Tuesday, June 30, 2009

WRITE UP / 06.30.09

In my vacation, I've found plenty of opportunities to play some games, especially offline.  What I haven't found is a lot of time to write about them.  In an effort to correct all of that, I think I'll start a new feature here on PLAY READ WRITE, obviously entitled "WRITE UP."  WRITE UP is a gaming diary of sorts, influenced heavily by Stephen Totilo's style of journaling his gaming activities on a day to day basis.  This started at the MTV Multiplayer blog, but is now continued at Totilo at Play.  I don't know if this will become a daily thing here at PLAY READ WRITE, evolving into a supplemental sort of entry to FURTHER READING and whatever else I may write day to day, but for now, it'll fill in the blanks while I'm traveling.

In the past few days, I've played around on the Wii, and I've played plenty of Nintendo DS.  Its been a while since I had the handheld in my regular rotation, but I'm remembering why portable gaming got me into video games in the first place.  First of all, its always there, I've taken it around with me in my pocket just about everywhere I've been, which means its accessible to me in the car, or waiting for Jenna to get out of her Optometrist appointment.  Plus, I've also been playing around with Brain Age (1 and 2), and I'm hoping to use it on a slightly regular basis (an unscientific study of sorts).

What was really fun, was playing on my Nintendo DS with Jenna's two neices.  They had their copy of Mario Kart DS loaded up and we did single-card multiplayer.  It was a lot of fun, particularly because the benefits were two-fold.  I got to play video games, and the girls were kept relatively quiet throughout the entire experience.  I didn't mind letting them win either (back before I sold Mario Kart DS, I played an unhealthy amount of it, so its my preferred Mario Kart, but its also the one I absolutely dominate on).

In addition to that, I played about an hour of Team Fortress 2 and Counter Strike: Source yesterday, which was sort of a vacation on its own.  I'm so happy that I have those two games on my laptop because they're sort of the go-to games for when I just want to enjoy my time.  I played a round of dedicated Demoman on Badwater, and another round as Heavy on Goldrush.  I can't help but say that both rounds I was a credit to the team.

I'm off now, and I can't help but wonder what I'll be able to make time to play next.


As I warned, FUTHER READING went down the past two days.  But that doesn't mean there wasn't stuff going on in the video gaming industry.  Perusing my usual spots, I found, actually very little.  After E3, the summer lull has seemingly snuck up on us.  Despite all of this, the usual set of features, videos, and interesting news items still shake from the tree every so often:
Unfortunately it seems that over the next couple of days I'll be lacking in posting content on PLAY READ WRITE again.  I hope that you'll all stay patient with me, but after the windfall of content at E3, everyone, including your humble blogger, could use a break.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I played a lot of Wii yesterday and it made me miss it. It was a shame I had to sell it but I'm sure it'll find it's way back to my work station in some form or another. I played Wii Sports and Wii Play with Jenna. We managed to blast our way through to level 19 on the tanks game. It was fun and very casual. The whole experience was tied together by having to teach adults how to play too. Ultimately I don't know how much use a Wii would get at home because I think a large part of the fun I had yesterday was the social aspect of gaming. I usually keep an eye on what's going on with the Wii but ultimately there hasn't been anything to get me excited in a long time. What new channels are coming out? What big games are coming out exclusively on the Wii? I think I get enough time with the Wii from month to month that I don't need to buy one right now (not that I could anyways).

Saturday, June 27, 2009


FURTHER READING is being posted mobile today so I'll keep this short.  I basically watched a bunch of TF2 videos on my phone today so I'll share them here.  For some reason even just watching Team Fortress 2 (when played at a high level) is still entertaining to me.  Normally I can't stand watching other people play games, but I think the violent cartoon aesthetic still keeps me involved.

That's the Name of the Game - 14

The latest edition of That's the Name of the Game is another iteration of my Peggle iPhone review. It does a little bit more explaining for the crowd over at bscreview.com.

What makes Peggle so special? Why do people play Peggle? Plainly put, Peggle makes the player feel empowered. The average shot will rack up tens of thousands of points and the game lets you know this through big sound effects and colors. The final shot that clears the last orange peg is accompanied by a drastic zoom in. As the peggle ball nears the last peg, slow mo raises the drama. Near misses will have a player smacking their forehead. But you're never afraid of trying again, because when you do finally clear the board, Beethoven blasts and fireworks fly. This all adds together to make you feel like you've gotten the highest score imaginable. Players who want to get a little deeper into the game will want to check out their stats and attempt to increase their score.

While my That's the Name of the Game review might not carry a numerical score, don't forget that when I originally reviewed the game here at PLAY READ WRITE, it received a 5 out of 5.

You can read the full article at http://www.bscreview.com/2009/06/thats-the-name-of-the-game-peggle-for-the-iphone/

Friday, June 26, 2009


FURTHER READING is being posted after the fact, but that doesn't mean I'm preparing myself for tomorrow ahead of schedule.  Yesterday was a busy day of driving and today will be a busy day of visiting and celebrating birthdays.  Until then, you can check out what I found interesting yesterday (because I know my opinion matters most to you).  I read

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Today is the last day before a very long vacation for me. I'm going to do my best to keep FURTHER READING on a regular schedule, along with my regular writing. I'll be spending about a week in southern California and another week in Colorado. I won't be completely disconnected through that entire time, but I won't have the same connectivity I do at home. Anyways, here's some stuff to read (or look at, or watch):

The 25 Games You Need To Play Before You Die

Crispy Gamer has a feature up listing the 25 games you need to play before you die.  I can't help but look at lists (so long as they aren't THE BEST GAMES EVER), mostly to see whether or not the creator did a decent job.  If you see a list about great games to play, and they consist entirely of Zelda, Mario, and Master Chief (maybe through in Cloud for good measure), you can guess that they don't really know what they're talking about.  If you're a gamer, and a hardcore one at that, then you know about all the great games of the past.  What I look for in a list are small gems, or maybe unique choices.  Crispy Gamer writer Scott Jones has done a great job on this one.  This starts with his 25th position (Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, which is a great choice because THPS games really are great and the earlier ones lost respect because of the beating Activision committed to this dead horse).  The next couple of positions include the usual fare I've state above, including Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Resident Evil 4.  The next spots are filled with nuance.  Jones lists Final Fantasy VI but garnishes it with Chrono Trigger; he enters Grand Theft Auto III instead of Vice City or San Andreas; he includes Advance Wars for the GBA instead of one of the DS iterations.  As Jones nears the end of his list, he seems sure to finish strong.  He lists The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, which I couldn't ever imagine in a list as short as 25.  Listing Super Metroid for the SNES as high as #5 gains a lot of respect from me as well, but what really seals the deal with this list is the number one spot.  Jones obviously has a soft spot in his heart for Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! because I don't know why anyone would put that as the number one game you should play before you die.

