Xbox 360 Game Review – Part I

I’ve been sick since Friday, so I can’t focus on much beyond the trivial. As such, now is probably a good time to give a review on Xbox 360 games. I’ve purchased a few games, and played demos for a bunch more.

First up, the best. Easily the winner so far is Call of Duty 3. It’s the first version I’ve played on the 360, but I loved Call of Duty 2 for the PC, or I did until it hosed my hard drive in October 2005. Three almost lived up to my high expectations. For my first real foray into next-generation graphics, the game offers wonderful art. I caught myself staring at some of the more impressive features, like the flowing water of streams.

The game play was intense, with the game opening in madcap gunfire. The missions were thought-out for the overall story, and had some fun diversity from previous WWII shooters. I probably spent 15 hours or so working my way through the game’s 14 chapters. I play cautious, so that felt about right.

The game falls short in to areas. The first problem, while minor, drove me crazy for a few minutes. On one mission, the Allies must clear out a long trench. There are corners and debris useful for hiding, as in most places on the map. Usually this allows for strategy and waiting for gaps in shooting. Unfortunately, the hero’s fellow soldiers are quite anxious to find cover and take charge. As a result, I found it impossible to fight through the initial gunfight. I had to sit back and wait for my fellow soldiers to find cover or die. Mostly, they died because they run in front of the hero’s machine gun blasts. The game is more forgiving than Call of Duty 2, but it’s still annoying to work my way to cover, only to have my team run in front of me and end the mission due to friendly fire.

Next, and more problematic, the campaign feels small. Rather than the sweeping scope of previous games, where bits of the entire war come into play, Call of Duty 3 covers one battle from Normandy. While it’s fun to see a cohesive narrative build, when I finished, I felt like I should be finishing disc 1 of a 2 disc set. A WWII shooter set in Europe should end in May 1945, not August 1944.

Also, the ending of the last mission felt like the final scene from the “Romeo and Juliet” production in Shakespeare in Love. The play stops and everyone sits in silence. Normally, as in the movie, the dramatic effect is one of breathless apprehension. In Call of Duty 3, the developer delivered more of a “We’re done, you may applaud,” ending. Not so satisfying.

I still recommend the game. I give it an 8.7 out of 10.

Next up, three sports games: Madden 07, NHL 2K7, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. Madden 07 is what we’ve come to expect from the Madden series. Some people have complained that it doesn’t add much, other than slightly better graphics. That’s probably correct, but I haven’t purchased a Madden game in several years. Updated rosters and a few fun franchise options is enough for me. But I’m not hardcore about the game, so I’m easier to please. It’ll hold me over for a couple years. An 8.5.

NHL 2K7 is pure fun. I don’t know much about hockey, and the game has taught me what icing and offsides are. Job well done. I haven’t figured out how to pass the puck around as strategy, so most of my goals scored are little more than a bull-rush at the goalie. Whatever, I’m getting great at puck control and picking the right location for my shots. If nothing else, there’s frenetic energy. Again, this game is just fun all the way around. I’m convinced that 2K Sports is the new EA Sports. A 9.3.

Tiger Woods is also a lot of fun. I enjoy video game golf because it provides all the strategy with none of the walking. I love the walking part of golf, but to hammer away at a round in 45 minutes is great. Of note, I found it easier to score well as Annika Sorenstam than as Tiger Woods. A 9.2.

Next, I ventured out to the consumer madness on Friday for The Outfit, which Best Buy had on sale for $9.99. Even if it sucked, I could’ve gotten $10 worth from the game. Add the game’s WWII setting and cartoonish mayhem to the price, and I couldn’t go wrong. Among the many so-called drawbacks I’ve read about, the graphics fit as a first-gen Xbox 360 game and blend into the cartoonish mayhem. They’re not a problem. I agree the gameplay is repetitious, but the maps are open-ended enough that this isn’t a problem. The only drawback I can agree with is vehicle control. Driving a tank, or even a jeep, is difficult. The controls are sensitive, and quite often induce trying to drive up a hill. Annoying, but did I mention that it was $10? Not worth full price, probably, but I played it all weekend while sick. A strong 8.4.

I’ve enjoyed a few demos, which is an awesome feature of Xbox Live. I want to play more of Prey and Rainbow Six Vegas. I enjoyed Saints Row well enough, but I’ll wait for Grand Theft Auto IV instead. Based on videos, I’m looking forward to playing The Godfather, Assassin’s Creed, and Medal of Honor: Airborne.

All of that can’t begin to explain how anxious I am to play Gears of War. That’s next in the queue.

Violence Myopia and Parental Rights

It’s damning praise to say that the United Nations cares about stopping violence against children. It doesn’t. It cares about stopping selective, politically correct violence against children. As evidence, consider its latest attempt to do something for the children:

Canada should repeal the law that allows parents to spank and physically discipline their children, United Nations special envoy Stephen Lewis told an appreciative crowd at a world forum on child welfare Monday.

