Late To The Xbox Live Party: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

amazing spider-man xbox 360 I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record here, but Spider-Man 2 for the PS2 is still one of my all time favorite video games. It did the open world/mission-based thing incredibly well while also offering all kinds of Spidey-based add-on powers and moves to keep things interesting as you swung through NYC, stopping occasionally to kick a criminal’s teeth in. There was a connection to the movie of the same name, of course, but not a huge one, which is great for me because I think the middle of that movie stinks

As I mentioned when I talked about the trailer for Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions — which I erroneously referred to as Dark Dimensions for some reason — I really wanted to like Ultimate Spider-Man which took many of its cues from Spidey 2, but also seemed to dumb things down more than I liked. Since then I’ve kind of shied away from the franchise after not hearing great things about games like Friend Or Foe and Web Of Shadows. But, when some of my friends who are far more into video games than I started telling me that Amazing Spider-Man — based on the film reboot I still haven’t seen — might just be the next Spidey 2, I was definitely interested and actually got a copy of the game for Christmas. 

And it’s close, but it didn’t really hit all the same notes for me. In fact this game, while a lot of fun and challenging at times, really didn’t seem to offer much in the way of new gameplay experience. I’m far from an unbiased voice in this conversation, but the game itself really just felt like an updated version of a game that’s nearly a decade old. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but I was really hoping for something that would take a great game, update it for a new console and also add a lof of new goodness on to it. I mean, the open world style of games have been around for a long time and yet this one didn’t seem to add much to the sandbox. 

And yet, I still had fun with the game. I’ve mentioned plenty of times here and there that my daughter Lucy actually really got excited about this game. For a few weeks she liked watching the old 60s Spider-Man cartoon, but then lost interest but still liked the character. She saw me playing Amazing Spidey and really dug it. In fact, one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to finish this game is that I basically stopped playing it when the kid wasn’t awake. Also, not for nothing, but when a toddler is yelling at you to play a game, it can take away some of the fun. 

So there was an added level of doing something cool with my daughter that she dug while also going through a game that I liked for the most part. Again, it’s not a bad game by any means, but I was just hoping for more. Even though it didn’t do everything I wanted, I still had a great time web-swinging around a digital New York City, trying to figure out where I’ve been and where I can throw down with some bad guys. I even enjoyed the main storyline which does a cool job of mixing a zombie outbreak story and some crazy big mech robot stuff. That’s all aces in my book. 

I’ve already moved on to my next video game which actually happens to be Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions which is much more of a straight-ahead action game than an open world sandbox. I think I’m getting the hang of it and it’s a lot of fun to mash buttons while kicking bad guy butt and also hopping from timeline to timeline while experiencing one cohesive story. Fun stuff so far. I’ll probably review it when I finish, which might be another five months, we’ll see! 

Casting Internets

Pretty sure my buddy Sean T. Collins perfectly encapsulated what made me love He-Man as a kid and look at it sideways as an adult over on Vorpalizer.

I think I plugged Alex Kropinak’s excellent new blog already, but I’ve actually had time to read it. Dig his posts about What The?!, Twisted ToyFare Theater and his love of Marvel Legends.

 

I can’t accurately describe how freaking excited and nostalgic I was when I saw this trailer for Capcom’s upcoming DuckTales Remastered. I adored that game as a kid — it’s easily in my all time top ten — and have had a blast playing it here and there as an adult too. Adding to the excitement is that fact that my daughter is an in-the-works DuckTales fan!

That Patton Oswalt has a lot of interesting stuff to say, as he did in this Esquire interview with Scott Raab.

Not a fan of his movies, but I love that Rob Zombie plays and headlines giant music festivals just to hang out with his musician friends. That’s why I go to NYCC. Well, that and the freelance. (via Rolling Stone)

I still have no idea what Dub Step is supposed to be, but I was a big fan of Fatboy Slim/Norman Cook/Pizza Man back in the day, so it’s cool to see him getting some recognition for being at the forefront of electronic dance music by way of this Rolling Stone interview. I’m glad they stopped calling it electronica, but all the other names are dumb too.

Recalling 1993 sounds like a really interesting project. Head to any pay phone in NYC, dial 1-855-FOR-1993 and hear someone specific to that area telling you about the place you’re standing back in 1993.

Here’s hoping they can get Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo back for the new Vacation movie. They don’t need to have huge roles, but it would be nice to see them together in something other than a commercial for pants. (via THR)

Late To The Xbox Party: Captain America Super Soldier (2011)

I was a little apprehensive about picking up Captain America: Super Soldier for Xbox 360 a few weeks back. Don’t get me wrong, I love superhero based video games, but I aside from the Wolverine game, I haven’t heard much in the way of positive reviews for superhero games in a while. Actually, when it came to this one, I hadn’t heard anything at all, but a quick look on Metacritic told me that the game got pretty good reviews and that’s pretty much all I was looking for. I wanted to throw a shield at Nazis and punch them until they disappeared.