In that choice is really the rub, the whole point of my writing today.  Why do we make these lists if our only goal is to please our readers?  When a critic writes a list of the top 10 movies of all time, it is their opinion.  While video games might have the most opinionated (and that's being nice) fans, that doesn't mean that our journalists, our writers, our critics have to be total pussies.  Please, for the love of video game God, have a backbone people.  If you're crafting a list, consider your options, consider the games you've spent hours of your life with, but most of all, consider your opinion, and put a goddam by-line on it.  Own your opinion and your writing, because no one is going to buy your bull shit when all it does is suck up to one half of the fanboys or the other.  Jones does a great job here, but he's still caught in a balance.  Why are there two Mario games on such a short list?

Either way, I could only really add or subtract a few things from this list.  Read the full article at http://www.crispygamer.com/features/2009-06-25/the-25-games-you-need-to-finish-before-you-die.aspx.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


It's been a busy week around PLAY READ WRITE. I've been doing a lot of writing, a lot of playing, and, of course, a lot of reading. What does that mean? Well it means that I've been a busy gamer, but I've also gotten a lot done around the ol' archive. I hope to continue writing strong opinionated commentaries on what I'm playing or seeing around the industry, while also crafting interesting, informed pieces, like this entry on James Barnett and his video game art. There's still a lot else out there to read, and you'll keep finding it right here. For today:

Oil Paintings of 2fort

James Barnett's work was recently splashed across the collective gaming internet after he sent notice of his work to several sites. "Just astounding," Barnett said of the reaction from gaming fans around the world. "I knew I had some pretty OK paintings, and was happy with them. But I submitted them to the video game websites through the normal channels--the contact forms and the 'tips@___' email addresses--and received responses almost immediately. Yesterday, I emailed one site's tips email address and got up to get something to eat. Someone from the site called me before I could even finish making a sandwich."

Word has spread fast about Barnett's work, and for good reason. His impressions of these landscapes can transport frequent visitors directly into the game world, all without having to launch Team Fortress 2, or Half-Life 2. Barnett also painted a view within the fictional Liberty City from Grand Theft Auto IV, which is in turn an "artist's rendering" of New York City. An impression of an impression, if you will, still has a strong effect.

Barnett has been a long time gamer, "since [his] dad brought home an Atari 2600. [He's] been gaming a very very long time. It was just one of those things--love at first sight," but his painting has been a pickup hobby for a shorter period of time. "[I've been painting] since around 2001, when the internet bubble crashed. I started mostly to amuse myself! I'd taken a few art classes, but hadn't trained to be a painter," he said.

Barnett said he was interested in doing impressions of any 3D game, but that he lacked interest in painting "grim space marines or brown-gray hallways or elf kingdoms or hordes of zombies." It seems that Half-life 2's stark realism and Team Fortress 2's cartoon stylings captured Barnett's imagination in just the right way.

"I got a new video card a while back but after I'd started painting. The afternoon light in Call of Duty and Half-Life 2 just blew me away, and that's when I decided I'd paint from video games," Barnett said. He's also spent countless hours in Team Fortress 2.

"Well, I knew I was going to paint [TF2] almost immediately, since I'd had the idea for video game paintings a long time before and I look at each new game I play under that light. But I've put in well over 100 hours, with pyro, engineer, and spy being my top classes. It took a while to get the hang of playing spy, but 5 backstabs in a row make one feel like a magnificent jerk."

When asked about what work he was interested in doing in the future, Barnett said "Next round, I'd like to try some sci-fi-based game scenes, just for the goofiness of using a 100-year-old style to paint science fiction. And more portraits."

You can see more of Barnett's work at his site http://jamesbarnett.net/.

Pacther on Last.fm, Twitter, Facebook

Michael Pachter has certainly made a name for himself in analyzing the video game business, but I can't help but think that he misses the mark often enough to relieve him of any sort of real op ed credibility. Take this article over at Gamasutra for example. In it, Pachter says that (one of) the most important announcements at E3 was the addition of Twitter, Facebook, and Last.fm functionality to the 360's dashboard.

Who knows? Maybe he's right, and that added functionality will blow all other systems out of the water. Or maybe he's completely off his mark. Such is the balance of analysts in the video game industry.

I can see where he's coming from. Microsoft originally sold the Xbox to those who would buy consoles, toys at prices upwards of $300. Now that they've gotten millions of these units under TVs and hooked up to the internet, they've begun to add functionality and accessbility for the rest of the family. 1 vs 100 is a good example of adding content and things to do that don't necessarily require twitch gaming skills like Halo 3. Project Natal is another step in a direction that opens the Xbox to a market that includes the entire family, not just the 16-25 year old males.

Where is it all going to bring us? I think that the next step in this console evolution will come in the next generation of the Xbox. It will still be marketed heavily to gamers, but it'll also come along with tons of features for everyone in the house. Maybe it'll also include DVR capabilities. Time will tell if Facebook, Twitter, and Last.fm were the biggest announcements of E3 2009, but lets be honest. If the future turns out the way we've postulated here, you know you'll be looking at the Project Natal reveal over those other features.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


FURTHER READING stumbled on a lot today, especially since yesterday's edition was posted so early that I was already noting things of interest last night before midnight. As much as I love posting FURTHER READING, I also need to remember that more in depth posting should be a paradigm of PLAY READ WRITE. In other words, expect FURTHER READING to not exceed 3 or 4 links, while anything extra of particular interest will be blogged fully. Anyways, check out these bits of tid:

Racism in FF Tactics A-2

This isn't my first foray into Final Fantasy Tactics. FF Tactics Advance took away many hours of my life back when it was released on the Game Boy Advance. Now after borrowing A-2 for the DS from my friend Austin, I'm reminded of the harrowing racism in the game. I'm joking of course, but I still think its interesting how the law system in the game affects the player's decisions.

