ScattershotsShawn Drotar

Posted on June 4th, 2009 in Gaming, Playstation 2, Xbox 360, PC Gaming, Reviews, News, Opinion, Wii by Shawn Drotar

Thoughts on a Thursday afternoon:

  • I miss being at E3, which I had to sit out thanks to surgery. Not so much the games or the parties or any of the pomp and circumstance surrounding it - it’s the people that I miss. It’s so difficult to maintain relationships and friendships from the distances that we all have to deal with, but it’s so easy to make friends in the gaming world since so many of us have so much in common to begin with. In this industry, if you’re lucky, you might see some of your comrades once a year. More often, it’s e-mails, phone calls, Facebook updates and Twitter pages, and it’s just not the same as sitting down with someone and just talking. E3’s worth having if for no other reason than to allow all of us who work in this world an opportunity to see each other as individuals. I can’t wait for next year’s already.
  • I really don’t like mixed martial arts. I’m a boxing fan, so I’m not sure why MMA bothers me, but it does. Maybe it’s just a bit too violent, and I enjoy only a little violence in my sports. That’s a bit of self-analysis I’m going to step away from for a bit, I think… Regardless, I can’t stop playing UFC Undisputed 2009, which is easily - and somewhat out of the blue - one of the best sports games released in the last few years. The more you play, the more fun it gets, and even though the controls are thoroughly in-depth, they’re organized in “families”, so one doesn’t need to know 1,000 button combinations to be successful. A 20-minute trip through the tutorial is an absolute must, but after that, it’s simply an adrenalin-fueled riot, and might be the best pass-the-controller party game I’ve played since Street Fighter on the Super Nintendo. Yes, I’m serious. It’s limited in venues and refs (there are three, and they’ll get tiresome fast) and it includes the tackiest Xbox Live Achievement of all-time - “Two of my favorites” - but even that can’t diminish the cornucopia of gaming goodness here. The Career mode - which includes a fabulous character creator - is a lot of fun, albeit a bit brief, the game plays well online (though plug-pullers abound) and it’s easily one of the best-looking games for this generation of consoles. All this, plus phenomenal game balance and high-speed strategy, makes Undisputed a must-try, even if you don’t have any clue what a “double underhook” is - after uncounted hours of play, I still don’t, but it hasn’t stopped me yet…
  • If you haven’t tried Teambuilder, the new browser-based application designed to integrate user-created teams into EA Sports’ forthcoming NCAA Football 10, you should. It’s not only impressive and well-designed, but it’s a lot of fun. However, if you’re a lawyer, please don’t click the link and spoil the fun for the rest of us, though - I saw an “Apple Apples” team from Cupertino that looked like so many pigskin-toting iMacs, and if Steve Jobs himself didn’t log on to whip them up, some ambulance-chaser might start getting the wrong ideas. However, I’ve made a spot-on re-creation of my old-high-school team (including our horrible, borrowed-from-another-school-stadium) that practically oozes nostalgia through the screen, and an alternate, updated uniform that my wife suggested that I could forward to the school’s athletic department right now. I can’t imagine any reason to use ‘ol Ponderosa High in the game yet, but the experience of building them so faithfully provided a good hour of fun all by itself - and it didn’t cost me a dime.
  • Speaking of EA Sports, I’ve embarked on the 30-day Challenge in EA Sports Active this month. I’m impressed with the game fitness product, which is perhaps less fun - but certainly far more effective, health-wise - than Wii Fit. While the character customization options are woefully limited, it hasn’t stopped me from dutifully working out for 25 minutes a day. I suspect that Active will eventually be best utilized to maintain tone and shape as opposed to helping you drop lots of pounds, but it’s been deservedly well-received. The exercises seem well- designed for day-to-day use, working different parts of your body each morning, and rewarding you for physical activity and good dietary habits away from the Wii. Certainly, there are things that could be improved, but truthfully, there’s nothing here to dislike, which is a very impressive first step for EA in this world, and it’s priced fairly as well, given the accessories that come with it. Despite how it’s been marketed, it’s not a “girl game”, though if there’s one in the house, she might enjoy it - or kill you. (NOTE: is not responsible for any outcome that springs from the recommendation to buy this product; especially if it ends up with you sleeping on the couch - or worse.)

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