August 2007

As we achievement whores know, BioShock has a thousand of the easiest gamerscore points out there.  In fact, a person with the right guide can grab up the whole grand in a single playthrough.  That right guide is here and even comes complete with strategy videos showing how to deal with those groaning Big Daddies.  “sircuddles”, a forum member at, has taken a great deal of time to craft a comprehensive walkthrough of 2007’s masterpiece.  Thankfully, it features accurate instructions on where to find all those audio diaries as well, some of which are well hidden and can be easily overlooked if you miss a vent opening, for example.


I’m not one to go hunting for every achievement on the first playthrough of any game.  I want to enjoy the game as intended first and seek achievements later, and you will spoil BioShock’s story if you refer to this guide right away.  You’ll ruin wrenching plot twists and stunning revelations by doing so, and I’m not exaggerating.  BioShock’s higher echelon of storytelling is exceedingly rare in video games and not that much more common in movies, truth be told.  You have been warned.

Madden 08 Achievement Guide Posted
No Multiplayer Achievements for Call of Duty 4

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halo3regular.jpgXbox 360 Rally came across an article at TIME about the Halo phenomenon.   Although written from a distance, as is the case with most mainstream publications addressing subcultures, TIME’s article does offer accurate facts and a fair amount of respect for Master Chief and Halo.  I especially like this passage:  “Halo takes itself seriously as, if not art, certainly a spectacle. But art seems more apt.”  That should punch Ebert’s button.   Also, I just love how the article consistently refers to everyone’s helmeted hero as “the Master Chief”, as if there’s a lower-ranked Expert Chief sidekick or something.  But, hey–they’re trying.

Xbox 360 Fanboy was referred to a very entertaining Halo 3 commercial in Korea.  Some Halo fanboys will undoubtedly be offended by this ad, as it depicts someone in a Master Chief costume committing such unbecoming acts as attacking a fake dinosaur and dancing with people on the subway.  But this is the wacky voice to be used if you want to sell things in Asia, and to spread the Halo greatness you must be multilingual.  Oh, and the zany rebel yell cracks me up every time.

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halo-3-helmet.jpgThey’ve been selling Halo 3 hoodies for months, so in a way it makes sense.  Not only can you reserve the limited edition or regular version of the game at Hot Topic, but you can drop a deposit on the special edition controllers, headset, and even the Halo 3 console.  Check out the website and preorder it all right away if you so desire.  Something to consider if you can live without the Legendary Edition:  by reserving at Hot Topic you could mostly likely avoid the subway-at-rush-hour conditions surely to be found at all Gamestops on September 25, and you can pick up all of your glorious Harry Potter merch while you’re at it! 

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callofdutyboxmb2.jpgAt 8:53 PM EDT I received the most exciting news of the week, and I needed it. I was emailed the code to download the Call of Duty 4 Multiplayer Beta, and those who signed up need to check your email now if you haven’t already. I’ll be playing this tonight and quite a bit tomorrow, and should have a rundown of my first impressions this weekend. 

A while back Infinity Ward allowed the humble masses to vote for one of five designs to grace the game’s cover, and the winning image shown (thanks Achievement Junkie) will be the one lined up across New Release sections come November.  I believe that’s the one I voted for, come to think of it.

So why did the beta key cheer me up so? Two enraging things happened to me tonight within an hour’s time: A thunderstorm knocked out power to my house for a couple of hours, and in the middle of a Halo 2 match with my friend and my kid. I only get to do this once a week. Fantastic timing. About 45 minutes later my kid was using my cell phone. As she handed it back it slipped right through my grasp and dropped straight into a glass of iced tea. Hell of an evening.

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“I just found out that Halo 3 has gone gold.  Nice work Bungie. ” – Major Nelson.  Someone sedate that man!

Looks like Sept 25 remains destined to become The Day That Work Stopped.  There’s going to be serious competition for that day off, so request it now.

On a more personal note, I’ll tell you what–I’m sure as hell glad I don’t work at Gamestop anymore.  I was on the receiving end of the Halo 2 launch.  Those poor saps behind the counter are getting trampled twice as hard this time, God help ’em.  One store dealing with hundreds of copies of a game in a DVD case is one thing, but now they’ll have to deal with even more copies, about half of which are Legendary Editions that come in a box larger than a person’s head.  This launch could literally be too big for some stores to handle, and there will be plenty of madness.

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mohairborne.jpgCall me crazy, but it’s to my understanding that a demonstration should be engineered to show off a product’s most outstanding qualities.  If that’s the case with the demo of Medal of Honor Airborne, then we’re in for trip as unique as the bus route to school.

