‘Elebits’ empathy

I wanted to like ‘Elebits’ more. It’s got cute characters, cute sounds, and even the “Chobits”-inspired art screens have cuteness coming out its ears. Just look at it. My wife really liked the game, and I’ll admit that it makes decent use of the Wii’s tools.

But what the hell is wrong with Kai, the main character? He has an unnatural loathing for the little Elebits, little creatures who just happen to provide power to every electrical device in existence. He tells us that his parents study Elebits, and that he hates them. He even whines during a blackout that he doesn’t want to touch the Elebits with his hands — so he’s going to use his Dad’s capture gun to corral them and restore juice to his surroundings. Wonderful … have at it, you ungrateful troll. Sorry, I have a hard time getting behind a kid character who hates things for no apparent reason. If I was a kid, I would have thought Elebits were cool.

As for the Elebits … they’re not bothering anyone. They’re sleeping, walking around, and COWERING in fear about being caught and used for energy. Didn’t the Matrix do the same thing to humans? I couldn’t help but feel guilty about zapping an Elebit, only to hear it go “eeeee” or “oooooo” in a munchkin-like voice en route to its incarceration in my capture gun. Very “War of the Worlds” in a way.

Mind you, it was pretty fun tossing stuff around and rampaging through rooms trying to find them — but that “hunter” vibe was in the back of my head. Perhaps if the Elebits were more like gremlins, I wouldn’t be constantly worried about the well-being of my acquired targets. What can I say? My heart bleeds.

DVD formats, unite!

Remember the hoopla last year about the DVD format wars, and how people would be torn between Blu-ray and HD-DVD? There might be a solution. Check out this story about a Warner Bros. checking out a new HD disc format that work in both Blu-ray and HD-DVD drives.

Could this be the we-are-the-world format that ends the “war?” Who knows? Warner Bros. is apparently going to unveil it at CES.

In a story on GamePro, it’s reported that LG is going to whip out a combo disc player at CES that will accommodate both formats as well. All this might actually be what average consumers (not the early adopters) need to consider getting into the high-def DVD market. The key word is “might.”

Review of ‘Rainbow Six: Vegas’

This can also be found on the LANG Web sites.

When I think of Las Vegas, I usually think of casinos, showgirls, and maybe some flashes of Wayne Newton pointing at some fainting woman. Being part of a counter-terrorism unit wasnt part of the mental package.

But thanks to Rainbow Six: Vegas,? I dont think Vegas baby!? when I walk into a casino anymore. Now I think, “frag and clear? and get the urge to send imaginary teammates to take cover behind the slot machines. If thats not a sign about a games impact, I dont know what is.

Blessed with airtight play mechanics and overall good design, Ubisofts latest Tom Clancy title has rejuvenated a venerable franchise and given gamers the first-person equivalent of a 24? episode, minus Jack Bauer screaming Theres no time!!!? every five minutes. However, I will channel Jack when I say that 360 shooter fans need to get this game now.

You play Logan Keller, leader of a three-man squad thats part of Rainbow Six, an elite terror-fighting unit that gets to use some of the best gear in the world, which is the norm in a Clancy game. Kellers a no-nonsense guy with a Southern accent, and fits with the Clancy dynamic of no-B.S. people who are insanely good at their job.

The entire game experience mirrors that approach in various ways. Aside from loading screens, theres practically no stoppage in gameplay. For example, there are no cinema screens. Bits of story are delivered through your teams communication equipment sometimes youll even have video patched through to your helmet. Everything is done while youre still moving, and on occasion, still shooting. This is a great way for the game to maintain a constant level of tension. After all, you are fighting terrorists.

Interestingly enough, what happens in Vegas? doesnt necessarily stay in Vegas. You actually start off in Mexico pursuing a terror threat. Then you head to various fictional locales in Las Vegas, then you head to the equivalent of the Hoover Dam as well as a college campus. In a way, the game doesnt make the city the sole star, instead asking the players to concentrate more on the story elements and characters.

In terms of visual work, Rainbow Six? isnt quite on the level of Gears of War,? but its still easy on the eyes. One look outside of the chopper before missions reveals a tremendous view of a Mexican city and of course the illuminated landscape of Las Vegas, where you can actually pick out the likenesses of hotels like the Bellagio, or even the Luxor, with it’s signature spire of light.

The casinos that you fight in, while fictional, reek of Vegas atmosphere. You can fight terrorists in the gaming pits, with ubiquitous sounds of the machines contrasting with the sounds of grenades getting tossed at you and bullets flying past your head. Theres thumping music in the lounges as well as soft rock playing in the more wide-open lobby areas. Money even flies out of machines when they get shot.

However, all the lights and glamour dont score as high as the gameplay. Unlike conventional first-person shooters that have you jump around and scramble behind the occasional wall for protection, Vegas? features a take-cover mechanic that switches the camera to third-person view so you can actually see Keller hide behind everything from standard walls to game machines.

There’s also a multitude of things Keller and his squadmates can do. He can order his teammates to any spot he can see with just a point of the HUD and press of a button, which means you can flank guys giving you trouble or clear out a room without putting Keller in the line of fire.

More good stuff happens when you reach doors. You can use the snake cam? to peek into a room, tag enemies with priority markers, and then order your team to either blow out the door, toss in a smoke grenade, or clean out the room with a shrapnel grenade. In hostage situations, you can toss in a flashbang? grenade to disorient your enemies, giving you and your team the time to take them out without hitting the hostages. The gameplay literally covers all the bases. Hell, you can even use a rope to climb down and crash through windows, Batman-style.

The game also offers a lot of fun multiplayer options. If you have an Xbox camera, you can actually put your face on your virtual solider. Or, you can do what a lot of gamers have done, and put famous peoples mugs out there. There are also different kinds of match types, like attack and defend, survival (team deathmatch) and sharpshooter (free-for-all deathmatch). You can get up to 14 people (though I’ve seen 16 on rare occasions) into an online match.

Some of the flaws I encountered dealt with sound. Sometimes the gunshots and voices would sound muffled when they didn’t need to be, or other sounds would loop over and over for a few minutes. In multiplayer, the graphics quality also takes a slight dip — I imagine the sacrifice was made to ensure more fluidity in the experience.

But with those issues aside, this could be the most complete first-person experience on any system. The next time I head to Vegas, I’m bringing the snake cam.

Rating: 4 stars out of 4.