>WIPTW: World Series edition

>I am incredibly superstitious when it comes to the Yankees in the postseason, and the incredibly annoying feature is that the superstitions are always changing from year to year. During the 2004 meltdown against the Red Sox, I feel like I let us down; the first three games I’d listened to on the radio, and because I was traveling on the 4th game I ended up watching it on TV, which is where everything fell apart. This year’s winning formula is apparently that I cannot watch any of the game on television, or even be in the same room if the game happens to be on. I’m serious. Within 5 seconds of me turning the game on, something bad happens to the Yankees; I turn the game off; they end up winning.

As a result, I’ve been able to get a bit more quality time on the 360. This weekend was all about Forza 3 and Borderlands, with a tiny bit of GTA4: BOGT on the side.

Forza 3 is definitely the best in the series. All the pre-release hype made special mention of Turn Ten’s desire to make the game as accessible as possible for all kinds of gamers, not just driving sim enthusiasts, and to that end they have succeeded. The single-player campaign is long, robust, endlessly customizable, and thoroughly rewarding; just about every single race ends up giving you something new. And since I know nothing about cars, I feel much freer to simply buy cars that I’m somewhat interested in, since I can always auto-tune them up before a race if they’re underperforming. The franchise is really only guilty of two things; recycling content and less-than-spectacular graphics. I suppose I can forgive the graphics; they’re certainly not bad, they’re just underwhelming compared to, say, DiRT 2. The recycling of tracks, though, does get a bit annoying; I feel like I’ve been driving the same tracks for years.

Ultimately, Forza reminds me a bit of the Tiger Woods franchise, in that they’re both great time-sucks and, simultaneously, great for just a quick dip. If only Tiger Woods could make the same sort of advances in terms of keeping the game fresh.

Borderlands continues to be the game that keeps on giving. My soldier is now up to level 28, I think, and I feel like I just can’t put the damned thing down. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in the story, and I couldn’t care less; I pick up a bunch of missions in a particular area, I clear ’em all out, I score tons of loot, I cash them in, I level up, lather, rinse, repeat. That the game does a pretty terrible (i.e., nonexistent) job of letting you know which of your 10-15 missions is actually essential to moving the story along ends up freeing you to explore more of the world because, well, why not – there’s loot in them thar hills, and sticking to the main questline would render a lot of it unexplored.

One can’t help but be reminded of Fallout 3 when playing Borderlands, as post-apocalyptic first-person RPGs aren’t really a dime a dozen. And yet the two games could not feel more different. Leaving aside from the drastically different art styles – which I don’t really want to do, as Borderlands looks absolutely incredible and utterly unique – they move at completely different paces. Fallout 3 was slow, ponderous, and dark – and it absolutely worked in that particular context. Borderlands might as well be a first-person shooter, on the other hand, as it plays fast and furious. It’s dark as well, but it’s also zany. I think I enjoyed the overall experience a bit more in Fallout 3, and yet I’m probably having a bit more fun playing Borderlands.

Ultimately, Borderlands is clear-cut proof that a game – specifically an RPG – doesn’t need a great story in order to be fun. That kinda sucks to admit, because I wouldn’t at all mind being a bit more emotionally invested in what’s going on in Borderlands, and it flies in the face of what Tim Schafer and Valve and GTA represent. We’d all like to see better writing and storytelling in games. And yet even without a clear motivation to get from one side of the game to the other in terms of story, here I am, compulsively doing missions and killing dudes and exploring and wanting to turn the game off after just finishing up this last thing and then holy shit, another hour has gone by, and look at all the cool stuff I have now.

I almost feel bad that I barely gave The Ballad of Gay Tony any time this weekend; I did a few missions, got a feel for the story and the characters, remembered how to get in and out of cover, and more or less left it at that. It’s still good old GTA4, even though the game is starting to look a little rough around the edges.

Which reminds me – there’s a lot of driving in both GTA4 and Borderlands (and Forza), and the controls are totally different for each game, and it takes more than a few minutes to remember which is which. I do wish there was some sort of control scheme that all game developers could agree on when it comes to driving in 3rd-person action games.

Jeez, I almost forgot – I also tried out the first hour or so of the new Ratchet & Clank game. It’s good, fun, solid, and I just don’t have the time for it right now.

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