Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV (Day 1)

Report from Day 1:

* Ended the night with a total play time of six hours and twenty-three minutes. I’m not screwin' around here, people.

* Appreciated improvements: chase cam, cover system and improved targeting, the cell phone, the ability to retry failed missions instantly, and drive-by shooting controls that are finally intuitive and easy to perform.
* Warm coffee – nice touch. Rockstar couldn’t have mocked and celebrated the Hot Coffee controversy better.

* Let me tell you: six stars is not something you want.

* Digging the story – a bit more serious than previous installments without sacrificing Rockstar’s irreverent satire. It still suffers from the main failing that’s plagued the series since GTA III: the protagonist’s sudden changes in character and unmotivated desire to commit extreme, foolish levels of violence. Like other characters in the franchise, Niko goes a little too quickly from “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this…” to “let’s kill some motherfuckers.” Niko’s fall from grace is more believable than C.J.’s or Vince Vance’s, because he doesn’t have too far to fall, but his sudden decision to execute Vlad and then blindly follow Faustin’s orders afterwards didn’t seem right to me.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

God of War: Chains of Olympus (Part III);review

so – and I’m being generous here – adding my repeated deaths during the final boss fight and some of the harder battles in the game, I’d say it took six hours to complete. Unless they ran out of disc space on the UMD, there’s no excuse for releasing a game this short. While the game is comprised of entirely new content, almost all of it is a riff on the pre-existing puzzles, weapons, and monsters found in the previous games, though – and I can’t explain why – the Gauntlet of Zeus is somehow entirely more rockin’ than its exact counter-part, the Blades of Artemis.

I loved every minute of it, but I’m certainly glad Chains of Olympus was only a rental, because I can’t honestly recommend it with its current $39.99 price tag. But rent it and enjoy the hell out of it. It is a God of War game, after all.

Monday, April 28, 2008

War Games: The Dead Code

Oh, sweet, sweet, merciless Jesus, why!? Why!?

This trailer, this movie, is raping my soul. Inside my very being, there is currently a spirtual re-enactment of Deliverance, with my innocent, carefree childhood memories in the Ned Beatty role and War Games: The Dead Code in the part of the crazy toothless inbred rapist.

And you goddamn well better believe there's squealing.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

God of War: Chains of Olympus (Part II)

that the original God of War used the right analog stick solely for Kratos’s dodge roll, so it’s not particularly missed. Holding both shoulder buttons and using the lone analog stick to dodge is cumbersome, but it’s only an annoyance until you get used to it, which took me about an hour. The only other change due to missing buttons is using spells, now carried out by holding down R and pressing a corresponding face button, and it’s actually an improvement over the original. Switching between spells is now quicker and easier, making fights a little less difficult and making Kratos – under my control, at least – look more like a badass, since he is no longer pausing to make sure he didn’t leave that lighting bolt spell in his other man skirt.

In fact, Chains of Olympus is a bit easier than the first God of War, a damn hard game even on normal difficulty. That’s not all together a bad thing, but a greater challenge would have obscured Olympus’s one large fault: like too many games of late, it’s incredibly short. My last save, right before the final boss fight, clocked in just shy of five hours…

Saturday, April 26, 2008

God of War: Chains of Olympus (Part I)

After owning a PSP for three years, I have no doubt that the system can emulate the look and scale of a Playstation 2 game, but God of War: Chains of Olympus is the first action game on the PSP that controls almost as well as the handheld’s big brother.

The problem with the original PSP design isn’t the missing set of shoulder buttons and second analog stick from the Dual Shock, or the unresponsive D-Pad, or the overly sensitive and often awkward analog nub, it’s that game designers keep designing games that need those missing controls and/or fail to properly compensate for the awkwardness of the D-Pad and analog nub.

Developer Ready at Dawn Studios seems to know better than anyone else exactly what the PSP can and can not do. Controlling Kratos with the analog nub simply feels right, the first time I’ve had this feeling on the PSP (the GTA: Stories games came close: the cars handled fine – but on foot, moving the nub a little to left or right practically made the main character run around in a circle).

