FIFA 16 Pre-Order Madness

This year, EA is being generous with their allotment of FUT crack. FIFA your way … ? $59.99, $69.99 or $99.99.

I actually enjoy FUT, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see EA offering up FUT goodies in their standard edition, but I have to wonder if EA gimped the ‘standard’ offering in order to give something away for ‘free.’ After all, EA never gives away goodies without said goods being worthless. Case in point, this year all FIFA 16 tiers receive:

Up to two (2) brand new EA SPORTS Football Club Celebrations – The “KO” or the “Bailando Robot”*
*Celebration availability varies by retailer. Check local retailers for specific Standard Edition celebration offers

How generous of EA …

Back to FUT, it will be interesting to see the difference between standard, premium, and jumbo premium Gold packs. Has to be the number of cards, and their specific quality. Gold probably isn’t what it use to be, so with apologies to Prince

Everybody wants 2 sell what’s already been sold
Everybody wants 2 tell what’s already been told
What’s the use of money if U ain’t gonna break the mold?
Even at the center of fire there is cold
All that glitters ain’t gold, no no
All that glitters ain’t gold, no no

Sounds a lot like EA, no?

For anyone that isn’t aware, EA has a claim it or lose it policy with their weekly free packs. Buyer beware. It makes good business sense for EA; give ’em what they want, with a reason to come back weekly for fresh new shiny shit … err … virtual crack (forgot for a minute that this is a semi family friendly establishment). And hope each and every one of you spends some real-life duckets on some not so real virtual fantasy cards.

Count me in! Except for the spending real-life cabbage part. The last 2-3 years I did partake in the deluxe edition madness, but that is different right? I get one of those special Messi cards (5 games; use them wisely) to go with those weekly Gold packs. I call that the good gaming life … and of course the FUT crack causes me to come back weekly to check out my new cards. The cards with coins or ‘free’ packs are the best …

So I’m sure FIFA 16 will find its way into my PS4, but I doubt the super special, ultimate of ultimate, walks on water edition, complete with,

40 FIFA Ultimate Team Jumbo Premium Gold Packs (delivered one a week for 40 consecutive weeks)
Five (5) match FUT Loan Player items of Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, and Thibaut Courtois
Two (2) brand new EA SPORTS Football Club Celebrations – The “KO” and the “Bailando Robot”

… will. Still, if I play my cards right (that was bad), my virtual Calvert should be doing the KO and Bailando Robot at an online match near you.

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EA Skimps On FIFA 14 PS4 Features

I’m not sure that EA is really the worst company in America, but they are sure doing their best to alienate long time FIFA fans by removing traditional and dare I say, common features from their newest versions of the next generation releases of FIFA.

According to EA, Tournament Mode just wasn’t that popular …

“For the new generation of FIFA 14 on Xbox One and PS4, we decided not to include Tournament Mode, which accounted for a very small percentage of games played in FIFA 13, in order to focus on the most important areas and modes in the game. We took those resources and budget, and focused on many other new areas of the game, including Living Worlds and Stadiums, Career Mode, and expanded Online Seasons.”

Strangely enough, it was popular enough to offer in the FIFA 14 releases for the 360 and PS3. There is a very outspoken vocal minority that is crying foul, but only time will tell if EA will actually listen, or if they are gunning to get their status as worst company in America.

FIFA 14 Next Gen – Exclusion of current features! MUST READ!

No tournament mode on PS4 fifa 14? Also, there is no way to play 2v2/3v3/4v4/ online with my guests?

REPLY from EA Sports regarding the removal of Guest Play on all online modes

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PS4 Day One (Reinventing The Vita)

The wait was long, but once the UPS guy arrived a little after 2PM, the unboxing begun. I’m not going to upload pictures or video, or give impressions of the packaging, system or Dual Shock 4; plenty of that to be found on YouTube and elsewhere.

Sony decided to include a threefold day-one pack-in for early PS4 adopters: one free month of PS+, one free month of Music Unlimited, and a $10 PSN voucher. It was nice getting the vouchers for 1 month of PS+ and Music Unlimited, but since I already subscribe to both, and Sony’s official’ish PlayStation blog said they don’t stack, they are not much use to me. I understand Sony wants to help hook new subscribers, but a +1 month add-on for current Sony services subscribers would have been very well received. I did appreciate the $10 PSN voucher; that was a very nice throw-in by the Sony brass.

My TV has two HDMI ports; I forgot that the one not reserved for my PS3 is used for cable. So for now, I have to manually switch my PS3 and brand spanking new PS4. I have a Portta 3:1 HDMI Switcher from Amazon and an extra 6 ft. HDMI cable via Amazon; both are scheduled to arrive on Tuesday and only set me back an additional $15.25 including tax.

Before I could jump into any of that Greatness that Sony promised the whole damn lot of us, I had to download the firmware update. ~53 minutes to download, which as I understand it, was lucky for me because a lot of users were having problems getting the update file to download. So I switched over to the U.S. vs. Scotland friendly, putting Greatness on-hold until my new PS4 system could do its thing.

