Achievements

“I am a die-hard believer that if you finish a single-player game on Xbox 360, on normal settings, you should get something like 600 achievement points,” he said. “It irritates me to death when I get 120 points after finishing a 20-hour game on normal because I didn’t headshot 250 people through the eye.” [gamasutra.com]

I have had a few different conversations about this. I tend to agree that a number of achievements should come about as you progress through the game – and many developers agree. But I’ve also heard the argument that achievements imply a heroic accomplishment and most of them should be more rare to come by – and there are a lot of developers who follow that strategy as well. GTA IV, I think, is a decet example of the latter. Fable 2 is a good example of the former.

Thoughts?

PS The linked article talks about more than just achievements. It’s a good read.

Grand Theft Auto IV: Final Review

The Question

Ultimately, any game review has to get at one thing: is the game fun. So let’s get that out of the way right at the start: GTA IV is a fun game. Is it fun throughout? Are there any flaws? Will everyone find it fun? To what degree is it fun? Does it have replayability? Eh, those questions, perhaps, aren’t so easy. Let me see what I can say.

Game Mechanics

I believe that we can start to break down “fun” by looking at a game’s mechanics. This is also probably the best way to determine whether a game is for you. No matter how exciting the story, the graphics, the cutscenes, the music, the conversation (and so forth), if the game mechanics aren’t fun you probably aren’t going to be interested enough to bother with the game.

Driving

The primary game mechanic in GTA IV is driving (generally in a vehicle like a car, but sometimes in a helicopter or a boat). Secondary to driving is on-foot combat (enhanced in GTA IV by the introduction of the new cover system).

Driving is fun, don’t get me wrong, but it is hampered by a few things. And I think if these items were remedied the game would be a lot more enjoyable.

First is the exaggerated physics. Yes, I love arcade-style physics over realistic simulations. I loved GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas, and never got into the Grand Turismo type games. But GTA IV takes arcade physics to another level and that requires overcoming a learning curve. And maybe it’s fair to require gamers to actually learn a skill as they play and advance those skills to progress through the game, but as an experienced GTA player it was somewhat frustrating to be unable to pull off a medium-speed turn without drifting into a 720-degree spin that culminated in my character being thrown 50 feet out from the vehicle (ah, ragdoll physics… sometimes you make GTA IV so fun and sometimes… not so much).

Second, driving is also impacted by the camera. The camera employs a rigid auto-follow routine on the y-axis. In other titles, including past GTA titles, the player could re-position the camera on the y-axis and it would stay there. In other words, if you lifted the camera higher up to create more of an overhead view of your vehicle, the camera allowed it. GTA IV doesn’t allow this, which creates problems when, for example, you’re driving up a hill and you cannot see upcoming cars. It forces you to manually adjust the camera on the y-axis while simultaneously attempting to drive. There are a lot of uphill locations in GTA IV (and other situations where you need to see in front of the car), and high speed chases where you cannot see the traffic or your target quickly become frustrating.

Third, the game world is too large. No, that’s not right. Rather, it’s not sectioned off well enough. In past titles, you generally worked through one neighborhood, completing a series of missions there before moving on completely to the next neighborhood. You might go back to that earlier neighborhood, but the game didn’t make you do that except in rare circumstances and usually for compelling story reasons. In GTA IV, the entirety of the very huge world (a re-creation of New York’s five boroughs), once unlocked, is fair game. Sadly, for a game built on the concept of driving, I admit that in the latter half of my playthrough, I spent way more time taking advantage of cabs than actually driving. It just stopped being fun to drive from one end of the city to the other again.

The Graphics

Finally, driving is impacted by the graphics. Colors wash together and cast a bland sheen over the otherwise very impressive, photo realistic city (though there is some pop-in and texture-less spots). The matter is made worse by the weather system. I love the idea of the city constantly going through periods of rain and fog and so forth, but it really blends everything together even more. As a result, when you’re told to chase another vehicle, you spend more time looking at your mini-map because it can be too difficult to see the target vehicle on the screen – even with a red arrow pointing down at it. And yes, I’m playing on a high-def screen. I tried standard def and it did not work at all.