In a wide-ranging speech on violence against children, Lewis condemned Canada for violating its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child by condoning corporal punishment under section 43 of the Criminal Code.

Lewis argued that under the guise of terms like “reasonable” force, children are subjected to “gratuitous, offensive, and damaging violence.”

That’s quaint. Not what it’s trying to accomplish, for I’m not okay with physical discipline. But it is amusing how sanctimonious the U.N. can be when it gets bothered about something. Quoting anything related to the rights of children is a nice touch. But what about the rights of male children to be free from preventive medically unnecessary genital cutting? Is that not violence against children? Remember, I’ve already addressed the disparity in the U.N.’s view on the circumcision of males and females.

This quote by UNICEF Canada president Nigel Fisher is particularly instructive, given that Mr. Lewis is the United Nations special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa, and the U.N. believes that circumcision is a solution for HIV in Africa:

But Fisher said UNICEF’s position is that there is no level of acceptable physical violence against children. “It’s a slippery slope and therefore we believe that there should be no violence at all, and that includes physical punishment at home.

The thing is we’ve go [sic] to help parents think through how to help children understand cause and effect and the consequences of bad behavior,” he said. “And I think physical punishment is a kind of lazy way out. ‘I’m bigger than you. I can shout louder than you and I’m stronger than you. Therefore, unless you do what I tell you, I’ll whack you.’ I can’t see that that’s actually helping a child understand values and consequences.”

Consider the text I’ve placed in bold. Might that apply to the use of circumcision as a tool to prevent HIV infection? Cause and effect? Consequences of “bad” behavior? Everyone at the United Nations should feel good about themselves. They’ll make the world a safer place so that children won’t get a whack on the butt. But a scalpel to the penis? Yeah, that’ll still be safe.

I wonder how selective it would be.

Following up on yesterday’s post on Rep. Rangel’s ridiculous plan to bring back the draft, CNN has a quick look at what a draft would look like, courtesy of the Selective Service website. I particularly enjoy this part of the process:

Registrants with low lottery numbers are ordered to report for a physical, mental, and moral evaluation at a Military Entrance Processing Station to determine whether they are fit for military service. Once he is notified of the results of the evaluation, a registrant will be given 10 days to file a claim for exemption, postponement, or deferment.

I’m open to the possibility that this means an evaluation of conscientious objector status, or some other moral claim. But it’s not worded that way. So… It’s quite interesting that Selective Service performs a moral evaluation of “registrants” in pursuit of the immoral forced servitude (usually referred to as slavery) of the “registrant” (usually referred to as a human being with an inalienable right to liberty).

Competence doesn’t care who you love.

Once again, James Taranto shows himself to be little more than an ideological tool in his The Best of the Web Today column, again for bigotry against gays. Writing on this article from the Boston Globe on a minor Democratic push to revisit “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, Mr. Taranto writes:

Meanwhile, a pair of Massachusetts Democrats are tackling another pressing national-security issue…

It seems unlikely that [Rep. Martin] Meehan will succeed in changing the law; the Globe says Rep. Ike Skelton, who will be chairman of the Armed Services Committee, supports “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The likely result, as when Bill Clinton made this his first priority on taking office 14 years ago, is to suggest that Democrats are less interested in national security than in esoteric ideas of equality.

Condescension is a wonderful instrument; I’ve used it myself in this blog. But in reference to this story, Mr. Taranto shows little connection to reality, favoring the party line of hatred above all else.

Of course Democrats aren’t going to reverse “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. They’re chickens uninterested in leading. Big deal. But this has the potential to address a pressing national security issue, no matter how much Mr. Taranto wishes to mock the service of gays in defense of America. Given that current policy resulted in the dismissal of qualified translators where there is a military shortage, I’d say this absolutely has something to do with national security. Unless Mr. Taranto wants to posit that gay translators hurt morale more than dead soldiers and civilians because we couldn’t decipher intelligence clues. As long as the dead soldiers are straight, that outcome is better? Brilliant.

Of course, we could just set aside irrational bigotry and permit gays to serve openly. Maybe it’s an esoteric idea of equality, but it’s an equality that opens the military to skilled people in an ongoing war. That should be reason enough, unless you’re a hack partisan journalist.

Better Warn Comrade Moore

Rep. Charles Rangel is calling for the return of the draft. This isn’t the first time, as Rep. Rangel discussed this during the 2004 election. But the populist rhetoric this time around is worth debunking.

“I will be introducing that bill as soon as we start the new session,” Rangel said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” He portrayed the draft, suspended since 1973, as a means of spreading military obligations more equitably and prompting political leaders to think twice before starting wars.

“There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way,” said Rangel, a Korean War veteran. “If we’re going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can’t do that without a draft.”

