JRock3x8's Life Musings

Monday, December 26, 2005

JRock's 60 minute review of PGR3

So as described in a previous post, I bought PGR3 after a lot of driving (ha ha) and a lot of grief.

After flying through the first 2 championships on "Novice" mode, I LOVE this game. I was very skeptical and quite nervous about buying it at first because I hated and I mean HATED PGR1 for the XBox.

PGR1 was SO unforgiving. Every time you knicked a corner the computer would hand your ass to you and say "Want some more, bitch?". To which I finally replied, "No thanks", and sold it.

Also, the computer controlled drivers had sick driving skills. I'd pull an awesome power slide through a corner and think I was all that. The computer didn't even bother with the slide - it just zipped past me on the inside. Oooh, that smarts.

I am happy to report that absolutely everything I could not stand about PGR1 is a distant memory in PGR3. In novice mode, the other drivers are like 90 year old grandma's and when you get that NEAR perfect e-brake slide but just knick the corner, the computer just looks the other way to which I say, "Thank you."

I haven't tried the online part, partly because I don't think I've broken the top 1000 in any event that I've completed yet. That's me! Sucky gamer extraordinaire!

This is easily the most fun I've had of the three 360 titles I own (PDZ, CoD2 and PGR3).

Adventures in Video Game Shopping

I admit it. I'm a picky customer. I get miffed anytime someone does not say please and thank you at every turn. I like it when people dote on the customer. I also understand that is NOT the current state of video game shopping in America.

That being said, I braved it - I went out on the day after Christmas armed with two gift cards to EB Games in Bolingbrook, IL. My conquest? Project Gotham Rading 3, which I had already told my buddy I would be racing with him today.

First of all, it was impossible to find the store. I drove past it no less than 3 times trying to find it, and no, the irony of driving around to buy a driving game is not lost on me.

I got there and the place is fairly packed (duh!). The register guy is calling the home office about something, but I'm not paying too much attention until he says "The system is down - we can't take gift cards. There's nothing we or they can do." I threw up my arms, put the game back on the shelf and walked out.

I also had a gift card to Best Buy which is very close by so I drove there. Best Buy was crazy busy, even for a normal Best Buy, and I'm already a little pissed. I find my way over to the 360 games, and OF COURSE, PGR3 is SOLD OUT. There just happens to be a blue shirt standing right there talking to his buddy, and so I say, "Hey do you guys have any more of these?" He turns to his buddy and says "Did you find everything you need?" and WALKS AWAY... Now I'm hot...so I call after him "Hey, I had a question!" The guy is less than 5 feet from me and just keeps walking away. I'm standing there for about 30 seconds looking REALLY pissed, when another blue shirt shows up - this guy's name was Kevin. He asked me if I could be helped, I told him why I was pissed and he apologized, checked the stockroom and told me there were no copies in the store. He then walked me to the exit and wished me a good day. (Deep sigh) My faith in Best Buy had been restored even though that jackass ignored me. Oh well.

So I get back in my car and head back to EB. I thought, "I can convince them to take my gift card." Yah, not so much...but here's the funny part! The guy (no name tag, not even an EB logo on his shirt) says "Yah, we can't take gift cards", which I expected. I shot back "Well what's your policy when your system goes down. It's not my fault that your system went down on THE busiest gift card shopping day of the year". And he said, "Well it's not my fault either". I says, "You represent your company - you are an agent of EB Games". He goes...wait for it..."Yah, I don't like my company." Then the guy in line next to me starts defending EB Games! "Well they just had this merger so their systems are not quite integrated." I said, "That's bogus - the purchase happened 8 months ago and even if that's the reason, you don't go changing your systems around during the holidays." He agreed.

Now! To his credit, the guy at EB said I could bring the opened game back, claim it was defective, credit it back to my credit card, and then re-purchase it with the gift cards. I said, "Okay! That sounds like a solution!" Just for one last piece of humour... The guy picks the game up to put it in the bag, drops it on the counter (he looked a little rattled at my questions), then shakes it by his ear, says "yah, it's still good", puts it in the bag and hands it to me with the receipt!

