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The original Fable made a positive impression upon me when it was released back in 2004 and I consider it one of the best original Xbox games I ever played. Four years later we have Fable II arriving on Microsofts Xbox 360 and with it I held high hopes that the sequel will be every bit as enjoyable, if not more so, than its predecessor. Now, Im a long way from finishing Fable II. This isnt a video game you can choke down in one intensive weekend. But I thought Id share some impressions of what Ive enjoyed about the game so far.

It seems to me that a number of video game developers in recent years have forgotten that video games are meant to be fun. Challenging yes, but if the challenge isnt fun then whats the point? After having my fill of recent video games that have made me want to rip my controller in half picking up and playing Fable II came as a welcome change of pace. This game is fun, I call it gamer friendly, and considering it contains about 100 hours of gameplay Im glad Fable II has been designed to be this way.

Fable II is set 500 years after the original Fable and has no ties to its predecessor. The setting is somewhere in and around an English 18th century in a region known as Albion. You begin the game choosing a male or female character after which you start the game in a small town as a poor little scamp of a kid roaming about with your older sister. After a few events that lay out the beginning of the games story your childhood ends and you find yourself as a young adult, a hero in the making, off on a quest for justice and adventure.

It didnt take long for me to fall under the particular charm of the game. The dialog and voice acting are particularly well done and I found myself actually interested in what various characters would say and felt no desire to skip through dialog to get to the point. Im enjoying the fact that Fable II has what many RPGs seem to lack and thats a healthy sense of humor. Though certainly youll find the game has its share of dark moments, overall I found the games lightheartedness quit amusing. As far as interacting with NPCs go I did feel they tended to come off a bit robotic when addressing you. They have a tendency to stare out blankly in your general direction as they speak their dialog and I kinda wished they spoke to me a little more directly. Even if you run away they still continue their dialog as if you were standing right in front of them. But its a minor point. Overall interacting with characters is a delight, making the game more immersive.

Getting about your various quests is easily done as instead of a mini-map on your HUD you are given a glowing breadcrumb trail in front of you leading you in the direction you need to go. The trail can be turned on or off but I appreciated having it on as I never found myself wondering around asking myself Where the hell is so and so. Contrary as to what you might think the breadcrumb trail makes exploring off the beaten track more enjoyable as you know no matter how far you venture off the main quest path you can always find your way back on track. Aside from the breadcrumb trail you also have a quest map and the ability to instantly teleport to locations that you have previously visited.

Then there is the dog companion which youll find a welcome addition to your travels. Though it tends to act a little spazztic (I actually was able to name him as Spazz via a dog collar I picked up) the dog is none the less very helpful in sniffing out treasure, warning you of upcoming danger as well as tackling a grounded foe. You can abuse it or treat it like your best friend, I would recommend the latter as a happy healthy dog will bring you more fortune than not. You might think that the dog companion and the breadcrumb trail make the game a bit easy to play but really all it does is make the game more fun as it takes away the tedium of your adventuring.

Much like the original Fable game, but a little more advanced, you have a choice between a good or an evil path for your character. Either of which will change not only your physical appearance but how other characters will respond to you and the general world around you. Actions are judged through various scales not just as good or bad but also as pure or corrupt. It would appear to be bit of a novelty but there are many shades of grey where sometimes the seemingly bad action is actually the better one in the long run and vis-versa. Making choices in these shades of grey is much of what makes this game so immersive and personalized for the player.

What Im sure many will enjoy is the plethora of activities you can engage in Fable II giving you many roles to play in the game aside from your main heroic quest. For example you can buy living quarters, shops and taverns and earn income from them even when you are not playing the game. You can take odd jobs from towns folks like being a blacksmith or bartender or take on more adventurous pursuits like being a Bounty Hunter or Assassin. Owning and managing business gives you robust choices that effect the way other characters perceive you. For example as a corrupt and greedy landlord you could commit robberies around town that will lower property values and then turn around and scoop up these properties at a below value price and then raise the rents. Of course you wont be making any friends that way but you will make a tidy profit which may help you in your overall quest. On the flip side you could own a shop and sell goods cheaply making you the town favorite, which could open up opportunities to you, but of course your subsequent profit margins will be quite low or non existent. Yet another example of just how Fable II gives you the opportunity to play the game in your own unique way.

