Infamous 2, DNF, and other ramblings

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since the last post, so for that I apologize.  The good news is that I’ve got a LOT to talk about today.

The short version:

  • finished Infamous 2
  • played a bunch (perhaps too much) of Duke Nukem Forever (PC)
  • played a tiny bit more of The Witcher 2, escaping prison and getting to the first real town
  • played a bit of Child of Eden and wished I still did drugs
  • got thoroughly obsessed with Plants v. Zombies
  • did a bunch of Achievement-hunting in L.A. Noire
  • speaking of which, hit the 70,000 mark in Achievements

The long version:

I was home sick for 2 days last week, and that fact directly correlates to the first two bulleted items above.  I had gotten a few hours into Infamous 2 over the previous weekend, and ended up powering through the rest of it last Monday.  I’m a little bummed out about Infamous 2, to be honest with you.  It’s a better package than the first game – it looks better, for one thing, and the first game looked pretty good already.  The game lets you start with all your powers, too, so you’re kicking ass right from the get-go, and the new powers are, for the most part, pretty neat.  The voice acting is surprisingly good, even if the script is kinda hokey.  The city itself is visually interesting.  The “good” ending is satisfying, and shockingly devoid of cliffhangers – I have absolutely no idea how Infamous 3 would start, is all I’ll say.  (I didn’t see the “evil” ending, and maybe that’s where a sequel would pick up.)

So, then, if I was such a big fan of the first game – a game scratched my Crackdown itch in a big way – and the second game is, by and large, a better iteration of the first, why am I bummed out?  I guess it’s because the game is, ultimately, forgettable.  The story isn’t particularly interesting or unique, and the moral choices lack any ambiguity whatsoever – good and evil are very clearly defined and color-coded and you’ll never spend more than a second or two making up your mind.  The city, for all its visual flourish (and let me reiterate that point, as the city really does look fantastic and the sky is especially jaw-dropping)  is curiously devoid of audio – cars don’t make noise, nor do most of the pedestrians, and sometimes the player’s footsteps don’t even register.  I don’t know if it’s just a bug, or if the audio was simply unfinished, but it creates a very strange disconnect – it makes the city feel lifeless.*

I’m glad I played it, I suppose – it certainly filled the idle hours of an unplanned sick day – but I’m also glad I rented it.

———————————-

So that was Monday.  Tuesday was a second sick day, and since I’d already finished Infamous 2 and sealed it up in its Gamefly envelope, I was a bit at odds as to how to occupy the hours.  And then I remembered that Duke Nukem Forever was finally out.  And even though I’d read tons of horrible reviews by then, I succumbed to 14 years of temptation, and clearly went against my better judgment and downloaded it on Steam.  (To be fair, the PC version is, supposedly, the least horrible of the 3, at least in terms of visual fidelity.)

Here’s the thing – after playing the first few hours, I’d actually planned to write something of a defense of DNF in this space last week.   Yes, it’s grotesquely misogynistic and sexist and incredibly stupid, even in terms of adolescent humor (which is odd, since it’s rated M and young teenagers aren’t supposed to be able to play it).   It isn’t funny, it isn’t erotic, its cultural references are incredibly dated and probably wouldn’t have been all that funny if it had been released when all those references were still relevant.  First-person platforming is almost always a bad idea, and there’s way too much of it in the first few hours.  Still, though, there was something about it that brought me back to those heady days of 1996, when I was playing Duke Nukem 3D on my brother’s computer on my weekends home from college.  I was trying to put myself back in the mindset that I might have been in if the game had come out in the late 90s – early 00s, and there are brief glimpses in the early hours that brought me back.

Of course, the game is, ultimately, a piece of shit.  I got hung up on a boss a little more than halfway through the campaign and ended up putting the game away for a few days; I eventually beat that boss (no idea how) and then got stuck about an hour later, and that’s where I currently am.  I don’t really want to go back to it.  I suspect that I will eventually finish it, but only because I’m avoiding doing something else.   It’s just that, well, the game makes me sad.  I was one of the many that had been looking forward to this game’s release, and while it wasn’t necessarily in the front of my mind for the last 14 years, I’d never forgotten about it.  When the first few advance reviews came out and killed it, there was a part of me that figured that those scores were somewhat reactionary – they were so aggressively negative that they were almost hard to take seriously.  As it turns out, they were right.  There is absolutely nothing in the game, from what I’ve seen, that would explain what the hell took so long.  The gameplay is dated in all the worst ways, and for a game that goes out of its way to break the fourth wall, it has a surprising lack of self-awareness.

