Once I was stuck in traffic, in the middle of an intersection, blocking another lane. When my route was finally clear and I was able to drive through, a man yelled out his window at me: "It's all about you, eh asshole?"
Until earlier today, I wasn't at all interested in owning a PSPGo. I might've been able to come up with, say, five reasons why someone might want one - and couldn't really say if any of them applied to me.
But then I saw that someone is proposing 49 reasons why a PSPGo is a necessary, immediate purchase.
Now, at first, I thought this was just unreasonable. Five reasons is an article; 49 is an advertisement. Then I sat down and, for due-diligence's sake, decided to enumerate the reasons you might need a PSPGo.
Lo and behold, I ended up with 49 of them! Consider me convinced. And maybe, after reading this, you will be too.
1. For your birthday, you have received a voucher for a downloadable PSP game. You do not have a PSP. Due to a freak wind storm, no local stores have any stock of disc-based PSPs. You cannot order a normal PSP on-line, because you are terminally ill, and would die before it arrives. You need a PSPGo.
2. You are a Sony representative. You are slated to appear on-stage at a trade show, and demonstrate some new PSP games, on the new PSP hardware. Frustrated with your apparent inability to arrive to work on time, your boss has told you that if you screw this up, you will be violently fired. You need a PSPGo.
3. On-board a freighter bound for Portugal, you have been kidnapped by Somalian pirates. Portugal has refused to negotiate. Your shipping company has disavowed all knowledge of you and the rest of your crew. The pirates are getting restless. Their leader proclaims, "I don't want to kill you all! All I want is a PSPGo for my son." You need a PSPGo.
4. It is the year 2035. The planet has been destroyed by nuclear radiation. You and a handful of others from your home-town survive in an underground bunker, slowly starving to death. You find an old PSP in a pile of rubble, and are surprised to find that it turns on. Suddenly, you hear a scuffle: raiders are attacking! Terrified, you mute the PSP to prevent it from attracting attention. Then the disc spins up, the noise echoing throughout the bunker. The raiders are getting closer. You need a PSPGo.
5. Same as #1, except instead of your birthday, it is your wedding anniversary.
6. It's Black Friday. You're in a toy store. You've lucked out, and found the last Placate-Me Elmo that the store has; other than this, the only thing they have in stock is the PSPGo. You feel cold steel against the back of your neck. "You don't need that doll," a menacing voice says from behind you. "You need a PSPGo." You need a PSPGo.
7. The United States has declared martial law worldwide. You are forcibly enlisted and shipped off to Australia to spread Freedom; you will be on a plane for several hours. Nintendo products have been outlawed, and the classic PSP is out of production. Since childhood, you have been unable to ride a plane, or car, without getting nauseous - unless you're playing a video game. You need a PSPGo.
8. You have developed an unfortunate habit of playing your PSP while having sex with your girlfriend. You are unable to mentally separate PSP games from copulation. Sometimes, the game disc pops out and interrupts your game-playing, which in turn interrupts your love-making. She has given you an ultimatum - if you have to pull out to retrieve a game disc one more time, she will leave you. You need a PSPGo.
9. You are working on a university research project. Your germ-based bio-processor works wonderfully with calibrated input and output. But the university is unsatisfied with your lack of demonstrable progress, and you need a way to show the Review Board what your project can do - fast. By sheer coincidence, your research processor has the same footprint and processing power as a 333 MHz MIPS CPU. Also, your demo application requires more than 32 MB of RAM. You need a PSPGo.
10. Same as #1, except instead of your birthday, it is a religious holiday.
11. When Sony announced a partnership with Netflix, you boldly stated on your blog that, if Netflix was ever to appear on the Wii, you would shove a PSP up your ass. You need a PSPGo.
12. Your unusual friend, who is not allowed in the local shopping mall due to past incidents with the mall police, has given you $250 and asked that you purchase a new PSP for him. You slyly buy him an old PSP, and pocket the remainder of the money for yourself, before giving him the system. The next day you receive a threatening phone call from your friend. You open your front door, and see a note with the letters "P S P G O" scrawled on it, in blood. You need a PSPGo.
13. You are extremely high. In front of you is a crowd of life-sized cartoon characters. A squirrel tips his hat to you. The road tastes like green Jell-o. You are absolutely certain that if you do not get a PSPGo, at this very minute, the sun will explode. You need a PSPGo.
14. You are employed by a video-game magazine. Your editor has informed you that the magazine needs to push the PSPGo, or Sony will pull its advertising. The operation is barely running as it is, and, if another advertiser jumps ship, will have no choice but to shut down. You are late on your car payments; your wife is pregnant. No one at the magazine owns a PSPGo. You need a PSPGo.
15. You just listened to a terrible song on your car radio, but can't get it out of your head. It is driving you mad. You believe it may be a communist plot to destroy your mind. You run into a Gamestop, teeth grinding. You don't know what a video game is. You don't know what a PSP is. You see a PSPGo advertisement, showing Patapon characters with musical notes coming out of them. You need to get the commies out of your head. You need a PSPGo.
16. Same as #1, except the gift is from your creepy nephew, whose parents will be upset if you don't use it. He'll know if you don't use it.
17. You arrive home and open your front door, to find a man in a wizard costume standing in your living room. Your family is tied up and bound to the couch. The house smells of gasoline. "Hold, dark one!" the wizard yells. "I know you possess the Soh-nee! Return it hence, or you shall feel my reckoning!" You nervously reach in your briefcase, dropping a PSP onto the floor. You point at it, failing to find words. "Nay!" the wizard cries. "Not that one! The smaller one!" You need a PSPGo.
18. You are QA Manager for a game development studio. Your new game is ready to ship, just in time for the holidays - but your head of marketing is insistent that it pass another round of testing. "It needs to run on the Go!" he says. You tell him that Sony has already done compatibility testing on their different hardware revisions, and that the platforms are functionally identical. "But," he rebuts, "I read that sometimes, they're different. We need to be sure!" His father is the CEO. You need a PSPGo.
19. You are a pornographic film star. You have heard that the PSP is a go-to platform for porn viewers. Although you act confident on the set, you are actually quite self-conscious about your sexual attractiveness, and specifically, your physical proportions. You hear that there is a new PSP, and worry that its display might have a different aspect ratio. Does it make you look fat? What if one of your co-stars sees you on one? You can't sleep. You develop an eating disorder. It begins to affect your performance at work. You need a PSPGo.
20. You are Indiana Jones. You have just stolen a precious gold artifact from an ancient ruined city. Suddenly, you hear rumbling; traps are activating. You replace the artifact, and the traps stop. To keep the artifact, you'll need to substitute it with something of the same size and weight. The artifact is 128 x 16.5 x 69 mm, and weighs 158 grams. You need a PSPGo.
21. Your son wants a PSPGo. Being a savvy consumer, you tell him that he can get more functionality in a slim PSP. He says that all his friends have PSPGos, which you don't necessarily believe. You explain that the old PSP can download games too, but can also play game discs, which may be easier to find. He storms off to his room. The next day, you get a call from the school principal. He explains that your son has psychokinetic powers, and just set another boy's desk on fire. You need a PSPGo.
22. Same as #1, except instead of a game, the voucher is for a download of the movie Stealth. Stealth is a terrible movie. But Jessica Biel is in it.
