>R&C; Duke; Tiger

>1. My wife was out of town this weekend, which gave me full reign over the living room and all the creature comforts therein, and so I had my first real gaming marathon in quite some time. It was as good an opportunity as any to milk the Fable II Pub Games exploit for all it’s worth before it got fixed (and, honestly, after several hours with it, that’s pretty much all it’s good for), and I finally got to finish Braid. (I did end up using a walkthrough for 2 or 3 puzzle pieces, mostly to confirm that I was on the right track – only one puzzle really, truly stumped me.)

But the bulk of my time was actually spent reminding my PS3 that it can play games, and thus taking care of some unfinished business with respect to Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction; and by “unfinished business”, I mean I’d barely started it before I put it down in lieu of… oh, I don’t know, it was so long ago -probably MGS4.

Having never played an R&C title before (aside from a few minutes with the PSP iteration), I was pretty well satisfied with the whole experience; it’s actually genuinely amusing in places (although it does try awfully hard), and the gameplay is pretty solid. I do recall, when I’d put it down the first time, being a bit overwhelmed with all the weapons and gadgets – I think most of my initial combat time was simply spent hitting enemies with my wrench, which shows you how little I know. But soon I was getting the hang of it, and the game was easy enough that I eventually just concentrated on upgrading and levelling up 3 or 4 main weapons, and throwing out a disco ball every so often. Graphically, it’s pretty fantastic, although it’s still obviously a first-generation PS3 game; I am very curious to try out the new downloadable episode to see if there’s a discernable difference. And I may even continue through a second playthrough in the Challenge Mode, just to see if I can get to some of the places I was unable to get to earlier.

2. In an earlier post, I talked a bit about the Oddworld series and how it got me back into console gaming. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention my extreme love of Duke Nukem 3D, which I was obsessed with whenever I was home from college and I could get my younger brother’s computer to work. My brother had gotten the shareware version of DN3D from our brother-in-law-to-be, so I’m not even sure I’ve seen the whole single-player game, but what I have seen, I’ve seen A LOT. Anyway, it looks like it’s arriving on XBLA a lot sooner than I’d anticipated, and I’m very, very, very excited.

3. Tiger Woods 09 comes out today, and after playing the demo, I’m fully on board this time around. The franchise peaked for me with either ’03 or ’04, and every game since then has been more and more depressingly mediocre. Tiger 08 was incredibly annoying, with glitchy controls and the same goddamned courses I’ve already played a zillion times, and I swore I’d stay away from the franchise forever, but the improvements that are featured in the demo specifically address all the things that drove me crazy in the past. You no longer enhance your attributes by arbitrary clothing choices; you get better by getting better, which is an innovation that maybe should’ve been picked up on a little sooner than this. For experienced Tiger players (like me), you are only as good as you actually are, so you can start the game without having gimped stats as in years past. The challenge, then, is not to max up your stats, but to keep them maxed by playing at a consistently excellent level, which is (1) a well-intentioned shift in philosophy, and (2) a great incentive to keep playing. Even better is the club tuner feature, which (hopefully) will correct the problems in last year’s game with respect to the controls; you can auto-correct problems in your swing with reasonable trade-offs in performance (i.e., you can increase the size of the sweet spot at the expense of distance). I was waiting for reviews to come in before picking this up, but I already have over $100 in credit at Gamestop and so I might as well take the plunge.

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