"Although the graphics aren't up to XBox 360 or Playstation 3 standards, I really don't think people will give a crap that they can't see pimples on faces."
After a year or so of daily playing—with a few weeks here and there of not playing—I'm setting aside my XBox to focus on important things. But not without telling you about which games I'd been playing on it.
Other than Halo 2, which I gave up after being slaughtered during online play, I bought NHL 06 and won the Stanley Cup with the Vancouver Canucks. After that, I bought Burnout 3 on Adrian's recommendation. That game has time trials (fun enough), takeout mode (where you rack up the number of competing cars you make crash or spin out) and races (which combine takeouts with time trials). Though they seem necessary to advance in the world cup, there's a crash mode, where you hurl your car into traffic and score cash for the damage you create. Boring.
I ended up buying NHL 07, but it's just too much like NHL 06 for me to want to take the Canucks to their second straight NHL championship.
The latest game I bought was FIFA 07, partly because I like team sports games, partly because I had played it before and liked it, and partly from seeing my brother and my cousin play it in Iceland. I started with Manchester United, the team I always choose (people make fun of me for them being my favorite team, but I'm at peace with my decision) but subsequently got sacked for losing in my first cup game. The manager I created subsequently got hired by the New England Revolution, and lost in the semi-final of the cup. (I made the playoffs but I'm giving the game a rest for a bit.) Solely because of my success with the team in a virtual environment, and until next year when there's a team in the league based in Canada, the Revolution are my favourite team in Major League Soccer.
(There's something about the Ridiculous Hour that brings out the fluff posts. Not that National Blog Posting Month has been a resounding success in the quality department, at least not for this weblog.)
I only play two video games right now: NHL 06 and Burnout 3: Takedown. Both games from from Electronic Arts, which has a studio and office here in Vancouver. I've played the game since Blades of Steel and NHL '95 (I can't remember what I did between those games).
EA has several videos on their website introducing their newest incarnation of the game, NHL 07, taking us from the "next-generation console" perspective as well as that of the "current generation console". I evidently fit into the latter category—it's a measure of how out of it with regards to video games I am that I barely know what either means—still with my plain vanilla XBox system. Dean Richards in the first video says that those with real-world hockey experience will be able to do whatever stickhandling they dream up. Since I only have some street hockey experience, and have a current generation console, that doesn't really apply to me. Eric Chartland says that current generation console players will see improvements in passing and team play as well as better team AI, like defensemen stopping forwards at the blue line and blocking more shots. They both emphasize that the game is realistic, close to what we see on TV, so I'd be interested to know if the referees stand near the announcer's box and you can hear them call the penalty over the PA system like you can now at games.
(Just from the teaser videos, I can see—or rather hear—that they've included music from bands. It's an interesting distribution method, and a way for bands to get their song heard over and over in the background when people are more interested in doing something else. But has a band broken out because of their song appearing in a video game?)
Video game teasers, especially the ones for hockey, suck, though. They suck because they show little if any actual gameplay. The Ovechkin video is fun to watch, but doesn't show him scoring a goal during a game as played on the system. It's all flash and no substance. Note that I don't think Ovechkim himself is all flash and no substance. His rookie season, from the highlights I saw, were simultaneously 100% flash and 100% substance. The team videos, of the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes are identical (and feature no actual gameplay) except for the jerseys. One for each market I guess.
So, YouTube to the rescue again: someone posted video of someone actually playing the game while an EA rep mentions as many talking points as 4 minutes will allow. Nobody scores during the video, which I would have liked to see, since in NHL 06 each goal was followed by a replay at a different angle. I'm going to buy NHL '07 based on the YouTube video, and not the teasers at easports.com. So a successful marketing effort, despite what's on the official website. Now I just wonder if I can import my Stanley Cup champion Vancouver Canucks into this year's game.
I heard that was true of the XBox, but never really tried it until now. Completely ridiculous since I should be able to use the controler that comes with it.
In October of last year, I bought an XBox and a game, NHL 2005, to keep the winter blues away. More like because I was bored on weekends and needed something to entertain myself. Andy, whenever it was, bought Dead Or Alive 3 and a controller (mostly so he could come over and play, and that's not a complaint), and a little more than a month ago, colleagues of mine pitched in to buy 2 more controllers, making the total 4, and another game, Halo 2 (mostly so they could come over and play, and that's not a complaint).
Last month, I finally broke down and signed up for the two-month preview of XBox Live, which lets you play online games on EA's servers. I started with Halo 2, and that was, shall we say, a mistake, because the dozen or so times I played, I came last each time. Most were 8-player games, one was a 2-player game between myself and goodness knows who. You can buy headsets, plug them into your XBox, and talk into the game. One of the games was a team matchup, and I remember vividly somebody saying, using their headset, saying, after I fell into a bottomless hole, "Don't kill yourself, Magnus". (My player name for XBox Live is Magnus78, celebrating both my Icelandic heritage and the year of my fortuitous birth.) I don't plan on ever doing that, simply because every second word is a swear word. My win-loss percentage is less than .500, but at lest it's better than .000.
(Percentages in sports, when it comes to wins versus losses, and also in baseball when it comes to "averages", are expressed in terms of a fraction of 1. So they're less percentages and than they are ratios. A true sports fan will roll their eyes if you point that out to them, so don't bother.)
There is this weird bug in NHL 2005 where if you have the right player—for me it's Chris Neilsen who evidently plays for the Vancouver Canucks, the only team I ever play with—you can score almost every time if you shoot a slap-shot from the point to the left of the goalie. I haven't tried it at any other spot, but it was pretty annoying when I lost 7-2, 4 of the goals coming that way against me. This paragraph served no other purpose than to tell you how annoyed I am about that loss.
The point of all this is that after being a little skeptical, and after being dominated so thoroughly in Halo 2 and instead turning to NHL 2005, I'm giving serious thought to paying the 80 bucks for a yearly membership. XBox Live isn't as smooth as playing an offline game, but that's to be expected, because having to push data in and pull out adds to the processing requirements of the system. There are a few times that I wasn't able to connect to EA's servers, but they've been few and far enough between (and late enough at night, meaning there aren't a lot of gamers playing anyway, meaning a longer-than-usual to find someone to play against) where it doesn't really matter.
As for NHL 2005 the game itself, I will probably buy the game annually like Darren. I've been a fan of the series since it achieved perfection with NHL '94 for Super Nintendo (though some contend it was the Genesis version), and though having just won against an online opponent 3-2 in overtime, all my goals being garbage goals, may influence this opinion, NHL 2005 for XBox comes mighty close.