And that’s pretty much what this game is. You’re Cap from the movie running around World War II kicking ass and taking dossiers. I liked that aspect of the game. The fighting mechanic wasn’t overly complicated — or complicated at all, really now that I think about it — so it was kind of a smash em up which was what I was looking for. There’s even a Super Soldier Sense type vision thing that reminded me of a similar mechanic as the Detective Mode or whatever it was in Arkham Asylum. The problem this time around is that the mechanic made everything yellow-ish, which doesn’t make sense when you realize that the things you’re looking at are in a similar color scheme. You don’t really need it much, so it’s not that big of a deal.

There are other parts, where you hit a particular button at a certain point which launches you through the air to a pole or branch or something you swing from to hit something else. It sounds fun, but it’s actually pretty boring because I never once missed. I feel like I’ve played a game with a similar idea that was executed a lot better, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I wished these were more interesting, I also wished there were fewer parts where you have to jam a certain button over and over. I had trouble with the timing a few times, so I’d screw the finishing kill up, but THEN the enemy would get a certain amount of life back and I’d have to beat on him more. So, basically, you had to do these somewhat complex things just to knock a dumb robot over.

So, no, it wasn’t a perfect game, but I had more fun than frustration with it, so I was happy. My enjoyment level doesn’t always rely on that kind of balance, especially if I’m really looking forward to a game, but I literally went into this hoping to throw shields and punch Nazis. Some of the levels were a little more complicated than they needed to be or the save points were in annoying points, but none of those things were SUPER annoying.

Quick Video Game Reviews: Skate 3, Gears Of War 2 & Madden 2011

My video game habits greatly depend on how I’m feeling any given day, how lucky I’ve been in choosing cheap used games to play and whether I’ve decided to write or waste time with digital tasks to complete. I looked back and realized I haven’t talked about a video game since last summer, but I’ve still been playing, just not writing about them as much. I figured this would be a good way to catch up a bit.

One of the longest and best gaming experiences I had came from playing Skate 3. Skate 2 was a game I got sent for free way back in 2008 or 2009 when I worked at Wizard. Video game companies would send a bunch of games to the office every now and then and they’d get disseminated throughout the office. I was lucky enough to get a copy and even reviewed it on the old ToyFare blog, but that no longer exists and thus can not be referred to. So, I’ll summarize and say that I really liked the teleport function on the map, enjoyed getting better and better bit by bit at the various challenges and greatly appreciated the variety of said challenges. I did have some trouble getting the hang of some of the controls, but it wasn’t so bad.

I felt very much the same way about Skate 3. I haven’t played a lot of sequels to Xbox games I’ve enjoyed — Crackdown 2 is about the only one I can think of and that was a huge gigantic disappointment — but I’m glad they were able to keep the same quality, not mess with the difficulty level too much and still give me a game that lasted me quite a while and remained enjoyable the whole time. I even finished all the challenges but one and have even gone back to play a few things again when I’m bored or just want to have some fun flying through the air. I’ve never been a skater, but I like how this game makes me feel like I could possibly do it.

It looks like I didn’t actually write about the first Gears Of War game, but I did enjoy it. I can get a little tired of the whole “space soliders” game (yeah, I know they’re on Earth in GOW, but it’s the same idea), but they gave me just the right about of actual game to play without feeling too long or boring. It took me a while to the hang of whole duck-and-cover game play mechanic, but once I did things moved along pretty smoothly.

I had a very similar experience with GOW 2, making it the second 360 sequel in this post that I not only liked but had a lot of fun with. I don’t remember exactly how long it took me to finish the game, but I don’t think it was very long. Since I only pay around $20 for a game, I don’t mind if it doesn’t give me 60 hours of gameplay. It’d be different if I was paying $60, but I’m not, so I’m okay with a fun, quick and concise game.

There were some pretty intense moments and a few interesting boards. I didn’t have too much trouble with any of the levels or bad guys which I also like. I play these games to have fun and relieve stress, not challenge myself for days to kill one dumb alien. So far, GOW has been the series that I’m most excited about catching up on when it comes to 360 games, but only because I don’t think there’s going to be another Skate game in the near future.

I had a very similar experience with Madden 2011 that I did with Skate 2. I’ve been playing it for quite a while and enjoyed all the challenges therein. I played a few random games then started a franchise and won the Super Bowl after an undefeated season as the Steelers.