I should add that my internet connection is wireless, not overly fast, and not too terribly slow. I have noticed that my PS3 always seems to download a little faster than my kids’ PS3, but that could be proximity to the wireless router. At any rate, I don’t have a base point to compare my ~53 minutes download against; would love for someone to post their experience with their firmware download time.

PSN Goes Down
After getting my firmware updated, it was time to hook up my jcalvert PSN account to my new PS4. No go. Errors, timeouts, you name it. The PSN was hosed. Sony should be embarrassed and appalled. Apparently the final folks at PlayStation network services were not actually expecting the volume and onslaught of the new PS4 traffic to impact their now paid for (via PS+ online experience) server farm. Funny since the day-one patch was pretty much mandatory. It took ~3-4 hours to actually get my PSN info setup; ouch.

PS+ Resogun and Contrast
Once I got connected, I quickly jumped into the Store to pick up my free games. There was also some DLC for another game – Warframe or some such. I haven’t read anything about this one, but it looks like a free to play title. It may or may not be a beta, but still something else free to mess around with (as if I have time).

I started the download process for Resogun and Contrast, then left the store to start some gaming fun …

FIFA 14 and Need For Speed: Rivals
My boys and I actually played these games before getting our PSN info setup on the PS4; we just couldn’t wait. I’m going to save any serious impressions for latter … I want to get in some gaming this morning!

I took a spin with Need For Speed first. My oldest son and I took turns doing the racer and cop tutorials, which opened up the wider game. My oldest son and I each earned a trophy; the trophies did sync correctly to our accounts, once we were able to get our PSN info sorted out correctly.

My son and I both had the same observation – there is a lot going on at one time, and it gets confusing on what missing you are doing. This was especially apparent once I was on the PSN. Connected to a group of 8 (I think) gamers, and trying to do race missions while a human cop is doing their own copy missions was fun but disconcerting trying to figure out what I was actually supposed to be doing. If there is a way to connect to a group of friends, this one could be a lot of fun.

I didn’t dive into it deeply to see how Music Unlimited is integrated with the PS4, but it was nice being able to stream some playlist instead of listening to the Need For Speed default music.

I watched my 11 year old and 6 year old play FIFA 14. On the surface it looks like the same game as the PS3 version, only it is more polished. I’ll play some this morning and see if I can carry over some of my PS3 FIFA 14 info.

My one observation was that it was neat seeing real people in the crowd. This may sound stupid, but everyone watching thought it actually added to the game atmosphere.

At some point while we were doing something else on the PS4 – either poking around, deciding what to play next, or setting up our PSN accounts, I received notice that Resogun was ready to install and that a FIFA 14 patch had been downloaded.

Music Unlimited
I mentioned playing my Music Unlimited playlist while playing Need For Speed. Last November, Sony ran a PS+ special. 1 year of Music Unlimited for $12; this was an exceptional deal. I have been debating renewing my subscription, but not at the full price. Last week I received some sort of sale offer; I was able to stack another 3 months for $3. So I am good for another few months.

Because of current MP3 and media server limitations with the PS4, Music Unlimited may become a must have service, which is probably part of Sony’s strategy. See how many folks they can pull in as new subscribers.

Remote Play
I’m only going to touch on this briefly … want to get back to PS4 gaming goodness. I have posted in the past about the black magic associated with Remote Play. It never really worked well for me on the PS3 with my PSP or Vita; it was an interesting concept, but there was always too much lag or my PS3 would randomly turn on or off. It looks like Remote Play is purpose built into the PS4 with the Vita, so hopefully this time is the real deal.

Getting Remote Play up and running was a snap. My Vita already had the PS4 Link app via the most recent firmware update. The PS4 (or Vita – I can’t remember which one) provides step-by-step instructions. Once I entered a code on my Vita, I was connected to my PS4. This whole setup process took all of 2-3 minutes.

It was an amazing experience listening to my Van Halen playlist, on my Vita (via my PS4) while playing Need for Speed. I’ll have to play around some to see if I am better off playing music directly from my Vita or streaming from the PS4 during Remote Play.

When playing Need For Speed, it was hard to keep up with what was going on, which wasn’t any different than my PS4 experience. There were some slight framerate issues here and there, but nothing really game breaking. The controls were awkward controls, but manageable. The rear touch pad was used to accept missions, while the shoulder buttons were used for acceleration and braking. I would have rather used the right analog stick; maybe there is an option to change controls, but in my limited time, I didn’t see where controls could be mapped differently.

Think about this for a minute. Remote Play of Need For Speed, while online playing other PS4 gamers, so of which may have also been using their Vitas, while streaming Music Unlimited. That is balls out cool with tons of possibilities.

Nightcap Resogun (via Remote Play)
As a final night cap, from the comforts of the bed room, while my better half was fast asleep, I connected to the PS4 and played Resogun. Minimal slowdown, but I was really too tired to beat the final boss. I know, excuses, excuses.