23. You are addicted to pornographic films. You cannot stop watching them at work. Your employer has already warned you several times, and installed filtering software on your PC. Your co-workers, worried for your well-being, insist on inspecting your iPhone and iPod when you arrive at work, to make sure there is no pornography on them. They would notice a PSP; it's too big. You need something more discreet. You need a PSPGo.
24. You collect game systems. You need a PSPGo.
25. Sony's surprise announcement of E3 2010 is that, based on the tremendous amount of research that Polyphony Digital has done for Gran Turismo 5, and the still-uncertain American automobile industry, they will go into the business of producing cars. Their first model is the fully-electric Sony AutoStation. You immediately commit to purchasing one, and take out non-refundable mortgage loans to pay for it. Later in the week, Sony announces that, instead of traditional "keys," AutoStations will be activated and locked by a special application exclusive to the PSPGo (sold separately). You need a PSPGo.
26. Your celebrity cruise ship has run aground on a desert island. You don't know how far off-course you are, or when anyone might be able to rescue you. The only survivors are you, and a Victoria's Secret model. The model confesses to you that she is a video game addict, and that her PSPGo, which she adored, was left on the ship. She tells you that if you could get her a PSPGo, she will give you the wildest sex of your life. You need a PSPGo.
27. You've won a contest, and have decided to spend your winnings on needlessly extravagant trinkets. You've already bought a glass statue of yourself, a room full of faberge eggs, and a gold PS3. You're not sure what to buy next. You open a magazine, and see an advertisement for the PSPGo. It's $250. You need a PSPGo.
28. Same as #1, except instead of your birthday, it is the third anniversary of the day you accidentally killed your best friend in a boating accident. You and a friend of his that you never liked very much (who sent you the gift) covered it up. You are very afraid of disappointing him.
29. You are Jim Sterling. You need a PSPGo.
30. You are a PSP owner. You own some games on discs, as well as some digitally. You've seen advertisements for the PSPGo, and think it's a neat device, but aren't prepared to shell out the money for one. You step into the lab where you've decided to participate in a pharmaceutical trial. What the doctors haven't told you is that they're being contracted by the Department of Defense to test mind control chemicals. You swallow the pill and lay down. You need a PSPGo. You need a PSPGo. You need a PSPGo. You need a PSPGo.
31. You have just invented a time machine. Rather than use it for the examination of historical events, or the betterment of science, you desperately want to play a prank on a friend who died last year. You recall him saying in early 2009 that "Sony would be supremely idiotic to release yet another PSP." He died before the PSPGo was announced. You have the time machine. You need a PSPGo.
32. It is 2018. Terminator robots are enslaving humanity. You are fleeing for your life, when suddenly the robots chasing you are shot by a figure silhouetted against the sunset. "Come with me if you want to live," he tells you. You follow the stranger. "You'll need tools to survive out here," he says, handing you a pistol from his back pocket. "You need a flashlight, too. I'll show you. You'll need a PSPGo." You don't understand why, but, you need a PSPGo.
33. You are crossing the street, when you see a friend on the other side. You stop, feigning disgust at him for what he did at the party last night. He gives you a shocked look. You laugh, as you are hit by a bus. Everything around you becomes white. A disembodied voice tells you that you are dead. "Fate can be cruel," the voice says. "But this is not how it was supposed to happen. These events were set in motion because you defied your destiny. You were supposed to buy the PSPGo!" You wake up, confused, and sweaty. You need to buy a PSPGo.
34. Same as #1, except instead of your birthday, the world is ending. People all around you are losing control and slaughtering one another. Cthulhu appears before you, and somehow, you feel as if he has given this PSN voucher to you. You think he is smiling.
35. You are in an affluent high school. You and your rival both have eyes for the same girl. She is incredibly hot, but also, inexplicably, loves electronics. Your rival, in a move of utter desperation, buys her a PSP. You need a PSPGo.
36. You and a group of friends jokingly dared one another to buy PSPGos. Then, one of them went out and bought one. Not to be out-done, another one of your friends followed suit and bought one too. Now all of your friends have followed through on the dare, and you are the only one who hasn't bought a PSPGo. You have incredibly low self-esteem, and are certain that if you don't buy one, you will be shunned by your friends, and die alone. You need a PSPGo.
37. You got into a flamewar with NetGameStaR9909 last night about how the Nintendo DS is suitable only for infants, and Sony is remarkably on-the-ball in terms of perpetually improving their products. NetGameStaR9909 asked if you own a PSPGo, and you said yes, it is AWESOME. You do not actually own a PSPGo, but you need to prove that NetGameStaR9909 is stupid, and that you are better than him. NetGameStaR9909 just called you a "duchbag." You need a PSPGo.
38. You are tied to a wooden pole, suspended over a fire. Tribal dancers with face paint scream wildly. A man in a large headdress steps forward and begins to yell at you. "PSPGO!" he yells. "PSPGO! PSPGO! PSPGO!" You shake your head, unsure what the man means. Two tribesmen pick up the pole, take it away from the fire, and hold it over a pit of hungry alligators. "PSPGO! PSPGO!" the man with the headdress yells, again. You need a PSPGo.
39. Same as #1, except instead of your birthday, it's Stephen Hawking's birthday. You are really big about astrophysics.
40. Last night was your bachelor party. You're usually pretty reserved, so your fiancee doesn't suspect a thing. "What did you guys do last night?" she asks you. You glance at a magazine cover on your coffee table, which has a PSPGo on the cover, and tell her that you and your friends were playing PSPGo all night. "I didn't know you had a PSPGo," she says. You don't. You need a PSPGo.
41. You are a marine biologist. As you descend into the sea in your diving cage, a shark passes by. "Hey buddy," a voice in your head says. What? "Yeah, I'm the shark!" you hear in your head. "We can modulate our thoughts into audible frequencies. Didn't you know that?" You are a little surprised. You try to think of something to say to the shark. "I know what you're thinking - you're thinking, I can tell what you're thinking!" It takes you a minute to understand what that means. "I can't read your mind, and you can't talk underwater! But you know what could talk to me? A PSPGo!" You arch your eyebrows at the shark. "No, seriously! We can understand wireless frequencies, too! But only from the PSPGo. Don't ask me why, I'm just a shark!" You tug the line on your diving cage. You need a PSPGo.
42. You're checking your shopping list. "PSPGo" is written on it. You don't remember writing that down, but then, you wouldn't: you have anterograde amnesia (like the guy in Memento). You need a PSPGo.
43. Same as #1, except instead of your birthday, it is your first day of college, and your parents are giving you a gift to celebrate. You are still terminally ill, but your tuition was non-refundable, so, no sense in wasting it.
44. You have a blood feud with Satoru Iwata's family over an ancient territorial dispute, and Steve Jobs helped cover up the murder of your grandfather. You don't just need a portable gaming system - you need petty revenge. You need a PSPGo.
45. "What's that, sir? You need ... you're breaking up, I can't understand ... you're where? What are you doing in Rhode Island? What island? ... You need a PSP? No? A DS- no? I'm fired!? What? ... A PSPGo, sir? You need a PSPGo?" You need a PSPGo.
46. You are obsessive compulsive. You just bought a PSP. You have a drawer for it in your cabinets. You put the PSP in the drawer and close it- almost. It doesn't close. You open the drawer, move the PSP, and try to close it again. It won't. It's too thick. The drawer won't close. Your PSP won't fit. It won't close. You need a PSPGo.