After that, I went and moved up to the next difficulty level. Man, there is a huge difference between the two. Like I said, I won every single game on one level, then could not win a game on the next. I’m not sure what the deal was. I could not complete a pass or get more than a few yards on the run. I was hoping for more of a challenge, but not the cold, hard realization that I might suck incredibly bad at this game.

So, what did I do? Instead of completely giving up and moving on to another game, noting that I had gotten plenty of fun out of whatever the used price was, I switched teams. To the Lions. I’m still undefeated with them, but it doesn’t feel like as much of a gimme because it’s the Lions and they hadn’t had their great season when this game was made. I know that’ silly, but it works for me.

Late To The Xbox Live Party: Prototype (2009)

Much like the last game I finished–Red Faction Guerrilla–and the next game I just started–Crackdown 2Prototype is an open world sandbox game that allows you to run around doing side missions while also taking care of the more important missions when you want. Once again, I didn’t pay attention to any of the cut scenes, so I don’t really know what was going on with the story, but you’re a dude named Alex who gets different morphing abilities as the game progresses. You run around NYC fighting increasingly hard to kill monsters and military people because some virus has been unleashed and you have a version of it, but you’re also trying to stop it. Your different abilities include super strength, a huge blade hand and a whip-like stretchy arm among others. You can also glide, jump really high and not get too damaged if you fall from a great height. Combine that with the fact that Alex is running around none other than New York City and it becomes pretty clear that Prototype is, essentially, an updated version of Spider-Man 2, another game that Activision created back in 2004. On one hand, I’m cool with that because I like these kinds of games, but on the other hand, it feels like it should have been bigger and possibly more open than it was, like the game engine could use not just a face lift but a reconstruction.

As I mentioned, in addition to doing the main missions which usually pit you against the military, some crazy zombified citizens or both, Prototype lets you do all kinds of side missions. These vary from vehicle-based and destruction based to foot races and a jumping game where you need to land as close to the bullseye as possible. Fun stuff, though I certainly liked the last two kinds more than the others. Had I been more interested in some of these side challenges, I probably would have earned more points which would have in turn made me fight better. Ah well, I’m not that invested in these things.

I wish I could say that I loved the game, but I didn’t. I had a somewhat deja vu feeling as I traversed places in the game that I remember visiting as Spider-Man and some places in real life. Another negative I found was that the controls weren’t very crisp. You can select a variety of different offensive and defensive abilities using the D-pad, but I can’t tell you how many times I went to select one and another popped up for no reason. I could reasonably blame my less-than-dexterous thumbs for that, but what makes it all the worse is when I went to hit that button to turn said power off, it would continue on. Not sure what the deal was, but precision wasn’t the name of the game. Speaking of which, the aiming function was pretty annoying. If you were facing one enemy or a group of the same kind, it worked great, but if you’re trying to fight one very powerful villain in a crowd with the less-powerful, the targeting got wonky. You’d think it would zero in on the most powerful and dangerous (especially in the final boss battle) but nope. I’d be in the middle of a pretty heated battle, grab something heavy to throw at the big bad guy and all of a sudden would be aiming taking out some chump with a gun by way of thrown helicopter. Wah wah. There were other control or focus problems, but I would generalize them as being part of a game that wasn’t completely hashed out by the time it was released.

However, I think I liked the game overall. I didn’t pay too much for it used and considering the sandbox format is a favorite, I had a good time running and jumping my way around NYC. I think it nailed the parkour aspects better than something like Mirror’s Edge (which I quit). Maybe the developers just tried to put too much into the game and certain things suffered. While the city searching was great, the vehicle stuff just seemed tedious (but that could be because I don’t like driving in games). The combat was pretty good, but the aiming wasn’t. The powers were fun to play with, but I got the feeling that one or two were better than the others. So, while the game was no where near perfect, I think it’s a good enough example of this kind of game that will be worth your while if you’re a fan of such things.

Casting Internets

Sam Sarkar’s The Vault is a pretty interesting book, check out the story I did on it over at CBR. Same goes for All Nighter, Mysterious Ways and Shinku.

I also did some goodness for Marvel.com about the upcoming Black Panther Point 1 issue!

The hilarious and awesome Rob Bricken of Topless Robot fame did an excellent FAQ based on the never-to-air Wonder Woman pilot.

In the last year, I’ve discovered I’m a big fan of gin, so Esquire‘s Summer Gin Guide was quite informative.

I thought John C Abell’s post on Wired about how eBooks are falling short right now was a fun read.