On a side note, the blending of graphics also couples with an average frame rate (seems to be in the 25-30 FPS area, though there are frame rate dips) to frequently give me eye strain – something I’m not used to experiencing from games. Many times, I’d change my focus from GTA IV to my computer’s desktop and be momentarily stunned by my desktop’s bright, colorful appearance. I understand Rockstar really wanted to push the envelope with GTA IV, and like I said they really accomplished something amazing, but I wish they would have taken some more stylistic liberties and imitated something like Crackdown (brighter colors, cell shading, etc. – I wish I could find a screenshot from GTA IV on the web for comparison, but all of them look way more sharp and colorful than the actual game).

Combat

As far as the missions go, when you’re not driving around the city chasing or speeding away from someone you’re out of your vehicle and shooting at people. I complained a bit at first about the combat system but I’ve really grown to enjoy it.

It’s a slower-paced, somewhat thoughtful combat system that also instills a good bit of tension. Often, you’ll find yourself hiding behind a pillar, waiting for an opening where you can pop out and take a few shots. Sometimes guys rush you to add to the tension, but often they’ll also be hiding behind cover and waiting for you to make a mistake. Free-aim and moving to different cover positions keep things from getting stale.

There are some slight problems with the cover system – sometimes you get stuck facing the wrong way, sometimes you get stuck targeting an empty location, sometimes you can’t shift from one target to the next, or the intended target, and sometimes you are unable to lock onto hostile targets (to name a few) – but most of the time it works well and is fun. I have to admit I more often enjoy the shooting missions than the driving missions (what does that say?).

I suppose I should mention that you can also use weapons *while* driving, but this system requires you to aim your gun with the same stick you use to move the camera (maybe a working solution is to double the cinematic mode camera button as a lock-on button, but the lock on is only as effective as your driving is smooth). Worse, there’s no targeting reticule until you start firing – so lining up your weapon with your opponent often means firing in a random direction and then steering your trail of bullets to your opponent. I admit I’ve won some missions by doing exactly this, but fighting while driving is so poorly implemented that it’s almost not worth attempting.

The Missions

A game is its mechanics, but the challenge comes from the different situations the game puts you in to use those mechanics. I think this is one of the areas where GTA IV didn’t do as well. It’s a shame because there are good game mechanics in place to take advantage of. But too many missions lack creativity. Too many missions have forced solutions. You come up with a great idea to solve the problem, but the game doesn’t allow it. It feels… wrong, for a game so famous for its sandbox properties. And in the few situations where you think you’re being clever, you quickly realize that it was the only solution to the puzzle (bad for re-play).

Added to that, the game’s reviewers often mentioned how often you could make moral decisions to kill people or not. That is, you receive a mission to kill someone, you take out all his thugs, chase him down, force him to surrender, and then decide whether to finish him or let him leave town. Aside from the fact that your decision does not impact the story (also bad for re-play), there really aren’t a lot of examples of it in practice, either. It seems more like the start of a good idea than the implementation of one (though, to be fair, you do get to decide between two endings, which is good for re-play).

Frustrations

The game can also be frustrating. Sometimes it’s frustrating because you’re in a shoot out with a few people in an abandoned warehouse and the cops spawn in immediately behind you (I swear they weren’t there a second ago) and arrest you, causing you to fail your mission and lose your weapons. Sometimes it’s frustrating because the people you’re in a shootout with are shooting at you through walls. Sometimes it’s frustrating because people you thought were dead stand up and start shooting again. Sometimes it’s frustrating because the game doesn’t want you to catch up to that boat just yet because some scripted sequence is around the corner, so the boat magically moves four times faster than it had been moving. Sometimes it’s frustrating because you get through the mission, are bleeding to death and driving back to the safehouse to heal and save, and a cop swerves into your car – causing the police to go on full alert and the cop to shoot and kill you (I haven’t decided if I like the new police chase system where you have to race out of a search circle and then go a few seconds without being spotted… sometimes it feels too boring and simplistic). Should I continue? No, that’s enough. But even though I beat most of the missions on the first try and even though a lot of the missions I failed weren’t frustrating to re-try, there are a ton of frustrations.

Actually, let me talk about one more frustration. Reviewers raved about the ability to instantly re-start a mission via your cell phone after failing, but they neglected to mention that you start from the absolute beginning of that mission. So let’s use an example that I had to endure from the other night.