It helps

Friday, April 25, 2008

Call of Duty 4 and the Whole Map Pack Thingy (Part II)

...when Valve has practically promised to support Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2 for free – polishing existing content and irregularly adding new content – until the company goes out of business and/or the world ends. True, that’s on the PC, so that’s a bit apples and oranges – but even Counter-Strike has had nowhere near the sales of Call of Duty 4, yet Valve continues to support it years after its release, free of charge. Maybe that’s why Badlands for TF2 hasn’t shown up on the 360: Microsoft wants to charge for it and Valve does not.

To wrap this bitchy rant up, here’s what I would have given Microsoft/Activision/Infinity Ward ten bucks for:

Four new maps and some combination of the features listed below…

* Raising the level cap to 60, with new weapons and/or skills for these new levels.

* New mulitplayer modes.

* “Deleted scenes” from the ridiculously short single-player campaign. I know, I know: every second of the game was amazing, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that it’s half the length of its predecessors.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Call of Duty 4 and the Whole Map Pack Thingy (Part I)

Every night, after finishing my evening multiplayer session (you can usually find me on Live around 9:00 – 11:00 P.M.), I almost give into temptation and use my dwindling Microsoft points from Christmas to buy the Call of Duty 4 Variety Map Pack. Every night so far, I have resisted. Why? Because I refuse to spend ten bucks for just four maps.

Call me a cheap and ungrateful if you must, but I’m on a budget and I refuse to support this level of avarice from game developers. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this: I waited until all the map packs for Halo 3 and Gears of War became free downloads, and the only map pack I have purchased was the Red Pack Edition for Rainbow Six: Vegas, which offered five maps and two new multiplayer modes, well worth ten bucks.

It doesn’t help that the Game of the Year Edition includes these maps for $59.99, the same price most of us threw down back in November for CoD4. And with the game selling nine million copies, releasing this map pack for free as a thank you to the millions of players playing this game nightly would have been a particularly cool gesture from Infinity Ward, especially

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Team Fortress 2 Pictures

I overslept this morning and need to go make sure my 360 didn't just go kablooey (probably just Live acting up after the update, but that shit needs to be locked down before GTA IV comes out). So, in the interest of keeping new content on the page every day, here's a collection of the best Team Fortress 2 pictures I've taken so far:

And the Hungarian judge gives it a 9.5!

With his last breath, he clings to the sentry gun he loved.

The few. The proud. The on fire.

Ironically, the Spy looks for his lighter.

Death Comes in Aluminum

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Team Fortress 2 (Getting the 360 Controller to Work on the PC and New Medic Achievements and Weapons)

my average score has more than doubled, and I’ve frequently placed in the top three, something I rarely achieve on the PC.
It’s official: I am now better with a controller than I am with a mouse & keyboard. Whether that means I’m just really rockin’ with a 360 controller or just really suck with a mouse & keyboard, I don’t know. It is not my place to judge. History will have to decide.
If you peruse the Steam forums like I do, then you might be surprised by the overwhelming hostility towards the new medic achievements and weapons – which haven’t even been released yet.
I’m going to hold off on publishing most of my opinions until the update is released, but let's just say I think Valve knows what it’s doing. The medic is the most underused class in the game. There tends to be a surplus of engineers and shortage of medics on the average team – and one medic can turn defeat into victory. And if this gets people playing them more, then all the better.
I’m just worried about the first few weeks after its release, when the achievement whores will no doubt spam servers with unneeded medics.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Team Fortress 2 (Meet the Scout and Getting the 360 Controller to Work on the PC)

Funnier than Meet the Heavy, but not as funny as the other three already out.

I imagine the Scout was the hardest short to make, because he has the least comedic potential of the nine classes, but Valve made up for this fact with some incredible animation and a lot of attitude. The Scout’s opening charge on Well’s center point actually had me on the edge of my seat.

Can’t wait for the Spy’s short.

I’ve been trying to get a 360 controller to work on the PC version of TF2 for awhile now, but as much as I messed around in the keyboard and mouse tabs, which both contain joystick settings (why it doesn’t have its own tab is beyond me), I couldn’t get it to work.