The new PS4 trophy system was nice enough to show me that my “How do I stop this thing?!” (Kill 50 enemies with one boost) was ‘ultra rare’ at the time it was earned, but is now ‘very rare.’

What’s Next?
For starters, I haven’t opened Killzone or Assassin’s Creed. My 15-year old and 11-year old boys are dying to play both, but my wife and I are usually pretty restrictive when it comes to games where people kill people, but that is a story for another day. So I need to check out both games and besides playing for my own benefit, I need to do the parental guidance thing.

I have only barely touched Need for Speed; same for FIFA and Resogun. Haven’t look at Contrast, and I should be able to get Flower and Soundshapes for free, since I have previously purchased each. Same for flow, once it is released.

Thanks to the PSN problems, I didn’t really have time to dive into any of the new PS4 features, so between gaming, and today’s slate of college football, I’m sure I will be doing some of that as well. I also play to explore Remote Play more over the weekend so see what sort of limitations and boundaries are in place.

Greatness Awaits …

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FIFA 14 Legacy Edition – Reinventing Roster Updates (Vita)

Apparently FIFA 14 Legacy Edition is just that, a Legacy Edition to last year’s FIFA 13, which was nothing more than a roster update of the original FIFA Soccer which was released when the Vita launched way back when, circa Valentine’s Day 2012.

At least EA had the balls to let us know this one was nothing more than some updated kits and roster revisions; so glad I waited and didn’t preorder.

Rather sad really; I wanted a solid soccer game for my Vita, but held off on the original FIFA Soccer (metacritic rating of 79% out of 45 critic reviews). I thought that maybe EA was rushed, and would do a better version next year. Obviously I was mistaken.

EA treated FIFA 13 (metacritic score of 57% out of 9 critic reviews) even more poorly than FIFA Soccer by not even bothering to offer some hit of an update.

And so FIFA 14 Legacy Edition enters the fray; too bad it will make a ton of cash off of unsuspecting consumers. Maybe I will eventually pick up one of the three Vita FIFAs on the cheap, but for now, I am moving on to other endeavors.

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Madden 13: Vita + PS3 No Cross Play Platform Saves

What a bummer reading that EA will continue a trend it started with FIFA of not support cross play platform saves with Madden 13.

I imagine Madden NFL 13 will be a solid football game on the go, but personally, I know I’m not going to have much interest in running a PS3 franchise and a Vita franchise. Adding to the woes of PlayStation pocket gamers is that when asked if a unified experience could come to next year’s Madden entry, a developer said that they’d see how this year’s Vita version did before investing in the option.

It’s like a Greek tragedy: this year’s version will do poorly because it doesn’t have the mode that EA would add if it did well.

The reality is that I will probably order the Vita version of Madden (in addition to the PS3 version that I already have on pre-order), but this is really just a damn shame. I understand that the franchise mode in the PS3 is ultra-complicated, but you would think that the developers behind the Vita could at least attempt to pull off what Sony did with MLB 12: The Show; bunch of lazy bastards!

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FIFA 12 Vita – No PS3 Save Transfer Capability

WTF is wrong with EA? I’m sure there is a very valid and reasonable explanation for EA not offering Vita-PS3-Vita game save transfer capabilities. EA is not rushing FIFA 12 to market quickly, delivering a sub-par handheld FIFA outing in order to capitalize on early Vita release opportunities.

EA must really care about their core target audience, and are showing a willingness to do anything to get the Vita version of FIFA 12 in the hands of demanding FIFA fans – because EA cares.

It would be a terrible precedent if all the first generation Vita sports franchises (looking at MLB: The Show, FIFA, and Madden) do not offer the ability to switch from console to portable gaming via game save transfers just to make an early release date. Thankfully MLB: The Show gets it and allows gamers to do just that:

Then there’s the hotly anticipated PS Vita version, which will mirror virtually every game feature, mode, and mechanic from the PS3 version and displays graphics that sparkle on the system’s 5’’ OLED screen. You’ll also be able to share your PS3 save files to the cloud, then pull them down on PS Vita and pick up your progress seamlessly.

Of course the San Diego (SCE) team behind the MLB: The Show franchise continues to push the boundaries on sports franchises. Following the same link from above, we learn:

… ultimately thought it made the most sense to recreate the entire PS3 experience on PS Vita. The Vita’s powerful enough to do that. So every single feature this year, from MLB 09, 10, 11, and 12 are all in the PS Vita version.

… research shows that handheld players play for 15 to 30 minutes, tops. We give you the ability to fast-play through a game by cutting out a lot of the presentation, the camera cuts, to shorten the length of games.

Unlike EA, Sony is going balls out with its franchise. I understand that time to market is important, but color me very disappointed with EA’s approach to FIFA 12 for the Vita.

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September Gaming Closeout

The ridiculousness continues. Next week (Sep 20) sees the release of F1 2011, while the following week (Sep 27) gives us FIFA 12, ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection, and Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny, and Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland.

