November 14, 2008

Also, you save money on food when you only eat Doritos

It doesn't surprise me that the video game industry is so far defying the consumer confidence crisis. On a cost-per-minute basis, games are one of the best entertainment values around. I've recently been playing the first Rainbow Six Vegas game with a friend, and when something happened to the disc with five levels left to go, I was reluctant to spend $12 on a used replacement copy... until I realized that we were talking about less than $2.50 per level. Not bad for an en evening of entertainment for two people (four, if you count how much fun our wives have rolling their eyes at us).

Still, I won't spend quite as freely on games as some people (which is I'm only playing RSV1 now, after it became widely available used). So I'm looking over the big draws for the holiday season and not feeling terribly confident about any of them.

Little Big Planet. Maybe I'm getting old, but I don't want to design my own games any more than I want to shoot my own movies. (I don't even particularly want to write my own books, but that's another story.) I get the appeal of LBP to other people, but I don't have hours to spend building levels (or vehicles, Banjo/Kazooie), and if I did, I wouldn't really get a kick out of sharing them with strangers.

Fallout 3. This is at the top of my list. I loved the earlier Fallout games (though this one isn't by the same folks) and I usually like big RPGs. Plus I'm a sucker for the post-apocalyptic in a way I'm not for swords and sorcery. The problem is, I got burned on Mass Effect, which turned out, despite the genuinely awesome new dialog interface, to be a tedious slog with impenetrable resource management. Games are only cost-effective if you actually spend 40-100 hours playing them. Positive reviews like this one worry me when they compare it to "a sightseeing trip." I don't mind a slowly-developed story, as long as it's interesting the whole way. And the problem with a game like this is that you can't rent it for a night to see if you like it, since it really takes at least a few days to know for sure (yeah, I know some people do weekend-long marathons. I don't). Of all the games out now, this is the one I'm most likely to take a gamble on.

Fable 2. I know people love the concept, but to me it has even greater potential for not being terribly fun as an actual game. Zero Punctuation's Yahtzee (about the only critic I trust since Charles Herold left the Times) stokes my fears.

Mirror's Edge. I played the demo last night and I totally get it. It reminds me of the first time I played Spider-Man 2 in the sense of providing the excitement of a completely new and remarkably compelling movement mechanic. Except that web-slinging was fast and fun. You felt like you were swinging through buildings. ME has clearly been intentionally designed to feel like hard work (right down to the heavy breathing). I suppose that's a better simulation of the parkour experience, I just personally want something a touch more superhuman. Also, I'm a bit worried about the learning curve, and the reviews saying that other than the novel travel style, it's not much of a game (much like Spider-Man 2).

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. Because I did love S-M2 and this reportedly does have a solid game attached to it. But the reviews have been mixed. I'll need a demo or a rental.

Left4Dead. Another demo I played last night. Holy crap was it fun. It took the feel of my favorite FPS, Half-Life 2, stuck it in a present-day zombie infested city, and cranked up the adrenaline several notches. The problem is, it's designed from the ground-up for online multiplayer, and I just don't do that. I know, it's the future of gaming and everything, so maybe this is another generational thing. I would love to play L4D online with actual friends (as opposed to asshole teenagers) but I don't have many actual friends on XBL, so this game is, sadly, out.

Dead Space. Another game I've heard good things about. Charles Herold was even tentatively positive about it after a few levels. But what did Yahtzee say? What do you think? This is definitely one I'll rent first.

Gears of War 2. I didn't like the first one. Too much work, not enough brains.

End War. Downloaded the demo, but couldn't bring myself to play it. The very idea of talking to the game turned me off. I'll try it when I'm in a different frame of mind.

Soul Caliber IV. Again, I need something with more single-player appeal. Definitely when the price drops, though.

Portal: Still Alive. Argh. I hate the idea of paying for a game I already have. But then again, it's easily one of the best games I've ever played. And with 14 new levels that's just a little more than a dollar per level...

Anything I'm leaving out?

Posted by Daniel Radosh


For real gaming fun, spend all your disposable waking (and wanking) hours on Second Life and experience the thrills of starring in your own SIQUE fucking x-rated international soap opera every day!

Radosh, I believe the videos links aren't working.
About Fallout 3, I find the review spot on. But that shouldn't stop you. If Fallout 3 gets tedious after dozens of hours of game play, it's still worth it for the landscape and atmosphere alone.
I agree with you about Mass Effect. I still don't get the resource management or even how to effectively combat.

well I am totally hooked on fable 2 right now. 3am, two nights in a row (-10 pts, family harmony). It reminds me of the morrowind games with one difference, it's actually fun. I don't know if I'll get bored soon, but right now it's about all I can think about and actually am seeing exp orb everywhere in real life and little labels on things telling me what they are....

Last night I travelled a long dangerous path infested with bandits, which was no problem. Unfortunately a traveling pie merchant was roaming the same path and I bought him out to keep my health up. (the only penalty for dying is a permanent scar on your character, but as this game is teaching me, I'm a little too fixated on appearances). By the time I arrived, my character had grown quite fat! I spent the rest of the evening trying to slim down, turns out the only food that takes away fat is Celery, and you have to eat a lot of it to loose any serious weight (all my work as a blacksmith doesn't seem to have much affect). Anyway... so that's the fun of fable 2...

