Video Game First Impressions

Today two tidbits of videogame fun were released.  Blizzard released the opening cinemetic of their new World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King expansion, and LucasArts released their demo of “The Force Unleashed.”

Sadly neither of these exactly lived up to my expectations. On the WoW front the movie was sort of lame. They show a glacier, Arthas walks around in the snow, smashes the ground and raises an icewyrm. Whoop dee do. Sadly it made me less excited about the expansion than I was before.

Perhaps it’s just my time away from WoW and enjoying other stuff that has me bored with everything WoW. In fact I’m much more looking forward to Starcraft II and Diablo III than the new WoW Expansion.

As for the new LucasArts game I’ve been really looking forward to The Force Unleashed. This game sort of looks like the successor to the Jedi Knight series, and I’ve been waiting for a good lightsaber romp since Jedi Outcast. Sadly this game might not deliver.

The game is set just before “Star Wars: A New Hope” and you play Darth Vader’s secret apprentice who helps hunt down the Jedi. So far so good but there are a couple issues, firstly LucasArts in their genius have decided to NOT release a PC port of this game. Instead since it’s “really detailed” it seems that PCs are too weak to process all the graphics/physics. So this game will only be released on PS3, PS2, Xbox360, Wii, PSP, Nintendo DS, iPhone and some other cellphones etc.

Guess what? I think my PC can handle it. I think LucasArts has decided that the market for PC games isn’t big enough to warrant the port, or their afraid of piracy. Sadly while the game concept is cool it just doesn’t seem to fit well on a console. The controls are a bit convoluted and in my opinion poorly done.

Playing the demo I had problem controlling the camera even after I changed the default settings so that the x axis was properly reversed. It seems that the camera doesn’t stick very well to your character and I often found myself trying to kill a guy who was out of my view. Sure you can rotate the camera but it would be nice if it followed you a bit more tightly by default. Like with every other good 3rd person game (Ninja Gaiden, Uncharted, Splinter Cell etc.)

It’s also a bit disappointing since in the demo at least you don’t have any LONG ranged attacks except throwing stuff at people. This is sort of cool at first but as far as I could tell you couldn’t easily change what you were targeting with your force power. So when you’re trying to hit some Stormtroopers it can be hard to pick up the right box so you can toss it. I often ended up grabbing random crap and missing since the item was blocked by other boxes. They really need a way to toggle through force targets in your LOS without having to shift your camera/move about.

My only other real complaint about the demo besides the clunky controls is that the lightsaber fighting isn’t very satisfying. In fact it can take 3-4 or more chops with your lightsaber to kill a Stormtooper, and more sometimes to kill some random unarmored guy. Unlike Jedi Outcast where at least you could chop off some limbs while swinging the saber this game lets you hit a few times then the guy disappears. So the lightsaber combat just doesn’t feel like real Jedi lightsaber combat. In fact Knights of the Old Republic felt much better and it was TURN based combat.

The graphics and sound are pretty good and up to par for a current gen console game. It also looks like the game might have a good story. So despite the flaws in control (it’s not Obi-Wan bad) I’ll probably still pick this game up as I’m always a sucker for anything Star Wars.

Is the war almost over?

There’s some big news on the whole next gen Hi-Def DVD format. It appears that since Warner dropped HD-DVD the red camp is being hit with a massive attack of bad news.

Ars Technica and others are reporting two pieces of bad news for those of you who support the red discs. Firstly, Best Buy has decided to recommend Blu-Ray over HD-DVD to customers. While they won’t stop selling HD-DVD players/discs at the moment their sales associates will advise people looking for High Def content to head Blu-Ray’s way. While this probably doesn’t directly effect anyone reading my blog as most of you probably don’t take Blue Shirt advice (want a service plan)?

The bigger nail in HD-DVD’s coffin is that Netflix has decided that it will no longer carry HD-DVD. As of now they will not be buying new HD-DVD discs and will be removing the current HD-DVD’s from circulation in the coming months.

Both of these pieces of news mean that people have even more reason to go blue and not red when buying their movies. This will likely drive more consumers into the Blu-Ray camp which is probably a good thing overall. Honestly, neither standard will really catch on as long as both still exist. Hopefully, Universal and Paramount give up their silly ways and start releasing Blu-Rays so I can get Bourne and Serenity in High-Def.

As for those of you who bought Laserdisc 2.0 I hope you enjoy your collector’s items.

Busy Last Couple of Weeks

Well it’s been a busy couple of weeks since my last post. In the last couple of weeks I’ve spent most of my time outside of work working on a presentation I’ll be giving at a conference in Japan come December. Even with this sort of sucking up my time I have done some interesting things this week.

My friend Mike Zenz (from here on out referred to as Zenz), came to visit last weekend. He was in town after spending the earlier part of the week presenting some poster at a neuroscience conference. We spent the weekend doing two primary activities. On Saturday we went Wine tasting (I bought more wine that I should have), and on Sunday we went to check out the UC-Berkeley Campus.

After walking around the campus I sort of regret not applying to go to school there. The whole place feels like you’re in a big park with some nice shady tree groves. The town area around the campus sort of feels like a normal college downtime and so is very similar to Madison. Those of you from WI imagine something like UW-Madison but with the campus transported to the UW Arboretum. I definitely would recommend the place over Stanford, when I visited there it seemed much more like a corporate campus than a University. To bad I’m done with school for the moment. Maybe some day I’ll go back to get a PhD or a Law Degree.

Last Tuesday, DoIT decided that I no longer needed access to the Campus IT resources and has taken away my NetID. I can no longer use my school e-mail address or access my grade/class information online. If anyone wants to get a hold of me please use my gmail account, or jthon<at>

I also picked up a couple of new PS 3 games this week bringing my total number of purchased PS 3 games to 4! (I also own a few PS 2 games to play on the PS 3.) I got the new Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction game, and Assassin’s Creed. So far in my limited playtime both of these games are enjoyable. I plan to write a full fledged review of each once I get a bit more playtime in.