Games

Video Game Review: Call of Jury Duty

I want to start off by saying I’ve been a HUGE fan of the Call of Duty franchise and have been since day one. I’ve logged countless hours in original, Modern Warfare and Black Ops and had high expectations for this one, even though I knew they’d be taking us off the battlefield and into a municipal building that hadn’t been renovated since 1961.

I really wanted to like this game and went into it hoping that Activision might be able to pull it off. Alas, I found myself profoundly disappointed and ultimately wondering what I expected in the first place. All I can say is buyer beware.

Interface:
The controls are pretty simple because there’s nothing to really control: The left thumbstick controls Look. The keypad controls Yawn and Open Inventory. The direction pad lets you choose your dialogue. If you’re finally called to jury selection your character can stand up and enter the courtroom (right thumbstick).

Gameplay Walkthrough:
When you start the game your character is forced to watch an eight minute video narrated by Diane Sawyer that explains the jury process. There’s no way to skip through it – a huge oversight in my opinion. The first time around it was just a drag but after repeated gameplay you want to pull your hair out. I get it, it’s our duty as citizens.

When the video ends you find yourself seated in a large room filled with people. No explanation of what to expect. You’re free to look around the room and make eye contact. On occasion you will be able to strike up a conversation, but the dialogue choices are very limited:

 

comisserate

No matter what you choose, you get the same response every time: “Yeah” – and then nothing happens.

In your backpack inventory you’ll find a magazine to read and a smartphone that you can use to post Facebook updates telling your friends you’re stuck in jury duty. Just mind the battery level because there’s only one outlet in the whole room and you’ll invariably find it’s been claimed by other players.

outlet-occupied

Jury Selection Process:
This is where the game can really lose you. Long after the game starts – and you never know when – you can be called into the courtroom to be screened by lawyers for jury selection. You’ll be told some vague details about the case and the expected length of the trial. At this point you have have the option of choosing between Civic Duty or Evasion. That choice will affect your dialogue options. Here’s a screenshot of the Evasion Path:

Talking-to-Lawyer

I tried both paths, and every single time I found myself being returned to the Jury Pool, waiting, and then the game ended with me being thanked and told to go home. I have no idea if the game progresses beyond this point. I’m not inclined to try and find out.

All I can say is for $60 I expected a lot more. This does not bode well for next year’s release of Call of Daddy Duty.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Quakers

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The award-winning Rainbow Six franchise returns, with Quakers.
Summary: It’s 2010. When war breaks out in South America, an elite team recruited from the Religious Society of Friends finds themselves headed for a non-violent confrontation with the enemy, in accordance with their conscientious objector status.
Intense Gameplay
You control the Rainbow Six: Quakers team through numerous scenarios like Seek & Leave, Intense Negotiation and Boisterous Gathering.
Linear & Non-Linear Play
Follow the inaction-packed storyline or do your own thing. A vast gameplay environment lets you find adventure tending beets or exchanging pleasantries with strangers.
Modern Arsenal
Command a squad of Quakers equipped with state-of-the-art military weaponry they refuse to use, including the SAW Machine Gun, AR215 Death Hammer and Sticky Grenades.
Multiplayer Discussion
Rainbow Six: Quakers features online multi-player that lets you and the opposing team talk it out in a variety of highly-detailed maps like Village Café, Modern Boardroom and Comfy Mattress.
Realistic Sounds
Dolby Surround Sound will make you feel like you’re off the battlefield and in a mass of shrubs.
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Review: Tom Clancy’s Brunch Force Delta

