Welcome to the first ever Monster Month. For those wondering what in the world they’re looking at, this is simply a look at what some of the 360Monster staff members have been doing this past month.

It’s set out in a semi-blog, semi-review style of writing. We’ll include little mini reviews on any demos, content or games that we have played. The rest of the article will be made up of whatever else the staff member wishes to include in his own sub-section.

So we’ll kick things off with the guy who owns this place – he’s been hard working behind the scenes trying to finish the four new sites which will blow you all away once they finally open.

The Boss’ Month – Anthony Barker

Another month zooms by with my head still amongst the inner bowels of the new Console Monster site, so yet again my exposure to gaming this month has been somewhat limited to the odd week day evening or a quick spontaneous session over the weekend.

So what can be said of my micro gaming adventures? Well April has been a bit of a hit and miss affair, March brought us much love with demos and AAA Arcade titles hitting the Xbox Live Marketplace. April so far has that feeling of the calm before the storm, with some hot titles coming in May.

My last purchase on Arcade was JetPac. It had to be done and only those old enough to remember playing the original (no kids, reading about it on Wiki doesn’t count!) can high-five me on that one. Great memories’, enhancing it with some graphical jazz and a splurge of extra levels has brought this title up to modern times, ready for new and younger eyes who missed the original some 20 odd years ago!

Since then we’ve been going down a steady downhill in terms of Arcade content. Luxor 2 felt like Zuma in a new suit and my awful reaction skills prevent me from enjoying Boom Boom Rocket on any level apart from practice, where you can just hammer any button and get somewhere – Next!

Swinging back to retail titles and Rainbow Six Vegas Co-op is taking root in my 360’s drive tray these days. A few of us are going through the Co-op Story and Co-op Hunt missions, great fun but maybe we should all be the men that we are and try the multiplayer servers one day instead…one day…promise! I’ve still not completed the singleplayer, so I’ve been chipping away at that recently – I think I’m near the end, or at least it feels like it. Playing all the missions in co-op story first was a wrong move.

It’s probably been months now since I’ve had a copy of Test Drive Unlimited sitting on the shelf. My brother came down the other weekend and being a car nut I thought I’d let him play with his first love of Lotus cars. Before booting up I wasn’t too sure what to expect from TDU, after hearing about bad servers and general jerky gameplay. I was expecting my brother and I to be moving onto another game within a few minutes play but no, we were gripped in this MMO on wheels for most of the day, laughing at the most random things that the people do in this game. The bikes, like the demo, are still truly awful but after some time in the virtual car seat the handling wasn’t all that bad in the vehicles. We were still not comfortable challenging people though, especially when someone in a 600bhp beast is challenging you in our mouse-wheel powered saloon! Fair game? We didn’t think so either, so we stuck to single races and courier missions. Speaking of which, isn’t it annoying driving all that way without hitting anything until the very end where you have some truck pull out of a junction or stop in front of you forcing you to slam directly into the side of it, Grr!

Live seems to be running dry on demo content recently. V Tennis 3 must have been the last decent demo to hit the marketplace. We all know most, if not all, movie tie-ins never work and Shrek the Third is one such example. I’m sure the Burger King title had more depth than this. If you haven’t yet downloaded it save your bandwidth, even if you are looking for something new to play. Top marks for its menu presentation though, which fits the movie very well, but still..DON’T.

I was looking forward to Monster Madness, from the screenshots it reminded me a little of Loaded on the PlayStation 1, a game I really enjoyed. Sadly after playing the demo it was nothing like what I was imagining. I can see how this game was originally intended to be an Arcade title, but going from the demo it lacks some depth and resorts to some serious button mashing at times. A lot of running backwards while running out of ammo and resorting to waving plungers from side to side. I’ll give it another go one day but I’ll reserve my full judgment until I see the full game.

With May looking to be one hot month for 360 titles it’s a no brainer for publishers to get demos and hype well and truly ramped up for those gems, so Forza demo anyone? Yes please…and can I have a wheel with that!

Roll on May.

