Gamerscoreblog Road Tour Wrap-Up

by: Dan -
More On: Xbox 360
Chuck and I went to the Gamerscoreblog Road Tour held at the House of Blues hotel in Chicago on Sunday night and had a blast. The invite-only event was set up by the GSB crew to get out and meet members of the community that they normally wouldn't get a chance to interact with. We were fortunate to have met John, Chris and Tony at CES in January, but we were excited to get our hands on some pre-released games and chat with the GSB crew in a smaller setting. Of the community members that were able to attend, I don't think anyone went home disappointed.

After catching an early dinner at the House of Blues restaurant, we headed up to the suite to the event. The highlight of the evening was centered around the upcoming XBLA title Track & Field. It was quite hilarious to see the entire group captivated by an old-school coin-op that was first released in 1983. Especially considering it was being played on a $399 machine and displayed on a $2,500 plasma. After the jump are my impressions of the games and soon to be included pictures.
Track & Field - This was by far the hit of the evening. At one point, we were playing four-player competition, with yours truly taking the crown. The game is built identical to the original coin-op machine, except you have the choice of switching between the original sprite graphics, or a more polished version of them (they look fabulous in the polished version, which does not compromise the look and feel of the game.) We were actually unlocking achievements left and right while we played, including the not-so-secret Easter Egg when playing the Javelin toss. The controls were straight forward, with the A button controlling the jumps, throws and degree of angle, and the B button used for running and speed. However, the best control was the left analog stick, which could be moved left to right rapidly to simulate the two-button running styles perfected by many on the original coin-op. Whether you used a coin or a comb on those buttons, the analog stick will be easier to use. Like Chuck, my thoughts are that there will be some controllers being replaced by the end of the Road Tour.

Mad Tracks - This XBLA title was probably the surprise hit of the evening for me. When I first saw the screens and release, I figured it would be just another racer. But it turned out to be quite the party game, with four-player quad-screen action at one point. Essentially, you have a toy car on a racetrack that has a wind up string that makes it go. You use the right trigger to move the car, but if you hold it in too long, the string becomes unwound and you are a sitting duck. For what you ask? How about rockets and oil slicks for starters. As you zip around the track to complete the race you can pick up surprise packages that hold the the rocket launchers, oil slick barrels and even a jet booster pack. A fun game with decent graphics, it kept grabbed our attention and had the competitive juices flowing. Another "must have" in my opinion.

Undertow - The first thing you notice about this quirky XBLA Undersea adventure is that the graphics on it are beautiful. Powered by the Unreal 3 engine, this is one of the smallest (if not the smallest) games at 48MB that uses that engine. After you get past how great the game looks, you will notice that you need to read the directions to figure out what the heck you have to do to control your scuba guy and win the game. It appears to be some sort of territorial style game that utilizes the left analog stick for control and the right analog stick to shoot. You can also use a bumper to drop depth charges. Personally, I just went all Geometry Wars on the thing and was shooting in all directions while swimming. Needles to say, I died quite a bit. It looks like a definite "buy" if you like unique games on XBLA that are a challenge.

Carcassonne - Carcassonne is another XBLA game that we played for a while that is derived from the recent board game of the same name. Most of us had no experience with it, so we were alternately laying tiles with absolutely no clue what we were trying to accomplish. The graphics were decent for a XBLA title, and it seemed to follow the board game rules pretty well (after researching it back at home). Fans of the game will love

