Friday, April 8, 2011

Petroglyphs and My First Xbox Game

The next day of our recent RV trip found us wandering through Petroglyph National Monument outside Albuquerque, New Mexico looking at petroglyphs carved into the rock centuries before by American Indians and later by Spanish explorers.

...and if you take that middle petroglyph and flip it upside-down it looks a lot like a certain game company logo.

Yeah - that's how I decided on my next post. Gotta point the ship somewhere before I can start sailing right?  So does this mean that the Pueblo Native Americans of the region actually played Day of the Tentacle centuries before it was released?  Probably. But I'm ashamed to admit I never played that particular classic (it's on my to-do list though!) so I can't talk about it.

As I'm writing this searching for direction I'm also watching a documentary on Dragon*Con - a huge fantasy sci-fi convention in Atlanta and I see Stormtroopers everywhere - so I steer the ship toward that shining Death Star. I'm a huge Star Wars fan and so it's no surprise really that my very first Xbox game was a LucasArts game set in the Star Wars universe - Star Wars Battlefront.

I was very late to the Xbox party. After the original PlayStation, I took a long hiatus from gaming (other than MAME) until I got my PS3. So I completely missed on the original XBox and all the other consoles of that generation. Then about 3 years ago or so I traded a guy my X-Arcade Tankstick for a modded original XBox, and the first XBox game I picked up was a used copy of Star Wars Battlefront.

Before Battlefront the last Star Wars game I played was probably Empire Strikes Back on the Atari 2600, so when I booted up Battlefront it was pretty damn impressive. I found the attention to detail from the Star Wars universe to be pretty remarkable. Graphics were excellent and the sound was incredible with all the immediately recognizable sounds of the Star Wars universe captured - be it the scream of a Tie Fighter or the spitting of a blaster. And you can pilot any vehicle you find - AT ATs, tie fighters, X-wings, speeder bikes, snow speeders - anything. I mean - how cool is that?! I remember seeing a tie fighter sitting there the first time and I just walked around it to check it out thinking 'hey that's cool'. Then I boarded it and started flying around blasting guys and it became 'holy shit that's awesome!'. Vader makers appearances, Luke makes appearances, this game has it all.

The gameplay is pretty repetitive - there aren't any side missions or minigames or puzzles or anything extraneous like that - just the simple goal of capturing all the other team's checkpoints or killing them all off before they do the same to you. Before launching into each battle you get to see a cool introduction to the scenario made from real clips from the actual movies and a narration of the goal from a prominent goodie or baddie.

The single-player campaign was fairly short and didn't really have much of a linear story to it - it just puts you in the middle of the various big battles that took place (and some that COULD have taken place) during the Clone Wars in episodes 1-3 and the Galactic Civil War in episodes 4-6. The various exotic planets in the Star Wars universe (e.g. desert planet Tatoine, the cloud city of Bespin, the Ice Planet Hoth, the forest planet of Endor) are all so unique and over the top it translated into really cool and varied battle maps. You can play as any of a ton of different character types on the good guy sides (e.g. wookies, rebel X-wing pilots, Gungans) or the bad guy sides (e.g. imperial storm troopers, shock troopers, tie fighter pilots, attack droids).

The brevity of the single player campaign may have been a drawback when it was released in 2004, but at this point it keeps the the experience short enough to be just about right (for me anyway) for a cheap older title. I did miss a few things I'd gotten used to on newer games like running faster and melee attacks - like a Wookie wouldn't just toss a storm trooper through a window if he was close enough to grab him? C'mon. But still I quite enjoyed it.

Unfortunately you can't play the online multiplayer anymore since they shut down the original Xbox Live last year, so that cuts heavily into the replay value, and there have been several other installments in the franchise that I assume have improved on the formula, but if you haven't played any of those, you can pick up a used copy of the original for peanuts these days for Xbox, PS2, or PC and if you like Star Wars and shooters like I do then you'll like this one.

Now I gotta think of a game to associate with the Petrified Forest National Park...

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gnome said...

Must have been lovely playing DotT in the wilderness...

MadPlanet said...

I think I will make that my next game after I finish playing Heavy Rain. I've heard so much about it but have never played it.