The biggest problem with DNF, I think, is that there’s too much Duke.  Back when I was playing DN3D, I wasn’t really paying attention to Duke at all – I was paying attention to the crazy environments, to all the hidden secrets, and to all the cool shit I could do.  Duke would spout out some one-liner from a movie every so often, and that was fine – it’s just that for all intents and purposes, his bad-assery kinda spoke for itself.  In DNF, Duke won’t fucking shut up, and nobody in the world tells him to shut up.  The world of DNF is a monument to Duke, for some reason, and that gets old incredibly quickly – especially since he’s such a fucking douchebag.

It is true that DNF could never hope to compete with expectations.  But it is also true that the game looks like it wasn’t even tryingSerious Sam rewrote the rules when it came to over-the-top gunplay, exploration and crazy enemies, and this year’s Bulletstorm further refined those rules and created something genuinely unique and fun to play.  DNF was created in a vacuum by people who apparently hadn’t played anything else since 1997, and was written by sociopathic 13-year-olds who love boobs and kicking monsters in the balls.  I still think that there’s a future for Duke – I don’t think Gearbox would’ve spent the time and money acquiring the IP if they weren’t going to do something with it – but I worry that the travesty that is DNF will sully that game’s potential.

———————————-

I don’t have all that much to say about The Witcher 2.  I enjoy my time with it, but it’s also somewhat intimidating and I don’t really know what the hell is going on.  I play for 30 minutes at a time and then put it aside.

———————————-

I don’t have all that much to say about Child of Eden, either.  It’s trippy as hell, and I suppose I’d have spent a bit more time with it if I were still doing drugs.  I’m sober, though, and as such there was only so much craziness I could stand.  It plays like a psychedelic Panzer Dragoon, I guess.  It’s certainly aspiring to be… something, which is more than I can say about DNF.  I read some review of it that bemoaned its attempts to revive the “Games as Art” debate; but that’s exactly what this is.  You would expect to play something like this in a children’s museum, or something.  It’s certainly interesting, but there wasn’t really all that much to it that kept me involved.

———————————-

I can’t explain my sudden obsession with Plants v. Zombies.  It’s been out for a few years now and as a long-time Popcap fan I’ve certainly been aware of it; I think it was one of the first apps I downloaded for iOS, but I never played it.  I guess at some point last week there was an iOS update for it that included a bunch of intriguing features, and that got me interested enough to fire it up, and now I’m a man obsessed.  Which is weird, because my general experience playing that game is one of intense stress and anxiety.  There’s so many plants to keep track of, and so many zombies to plan ahead for, and when a level is really humming along the board is absolutely chaotic.  I’m already dealing with anxiety issues as it is, and so I can’t explain why I would torture myself with non-stop PvZ sessions.  But such is life.  I finally beat the adventure mode on my iPhone, and now I’m thoroughly entranced with the Zen Garden and all the meta-stuff there is to do.  And I suspect that I’ll get around to playing my XBLA and PC/Mac versions as well.

———————————-

I ended up doing a lot of Achievement hunting in L.A. Noire this past weekend – I finally 5-starred all the cases, found all the film reels and landmarks, drove 194.7 miles, completed all the street crimes, etc.  According to the Social Club I’m exactly 94% complete.  I don’t know that I will ever find every single vehicle, nor am I sure I want to.  Honestly, it was just nice to finally get to actually explore the world; I never bothered with it when I was actually playing the game, as I just wanted to focus on the cases.  There’s a surprising amount of city to be found, as it turns out; the game itself uses hardly any of it, which seems a bit wasteful.   I do kinda wish that I had the PS3 version; I didn’t really mind the disc swapping when I was playing the story, but in a weekend like this where I’m doing a bunch of completion-ist stuff, it’s somewhat of a pain in the ass.

———————————-

I can’t quite remember which Achievement it was that put me over the 70K mark, but, well, it happened.  I’d like to hit 75K by the end of the year, although that might be a little bit out of reach.

