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Monday, September 19, 2011

A Year of Gaming: Dragon Age Edition

Nothing will kill your enjoyment of video games more than plodding through piles of mediocre titles. I was spending a great deal of time focused only on reducing the size of my video game library. In the past six months, I've managed to get my library down to a mere twenty-five retail titles. Now it's time to focus on quality instead of quantity.

I started playing Dragon Age: Origins. I picked up the Ultimate Edition a few weeks ago and haven't stopped playing ever since. I'm 62 hours into Origins and loving every minute of it. Once I've finished off the main storyline, I still have five DLC expansions to enjoy as well. I'm guessing that Dragon Age will easily topple the 100 hour mark and take the crown as the longest game I've ever played.

I'm really loving the story, characters, and the RPG game mechanics reminiscent of Bioware's Baldur's Gate series.

So if I don't happen to write very often over the next month or two, you'll have to forgive me. I've got a whole lot of game to get through before Batman: Arkham City drops next month.

Current and Completed Games

  1. Portal: Still Alive
    When I first picked up Valve's Orange Box back in 2007, I was only planning on playing Half-Life 2. I knew nothing about Portal. It was only after a friend's insistence that I gave Portal a shot; I'm glad I did. Portal is an incredible puzzle game that really forces you to change the way you think about time and space. There is no better feeling that coming up with an elegant solution to a seemingly impossible puzzle using nothing besides your wit...and the portal gun!

    Still Alive was a great return to Portal for me. Although the main story took me very little time to complete, I still enjoyed matching wits with GlaDOS again. The 14 new advanced chambers were quite enjoyable to play. Not quite as difficult as Portal's original 6 advanced maps - which is not a bad thing. Trust me. I still had to take a quick peek online to remind myself of how to beat some of the advanced maps.

    I'm now really looking forward to playing Portal 2 when it arrives sometime this Spring!
    [Status: Completed]

  2. Darksiders
    I never played any of Sony's God of War series due to some of the more "adult" themes in that game (i.e. breasts, sex, breasts and sex, and so forth). Darksiders seemed like a good alternative and I'm happy with the game thus far. Voice acting and graphics are very good. The story gripped me from the very beginning: I'm a sucker for the whole Heaven vs. Hell thing. And I am loving the amount of gore and over-the-top violence in this game. It's guilt-free violence too because I've only been asked to kill zombies, demons, and some pretty vicious angels. Darksiders seems like it will be a fun, gore-soaked ride and I'm on board with that!

    UPDATE: It took me a solid 17 hours to finish off Darksiders. Boy oh boy, what a great game! I don't remember much about my time spent with Zelda but I'll certainly remember Darksiders. Everything about this game exhibited a high level of polish and care by the developers. The game gave me the sense of being War, all-powerful Horseman of the Apolcalypse, while also giving me suitable challenge from start to finish. Amazing action-adventure game! I can't recommend Darksiders more highly! Buy it right here, right now!
    [Status: Completed]

  3. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
    I never got the chance to play Heavenly Sword for the PS3. I guess I could go back at any time to play the game but I don't see any point now that I've got Enslaved. I'm a sucker for great graphics, story, and voice-acting and these are the areas where Enslaved excels. I can't wait to join Monkey, Trip, and Pigsy on their odyssey. I'm hoping to start Enslaved on or before my birthday later this month!

    UPDATE: Enslaved was a fun little adventure game with some great highs and some unfortunate lows. Read my mini-review here.
    [Status: Completed]

  4. CSI: Fatal Conspiracy
    It's hard to describe to another gamer why I'd spend my time playing Ubisoft's CSI games. Although the easy 1000 gamerpoints is a big plus, I'll admit that I like pretending I'm a CSI and solving cases. Graphics and voice acting are not the greatest. But the stories and characters are all fleshed out enough to keep me coming back for more.

    UPDATE: Solved five cases, put a drug lord, and had lots of fun playing detective. Graphics sucked but the writing and voice acting easily made up for that one glaring sore point in an otherwise well-done budget title.
    [Status: Completed]

  5. Iron Man
    I'm a sucker for a good super-hero game. I'm also a sucker for terrible super-hero games. Either way, I'm looking forward to playing Iron Man. I just finished re-watching Iron Man movies and I really like what Jon Favreau did with the license. Here's hoping that I'll get some enjoyment out of this latest Marvel movie tie-in game.

    UPDATE: Finished Iron Man in record time and the ending could not have come fast enough. A mindless slog through hordes of mindless enemies trying to pound Iron Man into submission with random gunfire, energy beams, and missiles. This a true movie tie-in game, nothing more, nothing less.
    [Status: Completed]

  6. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
    I loved playing Red Dead Redemption last year. Rather than focus on controversy, Rockstar put their efforts into making a gorgeous and beautifully crafted world filled with interesting characters, intriguing plots, and incredible action! I can't wait to jump back into Red Dead again. Of course, the zombies should change things up nicely. I'm really looking forward to running into a zombie bear or two. Those things look horrifying...

    UPDATE: I finished Undead Nightmare. Overall, I'm happy that I played it. It's definitely one of the more substantial DLC offerings I've ever played in terms of quality and length. I am getting a little sick of zombies but was happy to spend a little more time with John Marsten.
    [Status: Completed]

  7. Call of Duty: Black Ops
    The more recent Call of Duty games have really changed my mind about military shooters. I think Infinity Ward and Treyarch are both pretty good at delivering intense action and incredible set pieces. I'm looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about with Black Ops. I'll likely focus on the single-player campaign and leave the multiplayer to younger and more competitive gamers. I just want to shoot some bad guys in the head and save the world.