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It’s 2007. The All-You-Care-To-Eat Buffet at Shoney’s is overrun by a rogue band of rebels from the International House of Terrorists. With two dozen lukewarm sausages, half a tray of scrambled eggs and an unknown number of serving tongs now under their control, America is on its knees. It soon becomes obvious that the only option is to call in the elite commando force that has kept the late-morning/early-afternoon dining crowd safe since the end of the Cold War: Brunch Force Delta.
Such is the storyline that leads us into the latest Tom Clancy adventure, another first-person shooter whose older siblings from Clancy’s Rainbow Six franchise are among the most popular gaming console titles to date.
Gamers familiar with Rainbow Six will already find themselves at home with Brunch Force Delta‘s look, structure and set-up. As Mike Butterworth, you’ll head the team that will face the terrorists head-on, to take brunch out of the hands of thugs and return it to America. The campaign progresses through a series of challenges as you tackle baddies, rescue bacon and stealthily turn off the heating elements under the serving trays.
Graphically the game is astounding. Carved watermelons shatter under gunfire, the Eggs Benedict have just the right amount of Hollandaise, and the concussion from a fragmentation grenade can send thermal coffee pots sailing across the room – leaving you to decide which is regular and which is decaf.
As you progress through the game, the stakes get higher and the gameplay gets even harder. One of the most nerve-wracking missions for me was “In Hot Water” a scenario where you have only three minutes to take out the bad guys and prevent an egg from being over-poached. In “Meltdown” you must run a gauntlet of gunfire to re-stock the juice bar with ice chips, lest the fresh-squeezed OJ be rendered warm.
Brunch Force Delta is not without its faults however. The enemy AI all too often acts irresponsibly: when not dropping grenades on themselves, they’re charging your machine gun emplacements armed only with spatulas. Their only catchphrase, “American, I burn you like toast” gets repetitive and tiresome.
Also, the instruction manual is written in broken English and never does explain why pressing the left thumbstick triggers Whooping Cough.
Overall though, Brunch Force Delta is a must-have game for your console. It offers a unique glimpse into the post-9/11 world of international terrorism and weekend dining. Ubisoft has already announced additional expansion packs that include bigger menus and morbidly obese patrons who blame an overactive thyroid.
Title: Brunch Force Delta
Developer: Ubisoft
Release: Q3 2004

Citrus Orchard Simulator

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Video Game Review: Citrus Orchard Simulator
Right on top of the release of Red Dead Revolver and still riding high on the success of the stellar-selling Grand Theft Auto franchise, Rockstar Games does it again with Citrus Orchard Simulator, a first-person non-shooter that promises to be one of the most talked-about fruit farming sims on the market to date.
In C.O.S., you are Jake Delorean, an ex-convict gone good. Now, armed with a 12 acre plot of land and a government subsidy, you grow lemons – or limes, depending on the path you take. That’s one of many choices you’re offered as the game’s open story line lets you go your own way in the ever-changing world of citrus farming.
As Delorean, you have the option of roaming your farm on foot or by tractor. You’ll also have to choose between letting worker Jorge Martinez pick all the citrus by himself, or assisting him. While letting Jorge pick the lemons himself increases your health, your productivity falls. Help Jorge pick citrus and profits may go up, but you might fall off a ladder. Again, these are some of the many choices that players of Citrus Orchard Simulator will have to make during game-play.
It’s not all wandering the fields looking at citrus either. There are several challenges that might crop up along the way. Delorean faces everything from chilly weather, blight, and Jorge’s H1-B work visa being revoked. In addition, every year you must file a 47-page report or risk losing your subsidy – fill out something incorrectly, and it could spell disaster.
True to Rockstar’s style, C.O.S. has numerous side-diversions to entertain the attention-deficit crowd. One mission sends Delorean to the shed to get a pole. In another, a Fuji apple must be handed to Jorge so he can eat it.
With its amazing graphics and innovative game engine, Citrus Orchard Simulator may be just what the doctor ordered to hold the serious gamer over until the much-anticipated September release of Elevator Operator.
Title: Citrus Orchard Simulator
Developer: Rockstar Games
Platforms: Xbox, PS2
Retail: $49.95