47. You've just discovered that David Bowie is all about the PSPGo. David Bowie is your hero. Some people think he's passed his prime, but see, the PSPGo is proof that he's still hip and with it! He's so cool. You need a PSPGo.
48. You just found a box of PSN cards in the trunk of your car. This kind of thing happens to you a lot, so you don't question it. You decide to buy a PSP. Today's New York Times is reporting that old PSPs are made with a kind of plastic that seeps deadly poison into your hands. That doesn't sound quite right, and also, your new issue of the Times is printed on regular white paper, and looks like it came out of someone's laser printer at home. But why take chances with your life? You need a PSPGo.
49. You have just finished reading 48 reasons why you need a PSPGo right now. You are not sure if any of them apply to you, but, that is a lot of reasons. You feel anxious. Chances seem pretty good that you need a PSPGo. The walls are closing in. The voices are getting louder. That's a lot of reasons! You need a PSPGo.
Despite some unhealthy workaholism, I managed to play quite a few games last year. Many I finished; some I didn't; and several, I only tried the demo, which may not even be worth considering. Nevertheless! Every game I played, even if only for a few minutes, was a relatively new experience. And even the bad ones... well, at least now I can say I tried Too Human.
I'm fairly proud of my gaming progress in 20-aught-9: not only did I eat into my backlog significantly, but I was also able to keep up with some new releases. And now you're going to hear about all of it. Or, you could not keep reading, and create a content vortex that will inevitably swallow and destroy the entire universe. Your call, hot shot.
In no particular order, except alphabetical:
Afro Samurai (Xbox 360) - finished the demo The look-and-feel of Afro Samurai is pretty slick, but the lack of on-screen HUD interferes with what little gameplay depth it has. And boy, is it little. The Afro Samurai anime/movie struck me as something that would work better as a game; but the game strikes me as something that would work better as a movie. Go figure.
Assassin's Creed (PC) - finished the game I liked Assassin's Creed, but not for its epic, gripping plot of historical conspiracies and science fiction intrigue. Those parts sucked. So did the hand-to-hand "combat" system, and the "stealth" gameplay. Alternatively, free-running across rooftops felt like Prince of Persia-lite, with chase scenes; and leaping onto a guy and stabbing him in the neck, well, that's just awesome.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (Xbox 360) - tried the demo As a big fan of the original N64 Banjo-Kazooie, the fact that Nuts & Bolts isn't a platformer doesn't make sense to me. And neither did the game demo - I couldn't make heads nor tails of the thing. Who is this King of Games asshole? Why do I care about this racing crap? And what part can I get to make the cars not handle like shit?
Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC/Xbox 360) - finished the game (+ demoed on PC) Man, this was great. From the voicework to the visual polish, from the gameplay intricacies to the thrill-a-minute pacing; Arkham Asylum doesn't just feel fun, it feels like Batman. Which is effin' sweet. And I'm glad that it plays just as well on PC as on the consoles - I would have gotten that version, but after trying the demo, I just couldn't wait any longer for the PC release.
Bayonetta (Xbox 360) - died in the demo I was never able to get into Devil May Cry (see below), so I didn't expect to get much out of Bayonetta, aside from bare thighs and ridiculous music. That said, the tutorial really surprised me: it showed some significant depth of gameplay, and was easily accessible at the same time. Then I got to the real game, and had no fucking idea what was going on - enemies crowded my view, hits came out of nowhere, and then some giant in the background started breathing fire on me? What a dick!
Ben There, Dan That! (PC) - finished the game I wouldn't call myself a point-and-click die-hard, but I do have some fond memories of Sam & Max, and some less-fond memories of Maniac Mansion. So I was really pleased with what Ben There, Dan That! brought to the table: a simple adventure experience, full of great wit and humor, but without the overly contrived puzzle scenarios that adventure games are often susceptible to. Short and sweet.
Bionic Commando (Xbox 360) - finished the game What's not to love about a grappling hook game? Aside from drowning in knee-deep water. And dying in nigh-invisible clouds of radiation. And a completely retarded story. But despite Bionic Commando's many flaws, I still liked it, because swinging and flinging shit around with the bionic arm is wicked fun.
Borderlands (PC) - level 47 Me and some buddies got the Steam four-pack, and blasted the fuck out of the Borderlands' Mad Max rejects for a good two weeks or so. With friends, Borderlands is stupid-fun - it's the new Diablo II, but with guns! But solo play is, by comparison, pretty dull; so I haven't done much with it since my pals moved on. I'm really hoping to get pulled back in by some of the new-and-upcoming DLC.
Braid (PC) - finished the game I'd been putting Braid off for a long while, waiting for an opening in my game schedule. Wow that was dumb! Not only is this one of the finest games I've played (possibly my new #1), it was a relatively short trip, taking a single evening and part of the following morning. Easily the densest and richest experience of anything I played this year. It fascinated me, stumped me, wowed me, and entertained me all at once. This is a work of real brilliance.
Brutal Legend (Xbox 360) - finished the demo A competent God-of-War-em-up with a funny slant. Brutal Legend didn't impress me at all until Eddie Riggs started talking to himself - Tim Schafer, that interminable scamp, still has a knack for great writing. That said, the gameplay didn't do much for me. I'll play the full game eventually, but not until I can pick it up for an Andrew Jackson, or lesser president.
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS) - finished the game Order of Ecclesia borrows mechanics from the previous GBA/DS Metroidvanias, but is actually quite reminiscent of older Castlevanias - with less emphasis on map exploration, and more on straight-up, linear path monster slaying. Which, frankly, I don't care for as much. The last third of the game goes back to a nonlinear map in Dracula's Castle, which I had some fun with, but still not as much as Dawn of Souls or Portrait of Ruin.
CIMA: The Enemy (GBA) - gave up after the first level CIMA is one of those GBA games I always wanted to try, but never picked up, and totally forgot about - until I saw it in a Gamestop case a few months ago. I'd remembered it as some sort of grid-based tactical RPG, but apparently I was completely wrong: the entire game is an escort quest. With godawful pathfinding, and one of the worst UIs in the history of ever. And retardedly-long cutscenes. Yeah! Fuck that.
Cogs (PC) - finished the demo Linking together gears and chains and steam-pipes, to make a puzzle-block into a functional mechanism? Ultra-cool. Slide puzzles? Ultra-lame. More fun than I expected it to be, anyway.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (PC) - finished the Ally demo mission I like that Red Alert 3 eschews Red Alert's now-archaic interpretation of RTS, in favor of a more straightforward Blizzard-style approach. But then, sans those weird mechanics, Red Alert doesn't have much to call its own. The bizarre units are neat on paper - but don't really feel like anything special in-game. I do like the idea of co-op RTS action, but didn't get the chance to try that out, so I dunno if that's compelling or not. Sadly, attack bears aren't really enough to stand out in the genre anymore.
Conan (Xbox 360) - finished the game As I mentioned in my thing on reviews that you didn't read, Conan is better than Golden Axe: Beast Rider (see below), but not as good as God of War. There's not much else to say about it- oh, except I guess, that you rescue topless maidens. Sometimes they'll request that Conan "crush" them "with [his] love," but I never found the Crush With Love move, so, whatever bitches.
The Conduit (Wii) - played a level If this game came out alongside Halo in 2001, it would have been awesome. Eight years later, it's not that impressive. A competent shooter; but not really anything more.
