Ben Avery Review #2: The Shotgunning Edition

our shotgunsLast year, Art took us to Ben Avery Shooting Facility to shoot some of his guns, and we had a grand old time.

In what has become an annual tradition, we went again this year during spring training. But this year, instead of rifles and revolvers, this year was all about: Shotguns! 

Jim and Art used over/under Browning shotguns, and I used a browning single shot.  We then each shot ~60 birds of trap shooting.  Ben Avery is a huge place, with something like 18 trap fields, so the 3 of us had a trap field to ourselves. This was good since neither Jim or I had shot trap before, and we didn’t want to slow anyone else down.



the field

The range was all automated, with voice activated release.  So there are little speakers on stands in front of you, and when you say “pull” (or whatever you say loud), it flings out your target.  So once you’re up there, there’s no talking, or it will fling out some more targets that nobody will be ready for!  And since the range is all automated, there’s no free targets if you accidentally screw up!

We did all of our shooting from the 16 yard line, which is the closest spot, and for first timers we did really well.  It took Jimbo a little while to get warmed up, and once he was warm he was on fire!  I started off pretty well and stayed pretty consistent.  The only ones I had trouble judging were the ones that fired straight away, with no left or right movement.  I think I shot over the top of those more than anything.  Of around 60 total birds, I think I missed 7, so I was feeling pretty good!  I wanted to try moving back and see if I could still hit anything, but by then, our cards were up!

Jim and Art shooting trap.

(If the embedded video is missing, you can see it here)

jimbo in his shooting gearI think both Jim and I expected a lot more kick from the shotguns, but the trap loads were pretty light, and the shotguns pretty heavy.  I had a tiny little strawberry bruise on my shoulder, but that was probably from one round that I didn’t have the shotgun pulled into my shoulder all the way.  The next day my shoulder was a little more sore, but that could have been from the shooting or from chasing Easy around the pool all afternoon, or most likely both.

The next day, Jimbo was ready to go again, so we know that he enjoyed it.  I had a great time, and can’t wait to see what art has planned for next year!

jim and art again.

(If the embedded video is missing, you can see it here)

By some freak coincidence, I think both times I took video, both jim and art missed.  You can’t blame the camera, as in both cases, neither of them noticed :).

If we lived closer to Ben Avery, I’d be there all the time; it’s most definitely good for my wallet that we’re a thousand miles away!

Posted in General Tagged with: ,

Random Review: Torchlight

TorchlightWhile Torchlight has been available for the PC for a long (long!) time, it just came out last week on Xbox 360 as an arcade game.  And it is a great game!  It’s probably the best value for an Xbox live arcade game so far.  I can’t believe how much stuff they fit into that ~400 meg download!

It wasn’t the best story ever, but I thought the story made more sense than Borderlands!  The side quests were ok, but I think I “broke” some by going through the area and doing something before I got the quest for it.  There were other things where I swear I scoured the whole level, and the thing that was supposed to be there wasn’t there.  And I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time looking when there was so much other stuff to do.

The controls were pretty good for a PC to Xbox port, although I think some things, like inventory management, could have been simplified.  I accidentally sold or equipped things lots of times because the selection outline and the equipped outline were very similar at first glance.  The text in some areas still seemed to be set up for a PC as well, with a really small font that only used up a small area at the bottom of the screen, with the torchlight logo covering the other 70%. 

But I can easily overlook any of those nitpicks for this one.  About 3/4 of the way through, I felt like I was cheating.  Once I started getting really good equipment and skills, I was just destroying things.  In most games, as you get stronger, so do the bad guys, so even though you’re now doing 10x the damage at level 10, the bad guys are 10x stronger, so there’s not a lot of difference from level 1.  While that was somewhat true in Torchlight, I felt like my character really was a hero.  Hacking and slashing and fireballing zombies and dragons and such was awesome fun.  I didn’t die until the very last boss monster, as health potions were pretty easy to come by.

The verdict on this one is 100% clear.  Spend the points and buy Torchlight.  The only thing that would be better would be co-op multiplayer, so here’s hoping for that in Torchlight 2. And here’s to double hoping the Xbox port comes sooner for the sequel, with how well it has done in sales!

