Sunday, March 25, 2007

360 review: The Godfather (4/10)

Now that I have my 360 back (well, a 360, but you know what I mean), I can get back to achieving. Until my copy of Guitar Hero II arrives on Tuesday, I've been working at The Godfather.

That's right: not playing, working at.

Basically, it's a Mob-era GTA. You work your way up in the family, helping yours and hurting the other families, until eventually you're the don. Obviously, with the licensing, you're in the Corleone family, and the story line follows the movie (I think just the first one). You'll get to see various scenes from the movie reenacted within the game, and you can also unlock clips from the actual movie.

The game itself isn't bad, with the usual amount of collectibles. The real problem is, well, everything that isn't actually game play. Describing the interface and menu navigation as awful would be doing an injustice to the word awful.

TG uses the same concept as some other games, only allowing you to save at certain places in the game. If you "die" during a mission, you can simply restart from the last checkpoint. If you die at any other time, you're whisked away to the nearest hospital. That's not unusual either. However, when you die, you can't simply choose to load a saved game.

If you want to load a game, here's what you have to do:

  1. Quit your current game.
  2. From the main menu, press start and choose your device.
  3. Wait for your profile to "load", and select "Load Game".
  4. Wait for your profile to "load", and select the game to load.
  5. Wait for your profile to "load", and select "Join the Family".

Evidently, the morons who are directing the Madden and NCAA programmers had a hand in this as well. This could possibly be less convenient (like when the game loads, and you have to sit through the entire spoken intro every time), but not by much.

Did I mention that the four save slots are laid out in a 2x2 box on the screen, with a thin white line around the non-selected ones and a thin red line around the selected ones? Did I mention there's no save date on any of them? (They do have elapsed game time, though.) Did I mention EA sucks?

The map is fairly nice, except that you can't zoom in closely enough to identify which streets exist in the game and which don't. (Yes, they only let you explore certain areas of New York in the game, but put more of the city on the map. Why? Because it's stupid.) There's no pathfinding feature either, so if you're heading for unfamiliar territory, expect to pause a lot and check out the map, which you access through a handy hot key. Oh, that's right, it doesn't have a hot key.

Even some of the controls are awkward. For example, to look behind you in a car, hold down the right stick. Nice, except that you back up with X. Try that with one hand. Of course, you don't have to back up with X, you can also back up with the left trigger, but the mission that teaches you how to drive a car doesn't tell you that.

You automatically level up, but you get one skill point to distribute as you like: you can put it toward fighting, shooting, health, or whatever. Not a bad idea. You also get promoted within the family once you reach certain levels.

This is supposedly a free-play game, with the main quest there when you want it, but side quests and free roaming if you'd prefer that, but like Fable, if you ignore a main quest, the phone will ring and ring. Hobson's Quest, anyone?

There are plenty of side quests in a variety of places that require a variety of skills, which would definitely be a nice touch if it weren't for the inexplicable inability to load a new game easily. If you're like me, you'll find yourself trying the same side quest over and over and over again, until you can't take it any more and quit back to the dashboard. And this is supposed to be taking time away from my rendition of Symphony of Destruction?

If you're a big Godfather fan, or if you have a lot of patience, I suppose it's worth renting. If not, it's definitely an offer you can refuse.

Update: One point deducted for yet another stupid save-game "feature". If you hire someone, normally he stays with you until he dies. Well, if you save your game, he disappears. $1000 out the window. You have to "load" my profile every time I save and you can't remember that I hired someone? Oh, right, this is the new EA.

Update: One more point deducted for failing to provide either 50 achievements or, more importantly 1000 gamerscore. EA's already dipping into your pocket for the level 4 weapons, which you really don't need anyway because the level 3 weapons are so good. This sure looks like they intend to release an addition at some point with the other 165 gamerscore.

zlionsfan's rating: 3 feeble GTA knockoffs out of 10.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Peaches and Herb

So I get a call when I'm at work.

"Hi. Is z there?"

It's a 360's voice.

"This is z. Have we met before?"