F1 2011
I’ll be honest; I love F1 games, but I didn’t really get enough out of 2010. No particular reason other than I suck or something. F1 2011 looks to be the perfect F1 gaming experience:

After watching the promo videos all these months I had the feeling that F1 2011 will be strictly for the hardcore, people who are gamers and who also follow F1 races every year. After playing a solid 2 hours with the preview build I believe that this game will only attract fans, resulting in to low accessibility.

Let’s hope that there are enough F1 fans who appreciate racing sims to support F1 2011 and continue to push the series forward.

FIFA 12
One of the top sports franchises; the Madden development team could learn a thing or two from the FIFA guys. I cannot say enough good things about this series – tons of replay value; I played the snot out of FIFA 10 and to some extent FIFA 11. The newest yearly release should not be any different. Platinum be damned; I’ll never get it due to the various online requires.

Thanks to Amazon, this one comes with a nice $20 credit, some sort of MLS Fathead (for the kids) and of course release day delivery.

ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection
I’ve written about this one a little over the last couple of months, so I am not going to go very deep here. I’ll just say that I have had this one on pre-order since Thanksgiving last year, so I am eagerly anticipating giving both of these classics a go.

Another Amazon release day arrival. I expect this one to go to the top of the play heap; let’s see if that actually happens.

Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny
In a weak moment, I pre-ordered this one site unseen. Mostly for the Move support, partly out of curiosity, and ultimately because I probably had one too many cold ones that night, which resulted in an Amazon clicking frenzy.

Tides of Destiny is coming out later this year in North America for the PlayStation 3 and Wii, which isn’t a combination of release platforms you see very often. I’m not complaining, especially when the PlayStation 3 version ends up looking this pretty. I can’t wait to buy this game, play it for a few hours, get bored, and move on to other things!

Replace bored with distracted and that will be me. Too many other gems in my gaming treasure trove waiting to be caressed and loved, and whored for Trophies.

Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland
Of course I had to get the ‘Premium’ version bundle complete with art book and CD soundtrack. This one has niche written all over it, but I expect Atelier Totori to be fun based on my typical enjoyment of quirky games and deep down love for JRPGs.

Unfortunately I’m usually constrained with limited clock cycles to burn on gaming, which means that I may not get around to this one for a while. I did promise myself (sort of) that I would attempt Atelier Totori’s predecessor first, Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland. Will it happen? That’s another article. Seriously, tackling a JRPG is an upcoming article.

The one thing nice about JRPGs, is that historically I have always been able to get my money back from any expensive collector’s edition should I decide to sell them down the road. For that matter, I can usually get my money back from regular editions. That is the beauty of niche gaming; of course you have to pre-order these games or you are the one paying a premium over MSRP.

Happy Saturday!

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Now Playing – The Random Trophy Stuff Edition

I continue on my no longer so torrid tour of Mel B, but with the kids’ soccer I am only hitting one or two workouts a week.

While Mel B may not be the best Move implementation (there are a handful of exercises that will not register correctly with the camera + Move), Sports Champions seems to be really solid. After putting this one aside for a long time, I returned to it in order to get more Move satisfaction. Pretty decent game, enjoyable by the whole family; Trophies are a complete grind.

I finished up Sam and Max (episodes 4 and 5) this week. Mostly because they were sitting on my HDD waiting to be played, partially because I may let my PS+ subscription expire in a few months, sort of because the series is less stress and semi-entertaining. And I would be lying to you if I did not say the Trophies were an easy bonus. Sam and Max episodes 1 – 5 were free earlier this year for PS+ subscribers.

Pixiljunk Shooter – First one; highly addicting, fun shooter + puzzle combo. In this case I have to say that the Trophies add to the overall ‘experience’ – I could just blow through the game, but how would that be fun? I had to get some help for the ‘Coin Collector Trophy’ – for me it was much more luck than skill.

Not to digress too much, but I think Trophies are kind of like those collection JRPG games. You either are into them or you are not. When Trophies were first introduced, I could care less; however now I am card carrying Trophy whore. To me they add a little extra excitement, as in the case of Pixiljunk Shooter; these are actually fun to try to unlock. For other games, some of the Trophies are just meat grinders. These types I can pass on, and typically do.

Just got the Platinum Trophy for Madden 2011 this morning. Yes, I’m still playing the current (old) one. I have become a certified Trophy whore. I decided to ‘finish’ up the game before the new version is release on Tuesday. Technically Madden 2012 is already out for those that spent the extra cash on the EA Season Ticket crap; obviously I did not.

Speaking of those Trophies, the ‘Pick Up 6’ Trophy, which requires you to win a ‘Fight for the Fumble’ in the end zone was a major PITA. It was not going to happen for me during the course of normal games, and while I attempted some ‘cheats’ to make it easier, I just could not close off this final Trophy until I stumbled across this video. Using this technique it only took me two attempts to close off my third Platinum Trophy.

Looking Forward …
Georgia takes on Boise St. September 3 in the Georgia Dome, so I really need to jump back into NCAA Football 2012. It has been years since I was successful at getting some decent value for my money out of two football titles. With three kids plus work, I bet I am screwed.