I drive from one island to the next, in a car, in order to pick up a truck. I hop in the truck and drive all the way back, and then some. (And when I complained about vehicle physics earlier? I was referring to the nice vehicles. Truck are on the opposite end of nice. Drive 20 mph and take a slightly sharp turn, and you will roll over.) After twelve minutes of boring, pointless driving I arrive at the actual mission. The game suggests it’ll be a stealth mission but it turns out it’s an escort mission. You have to proceed through a very hostile environment while making sure your AI-controlled companion doesn’t get shot up. Of course the companion is compelled to run right into the thick of things, making it more difficult to keep him alive. So what happens when you mess up? You dial the “re-try” and find yourself back at the opening cutscene for the mission – meaning another twelve-minute, uneventful drive before you can actually re-try the mission.

The lack of variety in puzzles combined with the length of the game combined with the occasionally frustrating moments quickly adds up to long stretches of wondering why you’re still playing. The game needs more to play for. In GTA: San Andreas, for example, a good example of a smaller achievement is working out to improve your character’s strength and stamina or driving around to improve your character’s driving proficiency, which made future missions easier. In GTA IV, like past GTA titles, I’d suppose the cutscenes are a big part of what’s supposed to pull you forward; however, they get so old so fast that I’m often quite tempted to skip them completely to just get on with the game.

Fuck. Fuckity-fuck. Fuck, Fuck, Fuckin’ Fuck.

Let me take a minute to talk about the cutscenes. I’m no prude but… fuck! Does every other word, throughout the entirety of the game, really need to be “fuck”? Haven’t writers figured out that you can have “dark” and “mature” and “edgy” in a game without relying on a 1:1 ratio of “fuck” to any other word? I’m not talking about one character, I’m not talking about a few characters, I’m talking about every character *and* the radio and TV stations.

And then there’s the gangsters. How many of them do you think will talk about rats, swimmin’ with the fishes, and ultimately end up betraying you? One of them? All of them? Here’s a hint: it’s the latter. And speaking of shallow characters, there’s a gay character in the game and – wait, can you guess it? – yes, he’s “absolutely fabulous, darling”! Ugh. He’s a character that might have been funny ten years ago, maybe, when that boldly-gay persona was new to mainstream, conservative America but that shtick has gotten old. It feels like Rockstar is catering to the stereotypical football-n-beer wife beater. And that kind of character building makes me not care about any of them. I think Niko’s cousin Roman is the only character that somewhat amused me, but there are very long stretches where he’s absent from the game (I wonder if that’s coincidence).

I found most of the radio/TV programming to be similar. It’s like Rockstar wanted to come off as so cool and edgy, but it really just amounts to them looking like they’re trying too hard. As Candice put it, it’s a bit like Marilyn Manson; if you’re no longer offending people, you just have to be more outrageous. With GTA IV, the majority of it feels like a liberal assault on conservatives – with none of the subtlety, smarts, or ironic commentaries of the past titles (or maybe they’re just recycling and it’s gotten old). And, even as a liberal, I find it insulting. But more than that, I find it tired.

The Story

All in all, I think the overall story of GTA IV is about how my character, Niko, decided to flee the atrocities of his home country to find opportunity in the States; it makes me wonder just how bad things were back home if 1,000 murders in the USA is an improvement. It also makes me wonder what Niko considers “making it” when I have over $500,000 and four apartments and my character and his cousin are still complaining about poverty. I think the game is also about my character wanting to kill one specific character (though that scene isn’t the climax of the game). But even though the game kept telling me one specific person could help me, my character kept going to other people and asking them for help.

Bottom Line

All that said (did I forget anything? Probably!), these failings detract from the game but the game is still largely its mechanics. And so my bottom line is that while the mechanics themselves are fun, the mission types aren’t creative or varied enough, for my taste, to sustain a high level of interest throughout. There are high points, of course, lots of them, but there are many, many more lulls or just flat, filler sections.

I’d say the game is good and worth playing, particularly if you like GTA and the GTA game mechanics. But if you consider the flaws and take scope out of the equation (i.e. the huge city size and the huge mass of content to discover), then balance it out against the fairly high level of polish, it’s really nothing more than a very solid game – an 8.5 out of 10 (if I had to use numbers). By no means is it the perfect, flawless masterpiece that the reviewers claimed it was. But I guess that’s the problem with publishers forcing quick turn-around on reviews.

My First Impressions on Assassin's Creed

Last night I checked the mail and spotted my recently-ordered copy of Assassin’s Creed. Woo hoo! So when I woke up today, I spent a few moments debating whether to go for a third day with GTA IV or to give the new game a try. Since GTA IV wasn’t compelling me to play, I popped in Assassin’s Creed.