Posted in General Tagged with: ,

Random Review: Medal of Honor

This is one of the few sequels that doesn’t have a number or subtitle.  It should be something like “Medal of Honor: Tier 1” or something, as the game was mostly following some Tier 1 special forces operators through the storyline.

medal of honor

Like the Call of Duty series, I played through MoH on the hardest difficulty (until I saw the “Tier 1 mode” or whatever that I didn’t go back through and play).  But unlike recent CoD games on hard, I didn’t see any real “bugs” with the “good guy” AI.  And the special forces guys in this game could shoot.  While you, as the player, still have to do the majority of the work, the computer controlled players could at least draw fire and provide cover so that you could flank the bad guys.  So for this game, I don’t have to write a version of my “letter to my idiot squadmates” posts.  The effectiveness of my squad did make the game feel a little easier than CoD, but it did make me feel like a good player on a great team, instead of the great player on a crappy team.   However, the game not being as hard didn’t make the game any less enjoyable.

The scenarios and script of the single player campaign seemed very realistic. In fact, some of it seems to be loosely based on the real life situation that was documented by Marcus Lattrell in his fantastic book Lone Survivor. Some other parts of the game were so engrossing that as things started to unfold, I actually was getting worried.  In one section, you’re fighting your way down an Afghan mountain with a small squad of soldiers, vastly outnumbered by the Taliban.  You’re trying to call in close air support, but things just aren’t working out.  You’re hiding in buildings that are slowly getting destroyed by small arms fire and RPGs, and you continue to fall back.  All the while, your squad-mates are counting down ammo.  Soon, they start firing kill shots only.   Then you start hearing “last mag!” and other not good commentary.  When the radio guy tells command to use the air support to help another group because we’re about to be overrun and it would just be a waste of time… At this point, like my squadmates, I’m also getting very low on ammo, and I’m starting to freak out…back in the real world, on my couch, my heart is racing!

There was also a section where you get to be the gunner in an Apache (my favorite helicopter of all time).  Surprisingly, on the hardest difficulty, I got through it pretty quick, and I was only using the main gun.  When playing through again later on easy to pick up some achievements I missed, I realized that the apache also had rockets, and I never used them on hard!  I died a lot more on that section on easy than I did on hard.  But it sure was fun!  Now someone needs to make a game featuring my favorite airplane of all time, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “The Warthog”, but that’s a discussion for another day!

The multi-player was Ok.  I liked some of the progression aspects, but I think the Call of Duty franchise has a better overall system for that.  As a new player unfamiliar with the maps, I was getting sniped far too much for it to be a lot of fun though.  In the Call of Duty games, after you get killed by another player, you see an instant replay from that player’s point of view, so you can at least see where the person is camping as they kill you over and over…

There was a lot of hub-ub when the game was coming out that in multi-player, one side was good guys, and the other side was the Taliban.  There was a huge negative press that you get to be the Taliban.  After EA changed the name to the more generic “OpFor” (opposing force) that is used by militaries around the world in war games (and used in the Call of Duty series of games set in modern day), the rhetoric didn’t seem to calm down much, and Exchanges on military bases still refused to sell the game.  I wonder if they ever sold “Counterstrike”, or the Call of Duty games.  In counterstrike, one side was always the “Terrorists”, and the other was trying to rescue hostages or defuse a bomb planted by the terrorists.  The Call of Duty games always had one set of players being the Axis and the other side the Allies.  Personally, I don’t see the big deal, particularly since the game is rated Mature.

All in all, I thought it was a really good game, and can’t wait for the sequel (bring on lucky number 13 in the franchise!)

Posted in General Tagged with: ,

Random Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops

This is the (by my count) 7th game in the Call of Duty series. Of the recent ones (since CoD:Modern Warfare), this one had the best story.

It had a very interesting psycho-drama going on, with the main character being captured and interrogated by someone, causing flashbacks. The missions occurred in the flashbacks, not entirely in order, and interestingly, sometimes without clear beginning or end. I liked that. Several times you’d be what you’d assume 3/4 of the way through something, and then you’d see something that didn’t make sense, and you’d get shocked back to the interrogation. I thought I had figured out what was going on, but I hadn’t. I like it when a game keeps me guessing.