I don't know if you can see the text in this screen shot, but underneath the first line (which displays the main objective of the battle), the law is displayed. In this particular battle, actions by Nu Mou are forbidden. Nu Mou are a race in the game. During my current play through, my black mage is a Nu Mou. I was particularly frustrated by this law set as I would have benefitted by my Nu Mou's magic abilities. Being discouraged from using a specific race might be a form of racism in games if the same race were always discouraged, but FFT A-2 generally mixes things up. Sometimes Moogles are forbidden.

While this time I waged war on the beasts of the land without my Nu Mou companion, it doesn't mean I can't ignore the judges laws next time around. I don't think I'm anywhere near the end of A-2, but in FF Tactics Advance, the conclusion of the storyline revealed that the laws were corrupt in some way (at least that's how I remember it). Will A-2 end the same way?

My Work Station

I don't think I've detailed my work station here before, and with the return of my Xbox 360, I think now is as appropriate a time as any. I love seeing where other people game or work. I think its interesting to see their specific interests, what they choose to show off about themselves, or just absorb some cool decorating ideas. Maybe its just my curiosity, but I can't help but be entertained by seeing what consoles someone has, what DVDs are on the shelf, what game systems they're playing.... Anyways, enough about other people, more about me!

Starting from the left side of the image:
1. Xbox 360 Pro (20 gig hard drive) with 364/500 Alan Wake face plate.
2. In the drawer: two 360 controllers, a wavebird, cables, and copies of Windows XP and Leopard.
3. HP all in one printer on the floor.
4. Macbook Pro.
5. Aluminum keyboard, wired.
6. Samsung 26" LCD.
7. Notebook, headphones, business card and other assorted items.
8. Shelf full of Xbos 360 games, Gamecube games, and PC games.

Maybe some day in the future when I have nothing to write about I'll detail what's on the shelf. Somewhere out there is a website that applies the same concept to gamer social networking, but I'd much rather just lay it all on PLAY READ WRITE.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Not a lot of breaking news today, but plenty of interesting tid bits to check out.  Who knew there were so many gaming-related gems on the internet today?  FURTHER READING, that's who!

Many happy returns...

My Xbox 360 made its way back to me today.  I can't help but question just what they did to it.  It was at the service center for four hours before I was notified by email that it was ready to be shipped back to me.  This might have sent me for a loop, but I just assumed that I was going to get a new Xbox in place of my RR'd one.

This was not the case.  I opened the package from UPS today to find the same scuff marks on the side of my console (along with a 1 month Live Gold card taped to the side).  I shrugged and happily sat the console in its place after redressing it with my Alan Wake faceplate from E3.

I snapped this picture just moments ago.  I'm happy to have it back.  A friend had loaned me his, but its nice to know that I can give it back now and continue the use of my own console.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


FURTHER READING has gotten a little lazy around the edges. I think part of the problem is that there are days where I'm not on my computer and obviously that makes it hard to find things for FR. Another point: I think FR is a feature that enables me to be lazy about posting everyday. Of course, if it weren't for FR then my daily posts would be made up of my thoughts on what I read or what I played that day. In any case, I'll continue to soldier on with FR while also trying to maintain some daily writing on further topics. Over the weekend I read (and watched) this stuff:
Lately I've been craving some old-school games. The other day I played maybe half an hour of Nintendo 64 and its inspired me to think about some Good Ol' Games. I'd love to be able to pop Super Mario RPG into an SNES, but alas my collection does not extend that far. Hopefully the next couple of weeks will find me in a job with some financial strength.

I've also been thinking about Game On, a store a teen opened in Denver at the age of 18. I'd really like to visit this store next month when I head to Colorado for family. Maybe I'll put some interviewing skills to the test and come away with a couple of tips in video game entrepreneurism.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I played Resident Evil 5 with a friend last night for the first time for a respectable chunk of time. While it's too scary for me to play alone (I'm a wuss, I know), it was a lot of fun with a partner. When panicked we would both exclaim and attempt to help the player in peril. I can firmly say that I like this co-op play a lot more than Army of Two. On the topic of stopping and shooting, that really is the way Resident Evil should be played. They've already tweeked the series into an action movie in a lot of ways, but I think the pacing and fear and general style of play is grounded by stopping, shooting, and freaking out when the zombies approach. I'm hoping to spend a little bit more time with game before I have to return it to my friend. It looks gorgeous and the frame rate doesn't stop even in split screen. More impressions to come if I get to play some more.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


It has been sometime since I didn't write FURTHER READING as the clock struck midnight, so I think this has been a fairly productive day (despite much napping). In addition to a Peggle iPhone review there was

REVIEW: Peggle for the iPhone

Peggle for the iPhone is about the same experience as you'll find on any other platform you can find it on. Adventure mode puts you through all available puzzles with each character and their respective powers. There is also a quick play mode for when your girlfriend's nieces get ahold of your phone and want to play games. Rounding out the modes is a challenge mode for some extra replay value and a Duel mode which I haven't had the opportunity to try.

Having cleared the adventure mode, which does do a good job of presenting the overall Peggle experience, Challenge mode is a godsend. Granted I only bought the game for ¢99 while it was on sale last week, I would have been disappointed if all I got was a path through all of the puzzles and a quick play mode.

While adventure mode introduces the special abilities that green pegs will grant you as you solve puzzles, challenge mode is where you'll have to put them to use. Some of the challenge maps require you to hit a larger number of orange pegs (which are the pegs you have to clear in order to clear a map), or score a large amount of points on a map, each section gets progressively harder. The challenge here is the real value. Each map can be taken in small bites so it'll take plenty of rides on transit for a player to clear one of these challenge modes.