The Lazy Gamers Month – Toby Bodman

With my recent review of Def Jam: ICON I have been pretty disappointed with the lack of decent games coming out for the 360. Luckily after some cursing at the postal service my copy of Guitar Hero II arrived. As I have never played a guitar hero game before it was pretty mind blowing when I was doing poor on easy (I kick ass at gaming!). After some practice though I have finally 5 started all of the normal songs and am working my way through hard.

Going with the whole rhythm theme, I purchased Boom Boom Rocket this week. I have to say it’s pretty impressive. Most of the songs are remixes of old classics but it’s a nice change from the Guitar Hero rock. Fireworks going off and exploding into particles across the screen brings back the memories of Geometry Wars.

I also got hold of Hotel Dusk for the DS this week. I didn’t think a game like this would interest me but having Anime take to my liking I think the TV advert sold it to me with it’s beautiful artwork. I haven’t got deep into the story yet but so far it’s turning out to be fun. The great thing about the game is the ability to write down things in your notebook with the stylus so you don’t forget anything. What I would kill for a feature like this in Oblivion, it would be so easy to remember what I was doing when I turn the game on! [Have you never heard of pen and paper? -Ed]

With no new games that interest me coming out this month it looks like I am going to have to make use of what I have. I suppose I could look for a job to pay for more games but…

My Gamer Offspring – Andy Robertson

A portion of my play this week was negotiating Zelda to the point where I could go fishing with my 3 year old, in the safety of the fishing pool with no scary monsters to put her off. Thought I had it done only to hit an unobtrusive warp gate with its three guardian monsters, so it was quickly off with the TV until an opportune moment meant I could defeat the beast and clear a path to the fishing pool door.

Finally in, we both sat and took turns casting. Not sure how she does it, but somehow she seems better then me at getting the fishing controls to work. We managed to hook the odd fish, but her winding skills weren’t quite up to the task of getting it into the boat. Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Apart from this, I also (re)introduced her to the joys of Nintendogs. Only to discover how fussy the audio naming was, and how a three year old can’t say the same word with the same intimation three times in a row, not on queue anyway. I think I hid my frustration well, and named the poor mut myself. Now it papers to be the cleanest, malnourished dog in town. You see, she discovered the shampoo feature and now that’s all she does.

The Retro guys Live Month – Chris Taylor

Being a big fan of Halo, this month was brilliant for me. The new Halo 3 ViDoc was released! When I heard this I booted up my 360, logged onto Live and downloaded this immediately. Luckily it didn’t take long to download and I was gawping in awe at the new maps and weapons, including the strangely named ’Man Cannon’.

Then there was also the date for the Halo 3 BETA. Man am I excited about this. Only a few weeks to go until it starts!! Finally getting to play a bit of Halo 3 will be awesome!

Also there were a couple of pretty rubbish arcade games this month but the best was Boom Boom Rocket. That’s so addictive! It’s like Dance Dance Revolution for people who can’t be bothered dancing! The music is brilliant, the game modes are brilliant and the fireworks look great.

This month saw the Gears of War update too. No more glitchers and no more cheaters but the new mode, Annex, brings rise to spawn killers. Having played this quite a lot about 40% of the time I was spawn killed all the way through the match. This is really really really annoying (yes that annoying).

So yeah, until next month, keep gaming!

Shooting Dude’s Month – Art Green

Make no mistake, the Xbox 360 is chock-full of tremendous shooters. Two shooters have occupied most of my time this month: First, and probably what everyone else has been playing, is Gears of War. It’s amazing how much my opinions have changed on the multiplayer ever since I found a group of guys that I actually enjoy playing with. Playing with friends, rather than the random Xbox Live jerks is definitely preferable, and it really makes the game.

However, like Chris mentioned, there was an auto-update to the game recently that added Annex mode and was supposed to curb the frequency that you stick to cover when roadie running. Anyone else find that you actually stick to cover more than before the auto-update? Maybe it’s just me. I only tried the Annex mode once and wasn’t particularly impressed. However, it was just one match and it was two-on-two, so I don’t think that is representative of the mode as a whole. I’ll have to play more for sure to say definitely one way or the other.