Being the neo-luddite I am, I somehow forgot you could simply type “getting 360 controller to work on PC Team Fortress 2” into Google. Don’t ask, but I don’t have cable, refuse to own a cell phone, and am somehow oblivious to the fact that search engines exist. All you have to do is type in that command once, fiddle with the horizontal and vertical sensitivities, and you’re good to go.

After only a few rounds

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Trackmania Nations Forever

My first thought upon seeing Trackmania Nations Forever being offered for free – with its big brother, Trackmania United Forever, selling for 40 bucks – was that it was just a fancy demo with an hour or two of gameplay. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

After two or three hours, I’ve only completed a third of the tracks and I haven’t even tried the multiplayer or track editor yet – but already I love this game and what it stands for. To keep this under 200 words, here’s why:

* Simple, intuitive gameplay that’s much deeper than it first appears.

* Robust networking and ranking features, better than any PC game I’ve played. Currently, I’m ranked 32,030th in the world, 1,397th in the U.S., and 87th in Texas. And my parents said I would never amount to anything…

* The perfect balance between graphic fidelity and low system requirements. It’s running on my computer in 1600 x 1050 without a hitch while still being easy on the eyes (for comparison, I’m running Team Fortress 2 in 1280 x 720 with a judicious combination of high, medium, and low settings).

* A shout-out to Rad Racer: support for old-school red & blue 3D glasses.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Team Fortress 2 – or, Never Has There Been a More Beautiful Tale of Server Names and Man Tears

Yesterday, while looking for a good Team Fortress 2 server running Badlands, I came across the best name for a server that I have ever seen. Composed by a man or woman with immense talent and judicious skill whose name I may never know and comprised of four simple words, it aptly sums up the multiplayer FPS experience so simply – so beautifully – that I am both moved and humbled by it.

This is its name:

“Run Until Shit Happens.”

Goddamn, that is beautiful. Right now, I am wiping a single man tear* off my well-chiseled cheekbone.

* A man tear is a single teardrop that runs down a man’s otherwise stoic face after a momentous emotional experience, usually a terrible tragedy. It can be found in dozens of movies, and is used over fifty times in Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings alone. It proves that the man is sensitive enough – brave enough, even – to cry a lone tear, while communicating, without any doubt, to anyone looking that he is not a pussy.


Maybe it’s coming off from playing RB6: Vegas 2, G.R.A.W., and Splinter Cell: Double Agent, which all demand slow, methodical tactics and trial-and-error gameplay, that made Darkwatch, a western/horror hybrid shooter with simple, good old-fashioned run-n’-gun (and occasionally bludgeon) FPS action, so enjoyable and such a welcome relief from Tom Clancy overkill.

The game shouldn’t work as well as it does, because there isn’t actually that much to it, but it does almost everything right and nothing completely wrong. The fusion of spaghetti western, gothic horror, and steampunk works beautifully, and makes up for its lousy story. The controls and weapons are extremely solid – except the super jump, which feels slightly off – and shooting, bludgeoning, and blowing shit up in this game never gets old. And the biggest surprise is the quality of the voice acting, especially noteworthy in a game published by Capcom. Don’t ask me why, but Cassidy Sharp sounds exactly how a spectral presence of an undead fightin’ cowgirl should.

It’s second only to Crimson Skies, in my opinion, for the most original, compelling game world that hasn’t – and probably won’t – receive the sequel it deserves. Like the first Halo and Gears of War, Darkwatch needs another chance to get everything right.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Civilization 4 – or, Confucianism for Fun and Profit!

Broke down and finally bought Civilization 4. I’ve avoided this game for years: for fear that my addiction to it would be the ruin of me, turning my life into an after school special of addiction, lies, and heartbreak (“For One More Turn: The Jeremy Wickett Story”).

Whether I lose the battle with this addiction or not, it will have been worth it, for yesterday, I combined three words in an order that has, quite probably, never been done before. I have, ladies and gentleman, blazed a new literary trail for other men and women to follow.

Let me explain.

Usually, when I play Civ, I build peaceful civilizations, rich in culture and technological advances, though I have no compunction with expanding my borders and acquiring foreign cities by culture bombing the hell out of ‘em. After building a few of these peaceful civilizations, I decided to play as the Romans and dominate the globe through a cunning, ruthless mixture of military might, cultural advances, and religious indoctrination. It was while spreading my state religion to a foreign capital that I shouted this, three words that have quite probably never, ever been put in this order:

“Suck Confucianism, bitches!”

