Sunday, October 29, 2006

360 review: Burnout Revenge (6/10)

I missed the first installment in the Burnout series - I was too busy with Gran Turismo to pick up a less-serious racing game for the PS2. However, I did play Burnout 3: Takedown, and really liked it. The crash events were great, even though the racing events weren't that good.

As you probably have seen by now, Burnout Revenge is more of the same. The biggest change is that you can now hit smaller traffic going your direction without wrecking: they've added a new event, Traffic Attack, based solely on this ability. Basically, there are three types of events: crash events, fastest lap events, and race events.

The crash events are outstanding. The Crash events are as fun as in Burnout 3, although there are still far too many times when you can't see in the right direction or you can't find your car at a key time. Surprisingly, there are also times when the best path isn't the path you'd think it would be. Traffic Attack events are mostly fun, although the ones with stretches without cars to wreck are much less fun. Road Rage events are interesting.

Sadly, the racing events suck just as much as before - they're as bad as the crash events are good. The Burnout series is based on crashing, which means that the races involve a lot of accidents. All too often, you'll find yourself ticking a rock, a post, or some other minor outcropping that didn't seem to be a problem the previous lap, ruining your chances at a gold in Burning Lap or Preview events, or putting you too far behind in the race events. If you do fall behind, you've got no idea how far in front the next car is; if you're out in front, you have no idea how close behind your pursuers are until one of them checks a car into you. The Grand Prix events would be acceptable in a normal game, but in this game, the frustration level is high enough that many times, it's simply not worth finishing. There is no option to start a race over, just the entire Grand Prix, so when you've won the first two races but are inexplicably last in the third, you might as well just shut it off.

If EA knew what it was doing – in other words, the EA from five years ago – they'd scale down the race events, maybe just to Eliminator and Road Rage, and focus on the crashing, the things that make this game so much fun. Given their current marketing ineptitude, I wouldn't be surprised to see the next Burnout game drop the crashing completely.

This game is definitely worth renting for the crash events. The race events are tolerable only if you want to get achievements, and at that, a fair number of achievements involve a lot of online play. (There's also a wasted achievement - getting a clip in the Top 20 downloads. I don't understand why they do those.) It's really like two games in one. If I could rate them separately, I'd give Burnout Revenge: Crash a 10, and Burnout Revenge: Race a 2. As it is, I'll have to combine them.

zlionsfan's rating: a mean 6 out of 10.

PS2 review: Guitar Hero (10/10)

Yep, that's right, we're going back to Sony's final successful entry into the console wars. This came out quite some time ago, but I held off on buying it because I had other games I was playing early in the year (like Oblivion and, well, Oblivion). So my brother ends up getting it for me for my birthday, which is why I'm reviewing it now and not six months ago.

It rocks.

If you haven't seen the game, it's a guitar version of the karaoke-style games that have come out for the PS2, the ones where you sing along with popular songs and are scored based on how you match the melody. You use a special controller that works more like a bass than a lead guitar, with five buttons instead of frets, a wedge-shaped strum button instead of strings, and a whammy bar.

There are four levels of difficulty, easy, medium, hard, and expert, and different sets of songs with increasing difficulty within each level (the songs are mostly the same throughout, but you get more songs at the higher levels). I've made it through the easy and medium songs so far ...

For the easy songs, you're basically playing rhythm guitar to the main melody, with single notes spaced evenly and maybe a few chords thrown in, all on the first three buttons. The songs range from Joan Jett and Deep Purple to very-simplified Clapton and Hendrix (and even simplified, they can be a challenge). I was able to go straight through the easy songs, getting five-star reviews the first time in almost every set, and nothing less than four stars.

By the medium songs, you're playing lead, although you won't have to hit every note in some songs. The difficulty ranges from slightly harder Joan Jett and Deep Purple to Pantera and Randy Rhoades ... for these, during the first couple of sets, I could still knock out four- and five-star reviews. By the final set, there were points in the song where I basically gave up and waited for the next measure.

I think my bass background helped me because I was basically doing this type of thing, listening to a song and playing along, so at the easiest levels, I was right at home. I'm getting to the point where I'll have to work on picking rather than plucking (to play up and down rather than just down) to hit the really fast notes.