I have several games on pre-order including the before mentioned Madden 12, F1 2011, FIFA 12, and the ICO Collection. September is awfully full.

I am also considering looking at WKC II, although I have no earthly idea why because I never got very far into WKC:I. I guess I got distracted doing the needful.

We will wrap up with Kung Fu Rider. I think this one will suck, although I hope to get a few hours of family fun out of it for my efforts.

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Now Playing (The Week in Review)

Last week I spent my limited game time playing a hodgepodge assortment of games.

Ferrari Challenge
Not a great racing game, but it is fun. After watching some Le Mans Saturday and early Sunday morning, I am reminded that the PS3 would really use an updated version of Le Mans racing. At any rate, I’ll probably tool around with Ferrari Challenge some this week as well to decide if I should keep it and maybe grind a few Trophies, or if I should see if I can flip it for a few bucks on eBay for my future gaming fund.

Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet
Typical beat ‘em up, easy puzzles, and very lame dialogue, but what would you expect from a title targeted at kids? I play this one with my four-year old son; great way for him to learn the ins and outs of gaming. My eight-year old is also helping out with the Story mode. I think we are almost at the end; however there are a ton of other modes to complete, items to unlock, and the Trophy list is 60 or so deep, which should keep us coming back for a while.

Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse – Episode 2 and 3
I have two confessions to make. First, I am not really a fan of this type of game. Second, I just kind of went through the motions, and finally looked to a couple of Trophy walkthroughs to complete each game. Yes, color me a whore. The only reason I had these in the first place was because I received them with my PS+ subscription. At some point down the road I will probably attempt to knock off Episode 4 and 5.

Shatter
Shatter is another ‘free’ PS+ game from last November. One of my many backlog games ‘collecting dust’ … as much dust as a digital PSN distributed title can gather. This one is a typical revamp of breakout, with a fresh coat of paint, interesting physics, and a decent techno soundtrack. Fun game, but one I would probably never buy, so it was nice to get it as part of my PS+ subscription. I pretty much already played this one out. While there are a couple of Trophies left, for the most part I doubt I will put in the time (and may not have the necessary skill) to try to get 100% complete on this one.

FIFA 11
I have written plenty about FIFA 10 and 11; great sports games. FIFA 11 is fantastic, but it is perfect for short bursts of gaming, which is pretty much what my schedule allows right now. I can knock out a couple of games with my virtual pro and feel like I have actually accomplished something in a short gaming session. Not to mention the satisfaction of playing a well rounded sports title.

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Weekend Gaming Action

First, let me start with a quick ‘Sony sucks’ statement. Earlier today I wanted to make a quick PSN store purchase. I could not; I guess legions of gamers are still attempting to pull down some ‘welcome back’ package goodness, which has overloaded the store to the point of no return.

Once I did manage to be awarded with a session in the store, I could not actually add funds to my wallet. WTF? I checked my account; credit card is still on file and all info is correct. It’s kind of a bummer not to be able to purchase something when the needful is burning a hole in my pocket. Then again, by Sony f’ing up, I guess I am saving money. Go me!

I have not played much of anything over the last 4-6 weeks, so the last couple of days has seen a variety of ‘go to’ games and a hodgepodge of random distractions. To name a notable few; Sonic the Hedgehog, Space Invaders Infinity Gene, and FIFA 11 have managed grab my attention.

Sonic because it was included a few months ago with PS+, and it is a fun platforming trip down memory lane. I forgot how much I sucked at these types of game; humbling to be an old-ass gamer. Space Invaders because it is a great pick up and play shooter; loads of fun. FIFA 11 because it is just a damn good soccer game, and deserves a spot in the rotation of any discerning sports gamer.

I also spent some time with my four year-old and soon to be nine year old sons, playing Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet. My twelve year-old stays away; he is too ‘grown up’ for this one. Too bad, because he is missing out. Sure the humor is downright preschoolish, while the action is downright button mashing smash ‘em up action, but it is not a horrible game. Decent distraction if you can get past the deformed super heroes, and a fun way to spend time with the boys.

The weekend is not even half over, so (hopefully) more gaming action to come, but date night looms. Happy me!

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Now Playing, Watching, and Reading

I have a smorgasbord of games in my current rotation, which is really unusually because I almost always sick to 2-3 games at the most. In no particular order:

Joe Danger – What a fun little game. It is going to be really hard for me to get 100% (from a Trophy consideration) on this one because some of the Time trials are really tough. This has to be one of the best games I have purchased from the PSN (got it when it was 50% off).

FIFA 11 – I play this one a few times a week when I want to get my soccer/football jones satisfied. I love the Virtual Pro feature.

Marvel Superhero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet – I picked up this one to play with my 4-year old, as he is really into superheroes right now. One of our favorites is Captain America (for me) and Bucky (for my son), so it was really cool that the version of the game I purchased had a good for this DLC.