God bless you, Sid Meier.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rambo: First Blood Part II (The Rant - Part II)

if Rambo was one of three names that the Pentagon dug out of a computer (load “crazy-ass mother search”,8,1), how screwed up were the other two guys the military didn’t go with? I mean, if they went with Rambo, the nutter who shot up half a small town in the Pacific Northwest (but didn’t kill anyone…intentionally – which, you know, kinda makes it OK), that means they went with what they felt was the best choice. Right?   No matter how ridiculous it was, an explanation as to why they choose Rambo would’ve been nice, even if it was something like this:


Trautman and Rambo stare at each other through a chain-link fence.
TRAUTMAN: A covert operation is being geared up in the Far East. Three names were dug up out of a computer, three men strong enough, brave enough, and crazy enough to complete a mission of this kind. Philip Montebleu, Reginald Miller, and you… (Beat.) We choose you, Rambo.

RAMBO: Why me? Why not Montebleu or Miller?

TRAUTMAN: Well, Philip Montebleu is now Philippa Montebleu. He had a sex change operation, joined the circus. His stage name is Philippa – The Warrior Queen.

RAMBO: And Miller?

TRAUTMAN (hesitant): Runs the sporting goods department at his local Wal-Mart. They…uh…wouldn’t let him have the week off.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rambo: First Blood Part II (The Rant - Part I)

God, Rambo: First Blood Part II…
Dumb title, dumb movie.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like me some dumb action movie. Sometimes, you just need some Van Dammage (doesn’t that sound like a great title for a self-help book?). And I’ve often defended this genre to disbelievers – by disbelievers, I mean my wife – but I could hardly stomach Rambo 2.
First off, the story is unbelievably, ridiculously stupid. It’s astounding that James Cameron worked on this script. Hell, it’s so bad, I can barely believe that Stallone wrote it. Let’s start at the beginning…
Rambo, the man who incapacitated ten police officers in the middle of a forest in, like, five minutes with just a survival knife and a few crude traps, is serving his time in a prison work camp – a rock quarry in the middle of nowhere with pickaxes and giant hammers, heavy machinery, and explosives for blasting. Is this where you would stick a cold-blooded, mentally unstable killing machine that could turn a toothpick into a lethal weapon? Rambo could MacGyver the living shit out of that place, blowing it up into very tiny bits that would look awesome in slo-mo.
Why? Because he’s motherfucking Rambo, John J.
And another thing...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

First Blood (The Movie - Part II)

and why is the local constabulary of Hope (doh!) made up of some of the most vile, reprehensible dickwads ever committed to film? Seriously, these guys are assholes with extra asshole sauce – there were Nazis in Schindler’s List that were more sympathetic than these jerks. It seems like Stallone wrote them this way so the audience would want Rambo to put the hurt on them – and it cheapens much of the drama of this film.

How the hell does Rambo fail to kill Brian Dennehy while spraying the entire roof of the police station with machine gun fire? It’s not like he’s an easy target to miss. I’m supposed to believe that all those bullets would miss Dennehy except one, which, from a certain point of view, conveniently hits him in the leg? I’m also pretty sure that Dennehy would have bled out long before Rambo was done monologueing.

So, if Rambo doesn’t want to kill anymore, how does he end up single-handily eradicating entire fucking countries off the map over the next three movies, dispensing destruction and woe like one of the Four Italian Stallions of the Apocalypse?

And why the hell do I think this movie rocks?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

First Blood (The Movie - Part I)

This may be hard to believe, but I haven’t seen either First Blood or Rambo III, but I know I saw the second Rambo once as a kid, though all I remember are those explosive-tipped arrows – the dumbest, most kick-ass weapon ever used in a movie. I checked out The Rambo Trilogy DVD set from work this week – and after watching First Blood last night, I’m a little confused about a few things.