Contra ReBirth (Wii) - finished the game Contra is a series I was never able to get much out of, because, well, it was too fuckin' hard for me. Playing ReBirth co-op with a friend was just the fix I needed: solid sidescroller action, a good challenge without feeling unfair (until the last level), and we never had to completely restart the game. I can't speak for life-long Contra players, but Contra ReBirth is a perfect way for an idiot like me to experience the franchise.
Crackdown (Xbox 360) - finished the game, four-star cop Crackdown is just plain fun. It's not as deep or involved as a Grand Theft Auto, which is both good and bad: there's nothing in the way of building up gang rep or unraveling storylines, but jumping over buildings and throwing cars at street punks is great, instant gratification. The RPG aspects of building up a super-cop are what keep Crackdown appealing, so although it's fun while it lasts, once my enforcer was top-level I completely lost interest. I'm looking forward to how the sequel (and APB, for that matter) work with this concept.
Darkest of Days (PC) - finished the demo I love the concept of fucking up historical battles with high-powered weaponry, and the 'Tex' voice actor really sells the game's ludicrous premise. Too bad the game's actual shooting is tedious, trite, and unrewarding.
Dead Rising (Xbox 360) - finished 72-hour mode In theory, I love Dead Rising: believe it or not, it's one of the biggest reasons I bought a 360. But I quickly found out that my dream of trying to escape/survive a mall by slaughtering zombies, has little in common with what the actual game is like. All the weapons seem to break too easily - zombies respawn as soon as you turn around - those fuckheads in the jeep with the gatling gun keep coming back for more - aiming controls are total shit - bosses with guns are unreasonably difficult. This should be a game about kicking ass, but is more about getting kicked in the ass. I'll be keeping an eye on Dead Rising 2; I really hope it changes this bullshit up.
Dead Space: Extraction (Wii) - finished the game in co-op While Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles took the rail-shooter genre and added little more than a stage select menu, Dead Space: Extraction might be the first rail shooter with a good story (with production values to match). Not only that, but the weapons are all great, and feel sufficiently different from genre tropes: big cutting lasers, flamethrowers, even plasma mines! I won't hesitate to call this the current-best in the genre.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening (PS2) - finished the first mission As I mentioned re: Bayonetta, I was never able to get into Devil May Cry. I tried the first game a bit, and the third, too, but neither struck me as anything more than bland adventuring and too-complicated combat, stitched together by ludicrous cinematics that make Michael Bay look smart. I'm sure there's something here for people who love punching in button combos, but it's just not for me.
Dokapon Kingdom (Wii) - currently in chapter 3 Here's a game that is, by all measurable standards, bad. What depth of gameplay it has is largely overshadowed by random chance, the setting is more juvenile than most children's books (but deceptively lengthy), and the art style and voice acting are laughable. But when I play this with friends - while drinking - all these elements combine into a blast of a party game. You never know what's going to happen next, and that unpredictability is exactly what makes it fun.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam (Xbox 360) - died to Milliardo in the demo Do people actually like this Dynasty Warriors shit? This is one of the dumbest games I've ever played. Well, I guess the Ninety-Nine Nights knock-off is dumber.
Eternal Sonata (Xbox 360) - finished the demo The light-and-dark time-limit battle system didn't make any sense to me at first, but I'm glad I gave it a try, because I ended up really liking it. That the brain-damaged Chopin premise is interestingly bizarre, and that the game looks absolutely gorgeous, ice the cake on Eternal Sonata; all I need now is some time to play the game in.
Exit DS (DS) - got to world 4 What I like about puzzle games is using a set of rules to logically solve a problem. Exit, unfortunately, has a collage of nonsensical rules and exceptions that make a lot of the puzzles feel like getting punched in the brain. Why is the elevator weight limit so fickle? Why can't dogs fall down? Why are stairs so goddamn hard to climb? These should not be the puzzles of a puzzle game. Not to mention, the controls (both touchscreen and button!) are total ass.
Fairytale Fights (Xbox 360) - "finished" the demo What the hell is there to like about this game? The style is bland. The gameplay is shallow. The controls suck. There is nothing of value here. Maybe the full game is completely different from the demo, in which case, uh, smart move, Playlogic.
Final Fantasy XII (PS2) - got to Belias For the first few hours, I sleepwalked my way through FF12. Not exciting at all, but not frustrating or offensive, either. Eventually, the story showed signs of waking up, and license points started rolling in - I got pretty jazzed about all the items I'd be able to use. But then I couldn't buy them anywhere. Then I got to a boss that simply and utterly overpowered me, despite the enemies around him being pushovers. I got the message: FF12 wants me to grind. I want it to go fuck itself. As for the story? I looked up the ending on YouTube, and well, I'm glad I didn't waste any more of my time on that trash.
Flower, Sun, and Rain (DS) - finished the game I liked Killer7: it was bizarre, but interesting, and with some unique gameplay hooks. I really liked No More Heroes: still a bit of nonsense, but super-stylish, and fun to play. Flower, Sun, and Rain felt like looking back in Goichi Suda-history - when 'quirkiness' trumped fun. FSR is a game about tedious puzzles, tedious walking, and tedious dialog. Frankly, it wasn't worth the effort.
Fracture (Xbox 360) - finished the game I was impressed by the demo: unlike so many other one-trick shooters, Fracture's gameplay actually revolved around its terrain-manipulation gimmick. At least, in the demo it did. The full game wasn't as creative, and felt like a pretty standard set-piece-driven third-person shooter. Nothing special, but not bad, either. At least the weapons were pretty cool.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Wii/Xbox 360) - finished the game in co-op (+ demoed on Xbox 360) The gameplay felt competent, at least, but the real draw of the Ghostbusters game was its authenticity to the franchise: with its appropriate writing and acting, it did really feel like helping out the Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, the platform differences are a significant trade-off; while tossing ghosts around in the Wii version was fun, the diluted look of the game (Ray is half Egon's height!) hurts the effect. Conversely, the hi-def version of the game looks and sounds great, but button- and stick-mashing to catch ghosts felt pretty stupid.
Golden Axe: Beast Rider (Xbox 360) - finished the game The ending cinematic's final words are the dwarf exclaiming "Blood and shit!" I feel like this is a pretty appropriate evaluation of Beast Rider.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (DS) - finished the main missions Chinatown Wars isn't just good for a DS game, it's good for a GTA game. Driving is surprisingly fun, given the overhead perspective; missions are bite-sized and feel rewarding; and extra stuff, like the drug trade and optional missions, make the whole city feel significant. Plus there's some clever touch-screen usage that even Nintendo could learn a thing or two from.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2) - finished the main missions Having heard favorable comparisons of San Andreas to GTA4 (and Vice City, which I enjoyed quite a bit) I went into GTA:SA with perhaps too-high expectations. Too many of the bugs and engine quirks from GTA3 remain; the map (especially the non-populated parts) is too big, taking forever to get places; and I really didn't dig the gang-banger theme of the game's opening and closing acts. Maybe I'm just racist.
The House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii) - finished the game in co-op Other than weapon upgrades, HotD Overkill really doesn't offer any gameplay you can't find in an arcade. But arguably, Overkill isn't about that - it's about swearing a whole fucking lot, and being a laugh-out-loud grindhouse experience.
Jurassic: The Hunted (Xbox 360) - got to wave 3(?) of the demo This game looks goddamn hilarious, and I really want to get drunk and try it sometime. Unfortunately, the downloadable demo is just a fort-defense mini-game where you try to keep dinosaurs from invading an empty base. No dino-punching at all! What a disappointment.