If you play a real guitar, you may not like this game as much for a couple of reasons. One is that it is definitely not like playing a real guitar (because otherwise, very few people would be able to play it). The other is that you can actually get the feeling that you're able to play Clapton or Stevie Ray Vaughan, and we all know that you can't.

For everyone else, if you have any interest in guitar playing at all, by all means, get this game, and set some money aside to get Guitar Hero 2 (although I'm waiting for the 360 version).

zlionsfan's rating: 11. It's one louder.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Evened up!

Well, I feel a lot better now, although I thought for a minute I was going to cry on the bar. Todd Jones has to be the shakiest closer in AL postseason history. I would have left Rogers in myself, which is what I've learned from all my experience managing in the bigs.

Basically, the Tigers played pretty well, and the Cardinals didn't play well until the ninth. The one thing Detroit can improve upon is getting runners home. They stranded five runners in two innings - getting a key hit in either inning would have blown the game open and got them even deeper into the Cardinals' pen.

Oh well, at least the Series is even. A nothing-to-lose Game 3 on Tuesday facing the Cardinals' ace, and I bet that's how Leyland puts it to his team. We'll see if the oddsmakers still favor the Tigers.

coolstandings.com is back to picking the Tigers by quite a bit. After Game 1, the Cards had a slight edge, but now, the three most likely scenarios favor Detroit. (It's worth noting that they have the odds about 3 to 1 that the Series will come back to Comerica.)

In 1990, Detroit had home-court advantage in the NBA Finals, but split the first two games with Portland. Much was made about the fact that the Pistons hadn't won there in something like 17 years (although it was only 14 games or so - at one point, I guess you didn't necessarily play home-and-home against every team in the other conference), and some people were predicting a three-game sweep to end the series. Well, they were right ... but it was the Pistons who took three, not the Blazers.

I'm not saying the Tigers will win three in St. Louis.

But I wouldn't bet against it.

Off to a bad start

Well, I guess the best thing about Game 1 was that it wasn't one little mistake that cost the Tigers the game. They made enough mistakes to give the Cardinals an advantage if St. Louis had played poorly, and St. Louis did enough things well to win without Tigers mistakes.

Verlander got too many pitches high in the zone, the defense wasn't particularly good, and even though the Tigers were more patient than maybe any other game so far in the playoffs, they didn't hit enough balls on the ground. Reyes kept the Cardinals' bullpen idle until the 9th, negating much of the advantage Detroit had from its six-day layoff.

But the good news is that Rogers is pitching tomorrow, and coming from behind is nothing new to this team. If you believe in omens, the '68 team fell behind 3 games to 1 and still won the Series.

In addition to that, Sparky, the only manager to win the Series in both leagues, recorded his AL title nine years after an NL title.

Nine years ago, Leyland's Marlins won the Series.

(Yes, I know, the last Reds title was in '76, not '75, but see, this is how TV shapes statistics for their story.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Michael Irvin? Reasonable?

Unbelievable. Who would ever have thought it? Michael Irvin as the voice of reason. The ridiculousness that happened in the Florida International-Miami game was made even worse by commentator Lamar Thomas, who basically said that was what was supposed to happen. Irvin said right away that Thomas should have been fired.

However, he quickly reasserted his foolishness by suggesting that the NCAA punishments should be based on the NFL punishments and that the Hurricane players should not be suspended for a full season.

John Swofford, the ACC commissioner, was a fool. One game sending a message that this won't be tolerated? It's the Duke game! If it were only one game, then it would have to be Florida or Florida State, and even at that, it's not enough.

I'd suspend the players for the rest of the season - I'd consider kicking Meriweather off the team, and I'd definitely kick Reddick off the team.

I'd fire Coker immediately.

What did he do? He insisted that he's still in control. That's it. In the meantime, FIU kicked two players off the team and suspended the other involved players indefinitely.

Coker has no control over a program that's been controlled poorly for a long time. The last thing Miami needs is a coach who can't control his players.

The sad thing is that Coker won't be fired for this. He'll be fired because Miami isn't winning enough games.

Thug

So I'm going back over the Tennessee-Dallas game, and I see the play where Albert Haynesworth stomps Andre Gurode. Now, I have no love for the Cowboys, but even so ... even if I were a Redskins fan, this is not something I would want to see.