    UPDATE: Saved the world, shot a bunch of bad guys, and had fun doing it. Not the greatest Call of Duty title out there but still pretty good. Much, much better than Treyarch's last outing: World at War is ridiculously difficult, unforgiving, and unfair.
    [Status: Completed]

  8. X-Men: The Official Game
    I'm only playing this game because of it's subject matter. I like the X-Men. Hopefully I'll feel the same way after finishing this game. From the trailer and the reviews, it looks like I'm in for a unrewarding grind through a borind game. If this game is any good, I'd be astonished.

    UPDATE: Yuck - this game wasn't very good. While I enjoyed the comic book look and feel of the cut-scenes, I hated the gameplay. X-Men was long, tedious, unsatisfying, and the achievements were boring and hard to get. I'm glad I won't have to play this game ever again.
    [Status: Completed]

  9. Call of Duty: World at War
    I decided to play the prequel to Black Ops right away rather than wait. I figured my time spent playing Black Ops would prepare me for the rigors of WWII combat Well - that hasn't worked out for me all that well. As I said above, World at War is ridiculously difficult, unforgiving, and unfair. Enemies won't stop spawning. The German and Japanese soldiers love throwing endless streams of grenades. And the guns I have to use are crappy WWII guns and not the cool modern guns that I've grown accustomed to in the latest and greatest FPS games. World at War is definitely a major step backwards: it is more reminiscient of Call of Duty 3 than it is of the Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare games. At least Jack Bauer is around to bark out orders.

    UPDATE: I made it as far as the mission "Eviction" on Hardened mode before I lost my sh*t and finished the game on Casual difficulty. I just didn't have the patience to slowly work my way through Berlin's subway system after attempting just such an incredible feat for a couple of hours. I kept getting to the same spot and then quickly dying. Nothing worse than playing the same 5-10 minutes of a game only to make a small mistake, die, and start again at your last checkpoint (à la Demon's Souls). I enjoyed World at War but I am glad it's over. Time to play something a little less intense...
    [Status: Completed]

  10. Mini Ninjas
    Although I may play a little more You Don't Know Jack and Borderlands after finishing up World at War, I'd like to play something a little less serious and kid-friendly in the near future. Mini Ninjas seems to fit the bill! According to what I've read about the game, it's an easy little romp through a world filled with ninjas, animals, and some little guy carrying a big hammer. Sounds delightful!

    UPDATE: Mini Ninjas was a cute game. Gameplay was surprisingly solid - more so than you'd expect from this type of title (action-platformer designed for kids). The graphics and charm of the game went a long way to selling the title. Some easy achievements, quality voice acting, and funny cinematics really made this game stand out from the crowd in a delightfully unexpected way.
    [Status: Completed]

  11. Dark Void
    Did you know that it's been two months since I last played a game starring the voice of Nolan North? Well, that situation's been remedied by playing Dark Void. I haven't played very much of the game so far. From the first couple of chapters, it appears that the game is about robots who live in the Bermuda Triangle. And there are rocketpacks! I'm interested to see if Dark Void can deliver a solid gaming experience. So far, so good.

    UPDATE: Dark Void was short but sweet. There were very few moments, if any, where I felt that the game was dragging. There was excitement and intense combat around every corner in this game. I really enjoyed the mix of ground and air combat: what else would you expect from the developers who worked on Crimson Skies? All in all, Dark Void was fun little diversion that offered just enough thrills, spills, and achievement points to put a smile on my face.
    [Status: Completed]

  12. 3-on-3 NHL Arcade
    I bought EA's 3-on-3 hockey for $5 and got just enough enjoyment out of the game to warrant the purchase. Online competition was pretty fierce. I don't think I scored more than 3 goals combined across the few online games that I tried. At least I picked up a rare 100% completion in fun and fast-paced XBLA title!
    [Status: Completed]

  13. Harm's Way
    Like many of you out there, I got this game for free as part of a Microsoft/Doritos game development promotion thing. Hey - I'm on a diet so you'll have to excuse me for glossing over the specifics of a contest run by company that makes the best tortilla chips in the world. Man, I could really go for a bag of Sweet Chili Heat Doritos. I remember when Cool Ranch used to be my favourite but not anymore. I also like that Cheeseburger flavour...so hungry...Anyway, I picked up all of the achievements in Harm's Way and will never play it again. Not a bad game but there are better games out there. Given the price I paid for the game, I'm happy that I got a chance to play this driving/shooting game and pick up an easy 200 achievement points.
    [Status: Completed]

  14. Doritos Crash Course
    For a free XBLA game (sponsored by Doritos), Crash Course was a pretty good game. The game made me think of shows like Takeshi's Castle or Wipeout: get your little guy from one end of an obstacle course to another. The game was well-presented, making good use of Xbox's Avatars. Watching my little guy jump, dance, practice karate, and moonwalk were all very entertaining to watch. Unlike the other free Doritos XBLA game, Harm's way, Crash Course's achievements are not that easy to pick up. I'm not sure how much practice it would take to earn Gold medals on each of the 15 courses: more time than I was willing to put in. All in all, Crash Course was good game made great by its amazing price!
    [Status: Completed]

  15. Undertow
    I don't know why I do this to myself. I get a free game and feel compelled to finish it regardless of the game's quality or "fun" factor. In Undertow, each level (save for a few exceptions) plays out in the same way: take over enemy spawn points, protect your own spawn points, and kill the enemy. The entire game takes place under the sea. For the record, the addition of Sebastian the crab from The Little Mermaid would have made Undertow much better. As it stands, Undertow was a budget XLBA title that took itself too seriously. Gameplay was generic and boring. To make matters worse, most of the achievements are too hard or too time-consuming to unlock. Much like the fish sandwich I'd get from a chip wagon downtown, this game left a bad taste in my mouth.
    [Status: Completed]

  16. Infinite Undiscovery
    I have a habit of starting RPGs and quickly casting them aside in favour of shorter games that offer a quicker payoff. That ends today. Time to pay the piper and put in whole ton of hours playing through a nonsensical game filled with interesting characters and bizarre enemies. I'm looking forward to this...I think.

