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Thursday, May 27

Around the Hawk: Red Dead Redemption Review

Rockstar San Diego's new Grand Theft Auto is much different than it's previous sibblings: It's based in the year 1911. Alright, so this isn't Grand Theft Auto. In fact, this game is much better than GTA IV, which included several flat characters that nobody cared about, and a storyline that got old after the first three days. However, Rockstar's newest game, Red Dead Redemption, has that same look and feel of what Grand Theft Auto popular, just without the rocket launchers and randomly explodable cars.

Red Dead Redemption, which was released May 18th, 2010, was a game that honestly didn't get that much attention prior to its release. Until our network live member, JohnnyX77 began playing it, I never even heard of the game. So, after watching a few videos and hearing Johnny talk about it, I decided to pick it up, and I'm happy that I did.
This game can really eat up a lot of enjoyable gameplay hours for gamers, as long as you're not blasting through the main story. There are plenty of side missions and areas to explore in this wonderful open world, filled with wildlife free for hunting, flowers available for picking, and helpless stragglers being robbed and killed by ruthless bandits, whom you can choose to save or turn the other way.

Here are my Pros for Red Dead:

  • So far, a great story with several characters that create actual interest.
  • The voice acting is excellent for the most part.
  • The graphics are visually stunning. It's great to just ride around on your horse and enjoy the sunset, if you're into that kind of thing.
  • Plenty of things to do in the world. You can hunt and pick flowers to rank up in your hunting/survivalist/sharp shooting skills. Or you play a game of poker or horseshoes or blackjack, just to name a few. You can talk to a random stranger and help them out. You can even try to find burried treasure using your trusty treasure map. Whatever your heart desires, there's plenty of activities to keep you busy and eager to explore.
  • So much detail was put into the game. Dust coming up from behind a carriage, the weather effect that turn the dirt roads into soggy, muddy surfaces. The progressive lighting and progressive weather really add up to a great visual experience in the game. It's amazing that the game doesn't have any issues loading up the environment as you move through the world. It's a seamless transition from one area to the other with no load times or random objects popping up out of nowhere.
  • The background music is very relaxing and gives you that Old West feeling.
  • The gun battles are great. The "Dead Eye" adds a lot to the gun battles, as you're able to slow down the game and choose where you want to hit your enemy. It's a lot like the VATS system in Fallout 3.
  • Online play is fairly solid. You can start up a posse with your friends and play online, a lot like the squads in Battefield Bad Company 2. You can free roam around online and level up in several areas such as hunting and all the offline stuff, or you can go into a public free roam and choose to fight others, or join up in their posse.
  • The online game modes can be fun. The "gold rush" game type is a lot like the capture the skulls game mode in the Halo: Reach Beta. The shoot outs prior to each game is enjoyable. This is something that would be more fun to play with friends, as is any online shooter in my opinion.
The Cons to Red Dead Redemption:
  • It can get annoying riding your horse to the mission location, and then upon starting the mission you have to ride even further to another location while listening to the characters talk. It would be nice to just start the missions and go.
  • While the auto-aim is nice in gun battles (you just press and release the left trigger to switch between targets when shooting), the aim can sometimes get stuck on a random bird, animal or your own side during gun battles, which can really mess you up.
  • There can be moments during gun battles where if you're leaning against a wall and the enemy is on the other side, your character may not be able to shoot them even though you're aiming at them, yet they're able to hit you. This forces you to exit your cover and be even more exposed just to shoot back at the enemy.
  • The main story seems to be short. I may be wrong here, but through 15 hours of gameplay I'm 41% complete, yet only about four of those hours were truly spent on the main storyline.
  • People in the public freeroam online can get annoying where you just want to come up and invite them to your posse or a game mode, but they insist on killing you just to earn more online XP. Not the game's fault, but it can get annoying.
All in all, I really recommend this game to any gamer out there. Even though it's rated M for Mature, this is the kind of game that even the most casual gamer could sit down and enjoy. The variety of things to do in the game will add up in fun gameplay hours.

My final rating: 9.2 out of 10

Wednesday, May 26

Rumor: Project Natal to Cost $150?

Current rumor has it is that Project Natal will cost $150 standalone and $100 when bundled with the Arcade console making it $299. It is also slated to be released on October 26th and will also receive a new name come E3. We will see if this is true in the coming weeks at E3.

Test Drive Unlimited 2 Release Date and Price

Test Drive Unlimited 2 will release on September 21st and will retail for $50.

Sunday, May 16

Around the Hawk: Xbox Community on Madden '11 Improvements


What I found to be the most interesting post here was in a response to the NFL and ESPN licenses that EA has for Madden, Raged 10 says: "They can't use it. EA has a deal with the NFL where they aren't allowed to use the ESPN license in game. Madden isn't the only game from EA. NCAA use the ESPN license very efficiently in NCAA Basketball."

This has been something that we've been talking about for months here at xboxlivenetwork.com. Is this true?

Monday, May 10

New Test Drive Unlimited Trailer

Skate 3 Review

Skate 3 is by no means a disappointing addition to the series, but those who sunk their cash into last year’s Skate 2 really don’t have much of a reason to take the plunge here. Thankfully the gameplay is still the most impressive virtual representation of skateboarding around and the new audio treatment will delight fans of the series. And I suppose if you were starved for cooperative online team play, then this edition will quench your thirst, but if it’s a truly revolutionary and progressive sequel you’re looking for, Skate 3 doesn’t fit the bill.
IGN Ratings for Skate 3 (X360)

Rating Description
out of 10
8.0 Presentation
Skate 3 gives players the ability to warp around the world, either online or off, with ease thanks to its menus. Tutorials are well built and Jason Lee nails the My Name Is Earl character yet again.
7.5 Graphics
Models lack a certain level of detail, the physics are wonky at times, and the framerate can be erratic. Still, animations are satisfying and the game looks generally good.
9.0 Sound
The soundtrack is nicely crafted with a good range of tunes, Jason Lee brings the laughs and little touches like the verbose PA announcer during contests are great.
8.0 Gameplay
It’s still the best skateboarding you’ll find in videogames, but those who have followed the series might want to wait for a bigger step forward.
8.0 Lasting Appeal
There’s certainly plenty to do, but some questionable design decisions make for some unneeded moments of frustration and gameplay that degrades to simple trial and error.
(out of 10)