Friday, November 30, 2007

I heart BTN

Yep, first they fixed the problem they had with me logging in to their site, and now I've been able to watch Louisiana-Monroe knock off Iowa in Iowa City during the Hawkeye Whateveritis, you know, the tournament where you invite two patsies to visit so you can get some cheap non-conference wins.

Ha ha. Apparently Iowa's lost only one other time in their tournament, to Arkansas State. The connection? Both teams are/were the Indians. (ULM, formerly Northeast Louisiana, is now the Warhawks. Much more geographically correct.)

(Side note: the Big Ten Network is hosting a contest where you pick the bowls to which Big Ten teams will be invited. The contest closes at 2 AM Saturday morning. If you're watching right now, you'll get two bowls right.)

Sports Cry

Bill Simmons is a tool.

Okay, to be fair, maybe he's always been a tool, and we were willing to overlook this because for a while, he wrote some pretty good stuff, or maybe he was really cool for a while, and this is just the True Boston Fan in him reawakening, or maybe it's simply bad timing.

Anyway, he has a post about how we just should all shut up and deal with the fact that the NFL Network sucked away a really good game from many, many households last night. Why? Because we get to see more games than we did 25 years ago.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me he's a bit too young to be dragging out the "In my day" arguments. Oh, and there's the minor point that his bosses pay for his television viewing, yes? So of course he doesn't care what network shows the games, he's going to see them all anyway.

Years and years ago, people warned about NFL games moving to cable (the Sunday night games), suggesting that the NFL was moving toward a strict PPV model. Of course, "everybody" shouted them down, pointing out how outrageous that would be. The NFL would never do that, would they?

Ironically, it's his '82 self to whom he writes this "letter". Maybe he should ask his '82 self if the NFL would be so stubborn as to ruin an entire season over labor disagreements. They'd never do that, would they?

At least this bit of blather replaced his usual Patriots blather. At least he had to tone down his anti-Colts rhetoric after the Super Bowl last year. Now he actually has to admit that that QB in Indianapolis is pretty good. With no qualifiers.

Okay. He hasn't done the "no qualifiers" part very well.

Monday, November 26, 2007

XBLA review: Worms (4/10)

So the Worms franchise came to the 360 a while back. If you're not familiar with it, Worms is a turn-based strategy series where you command a group of, well, worms against one or more opposing groups, using move-and-attack rules. The environment is destructible, so if you can't get to an enemy directly, you can blast your way through, and the water level rises at the end of every set of turns (water kills these worms).

Worms for the 360 is unimpressive. As the single-player challenges progress in difficulty, the computer makes fewer and fewer mistakes, to the point where it makes a perfect move nearly every time. That wouldn't be such a bad thing, except that Worms has several features that work against it:

  • Worms has no undo feature. Make a mistake, you're done. That can increase the frustration level a bit, especially if you're most of the way through the challenge.
  • A single pixel remaining from a blast can block your path or trigger a bazooka explosion, which can lead to the problem above: making a single mistake and not being able to undo it.
  • Some weapons are inexplicably unavailable in certain rounds: for example, you might have an Air Strike that you can never use.
  • Rounds are timed, so while you're trying to figure out why you can't get past that mysterious pixel, the clock is ticking.


It has the usual accumulation achievements with no method of tracking your progress, and with the lack of quality in the game, you likely won't have the persistence to get them.

Worms might be worth a try if you know somebody who has it, but I can't recommend this game.

zlionsfan's rating: 4 annelids out of 10.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I wanna rock!

So the TV arrived today, and Rock Band, and here I am at home, learning how to drum. (Mental note: drumming is hard. If this is scaled down, then real drummers must be good.) (Editor's note: duh.)

It's sweet. The Stratocaster is different - nice big buttons for start and select, like the new Les Paul for Guitar Hero, and the solo buttons are cool, although I haven't yet learned to fly down there and back.

I'll get to a detailed review once I've practiced some.

laters.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Big Ten: What's PR anyway?