Wow. Just… wow. The only thing I can say is that if I knew Assassin’s Creed was this good, I would have bought it new the day it came out instead of waiting this long for a discount copy. Trust me, I will finish Assassin’s Creed before GTA IV gets a third day of play.

First thought? Whoa! It’s like Prince of Persia (and I believe the two games share the same developer), but times ten! It’s next-gen! It’s got all the fun of acrobatics and fighting that Prince of Persia has (especially the Sands of Time), but so much else in there to make it feel like a real technological evolution.

Before playing, I heard the game featured a simplistic formula: climb a tower, look around, jump down, kill somebody, run away, and repeat. That’s a huge over-simplification, but in a sense it’s kind of fitting. Like I said, the fun of Prince of Persia came from the acrobatics and the fighting. You leap from ledge-to-ledge, solving the puzzle of the map – and in-between you get to fight some baddies. At the end of a level, you fight a boss – and then you repeat the process. The game is made great by giving you plenty of opportunity to show how well you can manage these two mechanics.

Well, first, going back a step, let me explain what the game is outside of the play mechanics themselves.

It’s the area around Jerusalem and Damascus (and another city I can’t remember off-hand) around the time of the crusades, and your a member of a group intent on bringing about peace by (the rather extreme measure of) assassinating those who lead the largest disruptions to it.

You’ve been told that you have targets to kill – but you only know where they are (i.e. the major cities, or, more specifically, for example, the poor district of Damascus). It’s your job to eavesdrop on conversations, intimidate suspects, and pick-pocket people in the region for clues to find out who the target is.

You don’t spend all of your time in the cities. Sometimes you’re traveling from one to another, and sometimes you’re just stopping in-between to explore. The spaces in-between feature some fairly open world to run around in with little establishments scattered about. The establishments give you the opportunity to fight some guards, climb a tower to map out the region, and also pick up some of the hidden, optional flags or take out some of the Knight Templars (tougher, one-on-one fights) – all to keep you in shape and having fun until your next city adventure. As a side note, even though it’s more fun than a side note would imply, you get to use a horse for quicker travel (and you can even fight from horseback) in these open areas.

Back to the cities and advancing the story, once you have an idea as to who to go after, you report your findings to the Assassin’s Bureau for approval. When you have approval, your job is pretty straight-forward: take out your target and escape to safety.

However, there’s more to it than just that. The first city I hit was blocked off by guards, so the first puzzle was to figure out how to get into the city. Once inside, I had to get the clues but there were other things going on within. And kind of like GTA, finding those other things stems from exploration.

It starts with climbing. There are various towers around the city to climb. The first district I hit had nine towers, I think. Scaling the towers and mapping the region helps you figure out where other mini-missions are, gives you a sense of the area, helps you plan out your assassination, and is also a fun endeavor on its own. Climbing is, essentially, guiding your character from handhold-to-handhold, but in typical Prince of Persia fashion the thrill comes from doing something simple with the controller and watching your character do something amazing – and realize you’re controlling it.

And it’s not just climbing up towers that gives you this sense of acrobatic mastery. It’s also exploring the city horizontally, primarily from the rooftops. It’s pretty cool to watch your character leap from window ledge-to-roof, balance across a beam, and then land on another roof where you have to hurdle obstacles – and realize you’re controlling it. It’s also cool to occasionally hear citizens commenting on your acrobatics if they happen to spot you – wondering if they actually saw someone, or telling themselves that they’ve seen everything now.

As you explore, you’ll come across the other towers and the aforementioned evidence gathering routines, but you’ll also get a chance to take part in the other major game mechanic, combat – which, as far as the cities go, generally takes place because you drew too much attention to yourself, went somewhere you should not have, or because you decided to make a daring attempt to rescue a citizen from persecution.

A rescue usually requires a fight with five or six guards at once. And let me just say that combat is amazing. Again, much like Prince of Persia, there’s just something awesome about pulling off a crazy array of moves and feeling like everything went down exactly the way you wanted – even though you just hit a few buttons. See? Game control doesn’t have to be complicated to be fun (I’m looking at you, God of War)! Assassin’s Creed lets you use one button to block, another button to attack, and the analog stick to tell your character in which direction to block or attack. That’s all you need.

