Flushing the Backlog: another one down

My Pile of Shame has been reduced by one today, sort of. I cleared Tomb Raider Anniversary off the stack… though unfortunately not because I finished it. I made it about halfway through the game, having just cleared the fire room in Greece that was my bête noir back in the day, when the game decided to corrupt my save files and dump all my progress. Awesome! I don’t know if this is a sign of an incipient Red Ring of Death or simply crappy programming by whomever Crystal Dynamics tapped to port the game to Xbox 360 — given the legendary shoddiness of Microsoft’s system and the chugging framerate and mushy controls in this version of Anniversary, my guess is “equal measures columns A and B.”

Rather than shout at the heavens and tempt them to strike me down, I’ve decided to move along a new venture for the time being. That venture being Assassin’s Creed, the single most controversial game of 2007, apparently. Is it truly a game so crappy that it deserves to have the word “ass” in its title twice? Or do I work with a bunch of addlepated morons who can’t appreciate unbridled genius, meaning Ubi’s PR team was totally right to take their toys and go home after we dared give the game less than a perfect score? Seeing for myself, I think, will present an interesting experience. I go forth with eyes unclouded by hate, etc. etc.

Of course, I’m bracing myself for the arrival of the dreaded RROD. Anyone know if there’s a way to siphon all your 360 save files to some sort of backup medium? I’d like to keep my 40-hour everything-totally-done Mass Effect Paragon clear data for use in the sequel, if at all possible. Maybe I should hold off on Creed until I get this sorted out.

Tomb Raider Anniversary
Crystal Dynamics / Eidos | Xbox 360 | Action | 2007

In a way I’m slightly relieved that I had to put ‘er down like Ol’ Yeller, because my feelings about this game teeter wildly between love and hate. What really kept me going was revisiting all of the fantastic environments of the original game, presented in a fairly gorgeous fashion. Anniversary made the world seem a lot less claustrophobic by brightening things up and opening up the ceilings to clear sky from time to time, but at the same time was very faithful to the original game. And it’s surprising just how well I remember Tomb Raider’s environments nearly 11 years after since I last touched the game — maybe because it was the first 3D world I was given to explore in its entirety. (Yeah, I played Mario 64 first, but I always felt like Tomb Raider had more immersive and thoughtful level design. Blasphemy?)

Sadly, as much as I appreciate the modern recreation of a severely dated classic, as much as I respect the developers trying to make the original levels work with Legend‘s control scheme and environmental gimmicks… it doesn’t always work. I’ve found myself dying far often in Anniversary than I did in the original version of the game. Primitive as it was, the early Tomb Raiders were built on a grid, and that worked in the player’s favor for tricky jumps — you didn’t have to worry about veering off course or missing your mark. Everything was mechanically precise. Maybe not the most realistic approach, but effective for a video game. By giving you analog control in a world original designed to be digital, Anniversary introduces a potential for imperfection that didn’t exist in the original game — nor in Legend, for that matter, since Legend was designed from the ground up to work with a contemporary control scheme. This has the net effect of making Anniversary feel at once more fluid than the game it’s based on, yet clumsier at the same time.

Still, it’s all worth it to be able to see those brilliant levels one last time. The wide-open colosseum, the Indiana Jones-style Tomb of Qualopec, and most of all the dizzying, daunting St. Francis’ Folly. And I suppose I’ll go back and take another shot at the game, someday… I totally missed out on Egypt, and that is simply not acceptable.

14 thoughts on “Flushing the Backlog: another one down

  1. I’m looking forward to your thought on Assassins Creed. You’re the reviewer that has the most similar taste to my own. So it’ll be interesting to see what you think.

  2. I’m ashamed to say that I did not, until moments ago, realize that there existed not one but *two* asses in assassins creed. and here I thought it was all just optimized compression . . .

    seriously though, it’s obvious the devs put a lot of work into making it, so I hope you turn out to be among the people who find enjoyment in it.

  3. When my 360 RROD’d, they didn’t want my hard drive; I just kept it and snapped it onto the new box when it arrived. So you shouldn’t lose anything if the console goes kaput, I think.

