Sports and Vitality Sensors Nintendo is actually pulling out a couple of big guns this season. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (forever henceforth known as NSMBW) is aimed squarely at the 2.5D co-op platformer space that was so neatly filled by the infinitely charming LittleBigPlanet last year, and I have no doubt that it’ll inspire the same crazy four-player sessions in our house.

Beyond that, I’m trying to limit myself to one game a month, and the only other guaranteed buy there is Forza 3, which is easily my most anticipated game of the year. Brutal Legend will be an eventual must-buy as well — maybe I’ll get that in December instead of Zelda.