Project SylpheedThis first-person space shooter was being hogged most of the night by a certain someone.  When I finally got my shot at it, I found it to be graphically beautiful, but extremely challenging.  Like several of the games we played, knowing how and what are half the battle to not look silly.  Needless to say, I enjoyed playing the game and working to customize my ship, but I will need to sit down and give it some quality time.  I think this has the potential to become one of those sleeper hits that flies under the radar.  Unfortunate for it, Two Worlds and Mass Effect are slated to hit the following week (as of right now), so it may stay well below the radar.
Tenchu Z - I was able to pop in this Ninja stealth game for a while and came away quite impressed.  The controls took a bit of getting used to, but the graphics were pretty good.  After customizing my Ninja, I headed out to cause some trouble.  What really made the game a fun play was the battle and kill scenes, especially the stealth attacks.  There was one instance where I gutted a guy from behind with my sword, and he never saw it coming.  I popped out from around a corner, grabbed him around the neck and put it through his back and out his chest.  When I pulled it out, it was a nice gory mess.  The other kill that was sweet was doing a bare-handed sneak attack.  I initially was going to take another Ninja out, but I mistakenly hit the button to put them in a choke hold and knocked him out.  I was mad, so I used the sneak attack again to grab the knocked out Ninja off the floor and break his neck.  Awesome!  In addition to the customization, you earn gold to unlock better weapons and skills to increase your performance.  All in all, it was a great play and a definite must have for those that enjoy stealth style games.
Forza Motorsports 2I hadn't downloaded the demo, so I was going into the game with out any pre-conceived notions.  I think the best way to say it is if you enjoyed Project Gotham Racing 3 (Sony sure does), you will really like this game.  The control scheme seemed to follow PGR3 almost exactly, but there were a couple of major differences in the game itself.  The first was that your cars take and show actual damage, but you can turn off whether it impacts the vehicles performance.  So you could be driving a complete broken-down wreck when you cross the finish line, but still running at full speed.  The second thing is that the physics and the environment react better than in PGR3.  The cars handle like vehicles should as you take turns, bounce off tire barriers, walls and each other (well you should NEVER be bouncing your actual car off that stuff, but if you did....).  At one point we were racing 1969 'Dukes of Hazzard' style Dodge Chargers in split screen and just beat the hell out of them.  Good times....Good times....IMO, this is a must have for all racing game enthusiasts and the casual gamer that likes great graphics and high replay value.  The only thing missing from the car list was the Chrysler Town and Country mini van our Taxi driver was rocketing around the Chicago landscape.
Shadowrun (Xbox 360 and Vista) - I played some Shadowrun on the Xbox 360 and still struggled with this game.  Even though I participated in the beta, I really haven't spent enough time with the game yet to fully understand what works best for characters, weapons and such.  Chuck and I played a little cross platform, with me on the Xbox 360 and he on the Vista version.  After getting the game set up with full teams using bots to fill, we went at it.  I don't know if we actually encountered each other, but his team pretty much destroyed me.  Graphically, the game looks better than the Beta and the control response was pretty good.  Once you get the controls down and know what works best with each character class, this game should be a blast.  I think this could be a sleeper hit for multiplayer, but one on one with a room full of bots probably wont be quite as much fun.
Halo 2 (Vista) - No multi-player, but the actual campaign.  The game looked simply beautiful and the controls were handled by a Xbox 360 controller.  Most have played Halo 2 before, so other than the updated graphics, there isn't much else to say other than getting an achievement on a PC game is music to my ears.
Vampire Rain - I did not get to play this game (I hear it was Chuck's favorite), but graphically it looked impressive.  From what I did see (I could be wrong, as it was just for a minute), they were but walking around doing nothing.  I would like to hear some feedback from those that do end up with the game to see how it ramps up as you progress into it.
I want to also thank the Gamerscoreblog crew (John, Tony and Chris) for taking the time invite us to this event and letting us pepper you with questions.  I think there may have been some great ideas born out of this event and wish them luck at their next stops.

Image info:
Pic #1: A close-up of the XBLA blade from the Xbox 360's used on the Road Tour
Pic #2: From L-R: Trapper (360Voice), Chris and Luther (TheEverydayGamer) talking with Tenchu Z in the background on the Sharp 1080p DLP.
Pic #3: Chuck (L) and Dan (R) laughing at how pathtic Dan is at Project Sylpheed
Pic #4: Chris (visor) and Tony (gray sweatshirt) playing Mad Tracks.  Brad (Wiseguy) from TeamXbox chilling in the background.
Pic #5: John Porcaro and Chuck shooting the breeze while Chuck is once again playing Project Sylpheed.
Pic #6: A screen image of Project Sylpheed
Pic #7: Close-up of the Chatpad prototype.
Pic #8: Tony (L) and someone playing Mad Tracks.
Pic# 9: Image of the Undertow main screen.
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