18 May 2007

Of Orbs And True Skills

Finally! I found my last agility orb in Crackdown. I played through the game again to check out the downloadable content, cleaning up the remaining gang members after killing the final boss. And there it is: the long forgotten green glow! It sits on a roof of a twin-tower skyscaper near the river in the Shai Gen district at a rather exposed location (must have missed it at several times in the last days). Like an alpinist his next mountain, I analyzed the building. The facade couldn't be reached from the street level, and there was only a row of window ledges along the 2 towers. But there was a building nearby which seemed near enough for a jump. Reaching the orb was easier then it looked like at first. Finally, I stepped into the green light, absorbed all the tiny little orbs, and then the sweet, sweet sound of "Achievement unlocked". Pure gaming bliss :) Crackdown is really one of those rare gems, where you pick up the controller and within 10 seconds you're totally sucked into the game and then you suddenly realize it's 3 hours later.

Speaking of suck... I also tried out the Halo 3 beta. The game plays great, but the first few rounds I totally got my ass handed to me by some Halo veterans. But then the magic of the TrueSkill system kicked in, and after the game realized that I totally suck at Halo it handed me down the ladder until I found sessions with equally bad players. I even won one session. Now I still think that I'm a pretty good FPS player once I'm warmed up. I spent countless hours in Battlefield 2 on the PC, but on the console, I still don't feel comfortable with those old-school shooters which don't provide a cover system. To me, the advent of cover systems has been the big turning point when console shooters finally became playable. I absolutely adore Rainbow Six Vegas for its cover system. It's ways above Gears' and GRAW's. I tried to play Quake4 and Prey on the 360 and I gave up after a few hours. And I must admit that I never really understood the hype around Halo. The graphics always looked meh when compared to other shooters of that time. I really (really) tried to like it by starting to play both Halo1 and Halo2. I gave up the single player campaigns in disgust after about an hour. So I was pleasently surprised when I looked into the Halo 3 beta. The game play is extremly smooth, controls are intuitive, graphics looked pretty good (but far from great).

Forza 2 demo: I've put countless hours into GT4 on the PS2, so Forza2 will be a must-have. I really like the time penalty when crashing into other cars. Makes Gran Turismo almost look like a arcade game. I used to crash into other cars in GT at strategic positions quite a lot to drive them off the track. Makes absolutely no sense in Forza. What I really didn't like was the lighting of the demo track. Lighting is why GT on the PS2 looks so real despite the low-poly environment. Forza just looks like a typical computer game. And I think it's the lighting. I can't put my finger on it, but there seems to be too little contrast and dynamic range. I know from our projects at Radon Labs that the wrong lighting can even make fantastic models look meh. In reverse, you can take last-gen models and characters, and with the right lights and post effects it will look breath-taking. I also tried out the driving wheel with the Forza demo, and while it's seems to be supported perfectly I still prefer the game pad controls.

Another favourite this week was that new pinball game on Live Arcade. Great stuff. Brings back memories of Pinball Fantasies on the Amiga :)

Hmm... busy gaming week this was...

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