First tour through ‘Saints Row’

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OK, I’ve finally gotten some hours into virtual gangsta life on the 360. To be honest, I got a little bored with multiplayer at E3 — there’s something about 3rd person, non-robotic multiplayer that just doesn’t hold my interest. Perhaps I don’lt like actually SEEING a bunch of people running around shooting each other at random. True, Stilwater makes for a very interesting battlefield and there’s something to be said about getting into a car and driving around in a multiplayer universe — but I guess it’s just not me.

OK, we all know it’s a GTA-style game. Anyone who denies that is simply blind. The big question is how does it set itself apart?

Well, there’s the character creation, which I think is a good start. It reminds me somewhat of what the Tiger Woods games did, enabling you to produce a fully customized person, tailored either to look like you or whatever odd self-image you can come up with. So there’s a plus — a fully customized G for you to represent with.

The fighting controls are a little annoying. Right trigger for right punch, then left trigger to use the left hand? Physically, it makes sense, but in a game, it turned melee into a little bit of a chore — I should keep in mind though, I’m still spoiled off “Dead Rising” and the wunderkind hand-to-hand power of “journalist” Frank West. Perhaps I just need practice. We’ll see.

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Back from vacation

It’s almost kind of sad … since I play video games for a good chunk of my job, there was a part of me that didn’t even want to LOOK at a game system for the whole time I was gone.

Then, my brother showed me a re-animated Sega Saturn and the uber-shooter “Radiant Silvergun” — and it was back on. Soul searching averted.

Most of my gaming time was spent either playing “Madden 07″ on both the 360 and PS2 or “Dead Rising,” which I’ve grown to realize as one of the best, if not the best, game for the 360. I realized this after suiting up as Megaman. I also drove up to a college friend’s apartment to participate in the summer “Videolympics” — a 10-event retrogaming opus which featured a PS2, N64, NES, Super NES and Atari 2600 complete with the single button joystick.

In no particular order, here were the games/events:

- Goal!
- Super Mario Bros.
- Goldeneye
- Star Wars Pod Racer
- MLB 2K 2006 (Home Run Derby)
- Twisted Metal
- Pac-Man
- Mortal Kombat
- Super Tecmo Bowl (the one with Bo)
- actually, I can’t remember the tenth one. There was alcohol there, and it apparently left its mark.

Out of a bevy of talented competitors, I actually came away with two medals, and was one of only two multiple medal winners. I would have won a third if I remembered that MK for the Super NES was a mashfest and didn’t try to apply Street Fighter principles to it. Big mistake. I would like to suggest “Street Fighter” for the next one. Mash buttons again. Please.

In a gesture of brotherly bonding, I left my copy of “Dead Rising” for my brother to play on his psychotic 360, where the fan sometimes keeps running after you turn it off, or the lights do laps around the ring of life for half and hour.

Me: “You should get that fixed.”
Brother: “I did.”
Me: “Oh … you know, I’m hungry.”

I’m surprised he hasn’t thrown it or something … though he might be drained from rebuilding his computer.

You know what today is?

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Unless you are completely devoid of any football and gaming awareness, you know that today is the release day of “Madden ’07.” The release day has become something of a legend, contributing to hours and hours of lost productivity on the American workforce. If you’re not peeling through the franchise mode, you’re checking out the new features that get added every year. I managed to get a taste a few days ago before AGI (after about a year of not playing any “Madden” title whatsoever) and I’m trying to immerse myself in it as much as I can before heading east to see family (and of course, finding even more time for ‘Madden’ balling).

I’m whipping through the PS2 version first, “Superstar” mode specifically. It still does that creepy “pick the right set of parents” thing, but I’ve gotten over it. I actually had a college superstar waiting to get imported, and I found something that bothered me a little. He’s a four-time first team All-American, four-time national champ, three-time Heisman winner, and the NCAA career leader in rushing yards and TDs — and he gets drafted late in the second round. What!? I look on the depth chart and his ratings are still through the roof — a 98 for speed (faster than Reggie Bush), and 95 break tackle rating. I even had good workouts on All-Madden level! Why the slide? Did he fire off offensive remarks in a drunken stupor at the Combine and I just didn’t know about it? Explain.

As you know, they’ve concentrated hardcore on the running game this year, which has meant the end of some itty-bitty corner spearing the T.J Ducketts and Jamal Lewis’ of the world. I’m liking the highlight stick — it gives running game fans like me a chance to tear off some pretty nice looking runs. In my first “competitive” game in a year, I managed to tear off a 60 yard TD run with Larry Johnson. The dude I was playing gave me props (on the way to beating me), but it was really the result of some pretty clean blocking. The O-linemen seem to be much better at picking up their blocking assignments this year. However, there are times when it’s TOO good — I’m remember using a slide move with LT to fire through a hole that was the size of a one-car garage.