    UPDATE: I finally finished Infinite Undiscovery. In the end, the game wasn't bad...but it wasn't all that great either. I can't believe the number of instances where you can easily go for an hour without hitting a single save point. You invariably end up running into a tough boss fight (or a series of insanely tough boss fights), dying, and being forced to reload from your last save. I hate losing hours of work. To put it into perspective, my final save in Infinite Undiscovery showed me having played a total of 26 hours. I actually put 41 hours into the game in real life. That's 15 hours of retracing my steps!! And that's why Infinite Undiscovery is a mediocre game at best. I am incredibly happy to be moving on, able to finally put this game to rest.
    [Status: Completed]

  17. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11
    It's that time of year again! Spring is just around the corner and that means that The Masters will soon be here! There's nothing I love more than playing video game golf in the Spring. I was considering shelling out the full $60 for PGA Tour 12 (featuring The Masters) but I chickened out. I'm going to first play Tiger Woods 11. If things go well, I may splurge and get PGA Tour 12 as well in a month or two. Regardless, it's time to hit the links!

    UPDATE: It took me a whopping 32 hours to finish off Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11. I've got all but one achievement. I should be able to pick up the last 15 point achievement (Couch Potato) as soon as EA decides to upload a video to the "Latest News" section. I won't hold my breath. Looking over the forums, I can only see a couple instances of EA actually putting a video up and allowing people to unlock this achievement. I think my best bet is to check back with the game on March 29th when Tiger Woods 12 hits stores. I'm hoping that EA will take this opportunity to advertise the new release with a trailer.
    [Status: Completed]

  18. Torchlight
    Torchlight is basically Diablo. And it's available on my Xbox 360 console. And it's awesome! Love the music; great atmosphere; fun combat; interesting loot; solid feel and controls. Yep - I really, really like this game! I'm looking forward to spending a bunch of time with Torchlight over the next week.

    UPDATE:It only took me 16 hours to finish off Torchlight and pick up all 12 achievements. I'm pretty sure that I could have kept playing indefinitely, thanks to a post-game dungeon filled with all sorts of nasty creatures. Fun fact: I only died once during my playthrough on Normal (a.k.a. Easy) difficulty. I died one hit away from picking up my last achievement. I died, restarted from the beginning of the level (so as to not lose any Fame), and made my way back to the creature that felled me. One hit pushed my Fame ranking to the "max" level (33) required for the Superstar achievement.
    [Status: Completed]

  19. Blue Dragon
    I've had Blue Dragon sitting on my shelf for a long, long time. I recall putting about 10 hours or so into the game about 3-4 years ago and always meant to get back to it. Well, the time to play Blue Dragon is now. I've played a lot of action games and need a change of pace. Blue Dragon, if I recall correctly, is as slow-paced as games come. I wonder how long this game will take to finish? I've heard 40-75 hours is pretty standard. Wish me luck...

    UPDATE: I really enjoyed Blue Dragon a whole lot more than I thought I would. Although the story and dialogue was be a little cheesy at times, the overall game quality and production values are pretty high. Mistwalker Studios does great work! There were a couple of really epic moments that really made me appreciate the hours and hours I put into this game. If you enjoy J-RPGs, Blue Dragon is a must-play game!
    [Status: Completed]

  20. Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack The Ripper
    I'm a big fan of point and click games. The best game that I've played in this genre recently was Tales of Monkey Island. I'm guessing that Sherlock Holmes won't take the crown away from Guybrush Threepwood but that's not to say that I won't enjoy this new and gory point and click adventure. I haven't heard much good about the game but it does have some easy achievements. Throw in an interesting story and some gore and I'll be happy.

    UPDATE: I wasn't expecting much from this low-visibility PC-port for the Xbox 360. I do like the point-and-click adventure genre. Long story short, I was pleasantly surprised by Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack The Ripper. The story was actually quite good with a some solid detective work. The deductive reasoning and logic on display by Holmes and Watson really sold the game for me. I honestly never thought that I'd enjoy this game as much as I did.
    [Status: Completed]

  21. Fallout: New Vegas
    I finally got a hold of a copy of Fallout: New Vegas. I've also downloaded the Dead Money DLC for the Xbox 360. I'm all set to venture out into the wasteland yet again! Apparently things will be a bit different in this newest Fallout game. I've heard great things about the New Vegas experience and I've always enjoyed Obsidian Entertainment's work in the past. I even really enjoyed Alpha Protocol. Looking forward to sinking my teeth into New Vegas soon.

    UPDATE: Fallout: New Vegas was a surprisingly good RPG. I was anticipating a quick and easy sequel by the Obsidian team but New Vegas was anything but. This expansion to the Fallout 3 universe felt alive and real. The characters and story were all fantastic and the voice-acting was exceptional. I spent about 35 hours with the game and could have easily spent twice as many hours had I started exploring. I plan on getting back into Fallout: New Vegas later this year or next when the remaining DLC is released to the Xbox Live Marketplace.
    [Status: Paused]

  22. Cars: Mater-National
    My kids really love Disney Pixar's Cars. My oldest son really enjoys playing Cars: Mater-National. So I figured I'd play the game through to the end to unlock all of the cars and races for him. Game itself is solid for a family-friendly game. And this game does a pretty good job in handling the Cars license.
    [Status: Completed]

  23. Costume Quest
    Costume Quest is an excellent J-RPG style adventure made by the Double Fine team. I loved this game, plain and simple. It was cute, funny, and surprisingly addictive. I can't wait to jump back into Costume Quest with the Grubbins on Ice DLC!
    [Status: Completed]

  24. Mass Effect 2
    I played Mass Effect early last year. I'll be playing the game (and all associated DLC) on Insanity difficulty mode. Will I make it? I guess we'll find out sometime in the next 30-40 hours of gameplay. I can't wait to jump back into the fray with Shepherd and crew.