Dead Nation – Only when the kids are in bed. To be fair, I have not played it in a while, but would play it more if I could play when I was not such a sleepyhead!

Gran Turismo 5 – Need I say more? It is really the only racer I am playing right now, but at some point I have plans to jump back to a couple of forgotten titles.

Space Invaders Infinity Gene – I got this one a couple of weeks ago for the low, low price of $4.99. What a great pickup. As a fan of shooters, I have to say that this game provides a lot of nice shooter pleasure. The music mode is incredible; nothing like putting in some Cure Disintegration and just sort of zoning out.

LittleBigPlanet – Mostly the Game of the Year Edition right now, but I plan to jump right back into LBP2 Collector’s Edition soon enough. Actually waiting for a patch to make sure all my goodies from LBP1 correctly import. I wrote about my love for all things LBP a couple of weeks ago. Not sure how I made it this long without discovering the pure pleasure of LBP. Collectively, these two titles are easily in my Top 5 favorite PS3 gaming experiences (that is another article!)

PS+ Gets Some Love
I wanted to do a quick link to this article, which pretty much sums up how I feel right now about PS+. Subscribing to the PS+ service has been one of the best uses of $50 gaming bucks that I have made in the last calendar year. I am going to stack my subscripting in the new few weeks to take advantage of the continued opening gambit of 3 free months. If you have not subscribed to PS+, you should really check out the last 90 days of content and discounts, which have been incredible.

Looking Forward To …
ICO and Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection, MLB 11: The Show, the next NASCAR game, Journey, and Catherine (as of right now, Atlus has not announced a US release date).

Now Watching
Spartacus: Blood and Sand. OMG (wanted an excuse to talk like the cool kids) is this one over the top, but from a story standpoint, it is actually really good. I am just starting disk 3, so I am about 8-9 episodes in, and I have to admit that I anticipate see what happens next. Some of the characters are really fascinating; I want to see how their story lines progress and see how certain political motivations will screw over various targets.

I could do without all the meat just flapping around; I have never seen so many dongs just out in front of my face. I guess turnabout is fair play for the fairer sex, but still, I am glad that the developers toned it down a little after the first couple of episodes.

On Blu-ray some of the scenes such as “… have your way with the girl’s ass a bit while I watch …” are nice, if not a little bit excessive. I could never get my wife to watch this with me; not because of the gratuitous sex. The blood and gore is so over the top that at times I find myself turning my head or at least cringing in a “I really didn’t want to see that” sort of way.

Good stuff. Picked up the Season 1 Blu-ray in the low $30s from Amazon; hopefully the rest of the shows are equally as appealing.

Now Reading
Bloom County Volume 3. Sometimes I have to have some light reading before heading off to la-la land.

Yesterday, Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal (I love Amazon Prime two-day shipping) showed up on my front porch. I decided to order immediately after see Ms. McGonigal on Attack of the Show earlier this week. I am looking forward to a book that actually advocates gaming. What a great tag line – Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Seriously; hope this one is as good as the tag line.

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Christmas Gaming Treats

As a kid I always looked forward to getting new videogames in December (birthday and Christmas). I always held out hope that I was going to get a few new games, and they just had to be better than decent because I knew that my gaming library was not going to increase during the upcoming year.

These days I just buy what I want, usually via pre-order, or I watch a game, waiting for the inevitable price drop before finally indulging myself. Either way, my gaming comes to me when I want, and if I happen to get a dud, I can flip it on eBay. No worries, no fuss.

This year, thanks to Santa (and of course my family), I have enough games to keep me occupied until December 2011, or until I decide to pick up the next great, have to play it now spectacular, super special gaming extravaganza. Something along those lines; call me a sucker for pre-release build up hype.

The Gaming Treasure Trove:

  • Batman Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Greatest Hits. I have always wanted to give this game a go, but for whatever reason, I never did.
  • FIFA 11 (Under $30 during Amazon Thanksgiving sales). I wrote a few weeks ago that I have been playing the shit out of FIFA 10. I love the FIFA 10 experience; the virtual pro is a very immersive experience. I am going to stay with FIFA 10 for the rest of 2010 to see how many Trophies I can pick up before flipping FIFA 10 on eBay, and then I will start my FIFA 11 journey. I can only hope that FIFA 11 is as fun and entertaining as FIFA 10 has been over the last six weeks.
  • God of War 3 (Under $35 during Amazon Thanksgiving sales). Because one cannot have enough God of War.
  • God of War Collection Greatest Hits ($10 during Amazon Thanksgiving sales). Are you kidding me? $10 for high-def updates of two highly rated PS2 game? Complete with a gaggle of Trophies for my gaming pleasure. I never played the PS2 versions, but thanks to the PSP God of War games, I am a converted fan.
  • Gran Turismo 5 Prima Essential Track Guide*
  • Rapala Pro Bass Fishing 2010. Some different. Something for the Move.

* OK, so this little spiral bound book is not game, but I figured I would include it in the overall haul. It is getting a lot of flack in the Amazon review listings, however it is exactly what it states – a track guide. If you are looking for a traditional cheat (er, strategy guide) book, then the Prima guide is not your cup of tea.