Daryl Johnston said it very well. The NFL fines players for uniform violations and suspends them for substance abuse, so they should definitely have taken action to make sure this never happens again.

Well, he got a five-game suspension, but to me, that's not enough. If you want it to never happen again, at a minimum, he should be out for a full season. Not the rest of the season. 16 games. I don't care what's happening on the field. There's no reason, ever, to step on a man's head, deliberately, when he's not wearing a helmet. (For the record, on that play, it looked like Haynesworth basically threw Gurode to the ground, pulled off his helmet, and then stomped him twice.)

At least the NFLPA didn't appeal it. That's one thing I never understand, why players' associations appeal suspensions for players who deliberately injure other players. Hello? Aren't you representing all players here?

I'm surprised Haynesworth didn't attend Miami.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

YEAH!!!!!!!!!!

Seven down, four to go. It's 2:15 in the morning, I have an eleven-hour drive tomorrow, and Magglio Ordoñez is worth every penny.

By the way, Dayn Perry thinks Chris Shelton should be on the WS roster. He's a fool (Perry, not Shelton). I'd write him and let him know that a) Shelton hasn't hit well since April and b) part of the reason the Tigers traded for Casey is that Shelton's defense isn't that good either, but I can't, because Fox doesn't want you to contact their writers. Whatever.

I'm not sure if I'd rather see the Tigers shell Jeff Weaver and the Cardinals, or watch them beat the Mets and burn up the other half of the "Subway Series". Either way, I'm busy the 21st, 22nd, 24th, and 25th, and possibly the 26th, 28th, and 29th.

I say Tigers over the Cardinals in five. I'd almost rather see it go six, so that the Tigers can celebrate in Comerica one more time, but I'd rather not lose two games. Either NL team can definitely cause problems for Detroit, but if they keep playing like this, Bud Selig will be shaking hands with Mike Ilitch in late October.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Two games to none!

Despite having an automatic out in the lineup, the Tigers take Game 2 from the A's, 8-5. Todd Jones gets the save by bringing the winning run to the plate and then getting him to fly out to center. I believe my heart has started beating again.

This is a very good position for the Tigers. It's definitely possible to blow this lead, but not very likely. If they can take Game 3, they'll be in great shape.

No off day! I want a Thursday night game. :)

LCS Game 1 in the books

Now that was the way to start a series. I wonder if Leyland is trying the tennis trick, putting his #4 starter in the #1 spot and hoping for an upset that will give him an advantage the rest of the way through the rotation. If so, it worked like a charm. It was great to watch the Tigers knock Zito out early. If they can get to him, they can get to anyone in the A's rotation. Of course, the trick is to get to everyone in the rotation ... stealing a game on the road doesn't help if you lose one at home.

Game 2 tomorrow (well, tonight), with a lot of pressure on Oakland. Win this and they're in good shape; lose and they have to take at least two in Detroit, with Rogers and Bonderman in games 3 and 4.

My only real concern at this point is with Casey. If the Mayor isn't able to play, they'll miss his bat in the lineup, and perhaps his glove at first - the error by Guillen was a tough one, almost looked like he didn't look the ball into his glove.

Go Tigers!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How sweet it is!

Wow, how time flies. I still haven't caught up with last week's NFL roundup ... anyway, what a finish! There's nothing like crushing a heavily-favored opponent. Sometimes you don't even feel the full impact right away, like when the Pistons whacked the Lakers in 2004. It's so unexpected that it doesn't really sink in until later.

This is different, though, in part because it's only the division series. The Tigers have four more wins before they even get to play for the real thing ... still, knocking out the Yankees, and better yet, maybe even getting Joe Torre fired? Amazing!

Classic overreaction by Steinbrenner as well, although I do like this quote:

I want to congratulate the Detroit Tigers organization and wish them well.

I love it!

It'll be an interesting weekend. I'm not sure I'll be in front of a TV for very long ... hopefully the first two games go well enough that I don't need to glue myself to the set.

Friday, October 06, 2006

2 games to 1!