Hello, we’ve already tested the theory that politicians wouldn’t get us into wars if their kids or the kids from their communities were in danger of being drafted. Considering that he’s calling for “national service” in the military, schools, hospitals, etc., is there any reason to believe that those in power won’t pull strings to get hospital rather than front line duty? Rep. Rangel should look no further than the current (and preceding, for that matter) occupant of the White House for evidence. Not that I’m condemning a refusal to acquiesce to forced servitude in the armed forces, but Rep. Rangel wants to ignore the obvious.

Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who will be the Senate majority leader, agrees that the U.S. military is stretched too thin and that “the burden of meeting the nation’s security has not been shared equally by all segments of our society,” said Reid spokesman Jim Manley. But Reid “believes that these problems are best addressed by making needed adjustments in the all-volunteer force,” Manley said.

So, if what Rep. Rangel, and Sen. Reid to an extent, is saying is true, is it any less likely that the poor over-represented segments of society will be any less represented in future wars? Please. The military is as subject to free market principles as any other arena of life. If the correct incentives are there (more money, fewer wars, whatever), then more people will fill the roles, which I presume is the goal. Of course, I’m open to accepting the reality that Rep. Rangel isn’t interested in military readiness as much as he’s interested in playing to populist nonsense. Also worth noting is that Rep. Rangel’s expectation of “national service” comes with a “guarantee” of education benefits at the end. This is more about who the politicians control than controlling the politicians.

More thoughts at A Stitch in Haste.

Complacency in the Face of (Minor) Tyranny

Hawaii, like too many places, has a very strange assumption justifying a near-universal smoking ban. If you want to play the home version of this game, I think you can spot it before I excerpt this article:

The Smoke-Free Hawaii Law went into effect Thursday, banning smoking in all public places such as restaurants, bowling alleys, malls as well as from curb to cabin at airports.

When was the last time Hawaii’s government took out bonds to pay for improvements to a local bowling alley? I’m guessing never, since they’re not public spaces, paid-for and maintained by the taxpayers through their state government. Instead, these establishments are private businesses. Remember, the familiar “right to refuse service” exists because the bowling alley, mall, restaurant, or whatever is a private enterprise, with control over its premises and who may barter for its products and services. If the owner hates smoking or believes smoking is driving away more business than it generates, the owner will prohibit it.

But the most amusing point of this, if it can be called funny, is that in banning smoking in “public places” over which it has no legitimate control, governments force smoking into public places where the argument for banning smoking could justifiably move to the science behind such fear-mongering. The answer, of course, is private markets, but good luck selling that in America.

Those Who Refuse to Learn (Recent) History

Canada’s Parliament legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, but Canada’s evangelicals are just now arriving to the party, celebrating the same unprincipled political action that American evangelicals so dearly love.

“With the legalization of gay marriage, faith has been violated and we’ve been forced to respond,” said Charles McVety, a leader of several evangelical Christian organizations that oppose gay marriage and president of the Canada Christian College in Toronto.

Remember, the legislation already passed, so this is a tad late. A little retroactive anger is always good for a free society. But more to the point, how has faith been violated? I’m fairly certain that Canada’s law does not require churches to perform same-sex marriages. There is no civil issue.

Though the expected vote in Parliament will not decide whether to rescind the gay marriage legislation, but instead whether members wish to reopen the issue for debate, it remains significant for the Christian right and the government.

For leaders of the Christian right, the vote is a chance to get the marriage issue back on the government’s agenda and to get a better sense of where individual politicians, especially newly elected ones, stand. They have adopted that strategy in part because they say that the vote in Parliament will be difficult to win.

For Mr. Harper and his Conservative Party, the vote is an attempt to appease the religious social conservatives who form the core of the support for his minority government without losing moderate voters who want to avoid the issue.

Didn’t the U.S. already try this basic idea, except with a majority government? Don’t recent indications suggest that it’s a failed long- medium-termed strategy for building and maintaining a majority? At least we know that America’s new “conservatives” aren’t the only big-government statists who’ve co-opted the term.

Quote of the Day

While reading this post at Cafe Hayek this morning, a quote from the author, Don Boudreaux, stood out.

It’s much easier — and probably more viscerally gratifying — to accuse those with whom you disagree of moral failings than to grapple with the content of their arguments.

I know I’ve fallen into that in some of my writing, although I try not to do so. But I like this quote for its universal applicability, especially to blogging, where opponents are faceless.

Your Chance to Win $1,000,000

I finally upgraded to a bluetooth-compatible phone. It’s a major event for me, I guess, even though I don’t care about phones. (I probably use 40 minutes per month on my plan.) However, I’m excited to experience the freedom of no wires while I talk. I love technology.

To fight becoming something I don’t understand, I have a proposition. The first person to spot me wearing a bluetooth headset as a fashion accessory rather than wearing it only to make calls will win $1,000,000. It’s that simple. I acknowledge that I don’t have $1,000,000, so this is risky for me. But I’m also sure that you won’t see me wearing the headset as an accessory, unlike every other professional in D.C.