    UPDATE: I ended up aborting my Mass Effect 2 insanity run. It's not that the game itself was too hard...well, actually, that is the reason. I tried to finish The Arrival on Insanity difficulty using my level 19 Shepard. Let's just say that things got way too frustrating. The measly 75 gamerpoints awarded for finishing the game on the hardest difficulty setting just didn't seem worth it after I spent an hour getting owned by waves of Batarian mercenaries.
    [Status: Completed]

  25. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
    After reading reviews for The Force Unleashed II, I was expecting a terrible game with no redeeming qualities. You know what? I think it was a great game! I loved the graphics, story, voice acting, and Force-fueled combat. Sure - the game only took about 6 hours to finish, counting two runs through the Endor DLC. But for a guy like me, it was the perfect length! I finished the game in three manageable sittings. Fantastic!

    Granted, I might have felt differently had I paid full price for the game...
    [Status: Completed]

  26. Fable III
    I wasn't expecting much from Molyneux's latest game. Like Force Unleashed II, I'd heard so many bad things about this latest romp through Albion. Thankfully, Fable III easily surpassed my low expectations. I'm not sure what people were complaining about.

    I liked both the first and second half of the game. I liked the combat and quirky achievements (minus the awful collectibles-type tasks). The only thing I wasn't too fond of was Fable III's story and how it meshed with the characters and places of Albion. Molyneux creates a bright and colourful world filled with all sorts of crazy characters and bizarre situations. Fable III's message that rulers must sometimes make unpopular decisions for the greater good of the people and the world falls flat when juxtaposed against Molyneux's light-hearted environment and gameplay.

    I also disliked all of the farting, burping, vomiting, and other over-the-top gestures available to the game's protagonist. I'm all for the occasional fart joke but come on...

    Fable III was a good game - but not a great game by any stretch of the imagination.
    [Status: Completed]

  27. Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands
    Another case of low expectations, great game! I don't know what other gamers and critics played when they slammed this game. I'm at the midway point of the game and it's terrific. Big ups to Ubisoft on the great graphics, solid voice acting, solid combat mechanics, and fun environmental puzzles. This is a great game! And it's super cheap! I'm looking forward to finishing off this game either tonight or tomorrow night.

    UPDATE: I think The Forgotten Sands was an excellent addition to the Prince of Persia series - though 2008's Prince of Persia re-imagining is still my favourite. The Forgotten Sands is no slouch though and I'm looking forward to Ubisoft's next Prince of Persia title!
    [Status: Completed]

  28. Portal 2
    Is there anything I could say here that hasn't been said? Portal 2 is going to be terrific. I could not be more excited to play this game despite the fact that I may not even touch the multiplayer aspects of Portal 2.

    UPDATE: Portal 2 was a great game. My only issue? The amount of co-op content that I missed out on. The sad truth is that I don't have many Xbox Live friends. I just don't have the right schedule or set-up to really get into online co-operative gaming. Basically, I don't like chatting online with strangers. The only friend that I have who is playing Portal 2 is borrowign my copy of the game. No online co-op for me, I guess. But I'd still give Portal 2 a solid 4/5 based solely on its excellent single-player campaign. I'm only docking a point because I missed out on the cooperative game mode. Couldn't Valve have provided a single-player alternative to the co-op levels?
    [Status: Completed]

  29. Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga
    So yeah...I saw a lot of promotional material for this Divinity II game. Reviews seem okay but nothing special. Still, something about this game has peaked my interest and I can't seem to stop thinking about playing this game. Now, I may change my mind after finsihing Mass Effect 2 and go with Fallout 3's Game of the Year Edition instead. Still, there's something appealing about being able to turn into a dragon in a 100+ hour epic RPG.

    UPDATE: I've put a hold on playing this game while I build up the motivation to finish it off. Divinity II is not the greatest game on the market. It's also pretty long and somewhat difficult. I'm hoping to get back at it sometime soon though...
    [Status: Paused]

  30. Beyond Good & Evil HD
    I'm a little ashamed to admit it but I never finished Beyond Good & Evil when I had it for my PS2. I don't know what happened but for one reason or another, I gave up on the game. I guess I just wasn't as big a completionist in the days before achievements and trophies. I will be finishing BG&E HD this time around and I can't wait. I've had to push back my fifteenth playthrough of Borderlands but I'm sure it'll be worth it.

    UPDATE: I started playing Beyond Good & Evil HD. And then I stopped playing it shortly thereafter. I know that there's a great game in there - I just need to get in the right mood to play it. I'm hoping to the get BG&E finished sometime soon.
    [Status: Paused]

  31. WWE All Stars
    I was a huge WWF fan back in the 80s. I remember sitting down with my Dad and brother and watching rented copies of the yearly WrestleMania events. I was a huge Hulk Hogan fan. I loved Randy "Macho Man" Savage. Jake the Snake, Ultimate Warrior, Mr. Perfect - the list goes on and on. Despite WWE All Stars somewhat repetitive single-player gameplay, I really feel that this game captures what the WWF/WWE was to me as a kid. If you liked the WWF or if you have a passing interest in the modern-day WWE, give WWE All Stars a try.
    [Status: Completed]