Big Ten Network SuperFans

whatever.

I thought I'd sign up for that last week. So I did, but it didn't let me log in.

I figured it was a timing thing, so during the IU-Purdue game, I saw the ad and figured I'd try again. No luck. Couldn't log in and couldn't get my password reset, and couldn't re-register either.

So I send a support request. Guess what? They don't answer requests on weekends. Then it's pretty ******* stupid to be advertising it on the weekends, isn't it? I mean, aren't there BTN telecasts pretty much every weekend from the fall through the spring?

The Big Ten Conference. Public relations courtesy of an ex-Sony employee.

Ohio State sucks

Why is that? No one seems to know.

Watching the game, my friends and I agreed that Ohio State seems to have the most obnoxious fans. We can't figure out why. Most people at the table weren't even partial, but the chanting inside bothered them. (Why would you shout indoors? I don't get that. O-h-i-o? Hey, four letters, congratulations.)

That is all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Restored faith in humanity shipping companies

Hey, what do you know? Sometimes things work out for you. I got home Thursday evening to find a note on my door from FedEx: 1st delivery attempt made. Very nice. (Sucks for the driver, though. Wonder if he really made the attempt Wednesday or if it just got logged incorrectly.) X marked by "signature required in person." Uh-uh. I signed anyway.

Friday morning, the cat goes to the clinic. I come back with her, and ta-da! There's the package on my doorstep. Excellent.

Thursday evening, while the FedEx debacle was winding down, I got the package I needed to set up for the other package I'm expecting.

Sadly, though, the latter is being shipped by a company previously unknown to me, one whose name was not mentioned favorably in other reviews. Naturally, they called when I was in a meeting and unavailable. I returned the call at 1:05, only to get an answering machine explaining that they'd call back between 9 AM and 1 PM or between 5 PM and 8 PM. Um, okay. I wait and call after 5, same thing, so I leave a message.

No call between 9 and 1 today. Oh well ... except that I get a call at 1:30. Pleasant surprise. It's them; they do the four-hour delivery window, so my package should arrive Tuesday morning. Too bad I'm taking the next week off ... it would be very interesting to see my new game on a large screen. But alas, I shall return to work that day.

Any chance it can snow?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Grounded

So I ordered myself a little toy for enhanced arcade action (no, not something like that, goodness, your minds ...). Shipped FedEx Ground. Okay, whatever. Three-day delivery or something like that.

Putter-putt-putt, the little truck makes its way from Arizona (no doubt stopping to pick up an Eagle - is that Glenn?) to here. Supposedly. Then I get the wonderful tracking message.

delivery exception

Eh? Oh, that's sales-ese for "Sorry, we didn't give you your package." Except, as has happened once before, they didn't leave a slip either. Kind of hard to sign for a package if there isn't anything to sign. Also, I seem to recall signing something saying "Leave my packages anyway. No, I mean it." Of course, that's probably an Anthem-like move: sorry, that's a separate division, doesn't apply here.

So I go to the website and write in. Hey, hold my package, I'll come get it.

Oh, sorry, why don't you just sign for it.

Because I couldn't. I told you so. I'll come get it.

Oh, sorry, you can't. We don't have a place for that.

wtf? (I didn't say that.) So you have my package, but won't hold it and won't let me sign for it? Alrighty then.

So now I get to have them fail to deliver it tomorrow, and leave a slip on my door, and maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll get it Friday. Left for me. Like I asked in the first place. (Note: certain adjectives omitted just in case sensitive eyes are reading this.)

Remind me, the next time I see "shipping options" and "FedEx Ground" in the same box, to check the "fuck that" box.

Oops. Did I say that out loud?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

360 review: Guitar Hero III (9/10)

That's right. Even the fanboy in me has to acknowledge that although the latest entry in the Guitar Hero series is worth the weight, it does have some flaws.