This is my first time playing Peggle, but I've heard so much about it that some things are kind of weird through self-discovery. First, the aesthetic of the game is sure to scare off some core gamers, but beyond there is a lot to the puzzles and mechanics of the game. Its kind of like a strange turn on pachinko wrapped up in a candy bar wrapper. Second, the scoring really empowers the player. Everything comes together to make you feel like you did an awesome job. I think this factor is what makes it the most casual friendly, despite the very real difficulty some of the puzzles present. My guess is that no matter how many times a player will have to attempt at clearing a map, they'll remember the EXTREME FEVER finish. Lastly, lining up shots can be really disappointing, or really rewarding. In my mind this is a cost/benefit that will either keep players interested or turn players off. In my case, I'll keep coming back to fine-tune my shots. Slightly more casual players might not like how easy it is to fail miserably. Even so, not clearing a map isn't the biggest loss in the world.

Before playing it, I might have turned my nose up at Peggle, but now I can say that Peggle is for everyone who likes to have fun and can look past a colorful nonsensical exterior.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Today was another busy day, well actually it wasn't that busy.  But instead, it was full of playing games on my friend's loaned 360, well actually it was full of watching Netflix streaming on my 360.  Anyways, it didn't stop some interesting reads from filling in the gaps.  You can check those out below, and I'll have my Peggle iPhone review up tomorrow.  In the meantime, check out how

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


FURTHER READING has been experiencing some technical difficulties over the past two days. I hope you haven't been missing it too bad. Some interesting news today, including reviews of Prototype. I wondered how the two open-world super-hero-style games would play off of each other. It seems to me that Prototype has been more favorably reviewed, but Infamous had more buzz around its release. I'll be dropping an iPhone Peggle review in the coming week so stay tuned for that as

On its way back already!

I'm very happy to hear from Microsoft's service center that my Xbox is on its way back to me. How long do you think the shipping will take? The trip there took about 4 or 5 days.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


A busy weekend means that I'm a busy blogger.  Obviously that doesn't stop the news from rolling in.  Keep it tuned here for FURTHER READING everyday and even another issue of "That's the Name of the Game" tomorrow, probably in the afternoon.  Until then, keep yourself busy reading the following (as I have...):

Friday, June 12, 2009


I wrote about two things I read today, but that doesn't mean there isn't FURTHER READING...
Metroid Other M reminds me of development studios trading intellectual properties and seeing what they might do with them.  What other titles have been traded like Metroid has been to Team Ninja?  I'm excited to see what is made of the title, but I'd also like to see this happen more often down the line.  When fresh developers get to take a crack at characters and story lines that have a long history, good things can happen.

More Mirror's Edge on the way! (YAY!)

I can't tell you how happy I am that there's confirmation of more Mirror's Edge coming out of DICE.  I was hoping to see some of the sequel at E3 2009, but unfortunately there was none.  To celebrate, here are several of the sites who've picked up this story:

And here's the trailer to the original!

The Xbox 360's entertainment center

Kotaku has asked the question "When will it be wrong to call the Xbox 360 a game console?"

With the advent of new features including Facebook, Last.fm, and (more importantly) Netflix support, its clear that the 360 is becoming a more capable unit in the entertainment space.  The NXE is probably the biggest step the 360 has made to make itself more accessible to the members of your family that aren't the primary users of the 360.

Last year, after the launch of the Netflix streaming service, my mom was watching The Office with me on the Xbox.  After I was done watching, she asked me what else the streaming service could do.  I promptly loaded up episodes of 30 Rock and she was blown away.  While the discs that come in the mail can lay stagnate (often frequently), having the Netflix library at the touch of a button made so much more sense (especially with the heavy use of the DVR in my house).

While I agree that these are definitely steps away from the traditional home video game console model, they're still derivative of what console gamers do on a regular basis, especially those playing games in High Definition.  If you have an HD TV, you definitely have a high speed internet connection, and I don't know too many people who have those things and are unlikely to have Netflix subscriptions.  In addition, I think most Xbox 360 users are internet-savvy enough to have a Facebook account and a Last.fm account.  These services, while widening the capabilities of the Xbox 360, do not change the entire console model.

What is more interesting to me is the advent of Xbox Live Primetime, and the way that the console will take the stage after dinner in the living room instead of primetime television.  I'm eager to see the program come out of beta, but I doubt if I or anyone I know will ever be able to take center stage to win some Microsoft points.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Late night FURTHER READING commence! A couple of interesting reads today, including some stuff from Valve's Gabe Newell, and when any information from inside that company slips out, its always a good read. I played a healthy dose of Halo 3 last night with friends and it was as much fun as I remember it being. Hopefully we'll be able to get a bigger group together for another round as

I want to play Fable II

When my 360 finally returns to me, I'll have plenty of games to play as I've been building a list in my head.  I still want to chug along on Fallout 3, but I've also decided that I want to sit down and play Fable II.

I've heard lots of good things about it, and it came out right around the same time as Fallout 3, but has many differing qualities.

I never played the first iteration of Fable on Xbox, so I won't have any preconceived notions about what to expect from the game, plus I didn't really pay any attention to all of the build up from Molyneux before the release, so I won't have that horrible let down a lot of people suffered from.

Does anyone else have any other titles I should catch up on after I get my 360 back from service?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


While I continue my way through Final Fantasy Tactics A-2 and discover just how rare my Alan Wake 360 faceplate is (364 out of 500), there's lots of stuff to read for the day.  Like these:
Final Fantasy Tactics A-2 has been fun, but I wish I could transfer some of the clan members I have on Tactics Advance to this game. I miss the combinations of skills and classes I had already created and I'm frustrated that the process isn't happening faster in this new game. Also: has anyone ever used the Beastmaster class? I just think of it as some weird Pokemon influence and skip over it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


E3 is over but the news, reviews, impressions, and odd tidbits are still spilling over.  Good thing you can turn to FURTHER READING to get the best of the best, or at least the stuff I find interesting.  On another note, I'm still looking to develop a podcast of some sort, but I can't seem to get the right recording set up or the right people together.  It would be nice to get something together.  I'll keep working on that end of things as

Shipping the 360 off to pasture

My 360 is packed and is on its way out to pasture. Slipping the blue packing foam around the ends of the 360 wasn't at all like shooting it out back, but that's probably the most comparable action these instructions detailed.