Escape To The Ordinary

There is no discernible reason why the recreation of mundane daily chores would be good entertainment, but for some reason The Sims is one of the most popular video games of all time. In it, you do nothing more than micro-manage the lives of your alter-ego by ordering him to sleep, eat, talk and shower. You organize social gatherings, dinner, and budget your time between work and play. You choose a career where you struggle not only to get promoted, but to be on time for the bus every morning.
In other words, for about $49 you’re buying the chance to be ‘entertained’ by recreating what you’re already doing in real life. The real life where you’re a loser for spending $49 on such a game.
I had understood computer games up until this point. It’s nice to escape for a few hours and become a general or a pirate or pretend that you would try and kill monsters, rather than run from them. I can understand wanting to simulate flying a plane, managing a business or even being a surgeon. But I simply have no idea why The Sims is the hit that it is.
Just like in real life, there seems to be no obvious reason for your existence. The game never really ends. Your raison d’etre seems to be little more than the acquisition of better furniture and bigger salaries. Your lifestyle is shallow and self-centered. You call on friends only if you have to, because social interaction is one of many meters you must maintain above a certain level. In that respect, it’s like Los Angeles.
If you don’t need to up your social meter, you forget your Sim friends and concentrate on the other meters: food, bladder, entertainment and hygiene are a few. Order your Sim to run to the bathroom, fix dinner, improve his charisma by talking to a mirror, watch TV and pay bills. Finally, you send him off to bed so he gets a good night’s sleep before catching the bus to work. If you’re forced to get up early to address other issues, you piss and moan and curse. They have captured the very essence of life.
As my real-life wife mocked me relentlessly, I created my Sim family. Having no imagination, I chose to recreate myself and my wife. I created a Sim version of me, a guy who had the same safe taste in clothing: blue jeans and a black shirt. My Sim-wife, like my real one, had long blonde hair. My real wife would never wear a Black Watch plaid mini-skirt and halter top, but this is a game and I am allowed a few liberties.
We moved in to a modest one-bedroom house and I immediately set about re-decorating with the 20,000 simulated dollars I had been given. Better furniture and appliances have more rewarding effects on your overall happiness and productivity, just as in real life. I shelled out good money for a quality bed (to make the most out of our sleep-time) and a decent stove.
We sought jobs. I chose the ‘Swindler’ career track and became a car salesman. My Sim-wife signed up as a Rock & Roll groupie. Unlike real life, I had no qualms with her associating with rock stars and coming home at 10am.
In short order we were both promoted. This meant extra cash, and I invested in a nice TV, desktop computer and a bookshelf. I devoted time and energy to making the Sim-wife content; talking with her and hugging her so as to get the relationship meter up into safe territory. Ironically, I worked hard to make my Sim-wife happy while at the same time making my real one question her judgment in marrying me.
It wasn’t long before we ran into simulated trouble. My Sim-wife failed to get up for work in time; three days in a row. She was fired. As the sole breadwinner, I continued to work my way up the ladder during the day while she milled about the house doing next to nothing. She’d eat, watch TV and play computer games. She left her plates all over the house and I was forced to hire a Sim-maid to come clean up after her every day. I was dog-tired, returning home from work daily with all my meters in the danger zone. No amount of task-juggling was helping to get my meters back in order. There simply weren’t enough hours in the simulated day. I was hungry, sleepy, lonely, bored, uncomfortable, and I had to go to the bathroom.
As a result of my low-meter readings, my mood was consistently on the verge of unhappiness. Having a bad mood is bad for the career; you won’t get promoted. Trying to correct the imbalances forces you to organize your time well – not my strong point in either life. I would invite a friend over for conversation, cook dinner, then take a shower. The friend would come by, ring the doorbell, wait, then leave. I’d invite the friend again, then watch cartoons to up my entertainment meter. The friend would arrive again, but I’d be so exhausted I’d go to bed, only to wake up and discover the dinner I had cooked earlier was now covered in flies. It was a cycle of misery, and if it were possible I would have become a Sim-alcoholic to escape from it all.
Losing the extra income from my Sim-wife’s job had hurt the household finances. At this point, my Sim-marriage was in danger. My wife only slept during the day. At night she’d watch TV, dance to the stereo, or invite friends over. I was becoming concerned, in a simulated way.
Late one night, Sim-wife was in the kitchen cooking. The stove caught fire. I woke up, pissed and moaned about waking up early, panicked, and then called the Fire Department. As the fire raged and my Sim-wife ran around the house shrieking, I decided to put out the blaze myself. I approached the burning stove with an extinguisher, caught fire, and burned to death right there in the kitchen. While my Sim-Wife burst into hysterics, my real one was amused to no end.
If you’re looking to escape from your life for a while by creating a miserable alternate one, I highly recommend this game. Look for a used version on eBay, quite soon.