Ed Brubaker’s Criminal has never really lit me up, but his recent interview with Tom Spurgeon definitely has me curious about this new mini.

I’m linking to my buddy Ben‘s post about Batman being the worst JLAer not only because he name checked me in it, but also because it’s a convincing argument.

This might be a little creepy, but I actually wished I had these kinds of video glasses when I worked in the city because, as David Cross said, when walking the streets of NYC you’re constantly deciding whether to look at the most beautiful woman in the world or the craziest guy in the world. I also would have settled for simple camera glasses. (via Wired)

Anyone interested in comics, regardless of what kind, should be reading Jim Shooter’s blog. It’s fascinating. Take the one about the origin of the Dark Phoenix Saga as an example. I love this kind of behind the scenes stuff.

Speaking of behind the scenes comic book stuff, check out Ron Marz’s latest CBR column where he discusses what went into his decision to leave Witchblade. If you just thought “Pfft, it’s Witchblade, who cares?” I recommend checking out the first trade, it’s good stuff.

Wow, Jimmy Page came out to reprise his role as session guitar player for Donovan’s Sunshine Superman in London. I hope someone recorded it. (via Rolling Stone)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers will have a new album out on August 30th called I’m With You with new guitar player Josh Klinghoffer. Their most recent records have been musically amazing, but not necessarily the most interesting records. Hopefully this one brings back more of the funk. (via Rolling Stone)

I’ve never been so interested in a headline and then immediately worried by a subhed as I was with this Rolling Stone.com example: JACK WHITE MAY RECORD MUSIC FOR ‘SCHOOLBOYS IN DISGRACE’ MOVIE Film version of Kings concept album is being developed by Bobcat Goldthwait.

Dig this crazy skate park designed like a pinball machine! (via Wired)

Kinect Star Wars looks exactly how I want it to. Can’t wait.

Speaking of lovely time wasting video games, Spider-Man: Edge of Time sounds pretty rad too. The fact that it’s written by Peter David is awesome. I’ve still got to get my hands on Shattered Dimension, but have plenty to keep me busy until the used price drops a little lower. (via CBR)

I’ve listened to and really enjoyed Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi records in the past (she’s an amazing vocalist), so I’m happy to see their new band Tedeschi Trucks Band got a good review for their first record on Rolling Stone.

Dad Stuff: The Kinect Is Great For Dads, But Could Be Better

The Kinect for Xbox 360 isn’t the kind of thing I would have bought for myself. But, my lovely wife liked the idea of it and we wound up getting it for Christmas. We played and enjoyed the game that came with it and Dance Central, but the pregnancy kind of deterred her from playing. I could write that it’s not the kind of game I would play on my own, but to be honest, there were a few days where I’d shake my booty before she got home and I had to start making dinner. It’s actually a pretty good way to work up a sweat. Anyway, I was most interested in seeing how the Kinect would change the way I use the Xbox overall. While I do play my fair share of video games–usually at night after everyone’s gone to sleep–I mostly use the ‘Box as an entertainment center to play Netflix Instant movies and shows. Initially, there was no Netflix capability for the Kinect which was kind of disappointing because I had visions of flipping through my queue like something out of Minority Report. Recently, Netflix got updated and can now be used with the Kinect, but it’s far from perfect. Now that my hands and arms are quite literally full with our darling daughter, I was hoping to be able to wave my hand, take control of the Instant menu, flip through my queue and find something I wanted to watch. Instead, the Kinect-enable Netflix menu shows me things it thinks I want to see and, unless I’m just completely clueless, does not give you access to your actual queue which is annoying. And even if it did, flipping through the list isn’t nearly as smooth as I would like. You’ve got to hold your hand up on an arrow and wait for it to move on to the next four or five selections. Someone get Steven Spielberg on a redesign! But, it’s not all bad. The Kinect allows for voice commands, which I didn’t even know were available. The missus and I were watching Veronica Mars, one of us said something and we saw a tiny microphone graphic show up on the TV. That’s when I remembered reading somewhere about voice commands. All you’ve got to do is say “Xbox” and then any number of commands and it does what you want. Blammo! Now this is excellent. While I can’t flip through my queue using my dulcet tones, I can tell my Xbox to pause, play, fast forward and whathaveyou, which is incredibly helpful when holding a sleeping baby. The only risk is talking so loudly that you wake the kid up, but thankfully Lucy doesn’t seem to mind. So, while the Netflix/Kinect combination isn’t quite as good as I would like, it has offered me hands free control of my Netflix account to some extent. I’d like there to be more, either through voice activation or hand waving. Even so, it’s a pretty good trade off for having my TV look like Johnny Number 5’s fatter cousin.