"No. I know Xbox Support. They were telling me about you. I'm sorry to hear that you've been going through some tough times. If you like, I could come over and we could talk about it."

"Um ... sure ..."

"Is tonight good for you?"

"Well, I can't make it home in time tonight, but tomorrow would be great."

"Pick me up at 9?"

"Sure, I can do that."

So now I have a "new" 360. (Refurbished, to be precise.)

I got it home, plugged it in, turned it on. Ring of Death. panic.

Turned it off, checked cables, turned it on. Back in business.

So far, so good (although I'm downloading the XBLA games I missed). No fights yet, but I haven't played anything either.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

360: Separation, part 8

Well, it's in town. Of course, I don't have it, because the UPS guy arrived at a different time. So I entered the InfoNotice number and will pick it up tomorrow.

Things I think are funny:
  • The approximate time of the next attempt is 10:30-2:00, which is funny because I took a late lunch in anticipation of this, and he didn't show up until 2:55 or so.
  • You can't change the delivery option for a package until an attempt has been made, and you can't change it via the website at all without an InfoNotice number. You can't make a change for the following day's delivery after 7, and you can't pick up a package after 7. I wish I could work like this. "Sorry, I have something of yours, but you can't come get it, you can't tell me where else to leave it, and you have to wait until after I fail to deliver it to get it yourself."

Sounds like cable service. The best part is that I've already told them to leave everything they can, but half the stuff I order can't be left no matter what. Funny how FedEx doesn't seem to have a problem with that.

What they need is to hire a skeleton crew to work nights, so that you can pick up your package in the evening, after the trucks are back. Then we could get our stuff the day we'd asked for it to be delivered.

I'm just saying.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

360: Separation, part 7

So I got a phone call around noon today - unrecognized number, I wouldn't have answered it if I'd been at my phone. It's a Greensboro, NC number. I know people in NC, but probably not there. Who could it be? No message, just a number.

Well, actually, there was a message. Much later in the day, my cell phone confessed that yes, I had missed a call, and that there was voice mail waiting for me. Turns out it was UPS, presumably with my refurbished 360 (because I'm not expecting anything else). Of course, the automated system didn't wait for my message to finish before speaking, so I missed the first part of their message, so I have no tracking number.

But wait! I'm smarter than that. I checked the website, and what do you know? They provided me everything except the 1Z. (Clever company. Use a system for your tracking numbers, but don't make it obvious.) It is, indeed, coming from 360ville (McAllen, TX), scheduled to arrive tomorrow, which means I'll likely pick it up Friday, after we do the door dance (I take a late lunch and miss the guy, UPS guy leaves me an InfoNotice, I call back and have them hold it). I like how they let you sign something to leave your packages, but then half the packages you get can't be left anyway.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

360: Separation, part 6

No idea where my 360 or its replacement are. Still can't link my 360 to my profile. I did update my profile with the correct e-mail address, but that could have been misspelled too.

I feel like I've given the keys to my Jaguar to the lot's general manager so that he can take care of it himself. Well, I don't know that he's the GM, but he said he was.

I pre-ordered the two-guitar package from, so I better have a 360 on the 3rd, one way or the other.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Two weeks.

IGN has a clip of someone playing The Trooper, presumably on Expert. He's pretty good.

I want this. Now.

Well, not now. My replacement 360 isn't here yet. But I still want it soon.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Worst. Coverage. Ever.

More details to come, but this is what's happening right now. CBS cut away from the Purdue-Florida game to show us part of the end of the Tennessee-Virginia game, except that they'd cut back to the Purdue-Florida game, almost missing the end of the UT-UVa game. Of course, UT-UVa is blacked out, so we can't see it on the MMM package.

CBS should do the right thing and back out of the contract with the NCAA. They've demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that they're clearly incapable of covering an event like this one.

Friday, March 16, 2007

360: Separation, part 5

I have no idea what's going on with my 360. I can't associate it with my Big Brother Windows ID because their system sucks, and of course they won't tell me why. I imagine it's because they spelled my name wrong. In fairness, it's not an easy last name to spell, but even so, I had to correct the guy three separate times. With that in mind, having first name and last name as primary keys in their database is really, really, really stupid, but this does come from a company who'd hire W as a customer service consultant. (I still think that the only reason they've bent over backward to help out owners of defective 360s is that the PS3 still sucks, so they want to make sure that everyone knows that Sony sucks and Microsoft just doesn't suck as much.)