The game is a bit different than the previous versions: Neversoft has done a good job of keeping things that worked well and adding improvements here and there.

As mentioned before, one nice addition is an on-screen counter for streaks of 25 notes or more. The good news is that now you can tell exactly how far from that 1000-note streak you are. The bad news is that you can break that 990-note streak by looking at the on-screen counter ...

Another nice change is that the Easy sets now work exactly like the others: there's money for each level of each song and an encore in each set. (On Easy and Medium, you can skip one song per set. On Hard and Expert, you must beat all songs to play the encore.)

New to GH III is online play; haven't tried it yet, but it sounds pretty neat. Unfortunately, no online co-op career mode ... what's that? Oh yeah, there's now a co-op career mode. Just like solo, you have four difficulty levels, and just like in co-op quickplay, you each set your difficulty level and you split the instruments (one plays lead, one plays rhythm or bass). The difficulty level for the team is the lower of the two, so if you're playing Hard and your partner's playing Easy, you'll be unlocking Easy songs. There are a few co-op career achievements this time, so it's worthwhile to find someone to come over and rock with you.

Interestingly, the co-op sets are not the same as the single-player sets: the encores in co-op are not available in single-player, some single-player songs appear in different sets in co-op, and the single-player songs you don't play in sets are unlocked once you beat the final song. (Thankfully, there's no boss battles in co-op.)

The bad news? That battle mode you've been hearing about? Well, it's part of the solo game, too. You have to defeat three bosses to beat the game. (Well, you don't have to beat the first two - you can actually skip them if you lose to them often enough, but still ...) I dislike this immensely. Keep your PvP crap out of my PvE game.

Once again, the songs you can buy are eh. Please, at some point, let us buy songs that we know. Please.

Achievements seem to be geared for a distressingly high level of ability. 315 of the 1000 points will not be available to you unless you can master the Expert songs, and another 75 points will be lost if you and a friend can't dominate Expert co-op play. I think this is going to end up like PGR 3, where a lot of people simply stopped playing once they'd peaked in the game because there simply weren't enough middle-difficulty achievements they could get.

Finally, achievements seem to be very glitchy. The xbox360achievements.org forums have a lot of complaints about things not unlocking when they should. Best get on that, programmers. We likes our gamerscores.

Oh, one more thing. You can go to guitarhero.com, create an account, and link it to your 360 gamertag (or your PS3 or Wii saved games???). You'll then get "groupies" based on your in-game ability, play in tournaments, and even join a tour group (I'm in the x360a tour group). There's a lot of neat data on the site, like your last few scores, favorite character/guitar/stage, and your progress through the game, but it's very glitchy. It only seems to read data from your active band, so if you're playing with an alt band when you first sign in, you won't get much credit. Also, several features aren't self-explanatory (how do you get groupies?). But hey, it gives them a bit of online visibility before Rock Band blows all that away, right?

So they lose a point for the battle-mode crap and the achievements, but other than that, this is a solid title, and I'd recommend it. (I'd beware the wireless guitars, though. I hear lots and lots of stories about problems with them. I have no idea why they went with removable necks. Bad idea.)

zlionsfan's rating: 9 strings out of 10.

SPOILER ALERT: A track-by-track breakdown of the sets follows.

Set 1 songs


  • Foghat: Slow Ride
  • Ha ha. I remember seeing these guys at a bar in West Lafayette. Good song for the Tone Deaf achievement. (No, literally. I do like it, and it's a good set-1 song.)
  • Poison: Talk Dirty To Me
  • Hey, they got the title right! (On this song. See set 8.) Kind of weak that they got Bret Michaels for vocals, but not the rest of the band.
  • Pat Benatar: Hit Me With Your Best Shot
  • She's a Set 1 staple now. Nice song.
  • Social Distortion: Story Of My Life
  • Hadn't heard this one before, but it's a nice song and full of notes. A quick 250K on medium.