Combat is simply executed but none the less fun. One button for short range melee, one for long range attacks with a pistol or bow, and one button to unleash magic spells. Highlight the target you want to hit and off you go dispatching enemies one after another with grace and some cool looking animations. Defeating foes gives you experience points you can use to buff up your character in various areas from being more hardy in combat to increased magic abilities. Note that Lionhead had done away with player death, get knocked out and you will be revived on the spot with only a loss of experience points. All in all I enjoyed the simplicity of combat as well as the variation of weapons and magic spells. The combat was still challenging even though you cant die and frankly with so many hours of gameplay ahead of me Im glad to not have to redo any areas.

Graphically Fable II stays true to the original Fable in style. Characters get a slight upgrade in polygon count for the sequel but nothing to make you ohh and ahhh. Where the game looks noticeable improved is in the beautiful and expansive environments. Fable II, in its own style, is a really beautiful game to adventure around in. Which is not to say its all pretty vistas as some areas a quit dark and foreboding. The variety, artwork and rendering is what I really liked.

Again there is so much to do and experience in Fable II that its probably the most robust RPG Ive ever played. I mean how many RPGs give you the option to cohort with prostitutes (dont forget to bring a condom, and no Im not kidding) or woo a suitable companion, get her (or yourself) pregnant, and start a family? The time and effort put into Fable II shows in spades. Ill mention quickly that there is an option for online Co-Op but Ive yet to try it out. Apparently the second player merely acts as a henchmen and its not as involved as one would have hoped. Still its an option available to you if you care to bring a friend along in your travels.

Well I got many, many more hours of this game to go play through but I feel capable of saying at this point that if you are into action-RPGs then Fable II should more than satisfy you.
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Holiday
10:32 AM on 09.30.2008



If you’ve enjoyed LEGO themed video games but kinda wished the series would venture beyond the confines of George Lucas’s imagination well your in luck. Video game developer Traveler’s Tales, creators of the popular LEGO Star Wars saga and LEGO Indiana Jones, have teamed up with DC Comics to bring you LEGO Batman. The pairing of LEGO bricks and comic book icons seems a match made in heaven (or is it the Hall of Justice?), and since the game’s announcement I’m sure many a gamer has held high hopes for this new LEGO title. Having played the game I’m happy to say that despite a few minor flaws, most of which seem inherent to all LEGO video game titles, LEGO Batman was enjoyable and perhaps my favorite LEGO video game title yet.

LEGO Batman doesn’t follow any of the movies or comic book stories based on the popular DC hero. Instead the game’s story revolves around many well known Batman related villains having escaped Arkham Asylum who then head out into Gotham city to rob banks and wreak general havoc. It’s up to Batman and Robin to set things right and put the bad guys back where they belong.

The game has a total of 30 levels. This breaks down 15 levels playing as the heroes which subsequently, through the course of the game, unlocks 15 levels where you play as the villains. Of course as with all LEGO video games much is built around replayability. Once you’ve completed a level you can go back in Free Play mode and collect more studs so you can unlock additional content, find the special red bricks to unlock enhanced abilities, and find the Mini-Kit Cannisters to...Well build the complete Mini-Kit. Similarly in previous LEGO games many of LEGO Batman’s side tasks and achievements will require you to mix and match various characters, both heroes and villains, in order to accomplish them. All in all the game should provide you with many hours of gameplay even if you’re not an achievement hound.

What you’ll like:

According to the game rep I met at X’08 the game engine used in LEGO video games has been rebuilt for LEGO Batman. Additionally the development time on LEGO Batman is the longest of any previous LEGO video game. The enhancements I noticed are slight but definitely there. The non-LEGOized backdrops are much more realistically rendered with enhanced lighting, shading and color. There is also a better sense of depth of field between the action and the environment. I found the game’s animation a little more fluid and varied. LEGO characters never looked so alive.

No light-saber or Force powers but you do get a nifty Baterang that you can use to take out bad guys, get into areas, and destroy random objects to spring forth studs. Holding down the “X” button brings up a cursor that you can move across any highlight objects that are destructible. Let go of the “X” button and off goes the Batarang on a predetermined course. Quite useful for taking out multiple opponents. As well to keep the puzzles interesting there are a number of special suits that our heroes can wear that enable them to accomplish certain tasks. Examples include magnetic boots for Robin and a special glider suit that lets Batman cover distances he otherwise wouldn’t be able to jump to.