God bless Capitalism! I am playing PGR3 even if it cost me $50 when it should have cost me $5.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

XBox 360 - Home for the Holidays

I was quite proud to show off my XBox 360 to my two teenage brothers this Christmas. I liked the idea of being the cool older brother who had the latest thing. What I didn't realize was that the non-gaming functions of the XBox 360 would unite the entire family around the TV, something we so rarely do.

Right when I got to my mother's house, I hooked up the 360 and threw in Perfect Dark Zero. My brothers loved the fly-by-wire rockets, the six-shooter handgun, and the secondary functions of some of the other weapons. We played one mission and a little multiplayer where the regular old "agent" bots kicked our butts. Sad, but true.

I already knew I was getting Call of Duty 2 as one of my presents. My mother actually picked out the XBox version and my brother made her get the 360 version. He's a Good Kid, regardless of what Jack Thompson might have to say about him because he's a gamer. Call of Duty 2 was a blast, but my lack of skills really showed up when my other younger brother figured out how to use the sniper rifle. Then I was just fodder.

Then came the defining moment of the evening. We had taken pictures of my two children opening their presents with their other Grandparents on Christmas Eve and their presents on Christmas Day. I transferred the pictures to my jukebox as I like to do, and fired up the slide show. My parents and my brothers sat spellbound as I set the slideshow to a mix of about a dozen Christmas CD's also on my jukebox. My favorite moment came when my stepfather said "That song isn't on that CD - these songs are out of order". I explained to him that I was running a random playlist and he just smiled. He then asked me to take some pictures of my three year old daughter sitting in a rocking chair that he had when he was a child. I snapped half a dozen photos and hooked up the camera to the 360. Presto - Change-o - New Slide Show! My stepfather was clearly impressed, and he's been working in programming for the last 30 years.

The 360 was clean, it was crisp, it was well behaved (no crashes). In short, it was the entertainment showcase of Christmas Day. Thanks to Microsoft for giving me a tool to bring my entire family together, even if it was for something completely unrelated to video games.

Monday, December 19, 2005

2005 Year in Review - January 2005

Oh it's that time again unfortunately. Like Thanksgiving leftovers or that woman you woke up next to in college whose name you're not sure of (Brenda? I'm pretty sure it was Brenda...), it's the inescapable year end review.

In January 2005, I played Mech Assault 2. And I played it again. And it didn't get any better. I began cursing myself with a deep seeded rage for falling victim to the hype machine of fanboys who were dumbstruck over just how bleeping awesome this game was going to be. And I played it again. I swore to myself the game would get better the more I played it. My New Year's Resolution not to spend ANY money on any forms of digital or electronic entertainment just made things worse. More on that resolution when we get to November.

In the video game news world, the PSP was just something American gamers envied that their Japanese counterparts already had. The swooning hype on this machine was growing to a dull roar.

Then there were these crazy rumours about something called XBox Next, widely expected at CES but ultimately a no-show. Looking back, this might have been a forewarning of the hysterical shortage to come.

The launch date for XBox Next is first rumoured for late 2005 when EA lets it slip that that's when they are shipping the new NFS game. Doh.

World of Warcraft begins its mass assimilation of the civilized world. Crazy people. All 5 million of you. Seriously crazy.

Regrettably, Playboy : The Mansion goes gold. Gold, member. uhhhh. nevermind...I gotta go read in bed... What are you looking at? What?!? Reading stimulates the, uh, mind. Yah...

ESPN goes to the dark side, joining forces with EA and effectively ending one of the greatest video game sports franshises of all times. Rest in peace, Sega Sports.

Larry Probst of EA, aka Captain Obvious, asserts that next generation games will cost more. Duh. This was more of a political move, trying to soften the blow later on. He's not as dumb as he looks. Look at his picture...seriously.

As we turn the corner to February, WoW and PSP gear up some more, my 30th birthday comes to pass, and chickens cross the road...why did they do it?