Set 1 encore


  • Kiss: Rock and Roll All Nite
  • Excellent choice, especially given the scene in the game (playing in a back yard, with police using car headlights for ground-level lighting and helicopters for overhead lighting). Good set.


Set 2 songs


  • Mountain: Mississippi Queen
  • Great song, good choice, and as a bonus, because it's a cover, you can tell what they're singing.
  • Alice Cooper: School's Out
  • Another good song, although the cover singer isn't that good.
  • Cream: Sunshine of Your Love
  • Strange to have a Clapton song in set 2.
  • Heart: Barracuda
  • What, no crazy intro? (pun intended) Last song in a solid set.

Set 2 encore


  • Rage Against The Machine: Bulls On Parade (performed by)
  • After the first stupid boss battle, you get this song. eh. Lots of repetition.


Set 3 songs


  • The Killers: When You Were Young (performed by)
  • This song grew on me quickly; best in the set, which is not one of the better sets in the game.
  • AFI: Miss Murder (performed by)
  • Who? What? eh.
  • The Who: The Seeker
  • Never heard of this song, but it's interesting.
  • Priestess: Lay Down (performed by)
  • Shouldn't it be "Lie Down"?

Set 3 encore


  • Rolling Stones: Paint It Black (performed by)
  • Awesome encore, especially since it's them. Almost makes up for the stupid Pontiac stage.


Set 4 songs


  • Black Sabbath: Paranoid
  • Hell yes.
  • The Sex Pistols: Anarchy in the U.K. (performed by)
  • eh. Not a big fan anyway, and the new guys aren't as good as the dead ones.
  • Sonic Youth: Kool Thing (performed by)
  • eh.
  • Weezer: My Name Is Jonas (performed by)
  • Decent, but the lyrics are funny. Did you know the workers are going home?

Set 4 encore


  • Pearl Jam: Even Flow (performed by)
  • Another solid encore. Three of four so far.


Set 5 songs


  • The Dead Kennedys: Holiday In Cambodia
  • Interesting to see punk bands represented so well.
  • Scorpions: Rock You Like A Hurricane
  • Excellent song.
  • Aerosmith: Same Old Song and Dance (performed by)
  • Another great song.
  • ZZ Top: La Grange
  • A great end song, although the cover singer is awful. Why isn't this a master track?

Set 5 encore


  • Guns N Roses: Welcome to the Jungle (performed by)
  • Making up for the second boss battle, an outstanding track. GNR fits well with this game.


Set 6 songs


  • Santana: Black Magic Woman
  • This is a great song to play. The bass line is deceptively difficult, even at the lower levels.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins: Cherub Rock (performed by)
  • Not bad, especially compared to the next two songs.
  • White Zombie: Black Sunshine
  • Could be worse. This song is repetitive.
  • Tenacious D: The Metal (performed by)
  • Are you ******* kidding me? This is a ******* joke. These ******* don't even belong on a CD, much less in a game. The sad thing is that even though the lyrics are stupid, the song's better to play than Black Sunshine.

Set 6 encore


  • Stevie Ray Vaughn: Pride and Joy
  • Beautiful recovery from the end of that set. Too bad the cover singer does a terrible job. (Mental note: get master tracks for Texan singers.)


Set 7 songs


  • Slipknot: Before I Forget (performed by)
  • Ah, here comes the crap metal that I don't like.
  • Disturbed: Stricken (performed by)
  • More of the same.
  • Queens of the Stone Age: 3's & 7's (performed by)
  • More of the same.
  • Muse: Knights of Cydonia (performed by)
  • This one isn't so bad.

Set 7 encore


  • Living Colour: Cult of Personality (remake, performed by)
  • I guess the guitar part is pretty difficult. Not at all what I was expecting here.


Set 8 songs


  • Slayer: Raining Blood [sic] (performed by)
  • Yeah, the forums were ablaze as soon as the track list was released. That's "Reign In Blood", guys.
  • Eric Johnson: Cliffs Of Dover
  • Awesome song for this game. Note: Texas music with no vocals. Much easier to cover.
  • Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast (performed by)
  • Great song, even more appropriate considering the stage.
  • Metallica: One (performed by)
  • Huge points if you can master this song.