It was sad. I left my old face plate on the 360 and my hard drive is sitting next to my computer. I suppose I'll have to finish up Half Life 2 Episode 1 and Episode 2. I'm getting to the end of Episode 1 after a long period of not playing. The goddam darkness is too hard to play through.

I also borrowed Final Fantasy Tactics A-2 from a friend and I'll be playing a little DS in the mean time.

I guess it'll be good to be without the 360 for a little bit, only because when I get it back it'll be nice. I'm hoping it comes back before my trip to Colorado. The instructions say that when its returned they'll attempt to deliver it three times before they send it back to the service center. I don't know what kind of a mess that'll make out of everything though.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I can't tell you how busy being back from E3 has been. Lots of running around, looking for work, shipping dead 360s, and the like. But that doesn't mean there's not a lot of great stuff to read and see. FURTHER READING is my daily post so there won't be a day without one. Maybe that's what's keeping all of the readers away. FURTHER READING will continue sucking as

Sunday, June 7, 2009


FURTHER READING is quickly becoming FURTHER VIEWING, but that doesn't go along with the blog title, so I'll keep titling this post as FURTHER READING even though some of the links herein are going to be to videos like

PLAY AT E3: Bayonetta

Bayonetta was a title I was looking to get some time with at E3 because of a suggestion from a friend.  Luckily I got that time on the second day, but it was the last thing I did before leaving on Wednesday and I haven't had time to write it up... until now!

Bayonetta looks great.  Its really flashy and fast paced.  Sometimes I couldn't really see what Bayonetta was doing on screen because her suit unravels around her and it just looks like something is striking out at an enemy.  It doesn't really matter though because everything is rendered at a blistering pace.  The E3 build had terrific frame rate and there were few jaggies to be seen.

As far as story goes, none of it made any sense.  The enemies looked to have halos and cherub-like faces.  Are they supposed to be angels and Bayonetta is fighting back or something like that?  When facing a boss, the culmination of all your attacking is a prompt on screen telling you to press Y and B (on the 360 version, is the game multiplat?).  This summons a gigantic demon head from Bayonetta's clothing.  It was cool, but the cheese factor was high on this one as barely a few shreds of clothing keep from revealing Bayonetta.

One touch I really liked (and I don't know if this will be in the final build) is that during loading screens, you can control Bayonetta and view a combo list.  This was nice because I could see some of the combos before leaping into action and just mashing against enemies.  It made it seem like there was more to the game than you would think.

The Devil May Cry influence is definitely there.  You can fire your pistols at enemies with the X button while Y and B are for punches and kicks.  The gunfire seemed to interrupt the combos, but your hit count just keeps carrying on while you reposition yourself for your next volley of attacks.

Bayonetta looks great (the game...) and I look forward to playing more when it drops later this year.

PLAY AT E3: Muramasa: The Demon Blade

There were a few last titles I had gotten a chance to lay my hands on at E3 that I haven't written up yet. One of those was Wii title Muramasa: The Demon Blade.

Muramasa is a 2D title from Ignition that has the player taking the role of a character exploring feudal Japan. As you platform through levels you'll encounter enemies and collect souls. The battles are fun and contained in arenas, but with long strings of combos and lots of different attacks you'll clear the screen in a single stroke of attacks. This was probably the most fun I had with a game. All of the different directional attacks empower the player to wipe out several enemies at once. You'll launch them into the air, dash into the enemies you missed with the launch attack, and then catch them all in a string of sword swipes.

The platforming was fun, but it only served as a vehicle between battles, and really I just wanted to get on with it. The combat was a lot more fun than an exploring or collecting to be done in the game.

The art style is also of note because it employs nice, colorful, 2D graphics and sprites. The backgrounds also move as you progress through them. The developers have also developed Odin Sphere so you can look at that title for reference.

I kept wanting to flick the Wii remote to attack, but in the long run I'm happy that the developer choose to map the sword attacks to the A button alone. Attacks are fast and fluid and flicking the remote would take too much time. I was trying to catch each enemy in my attack stream (which isn't hard because the arena can get a little crowded at times) and rack up long combo scores because you're graded after every battle.

Muramasa is definitely worth checking out and as soon as I can afford to I'll be picking up the title to play around with.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


It feels like I'm still recovering from E3.  It was all so busy busy busy!  Tomorrow, I'll be headed back up north to home and to the coffin waiting for my Xbox 360.  Until then there's still plenty to read as

Friday, June 5, 2009


E3 hasn't exactly stopped yet.  Now you're getting all of the rough bits, a little bit here about booth babes, a little bit there about opinions, soon the E3 cake will have been baked and we can get back to our summer of... no upcoming games to be excited about.  Anyways, while you're waiting around for PLAY READ WRITE's overall impressions and round up of E3 news you'll have to keep you eyes busy reading elsewhere as

Thursday, June 4, 2009


It has been a crazy week to say the least, and yet it feels like it isn't even over yet.  I'm going to go rest my feet and my brain as I take the lazy route and use FURTHER READING to wrap up everything I wrote on E3 in the past week.  This will probably shock and amaze me as

That's the Name of the Game - 13

It seems to have been the longest three days of my life.  But now that its over, I kind of miss it.  I guess I'll have to report back next year.  Here's my latest entry over at bscreview.com.  I'll have more of these to post in the coming days, but for now it's time for a break.

What made a group of people this size stop and stare in one singular direction? After our experience at E3 it could have been quite a few things. In this case, we snapped this picture in the Sony booth as a God of War 3 demo was shown on a gigantic screen. Some of the people watching were actually waiting in line to play the very same demo. E3 manages to work its magic over crowds this size over three full days of video games.