Can't type. More basketball.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

360: Separation, part 4

Dropped the 360 off to be shipped today. Second-day air. Yeah, it was a little expensive, but a) I'm not paying for the actual repairs and b) we're in four-day ground territory, which means that it's possible they'd receive the console after the warranty expires. I'd rather not take any chances.

The Pak Mail place had an office cat. Very cool. Rather like one of mine, except bigger. This one was very interested in the paperwork (probably because the box was closed - can you think of a better business for an office cat than a shipping place? Boxes, bubble wrap ...), especially when I had to sign something.

360: Separation, part 3

So, after I put the Intercooler on my 360, things were going well for a while. Worms didn't have any problems.

I figured I'd branch out, try something new. I put in The Godfather.

All of a sudden, the 360 stopped. "I'm tired of these games. I just want to rest for a while."

"Can't we try something? How about Gauntlet? You always liked Gauntlet."

So I played Gauntlet for a while. Not graphics-intensive.

I fired up Assault Heroes. Yep, locked up again.

"Okay, honey, maybe it would be best if we spent some time on our own, just to sort things out."

As soon as it shut down, I called the Wolf.

"Freezes up? Different games? Hard drive on and off?" He thought for a minute, flipped through a little notepad, thought for a minute. "Yeah, I can handle this. Box it up, send it to me. I'll take care of the rest."

"But Mr. Wolf, how do I pay ..."

"You're covered, kid. Don't worry about it." He hung up before I could ask another question.

(Warranty? So I guess they extended the warranty by a year rather than to a year. Works for me! Hello, UPS ...)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

360: Separation, part 2

Well, I was a little late getting home tonight because we had an NCAA draft. It's pretty complicated, so I can't really do it justice by explaining it, except to say that a) everyone gets eight teams and b) there are a bunch of rules about additional penalties when certain things happen, like if you lose to a directional school or to a lower seed.

Of course, it's all for fun. We don't bet money.

Anyway, here's the exchange I had with my 360:

"You were out pretty late. I guess it was your little draft thing?"

"Yeah. Anyway, I ran some errands at lunch, and I picked up a little something for you. It's not much, and it won't fix everything, but I thought it might help a little bit."

"We'll see. What is it?"

"Here." (opens the Intercooler) "Go ahead, put it on."

"Well, what do you think?"

"I think it looks good on you. It really fits you well. How does it feel?"

"Not too heavy. I thought it would weigh more than this."

"Yeah, they really do wonders with these. Anyway, the next time you get really hot about something I've done, hopefully this will help."

75 straight minutes of Worms (not all gameplay - part of the time it's just on - but that was what would lock it up before) and no vertical lines yet, so maybe it was just overheating.

If that's the case, then I would definitely recommend it for those who don't have one yet. We'll see. April will be the test.

360: Separation, part 1

So my 360 shuts down on Saturday. Won't play a game for long.

"We need to talk."

"Hey! I was halfway through that challenge on Worms!" (looks at the 360 more closely) "What's wrong?"

"I noticed that you've been busy recently. We haven't spent nearly as much time together as we used to."

"Yeah, well, I've been meaning to talk to you about that. Work's been busy, and, um ..."

"It's another console, isn't it?"

"Well ... you know, you won't have Guitar Hero II for another three weeks, and my friends got me Bully and God of War for birthday and Christmas, and I couldn't very well send them back, so I tried them, and, um ..."

"Do you like them?"

"I like achievements a lot. And I'm really starting to get into Viva PiƱata. And Gears of War and The Godfather just arrived."

"That's not what I asked."

"Um ... I like you too. And I never said that I would play you exclusively. You knew about the PS2 when I bought you."

"And the Wii?"

"Well ... it's not the same, you know ... the controls are different ..."