Set 8 encore


  • None
  • That's right. The retarded boss battle is actually the encore. boo. However, unlike the other two fake songs, this one is a cover of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Unfortunately, it's a bad cover, but hey, at least it fits the game really well.


Note that after you beat the game solo, you get to practice "Through The Fire And Flames" by Dragonforce. You'll need to. On Easy, you can get the 1000-note streak achievement, but you'll earn it. Sadly, this is one of those "all over the place because I can" songs, as opposed to, say, One, which is actually a song.

Co-op sets


I'll add these later.

XBLA review: Word Puzzle (2/10)

Don't bother.

Okay, you probably want more detail. Word Puzzle is basically a word search game: you have a list of words to find in a grid. You find them, you move to the next grid and search for more words.

Yep, that's it.

For a "challenge", occasionally things will come on-screen and partially or totally block your view of parts of the board. what fun. Harder grids are too big to see all at once, so the camera moves with your cursor. There are even grids on the sides of a cube.

The controls, as you might expect, are not ideal. Word searches are point-and-click games, and those are designed for mice, not joysticks. This is especially a problem on the "bonus stages" in the survival game, where you have a limited time to "find" all the words (it's not too hard to find because the beginning of each word is lit), but you can't really make a mistake or you won't complete the stage, and with the janky controls, you'll make mistakes.

Not at all worth it. This was a big letdown. XBLA needs more thinking games, but this doesn't count. It does get two points for effort.

zlionsfan's rating: 2 out of 10. It doesn't even deserve a metaphor

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Four.

The number of I-A teams with a record worse than Notre Dame.

Minnesota, Florida International, Idaho, and Utah State.

How long was that contract extension again?

I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I'm comin' home

Ozzy would approve.

Good times, good play. Got Medium finished with 5 stars. (Reign in Blood is misspelled and also sucks.) Also completed Medium on co-op. Strange, it didn't give us a different achievement for Easy. It was the first time I'd had someone else log in with their ID too ... it took a bit to straighten out, but then we got the achievements down.

Good end to the trip: a solid thrashing of the Broncos. Most points since putting up 55 on Chicago on Thanksgiving, 1997, and biggest win since, um ... a 44-0 shutout of Jacksonville in 1995. It may not be a playoff-caliber team in general terms, but literally, I think they are. Green Bay and Dallas are the only NFC teams with fewer losses, and even if those two combine to beat Detroit three times, wins at Arizona and at home against Kansas City put them at .500. They can compete with the Giants and Green Bay at home, maybe Dallas, and might play well at San Diego (wow, a warm-weather December game) and Minnesota. We'll see.

P.S. Although I'm not a true Colts fan, I do like them, so on behalf of Colts fans and the rest of the NFL ...

Dear Patriots,

Nobody cares. You're still cheaters.

Sincerely,
everyone

Thursday, November 01, 2007

On the road again ...

Willie would be proud. Visiting the mountain mamma on my way east for the semi-annual anti-moderation party. My friend had this great idea: bring your 360 so we can play Guitar Hero.

No problem. Picked up an old Xbox carrier for $10 at McVan's (great used-games selection, by the way), packed it up along with my gig bag, and here I am, rocking out (quietly) in my hotel.

Brought some controllers in case we want to get into XBLA games, but I think it'll just be Guitar Hero. Maybe I can finally get some of those co-op achievements. :)

Props to Holiday Inn Express for having an open network (well, my end is secured) and allowing me to connect via wireless for the laptop and wired for the 360. Online achievements ftw!

Finished the first set on Expert and the third set on Medium. Why take the same path every time? Also picked up the Tone Deaf award. Four stars on Foghat. Go figure ... I remember seeing that at Macaw's back in the day ...
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