And, just like Prince of Persia, the game grows with you, letting you add to your arsenal of attacks in both power and flair – but maintaining control simplicity. That is, you learn, for example, that you can hold down the attack button to do a more powerful attack, that you can tap the attack button just as your character hits his target to get a second (or more, if you continue to time your hits right) quick strike, or hit the defense and attack buttons at the same time just before an opponent swings at you to do a counter-strike. These attacks, and the others that you discover, definitely add to the growth. I’m guessing that by the end, I’m going to look like a ballerina-style death machine.

After you’ve won your fight against the guards and saved the citizen, it’s time to clear out of the area while guards flood in to investigate the aftermath and look for suspects. You can use nearby friendlies to help you hide or disguise yourself, or just to get you back to the rooftops for a quick escape.

It’s only my first day with Assassin’s Creed and I feel like I’m completing gushing, but I absolutely hated turning it off and can’t wait to get back to it. I know the reviews suggested it gets old for some (I’ll save those comments until I finish the game), but right now it’s so new, so fun, and I’m so excited to play more. I really hate to bash on GTA IV because I’m sure I’ll eventually get into it and love it, but I wish I was feeling about GTA IV from the start half as much as I’m feeling toward Assassin’s Creed, or GTA III, Vice City, or San Andreas. :

My Second Impressions on GTA IV

My second day of GTA IV went less swimmingly than the first. The first day, I think I was overwhelmed by *new GTA!* and was getting into it for that reason. But it didn’t really take hold of me – even then. I mean, I didn’t feel compelled to play the next day. In fact, I spent much of the next day playing Mario Kart Wii with Candice and Lisa. It was the day after that before I did get back to GTA – and that also happened to be the day I really started seeing the warts:

  • The car physics are disappointing. I mentioned in the first impressions that the driving physics are touchy. Well, I’d compare the experience of driving a nice car in GTA IV to driving one of the messed-up hoopties in San Andreas – on a wet, hilly road with sharp turns. I know a lot of people are really excited about the changes. I understand that it’s probably an overall system upgrade and that I just need time to get used to it and what it provides. But right now, it’s a little frustrating. You play GTA for the driving, and right now the driving is not fun.
  • Auto-follow cameras suck! Seriously! So many games use them and they bother me. And every time I played those games, I’d say, “Why can’t they do it like GTA does it?!” That is, I like my camera situated a little different from the default; I like it a little higher up than the game defaults to so I can better see the space immediately in front of the vehicle. In past GTAs, I could manually situate the camera where I wanted and the game would leave it there. No more. In GTA IV, you can move the camera up but as soon as you let go the camera drifts back into position. And that’s disappointing.
  • I had a mission to chase down some pot dealer. It’s pretty early in the game. The guy runs off down the street and you have to give chase. Well, he hops a fence and disappears. There are big, poorly textured tree leaves blocking my camera. So I stare at the mini-map and see from it that he should be to my left, and up a little. I swing the camera out from behind the leaves and look up to the left and don’t really see anything. Is he in the building? I’m not sure. I don’t see a way to get in. Nor do I see a way to get up there. The game warns me a few times that he’s getting away, and then… I fail the mission.
  • That’s when I get a text on my in-game cell that says I can re-start the mission right on the spot. Awesome! Except – I’m re-started at the absolute beginning of the mission. That means I have to drive across the city to get back to the pot dealer. Still, it’s better than driving one way, starting the mission, and then driving back to do it. So I re-start, spend the five minutes driving back to where I was… and the guy gets away again. And again. Three tries, and I’m done with the game. I just can’t figure out where he is and I feel like I’m fighting the system instead of working to overcome the game’s challenges.
  • I decide to turn off GTA but realize the only way to quit without losing progress is to hit a safe house – which is back across town. I’m not sure if I’ll lose progress or not by just shutting it off, so I decide to be safe and go for the save point. *sigh* But then I remember that I can call a cab that will take me anywhere I want to go, instantly! Awesome! Except! I call the cab, it arrives, and I get a pop-up that says hold down the *y* button to ride as a passenger. I hold down *y* and… my guys throws the driver out. There goes my ride. Worse, there was a cop nearby (it seems like there’s always a cop nearby in this game). So now I not only have to drive myself to the safe house, but I have to dodge the cops along the way. Generally, that’s a pretty fun thing to do in GTA. But with these vehicle mechanics, I’m not digging it. And anyway, that’s not something you want to go through when you want to shut the game off.
  • Final comment, I found it really easy to get the layout of the city in the last three GTAs. You kind of need to figure out the layout in order to get anywhere. However, and this is kind of disappointing, because the GPS and mini-map are so good – I don’t need to figure out the city. And I spend so much time staring at the mini-map and GPS layout that I’m not learning the city – at least, not as quickly as I would in a prior title. :