"But you've spent a lot of time on that Rayman game. You must like it."

"Yeah, I guess so."

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that I just don't feel appreciated any more. I think you take me for granted. So I think maybe it would be better for both of us if we spent some time apart, so that maybe you'll appreciate what I have to offer."

And the 360 didn't work after that. Well, not for very long.

It might just be overheating. Some games are apparently more prone to this than others. I picked up an Intercooler today, hoping that that will solve the problem. If not, well, I guess I'll throw myself on the mercies of Xbox Support.

All I ask is that I have something back on the 2nd. My 360 and I have something big planned for that day ...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

It's understood ...

Got my first perfect score on Hard today (GH II): Strutter. It's by far the easiest song in the first couple of sets, which means it's probably the easiest Hard song of all. For as well as I know Surrender, I just can't get a couple of the phrases down, and Message in a Bottle has way too many notes to get easily.

When I finally stumbled through Woman to unlock the second set, I got four stars on Message in a Bottle, then tried Strutter. Five stars the first time, and no missed notes until about halfway through. I finished the rest of the set (three stars on each), knocked out Them Bones (3) and Monkey Wrench (4), and came back to finish up Strutter.

What makes it so easy is that there aren't any speed notes (sixteenths or faster - at least I think they're sixteenths), and the only orange notes can be played with your pinky without having to play other notes.

Unfortunately, I had the time to practice because my 360 apparently died. It's locking up pretty much every time I play a game, and of course it didn't happen a month ago while it was still under warranty. Well, we'll see what happens. I have a feeling I'm going to be out some money. Now, if only there were something to keep me out of the house for a few days this week ...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Dear Bud,

I wanted to let you and your fellow idiots know that I canceled my Extra Innings package. It's getting to the point where your ineptness is too difficult to ignore. For years and years, you've insisted upon changing baseball to be more like other sports, when in fact it's the very things you changed that were attracting fans to the sport. In case you hadn't noticed, matched up head-to-head, baseball will lose to virtually every other sport.

But this is really too much. You may not be aware that the NFL's insistence on working only with DirecTV in the US has been hotly debated, and that millions of NFL fans are furious about it, but (for now) powerless to change it. (We won't even mention Gary Bettman's attempts to hide the NHL completely.) If you're going to copy another sport's televising plans, I'd recommend the NBA. David Stern knows a lot more about how to manage a sport internationally.

Furthermore, you're looking to the wrong group for examples on what to do when you're caught doing something really stupid. Politicians generally a) lie, b) blame others, c) ignore questions, d) insist it was in the past, and e) grudgingly admit only what's rubbed in their face, usually in that order, and usually at the media equivalent of gunpoint. While you wallow in your stupidity, more baseball fans will be unable to watch their favorite teams (or most teams, for that matter), and at the same time, they'll be able to watch the NHL playoffs, NBA playoffs, NFL and NCAA football regular seasons. Great move.

If you'd step down prior to ruining what's left of the national pastime, I'd appreciate it.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Can't Broadcast for S---

Among other things, the most recent NFL season showed us that some of CBS' broadcast teams are awful. Apparently that extends to its NCAA coverage as well.

I'm watching the Michigan-Ohio State game, Tommy Amaker's last regular-season game at Michigan, and Thad Matta must be thrilled to know that CBS brought its #10 announcing team to Ann Arbor to announce his #1 team's game with the Wolverines.

Enberg is tolerable. I suppose he gets a pass, somewhat, because he's about 90, but Dan Bonner is an idiot. The first reference to Michigan State instead of Michigan is a freebie: in two and a half hours, you can make one egregious mistake, sure. Three in one half indicates a poorly-prepared announcer, an unintelligent announcer, or both. There was also a reference to someone named Odom, I think. If I recall correctly, a) Lamar Odom went to Rhode Island b) several seasons ago. The young man staying in Columbus temporarily is Oden. O-d-e-n.

Naturally, the producer is reminding Enberg to point out that Michigan is on the bubble about once every five minutes.

I doubt that all the broadcast teams went to hell all of a sudden. I must not have noticed as much when I was younger.