The game also has a wide variety of LEGO vehicles you can build and/or drive including the infamous Batmobile, Batboat, and Batwing. Though the available time spent driving them is short lived they’re definitely fun to scoot around in. There are actual levels in the game that require driving and shooting exclusively. For the most part these sections play out well though perhaps not as fun as the regular levels where you spend most your time on foot. It does offer a nice change up though.

Though I enjoyed playing the good guy characters (which also includes the unlockable Nightwing and Batgirl), it’s the large number of bad guys and there special abilities that I think you’ll derive the most fun from. Mr. Freeze can turn people into ice cubes with his freeze gun, the Riddler can take control of civilians by mind control, the Joker has his rather shocking joybuzzer, Clayface has super strength and can throw mud and Catwoman is super agile and has that nasty whip. Allowing you to be one of the many Batman villains and go out on a number of capers was a smart move by Traveler’s Tales and assuredly keeps the game from going stale. Aside from the standard goals found in the hero chapters there is always that excitement of inevitably unlocking more villains and subsequently more gameplay.


What you may not like:

It’s not always clear what needs to be accomplished in order to proceed to the next area. The task that needs to be accomplished is often deceptively simple. For example, you know you gotta turn a wheel to shut off a gas main, but how are you to know you gotta jump on top of it in order to do that? Small things like that will have you running around in frustration until you finally figure it out and slap yourself in the head asking yourself “that’s it?”

Though LEGO Batman sports a rebuilt game engine you wouldn’t know that by the games lackluster AI. You can pretty much expect the character you’re not controlling to frequently fall to his or her doom or otherwise do something to facilitate his or her expiration. Not only that but there will be times when the AI doesn’t seem to understand your intention so it just takes off doing what it thinks you want to do, which is a number of times the wrong direction. It’s by no means a game-breaker, just rather annoying at times. Surely a few more lines of code could give the game’s AI at least a semblance of intelligence.

Though significantly improved over past LEGO video games the vertical sync issues are still there. Really, this is by now inexcusable. There is nothing about any LEGO video game that shouldn’t have it flying by smoothly at 30fps, especially considering Traveler’s Tales has just rebuilt the game engine. Again in LEGO Batman the issue isn’t as bad as in past LEGO video games but in my opinion it just shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place. Also as in previous LEGO video games there will be times in LEGO Batman where you'll wish the camera would pan a little farther round than it does. However to the game’s credit the layout of the environment does seem a little more conducive to the game’s limit camera angles. Still you may find yourself falling to your doom and losing precious studs in the process more often than you’d like.

No online co-op. What? Are you kidding? Surely by now this should be a standard feature of LEGO video games. I see no reason why it shouldn’t. Hell the game should have a versus mode, Batman vs Joker for example. Suffice to say, as in previous LEGO games, you’ll have to have a friend over and a second controller to enjoy co-operative play. I can only hope that there will be some downloadable content in the future, extra missions...Maybe a Catwoman level where you gotta steal a giant diamond or something would be tres cool (hint hint).


Summary

All in all I found LEGO Batman to be highly enjoyable despite it’s minor flaws. I think Traveler’s Tales did a good job of capturing the DC comic hero (and villain) experience in LEGO Batman. It’s my favorite game of the series so far and I feel it worth the $50 if you are a fan of LEGO video games or Batman or hopefully both.

-Eliah Holiday








X’08 report continued...


Pure

Taking up a good chunk of floor space at X’08 was Disney’s presentation area for their upcoming off-road, trick racing video game Pure. After the game rep showed off a few of the tracks and explained the controls to pull off some sick aerial tricks I was anxious to get my hands on the game myself. This was one of the most fun games I managed to get some hands on time with at X’08. Large wide open dirt tracks, insane jumps that can launch you somewhere near the stratosphere, intense racing action, and about 70 tricks you can pull off mid-air, Pure seems to have all the elements one could want in an off-road racing game. The environments were realistically detailed and quite colorful. The characters, ATVs and game animations looked great. The game runs very smooth and the controls are quite friendly. With 16 players able to race online and loads of customization options this game is gonna amount to a lot of fun for a lot of people over the holidays.