  32. Fairytale Fights
    I bought this game for $10 from my local grocery store. Fairytale Fights isn't worth $10. Yuck. There are so few games that I've failed to finish once I started playing them. This game joins the ranks of boring, unplayable games. I guess some people might get a kick out of spending 10-20 hours of boring hack n' slash gameplay. The only kick I got from Fairytale Fights was taking it out of my 360 and getting the game out of my house.
    [Status: Completed]

  33. You Don't Know Jack
    Much like video game pinball, I spent a good portion of my twenties playing a lot of You Don't Know Jack on my PC. At the time, no other trivia game came close to delivering humour or style like the YDKJ series of games. I picked up the latest copy of You Don't Know Jack for my Xbox 360 and I'm happy to say that the YDKJ series still holds the title for best quiz game ever!! I'm amazed that the guys and gals at Jellyvision have always been able to meet and exceed all of my expectations of a video game. You Don't Know Jack is funny, challenging (well, the first time you see a set of questions), and unbelievably entertaining whether playing alone or with friends. This is a great game that I'll be playing for a long, long while! I find the game is a perfect nightcap for me: it gets me laughing, relaxed, and helps me forget about any troubles that might keep me up at night. For the record, this game is the only game to ever get me laughing so hard that I was unable to continue playing. Candlenut?! Hilarious!

    UPDATE: Anyone who tells you that YDKJ isn't worth buying because it has no replay value hasn't played the game. Trust me: 73 episodes of questions, plus various downloadable content packs, is more than enough trivia bang for your buck! I easily spent 18 hours working my way through 730 questions and 73 "Jack Attacks". I feel so smart!
    [Status: Completed]

  34. Borderlands
    What can I say about Borderlands that I've not already said in the past? Borderlands is this generation's Diablo II. Buy it, play it - 'nuff said. I'll be playing Borderlands off and on over the course of the year. I'm hoping to to pick up most of the achievements that I've missed. After that, we'll see if I can get my Siren to level 69!

    I've got all of the DLC for Borderlands. I'm going to see if I can finish this puppy up once and for all. My Siren is almost level 50. I'm currently on my second playthrough of the game. I'll finish up the main story and then tackle the DLC in order: Moxxi,Knoxx, and Claptrap. I'm not sure how I'm going to beat Crawmerax. I'll probably save that nasty little achievement for the very last thing I do with this game.

    UPDATE: After spending more than 120 hours playing Borderlands, I've finally turned in my guns for good. The Mad Moxxi DLC really killed any notions of getting 100% complete status in this game. But Underdome aside, Borderlands is one of the best games that I've played in the past five years. I bought the game for both my Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, played the main storyline about eight times, and played through most of the DLC repeatedly a couple times over. That's a lot of bang for my buck! I'm really looking forward to Borderlands 2!
    [Status: Completed]

  35. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit
    Not much to say about Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. It's awesome! That's it! Fast police chases, insane races, cool upgrades and game changers: Hot Pursuit's got it all! I'm amazed at how much time I can spend hunting racers in a souped up cop car. I find that the law enforcement gameplay is much better than playing as a racer and the Hot Pursuit or Interceptor modes are the most fun. Anything that takes Hot Pursuit away from the familiar "Burnout" racing gameplay is a welcome and necessary breath of fresh air and chock full of awesome!

    UPDATE: Time for a break from NFS: Hot Pursuit. I really like the cops and racers gameplay but I'm a little less sold on the straight street races and time trial stuff. I'm planning on coming back to this game sometime in the future. I've only spent about 12 hours with the game and figure that I should give it a bit more of time before turning in my badge.

    UPDATE: I never really got back into NFS: Hot Pursuit after crashing and burning on some of the harder races. I wanted a little more "cops and robbers" and much less street racing and "interceptor" events (a.k.a. street racing in a cop car). Quite suprisingly, I enjoyed the online gameplay far more than the single-player experience. There's something about chasing down and taking out a trash-talking teenager that I found quite soothing. Stupid punk teenagers...get off my lawn!
    [Status: Completed]

  36. Civilization Revolution
    I bought this game looking to flex my brain and get into some hardcore strategy. When the dust cleared, I ended up spending about 11 hours beating the Chieftain AI repeatedly, laughing all the while as I racked up some easy achievements. I'm a simple man and definitely not fit to run a civilation. Still, I did a heck of lot better than that poor Gandhi guy. You know what stops a hunger strike? Multiple wings of long-range bombers. Nuclear weapons work well too!
    [Status: Completed]

  37. Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged
    I got a sudden hankering for some backgammon a little while back. I figured that XBLA's Hardwood Backgammon might help me scratch that itch. I'm now done with backgammon for a while.

    I also managed to get in a little Texas Hold'em (brutally slow and not fun in any way) and Geometry Wars (brutally fast and lots of fun) before shelving this collection of XBLA titles for good.
    [Status: Completed]

  38. Batman Arkham Asylum
    This game is amazing! It was amazing when I played it on my PS3 a couple years ago! It's just as amazing on my Xbox 360! I can't believe how much "win" Rocksteady was able to pack into a single super-hero title. I was excited for Arkham City after E3 and Arkham Asylum has made the wait for October 2011 all the more unbearable! If you haven't played Batman Arkham Asylum, pick it up today. Best super-hero game ever!
    [Status: Completed]

  39. Medal of Honor
    Another year, another reboot. Medal of Honor is a competent first-person military shooter. It hits all the marks dictated by the Call of Duty franchise but didn't really go above or beyond in any single category. Medal of Honor's story was decent but forgettable. The campaign missions were interesting at times but very confusing in some spots. I died repeatedly in many sections when I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do. I'm pretty sure that there were a few bugs that prevented my AI companions from completing their tasks which was also very frustrating at times.

