My playing Steel Batallion

After almost 10 years of curiosity, I finally had a chance to play the 2002 XBox game Steel Battalion. If you're not familiar with Steel Battalion, it's a very unique, niche-market game about piloting giant mechs (which the game calls “Vertical Tanks” - or “VT” for short). The thing that makes this game unique is that it comes with a massive, cockpit controller, that contains approximately 30 buttons, two joysticks, and a set of foot pedals.

As you can imagine, the game did not sell terribly well 10 years ago. It was released with a very expensive $200, distributed in very limited amounts, and could only be played with the included behemoth of a controller. That's right, the game did not support the standard Xbox controller. This was before Microsoft's controller support mandate. So it's resale practicability was limited - it was an all-or-nothing package. As a side note, I'm kind of curious now to know if Steel Battalion's controller was a contributing factor for Microsoft's decision to mandate that all Xbox 360 games and peripherals support a mapping to the standard Xbox 360 controller. I'm sure that Guitar Hero was probably the primary catalyst, but Steel Battalion may have played a part in it too.

Anyway, a friend of mine was able to find a fully-intact and functional copy at a local used game reseller for a very reasonable price, and he picked it up without hesitation. Good move, friend! He invited me over today to try it out, and I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to play this unique game.

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Konami let slip last week (and confirmed this week at E3) that it will be porting HD remixes of the PS2 editions of some of it's most popular franchises, including Metal Gear Solid, Zone of the Enders, and Silent Hill for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

UPDATE June 8, 2011 (3:46 PM PDT):

Just read the following article from PlayStation Universe:

"For starters, the publisher confirmed that its HD revamps of Silent Hill 2 and 3 will feature fresh voiceover work. No date for the Silent Hill Collection has been announced yet, though the set will be released for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360." -http://www.psu.com/E3-2011--Silent-Hill-Vita-to-include-multiplayer--a011942-p0.php

UPDATE to the update November 14, 2011 (4:28 PM PDT):

Apparently, the dispute between Silent Hill 2 voice actors and Konami has been (at least partially) settled, and it appears likely that the Silent Hill HD Collection will include the original vocal cast.

Update to the update to the update November 22, 2011 (3:18 PM PDT):

OK, so once again, the info provided for the HD Collection was not entirely complete. Apparently, there are also issues with the Silent Hill 3 cast. Namely, lead actress Heather Morris.

Sigh...

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L.A. Noire box art

After decades of video gaming, the real good guys with the uniforms and badges finally get their moment to shine! But can they stand up to the vigilantes, anti-heroes, super heroes, undercover cops, crooked cops, and outright criminals that we are used to playing as?

Brain before brawn

Fighting crime isn’t all glamour and excitement. The job of a protector of the peace isn’t all shootouts, car chases, street brawls, damsels in distress, and throwing cars at super villains. There’s a lot of walking around crime scenes and looking at stuff. Figuring out what kind and size of shoe left the prints in the dirt. Reading the brand name of the lipstick of murdered women. Reading the addresses of bars off of matchbooks. Looking up the registered owner of a car with a license plate number provided by a witness. Reading through hotel registries. And accusing people of lying about stuff. It is this element of police work that L.A. Noire tries to capture. The focus of this game is taken away from gun fights, chases, and action scenes, and attempts to highlight the more cerebral elements of police work.

Although the exciting stuff does still happen, this game is a departure for Rockstar games. It puts the player in the role of a police investigator with a badge rather than the hardened criminals, vigilantes, bullies, and antiheroes that we’re used to. The exaggerated fictional cities and over-the-top dark humor have been replaced with a massive and highly detailed (although somewhat anachronistic) reproduction of 1940’s Los Angeles that takes itself much more seriously. The map is pretty large, accurate, and surprisingly densely packed with streets and alleyways. Average roads are multi-lane, sidewalks are decently-sized, and everything has a great sense of scale to it that most city-sandbox games lack. And the game only contains a fraction of the actual city!

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Alan Wake box art

Years ago, when the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 were brand-spanking new, I was debating about whether I should get a 360 or stick with Sony and get a PS3. I had a lot of built-up loyalty to the PlayStation and the game franchises that had been exclusive to that console: Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Ace Combat, Devil May Cry, Grand Theft Auto, God of War, Gran Turismo, and so on. But as time went one, more and more of these game franchises jumped to being multi-platform, chipping away at my justification for saving up for a PS3 instead of the cheaper 360. But when it all came down to it, I knew I would still be able to get all those games on the PS3, and there would still be a few of them that would remain exclusives (Metal Gear Solid ended up being the only one on the list that stayed exclusive and is worth a damn any more). But there wasn’t anything on the 360 that specifically jumped out at me. I kind of wanted Ace Combat 6 and Forza, and Star Trek Legacy looked interesting. But neither one wowed me enough to buy a whole console. I wasn’t into Halo or Gears of War, or Fable, so none of the big-name Xbox exclusives really pushed me over the top.

But there was one game that kept the thought of purchasing an Xbox 360 at the back of my mind. That game was Alan Wake. I tracked it on the internet for years, waiting for its release. Its gorgeous, scenic visuals and promise of a psychological horror story set in a small, mountain town had me captivated. But the game kept getting delayed. The fact that it was supposed to be on PC, and the lack of a firm release date, eventually caused me to give up on purchasing an Xbox. Eventually, the game was released to critical acclaim, but I missed it, since I was waiting for the PC port that eventually got canceled.

Well, I recently bought an Xbox 360 for my sister’s birthday, and one of the things I picked up for it was Alan Wake. I finally got a chance to play this game that I’ve been wanting to play for over four years.

So is it worth the wait?

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This April has been a busy week for video games, and a very weird one, too. And the news has varied from good, to bad, to ugly, and everything in between. Here's some of the stuff that caught my attention:

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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