Maybe all these new games will have an added bonus; getting my PlayStation Rewards status to nudge a little for the first time since the week after Thanksgiving!

Looking Forward To …
With all these new gaming Christmas experiences, plus the current backlog of goodies, is there anything left on my radar?

  • Little Big Planet 2. Of course I never played the first one, but everyone says LBP is a must have experience, which is fun for the whole family.
  • MLB 11: The Show. See FIFA 10 + FIFA 11; I have until March to get my money’s worth from MLB 10.
  • Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. I want to try the newest NFS title, but I am going to wait for a lower price. Plus I still have GT5 to keep me occupied, and F1 2010 is not getting any love.
  • Madden and NCAA Football. Yeah, I know, let’s don’t go there yet.

There are probably other gems lurking out there, but right now I actually do not have anything on pre-order or a “watch list.” OK, just kidding. I have the HD update of the ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection on pre-order. But other than that one …

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Gaming News and Notes

Over the last three weeks, starting right before the Thanksgiving break, I have been on a torrid (for me) gaming rampage. I think I have logged more hours on my PS3 (and even a few on the oft forgotten PSP – Ghost of Sparta) than I did in total January through October.

I have to say it has been fun. Almost like a kid in a candy store. Gaming nirvana if you please. I have found this latest zone has helped me decompress and even get in some quality time with the kids. These days I don’t question how long this ride will last; I just keep on plugging, enjoying it until I put down the controllers.

Crazy Taxi
After pickup up my PS3 Slim for Father’s Day, I flipped Crazy Taxi on eBay. Not because I no longer enjoyed the game; I consider it one of the ultimate pick and play titles. It is just a damn good arcade gaming experience, which blends the perfect elements of short bursts of gaming excitement and the pursuit of high scores.

Besides, the PS3 Slim more or less forced my hand, since it is not PS2 backwards compatible. Of course in my back pocket I knew Crazy Taxi would be headed towards the PSN.

The PSN edition seems to be the same game, minus the licenses (Levi’s, KFC, music, etc), with slightly harder controls compared to the PS2 and Dreamcast versions. Crazy Taxi is still a fun arcade experience; one that the boys enjoy playing with dad. As an added bonus, the PSN version also provides the pleasure (or frustration – take your pick) of pursuing Trophies.

FIFA 10
Shame on me for not playing this one more over the past year. FIFA 10 is a fantastic sports game, and the virtual pro feature being balls out fun. In my dotage, I have a hard time pulling off decent skill moves, so my pro still seems a little stiff and rough around the edges. As a striker, I am all offense, with almost no defensive skills. I think my rating is currently 72 and climbing.

Rumor has it Santa is bringing me FIFA 11 ($29.99 during one of the Thanksgiving deals), so I figured I better maximize my FIFA 10 experience before Christmas so I will not feel so guilty when I trade in or eBay FIFA 10. And maximize I have; in fact I have probably spent more time with FIFA 10 than any other game in this article. Fun and highly addicting!

Gran Turismo 5
After waiting an eternity (at least it seemed that way), we finally have a proper Gran Turismo on the PS3. I picked up the Gran Turismo 5 Collector’s Edition – I love the series, even if it is not the best pure “racing” experience around.

After starting off with one of the 25+ versions (or whatever) of a Toyota Corolla, I have been slowly making my way through the game. Due to so many other games in my rotation (or call it my gaming backlog) I have not started the long slow GT grind. I have picked up my B and A licenses, and while I could keep on trying to progress, I have been working on locking up all B and A license Gold trophies, which seems damn near impossible for some.  I actually find this pursuit more relaxing than frustrating; I get in a zone and keep plugging away, slowly decreasing my times until I strike Gold.

The only GT game that I managed to “complete” at 100% was the first release – Gran Turismo for the PSOne.  It has been a long time since those days!  I doubt I have that much spare time to really go after that mark with GT5; however I am sure I will maximize my value (gaming dollar).

I think the game has already been patched 3 times, so the developers did end up rushing the game, which is a bit of a surprise considering the long delay. Over ambitious? Probably.  At least the developers are supporting the game and trying to make things right by the fans.

Sports Champions
My family has discovered the joy of playing Bocce. At least we are enjoying Sports Champions version of Bocce, and we are having a blast learning the rules and associated skills.  My mother is giving my oldest son a Bocce set for the backyard. I love it when videogames cross pollinate real life!

I think my kids’ favorite is volley ball, closely followed by disc golf. My favorites are archery and disc golf, and I also find gladiator duel an interesting diversion. Ping pong is the favorite of my 3.11 year old, but I find it damn near impossible.

On a side note, I need to get two more Move controllers for some serious volley ball and archery dual Move head-to-head action. What would that investment be? Almost $325? I have already “invested” $100 camera + Move controller, $50 second move controller, $35 Navigation controller, $30 Move charge station. Ouch. Archery is a blast with two controllers, so I can only imagine how much fun it would be to have a two-player archery duel with 4 Move controllers!

