I'm currently playing through the Gears 2 single player campaign, and I don't know why exactly, but I'm not having very much fun. There are a few easy to identify points which I clearly don't like:
  • Vehicle sequences: I don't know why FPS designers still torture us with vehicle sequences. The mini-tank in Gears 2 controls like shit (a bit like the Mass Effect Mako, but worse), and there's too much driving through boring tunnels with nothing else happening.
  • Stupid story: So far I'm not seeing the better story that was promised. Instead I'm just seeing Dom bringing up his wife all the time (just found her yesterday). What is this emotional bullshit doing in my Gears... really. If you want to do an emotional story, do it right. The Gears main character are simply not built for stuff like this. It's like asking Schwarzenegger to play Shakespeare. Some things simply don't work, no matter how hard one tries.
  • Dialog: alright, Marcus isn't exactly a second Cicero when it comes to conversational skills, but those stupid one-liners get old pretty fast.
  • Too much brown: I know it's cliche, but Gears could just as well be played on an old black-and-white monitor and not a lot of information would be lost. I'm sick of monochromatic shooters.
Except from the vehicle sequences (which are inexcusable) I can live with the other points. I like my bad story and cheesy dialogs, if there's a good game at the core.

But somehow, the core gameplay isn't very satisfying to me in Gears2. I've been playing into the COD4 single-player-campaign again for comparison, and holy shit this an entirely different level, even the "quiet moments" in COD4 are packed with action.

Gears2 brings up unbelievable stuff like mile-long worms, giant fish and whole cities sinking into the ground, but it doesn't grab me. Maybe it is because the scale is too big, or maybe it is because the actual fire fights aren't very exciting. I think maybe the main reason why the game leaves me cold is that there are too long pauses between fire fights, and fights are too predictable. Coming into an area with a lot of conveniently placed barricades? Sure as hell a few seconds later a door will shut behind you and Locust will start attacking.

Good thing Dead Space came along, otherwise I might have lost my faith in shooters ;)

I'm very impressed with the new Xbox dashboard, especially with the fast and painless update process (took maybe 2 minutes through my 16Mbit DSL line at home). I was prepared for the worst (something like 2 weeks without Xbox Live like last Christmas), but apart from a few glitches on the Marketplace which were fixed the next day everything went perfect. I love how responsive, fast and colorful everything is now, and the hard drive installation is a god-send because it turns off the jet-engine noise from the DVD drive.

I even like the Avatar stuff more then I should. I've been trying to create a Ron Jeremy avatar, but that's where the avatar creator really comes to its limits. Here's my wishlist for the next update:
  • the current fat setting needs to be a lot fatter, the current maximum isn't even enough to build a realistic Elvis in his later years
  • more 70's porn star accessories and clothing please
  • more real hair styles(!), there's plenty of 90's neo-hippie shit, but no hair which nearly does Ron Jeremy justice
  • hair styles should include chest and armpit options
Since I didn't find the right hair and clothes, I went for a Ron Jeremy/Princess Leia hybrid: