Currently Playing…Demo Edition

Last night I spent some time checking out some of the newer demos released on XBL.

Mercenaries 2

I thought this game looked pretty fun.  All of the videos and previews show how much you blow stuff up.  Seeing buildings crumble below air strikes and the like in an open-world environment sounded pretty fun.  Either this demo sucks, or that mentality is not given enough weight in the retail release.  I feel as though it might be the former, as the explosions were definitely cool.  The only problem was that I only had 10 grenades and the rocket launcher didn’t last as long as I wanted either.  The tank was pretty entertaining, as you could level some of the smaller buildings; however, it just didn’t seem to find a balance between ‘freaking awesome explosion God’ and ‘dude running around shooting other dudes’…I didn’t really want to use a gun.  I wanted to blow everything up.  Yet, I had to use the gun.

This seems like it’d be a really fun co-op game with cheat codes adding in random helicopters and weapons, but I don’t think I’d want to play it on my own.  It also lacked some polish.  The animations seem a little stale, and the controls didn’t feel right (‘A’ to push on the gas in a car?  really?).  There was also a mini-game for stealing a tank that was pretty uninteresting, not challenging, and annoying halfway through the first time you do it.  To steal a tank, you run up on the tank’s gun barrel, pull the pilot out by his shoulder and headbutt him.  Yes, the dude with a mohawk headbutts the soldier, who happens to also be wearing a helmet, and the soldier gets disoriented.  Interesting.  Then, you pull a grenade off of the soldier’s jacket and then play tug of war with the grenade until you get it, take out the pin, and throw it down the hatch.  Yes, you do that every time you want a tank.

The AI was pretty bad as well…granted, in these types of games I’m not expecting 400 Jason Bournes running around.  However, when I was performing the aforementioned tank steal, another guy was standing on top of the tank, apparantly trying to look alert as though his boss were watching him.  So here I am, wrestling a grenade from some poor fragile-skulled tank pilot, and the guy apparantly wasn’t paying attention during the ‘what to do when a mohawk guy is stealing a tank’ training video.

I think if I had the actual game, I might have some fun with it after getting some cash and having the ability to buy more explosives.  Until I have an abundance of time to play games, however, I’ll probably pass on this.


This one surprised me.  I actually had fun with it.  The ground raising/lowering mechanic is pretty fun and adds a dynamic twist to the action.  The character design looks pretty stupid, honestly, and the story looks to be as interesting as a “Dora the Explorer” episode; however, the gunplay is pretty fun with the addition of the ground lowering and raising.

A good example of the use of this is at the end of the demo, when you are tasked to wait for a transport to get you out of the area.  It is simply a defend this fortification for x amount of minutes from an endless supply of enemies.  The first time I played this part, I simply shot everyone that came out.  This worked for a few moments, but eventually the large amount of people overtook where I was and they took me out (granted, I forgot there was a melee attack).  The second time, I raised the ground surrounding the fortification to its highest point, making it harder for the soldiers to get to the fortification.  This made things easier for me, as I just kept raising the ground when they lowered it and stayed on top to take guys out as they climbed the hills.  Not a one of them got close enough for me to forget my melee button.

I’m concerned about how fresh the concept will stay in the campaign, but I think it’ll make for some interesting multiplayer.

Fifa 09

Oh, sweet, sweet Fifa.  So, it’s an annual sports franchise.  That means no one looks at the game as a whole, we instead just look at the improvements they’ve made since last year.  Graphically, I’m not sure the models and textures are any better (if not a little worse); however, the animations have gotten noticeably better, which is more important for timing attacks and the like.  The ball physics also look much better from last year’s, and it all seems to run a little smoother.  I didn’t fire up Fifa 08 to compare the models and textures, so I don’t know how they compare (just from memory, they seem worse).  Anyone else care to comment on that?

As far as features, not much is shown in the demo.  There’s some added improvements to team management.  You can adjust how your team works together a lot better.  The UI is also easier to see, as they made the ‘kick strength’ meter more contrasted, so it is easier to see how hard your kick will be with your peripheral vision.

Not sure I’ll pick it up, as I know something better will be out in another year.  With annual releases, I typically end up picking up every other entry.  They literally had a bullet point at the end of the demo that you can customize your control profile and ‘easily take it online’, so you know they’re reaching for new features.

Madden 09

It’s Madden.  It’s continuing on it’s line of improvements, but I’m not sure I’ll stay interested enough in it after the season’s over and I’m no longer watching the games.  The game set the difficulty to between All-Pro and All-Madden for me, even though I rarely play Madden games, so I’m pretty skeptical of its accuracy.  The demo only lets you replay one Madden moment, though, so I haven’t a clue as to how it stacks up in the long term.  Maybe I’ll pick it up once it hits the bargain bin so that I have a football game to play.

I also continued on one of the full games I’ve been playing.

Ninja Gaiden 2

I just beat the skeleton miniboss in chapter 6 or 7.  Depending on what he did, I could kill him without being touched, or he would kill me (mainly because I didn’t want to waste items when I could kill him without using them).  I’m still enjoying it, but I sure wish I could skip the cutscenes the first time through.

Gracious..that was a lot.