The demo begins by showing off the feature presumably intended to lead off the list on the back of the retail box:  parachuting into the fray.  It’s a nice change from starting a level with the usual fade-in, and choosing your landing zone is briefly interesting.  In a rather arcadey addition that some may find a bit inappropriate for the setting, Airborne has hidden collectibles in the form of “skill drops” where the game challenges you to land in certain targeted zones, like the top of a clocktower, and there are a set number to find in each level.

The demo’s leading me to believe that Airborne’s going to be a garden-variety WWII shooter once your feet hit the ground. Good controls, adequate texturing, and a fairly open level design make up the demo’s strengths. Bullet points in the minus column consist of subdued and ineffective sound effects, ugly as hell grenade explosions, and oblivious AI enemies that often run right past you and take cover with their heads sticking out.  Oh, and the bad guys actually show up on a state-of-the-art WWII personal radar that recognizes heat signatures, or so it seems.

Airborne feels like it’s going to be a magnificent title for people who just can’t get enough of standard WWII shooters.  The thing is, I’m actually one of them.  I enjoy the primitive feel of such games sometimes, and playing it really reminded me of the excellent Call of Duty series.  At least Airborne seems like it will be the sincerest form of flattery.

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littlesister.jpgBefore you let slip the flames of war, let me say first that I truly believe that BioShock is a bona fide masterpiece. It may not be to all tastes, but to argue that BioShock is not already a classic is to discredit oneself. It has reserved its place in the holy temple of gaming legends, and represents a brilliant design that is finally receiving the hype and widespread praise it has deserved for over seven years. I had every confidence that BioShock would once again restore a subspecies of game that I had feared extinct. My expectations were met.

Some may believe that BioShock is a completely original adventure that introduces a whole new style of customizable gameplay. Fact is, in the year 2000, a game called System Shock 2 was developed by much of the team responsible for our descent into the deranged madness of Rapture. SS2 has maintained a strong cult following over the past several years, and shares a high percentage of BioShock’s elements:  various means of killing enemies, creepy atmosphere, unnatural powers, upgradeable weapons, performance enhancement, electronics hacking, constructible items, progression guided by a mysterious third party via radio contact, and a compelling story told mostly through scattered recordings and various environmental clues. These ingredients were chosen and measured with utmost care, then mixed into a strong drink of a game; potent in its impact, intimidating in its complexity, but a taste worth acquiring for those seeking something fresh. Had any of these elements been left out of BioShock, I would have viewed their omission as a sizable hop backwards in the evolution of the genre. Thankfully, Irrational took a risk and charged forward despite publisher rejection and skepticism, kept the “first-person thinker” style largely intact, and built BioShock with most of the features I loved from SS2. They did it once; I had no doubt they could do it again. Once more, my expectations were met.

ss2.jpgFPS’s were starting to feel tired even ten years ago to those who enjoyed first-person but wanted to do more than just shoot guns and toss grenades. The most significant changes to FPS titles–still to this day–are different stories, settings, and weapons, but you’re still mostly shooting guns and tossing grenades. Many developers have taken insignificant risks over the years by enhancing their own titles with features similar to those in SS2, but only by one or two at a time. After all, an FPS that isn’t all-out gun porn at its core tends to not see a long-term bestseller list. SS2 was a commercial disappointment due in part to its complexity in a genre willing to evolve only through baby steps. It was simply ahead of its time, and I’m thrilled to see that time has finally caught up with the game, now reborn as BioShock, the surprise hit causing people to flame nonbelievers and pay over a hundred dollars for faceplates bearing its name. Although I had expected BioShock’s outstanding quality, its overnight popularity has blindsided me, and I am pleased to know that I will likely see not only a sequel but a number of other titles from developers drawing inspiration from it, and hopefully being much less conservative.

So the reason why BioShock itself doesn’t astound me?  A game that exceeds my expectations gives me that particular brand of thrill one can feel only out of genuine surprise.  I regret that BioShock does not offer me this thrill.  I have already spent that particular sense of wonder and awe on this ambitious and complex design in its previous life as SS2, although by no means do I believe both games are too similar. I am saying that BioShock bears the quality and craftsmanship to which I had become accustomed by having played games of similar design, terribly few as there are.  However, I am relieved that the highly unexpected and long overdue commercial success of this long-time emerging style will likely cause publishers to take it seriously and recognize its potential.  Finally, I envy those that had never played this type of game before and have presumably felt that unique charge of having discovered and experienced something revolutionary in BioShock.  Consider yourselves lucky…would you kindly?

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