Tomb Raider Underworld

I’m a Tomb Raider fan though I’ve found the series getting kinda stale in recent years. So as I approached the demo of Tomb Raider Underworld I kept my fingers crossed that this title would be able to revitalize my interest in the series. The demo of the game showed of an early build of the game but quite easily I could see the improvements the developers made. The jungle environment looked incredible lush and detailed complete with interactively moving foliage and a significant draw distance. Not since Drake’s Uncharted Fortune had I been so impressed with a rendered jungle environment. But even more impressive was how much more fluid and life-like was Laura Croft’s animations thanks to, as the game rep explained proudly, a great amount of motion capture done with gymnastics champion Heidi Moneymaker. It was just beautiful watching Laura Croft traverse the environment with such grace.

A few other features worth mentioning is the dynamic environment that “remembers” the actions that have taken place upon it. Back track and you’ll see the footprints you made, the rock you kicked over, the baddies you killed, etc. down to the smallest detail. The game rep also showed off how the new grapple hook can be deployed at anytime for any reason no longer requiring you to need a special environmental instance to be used. There will be about seven unique levels one of which is underwater and...Oh look a shark! Very cool. If you were getting bored with the Tomb Raider series I believe Underworld may very well peek your interest again.

Viva Pinata 2: Trouble In Paradise

I’m a big Viva Pinata fan and had hoped that Rare would come out with a sequel that not only solved some of the gameplay issues of the first game but also include the features I wished the original game had as well. I’m happy to say that Viva Pinata 2: Trouble in Paradise does just that. Visually the game only looks slightly better than the original but there are a whole lot more pinatas, decorative objects and environments to play with. There is a new free play mode that makes the game kid friendly while the regular mode is intricate enough to satisfy the many adult fans of the original Viva Pinata. An interesting new feature of note is the ability to travel to a new land outside your garden and lure and trap pinatas to bring back to your garden. You can also trade and pick up new pinatas by using a readable card system via the Xbox Live Cam.

Other features new to Viva Pinata includes 2 person Co-Op, the ability to take snapshots of your garden and pinatas and upload them for your friends to see, as well you can now train your pinatas to do tricks and interact with each other beyond the standard food chain. If you are looking for some peaceful downtime after long hours of chainsawing Locusts in Gears Of War 2 I say give Viva Pinata 2 a try. It’ll retail for about $10 cheaper than regular Xbox 360 titles so I think it’s worth having in your game library.

Well that’s about it for my coverage of X’08. Other games you may want to look into would include NHL 09 which has 6 vs 6 online multiplayer, the new Rock Band 2 with improved peripherals and an awesome line-up of new tunes to rock out on, and perhaps what will be one of the best XBLA offerings this year Castle Crashers.

Ciao for now.








X’08 report continued...

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows

In my mind, comic books make for a more congruent choice for video game content than blockbuster movies. Unfortunately most video games based on comic book characters have tended to flop, much like video games based on films. But there are video game developers that are still willing to try and make a decent effort at a comic book inspired video game that will delight gamers and comic book aficionados alike.

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows seems to have successfully nailed down the whole aesthetic which is Spider-Man. I’ve played other Spider-Man video games in the past and none of them have adhered as well to the original comic book character as this game has. From the way the game looks, to the character animations, and how the game plays, my impressions were that this is the game Spider-Man fans have been waiting for.

Some of the game’s features include combat that flows from ground level to the sides of buildings to aerial moves. There is the ability to instantly switch from red, blue, and the black Symbiote suit, each giving Spider-Man different abilities. There are also variable choices of upgraded powers, who to fight with or against, and what the final outcome of all your choices throughout the game will result in. I only hope the final game carries my initial impressions to full fruition. It looked awesome.

LEGO Batman

LEGO Batman, as I was told by the game rep, has been in production since before LEGO Indiana Jones and was still in production after Indian Jones release. LEGO Batman has had more time and effort put into it than any other LEGO video game title, and from what I saw of the game at X’08 it definitely shows. Graphically the game was the most impressive I’ve seen of all the LEGO titles. Characters looked really crisp and the environments and art direction were very creative and detailed. I especially enjoyed the kind of old school comic book feel of the game, it’s environments and various puzzles.

