Simpsons demo thoughts

As you probably know, the demo for “The Simpsons Game” graced Live today. I finally got a chance to play it, and I’d been actually looking forward to it since we got to see so much of it at E3. The demo plops you right in the middle of a boss battle, where Bart and Homer have to engage the giant Lard Lad statue in “Shadow of the Colossus”-style combat. Overall, I enjoyed the demo. But I’ve spotted some issues as well.

Here’s what I liked:

- The art style, voice acting and humor. This is probably the most faithful Simpsons game I’ve seen in terms of capturing the show’s vibe. Everything from hearing Kent Brockman giving the so-called play-by-play of the battle to Homer saying stuff like, “I can’t hurt him, he’s too awesome!” or “I can’t help you, I’m too drunk!!” All this made the length of the battle much more enjoyable.

- The character powers. I enjoyed how both Bart and Homer had their own unique powers. I leaned heavily on Bart my first time through the demo — he can turn into Bartman and glide through the air, not to mention use his grappling hook to scale some of the buildings that were being decimated by the Lard Lad’s eye lasers. Homer uses his girth, swelling into a giant, controllable ball of lard that can crush things. He was especially effective against the legion of miniature Krusty the Clown robots that kept waddling toward us.

- The concept. The game is a parody of other video games, and I managed to catch some subtle and not-so-subtle instances of industry roasting. For instance, pop open the first hatch on Lard Lad’s backside helped me collect the “obvious weakness” video game cliche (I think there’s three). Stuff like that makes me want to see what the rest of the game pokes at.

What I didn’t like:

- The camera. My god, that needs to be addressed. At least “Colossus” had a target-lock system that allowed you to track the beast whenever you had to turn around and reposition yourself. There’s targeting in this game, but it chose to lock on the small robots instead of the GIANT FREAKING ONE that was trying to step on or shoot me. There were a couple of time where I was just plain dizzy with the camera’s sometimes spastic choices for viewpoints — like behind a wall or some other damn thing. I got cheaply shot a LOT of times by the robot. I didn’t die … but I wouldn’t have been shocked. If anything else, EA, I’m begging you: Fix. That. Camera.

I’m going to go through it again, just for giggles. I’m also downloading the demo for Conan, which I hear is … not great. We’ll see.

First impressions of NBA 2K8

Let me get this out the way … I enjoy many parts of this game. I like how it looks, how it sounds, and how it’s managed to capture every twitch and physical nuance of every NBA star ranging from King James to the Big Ticket. The best part is the multitude of new features and moves — finger rolls, crossovers, post-up moves, etc.

Just one problem … I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. And I can’t be alone.

The instruction booklet (some people still read those), has a page or two telling you about all the cool stuff that comes with the game, but neglects to tell you any more. It’s like a big tease … no general explanations, no concepts on how the new moves are supposed to work … we’re essentially left to try and figure everything out. Worst instruction booklet EVER.

Now, I can survive based on my knowledge from the previous games — and I also managed to find an in-game tutorial regarding the slam-dunk contest — but in a lot of the games I’ve played either online or single player, I feel stuck in an experimental prison of stick-jiggling and trigger-pulling, just to see what might happen. Meanwhile, the other team’s PG is taking it to the cup at will, or driving-and-dishing while I’m trying to mess with the “lock-on-D” feature. I can only imagine what this would be like if I’d never played a 2K hoops game before. It could be a nightmare.

Other issues: The game seems more animation-heavy than ever, and there are still too many blown layups. I can understand if I blow a layup — I’m a short, stocky vacuum of hoops ability. But these guys are pros, and the next time I see Garnett blow a layup a foot away from the hoop, the controller’s going into the wall.

I’ll be doing a review for the paper — provided I figure everything out. Which is no guarantee.

Games blamed for surge in cop killings

There’s an article in Time magazine about the increase in police officers getting killed in the line of duty. According to numbers from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, cops are kgetting killed at a higher rate than in the last 30 years. Here’s more numbers and an excerpt from the article:

As of September 18, the memorial fund showed shooting deaths up nearly 60% over last year, from 34 in 2006 to 54 this year (the worst year for such killings was 1975, when there were 99 deaths in the same period). Not only are officer shootings up, but the number of multiple deaths is also on the rise this year, says memorial fund president Craig Floyd. In the first nine months of 2007 there were six cases of more than one officer gunned down during the same shooting spree, up from just one in all of last year.

The subject of violent video games is approached in the article, and it’s bolstered by words from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Here’s another excerpt:

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of On Combat and On Killing, who trains the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, subscribes to that controversial notion. Grossman relates how officers raiding methamphetamine labs and gang hangouts often find violent video games left behind. “Every time they take down a gang house, there’s always one thing that will always be there,” Grossman says. “It’s a video game. The video games are their newspaper, their television, their all-consuming narrative. And their video games are all cop-killer, criminal simulators.”

As far as that last comment … well, is that really a shock? If you raid a place that used to house gang bangers and addicts, you’re probably not going to find “Barbie Horse Adventures” or “Hannah Montana” lying on the floor. As Alexander Sliwinski of Joystiq asks, wouldn’t criminals be more inclined to play violent, cop-killing games in the first place? Also, it should be noted that things were actually worse for cops about 30 years ago, long before the social bullseye was painted on the video game industry. Just some food for thought.

You can check out the whole Time article here.

Voice talent for ‘Turok’ announced

Today, Touchstone announced the voice actors for the first-person shooter “Turok,” for the 360 and PS3. Older gamers might remember that name from the N64 days, where you essentially got to run around and blast the living hell out of dinosaurs trying to kill you. Here are some names I recognized in the release.

- Powers Boothe (he’ll be the villain, Roland Kane)
- Timothy Olyphant (Seth Bullock from Deadwood and he’ll be Agent 47 in ‘Hitman’ — he plays someone named ‘Cowboy’ in the game)
- Ron Perlman (my personal favorite … he was Hellboy, Reinhart in ‘Blade II’ and Lord Hood in ‘Halo 3′)
- Donnie Wahlberg (from ‘Band of Brothers’, he’ll be playing Shepard in the game)

If you want to know a little more, check the release after the jump.

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