But, like all of the recent call of duty games, i have to complain about the computer controlled characters. There were many many cases where a bad guy would “rush” wherever the good guys were, and would either kill me, or all the good guys in that vicinity, without the other good guys ever firing a single shot. It was if the good guys never saw the bad guy at all. I always play through the CoD games on the hardest possible difficulty, and maybe that’s what exposes me to the worst flaws. I assume as the difficulty goes up, the good guys in your squad become less effective, requiring you to do more, and makes the bad guys more effective. I get that, that’s fine. But its inexcusable to let a bad guy run across 50 yards of open ground uncontested into the middle of a group of what is supposed to be highly trained special forces soldiers. At least in the previous games, most of the time the offending soldiers were just regular soldiers. In this game, they’re supposed to be operators! The elite! If you’re so elite, do something, other than stand there and die!

Posted in General Tagged with: ,

Random Review: Red Dead Redemption

Red_Dead_RedemptionRed Dead Redemption was one of the best games I played in 2010.  Well, I’m finished playing it in 2011, so it might be the best game I played in 2011 too :).  If you haven’t played it, its Grand Theft Horse, basically.  Same developers, same engine.  But the story in RDR was a lot more interesting to me than GTA was.  I think when you set a game in modern day, you really have to get every little detail right, because people’s brains are so used to seeing that stuff, that you will notice if the cars are too shiny, or the windows don’t reflect right, and all kinds of other things just won’t look quite right.  But when you set a game in the wild wild west, not a lot of people are used to riding horses, or herding cattle so you aren’t going to notice little things that are incorrect. 

Even so, I can say that I hated herding cattle.  Seriously.  One time is enough to show me the hardships of the old west, but one time is more than enough herding cattle for me :). 

The interesting (no spoilers!) thing about the story is that while it might have been a little predictable, I think part of that predictability came from really understanding the main character and his predicament, and the helplessness of the whole situation.  There were certainly things that I personally wouldn’t have done in that situation, but I know that John Marston would have.  I saw most of what I’d call “Act III” coming, and yet when things started unfolding I was not disappointed at all.  It was somehow…fitting.

The dead-eye system worked really well for shooting, especially from the back of a moving horse.  The duel thing was ok, but I didn’t realize until real late in the game that there was a rhythm factor to the shooting that I didn’t notice (or missed in the first tutorial), so a couple of the story related duels I failed and had to do over and over and I never noticed that there was a specific indicator to watch for while aiming.

My only other real complaint (aside from the frigging cattle rustling!) was some of the voice acting.  It seems like a ton of the dialog was just yelling.  Yelling for no reason.  Yes, people are riding horses so you might need to increase the volume of the dialog, but that doesn’t mean the actors should just be yelling all the time.  That just decreases its impact when people really should be yelling.

The hunting/gathering/treasure quests were ok, but what made me stop completely stop dong them was the last gathering one.  Get 15 of x, fine, I’ve been doing that the whole game.  But “get 15 of plant x, and 2 more of every other plant?”  Screw that.  Get your own plants you jerks!

Posted in General Tagged with: ,

Random Review: Assassin’s Creed 2

assassins creed 2AC2 was probably one of the best games I’ve played this year.  Most of the time sequels aren’t as good as the original, but this one was as good, if not better than the original.  Yes, it was a little formulaic,  and there was a fair amount of repetition, but I really liked the story.  It had one laaaaaaame moment, but I’ll let it go and see if AC3 cleans it up.  I thought the addition of the interaction with Leonardo Da Vinci was pretty clever.   There’s also a part now where you kindof run a city in a very minimal way, so that was an interesting way to make money.  Towards the end I had so  money I didn’t know what to do with it all, so I wish there would have been something else to do with it 😀

Assassin’s Creed:Brotherhood just came out, too, so I’ll have to add that to the top of my gamefly list.  I know the new one has some multiplayer, so I’m not sure how much the story continues, as it doesn’t have “3” in its title anywhere…but I’m definitely going to find out!

Posted in General Tagged with: ,

Why I’m buying a Kinect

KinectNow that Kinect for XBox360 has officially released, i’m allowed to say that we participated in the beta program for Kinect, and that we’ve been playing it now for a few months. (i even got a avatar t-shirt and a 0 point achievement, yay!)

There’s a very simple reason that i’m buying it: Easton can play it. He’s only 2, and doesn’t have the dexterity to do anything with a wii-mote or an xbox360 controller, but he can run in place, and he loves to play Kinect. Supposedly, the recommended minimum height for players is 3 feet, but for the most part he can play some stuff.