Sylvester Stallone re-wrote the script to make John Rambo more sympathetic, so instead of killing his redneck pursuers, as Rambo does in David Morrell’s original novel, he only seriously wounds and maims them, leaving thoughtful apology letters to each victim next to his improvised traps, written in his distinctive voice: “Hey, like, sorry that my rudimentary spike trap stabbed you in your groin. But, hey, I had to take it over the top…you know, right?”  

For the first half of the movie, I can get behind this – in fact, I rather like the idea – but if he’s that keen on not hurting people, why does he return to Brian Dennehey’s town, Hope (doh!), after everyone believes he’s dead with a freakiin' M60 machine gun!? Jesus, talk about your mixed signals...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Civilization 3 – or, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is Eating His Breakfast Cereal out of Some Dead Limey's Skull

I decided, against better judgment, to re-install Civilization 3 on my computer.

I love every turn of this game, even though it frustrates the hell out of me, because nothing pisses off every other country in the world more than you going out of your way not to piss everyone off, which is exactly what happened in today's session.

Playing as the English, I decided to play as a peaceful isolationist, enjoying the beautiful countryside and bountiful resources of my native England. This cheesed off the rest of the world something awful for reasons beyond me, and for refusing to be bullied by the rest of the world, I was promptly invaded by every country, led primarily by the Persians and Indians.

And while a good portion of me can appreciate the beautiful irony and karmic justice that is Gandhi kicking some pasty white British ass, it's less enjoyable when it's your pasty white British ass he's kicking.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Justice League: The New Frontier

I’m a Marvel Comics guy all the way, but there’s no denying that DC has got them beat hands down when it comes to translating their characters to animation. I’ve watched two of Marvel’s shittastic straight-to-DVD films –medicore animation, insultingly lazy storytelling – and by the end of each, I wanted to club my eyes into bloody pasty goo with my DVD remote.

Popping Justice League: The New Frontier, I had no fear of ending the night with severe, self-inflicted ocular trauma. It’s the best thing I’ve seen from Bruce Timm and the talent behind Batman: The Animated Series since that classic show. And while it suffers from the same problems that have plagued every straight-to-DVD release from Marvel and DC – the story is rushed and often lacks focus – it’s easily the best of that bunch.

I'd give it a shot, even if you are a DC hater.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Addendum to the Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 Rant

I postponed finishing yesterday’s rant for two days. Frankly, I'm not happy with how it turned out: it comes across as naive and bitchy, but I decided to ride it out to the bitter, gruesome end.

By Spring of 2009, Dawn of War 2's projected release date, I imagine I will have at least made one or two upgrades to my computer – most likely additional RAM and/or a new video card. But, as with Company of Heroes, I'm not sure that’ll be enough to get a solid 30 FPS out of Dawn of War 2.

One of the reasons why the consoles are kicking the PC's ass is that steady framerates are the developer's responsibility, not the consumers'. I'm not sure how to get PC developers in the same mindset, but catering to gamers with a two or three year-old rig, which is right about how old the XBOX 360 is, would get people back in front of their keyboards.

Imagine how well Crysis would have sold if the lead game designer looked at an early build and said, "All right...looks great, but how does it run on a computer with a Geforce 7 card and a gig of ram?"

Monday, April 7, 2008

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 (Official Announcement - Part III)

and companies like Blizzard and Valve have had their continued success because they are aware that gamers can’t buy new hardware every few months to accommodate the latest technical advances. If World of Warcraft required a video card with pixel shader 74.1 and a dual core processor, it wouldn’t have three out of ten slots on this chart – and no one would accuse them of making gameplay sacrifices because of it.

(To stay off buying Sins of Solar Empire for another day or two, I downloaded the demo and it ran in the highest resolution that my monitor supports, 1680 x 1050, with all the settings on high. True, not the most technically advanced game out there – but that shit’s got scale, baby.)