PLAY AT E3: Alan Wake

Alan Wake is on screen behind closed doors at Microsoft's booth.  They're showing a condensed version of the experience.   Alan Wake is a best selling writer but he hasn't written anything in two years, his wife takes him on a vacation but she disappears.  A thriller he doesn't remember writing is coming true in front of him.  They've focused a lot on the mood and feeling and pacing.  "Previously on Alan Wake" summation of the story.  Now he's with his agent.  The voice acting is well done and the facial animations are very detailed.  Barry is a bit of comic relief.  He reacts to the light.  He also reacts to the lights being switched off.  The time of day and weather is used to change the environment and drama.   Light is more important than guns even.  The light blooms through the trees as a helicopter flies by.   Wake is trying to find the missing pages to figure out the rest of what's going on.   A page found starts a cinematic.  These pages have "a disturbing habit" of coming true.  You can hear gun shots and yells.   Someone is crying out for help as an empty car careens deadly into a fence in front of you.  What caused this occurrence?

The gun doesn't hurt the attacker, instead the light allows you to hurt the enemy.  Alan Wake fights the forces of darkness with light.  Great effects as the enemy blows up in sparks.   Sound design and narrative add to the drama.  An unknown force is lifting objects, hurling them at Alan.   The locals have been taken by the darkness.  The camera and action slows down to show an enemy attacking but that doesn't mean you can react, you are already attacked.  Alan Wake starts a generator to create a safe haven of light.  Shooting an enemy with a flare gun created a burst of light that pushes enemies over a cliff.  The darkness even takes control of a bull dozed that demolish the building Alan is in.  Enemies pour out of the darkness, leaving an ally in light as a trap almost.

An NPC dies and the facial animations portray a lot of the drama.  Running from another construction vehicle in a car, you run down enemies who are in a weakened state from the headlights.   More pages are found at a light house.  The light house shuts down and Alan realizes that he has sprung a trap.  A "To Be Continued" card is displayed.

PLAY AT E3: Army of Two 40th Day

Army of Two didn't really do it for me when I played it near it's release.  EA is giving it another shot and they're trying to sell it through organic co op.  They've also tried to put more character and story into their "disaster game."

A helicopter carrying a car smashes into a building, and the players are immediately thrust into the action.  Cover is also automatic.  Are you the kind of person who saves the civilians or do you shoot them all?  When surprising enemies you can tie them up.  You don't have to save the civilians but if you do they'll help you with rewards and weapon parts.  When one player can't see what the other does they use co op tagging to give the other player directions.   When out numbered you can mock surrender, and the take out the enemies in style.  The city certainly emits a feel of chaos and the developers are trying to keep away from re typical video game fair, which is good because the original title only offered co op to stay unique.  The players are in an office building and the roof gets lifted off right above their heads.  Boy the frame rate sure does suck though.

Now we're in a museum level and a cinematic has the characters loading up on weapons.  A officer enters, when you decided to continue taking the weapons you slap the gun out of your face.  The gun goes off and the bullet recochets through the officer's head.  Finally they're showing us the weapon customization, which they're calling "Lego for guns."

And that's it.  Nothing really special there in my eyes.  Who knows, maybe there's something I missed.
It was kind of like the popular table in the media room at lunch with Mike Fahey, Cheapy D, and Stephen Totilo sitting together.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Phew! I guess it really doesn't stop (until it does...). Today was another busy day. As soon as we got to the show we wasted no time and immediately hopped on the Left 4 Dead 2 demo. From there it was busy busy busy. I also picked up a few business cards as

That's the Name of the Game - 12

We saw lots of stuff today and one of the nicest presentations was from the people at Harmonix and MTV Games. We were scheduled to see the Beatles Rock Band demonstration and then we got a chance to play the game. It was fun!

I saw MTV Games and Harmonix present this band-specific iteration of Rock Band today at E3. They had constructed a set made to look like the famous Abbey Road recording studio. Inside, we sat in rows as the developers took the stage. They introduced the game and walked us through the menus. They explained some key features and tweaks they had made to the typical Rock Band title to make it more accessible to new players attracted by The Beatles moniker. No-Fail Mode is on automatically so that brand new players aren’t scared away their first time. And new players will definitely be making their way to Rock Band.

You can read the full article at "http://www.bscreview.com/2009/06/thats-the-name-of-the-game-the-beatles-rock-band/"

Tomorrow is the last day, but that doesn't mean there isn't more to see, more news to read, or more for me to write. See you tomorrow.
Does this Bayonetta model looks uncomfortable to you too?

PLAY AT E3: Halo 3: ODST

I'm about to see Halo 3: ODST behind doors, demoed by Joe Staten and Paul Batone. Brad Shoemaker is here too! Two discs will come in the retail pack. One disc is the game and the other is all Halo 3 multiplayer (maps and all). Campaign is fully featured. Firefight is a coop game mode. The theater is the same as it was in Halo 3. Extras will allow you access the Halo: Reach beta. Beginning has your ship assaulting a covenant ship. ODST cast has animated faces, player controls the rookie first. This character does not show his face. You enter this characters POV as a teammate hits you with the butt of his rifle. Next your in the drop ship. You see a lot of others dropping as well. Mission drop doesn't go perfectly, obviously. This takes place many weeks before Halo 3. This time shockwave knocks you out cold. When you wake up, you're own your own and it's night. SMG looks to be outfitted with a sniper and a scope. Visit turns on to see in low light. Friends show up as green in visor, enemies are read. Sound surpressed pistol also zooms. Takes out enemies with head shots. The tried to create a city that was shrouded in mystery. It's the same gameplay but with a new mystery story. "The Superintendant" is your only friend. He's an AI that controls systems in the city. Visor database gives you a map and tracks enemies. The city is the biggest environment they've ever created in Halo. The city is easy to get lost in because it's entirely non-linear. The superintendant gives you locations but you can drop way points as well. Co op let's your partners all set way points as well. Compass keeps you on track along with way point markers. Signs in the city also help through the superintendants control. Searching for clues once you reach the alpha site, buildings are on fire, look great in the updated engine. Flash back brings the player to "Dutch's" story, during the rookie's nap. Cinematic is shown in first person. Night time is about mystery, day time is about action. The superintendant helps Dutch blow the bridge.

Firefight demonstration is up next. All four players share from a common stock of lives. There's no set time or wave limit. Enemy waves are random, in this example there are enemy tanks and grunts. Total team points are displayed along with your own personal points. Joe says that the game isn't really open world like grand theft auto, but instead it's like a non-linear mission model.