Knights in the Nightmare (DS) - finished the demo This is why I'm glad the Nintendo Channel distributes DS demos. Knights in the Nightmare (like The World Ends With You, which I've also mentioned below) is one of those games that is just unreasonably complicated. It's a real-time tactical RPG, except your units can't move, and you have a time limit, and you're a magic fairy that has to dodge bullets, and there's a night/day system, and what in the hell? Interesting premise, but way too much to wrap my head around.
The Last Remnant (PC) - died in the demo Playing The Last Remnant is like watching The Lord of the Rings. There are orders you can give in battle, but what consequence do they really have? It's a mystery! And how does the game decide what options your parties get? Who knows! I didn't really understand the "game" part of Last Remnant. So far as I can tell, the point is just to watch shit fight each other.
Legendary (Xbox 360) - finished the demo Legendary exemplifies the one-trick shooter. You fight mythical creatures like griffons and minotaurs! With ... shotguns! And machine guns. This may as well be a re-skin of any FPS made in the past ten years. It's a competent game, but really nothing special.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (DS) - finished the game Frankly, if it wasn't a Zelda game, I would have given up on it in the first half. The questing was slow; the dungeons were insultingly simple; and the train, man, what a pain in the ass. It felt like a very average adventure game. But! the latter half of Spirit Tracks made up for it with a faster pace, intricate dungeons with some incredibly clever puzzles, and less train bullshit. In the end, it's still not among my favorite Zeldas, but is a good game nonetheless.
MadWorld (Wii) - finished the game MadWorld is good, but flawed in two important ways. For one, there should be no time limits in the levels - not that you should be running out of time, but a time limit makes you think you might, and that changes playing style significantly. MadWorld is great fun when you take your time, coming up with clever and convoluted ways to inflict violence upon the level's enemies; when you just try to rush through and dispatch dudes as quick as possible, it's a boring grind. The game's second problem is that it's only about four hours long.
Mass Effect (PC) - doing some shit in space The gunplay is cool; not Borderlands cool, but still pretty fun. Aside from that, though, I'm still not sure how to feel about Mass Effect. Between the dialog and the Codex background, I haven't done this much reading since the last time I actually read a book. Why won't these goddamn aliens shut up? All I want to do is kill them or have sex with them, but those options barely ever show up in my magic conversation wheel.
Mega Man Zero 3 (GBA) - finished the intro mission I enjoyed the first two Mega Man Zeroes, despite their initial learning curves, as solid action games with robots and f'in lightsabers. Mega Man Zero 3, as far as I can tell, is more of the same - which is good, in a way. But it still doesn't understand what a checkpoint is. I simply do not have the patience anymore to get all the way to the boss of a level, die, and then have to repeat the entire level over from the beginning. Fuck you, Zero!
Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction (PS2) - captured the Ace of Clubs I'm still playing this one (or, I will be when I get back home). Of all the clones of GTA I've tried, this might be the one that actually rivals it: instead of warring gangs, there are warring countries, and instead of police, North Korea. All the same basic concepts apply, doing missions for different factions and being able to free-form blow shit up, but you're not a criminal like in Liberty City. In Mercenaries, killing people is what you're supposed to be doing. I'm surprisingly pleased with Mercs, and look forward to all the trouble I'll get in later in the game.
Metroid Prime: Trilogy (Wii) - started replaying Metroid Prime 1 and 2 I actually didn't play a whole lot of the Trilogy - just enough to see that, while Wiimote point-and-shoot in the first two Metroid Primes feels pretty good, it also notches up the difficulty a bit (since the Gamecube games assumed your lock-on was 100% accurate). All three games are still great, even the second one.
Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA) - finished the game Unfortunately, like many other NES classics, I was never able to get more than a few minutes into the original Metroid. Where's the map? C'mon Gunpei! So Zero Mission was a blessing, bringing Metroid into the 21st century for me. I liked it, and the final levels (new to Zero Mission) were interesting, but I still prefer Samus's more recent outings.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii) - finished the game in co-op I haven't played much New SMB Wii solo yet, so I don't have much to say about that mode - but with four players, this is really like (almost; see Trine below) no other game I'm aware of. It's utter chaos: minor traps become deadly, everyone is accidentally (or otherwise!) killing each other, and it's damn near impossible just finishing a lot of the game's stages. But it's fun. God damn, is it fun!
Ninja Blade (Xbox 360) - finished the demo Playing this made me feel retarded. Not because it was challenging, at all. Because it was retarded.
Overlord (PC/Xbox 360) - finished the game (+ demoed on PC) Conceptually, I love the Overlord franchise. It's like Pikmin, but fucking evil! The level design could use some work, and the controls are kind of shitty, but the theme of the game is just good enough to make up for its mechanical problems.
Overlord: Raising Hell (Xbox 360) - finished the expansion ...and the DLC is more of that. Some of the extra levels are pretty good, some aren't. The humor is the same, though, which is great.
Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode 1 (PC) - finished the game As a bizarre adventure-RPG hybrid, made to exploit the PA comic, I didn't expect much from RSPD's gameplay. But it ended up pleasantly surprising me: its unique mechanics for improving your character, and doing super- and combination-attacks, are actually pretty compelling. And of course the game's sense of humor is fantastic. Episode 2 is on my list now, and I really hope they finish the trilogy(?) eventually.
Perfect Dark Zero (Xbox 360) - gave up on the demo Boring, uninspired crap.
Plants vs. Zombies (PC) - finished the game It's a PopCap game, and yet-another-Tower-Defense. I really have no right to like Plants vs. Zombies so much. But it's easy to get into, deceptively deep, and has a great blend of action- and planning-oriented gameplay. Plus there are so many extra modes and collectibles, you can sink hours into them without even realizing what day it is.
Prince of Persia (PC) - finished the game Sure, the gameplay is pretty simple. Sure, the combat can get silly. Sure, the ending is kind of bad. But I really had a lot of fun with the new PoP. Jumping across chasms, running along ceilings, just leaping around and enjoying the view. I didn't mind the Light Seed collecting at all; traipsing through the game world just felt awesome.
Prototype (PC) - finished the game So there's this boss, maybe 2/3 of the way through the game - a giant tentacle monster that comes out of the ground. I didn't have the abilities I needed to kill it the "right" way, and I was unable to go back and grind for them, because the game autosaved me in the boss fight. Took me four hours to kill that motherfucker. Prototype had its moments (grappling up to a helicopter and eating the pilots: cool!), but was brought down for me by frustrating bullshit like that.
Red Faction: Guerrilla (Xbox 360) - finished the demo I wasn't real impressed with the game world. Sure, it's Mars - fuckin' A! - but it's basically just a red desert with buildings in it. What's sweet about Red Faction is what I wanted from Fracture: being able to fuck up the game landscape. I don't know why knocking down buildings is so fun, but it is! I've got the full PC version waiting in the wings, whenever I've got the time for it.
Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360) - finished the game in co-op As a co-op experience, RE5 isn't bad. The controls do feel more awkward than they have to, sometimes, and the story is just as retarded as you should expect from Resident Evil (volcano, what?). It's a fun ride, but there are better co-op games out there. And solo, well, it can't really hold a candle to RE4.