The game has a total of 30 levels, 15 for Batman & Robin and 15 for the villains. The villains are unlocked as you play through the game initially as the heroes. Each duo of characters good or evil have their own unique abilities which are far more elaborate than simply females can jump higher. The action flows from land to water to air with both hero and villain controlled vehicles. I saw some really interesting locales in the game such as a fairground, the Gotham sewers and an ice cream factory. A good point to mention here is that the camera angles for LEGO Batman’s gameplay seemed much improved over previous LEGO titles, which I’m sure is going to be a relief to many.

I was really impressed with LEGO Batman, and even if you weren’t a fan of previous LEGO video games I would recommend giving this game a try upon release. Apparently there will be drop-in/drop-out online co-op as well. All the more reason to give this game a go.

Infinite Undiscovery

This game for all intensive purposes can be considered Square Enix’s debut on current-gen consoles. Though from what I saw I wouldn’t say the game is exactly pushing the limits of the Xbox 360 hardware, none the less the artistry and colorfulness of the game should give most action/RPG fans their eye-candy fix. As the game rep explained to me the game is live action based as oppose to the more turn based, menu driven combat found in the Final Fantasy series. The game rep then showed me a level where the main character and a party of three others battled with some rather portly purple beast. What ensued was a lot of button mashing and combo hits. He then pointed out the large dragon in the rear of the room the characters were in. Apparently battles in Infinite Undiscovery have an additional environmental element to them where one must either avoid or use a certain environmental condition to succeed each battle. So a dragon in the background blowing fireballs at you is one example, a beach with large crashing tidal waves coming in at regular intervals is another. An interesting concept but I’d have to play around with it a bit more to decide whether it’s a valid gameplay dynamic or just something slapped on top to keep the game’s combat from being a boring button mash.

As the game rep explained you play the game as Capella, the main character, but you have the ability to micro-manage up to 17 other allies at the same time, though you can only have three members in your own personal group at a time. I’m not sure how well that will translate in-game, I’m hoping I wont be bogged down trying to keep tabs on so many characters so they don't end up dropping off like flies on a bug-lantern. With Final Fantasy XII being one of my all time favorite games I feel confident Square Enix can deliver a top notch game for the Xbox 360. Time will tell.


Fable II

Having gotten a taste of a Japanese RPG I headed over to see a demo of the American made Fable II. While Infinite Undiscovery was rather cute and colorful Fable II on the other hand was much darker and seemed to have a more mature tone. Well, maybe that was my impression because the area of the game I played through briefly just happened to be en route to a cemetery full of ghastly undead creatures. Visually from what I saw the game looked quite impressive, a significant step up from the original Fable video game which was a pretty decent looking game to begin with. The controls felt similar to the original Fable and overall the game felt it had a good amount of polish on it. Playing through the game I did notice the addition of the much spoke about dog companion, which didn’t seem to do much for me in combat but it did sniff out hidden treasures. You have the option at any time to pat the dog on the head or scold it, though I can’t imagine why you would scold the dog, maybe if it peed on the woman you were attempting to woo...Bad dog! Baaad dog!

I noticed in traveling that the path needed to be taken was highlighted as a misty red trail. This was, as the game rep explained, to replace the HUD mini-map, essentially freeing up more screen space to appreciate the game’s visuals. Worked for me. My time with the game was brief but the game left me with the impression that it will deliver everything it’s been promised to in spades. Chock up another title to the must have list.

Silent Hill Homecoming

The Silent Hill Series makes it’s current-gen debut with the sixth installment of the series entitled “Homecoming.” Though a game expo isn’t exactly the best place to show off the atmosphere of a horror game I did manage to get a good feel for the game and the feeling was...Oooooh creepy! First thing I noticed is how more detail a Silent Hill game looks on the Xbox 360. As I took the controls and explored what seemed to be an abandoned mental hospital everything looked that much more real and subsequently the fear/horror factor that much greater. Unfortunately with my limited time with the game I didn’t manage to come across any monsters of any sorts. I can only assume that they appear even more twisted and horrific in this game than in Silent Hill games of the past on less capable consoles.

The game controls worked well in moving the character about and the camera angles seemed much more complimentary than in previous Silent Hill games. As I am a big fan of the horror genre I most definitely plan on picking up this title which will hopefully give me my horror fix before I settle into Dead Space and Left 4 Dead.