PLAY AT E3: Batman: Arkham Assylum

I played through the opening of Batman: Arkham Assylum before making my way to Microsoft's booth. It was some brutal fun, and the character models were good looking, but I can't say the same for Harley Quinn's character design. Overall it was just alright, the combat flows well and even when you're discovered you can dissappear into the shadows again.

More later.

Later: Batman was pretty much everything I expected it to be. We've already seen and heard so much about the game that there couldn't have been too many more surprises. Actually, I would be more excited about the game if the Joker maps were going to be playable at all on 360. Maybe they're timed exclusive, in which case I'll probably pay more attention when the 360 release is more imminent. Until then, the controls were smooth, not so intuitive, but that's kind of a good thing. It means that there is a bit of complexity to the brawler, which will hopefully keep it from being boring. The sneaking around was kind of fun too. Like I said, I was discovered but hoping over the railing and then grappling to the ceiling got me back in my cover of shadow. Batman will ship later this summer.

PLAY AT E3: The Beatles Rock Band

Notes from Beatles presentation:
Why a Beatles game? Because it's the Beatles, adding the Beatles is great mixer.
Starting with I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Ed Sullivan set, there's a special background during overdrive, animation and graphics looks great, full of life. 3 mics allow harmony.
Damn they're good, 5 stars, before the break and 360,000 points. Colors are all around less neon. Song ends at 490,000. Trying to give feedback so you can see how you're doing. Shows scores on harmonies. There are different markers for the different vocalists. You don't get penalized for one person doing awfully. They're trying to get the game as accessible as possible to accommodate the new players coming to the game for The Beatles brand. Quick play mode has everything unlocked right away. The menus are all newly stylized for The Beatles too and they all look good.

Day Tripper is up next. Good to know I'm not the only one who has trouble with rolls on drums. The drums look great with the face plate. Definitely replacing the old Rock Band 1 drums. Clearly they've references footage of The Beatles performances. 5 stars and 395,747. All Rock Band instruments are compatible. Kick scrim is well made, the demonstrator pretends to kick it. Abbey Road is the first full length album. All You Need Is Love is a timed exclusive for Xbox Live.

The studio-only songs won't be performed in front of in game audiences. Instead they'll take off into "dreamscapes." beatlesrockband.com/press USSR invokes lots of Russian imagery. It's crazy but it works: why is Beatles Rock Band fun? Because it's the Beatles. I'm not even playing and I'm having fun.

More to read on play experience later.

Playing the game was about as fun as watching it. Really, when you see The Beatles Rock Band, you have to ask yourself "What is the selling point of this game?" Obviously the answer is The Beatles, their music, their culture, their likenesses. That is what this game is all about. They have made changes to allow for the new players who are drawn by the license, but its still Rock Band through and through. Don't like the Beatles? Obviously you won't be buying.

The guitar controllers were a little different from my first generation plastic instruments, but I'm sure they're pretty near to the feel the Rock Band 2 instruments give off. You'll be seeing The Beatles Rock Band later in the year and expect the Rock Band/Pepsi promotion to put The Beatles Rock Band at the fore front as well.

Aren't getting enough PLAY READ WRITE? Wanna see what we're eating for lunch? twitter.com/danielrbischoff
About to see Beatles Rock Band and just got an appointment to see ODST.

PLAY AT E3: Left 4 Dead 2

The new campaign is called "The Parish."  Survivors Nick, Ellis, Rochelle, and Coach start on a dock in daylight and make their way through a town.   The axe is available and it takes out multiple infected with one swing.  It doesnt replace the handgun and the primary weapon, and you can melee when holding the ax as well, but you drop the ax when you switch to a different gun.   New guns are available as well but they just replace the roles the shotguns and machine guns filled before.  Car alarms are still a factor as are the special infected.  Unfortunately, setting the game in daytime removes a bulk of the atmosphere that was present in L4D.  The demo on the floor is running over system link on four 360s.  The new boss infected is called the charger and it looks just as intimidating as the tank without the life span.  The survivors are a new mix of characters.   Rochelle looks like a black Zoey, Coach is a little overweight, Nick looks like doctor, and Ellis looks like a red neck with a baseball cap on.   More details on how it plays later.

It plays great!  Its still the same action and pacing, but with the daylight much of the mood is missing.  Apparently the developers are going to try to involve more story into the game this time around.  One thing of particular note is that the frying pan is really satisfying.  When you hit zombies with it it makes a "BONK" sort of sound that is really rewarding.  Left 4 Dead 2 will be out later this year.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Today has been busy to say the least.  E3 is kind of overwhelming.  There's so much information, so much to see, so much to play, and its hard to get it all down for the blog, not to mention the work I have to do for bscreview.com.  I'm love reading about all of this stuff too, so how do I strike a balance between seeing for myself and reading all the great coverage out there as

That's the Name of the Game - 11 (E3 Day 1)

I've thrown up a Day 1 review of the news and topics coming out of E3 2009.  Of course I have a lot of in depth coverage here, and if you're coming over from bscreview.com I welcome you and hope you stick around (and maybe leave a comment or two).  Here's a quick snippet from That's the Name of the Game:

Lots of big news is piling out of E3 2009, and today is only the first day the Exhibit doors are open. Of course it helps that Microsoft, Ubisoft, and EA (three of the biggest exhibitors) held their individual press conferences yesterday. Nintendo and Sony had their press conferences this morning. All together, there was a lot of news to process.

Keep your finger over the F5 key here at PLAY READ WRITE as well.  I'll be cleaning up the posts I've made all day while also adding more and more tomorrow.  Any suggestions to what I should be checking out tomorrow?

PLAY AT E3: Mass Effect 2

About to watch mass effect 2 behind closed doors.

Even though I had never played the first Mass Effect title, Mass Effect 2's presentation still left a strong impression. The first half focused on the way dynamic conversation will affect the story line and cinematics, while the second was a sort of graphical tour de force.

In the opening, the demonstrators confirmed that Commander Shephard was not dead, but then illustrated many different ways that he could die over the course of Mass Effect 2. The demonstrators took us through a few fire fights and then dove into the dynamic conversation.