    If I had to rate Medal of Honor against the Call of Duty series, I'd say that it falls in between Black Ops (decent) and World at War (yuck) but well below the amazing Modern Warfare and the above-average Modern Warfare 2.
    [Status: Completed]

  40. The Bourne Conspiracy
    I bought Bourne Conspiracy on the cheap off eBay about a year ago. I finally decided the give the game a shot after re-watching The Bourne Identity with my wife. All in all, The Bourne Conspiracy was a solid action game with just enough cool moments to make the experience worthwhile. I really enjoyed the hand-to-hand and shooting takedowns: nothing better than watching Jason Bourne take out a whole screen of bad guys in one fell swoop. If you can pick up a copy of this game for around $10-$20 and 8 hours to kill, you could give this game a try. Just be sure to watch The Bourne Identity first since the game does a poor job of relating the story during its cutscenes.
    [Status: Completed]

  41. Stacking
    Double Fine has put out a number of great games in the past couple years. Both Costume Quest and Brutal Legend really tickled my fancy. Yet despite the glowing reviews given to Stacking by reviewers, I'm having trouble getting into the game. I think it's the lack of voice acting that's got me bored. Or maybe it's the lack of Hallowe'en costumes? I guess I'm just not in the mood for a puzzle game right now. Portal 2 set the bar so incredibly high that maybe I'm ruined for puzzle games for the next little while? I'm going to stick with Stacking for now. I've almost finished the main storyline - though I also bought the Hobo King DLC because I was so sure that I'd love Stacking. At some point, I'll also need to go back find more solutions to the game's various challenges. There's also some hijinks that I need to try out and a whole bunch of unique dolls that I'm supposed to find. Yay?

    UPDATE: I finally get it! I now understand why reviewers and gamers alike have praised Stacking as much as they have. It's charming and a lot of fun if you approach the game with the right attitude. As soon as I decided to sit back and just enjoy the ride, Stacking really started to grow on me. I've finished off the main storyline and will continue to play in an effort to unlock everything else the game has to offer. My son is also enjoying the game, though he's done nothing more than stack into burping and farting dolls and "fire" away.

    UPDATE: And we're done! Stacking and the Hobo King DLC took me around 8 hours to finish (with 100% completion). Despite a rather mediocre first impression of the game, Charlie Blackmore and the rest of Stacking's cast of characters really grew on me. Thank you Double Fine!
    [Status: Completed]

  42. Halo 3: ODST
    I've never been a big fan of the Halo series. I just don't get it. Graphics are average, gameplay is traditional bordering on boring, and the characters are very one-dimensional. And yet I keep buying these games hoping for something to change. I don't really care about the multiplayer because it's hard and the vocal majority of online XBLA gamers seem to be the scum of the Earth based on my past experiences. If I've offended any racist or l33t gamers out there, so be it.

    In any case, time for me to suit up as Master Chief and save the universe again. Wait - no Master Chief? Screw this. Oh, Nathan Fillion's a voice in the game? Fine, I'll give the game a shot...

    UPDATE: This game is hard. Even on normal difficulty, the Covenant are kicking my ass. Halo fans are crazy: how do you handle getting shot at this much? Covenant forces keep charging my position as well, forcing me to constantly rethink my strategy while running for my life. And I keep running out of ammo because these giant armoured Covenant monsters keep running up and knocking me about. ODST is going to keep me busy for a while...

    UPDATE: It took me a solid 8-9 hours to get through Halo 3: ODST's single-player campaign. And let me tell you: it was time well spent! I think I enjoyed Halo 3: ODST more than any other Halo game in the series. Bungie did a great job of breaking up the monotony of the typical Halo gameplay formula. I always found that Master Chief was a fairly boring protagonist and the standard Halo single-player campaign was a long grind through endless waves of enemies. The contrast between your standard "Master Chief" Halo game and ODST's more diverse campaign and cast of characters was a breath of fresh air for a dated and over-hyped series. I may actually give Halo Reach a try based solely on my enjoyment of ODST. Great job Bungie!
    [Status: Completed]

  43. Plants vs. Zombies (and Peggle)
    I don't think that there's any way for me to approach Plants vs. Zombies or Peggle with a "must finish this game quickly" attitude. Both of these games are less about fulfilling the completionist in me and more about just kicking back and playing some mindless games. That being said, Peggle is a frustrating b*tch of a game sometimes. And those f*cking zombies just keep coming and my stupid peashooters are doing sh*t to stop them. I'm not even going to play Zuma because I've seen my wife play that game and it looks bat-sh*t crazy and annoying. Ok...maybe I'll give Zuma a little taste. Damn you, Pop Cap Games! Frustrating and addictive games are my kryptonite (as are exercise, eating healthy, and getting plenty of sleep)!

    UPDATE: Ok - that's more than enough tower-defence gameplay for me. Plants vs. Zombies was good for the first 4 hours but I really lost interest after that. My 8 year-old niece made the game seem much more interesting and manageable. For me, each level boiled down to a frantic scramble to shove another walnut on the line to hold back the swarms of zombonies and the disco-dancing undead.
    [Status: Completed]

  44. Army of Two
    Army of Two is one of those games that I've heard very little about. There appears to be a rather small yet rabid community of players who love this game. The rest of the gaming community seems a little more "meh" about the whole experience. As for me, the thought of taking on a bunch of gun-toting bad guys while wearing a bad-ass hockey mask and fist-bumping a midly brain-dead yet manly A.I. partner is strangely intriguing. Latent homosexuality concerns aside, I'm really looking forward to just shooting my way through never-ending waves of gun fodder in strange and distant lands.

