I didn’t play as much Xbox this week as I might have otherwise. After all, there is a Call of Duty 4 addiction I need to feed happening here. But unfortunately my Xbox broke, 347 days after I purchased it. Now, in this case it wasn’t the typical Red Ring of Death but an E 74 black screen of death. Either way, the system was shot.
I’ll spare you the details for now, but it took me until Thursday to get it fixed so I didn’t really get that much gaming in during the week unless you count a few hours spent playing Phantom Hourglass, which counts but is hardly significant compared to the time I would have dumped into CoD4 had I been able. Also it was one of those things were I could have really used the stress relief because I had a rough week, but it was made better when Thursday my wife surprised me with a “feel better” gift of the Messenger Kit which is the little keyboard thingy that snaps onto the bottom of a 360 controller.
As far as the Xbox is concerned, it works and that’s all I care about. I did an in-store replacement and ended up with one of the newer Pro models that has the included HDMI port and comes bundled with Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Forza Motorsport 2. The console itself is an improvement over my other because it is generally quieter and the drive is less obnoxious. It’s not exactly what I’d call a total success, hardware-wise, but it is what MS should have shipped in the first place.
I’ll tell you this much, the Messenger Kit is a very nice piece of hardware but after using it all weekend I can say two things for certain:
- When you don’t have the Messenger Kit, every time you have to use the text-input interface in the Dashboard, it’s really painful.
- When you do have the Messenger Kit, text input becomes a delight and yet you realize that (probably due to #1) there just aren’t that many instances where it becomes necessary.
- Call of Duty 4 – Once I did get back online, I spent a couple of nights teaming up with my buddy (now known as Inimical Saint but formerly VENOM HD) for mostly Search and Destroy. S&D is basically the de_ type from Counter-Strike, but that’s fine with me since I loved CS and CoD4 incorporates its curiously addictive brand of ranking madness to an otherwise exciting gametype. I also pushed through another solo mission on Veteran difficulty but it’s so challenging that it becomes an exercise in patience.
- Forza Motorsport 2 – As part of getting my Xbox replaced, I got this game in a bundle with Marvel Ultimate Alliance. I had no real interest in this game when it came out because racing sims aren’t my bag, but since it was free and I had it I figured I should give it a shot. Surprisingly on the easiest difficulty level it’s pretty fun but it frustrates me that I have to race over and over again to get enough credits to do what I want with the game which is really just experiment with different upgrades and stuff. I may play it now and again, but it’s on my outgoing Goozex list and while it doesn’t look like it will be snatched up any time soon, I don’t know how often it will get played between now and that future date.
- Carcassonne – I hooked up with Doctor Mac to play a couple of rounds of this; I guess they offered it for free one day last week on Xbox Live which put it back on my radar. I very much enjoy this game, although Doc beat me handily in both matches. Hopefully the new flux of players will light up the multiplayer again because it was completely dead for a while there.
- Oblivion – I was very close to 18,000 points going into the weekend and even though my effort to finish the Thieves Guild questline has been met with frustration, I thought I would work on the Shivering Isles a bit and earn a few achievements in the process. I made it through one small portion and got 40 points but I have to admit that as much as I love Oblivion, I don’t really find myself interested in Shivering Isles. And I’m one of the few people who actually played through the main questline, too (and enjoyed it). It sucks because I feel like my love of the game as a whole should carry me through, but I just don’t care about these crazy idiots.
- Lego Star Wars II – Another game I played to try and earn a few achievements, it ended up failing because I couldn’t push through the challenge quest for Episode IV in under an hour. But I did remember why I quit playing this game in the first place: I put a lot of hours into it several months ago and I got pretty sick of it. Apparently, I’m not ready to dive back in.
- Orange Box – With 17,995 points at the very end of the weekend, I started up another run through of Half-Life 2 because the two achievements you earn with the can in the very beginning of the game are (I think) mutually exclusive. I got the Defiant one the first time so it was a few minutes work to get Submissive. Of course then I got sucked into playing for about a half an hour because it’s just a cool game. I do mean to go through the whole thing again and finish up a few achievements I missed and experience the story a second time but with Mass Effect coming on Tuesday and a couple of decent games from Gameznflix in the mail (at long last) I don’t know when I’ll get around to finishing it.
- Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass – With the 360 broken I spent most of the week’s gaming on my DS with Zelda. I really like this game and I think the pacing is one thing it gets right. Going back and playing A Link to the Past most recently I was struck by how ponderous recent Zelda games have gotten: Both Wind Waker and Twilight Princess had you futzing around some silly village for hours before you got into anything good. In Link to the Past and Phantom Hourglass, the exposition is kept to a minimum and you get thrown into the fire almost right away. That being said, thus far Phantom is my favorite Zelda since Link (yes, yes, I concede: LttP is better than the original), but you have to accept that I never played Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask to understand that statement.
- Misc – I also played a tiny bit of Pac-Man CE, Puzzle Quest, GeoWars and Planet Puzzle League here and there, but nothing really significant either time or progress-wise on any of them.