Conversation choices were presented on screen while the cinematics played through and facial animations conveyed the drama in each scene.

Before too much story could be spoiled, the demonstrators brought us to a new scene in which the ship Shephard and his crew are on is aflame and about to crash into a planet. The fire and camera movement conveyed a lot of action and intensity, but this was starkly contrasted by the vacuum of space when Shephard stepped out into an exposed part of the ship. Breathing played over the blue setting and invoked a feeling of being lost in space. By the end of the scene, Shephard was still in the ship when it was being fired on again. Is he going to be dead this time?

The developers stressed that Mass Effect 2 would center around a suicide mission and that it would take a lot of preparation to avoid ultimate death. The demonstrator wanted to express that although Shephard had made it through to this sequel, it is entirely possible for the characters to die in this sequel.

PLAY AT E3: Brutal Legend

Up next: Brutal Legend

Brutal Legend was a lot of fun, and had some surprises.

The player is Eddie Riggs, a roadie whose belt transports him to an alternate dimension when it gets a little blood on it. The model is very clearly inspired by Jack Black and the voice fits. Its good that he's only voicing the character though because I can't really stand Jack Black in reality.

After crash landing in this alternate dimension, Eddie finds "The Separator" and then his guitar. The Separator is an ax that serves as the primary weapon. The guitar takes on new abilities, like that of striking enemies with lightning or blowing them up with fire. The guitar does overheat though, so you can't overuse it. Little details make the game come to life, like Eddie shaking his fingers after the guitar overheats.

You battle through numerous enemies and the jokes fly. Finally you come to an arena where you find a set of notes that act like Ocarina of Time's songs. In this case you awaken a boss character that you have to defeat with your hot rod.

Possibly most surprising about the demo was that the game world is actually an open world with specific landmarks that will take you on further missions against the forces of evil.

Little story was revealed but we did see Ozzy Osbourne team up with Eddie in a mission through hell. The jokes flew here and it seems like Brutal Legend will be a title full of life, humor, and color. Look out for it later this year (if Activision's law suit doesn't stop it from being published).

PLAY AT E3: Split/Second

Gonna check out Split Second in just a second. I can't believe it's a Disney game. It looks great!
Split Second was really cool.

Dynamic camera angles made the racing pretty action packed. As you drift, a meter fills up and you use that meter allows you to change the environment (through explosions of course). As your track changes you and other players crash and these crashes result in slowed down clips of the crash.

Graphically, it looked amazing, and there's nothing about the game that suggests Disney Interactive, but they've been moving away from that lately anyways. The burnout type actions you do to build up your meter aren't very hard to pull off either and I think there are more ways to build the meter than just drifting around corners.

I didn't know anything about Split Second until... the last second before E3. I'm glad I got a chance to play it because it'll probably be on my radar until release.

PLAY AT E3: The Conduit multiplayer

Conduit multiplayer was a lot of fun, mostly because I owned (20-7). Controls were quick, responsive and extremely customizable. I was pulling off pretty quick shots too. If there are any troubles it just takes a little practice.

While graphically it wasn't as sharp as Red Steel 2's stylized visuals, but it still held up among other Wii titles.  I think a lot of focus was put on getting the game out the door in a playable fashion.  They seem to have worked so hard on the controls that everything else won't matter.  You could say that The Conduit is the jumping off point for Wii FPS titles.

The match I played was on a map of streets and warehouses.  We played with the explosives weapon set.  Of course the spawning weapon is a rocket launcher, but a grenade launcher and an alien explosive weapon was also available to players on the map.

The most important thing to note: the box in which your reticule aims without turning you is completely customizable.  If the first Red Steel's bounding box is your thing, you can extend the box to the edge of the screen.  I struck a balance somewhere in between.  My bounding box was stretched a little wider than taller to accompany for enemies appearing in horizontal areas.

Unfortunately I was still zipping off too far to the side.  Maybe because I was playing at the convention it was too easy to lose where the sensor bar was placed.  I'll try to check out the single player demo of the conduit at Sega's booth over the next two days.

PLAY AT E3: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

I also had a chance to check out the New Super Mario Bros. title for Wii. It'll have four player co-op and competitive. The demo was set up for 3 player co op and when I got left behind I lost a life. Otherwise pretty fun.

The game looks like a graphically sharper version of New Super Mario Bros. on DS, it has the same visual style and effects.  Items like mushrooms float around in bubbles, and when you lose a life while playing cooperatively, you come back on screen in a bubble.  After losing a life the demonstrator told me that I could shake the Wii remote to bring my bubble closer to the other players.  Another player has to touch the bubble in order to release you back into play.

It seems like their designing the same sort of hidden areas into New Super Mario Bros. Wii as they did before.  The large coins also made a return in the level I tried.  The first player took the role of Mario, I played Luigi in the second slot, and the third player took control of toad.  I couldn't see who would fill the fourth role.

PLAY AT E3: Red Steel 2

I just finished trying out Red Steel 2. The graphical style fit well, but the sword didn't respond as fast as I would have liked.

The demo opens with the character waking up in the desert.  An enemy is standing over you.  The camera reveals that your hands are bound and then that the enemy has you tied to the back of his motorcycle.  After being drug through the desert, your hand is freed and you pull a shot off at the motorcycle rider.  The enemy manages to slip away and you are tasked with giving chase.

As you progress, you find a pistol and then a katana.  The player also picks up money from boxes, lockers, and fallen enemies.  By the time I had finished the demo I had already amassed over 2000 gold (or whatever currency the game uses).  The developer who helped to guide me through the demo said that this money will be used to buy things like ammunition as you progress through the game.

Overall, I'd say that Red Steel 2 is miles ahead of how the original performed.  Motion Plus adds to the over all control and the sword does not operate in strictly vertical and horizontal slices.  Now you have to use very broad gestures "because the katana is a big sword."

I recorded a little bit while playing through the demo.  I'll have a download for that a little later.

The Media room

Much free lunch was had today as we arrived in the media room before the doors opened to the exhibitor floor.

We're at E3 2009. I think the first thing we'll do is walk the show floor. Updates will probably fall later tonight. The press room is crowded as is the rest of the convention center lobby. Updates will continue....