Wednesday, May 7, 2008

We've come a long way since 1980

I've always been a gamer, since my friend first got his Atari 2600 for Christmas back in the early 80s. We would spend hours in the basement, staring at a 20 inch television playing games like "Vanguard" and "Pitfall" until our thumbs blistered. I had a TRS80 with a crateful of cartridge based games that we played at my house, too, so we never missed out on any of the video gaming action during those early years.

As time passed, my gaming turned to the PC primarily, with a wealth of great titles to choose from. Although I spent most of my time glued to the computer monitor, I still played with other systems like the Intellivision, Sega, Sega Genesis, and Dreamcast. But it wasn't until a few years ago that I finally broke down and purchased a next generation gaming system - the original Xbox - when it was bundled with the much anticipated "Halo 2."

From those first days playing those pixellated, antiquated games with horrible graphics, sound, and minimal storylines, I never would have dreamed about the types of rich, realistic, innovative games we play today. The latest titles seem to continually push the envelope in terms of story, technical and aesthetic quality, and playability.

Today, as a husband and father of three, I'm not always able to find the time to play my newest system, the Xbox 360. That's why it's so important that I do my research and find quality affordable titles to play in my valuable and minimal spare time.

Here's a sampling of the games I've been playing lately:

Stranglehold: This Chow Yun Fat John Woo collaborative title is filled with plenty of gunplay and an army villains to kill, with a movie-style storyline and well-voiced cut scenes which propel the story nicely.

The "bullet time" slow motion feature, (in this game called "Tequila time" after the last name of the main character played by Fat), is worth the price of the game. This player-triggered ability allows you to have the ability to slow down time while jumping "Woo style" in the air, firing two-fisted pistols into endless enemies, sliding around on carts, down banisters, and busting through walls and furniture. Other unique abilities such as pushing off of walls while shooting and other special attacks make this game difficult to put down.

The Simpsons Game: This co-op game is the best in the Simpsons series so far, taking a lot of pot-shots at it's own franchise, the television program, and the video game industry in the process. I played this one with my nine-year-old son, who had very few problems solving the game's often challenging puzzles and gameplay, referring only a few times to Internet walkthroughs to get through the rough spots.

This is a good game to play with an older child, but there are some adult references made and some questionable language (Marge yells "cmon bitches!" to some compliant dog characters for example.) The only problem I had was that the two copies of the game I purchased both became scratched and rendered unusable by the Xbox 360 for some reason. Luckily, we had already solved the game.

Bioshock: The graphics, story, and voice-characterizations in this game are eery and excellent. Gameplay is unique -- this is perhaps the most original title I have ever played. I haven't finished this yet but it is already on my short list of the best games I have ever played. I'd try to explain the story to you but it may only confuse you further. Check out the review on

The Bigs: This underated baseball game downgrades the difficulty of most MLB-based titles by translating them more into an arcade-style format. Instead of playing full games or focusing on manager-oriented franchise modes, "The Bigs" takes all of the fun aspects of traditional baseball games and focuses them into the most enjoyable option, the "Rookie Challenge" which has gamers working to hit home runs, steal bases, and achieve other milestones (with their self-created rookie player as the star) in three to five inning mini-games against teams with authentic rosters.

Successful players are granted money they can use to upgrade the abilities and physical appearance of their player. All of this combined makes the game fun and far less frustrating than the often difficult to master pitching, hitting, and fielding models which plague other games of this genre.

No comments: