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Scott's Column
All Gaming (Almost)

December 1, 2006
By Scott Lewis

With my blog rolling full force I am am going to take a break here and catch you all up on my gaming. However, read all about my recent work on installing the final version of Windows Vista on my blog. Oh, and I will touch on Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 2 and web design.

NFSMW

I have finished Need For Speed Most Wanted. It took me what seemed like forever to finish the last milestone events to get to race Razor. Razor being the character that "got" your car at the start of career mode. I worked my way up to #2 on teh blacklist. The milestone events that were so difficult were the following:

1) Get into a police chase and "tag" 32 police cars.
2) Get into a police chase lasting at least 13 minutes.
4) Get into a police chase and earn 850,000 bounty.

Keep in mind you must evade the police after reaching the milestone for it to be valid. It is possible to perform all of these milestone in one long chase. I tried and tried until almost every car in my stable had multiple Xs and would have been impounded with one more arrest. I was also running out of money to pay the fines when I would get arrested. I discovered that by evading the police (even before reaching a milestone) that it would remove an X from a car. That was helpful. I would start a chase and ram the one cop car I started with until he was disabled. The event would be over in no time and I could remove Xs from cars until all were ready to go again.

I finally managed to evade teh police after tagging (hitting, trading paint, whatever) 32 police cars. Even though I was into the chase for 11 minutes I did not dare go for the extra 2 minutes. I got away and felt lucky for doing so. 1 down, 2 to go. I got into a chase and there was only one car behind me. This was after about 5 or 6 minutes of chasing. There was a road block that I was easily able to drive around. But somehow the car chasing me didn't follow me around the road block. In fact, no one was chasing. So... I turn around and head back toward the road block. After all I needed to last 13 minutes, not 5 or 6. I stopped while looking at the road block. I saw a "backup" thing in the bottom of the status with a countdown. Hmmm... I assumed backup would be coming in 30 seconds (the number it started with). 30 second came and went and the backup thing went away. Yet the cars in the road block just sat there. Hey... nothing is happening and the clock is ticking. Cool. I sat there for a few minutes. I was over 10 minutes when I noticed that my bounty was increasing 25,000 ever 15 seconds. Great! I just sat there looking at the road block from a distance until I had the 13 minutes and 850,000 bounty points. I had to go an extra 30 seconds to make the bounty. I gunned it and headed away from the road block. I didn't even get out of site when the Police were on me again. I managed to loose them in about two minutes. So I was actually in a chase for about 7 or 8 minutes instead of the full 15 minutes. Finally... I got to race Razor.

I had to beat Razor in five race events. It was not that hard. But when it was over you are presented with a cut scene showing the girl that has been helping you is actually a cop. When the rest of the police arrive she throws you the keys to your original ride (that Razor had) and tells you to run. That puts you in a chase with a ton of cops. Your "heat index" is 6 (the highest in the entire game was 5), and you have a LOT of police chasing you. I tried like crazy to lose the police, but no matter what I did they would find me. Even if I lost them another cop was around every corner. No place to hide. It just so happened I found the highway (after about 20 times of getting caught) and there was a message from Mia, the girl cop, telling you there was a bridge rigged that you could jump over. I got caught, but I noticed this happened at exactly 5 minutes into the chase. Now that I know what to do I just ran from the police. I didn't try to take any of them out. Just try as I might to get to the highway and run like the dickens. After 5 minutes I get the message, but I am on the wrong side of town. I follow the mini-map to the bridge and jump it. None of the cops can make it over. You drive off and the credits role.

I was disappointed that you don't meet up with the girl for one last rendezvous. It was pretty clear that she liked you. Oh well... another anti-climatic ending.

Max Payne

I finished Max Payne. I had to resort to a walkthrough to finish the game. After a while in the game you wake up in a daze and must navigate a blood trail, which is actually like walking on a wall. If you fall off the trail you die. You in a dark, dark room and must jump from one blood trail to another until you find you way to a regular room. I needed the walkthrough to do it.

I was not thrilled with the time you wake up and are in some hokey dream like state. Graphically it was done well, but I just didn't like it. At least there weren't any mutants, aliens or zombies to fight. I spent more time than I originally though I would playing the game. I did use the walkthrough a few more times, but I did manage to get all the way though the game.

There is a decent scene after the game ends and I really appreciated the ending. In fact, it was one of the best "story" ending I have seen at the end of a game that I can remember.

Which leads to...

Max Payne 2

I started and finished Max Payne 2 ion about a week or so. They did the creepy dream like thing a couple of times. The story line is played more like one of those movies where they show you in the middle then flash back to how you got there, and finally you move forward.

Also different in Max 2 was playing another character. You get to control Mona, the hot chick that is helping you... or leading you into a trap to kill you. When you are playing Mona you have two life indicators. One for you and one for Max, since you are supposed to be providing cover fire for him. If either of you die the game is over. This puts some time constraints on what you do as Mona. You don't always have time to look for all the ammo and health you can find. You have to get from one place to provide cover fire to another... quickly. In fact, I found that I had to do this over and over just to know where I was really supposed to go. Just keep running to where the bad guys are. There is never a clear path to where you need to be. If there are no bad guys you are going the wrong way.

You also have to help this annoying idiot in a clown costume. This was the first time I actually used Bullet Time. Bullet Time being the one "special" power you get. You slow motion everything around you. In Max Payne 1 everything was in slow motion except you ability to aim. SO you really couldn't use it to duck from bullets. You could shoot a few rounds at a few different bad guys and then the bullets fly when Bullet Time ends. It was necessary a few times in the first game, but seemed like you didn't really need it.

When you are protecting the idiot in the clown suit it was very necessary as hordes of bad guys are coming at you and the idiot is just standing there. You have the two health indicators again, so you have to shoot fast. And this is where I learned that bullet time was much better in Max Payne 2. Although you move in slow motion in Bullet Time it seems less so in Max 2. Also, when you run our of ammo and need a reload (as opposed to running completely completely out of ammo) Max makes this cool spin move and goes right on firing. This happens faster that normal reload times. It worked better in touch situations than Max 1.

Ultimately, I had to cheat to finish Max Payne 2. When you finally get to go after the final bad guy, Vlad, he runs to this platform. You cannot get up on it and have to shoot the supports to the platform. Meanwhile Vlad is tossing molitave cocktails at you in droves. Once you hot three of the four supports the platform falls. However, it is still out of your line of site. Now you have shoot the pins holding this big pointy thing on the ceiling so it drops on Vlad. Again, Vlad is bombarding you with molitaves. After you shoot all the pins holding the point thing it falls and now Vlad comes to the edge of the fallen platform and you have a chance to start shooting him.

Good luck. I could not get past getting the platform to drop. As I am typing this I realized I never tried Bullet Time to see if I could more easily finish Vlad off. I may have to go back and try to play the ending again, but I doubt it.

Like Max 1 you get a nice ending to the story. Better than other games. I like it.

No One Lives Forever & Splinter Cell

I started playing No One Lives Forever on my desktop while testing Vista. Now that I have a gaming laptop I moved all the saved games to my laptop and picked up when I left off. At this point all I can tell you is that the game is pretty repetitive. And so far no mutants. Cool. I will have more on this when I finish it.

I also need to see if I can install Splinter Cell and migrate my saved games from my desktop. I have been spending a lot of time gaming on my laptop. I use earplugs with just the left earplug in while playing in bed. This way I half pay attention to my wife's shows, and I am right there with her. Better then going into the game room for dedicated play time.

Firefox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 7.0

If you haven't heard, Firefox has come out of beta with version 2.0. IE has also come out of beta with version 7.0. If you run one of these browsers you must upgrade to the current versions. I have made Firefox my default browser on my laptop and my computer at work. I migrated all my "favorites" from IE6/7 to Firefox's bookmarks on my laptop. However, I have not done that yet at work. We use Lotus Notes at work (don't ask). And there is no way to choose Firefox as the default browser Lotus Notes will launch when you click on a link in an e-mail message. You can select Netscape, but I don't have that installed. So at work I am in more of a hybrid environment.

Firefox doesn't give me any of the script error messages IE does. As I wrote this I wonder if that is a setting. I hate the constant nagging if I want to debug a script. Maybe it is because I have Microsoft development tools on my workstation that IE assumes I would want to debug every script out there.

Even if it weren't for the debug nags, I would still used Firefox. It is faster and easier when editing my blog. In fact, Firefox has its own spell-checker which is very helpful when typing on web forms.

Web Design

I have looked at a number of sites and graphics and I want to get to redesigning my web site. I need to do this to support Firefox. Since I have made it my default browser I should at least make sure my own site looks good with it. I haven't made up my mind yet on an exact look. I want it to be somewhat colorful... like it is now. But be simple in design. I am still wrestling with the same issues I always do. 1) Navigation down the left or right (the current design has minimal navigation at the top of the page and a little more at the bottom). Variable width or fixed width columns. I don't like it what test flows to wide. It makes it harder for your eyes to move from one line to the next. This slows reading. So I will have some kind of built in maximum width for the body of my pages. The problem is getting it to still look good on low resolution monitor. I like to make sure my pages look good at 800 x 600. SO I have to work out the details of scaling so it will look good at 800 x 600 as will scale well to 1280 x 1024 (my workstation at work) and also look good when it is in a resizable window... which is how I mostly view content on the web. I rarely maximize any window on my computer. Well, except games, but that is the point there.

Any ideas? Left or right navigation? Variable or fixed text columns? Color or simple black on white? I am so confused.

I am going to build it with Microsoft's new Expression Web tool. This is clearly going to be the replacement for FrontPage. It's still in beta, but seems good enough to use now. Of course it will take forever to convert all my pages over to the new format. That may mean I launch the new look with minimal history. Heck... my current history is still in last years design. I never did bring it forward. Hey, maybe that becomes another question. Redo the archives or leave old pages in the old format? Hmmm. I kind of like the idea of leaving the old the way it is so I can always refer to it and people can see what i have done. But then again people can easily think they went to a different site. Different looks for different pages is just poor usability and design. We'll see. If I can stop playing games long enough I would like to launch a new look in 2007. Yikes... I haven't even started yet. I better get busy.

Conclusion

That's it for this month. A lot of gaming... because I have a laptop worth gaming on. n fact, I almost never use my desktop anymore. Well... that's just waiting until I get the final version of Windows Vista and I will wipe it and start is fresh.

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