It has been another busy week for video gaming, although I haven't played any of them that I reported on last week (typical of me). Some PS3 gaming, some computer gaming and a final stab at an Xbox game.
C and I began Chapter Two of Neverwinter Nights on Tuesday. It has been going along pretty well, although a bit of ennui has set in. It might have something to do with the fact that he had previously played the first couple of chapters of Neverwinter, so we haven't hit anything new for C. I just kind of follow along and kill things. We have a pretty long list of quests to do, but none of them are very tricky and we have had the way carefully pointed out to us in every case. Perhaps when we begin playing some parts he hasn't done already my interest will pick up.
C was pretty excited to hear I got a PS3. I think we may give Army of Two a try soon. So far I have been pretty happy with the PS3 as a game machine. It really has everything you could want in a modern console, all builtin. A hi-def DVD player, wireless (and wired!) network capability, wireless (up to 7 I think) controllers with USB cables for charging (although the one that comes with it is only good for charging, as it is only like four feet long), and HDMI. It's a little ridiculous that it only comes with a composite video cable, but the HDMI/USB cable pack wasn't too outrageously expensive.
I went out an bought an optical digital cable for the audio output, but was saddened to find I had already maxed out the optical digital in for my Marantz SR7001 (it has 3 optical and 3 coax inputs). I already have the Toshiba HD-DVD player, the Sony SACD player and the Xbox using the optical inputs. Of course, the Toshiba and the Xbox are obsolete, but I don't want to give up on them yet. The SACD player can use the 6 cable direct input, but it is not as flexible an input as the optical one, so I didn't want to give up on that either. Turns out, though, I didn't need to buy the optical cable, as the PS3 will do the audio directly from HDMI. It wasn't working originally on my setup, and I thought it had something to do with how the SR7001 doesn't support the latest and greatest HDMI version, but I must have had the setup wrong, as it works just fine. Sounds great too.
Oblivion looks great, too, even if it is "only" 720p. The most impressive graphic display comes when you walk backwards in shallow water. You see the wake from your legs and it fans out in an incredibly realistic fashion. I was showing it off to my co-op friend and then we saw a horse mounted guard ride by. But we uncovered a graphical glitch, as he seemed to get stuck on the side of the hill in mid-jump. It was very funny looking.
I've only played a bit more Oblivion, as I am trying to decide just how fine-tuned I want to make my character. It is an interesting skill system, where you improve in the skills you use, but you start out higher and improve faster in your 7 "major" skills. I'm not sure just how much tweaking I want to do with it.
M and I had our weekly co-op game on Wednesday and decided to give Brute Force one last try. We have been playing it for a couple of weeks now and found it uncompelling, graphically murky and basically repetitive. But this was the first week we had all four characters, so we hoped for better.
And it didn't deliver. The level design is uninspiring and confusing. Either you are completely funneled along or it is wide open and, even with the radar, you have no idea where to go next. The weapons are boring and there seems to be no strategy, while the story is either incomprehensible or non-existent. We don't look for the height of strategy or story, but let's at least hit the Halo level (which wasn't the pinnacle of game design many think it is). So we are giving up on it, which for my friend isn't something that happens lightly. Next week, I think we are going to try Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, which finally added a co-op mode to the Splinter Cell series.
I picked up Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare yesterday. I know I promised to not spend any more discretionary money, but I needed a 1080p game, just so I could say I had something 1080p. Played it a bit last night, and it is pretty sharp. But my Sony XBR TV said it was only in 720p, which had me confused. Using some Google-fu just now uncovered the fact that CoD4 defaults to 720p, even if 1080p (or 1080i) is available. So you have to turn off 720p in the PS3 settings before running it in order to get it to run at 1080p. I'll have to try that tonight.
That being said, the game looked great and was exciting to play. But I have to say that playing an FPS with the stock PS3 "SIXAXIS" controller is pretty bad. The Xbox controller has two triggers, but to fire a weapon using the PS3 controller, you have to press one of the shoulder buttons. It's just not as nice a feel as a trigger and I often find myself pressing the second shoulder button, which drops a grenade, much to the chagrin of my teammates.