    UPDATE: Army of Two ended up being a much better game than I thought it would be. I've found a good number of quality games that seemed to fly under my radar over the years. The only downside to Army of Two was its sparse offering of easy achievements. I had to play most of the game on a harder difficulty in order to scrape up a gew meager achievements; regardless, I'm looking forward to playing The 40th Day at some point in the near future.
    [Status: Completed]

  45. Red Faction Guerrilla
    I played Red Faction back on my PS3 a year or two ago. For some reason or another, I stopped playing it and eventually sold my copy. I've decided to give the game another shot on my 360, along with the recently discounted Demons of the Badlands DLC (400 MS Points, 250 achievement points). I remember the giddy excitement that I felt while taking down my first building in that game. Watching the building slowly start to buckle, sway, then topple off to one side...with me standing in the path of the falling building. And let me tell you: watching that same building fall for the second time was just as impressive!

    UPDATE: Red Faction: Guerrilla is a terrific game! I love the whole "blow everything up" gameplay! I spent a good portion of last night's gaming session just driving around from place to place destroying enemy buildings. And then I got the chance to take down a huge suspension bridge. When that thing came down - instant nerdgasm! Great stuff! It's a shame that THQ and Volition really dropped the ball on Red Faction Armageddon. Still, I'll play Armageddon if only to get a further taste of blowing up another little piece of Mars. I should be finishing up Guerrilla sometime in the next couple of gaming sessions.
    [Status: Completed]

  46. Prince of Persia
    Aside from a couple weak entries in the series, Ubisoft's Prince of Persia games have always been some of my favouites. But my all-time favourite Prince game is probably 2008's Prince of Persia. I loved the art-style, characters and story. And while many gamers complained about the simplified gameplay, I rather enjoyed the casual gaming atmosphere. Easy gameplay allows me to better focus my attention on the scenery, characters, and story. I can't wait to play Prince of Persia for a second time.

    UPDATE: I enjoyed Prince of Persia just as much the second time around as I did when I first played it a couple of years ago. The Prince is such a great character and I thought Elika was a great A.I. partner. Although the combat and gameplay were fairly forgiving, there is still quite a bit of challenge to keep even hardcore gamers on their toes. Man - I love this game!
    [Status: Completed]

  47. Bulletstorm
    Despite the "controversy" surrounding Bulletstorm at launch, reviews seem pretty favourable. I like shooting bad guys. And the idea of "killing with style" sounds morbid but interesting. Honestly, I just want to bask in Bulletstorm's promise of filthy language and over-the-top violence!

    UPDATE: Bulletstorm was not at all what I expected. I put off playing Bulletstorm for quite a while due to some of the more controversial aspects of the game that came up during its release. But for all the talk about the language and violence, Bulletstorm was a solid game. Imagine a mix between Gears of War and The Club with some spot-on voice acting, a good story, amazing visuals, and some crazy, over-the-top action. The game took me about 9-10 hours to finish and I enjoyed every minute. Bulletstorm never dragged or got boring. The game was intense but never stressful or frustrating. Every single gun fight was an opportunity to "kill with skill" by executing some amazing skillshots. I'd recommend Bulletstorm to any "mature" fan of first-person shooters. If you're turned off by moderately offensive language (for the record, they never say the 'c'-word which is a Godsend to most married gamers) or gory imagery, Bulletstorm has optional filters to make the game appeal to a broader and thinner-skinned audience.
    [Status: Completed]

  48. Dead to Rights: Retribution
    I picked up this game on sale at my local grocery store earlier this year. I've heard that the game is a more or less mediocre shooter with slightly more "highs" than "lows". Not the greatest praise for a game but there are some interesting game mechanics in DTR: Retribution that I'd like to try out. The biggest draw for me is the ability to sneak around as a wolf-dog and chew out enemies' throats and groins. Another good reason for playing DTR: Retribution? I'm too chicken to start Left 4 Dead. Zombies really creep me out, more so when they can run, jump, claw, or vomit.

    UPDATE:Well...I finished off Dead to Rights in about 12 hours. It was a long, long 12 hours of gaming. I get the premise: bad-ass cop, cool wolf-dog, brutal melee combat, and vicious dog-on-perp action sequences. But Namco Bandai really dropped the ball on this one. The game plays like a typical Japanese brawler game: enter a room, lock doors, kill everything, move on to the next room. Now repeat this sequence for a solid 1-2 hours for each of the games 10 levels. What you have is an underwhelming grind through waves of faceless enemies and tedious combat. The only redeeming qualities of this game are the mildy-interesting dog missions and over-the-top melee takedowns performed by Jack Slater (that's right - protagonist's name is Jack Slater...blech).
    [Status: Completed]

  49. Left 4 Dead
    I've never played Left 4 Dead. Why? It's the whole multiplayer thing: I just don't get it. I've tried to understand the appeal of multiplayer but have to admit that my efforts have not changed my opinion. Playing well with faceless (and potentially racist, homophobic, or juvenile) strangers holds no appeal for me. So I'm planning on facing the hordes of zombies in Left 4 Dead with nobody except the game's A.I. companions to watch my back. I'm hoping that Left 4 Dead holds up well when played alone. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

    UPDATE:Left 4 Dead was a pretty short game from a single-player campaign point of view. It took me about 5 hours to fight my way through the four campaigns included in the original game. Mind you, I was playing on the Easy difficulty setting. Regardless of the game's length, I think that Valve did an incredible job with Left 4 Dead. I loved the gameplay, the atmosphere, and the characters. Each of the five levels per campaign (20 levels in all) was quite excellent. I'm not a huge FPS fan but I really dug the vibe given off by L4D. I can only imagine how much fun this would be for fans of multiplayer gaming. I'd try the multiplayer myself were it not for the fact that I hate multiplayer gaming. As it stands, I'm going to try and find a cheap copy of Left 4 Dead 2 because 5 hours of killing the "infected" is not enough!
    [Status: Completed]

  50. Iron Man 2
    Nothing much to say about this game. I was looking for something quick to play while I wait for Deus Ex: Human Revolution to hit a $39.99 price point. I've already played the first couple levels of this game and all I can say is "Ugh". This is going to be a boring slog through waves of cookie-cutter enemies and annoying missions with convoluted objectives. And the story and voice-acting have been pretty crap too.