 

____________________________________________

*  This is a big deal, actually.  In my experience, open world games live or die based on the worlds themselves.  This is why Crackdown 2 was such an incredible disappointment; this is also why Red Dead Redemption is a masterpiece.  Infamous 2 takes place in New Marais, a fictional city inspired by New Orleans; you would think this would be a slam-dunk in terms of atmosphere, but instead it feels, well, dead.

>The 2010 Lust List

>2009 may have been so-so, but 2010 is going to be balls-out AMAZING. In order to help me keep track of all the craziness, here’s a quick list of what I’m looking forward to.

Bold = must-have
Italics = curious / definite rental
Normal = possible rental

JANUARY

  • Darksiders (360)
  • Bayonetta (360)
  • Matt Hazard: Blood Bath & Beyond (PS3)
  • Serious Sam HD (360)
  • Dark Void (360)
  • Mass Effect 2 (360)

FEBRUARY

  • Heavy Rain (PS3)
  • Blur (360)
  • Aliens v. Predator (360)
  • Gran Turismo 5 (PS3)
  • White Knight Chronicles (PS3)
  • Bioshock 2 (360)
  • Dante’s Inferno (360)
  • Splinter Cell Conviction (360)
  • Lost Planet 2 (360)
  • Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (360)
  • Dead to Rights Retribution (360)

MARCH

  • Final Fantasy XIII (360/PS3)
  • God Of War 3 (PS3)
  • Just Cause 2 (360)
  • Ninety-Nine Nights 2 (360)

After that, release dates get hazy, but:

  • Red Dead Redemption
  • Split Second
  • Mafia 2
  • Blur
  • Max Payne 3
  • Alan Wake
  • Alpha Protocol
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • Fallout: New Vegas
  • APB
  • Crackdown 2
  • Batman:AA 2
  • Singularity
  • Dead Rising 2
  • Yakuza 3

2010 looks amazing. And expensive.

>Progress

>The quest for 50K is going much better than I’d originally anticipated; I’ve got 6 weeks to get 327 points. I’m pretty sure I can get that relatively quickly from Assassin’s Creed 2, with an assist from Left 4 Dead 2. So, hooray for that.

This past weekend was a little weird, gaming wise, but when I think about it it actually worked out to my advantage. The weekend’s primary goal was working on music, but every once in a while I needed a break, and so I’d dive in to something on the 360; and since I’d finished Modern Warfare 2‘s campaign already, I didn’t feel pressured to pick one thing and finish it.

I keep grinding away in Forza 3; I kinda messed up and bought the wrong car for an upcoming race in the Season Play mode, and so now I’m just going through tournaments in an effort to make that money back. I can’t remember if I made the analogy here or in an email, but here goes anyway: Forza reminds me a lot of the Tiger Woods games, in that there’s an absolute ton of stuff to do, a lot of which I’ve already done in previous versions in the franchise. On the flip side, Forza 3 does not in any feel like it’s treading water, the way the Tiger games have for the last few years.

I’m also still running around in GTA4: BOGT, which is making me love the original GTA4 a little less. The game just feels dated; not in its story or setting, but in its actual gameplay mechanics. Combat feels incredibly clumsy, and the game is just brutally punishing if I fail a mission – I lose cash, armor (if I had it) and ammo (which doesn’t get replenished), plus time keeps moving forward so if I had something I wanted to do at a certain time, I probably don’t get to do it if I have to keep doing a mission over and over again. Saints Row will never be confused with GTA in terms of story and emotional resonance, but in terms of having fun and not being endlessly frustrating, it’s not even really all that close anymore. The Houser brothers are starting to make a little bit of noise about GTA5; I know there’s tons to think about in terms of making a great GTA game (story, setting, dialogue), but I would suggest that they also add some refinements, if not a complete overhaul, of the way the game is actually played. Let us recharge our health; let us have mid-mission checkpoints; let us not be punished so harshly for failure.

I’m starting to get really excited about 2010 Q1; specifically, Mass Effect 2. And it occurred to me that I never finished my 3rd playthrough of ME1, so I decided to give that a bit of a whirl. As it happens, I’d stopped playing near the end of the last DLC they released; said DLC was more or less a glorified combat tutorial, which is arguably the least successful aspect of the original game. But whatever – I turned down the difficulty and plowed through the last few missions and got 100 Achievements for my efforts, and then I saw where I actually was in the story, and then I decided to call it a day. (If you’re familiar with the first game, I’d just gotten off the Citadel and hadn’t yet started those first 3 long missions you get in order to advance the story; in other words, I’d have a looooooooong way to go.)