... one more thing, it's interesting how hard I'm trying to keep my character a good guy (and good looking, right now she has a kind of Tranny mess thing going). But deep in my heart I know I'm going to have to start over at some point and just go fully evil. "good girls go to heaven, but bad girls go everywhere."

@Gary - swapped vid embeds for links, thanks. (If you've never watched Yahtzee's reviews, do. They're hilarious.)

So would you say Fallout 3 has more narrative drive than Mass Effect? I know open worlds are all the rage, but I found the pre-Mass Effect Bioware games to be more satisfying because there was stuff you actually had to do that felt important to get done.

And how's the combat system? Some weird hybrid of turn-based and real-time, right?

@Jake - Wait, so Fable II lets you eat pie and celery? This could be the best game since Shenmue let you feed a kitten!

BTW, I never did play Oblivion, which I can now pick up cheap. But with that I'm more concerned about wasting time than money.

in thinking about it a bit more what makes fable 2 work (and oblivion and Mass Effect not) is the fighting engine. The combat is fun in fable 2, at a certain point last night i realized with a little patience I can actually use the special moves I payed so dearly for (just stop button mashing and hold the button for a few seconds). I never found the combat in oblivion engaging...

at first the resource management seemed overwhelming (and the world overly large) but once you get used to it, things are pretty simple and there's a very good quest system that makes following the linear story easy and fast if you are so inclined.

also, it does have a two player multi-player campaign mode. This is a little difficult because of camera issues (not a split screen) but is nice to have if there's a six year old in the house who insists on following you around everywhere. Now I just have to hide the in-game condoms from her....

Shenmue... you are bringing me back...

Re LittleBigPlanet - you dont *have* to create levels. Play it single-player, and play levels that other people create. It's also a good & cute party game (spouse, kids, etc).

Your list is pretty solid. I'm also looking forward to playing Resistance 2, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, Saints Row 2 -- Yahtzee gave that a surprisingly positive review -- and White Knight Chronicles (Dec 25).

I've actually found the random players on L4D to be rather less obnoxious than in other games I've played, at least so far.

It helps that the game is set up so that you really can't succeed unless you're playing smart and cooperating with your teammates. I think it weeds out some of the idiots.

Radosh, love that Yahtzee. Never knew about him and now he's bookmarked.
Mass Effect is more story driven than Fallout 3. It's like TV drama adventure with heroes and villains. Not so for Fallout 3, which is more a series of vignettes. There's good and bad karma but it doesn't feel that important. Get Fallout 3 for the combat system alone -unique and amazing. You move about the world in real time but if you like, you can pause the combat and pick your target..gory fun.

World of Warcraft : Wrath of the Lich King.

Biggest ever MMORPG in the world. There is a total of a little more over 11 million players (about the size of Greece, I'm told).

The other big flaw in Fallout 3 is that if you focus just on the main story thread (as I did on my first playthrough), it's about 15 hours of game time. You just barrel through it. Because it has the same "scaling" system as Oblivion, you don't so much have to level up to get to the end. That said, yeah, it's awesome.

And L4D is probably low on the douchenozzles because it's not officially out yet--it's all reviewers and the like. Once it's in general circulation...

@Becky. There is a total of a little more over 11 million players

That's the problem with MMOs. I only like a little over 13 people. (Plus, talk about financial drain. Oh, and I once had my credit card stolen by someone who used it just to play WoW.)

The previous Fallout games didn't have terribly strong storylines, but they worked because they created a compelling Mad Max style world you wanted to play around in. They did have strong characters and situations, so if this one does the same, and not just "atmosphere," that would be enough for me. Sounds like I'll be picking it up.

The problem with Fallout 3 is that your character is essentially invincible once you get to level 14 or so if you've built your character properly. There are a lot of mini-quests you can take or leave, there are lots of miscellaneous buildings crawling with bad guys you can wipe out, but there stops being rewards: you already have all the good weapons, you already have more money than there are things you'd reasonably want to buy, and your constraint comes down to how much stuff you can carry and whether you want to bother dropping it off or selling it -- but there's still a huge world out there you haven't finished exploring, and that doesn't even include the parts of the world that you've closed off intentionally or inadvertently by the moral or character choices made in the game.

I've technically gotten my money's worth by the dollars-spent-to-hours-played ratio, but it seems frustrating that there's more to the game that I'll never bother to access.

The game does have lots of nice touches: a parable about ending bigotry peacefully between two warring groups turns horrific no matter what path you take; rescue a child from ants and decide whether to find him a home or sell him into slavery; etc.

@Drew. OK, I'm adding Saints Row 2 to my check out list.

@Ted. Wouldn't it make sense to start a new game in that case? When I finish a good RPG, I'm always tempted to replay it in a different way, but rarely do because I don't want to repeat the same scenarios again. But if you could play a different way AND explore mostly new places, that would seem worth it.

Daniel, can you please explain how you have time to read newspapers, periodicals, blogs, a book now and then, do articles, raise twins, have some QT w/ your wife, take care of body hygiene, AND play potentially addictive video games? I'm serious! I don't understand. I can't do half of it properly and I don't have twins.

@John. How are you enjoying the anticaption contest results?

Update: Yahtzee agrees with everyone here re: Fallout 3.

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