On more side note. The Navigation controller seems poorly supported. I think the only Move game I have that takes advantage of it is Heavy Rain. Need to come back to Heavy Rain in a future article.

My Aquarium
Did I really buy this one? Just for the hell of it I downloaded My Aquarium. It is a great concept, with extremely poor execution. The graphics are not acceptable; in fact I was not even sure this was an HD title, but from what I have read, My Aquarium is in fact presented in HD … just without the normal eye popping graphical glory. It really is a damn shame that this virtual screensaver does not look nicer, and to make matters worse, the interface is unbelievable clunky, complete with unresponsive controls.

If a “game” begged for updated graphics with Move support, this is the one. To the good, Trophy whores will find a few almost freebies on offer; apparently you can cheat to get them quickly, however I am earning my Trophies the old fashion way. It will probably be a year before all the fish unlock, giving me a cheap Gold Trophy.

Uno
I dismissed this one out of hand when it was previously released, however I did pick it up on sale for $0.99. It is OK at best … I mean it is Uno. I have played a few games online, but I disappointed that a couple of disconnects in the “lobby” counted as game discounts. That or someone figured out a way to hack a couple of wins against me; I am not enough of a junkie at this game to try to follow my statistics to see why the game thinks I have abandon a couple of gaming sessions.

I think you have to really love Uno in order to pick this one up. Not bad for $0.99, but not worth a whole lot more than a single ducket. Then again, this could be a nice diversion if someone wants to get their wife into videogames.

Hustle Kings!
Plus continues to deliver interesting content and discounts. I picked up Hustle Kings! a couple of weeks ago when it was discounted to just under $6. I have only played a few times, but the game seems to offer a really nice pool experience. The bar locations have great aesthetics – music, presentation, and graphics.

I’ll comment more on this one in the future. I picked it up mainly because I suck at pool in real life, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that playing a virtual game will actually help me in real life. To a certain degree it already has, at least when it comes to adding some backspin on pocket shots. In real life I would scratch, following the ball into the pocket, but I am getting the hang of how to avoid this mistake. Hope it carries over!

Hustle Kings! also supports the Move. I am not sure how it compares to playing with a DS controller because I have only used the Move. The game appears to do a good job of supporting the Move, however I have to admit that my poor old fingers and hand gets a little cramped trying to line up fine precession shots. As I said, more on this one later.

Closing
Did I just do that? Good grief; that is a lot of gaming playing!

Happy Sunday!

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Black Friday Gaming

I am not a huge shopper, except for the stay at home and click on Amazon kind of shopping. This year (at least so far today) I did not see a whole lot of deals that I just had to get.

The tally today is FIFA 11 (DS) and Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) for the kids, while dear old dad took advantage of a couple of Lightning Deals for God of War Collection (PS3) for a mere $10 and God of War 3 (PS3) for a click under $35. Thanks to the PSP and God of War: Chains of Olympus, I have become somewhat of a Kratos fan. Good stuff.

I am thinking about taking advantage of some of the PSN titles on sale. Joe Danger looks better than decent. I am pretty sure I am going to pull the trigger on Destruction Derby (PSOne); long time readers will remember that seeing the demo of this game made me fall in love with the PlayStation. I have not picked up very many of the 15th Anniversary sale items, but this is one that I will not pass up. Then again … backlog list of games is growing deep. To the good, Destruction Derby will get some use on the PSP.

Gaming today has mostly consisted of Sports Champions, which is a great family title, and of course some Gran Turismo 5 action.

Happy gaming weekend to everyone!

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Final Fantasy XIII – And A Whole Heaping Helping of Incoming Games

Speaking of not having enough time to play games, I just pre-ordered FFXIII from amazon, which has a nice $10 off a future video game purchase promotion.

Get a $10 Video Games Credit
Order Final Fantasy XIII and get $10 off a future video game purchase. The promotional code will be placed directly into your Amazon.com account within 2 business days after the product ships. Offer valid when shipped and sold by Amazon.com. Promotion valid on all existing orders. Limit one per household. Amazon reserves the right to change or terminate this promotion at any time.

It is about to be a crazy-stupid time for videogames. Besides being loaded up on current games, an unbelievable amount of gaming goodness is headed my way over the next few weeks.

Upcoming – Preorder and “Watch List” Games:

  • White Knight Chronicles International (will arrive today)
  • MLB 10: The Show (March 2)
  • Heavy Rain (February 23) – Interesting title; will probably wait for a sale, price drop, or other buying incentive.
  • FFXIII (March 9)
  • God of War III (March 16) – I should really play God of War Collection before jumping on the GoW bandwagon.
  • 2010 FIFA World Cup (April 27) – Probably do not need this and FIFA 10.

Good grief! It looks like I am all set for gaming for a long time except for a new quality racer. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue just never did it for me. I guess F1: Championship Edition and Ferrari Challenge can hold me over until the next great racing title lands in my laps.

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