True, comparing an RTS to a MMORPG is a bit apples and oranges, but when Starcraft 2 finally comes out, I imagine it will run just as well on older systems as Warcraft 3 and WoW did when they came out – and without looking like complete ass, either. I’m certainly buying Starcraft 2 and Dawn of War 2 when they're released – I never tire of Space Marines – but I’m not shelling out several hundred dollars to get either to run well, even if their predecessors are two of my favorite games.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sins of a Solar Empire (A Plea for Help)

I need help.
I'm only a few clicks away from buying Sins of a Solar Empire for thirty bucks off of Amazon. I have a highly addictive personality when it comes to strategy games and I need someone to talk me out of buying this game.
How addictive? Let's put it this way: I once played hooky in college for an entire week to play Starcraft (I thought about telling one of my stricter professors that I had suffered from a rare case of South American Zerg flu, but wisely thought against it at the last moment).
I am in a good place right now and I don't need fall off the wagon again. I'd like to keep my job and my wife - and I don't think that's possible with Sins installed on my computer.
Well, I'm sure I could keep one of the two with it installed. That's pretty good, right?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Hot Fuzz

I watched Hot Fuzz for the second and third time this week, and I was surprised by how well it stood up on subsequent viewings. In fact, I like it better than Shaun of the Dead, and that’s coming from a guy who loves his zombies.

It’s a movie that demands multiple viewings, and I enjoyed it more the second time. I wonder how well the film will hold up over time, since the Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay style will date itself pretty quickly, but, for me, this movie will probably go on a very short list of movies – along with Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, The Naked Gun!, Ghostbusters, and The Princess Bride – that can make me laugh every time I see it, no matter how many times I pop into the DVD player.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 (Official Announcement - Part II)

...but one of my favorite attributes of the average PC strategy game is its modest system requirements. As a gamer on a budget, it’s been a constant struggle over the years to get a solid 30 FPS out of the latest shooters – from Quake 1 to Crysis – without having to make severe compromises in visual quality. But no matter the computer, no matter the game, I have never had a problem running a strategy game until Company of Heroes.

No, don’t get me wrong – I’m not bitching just because my computer can’t run Company of Heroes well. I made several budgetary compromises when buying the parts for my current computer in 2006, and you get what you pay for. But I firmly believe that games like Company of Heroes and Crysis, which gamers have had difficulty running well on hardware that isn’t even a year old, are one of the chief reasons that people – including myself – are turning away from PC gaming.

Let’s face it: as good a game as Starcraft is, part of the reason it’s still incredibly popular today is that it requires the computational power of an abacus and several rubber bands to run flawlessly...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 (Official Announcement - Part I)

In the dark future of the 41st Millennium, there are only sequels.

Just read the announcement for Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2, and it’s left me with an acute mixture of trepidation, anxiety, and excitement. I’m certain Relic will knock this one out of the park, as they always do, hence the excitement, but the fact that the game is using an enhanced version of the Essence Engine, which powered Company of Heroes, gives me pause.

To put it bluntly, Company of Heroes dick-punched my computer and took its lunch money. I built my current computer just months before Heroes’ release, and even on that brand new, modestly powerful computer, I had to scale things way down to get an acceptable framerate. I can’t begin to imagine the new ways that Dawn of War 2’s engine will abuse and taunt my computer’s most sensitive, private areas.

Relic has been the chief proponent of bringing insane amounts of pretty to the Real-Time Strategy genre, with dozens of other developers following their example, but the price of this has been system requirements as steep as the average FPS. I can’t deny the visceral realism of titles like Company of Heroes...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Splinter Cell: Double Agent (The Original XBOX version - Initial Thoughts)

Splinter Cell: Double Agent is, to my knowledge, the only game released on two generations of hardware where the alternate version for the previous generation is actually better than the one for the current generation. I’m only about halfway through, but, so far, Double Agent for the original XBOX is superior to its big brother in every way, with the graphics being the obvious exception.

The story is improved quite a bit. The JBA seems much more suspicious of Sam Fisher, and in the missions I’ve played, the JBA work as a team, with Sam being one part of a larger plan. The fact that the JBA sent Sam, their newest member who joined the group through a bizarre set of circumstances, alone in the field to complete their most important objectives in the 360 version never made sense.

A single trust meter makes more sense. In the 360 version, there were two different trust meters, one for the JBA and one for Third Echelon, and it took very little effort to keep both meters full. The Xbox version has one trust meter, and it’s a constant balancing act to keep both factions’ trust, because everything goes poopie if the meter steers too far in one direction.