Taking a Game-cation


My life is moving at an ever-increasing rate. Consider it time inflation – my minutes and hours just don’t stretch as long as they used to. Combine that with covering all of these bite-sized XBL Community Games and it’s a recipe for some attention-deficit gaming.

Thanks to a proposed achievement-point challenge among my friends, my competitive spirit has led me to spend a little more time with my games. For most of my free hours lately I turned off my life-switch and turned on my 360. It was a bit like being a kid again, except the hours seemed to go by faster than ever. The last time I remember doing this was one Sunday with Dead Space. Before that, a particularly terrible week was remedied with a weekend of Assassin’s Creed.

This time I tackled a few different titles, giving solid chunks of time to each. In an effort to get some writing done, I’ll offer some impressions on each. Let’s break it down:

Red Faction Guerrilla

RFG is getting a lot of hype right now, and rightfully so. This open-world-lite third-person shooter skips the pretense of storytelling, moral choice, and multiple outcomes and goes right to the explosive holocaust this genre tends to devolve into. Normally in this case you’d get something like Crackdown or Saint’s Row, but Red Faction’s ground-breaking, building-smashing technology puts the substance in the action. It’s all about creatively toppling enemy structures and making a quick escape. Call it the world’s first martian jihad sim.

The Club

Hey, you got your Project Gotham in my Gears of War!

My only problem with The Club is that for all its emphasis on speeding through the environments, shooting everything in sight, and chaining it all together before the next “lap”, the controls are really sluggish. Even at the highest sensitivity, turning takes about ten minutes too long. Sure, there’s a quick-spin, but that’s a rather binary solution. Sometimes I want to quickly turn 90 degrees, not a full 180.

Despite this, I found myself plowing through the tournament, collecting all the skullshots, and generally having a great time. The combo system, like the kudos ticker in PGR, pushes you to make moment-to-moment improvements, retrying events to maintain that sweet sound of progress.

Burnout Paradise

You should be able to play the majority of Big Surf Island, Burnout’s new DLC expansion, in one sitting. Based on that alone it should seem easy to write it off and save $12. Unfortunately for your wallet, Big Surf Island is quite possibly the most expertly crafted network of driveable surfaces in the history of racing games. As a level design, it is a work of art.

The roadways twist and turn through each landmark – a giant parking tower, a bridge under construction, and a giant donut make up only a few of the highlights. You don’t just drive around these structures either, you launch right on top of them, scaling to the highest reaches of the island like the agent in Crackdown. It’s truly glorious stuff.


Bully has been around for a while, but the Xbox 360’s Scholarship Edition came packed with major issues that left me wary. A quick patch solved everything, but it wasn’t until now that I came back to it.

Bully tackles that mundane realism that defined the first third of GTAIV. Think of it as the test bed for that game’s experimentation. Bully has you going to classes every day, dealing with social cliques, and hitting on girls (or guys). It’d grow as boring as those incessant calls from Roman or Brucie, but there’s something about Bully’s setting, characters, and story that make it all work.

My only fear is that I’ll be driving a tank through the school killing crowds of prefects in the last mission. Rockstar has a tendency to reach for the stars with their endings, and I only hope Bully can manage a more subtle finale.

Despite the consensus putting it in third among this month’s open-world game barrage, I have a lot to say about this game. I’ll save it all for a full review.

1 comment

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