    Overall, the game isn’t bad or anything. The mini-games (I’ve tried bowling, darts, and pool so far) are kind of fun. The humor and story-telling is good. The moral choices (you occasionally get a choice on how to handle a situation) are a great addition. But GTA is supposed to be about the driving and with that frustrating me right now, it’s kind of killing the game for me. I guess I’m just not feeling the “masterpiece!” love right now. And as big a fan as I am for GTA, that’s sad.

My First Impressions on GTA IV

(based on a few hours of play:)

  • The graphics are good but from what few previews I had read, I assumed a more major upgrade. Some things are really nice – like the vehicles and lighting. But some things, like the player textures and animations, are more on par with the past few GTA titles. I’m not all disappointed. I’m not really a graphics whore. It’s just that, well, see, Rockstar kept preaching that they made the graphics as good as they could so as to ensure that game-play came first. I assumed they were lying, that they over-did the graphics and that the game-play would suffer. Happily, I was wrong.

  • Driving is a lot more touchy than it was on prior GTA games (III, Vice City, San Andreas). It’s easy to lose control of the car as you drive by too much tapping left-and-right on the steering. And heaven forbid you slam the emergency brake while going at a decent clip; you can easily do a 540 degree turn. I feel like I’m still getting used to the driving and I tend to not go full speed as a result.

  • The prior point makes me realize I miss the “RPG elements” of San Andreas. For example, in GTA IV, running around does not improve your stamina. Driving does not improve your driving skill. Etc. Too bad! 🙂

  • The cell phone is awesome! It took me a second to get used to it (kind of like real life!), but once I did I became addicted to it. After every mission I call everyone (all three!) people in my contact list. And when one told me to call back after 6pm, I waited around until exactly 6 so I could use the phone again. I dig that you can change the ring tone and such, and that it looks as though you can use it to manage your schedule with a calendar function. What a good idea this one is working out to be.

  • As awesome (or maybe more so) as the cell phone is the trip tracker. Yes, you have a full-on GPS. That is, if you open the map and select a landmark, when you’re driving you’ll see a route on your mini-map showing you where to go. You’ll also hear comments such as, “in 200 yards, turn left.” Fun! One bit of confusion, some missions there seems to be a yellow trail, while on some there is nothing. And if you mark it yourself, it’s usually a dark blue/green color. I have to figure that one out.

  • I love the little “hot coffee” and “warm coffee” pokes at themselves and their past controversies. On a date, my character asked the woman if he could come inside for some hot coffee. She responds that she doesn’t want to get burned. Later, after you spend a *ahem* romantic evening with her, you unlock a “Warm Coffee” achievement.

  • Fighting system is *a little* wonky. I mean, in a general sense, it’s just like the past few GTA titles with the ability to half-lock the controller for free-aim and to also duck behind cover. That said, it doesn’t feel quite as responsive to me. But I’ve only gotten into a few fights, so we’ll see how that progresses.

  • The land mass feels as big as San Andreas. But making that easier to manage is the ability to hop on a subway and, also, the ability to take a cab – in case you don’t want to drive all over.

  • Jumping from the last item, the game has an uncanny ability to make the mundane entertaining. I’ve never been so tickled, in a game, as I have been, sitting in a cab, watching the city roll by as someone else drove, or sitting in a chair watching TV – even though you can hit “A” to skip past the wait time. Craziness.

  • Final comment: overall, this GTA feels a lot like the last few – in all the good ways. That is, it’s a steady evolution. It definitely feels like “the next GTA”. And, for that, I’m happy.

***
Side note: I also bought Mario Kart Wii. Candice, Lisa, and I sat down in front of that one with a lot of excitement, but it fizzled kind of quickly. I think we were all a little frustrated with the difficulty.

The first tier (the first four new tracks) was pretty easy. The second tier (next four) was a lot more difficult. We went from largely getting top 3 finishes to regularly hitting bottom 3. We ended up jumping back to the first tier (of old track) and having a bit more fun – but that ended with both Candice and Lisa deciding that they didn’t want to play anymore.

I played a little more and feel like I could get into it with some practice and experience on the new tracks, but… GTA IV is a little more compelling.