The other shooter is Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Vegas. I passed on this game when it was released, despite the good things I had heard about it. I had jumped and purchased Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter last March and was stung by the terrible multiplayer and figured that Rainbow Six would be no different. I was terribly mistaken.

The main thing that bugged me about GR:AW was that the multiplayer and the single-player were almost two different games. For example, why the hell can’t you take cover in GR:AW online? Why is the pacing totally different? Rainbow Six does not have this problem. The game plays almost exactly the same between the single-player and multiplayer, and you can actually use cover for Christ’s sake! But what sets Rainbow Six apart from the other shooters on the 360 is the wealth of co-op modes. In addition to playing the single-player with up to three others over Xbox Live, (which I completed last night, thank you very much) you can go into Terrorist Hunt mode where you go through maps and have to kill a set number of A.I. terrorists within a time limit. The A.I. during both of these modes were impressive, with the terrorists flanking, using cover, throwing frags, flashbangs and smoke grenades and generally putting up a good fight. I could say more about the online, but if you have any worries about Rainbow Six, forget about them.

Lastly, I played a bit of Guitar Hero II. Rather than talk about the game specifically – how about that downloadable content pricing? Talk about consumer rape. According to Larry Hyrb, (Major Nelson) the publisher (RedOctane) made the decision on this pricing model, not Microsoft. If you haven’t heard, they released three “track packs” that will run you 500 Microsoft Points (£3). On the surface, you’re getting each of these songs for about £1 each. Yet, because there is no real ’theme’ to any of the packs, there is a great chance that each track will only contain one or two songs that you actually like and will get stuck with a song that you do not particularly care for. You can debate whether or not £1 for one song is a bad deal or not (I would argue that £1 a song is a total rip-off!) but to package the songs is so…dirty? I think that’s the right word. Nevermind, the fact that most of the grunt work for this stuff was done 18 months ago for the PS2 version of the game just rubs salt on the wound.

The best thing you can do to stop gouging at publishers, developers and the console manufacturers is to simply not buy these track packs. Accepting this business model will only lead to even more egregious prices for content and that is something that no one wants to see. Hell, it’s bad enough as it is. 50p for gamer pictures? Give me a break.

The Nocturnal Vampires Month – Lee Matthews

Well my month has changed to say the least. From a 360 fanboy, to a PS3 fanboy and then back to a 360 fanboy.

The PS3 is a great console don’t get me wrong, its simply the games line-up is currently a tad small. What’s more, the PlayStation Network is so quiet, that’s the main reason I got console sick simply because LIVE frickin’ rules and basically everyone I know uses LIVE so god knows why I went for the PS3 – but that’s history now.

Getting another 360 I thought I may as well buy a brand spanking new one, which for one, got me three free games (result!) and a console which was slightly quieter than my previous 360.

I got Gears of War again, of course, and I downloaded and played the new Annex mode. A great gametype which finally has some respawns so the action is pretty non-stop, which is great for a game such as Gears of War. Word of warning in case you didn’t know, kills in Annex mode don’t count towards the various achievements which is a bit of a bitch but I can live with it.

The other game I got was Crackdown which to be honest on release I didn’t rate at all, but hey I got it free so I wasn’t one to complain. On starting a new campaign I was indeed surprised to find that its actually quite fun. I’m a little worried I’ve killed one of three bosses in less than a day, but it’ll keep me happy until the Halo 3 beta. I was also surprised to find myself picking the Goth skin, maybe I’m a Goth at heart (oh please lord NO!!).

Another quick note, don’t download Shrek the Third demo. My 7 year old sister could make a more intuitive game than that load of tripe. Animation sucks, graphics look dated, combat is repetitive and basically it sucks quite frankly.

For now that’s about it. Look out for the next ’Monster Month’ on May the 18th, by then no doubt the entirety of the staff will be dreaming of Master Chief and Bubble Shields.

Originally Written By: Lee Matthews


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