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (Wii) - got to Code Veronica chapters in co-op I was hoping to have this finished last week, but man, the Code: Veronica chapters just keep going. I've never played REC:V, but if it's anything like its chapters in Darkside Chronicles, I'll be staying as far away from it as possible. Anyway - Darkside Chronicles has some incremental improvements over Umbrella Chronicles, but still doesn't approach what Dead Space: Extraction has accomplished.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (PC) - finished the game I take great shame in admitting that, prior to this year, I'd never played Monkey Island. I know! I am a terrible person. And now, having played (and enjoyed quite a lot) the Special Edition, I'm sufficiently spoiled by the voice acting and high-res art that I won't be able to play Monkey Island 2, until there's a special edition of that as well. Damn you, LucasArts!
Shadow Complex (Xbox 360) - finished the game, 100% Donald Mustard at Chair has said that Shadow Complex development started with an extensive internal review of Super Metroid, and it really shows. On one hand, it's easy to call SC a complete rip-off of Metroid, right down to the door colors. On the other hand, it's fun. The "new" gameplay Shadow Complex brings, namely third-dimension depth, isn't really compelling; but that doesn't stop the game from being thoroughly enjoyable.
Sonic Unleashed (Xbox 360) - finished the demo The demo didn't include any Were-hog segments; it was strictly daytime hedgehog-running, and was actually pretty alright. If I actually believed that the full game was like this, it'd be on my shelf by now.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Wii/Xbox 360) - finished the game (+ demoed on Xbox 360) Much like Ghostbusters, I like the creative gesture usage in the Wii version of Force Unleashed, but am kind of let down that it looks like a PS2 game. And yet, while the Xbox 360 version does a much better job of wowing me visually, using button combos for Force powers, and jamming a button for the lightsaber, just feels stupid. (The story blows in either case.) I got some enjoyment out of TFU, but not enough to get suckered in by the Ultimate Sith expansion.
Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal (PC) - finished the episode A good adventure game, as far as adventure games go. Great humor and writing; occasionally arbitrary and frustrating puzzles. Not as well-polished as the Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition - I would have killed for an in-game hint system - but impressive and fun, regardless.
Tales of Vesperia (Xbox 360) - died at the demo boss I liked Tales of Symphonia, on the Gamecube, in 2004. Five years later? The same game, in higher definition, with a lot more inane chatter and time-wasting; well, I didn't really care much for it. I was pretty happy when my party died at the demo boss. They were all whiny bitches anyway.
Time Gentlemen, Please! (PC) - finished the game I enjoyed Ben There, Dan That! because it distilled the good parts of a classic LucasArts adventure into a succinct, delicious experience. Time Gentlemen, Please!, as a full-length and full-complexity game, sidesteps those benefits and takes on the major pitfall of older adventure titles: many puzzles seem needlessly complicated and arbitrary. What worked so well under a microscope in BTDT, became a reminder of moribund genre tropes in TGP.
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. (PC) - finished the demo I like that HAWX is a flight sim easy enough for an idiot like me to play. Doing barrel rolls (!) and tailing enemy craft, obliterating them with my overpowered weaponry, was pretty fun in the demo. But I'm still not a flight sim guy (unless it's Star Wars), so, no dice.
Too Human (Xbox 360) - finished the demo What a waste! Too Human might be a competent game, but it's impossible for me to take it out of the context of ten years of development. No matter what minor successes it may have achieved, they're nothing compared to the game's colossal development failure.
Trine (PC) - finished the game in co-op Alone, Trine is an interesting physics experiment, a fun game with some creative quirks. With three players, it's co-operative mayhem; not on the same scale as New SMB Wii, but still enough to engender some (more-or-less) friendly rivalry on the couch. As the wizard, it was my pleasure to create platforms and boxes over or in front of my cohorts, occasionally to their great detriment and death.
Watchmen: The End is Nigh (PC) - finished the episode 1 demo A pageant queen of a movie-game: End is Nigh looks great, but has absolutely nothing of substance. Beat-em-ups on the Super NES were deeper than this. A gorgeous, vacuous button-masher.
WET (Xbox 360) - finished the game I should have stuck with the demo. It was great fun! WET's grindhouse aesthetic is engaging and cool, and the gameplay is simple, but fun to play around with. Unfortunately, the full game never offers anything more. Shallow shooting, poor acrobatics, and an incoherent story culminate in a quick-time-event finale that left me wondering - was the awful ending intentional? A joke on the player, riffing on rushed endings in grindhouse movies? Not that this would make it any better.
Wheelman (Xbox 360) - finished the demo Call me naive, but I was genuinely excited for Wheelman when it was announced. The notion of cutting the narrative "fat" out of a Grand Theft Auto game, and enhancing the driving elements, sounded right up my alley. But Wheelman's driving controls and physics suck. That's really all there is to it.
Wii Sports Resort (Wii) - played some minigames This is a new Wii Sports. If you liked the original, you'll like this; if you didn't, you probably won't. That being said, Resort improves on the first Wii Sports in every way imaginable (plus, uh, wakeboarding!). So if you host Wii parties, it's a no-brainer, even without the bundled MotionPlus.
The World Ends With You (DS) - Joshua day three I tried this when it was new, but couldn't really get into it; TWEWY is pretty long-winded for a portable game, not to mention having a ridiculous abbreviation. Now that I'm revisiting it, I'm interested to see what the game's mysterious narrative is hiding - but the gameplay still seems too overly complicated for its own good.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (PC) - level 80 Fuck you, Blizzard! You cocksuckers! Fuck you! God damn it! (When is Cataclysm coming out?)
Sweet zombie Jesus. I've set a pretty high bar for myself this year. I think I can make it, though, as long as World of Warcraft leaves me the hell alone.
By the way, there was never any vortex threatening to destroy the universe - that was just a meticulous, intricate lie.
As unearthed from a closet while visiting my parents for the holiday
Connectix Virtual Game Station is a Mac application for emulating the Sony PlayStation. I used this to play Final Fantasy VII (and later, Final Fantasy Tactics) on my iBook, without going out and buying a PS1 - it worked pretty well, too, aside from rare graphical glitches during FF7 battle scenes that turned into red-tinted Terminator-vision.
The story of VGS is sad, but brief: Sony tried suing the living piss out of Connectix, but was never able to get anywhere, because Connectix's reverse-engineering of the PlayStation hardware was, as far as anyone could prove, 100% legal. Plus, it was designed to play commercially-sold game discs, so there was no argument for it promoting the use of illegal game rips.
So after a protracted, futile legal battle, Sony caved. They even appeared to turn the other cheek, and partnered with Connectix to further develop the product. Shortly thereafter, it was permanently discontinued.
Connectix also made another product you may be more familiar with: Virtual PC. In its original iteration, VPC was a method of running an emulated Windows environment on a PowerPC Mac. Microsoft bought (and went on to neuter and marginalize) Virtual PC in ... (checks Wikipedia) 2003. Connectix ceased to exist later that year.
I completely agree that review scores are easy, painless, and extremely convenient, even if they are an imperfect metric of a game's worth. I myself put non-trivial stock in Metacritic averages, and will sometimes skip a review's text in light of an exceptionally high or low score (hey, I gots things to do!).
But where would the human race be if we settled for convenient, imperfect solutions? (Your mother's house, that's where!) So in the interest of bettering not only video game journalism, but humanity itself, I hereby put forth my proposed replacement for game review scores.