In our part of the beta, we only got to keep the kinect sensor for a week, then had to return it, and check it out again later, library style. The first week we had it, we played a little bit of everything: Adventures and sports, mostly. We played it for the week, and i returned it. A couple days later, Easy is just standing in the living room, pointing to the TV and saying “Boat? Boat?” We had no idea what he was talking about. We asked him all kinds of questions, and you could tell that he was frustrated because he couldn’t explain what he wanted and we obviously didn’t understand. The next day, he did it again. Only this time, after we didn’t understand what “Boat?” meant, he pointed at the TV, said “Run? Run?”, and then ran in place. Eureka! “Boat” was the rafting game in Kinect Adventures, and “Run” was the 100 meter dash in Kinect sports. A couple weeks later after we’d had kinect for another week, he was doing it again, so i got it on “tape”:

Towards the end of the beta, there were enough Kinects available that the “library” would let you have them longer than a week, so we had it for a while. Easton figured out that in Joyride, he could put his arms out to start driving in a stunt mode game, and then just lean back against the couch and do absolutely nothing and he would just rack up the points. He’d end up with like 300k points, to me getting 60k working my butt off. He figured out that you generally control Kinect by waving to start, so he’d stand next to you and wave to try to steal control. He figured out that you have to put your arms up to signal that you’re “ready” to run in the running game. He hasn’t figured out that you have to keep running, though. he’ll run in place for about half the race, then he sees that you’re done running, so he stops running too. So even though you’ve long since finished the race, you have to keep running so he keeps running.

We were pleasantly surprised when we realized that Kinect can track you pretty well while holding a toddler. As long as you’re not playing the wierd bubble game where you have to use both of your arms, you can play most of the Adventures games while holding him, although 20,000 leaks is hard to get some of the leaks. A lot of the games work just fine with him on your shoulders too!

Is the Kinect aimed at more “hardcore” gamers like me? probably not. Is it aimed at more “casual” wii-like gamers? definitely. And if there’s one thing that Nintendo has shown with the wii is that there are a ton of casual gamers out there. We’ve had a 360 for 4 1/2 years. how many times has laura turned it on? Until we got the kinect, she’d turned it on twice to play tetris. Since we’ve had the Kinect beta, she and Easton have played a bunch of times without me. She even invited the neighbor kids over a couple times to play. In fact, she posted about kinect on facebook tonight before i even posted this.

stuff we played and our notes:

  1. Kinect Adventures: we played this one a lot. Easy likes the rafting game (boats) and 20,000 leaks (fish), and sometimes likes rallyball (ball). Leaks is fun, and i like the rail game (can never remember what its called!). having to jump to go faster takes a lot of energy.
  2. Kinect sports: the beta rotated the games available, so i don’t think we even played them all. soccer was surprisingly fun, for how simple it was. i really like the volleyball. pingpong was ok, never got javelin. easy loves 100 meter dash. bowling was pretty good.
  3. Joyride: i really like the “stunt” game. It seems to have some kind of “autopilot” mode for kids or something, as it seems that easton can get really high scores by just standing there with his hands behind his back!
  4. Dance Central: i think i was the only person to play it, and i thought it was pretty good. definitely a party game.
  5. Fitness Evolved: the demo was pretty short, but i think i might try the full game out.
  6. ESPN “The Ocho”: this one is all about content.
  7. Voice Control: i didn’t use it a lot, but it did work. i mostly used it to start games before i picked up the controller 🙂
  8. Video Kinect: i think this one is going to be pretty big. It could be huge if they would/could integrate it with the FaceTime video chat stuff on iphones/pods, and/or Skype. We video chat with laura’s mom sometimes, but doing it on the big TV instead of a laptop you have to keep open and pointed.
Posted in General Tagged with: ,

Funny things Easton says: Part 1

Well, probably more accurately, “things which easton says or mispronounces that i find funny”. Right now all the ones i can think of are single words. he’s starting to form sentences so i’m pretty sure there will be funny phrases for a future installment.