In part 3 I will round up my coverage with a look at such titles as Viva Pinata 2 and the off-road racer Pure.








Managed to score an invite to Toronto’s X’08, this year’s Microsoft sponsored video game event showcasing upcoming Xbox 360 titles. Here’s my impressions of some of the video games that will most likely be making a dent in your wallet this Fall and Winter.

Gears Of War 2

Making my way past the initial press check-in desk I was informed that the first presentation of Gears of War 2 by none other than Cliffy B was about to begin. So I decided to bypass the main gaming floor and head upstairs to get a look at what will most likely be the hottest selling Xbox 360 title this year.

Bigger, better, and more bad-ass. That’s the easiest way to describe the sequel to the original Gears of War, yet that wouldn’t do the game justice. It’s not a 1.5, not merely a slightly enhanced version of what you’ve already played, GoW 2 takes the series firmly to the next level. What can you expect? More weapons, more finishing moves (both with weapon in hand and without), chainsaw duels, the ability to use an opponent as a meat shield, portable shields that can be anchored to provide cover wherever needed, larger more immersive environments, more intense action on screen at one time, and the list goes on. For those of you who aren’t merely satisfied with an increased level of carnage will be interested to know that GoW 2 features a deeper storyline primarily centered around the character Dominic who is searching the city ruins for his missing wife.

Multiplayer-wise you’ll be able to enjoy 10 player 5 vs 5 Team Deathmatch, a new CTF mode called “Meatflag” as well as other new multiplayer modes like “Wingman” where you and a buddy team up, in a five teams of two gameplay mode. There will be a dozen multiplayer maps in total to play on upon game release. Of course all the new weapons, and finishing moves found in single player are present in multiplayer including the new sticky grenade that can be used as a proximity mine. An interesting addition to the game includes the ability to crawl away when knocked down (subsequently leaving a bloody trail behind you) so that you may reach a party member to revive you as oppose to just lying there in one spot screaming “Revive me! Revive me!” Note that an opponent can easily follow your blood trail, pick you up and use you as a meat shield. Which sets up some potentially interesting stand-offs depending upon who gets to the injured player first. Finally there’s a new Co-Op mode called “Horde” that has up to 5 players fighting off wave after wave of Locusts. If you enjoyed Gears of War there is no reason not to buy Gears of War 2. Nuff said.

Fallout 3

Honestly this game failed to impress me to the considerable degree it perhaps should have. Which is not to say that it wouldn’t greatly impress 80% of FPS/RPG fans out there, just not my cup of tea I suppose. A rep from Bethesda Game Studios gave me a brief demo of when the main character first steps out of the bomb shelter in search of his father. Graphically the game looked impressive though not as detailed or as crisp as games like Gears of War 2 or Project Origin which was being demoed nearby. The main outdoor post-apoc environment is staggeringly huge, more than enough room to wonder around aimlessly amongst the rubble if that’s your thing. NPCs in-game were your typical Mad Max variety and not exactly bursting with polygons, nor for that matter did you have to travel very far to run across the same exact character model being used for someone else. On the RPG side the upgrade options for your character, weapons, and armor is as robust as your ever likely to see in any RPG. Fallout 3 is to Action /RPGs what Forza is to race car games, just a mind numbing level of attributes to play with. Along with that there is the common good or evil path you can take which effects how well you do with various NPCs throughout the game. Passive aggressive types will be interested to know that one of the game devs had apparently gone through the entire game having only fired one bullet. I doubt however you’ll find many gamers playing through Fallout 3 as an influential conversationalist.

What really turned me off was the emphasis on the Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System, or VATS. Essentially in a combat encounter you freeze the game and are then able to highlight exactly the body part of your opponent you would like to fire upon be it leg, torso, head, etc. Each body part has a percentage bar telling you the possibility of a successfully takedown. Make your target choice, then go back to real time and your character automatically begins firing at your opponent’s body as instructed. What I found odd, as the game was demoed to me, is that you can apparently shoot your opponent point blank in the face 3 times and your opponent will appear no worse for wear. The Bethesda rep then repeated the VATS process a second time eventually showing the opponent being suddenly decapitated in a cinematically gory animation much to the glee of my fellow onlookers. All in all this combat system, in my eyes, looked kinda cheesy and rather broke up the pace of the game. I’ve seen plenty enough gory deaths in video games that the dismemberment featured heavily (“oh the kids will love it!”) in Fallout 3 didn’t turn my crank, YMMV.