The remainder of this post is essentially a poorly-written whitepaper, so if you just want to post a derogatory comment about my face, feel free to skip ahead.
The fundamental problem that review scores attempt to solve, is reducing a game's worth into as succinct and understandable a measure as possible. Anyone possessing remedial math skills can look at a 7/10 rating, and see that it's "better" than a 5/10 rating. But trying to derive any further meaning from a numeric score can be tricky:
1) If Game A has a 7/10 from IGN, does that make it better than Game B, with 6/10 from Destructoid?
This is a problem that Metacritic (and other review aggregators) go a long way toward solving, as they smooth out the effect of each outlet's numeric range. But it is still difficult to separate the effect of a critic's opinion from the effect of an outlet's skew on review scores in general.
2) Is Game C, released in 1999 with an 81% average, better than Game D, released in 2009 with an 80% average?
Our expectations change as genres, technology, and development practices move forward. Last year's award winner often becomes this year's par-for-the-course, and next year's trash. But not always! - some games still seem almost timeless. There's no standard rubric to adjust a game's review score based on its age, nevermind newly-published reviews of older games.
3) If Game E, a racing game, gets 90/100, is it better than Game F, an action-adventure, which got only 85/100?
This is really an unfair question, since it assumes a 1:1 mapping between "good" and "bad" across genres. I would make the argument that all racing and sports games suck, unless they have banana peels; whereas a racing game fan might make the argument that I am a dick. While there are some aspects of disparate games that can be directly compared (graphics, voice acting, etc.), in general, their numeric differences are not meaningful. The score for an "average" football game is completely different from the score for an "average" platformer.
4) Is Game G exactly 'average' if it receives a 5.0/10? That is, can it be assumed that half of all games are better, and half are worse?
Of course, we all know this is bullshit. Individual review outlets can assign textual descriptions to their numbers, but these become meaningless in view of other outlets' different numbers and descriptions. Furthermore, the idea that a game can be explained as purely a number, with no context, is utter nonsense; the number is useless except when compared with other numbers.
It is this last question that inspired my proposed system, which I'll call Relative-Comparative Ranking (RCR for short). I assert that it is pointless attempting to create a holistic measure of game worth, independent of comparison; it is impossible to say a game is "good" or "bad" without some contextual basis, e.g. "better than this game" or "not as good as that game." At any rate, a game consumer doesn't know what to expect from a game rated 80 until he's played a 70, or a 90, et cetera.
In so many words, my assumption is that a succinct game-worth descriptor need not be meaningful purely on its own. So with that in mind, why bother with the artifice of numbers? My RCR proposal is to describe games as better than (or not as good as) other games.
For instance, if I were to review the this-gen slash-em-up Conan, I might describe it as better than Vexx, but not as good as New Super Mario Bros. A user could view Conan's ranking page, and plainly see that it's more fun than a terrible 3d platformer from 2003. Or, he could view the Vexx ranking page, and note that it's worse than a mediocre action game from 2007.
If the user has played any of these three games, he can roughly gauge the quality of the other two, based on my and other reviewers' ranking votes. Given a large enough pool of users, all with their own distinct genre tastes, the effects of those tastes will filter out - leaving (presumably) the real, measurable differences in quality between games of un-like genres. This can be construed as an answer to (3), above: as much as unlike-games can be compared, the ranking system makes the comparison direct, rather than using unreliable numbers.
Rankings become infinitely more meaningful, though, when games are compared to like-games; which is just the kind of comparison you'd expect a critic to make, anyway. Regarding the Conan example, rather than comparing the game to Vexx and Mario, I'm in fact much more likely to say that Conan is better than Golden Axe: Beast Rider, but not as good as God of War. Now, chances are pretty good that any fan of beat-em-up games can use this ranking information to make a reliable purchasing decision. Since these rankings are non-temporal - a 6.0 may not always be better than a 5.0, but Conan will always be better than Beast Rider - this handily solves issue (2).
It's also desirable to rank games using votes from some degrees of separation away - e.g., if there are no votes comparing Modern Warfare to The Conduit, but there are known MW vs. MW: Reflex rankings, and known MW: Reflex vs. Conduit rankings, some second-degree inference may be made. Hence, an answer to (1).
Embellish these rankings with short, tag-like descriptors of a game, covering its genre, platform, key features, etc., and it becomes trivial to computationally construct meaningful rankings based on category. It would be simple to determine the "best" racing game, or the "best" Zelda game, or the "best" game starring Nolan North. This answers issue (4), in that it is easy to see how a game has placed in the grand scheme of things. It could even serve as a mechanism for a novice gamer to pick a good starting point; if a game consumer's never played a Zelda before, he could check the series ranking and instantly go for one near the top of the list.
The trick of RCR is, naturally, the implementation, which I haven't completely figured out yet. A straightforward approach to first-degree comparative rankings could be pretty easy: a massive table with every recorded game on each axis, and ranking votes where two titles intersect. But how should second-degree comparisons, and farther out, be decided? What algorithm, and what weight, should be applied to these rankings? And what determines statistical significance - if I go to a game's ranking page, how many times will the entire table have to be searched, to determine what comparisons are most meaningful?
Ultimately, getting the implementation right requires much further thought, as well as practical experimentation, and a significant set of data to play around with.
When I first thought of this system, I'd intended to further design and test it for my personal game site (citation needed); but I gave up before reaching any sort of functional prototype, having no significant userbase to use for algorithm testing. Also, laziness. I'd still love to try this someday, though.
TLDR - review scores are good because the alternatives are kind-of fuckin' complicated.
Every time I read my news feeds, I mark items that strike me as good blogging fodder. But lately I've been tied up at work and haven't had much chance to delve into a lot of these. So here are my brief, dumb opinions on some news from the past month or two - in no particular order, except chronologically.
As my heart bleeds for technology freedom, software licensing is something that's kept me up at night (well, not really). In the digital space, the software industry is fond of selling licenses, rather than products - meaning that the conventional rules of digital goods don't apply. Want to rip it off and sell millions of copies? Tough luck! Want to return your rightfully-purchased software for a refund? Just-as-tough luck! Wait, shit.
The story is about a guy who re-sold his copy of AutoCAD. Autodesk wanted to put the kibosh on this - naturally, they'd make more money from selling a brand new copy, instead. The court ruled in favor of the re-seller, stating that upon buying the software, it became his to do with as he pleased. Great news for anyone who buys things.
Nothing against Steam (more on that further down), but what is the deal with all this pre-order bonus shit? Gamestop, Amazon, everyone seems to be getting in on this: if you're pre-ordering a big game, you can get a different crackerjack prize depending on where you choose to do your business.
I'm all for strong competition in the game-selling space, and as far I understand, a lot of these end up being paid or free DLC later on - and were probably in development long before anyone started talking about pre-orders. But I shudder to think of a day when publishers crack the whip on a game developer to implement Gamestop-exclusive levels and items. Blegh.
Speaking of retailer competition - in line with what Randy Pitchford said a few weeks back, as good a job as they do, it is worrying that Valve has such tremendous vertical integration in Steam. Calling Steamworks a "Trojan Horse" is pretty stupid; but requiring a game that uses Steamworks to also install Steam is just nonsense. It's an inconvenience to the consumer, it's anti-competitive, and there's no good reason why Valve can't spin all this stuff off into independent divisions.
Gamespy may kind of suck, but Borderlands didn't force you to install IGN's Direct2Drive, did it?