Wow! What a start by Rogers! The Tigers have been steadily improving with each game, and I think it's safe to say that the Yankees have been declining each game. However, it's still up in the air. The thing about a five-game series is that every game is important. Detroit can't afford to lose tomorrow - you don't want to have to win two road games, even if you had the best road record in baseball.

I nearly had a very embarrassing thing happen. I was at BWW watching the game, and at some point in the third or fourth inning, after a big hit, a Yankees fan kind of stood up on the rungs of his bar stool and shouted. No words, just a noise. The first time, I wasn't expecting it (he was four seats down from me). The second time, I figured it was because he was an obnoxious Yankees fan.

Later in the game, another regular and his date sat down between me and the Yankees fan. Between innings, the regular turns to this guy and waves at him or something. I'm playing trivia, so this is out of the corner of my eye. The regular turns back to his date and says, "He is deaf. I thought so from the sounds he was making." (He had been signing to the guy - the regular used to be an interpreter.)

:o

I'm glad I didn't stand up and cheer, or point, or anything like that.

:o

(I didn't. I'd just thought about it.)

This is why I keep my mouth shut, for the most part, when I get mad. Almost without fail, when I'm mad at something, it's for the wrong reason.

Game 4 tomorrow afternoon. I'm busy. Don't call me.

Hopefully I'll be free on Sunday. :)

Split on the road ...

... and you know the other part. On the one hand, I was afraid they wouldn't be able to do it. On the other, well, this was the best road team in baseball this season. Verlander did a great job of settling down after the Damon home run (as opposed to Robertson in Game 1), and the Tigers again got a steady parade of hits, although this time they did a better job with them.

So now, all they have to do is ... you know.

Detroit doesn't have much of a playoff history, at least not in the post-expansion days.

In '87, the Twins had home-bubble advantage, and the Tigers were down 0-2 before winning Game 3 in Detroit. Even that required an eighth-inning homer by Pat Sheridan (trivia: the tying run was scored by Jack Morris. Sparky used him on a few occasions as a pinch-runner).

In '84, nothing was a problem. The Tigers took two games in Kansas City (the ALCS was 2-3 back then, with the higher-seeded team getting three home games at the end of the series) and one of two in San Diego (the Series was 2-3-2).

'72 was weird. Somehow, Detroit had home-field advantage, even though they had a worse record than Oakland. I guess it must have alternated. Anyway, the A's won both games in Oakland, Detroit took the next two, and then Oakland won Game 5 in Detroit.

So ... three seasons, four series, 3-6 record on the road, now 4-7. 7-2 at home, though, with their only losses being in the ALCS, Game 4 in '87 and Game 5 in '72.

That means nothing this season. Announcers like to talk about history and all that, but it doesn't matter. All that matters is how you play today.

At 8:20 EDT.

Go Tigers!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Baseball in October???

Sunday's game: Jim Joyce sucks. The best thing you can say about him is that his strike zone is equally mysterious for both teams. Granted, I'm not going to watch a Tigers game and be completely impartial, but there were a lot of pitches called in a way that demonstrated that Joyce understands even less about the strike zone than the average major-league umpire.

Some people believe that this gives baseball character, the fact that for this umpire, a pitch four inches outside is a strike, and for this one, a belt-high pitch is a ball. I think it's a crock. It's one of the ways in which Bud Selig's lack of leadership is palpable. MLB needs consistent officiating more than the other sports because there are so many isolated calls that need to be made, calls in situations where the wrong call is easily identified.

At some point, umpires will be forced to use some kind of system to help in calling balls and strikes. I don't know if this is a recent development, or if it's always been this way and we just never noticed as much, but it's clear that umpires can't call strikes on all sides of the zone. Something has to be done to help them.

Tuesday's game: Yuck. Well, hey, the whole postseason is a bonus. Most people are in agreement that the Tigers will be solid next year, although you wonder if maybe they need another bat (and please, not a current or former cheater: you know who I mean). Still, I'd rather be losing to the A's than the Yankees.

But really, if you look at the field, the Twins can't win outside the bubble (and apparently can't win a postseason game in it), the A's can't win in the postseason, and the NL? Whatever. So it looks like it might be yet another Yankee title. Great.

It still doesn't erase 2004, though. Hee hee!
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