This Fall Is Going to Be Very Expensive. I Suppose It’s a Good Thing I Don’t Have Any Money.

Since I was out of town on business and busy with many other things over a period of a few weeks recently, I found that I had somehow managed to “unplug” a little bit, and haven’t been doing much in the way of playing games since then. It’s actually been rather nice to not be playing games for a while, and I’ve been postponing it as long as I could.

Last night I finally fired up the 360 to catch up on a few things, and I thought I would share my experiences. Unfortunately, what I’ve been doing has basically just piqued my interest in several games that are arriving in stores within the next few weeks – games that I cannot realistically afford. I’ll start with the obviously awesome.

The Bioshock Demo

If what I’ve been reading about the demo not coming very close to demonstrating the breadth and the sheer forcefulness of the impact of this game, then I was sold on it within the first few seconds. Even in the short demo period, I was floored by the sheer density of what I was interacting with. I didn’t even get to a point where you could use a weapon, and the artistry I was witnessing had already captured my attention and had me scrambling to see if there was any realistic way I could squeeze Bioshock into my fall gaming budget (I unfortunately can’t).

For my impression, it was very reminiscent of System Shock 2, which at one point I had thoroughly played out and have reckoned for some time as one of the best pure experiences available within the video game milieu. Bioshock’s demo reveals much of the same careful attention to detail and refined craftsmanship that is so often lacking in games. It is not often that a statement like this one seems to be appears in any media, video or otherwise, and I look forward to devouring it with a passion once I can get my hands on it.

System Shock 2 was the last time I was really disturbed by the atmosphere of a game, and that’s saying something considering the fairly ancient rendering technology employed. There were so many things about it that were specifically meant to be unsettling to normal humans, and my first contact with Bioshock tells me that many of the same feelings will be present in spades – with much better controls and the benefit of a 50″ television and immersive sound to carry the payload.

John Woo’s Stranglehold Demo

This one involved an almost complete gear shift to appreciate after dipping my toes in the Bioshock water, but I will leave you with a thesis: If you don’t enjoy the Stranglehold demo in any way, especially the aiming feature and Tequila-Time, then you have no joy remaining in your heart and you certainly harbor a severe dislike of fun.

It’s been a long time since playing a game has left me giddy with laughter at my own actions, based upon their relative incredulity and ignorance of basic tenets of physical law. Stranglehold takes the cultural icon of the Hong Kong action movie (John Woo, duh) and transports you into that experience as the hero-running, guns akimbo hero who is impossible to stop. If you don’t enjoy ridiculous action movies or didn’t understand what was so awesome about Hard Boiled, then I don’t thik you’ll derive as much enjoyment out of Stranglehold.

As a sequel to Hard Boiled, well, let’s just say that there wasn’t much of a story to attach yourself to. Instead, the game aims to take the idiom of movies like Hard Boiled and use that as fodder for creating an interactive follow-up. I couldn’t care less about the story, but I do appreciate the cinematic tricks used to convey the ideas, and the interactivity afforded the staples of the popcorn action movie template, which owes so much to John Woo.

I am very interested to see where multiplayer goes with this title.

Hexic 2 Demo

I really don’t know what to think of this one at all. Hexic is one of my more favorite time-wasters, and it appears as though they’ve hit a desire to continue to scratch that itch with the changes in gameplay that build upon the foundation of the first game without ruining it.

But at the same time, it is more of the same thing, with slightly more incomprehensible graphics and a touch more convolution in the interface and even the display of the board. $10 puts me right on the edge of a purchase. I’m fairly certain I’d like the multiplayer, but Ken mentioned that he had difficulty picking apart the piece colors on his standard-def television, so I think this is going to be a postponed purchase.

Lumines Live’s “Heavenly Star” skin

I downloaded this many moons ago, when it was free, and only had the chance to try it out last night. I wish I hadn’t.

That stupid song is going to haunt my dreams for the rest of my life, and it will cause me to return to Lumines again, which is something I’ve long been ambivalent about. I appreciate what’s been done with the game, but the mechanic doesn’t seem to fit my brain patterns very well, so I perpetually suck at it.