Lots of people like to come out passing when they get they’re hands on ‘Madden’ — I like to run. To me, getting the running game right seems harder than installing an intricate passing game, because it’s more of a ‘feel’ thing, and an aspect that all football games should excel at. Running the ball feels a lot more fun this year, and I’m going to make it my mission to gain access to some Hall of Fame runners.

I’ll be gone all this week, but I plan to write more about ‘Madden’ as grab onto the 360 version. I hope it’s better than the last one.

F.E.A.R. and the PS3

Vivendi announced today that the PC mega-FPS “F.E.A.R.” is headed to the PS3. Brilliant. According to the annoucement, the game is set to drop in November (gasp — a launch title, perhaps?) and if the screenshots are any indication, could make the prospect of a PS3 purchase a tad more palatable to doubters. Or not. Check out the shots for yourself.

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Wow. Well, then. Not too shabby.

This week: ’99 Nights’ and ‘Dirge of Cerberus’

I’m still entrenched in some of the madness of ‘Dead Rising’ (nothing but hate for Brock), but I’ll tear myself away to get an early look at the much-anticipated “99 Nights” for the 360 and “Dirge of Cerberus” for the trusty PS2.

Granted, I only tasted a bit of ’99 Nights’ at Zero Hour and E3, but I’m not sure what the big deal is. It’s true you can fight hundreds of enemies on the screen at once, but I just did that with “Dead Rising.” Plus, I didn’t play that much of it at E3 because I got bored after slaughtering my 1,000 enemy using the same sword combo. A friend of mine also told me that the voice acting isn’t the greatest, either.

That said, I’m not going to judge just yet. I wasn’t blown off my feet with “Dead Rising” upon first glance, either.

On the other hand, I’m looking forward to “Dirge,” simply because it was one of the playing time sacrifices I had to make when I went to E3. Now I get to redeem myself — plus, I have high hopes after the LAST Square game I played, which was “Kingdom Hearts II.” If anything, I have to check out the cinema sequences.

Shaq attacks ‘NBA 2K7′ cover

Fresh off his championship run (thanks, D-Wade), Shaq is back as the cover man for 2K Sports’ “NBA 2K7,” which willl probably make another run as the best hoops sim out there.

I got to preview “2K7″ for LANG a couple of weeks back, and I’m still pretty juiced about the fact that they’re bringing in the “signature move” concept. Since I’m originally from Ohio, I’m looking to see what they do with King James. I want two things — his leaning one-handed dunk where he’s kind of spread out like a kite, and the Nique-like double-pump reverse he whipped out earlier in the year. Oh, and perhaps his habit of biting his fingernails on the bench. That would be truly next-gen.

‘Star Trek: Legacy’ … features … five captains

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Pardon the Shatner-esque typed headline, but I couldn’t help it when I got word that all five “Star Trek” captains would be doing voicework for Bethesda’s “Star Trek: Legacy,” which is coming out in the fall for the 360 and PC.

Trekkies know them all, but I’m listing the actors anyway for the sake of being thorough:

William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk from the STAR TREK: The Original Series 1966-1969

Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard from STAR TREK: The Next Generation 1987-1994

Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko from STAR TREK: Deep Space Nine 1993-1999

Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway from STAR TREK: Voyager 1995-2001

Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer in STAR TREK: Enterprise 2001-2005

If you want to know more about the game, click here.

‘Bully’ market

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WIth Rockstar’s announcement that the game “Bully” is set to hit stores in October, the flames of criticism and opinion about video game content have been rekindled.

On the print side, check out USA Today, the New York Times, or Brian Crescente’s piece in the Rocky Mountain News for a well-rounded look at the game, as well as the negative buzz its getting from youth groups and school districts — namely the Miami-Dade School District, which wanted Rockstar not to release the game at all.

If you’re curious for some TV fun, check out (or not) the appearance of game nemesis Jack Thompson on G4′s “Attack of the Show.” If anything, it’ll be an interesting introduction to the Jack Attack for those new to video gaming.

This also explains the e-mailed press release I got late yesterday announcing Miami-Dade County School Board member Frank Bolanos’ “continued opposition to the wanton violence” of the game — as if Bolanos was going to stop opposing it at some point. And in no big shocker, Bolanos is also a candidate for the Florida State Senate.

If you want, you can read the press release yourself on the next page — because this isn’t the last time we’re going to see something like it. I imagine we’re going to talk about this a little on All Games Interactive, which can be heard at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time. If we don’t get to it for some reason, check back here later.
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The XRTainment Zone cometh …

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The concept of exertainment is finding its roots in the Inland Empire, as the XRtainment Zone in Redlands is finally open for people to check out.

In case there are some of you who don’t know quite what exertainment is, it’s essentially using games to promote and provide exercise. Think “Dance Dance Revolution” or Sony’s “EyeToy Kinetic.” I mentioned the XRtainment zone and one of its founders, Ernie Medina, in a story I did a while back on exertainment. The grand opening for the facility is Sept. 14.

The Zone has been in the making for at least a year now, and if you want some more insight into it’s journey, you can check out this blog.