This ties in with something I wanted to post about UPlay, and about Gamestop nonsensically trying to sell digital downloads in stores. With consumer dollars starting to dry up, everyone in the game business is looking to figure out how to keep the gravy train rolling; and it seems like a lot of them are thinking consumer loyalty.
On the one hand, publishers and developers and retailers paying increased attention to retaining customers is a good thing for the consumer. We can look forward to getting more stuff and better treatment in general. On the other hand, one should definitely be wary of the platform makers getting desperate and abusing their positions as masters of our game domains. Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are all in great positions to prevent third party software from competing with their own major franchises; hopefully they're not stupid enough to try.
Re: what I said about Steamworks, above, and Brad Wardell's recent open consumer statement about Impulse et al, I've been giving some thought to how the digital distribution space might become more competitive. The other day I mentioned to some buddies of mine that I thought it odd, that Steam or Impulse or Direct2Drive had yet to appear pre-installed on PCs as an OEM deal. Then this happened!
It shouldn't be long until more PC makers decide to bundle Steam with their kits. Then Stardock and IGN will (rightly) cry foul, and either their stuff will get pre-installed too, or everyone will come up with some mutually-compatible marketplace software, where everyone can live in harmony. Maybe I'm just dreaming about that last part.
In which I spoil the entire plot of Bionic Commando (2009), and your life becomes worse for it, as has my own.
From 8- and 16-bit classics whose entire plot fit in a single paragraph, to Japanese RPGs translated into English by someone who read neither, to modern Hollywood-style games that're all tits and explosions - there's no shortage of bad stories in video games. It's a hallmark of the industry that narratives must fall somewhere between 'absurd' and 'retarded.' I've seen some pretty bad ones; sometimes they're bad enough to be good, not unlike Manos: The Hands of Fate.
But nothing could have prepared me for Grin's new Bionic Commando.
IT STANDS IN DEFIANCE OF LOGIC AND REASON
The first mistake in the game's script - and this is a doozy - is existing, at all. Writing staff was apparently driven to show that other ham-fisted retro revivals are kid's stuff. Rather than discarding the existing story that no one cares about, or making itself out as similarly farcical, the new Bionic Commando attempts to turn the original game's implausibly ridiculous plot into serious canon, set in our future.
Protagonist Rad Spencer has become Nathan "Rad" Spencer, grizzled bionic veteran sitting on death row for refusing to follow orders. Brother-in-arms Super Joe is now Joseph Gibson (voiced by that guy who's in everything), lobbyist for the Tactical Arms and Security Committee - a military-industrial powerhouse of bionic research and development, up until the Federal States of America outlawed bionics. Now a terrorist organization called Bio-Reign uses its bionic might to shove people around, and kill a shit-ton of civilians for whatever reason.
So when Bio-Reign nukes the shit out of - and subsequently occupies - Ascension City, Killer Croc- er Joe Gibson, called in to clean up the mess, hauls Spencer out of the clink. The only way to fight these bionically-enhanced motherfuckers, he concludes, is with a bionic commando of their own. Only one, though. One should be enough.
But why should Spencer help now, when his former buddy let him languish in a cell for almost two years? Because Spike Spiegel has information on Spencer's missing wife. Keep this under your hat for now, because it won't come up again until the end of the game.
Nate Spencer proceeds to be shot into the city in some sort of carrier-missile. His arm is in another missile. Yeah, in the first few minutes of Bionic Commando, he's not even Bionic - just taking pot shots at assholes with a pistol. Eventually he finds his arm, plugs it in, and becomes an amoral killing machine. Spencer doesn't really make a good case for lifting the ban on bionics.
But what's really happening in Ascension City? Why have the terrorists taken a dead city, and why is the government sending a lone commando in after them? Because they're searching for a super-powerful technological artifact, of course. Spencer quickly discovers that Bio-Reign is being assisted by the same neo-Nazi fucks he thought he murdered years ago. Dark Star from No More Heroes confesses that Spencer's real mission is to recover this nonsense widget from the ruins of Ascension City, and to save military survivors if he gets around to it (he doesn't).
Naturally, along the way Spencer runs into his old bionic buddy Jayne Magdalene, a sassy bitch with legs that don't quit (because they're robot legs!). She works for Bio-Reign now, killing innocent people to restore legitimacy to bionics. Man, all these people are retards.
GIBSON'S PLAN DOESN'T MAKE ANY GODDAMN SENSE
Eventually Mugen gets a government stooge on the horn, who when pressed with Bio-Reign's impending sack of the federal library, reveals the location of the secret techno-magic device. Spencer stashes it in his pocket or something, then proceeds to knock the fuck out of the hilariously overacted German cyborg leader.
Oh, and Super Joe takes the device, because it turns out he was the bad guy the whole time - using Spencer and the Nazis to get ahold of the thing.
Let's see if we can follow Jack's (from MadWorld) train of thought:
1) I'm mad or something, I want to take over the world why not.
2) There's a super sciency thing in Ascension City, but only this military general knows how to get it.
3) I can trick him into giving it up by making him think it's in danger!
4) I'll just get this terrorist organization to attack the city, leaving it in shambles, and, uh, they'll probably kill everyone who tries to ruin my plan.
5) Until I uh, probably, get to pick someone to send in to recover the device!
6) I'll select my old buddy Nathan Spencer:
6.1) I can trust him because I betrayed him at his court martial hearing, and there's no way I would do that again.
6.2) The government can trust him because they banned his livelihood and he's got nothing left to live for.
7) Then I'll have the terrorists throw super-powerful robots and solders at Spencer, so he can kill them, because that will be fun.
8) Once he recovers the device, I'll take it from him.
9) I make enemies of Bio-Reign, the federal government, and Spencer all at once!
So what does this device do? Hard to say. As far as I can tell from the last level, it allows Gibson to pilot a man-sized flying exoskeleton, and exert command over an army of robot harpies. That he had already built. And was already prepared to use. For ... something.
THE TWIST IS DUMB
As Spencer chases Roger Smith into his underground lair, Joe finally lets out the secret: Spencer's wife never really "left" him. She was made into his arm.
So apparently the dirty little secret of bionics - that no one really talked about up till now - is that they're made from people. Spencer lost his arm in a grenade blast, and his wife (who, it should be said, was not terminally ill or anything like that) sacrificed herself to make him a new one. Then no one ever told him about it. He thought she left him.
Come on, really?
IT BUCKLES UNDER ITS OWN WEIGHT
You may notice that Grin/Capcom did a fuckload of retconning to make this backstory as remotely comprehensible as it is. The in-game info dossiers have pages upon pages of background on characters, organizations, and events like the Bionic Purge. (Incidentally, most of this looks like it was translated from Swedish and/or Japanese via Babelfish.)
In the game, all this boils down to:
- The government is somewhat fascist and also impotent
- Bionics are for nerds
There are gaping holes in the storytelling, and it's obvious that someone thought they would be able to accomplish more in the game than they did. Shockingly, Grin may not have been so great at project planning.
Until Bionic Commando, I never believed that a game's story could be so awful as to make the rest of the game feel worse, just by associating with it. As much fun as I had swinging through canyons and zip-lining my feet into a robot's face, I've no doubt that I would have much fonder memories of the game if God of War's Ares hadn't been laughing like an idiot on the radio the entire time.
Spencer routinely yelling "I'll send you the bill later!" after killing a man didn't help much, either.