Firstly – apologies for the weird takedown of the site the other day; WordPress apparently let some feral hamsters inside their servers and shut both of my blogs down for some alleged (and non-existent) violation of their Terms of Service. They fixed it, apologized, and so here we are, no harm, no foul. #OccupyWordpress
There’s a lot to talk about, and little time to do it, so here goes.
1. Gamespot is reporting that Microsoft is going to release its new Xbox next year, during the holiday season. This is maybe a little on the early side – I wasn’t expecting anything until an announcement in 2013 of a console release in 2014 – but in a way it makes sense. Judging from the amount of sequels we got this year, I’m thinking that developers are a bit reluctant to launch any new IP so close to the end of the Xbox360’s life cycle. I’ll have more to say about the next round of consoles in a later post – I’m already starting to ramble (in my head) and I haven’t even gotten started yet.
2. I’ve started working on my favorite annual post to write – the 2011 Game of the Year. Problem is, I feel like I can’t really get into the nitty-gritty until I finish Skyrim, Saints Row 3, and Assassin’s Creed Revelations, and meanwhile I’m still plugging away in Modern Warfare 3 and I haven’t even touched Rayman Origins yet. I don’t think there’s any chance that I’ll be done with Skyrim until next spring, frankly, but I do want to at least put in a good dent – and yet I’m trying to stay away from it until Bethesda releases the patch that will let me install it on my HDD – my 360 (the newest model) tends to get very hot when it spins a disc, and this would be the absolute worst possible time to have a meltdown.
3. Regarding Modern Warfare 3… I didn’t think I’d get around to playing it, but here I am. I’m a few missions into Act 3; I have no idea how much farther I have to go before I’m done. I have no idea what the hell is going on, either; I show up in a strange place and I kill hundreds of enemy soldiers and I press “X” a lot and then a lot of shit blows up. It occurred to me last night that the Call of Duty games are kind of amazing in that they really don’t allow for any player creativity whatsoever. You’re almost never alone, for one thing; you’re always part of a group, and you’re being led from place to place by someone else, and if you fail to follow their instructions (i.e., if you move out of stealth or shoot too early), you invariably die and the mission ends. There aren’t any puzzles; every obstacle is handled by the X button, whether it’s setting a C4 charge, or opening a door, or helping a dying soldier by pressing on a wound. It’s impossible to get lost; even if you run around looking for “hidden intel”, there’s only so many places you can look – the path is incredibly narrow. Everything is scripted to within an inch of its life. If I were the cynical sort – and I am – I’d say that one of the reasons why so much crazy shit happens in Call of Duty campaigns is because it helps distract the player from realizing that they’re not really contributing anything to the experience. And yet… I’m kinda having fun. I hate admitting it, and I don’t know why I hate admitting it.
4. I’ve read in reviews that Assassin’s Creed: Revelations gets off to a slow start, and BOY THEY AREN’T KIDDING AROUND. It’s funny; I kept being worried about the annualization of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and yet they’d kept making each successive game better than the last one. So I had no reason to doubt that this year’s edition would be just as good. Problem is, it’s coming out at the worst possible time – and not just because so many other great games are fighting for my attention. It’s that the free-running and building climbing is much better in Uncharted 3, and that the hand to hand combat is much better in Batman Arkham City. Those two games are still very fresh in my mind, and while I can’t necessarily hold AssRev accountable for other people’s work, nevertheless, I am nonplussed. The other thing is that the controls are ridiculous. I’ve played every game in the franchise for many many hours and yet the controls here are still finicky and overly sensitive and contextualized to death, which means that I end up jumping off a cliff instead of climbing a wall, or that I attempt to embrace an enemy instead of killing him with a sword that the game won’t let me pick up. Being that I’m inundated with other games, I’ve decided that I’ll get to it when I get to it, which at this rate might be July.
5. I’ve put in an hour or two into Saints Row the Third. It is, in a word, bananas. I can’t really offer anything more substantial at this point, since I’ve done maybe 1% of the crazy shit that the game apparently allows me to do. That said, it looks great, and the combat works and feels responsive and fun, and the driving is a little stiff but I’ll get used to it. Good times all around.