    UPDATE: I finished Iron Man 2 in about 4 hours on the Easy difficulty setting. The game was bland and forgettable. But I did enjoy the fact that I felt absolutely invincible on the easiest game difficulty. Finally a super hero video game that made me feel "super". Oh - and the frequent "escort" missions were blessedly simple and forgiving as well. All in all, Iron Man 2 wasn't all that bad given the price I paid for the game ($12.50) and the easy achievement points.
    [Status: Completed]

  51. 'Splosion Man
    I don't play very many "arcadey" games compared to your standard $60 retail game titles. Last year, I got my hands on 'Splosion Man for a ridiculously low price. I've started playing this game recently and it's pretty fun. It's a nice little diversion when I don't feel like watching TV and I don't feel like shooting people. It's much more satisfying to blow up and turn scientists into medium-rare fillets. Great game so far but I can see the game getting unreasonably tough very soon.

    UPDATE: I've had to put 'Splosion Man on hold now that I've jumped back into the world of RPGs. I find it very difficult to cut a Dragon Age session short just to 'splode some scientists. I am hoping to finish up 'Splosion Man by the end of the year. No promises though...
    [Status: Paused]

  52. Bionic Commando
    I've heard nothing but bad things about this game. But, much like Iron Man 2 above, I'm really just buying time until Deus Ex: Human Revolution goes on sale. How's that for a solid endorsement? Jeff Gerstmann (Giant Bomb) actually liked the game. Then again, Jeff didn't like Red Dead Redemption. Maybe Bionic Commando will be a pleasant surprise...?

    UPDATE: You know what? Bionic Commando wasn't that bad a game. Would I recommend it to the average video game player? No. But for fans of Japanese-style games who are looking for a quick fix of mindless action tied to a questionable control schema? Why not? Bionic Commando starts off a little on the tough side but soon gets much easier. I'm not sure if the game got easier or I got better but I started really breezing through later levels and stages.

    All told, I spent just north of 10 hours with Bionic Commando. All in all, I'm glad to be done with the game: the voice acting and bizarre storyline were really starting to wear on me.
    [Status: Completed]

  53. Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
    I remember playing a small portion of Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay on my Xbox back in 2005. I'm not sure why I didn't finish the game though I assume it had something to do with online poker taking over all of my free time. I'm ready to jump back into the world of Vin Diesel's infamous anti-hero. I preferred Pitch Black to The Chronicles of Riddick but what are you gonna do? Bring on the shivs and shine jobs!

    UPDATE: Dragon Age > Chronicles of Riddick. 'Nuff said. I'm going to try and finish Chronicles at some point. I can't tell whether Chronicles is good or not given that I'm only an hour in. It does feel a little old school though. And the graphics are kind of crap.
    [Status: Paused]

  54. Dragon Age: Origins
    Dragon Age: Origins is the best role-playing game that I've played on the Xbox 360. The Mass Effect series, Fallout games, and Oblivion come close but just miss out on taking the crown. Origins (and the rest of the Ultimate Edition package) deliver an truly epic adventure that I'm sure will span well over 100 hours to complete. I haven't even finished Origins yet and I'm already looking forward to my second playthrough! And despite a number of mediocre reviews for Dragon Age II, I can't help but look forward to getting my hands on Dragon Age II's Ultimate Edition should one ever get released. I'm actually looking forward to the future of the Dragon Age series more than I am with the conclusion of the Mass Effect trilogy.
    [Status: Now Playing]


  55. Batman: Arkham City
    Batman: Arkham Asylum was an incredible game! Arkham City promises more of the same with some possible improvements right across the board. I can't wait to get my hands on this game!
    [Status: Next Up]


Secondary Games
Rather than list multiple titles under the "Now Playing" category, I figured I might as well create a separate category for "secondary games". These titles are primarily skill-based games that I'll play off and on throughout the year. What distinguishes these games from the games listed above? These are games that I'll likely not finish or sell because they are too good to give up, too hard (yet rewarding) to complete on any sort of timeline, and probably insanely addictive given the right frame of mind. These are also games that I highly recommend to most gamers looking for some highly re-playable and rewarding fun!
  • Pinball FX 2
    Pinball FX 2 is the best pinball game that I've played in a long while. I love the table themes! I love the ball physics! I love the online leaderboards and friendly competition with fellow pinball junkies. And most of all, I love the low price of 200 MS points per table. I'll be happy to keep buying tables from Zen Studios whenever they see fit to release more. All in all, Pinball FX 2 is a tremendous game that I think anyone should enjoy!

  • Trials HD
    An addictive yet frustrating puzzle game featuring an unnamed rider, a customizable motocross bike, and absolutely insane tracks. I tend to play this game in short spurts because it gets damned near impossible at times once you hit the hard and extreme tracks. I look forward to challenging my reflexes and sanity with Trials HD over the next twelve months.


Coming Soon
I love to think about the games I've finished, the games I'm currently playing, and the games I'm hoping to spend some time with in the near future. I've put together a little list of titles that I'd like to play before 2011 comes to a close. There are factors that may affect a game's order or inclusion on this list (e.g. retail pricing, review scores, gamer reception, etc.). Look for this list to grow in the coming months as my resolve to conserve money gives way to my desire to bathe in my unbridled greed.

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