  • “Zune” is easton’s word for “phone”. I really wish i had my zune still (lost it on an airplane…) so he could be even more confused.
  • “Bean” is easton’s word for “beer”. “Daddy’s bean” is what he says whenever he sees a glass bottle of any kind. even though he says other words that end with the “r” sound, he will not say beer, he just says “bean” louder if you try to correct him
  • “Coshee” is easton’s word for “coffee”, although i think last weekend he started saying it right. He loves to run the coffee machine weekend mornings, and seems to enjoy the taste of even black coffee. I don’t know if its because he likes to copy me or if he really likes the taste. He does like raw garlic and onions though, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he likes the bitterness of coffee.
  • “Shark” is easy’s word for “fork”. sometimes its just “sark”. The weird thing is that he can say the “f” sound, so i don’t know why he won’t say fork.
  • “Fi-fi” is what easton calls Felix Hernandez. But most of the Mariners call him that too, so that’s okay.
  • “Pay-pay” is what easton calls Peyton Manning. I’m generally pretty anti-Peyton, but he’s my fantasy QB this year, so i root for him, but against the Colts in general.
  • When he sees cats, or squirrels or other small animals outside, he will generally say their name, then say “eat”. The conversation goes like: “Meow. Cat! Eat?”, “no, we don’t eat cats.” “eat? no eat.”
Posted in General Tagged with:

Random Review: Pistol League @ SSNW

I’ve been going to a pistol league at Shooting Sports Northwest for a few weeks now.  I’ve never competed in any gun related things before, so this is a first for me.middle row of zombies

There are 3 events every week, and you shoot each event twice.

The first part is called “zombies”, and is worth the most points.  10 rounds, 9 targets.  the back row of 3 poppers pops up, and is up for a few seconds.  Then the middle row of 3, then the front row of 3.  The zombies are scored on distance;  the back row is worth 20, 18, 15, middle 12, 10, 10, putting the front row at only 7, 7, 7.  Most people will use as many rounds as they can to get the back row. 

The second part is called “blackjack”.  only 3 rounds, all 9 poppers pop up and stay up 8 seconds.  The object is to get 21 points (without going over!).  All of the targets are again assigned point values:  Ace, 10, 9 in the back row, 8, 8, 7 in the middle, and 6, 5, 4 in the front row.  Most people aim for the middle’ish area, doing 8+5+8.  Depending on a miss, you might try something else, like 8, miss, 10.  With all of the poppers up, seeing and hitting the back row can be a challenge though!  8 seconds seems like an eternity, so almost everyone is going too fast.


“Stop and Go” on the dueling tree is the last part, and this part is timed!  10 rounds, 7 targets. When the green popper in the background falls (it pops back up instantly) time starts: shoot the 3 green targets on the tree, then the green popper in the background, then the three red targets on the tree.  Time ends when you hit the last red target, or when you’re out of ammo. Scoring is 5 points per target hit, minus one point per second on the clock when you’ve hit the last target or are out of ammo.  This one is everyone’s favorite, it seems.  The fastest people (I’m not one!) are doing it in around 5 seconds.  I think I’ve been in the 7’s mostly, although one week I did have a 5.66.  The fastest people are doing bottom to top, so that you follow the recoil up to the next target.  Although I think people are still working down the red side after shooting the popper though…

The theoretical maximum number of points each week is ~320.  After 6 weeks, I’m averaging ~185 with a high of 241 (I was #1 last week, but only because most of the high scorers were gone :)). The highest person in the league is averaging 256 with a high of 291, so I have some work to do!

Here’s a phone video of me doing one run of stop+go:

Posted in General Tagged with:

Random Review: Bioshock 2


Hey, that rhymed!  The story in Bioshock 2 wasn’t as quite as good as the original, but was still very good.  Helping the little sisters harvest was pretty cool.  The big sisters were a clever idea.  the most interesting part was the part where you see what the world looks like through a little sister’s eyes.  That was pretty cool.   Like the first game, the art direction and theme were magnificently done.

The creepiest part wasn’t actually in game, though.  We went to a birthday party during the time when I was playing through the game, and at the party there was a bouncy house.  So easton and I are bouncing in the bouncy house, and one of the little girls comes in.  And she wanted her dad to come into the bouncy house.   The little girl’s voice and what she was saying were right out of the game.  “Over here daddy!”  Every time she talked I just got chills!

Now I see that there’s a “Bioshock: Infinite” coming out.  Instead of being underwater, this one takes place in the clouds!  That should be fun!

Posted in General Tagged with:

XBox GamerCard

Recent Flickr