Perhaps if I had more time with the game I would have walked away with more favorable impressions, perhaps I was missing out on a well written epic storyline that would keep gamers riveted to their controllers. Overall Fallout 3 just didn’t feel like the chocolate/peanut butter sensation it was being touted as. I’m willing to keep an open mind about the game in the future but for now I think I’ll pass.

Project Origin

Saw this game only briefly but for what I saw the game looked to be one of the stronger FPS titles coming out this end year. Project Origin of course is the sequel to the original F.E.A.R. video game bypassing the expansion packs of Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate which many had felt was blandly more of the same. Project Origin runs on the enhanced Jupiter X engine which to me does well to hold it’s own against the Unreal 3 engine which is currently favored by many video game developers. Project Origin looked really crisp and immersive with some of the best particle effects of any video game on display at this event.

I can’t say much about the gameplay from my brief preview but it did appear like a full fledge sequel as oppose to just another expansion pack. The game rep on hand spoke of the enhanced AI but really I didn’t need selling on that point. F.E.A.R. had perhaps the best A.I. of any FPS I ever played and if Project Origin’s AI is even better well...I’m sold. One interesting thing I did see during my preview is the ability to interact with the environment to create cover. For example kicking over a desk, sweet. Of course there is the whole suspense/horror element as Alma wrecks havoc across the city, just enough to give the game a spooky atmosphere. At any rate I say the game is worth keeping an eye out for.

Wanted

Based upon the recent movie and acting as a continuation of the story Wanted the video game has you playing assassin-in-blood Wesley blowing away bad guys in the stylistic super human manner shown in the movie. Graphically the game looked very impressive, even as I stood listening to a rep explain Project Origin to me I couldn’t help but glances over at Wanted every few minutes. Obviously a great amount of time was put into the game to make it look like as realistic as the movie proceeding it. The game level shown off was a gun fight on an airplane. You controlled Wesley taking out the baddies either by curved bullet strikes or by Sam Fisher like sneak and knife moves (though how you could sneak up on someone on a well lit plane I dunno).

Games based on movies usually suck as bad as movies based on video games so time will tell if this game is a hit or miss. It certainly has potential, but then again so did the Bourne Conspiracy. If Wanted the video game can be stylish without being cheesy, have a decent storyline, implement decent controls and fun gameplay without being bug ridden we may just have a winner on our hands.

Fracture

Yet another game that didn’t impress me as much as I thought it would. Maybe I needed more time with the game but the terrain deformation, as cool as the feature was, didn’t feel like it would be enough for me to consider this game a must have. I mean...The game does come off like a quality production, the game looks good and plays well, I just had mixed feelings as to whether being able to transform the battle terrain to either hills or valleys would be enough for me to play yet another post-apoc red vs blue scenario video game. I’ll hold off final judgment till I get some more hands on.

Call Of Duty 5

As far as subject matter for video games goes WWII has been milked to death, dry humped, buried dead, then resurrected and milked and humped some more. But that aint gonna stop game developers Treyarch from returning to “the war to end all wars” for Call of Duty 5. All you really need to know is that Cod 5 is a lot like CoD 2 and 3 just a little more intense, better looking, aaannd you get a new Co-Op mode. But yeah, it’ still yet another WWII shooter.

Duke Nukem 3D

Those of you still trying to maintain an erection for Duke Nukem Forever (In Production) here’s some good news. Duke Nukem 3D is making it’s way to Xbox Live Arcade complete with Xbox Live achievements, on-line score boards, and a co-op mode. Play the game for the first time or replay it again on your Xbox 360 console and don’t forget to tip the strippers.

In Part 2 of my X’08 report I delve into a couple of comic book inspired video games, deliver the 411 on Infinite Undiscovery and Fable II, as well as the next-gen incarnation of the Silent Hill series.








For those of you that simply must keep track of you and your friend's Halo 3 stats in every possible way you can now add the Halo 3 Service App to your Facebook profile page by going here:

http://apps.facebook.com/haloservice/