  4. I am one of the minority in that I’m really enjoying Assassin’s Creed. It’s one of those games that does lots of cool things without you doing much, and therefore makes you feel awesome.

    Re: HDD/RRoD stuff, Sarcas got it right. If, heaven forbid, your 360 does bite the big one, they don’t want your hard drive, they simply want your console. So pop that sucker off.

  5. Assassin’s Creed is actually quite enjoyable, if not repetitive after a few hours. But still, it manages to be pretty fun and an extension of sorts if you liked the fluidity of combat and animations of Zboz’s Sands of Time.

    Also, http://www.backloggery.com/ is a fine site to bring in that pile of shame, but it’s pretty barebones and ugly to boot. I launched mine up just a few moments ago and had to stare at my pile of shame and shelves for like an hour with my laptop to jog them all down. Still well worth the troubles!

  6. Again, to pack up Rei and Sarcas, they don’t ask for your HDz when you send away your 360. I think they DID at one point in time, but I can say with 100% confidence that they don’t anymore. My friend’s 360 died about two months ago. I started thinking the same thing as you, only to find that my worry was entirely unfounded.

    As for Assassin’s Creed, I don’t think you’ll be blown away by it. It’s a fun game, to be sure. Repetitive and semi-easy (especially once you learn how to counterattack properly), but fun all the same. Definitely worth trying out.

  7. Whatever you do, do not power through Assassin’s Creed. It can get real repetitive really fast. I spaced it out so that I would only play AC every two days, and I guess it worked, because I finished the game with everything but the flags.

  8. Assassin’s Creed have aweome ideas, but just that. Ideas. Though I did enjoyed it (and I might even play it again sometime), I just can’t help to feel that is just the shadow of what could have been.

  9. I would tip more over in column A, actually: I’m having Halo 3 crash on me with startling regularity.

  10. Your unfortunate experience reminds me of N’Gai Croal’s recent article “Which Would You Rather Lose, a $60 Videogame Or a Save File?” (http://www.blog.newsweek.com/blogs/levelup/archive/2007/11/08/expansion-pack-how-much-are-your-save-files-worth-to-you.aspx).

    You should be able to backup your save game data on a memory card. The 512MB version is available for about $50 (http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/B000O62OS6).

    I played the original Tomb Raider and Anniversary on the PC and had the exact opposite experience regarding controls. The grid based system was more often a source of frustration than assistance; I’d always misread an animation and jump too soon/late with disastrous results. I don’t think I ever managed to finish the original. The Anniversary controls, however, really clicked for me. Timing my actions based purely on character position made it easier to control Lara and navigate the world.

    Normally the idea of a remake is a turn off, but I’m really glad Eidos decided to fund Anniversary. I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to see what I missed from the original game.

  11. Assassin’s Creed was judged harshly for reasons that I have difficulty understanding. I really enjoyed the game and on a real HD TV, it was just fucking gorgeous. The tasks you have to perform to gather information do get a bit repetitive, but there was only 1 part of the game that I found truly frustrating (Acre, part 3). While simplistic, I enjoyed the combat because I’d often have the camera spin around me as Al-tair did several special moves automatically in a row. The game is very cinematic.

    The bums aren’t that annoying because you can a) kill them, which is just so awesome if you live in a city like me, b) beat them up to no consequence, I refer you to point a, or c) scare them away by simply unsheathing your sword. I have no idea what was everyone’s problem with that. As for the crazy people, if you can’t figure out how to walk past them, you’re a fucking moron (which obviously many people are).

    I’d suggest not trying to power through the game too fast because the repetitiveness of the tasks will get to you.

  12. Assassin’s Creed is worth playing just for that doppleganger glitch toward the end of the game. Being able to to assassinate yourself is the best glitch ever.

  13. Hey Parish, would you happen to know of anyone higher up to contact as far as broken 360’s go? I got my 4th or 5th RRoD, sent it back, got the same unit back and now the dvd tray keeps getting stuck and I’m pretty sure it’s scratched a couple discs. Contacted support, got the call center in India and hung up frustrated because the guy refused to talk off script.

  14. You could syphon your files and back them up on a computer using Datel’s Xport 360… it comes with a dock to put your HDD on and an adaptor to transfer files from a memory card as well… good luck JP!

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