And then, in a bit of idle panic, I downloaded the Torchlight demo from Steam, just because I’d heard it was good and I was curious to see if my aging PC could run it. The short answer is yes, it can, and shortly thereafter I’d purchased the full version and now I’m totally hooked.

This week: Assassin’s Creed 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and the God of War Collection for PS3.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to Pandemic Studios, who very well might be getting shut down today. Mercenaries was one of my favorite games on the original Xbox, and Star Wars Battlefront was a lot of fun, and even Destroy All Humans! was worth a few chuckles. I’m hopeful that Saboteur will at least be a fine farewell from one of the more ambitious developers out there.

>On Hyperbole

>This is the first paragraph from Adam Sessler’s review of Uncharted 2.

I’m not 100% certain when it happened. I think it’s when I had Nathan Drake atop a building in a war-torn Nepalese city, cornered and being fired upon by a helicopter, engaged in a fist fight with the screen slowly draining of color, snapping my enemy’s neck and quickly rolling into cover to reload my grenade launcher only to turn and fire upon the chopper one last time as I watched it crash and explode. I think this is when I realized that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was the best single-player game I have ever played. [emphasis added]

Uncharted 2 has been getting great / fantastic / multi-orgasmic reviews pretty much across the board, and I don’t doubt that the reviews are genuine and sincere in their appreciation for a job well done. I personally have been foaming at the mouth for it ever since the E3 reveal trailer, and when I get my grubby little paws on it next week I’m never going to let it go. But as someone who uses hyperbole on a regular basis to describe even the most mundane events of his day, I’m a little suspicious when someone as high-profile as G4’s Adam Sessler says something like “this was the best single-player game I have ever played,” especially since it comes during the same paragraph that implies that he was still in the middle of playing it for the first time. (He himself defended his statement in this little follow-up video, which more or less lets him say the exact same thing.)

Again, I’m not necessarily doubting the sincerity of his statement. He may full well truly believe that Uncharted 2 is the best single-player game he’s ever played, and it may well in fact be true. But I think that saying something as completely audacious as that, without providing any sort of context (i.e., what other games has he played to compare it to) or self-reflection (i.e., will he still feel this way in a week/month/year) is maybe a little disingenuous.

It reminded me a bit of the post-release discussions of Metal Gear Solid 4; I recall one podcast/roundtable thing where people talked about the story and the gameplay and everything and one guy in particular said that everything about MGS4, straight up and down, was perfect. As soon as he said that, I immediately treated everything else he said as a lie, because willful ignorance in the face of stone cold facts just means you’re an idiot who loves something because you have to. I no longer trust your objectivity, which means your subjective opinions are irrelevant. And let me be clear – I ended up really liking MGS4, and nobody was more surprised about that than me. Hell, I even said it was one of the best games I’d ever played.

The difference, of course, is that I didn’t say it was the best. I was still in the middle of the post-conclusion adrenaline rush, and I had not yet regained equilibrium. At the end of the year, I said it was the best PS3 game I’d played in 2008, but consider what else came out:

  • Braid
  • Little Big Planet
  • Fallout 3
  • Rock Band 2
  • Left 4 Dead

Oh, and Grant Theft Auto 4, which was my 2008 GOTY by a landslide. I loved the hell out of GTA4. I tried playing it the other day, in fact, to get ready for the new DLC that’s coming out. I’d gotten stuck in a mission in the previous bit of DLC, and I wanted to try and get past it. And suddenly, my memories of how amazing it is came into direct conflict with my experience of playing it again with fresh eyes. For all of GTA4’s incredible strengths, it could sometimes get a little stupid or silly or needlessly difficult, and so it got frustrating, and I took it back out of the 360’s tray.

It’s easy for me to say that Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best single-player experience I’ve had this year. I knew that when I was playing it, and as of today it still holds true. This is because 2009 has been a pretty shitty year for games, and aside from Resident Evil 5 or The Beatles: Rock Band there hasn’t been much else that would make it into that discussion. That’s context.

When I think about the greatest games I’ve ever played, even now, I have a hard time picking one that stands out from all the rest. My criteria has changed; my TV has changed; my available time has changed. In fact, when I think about my favorite things, across all mediums, there’s really only one time that I was ever able to say “this is absolutely the best thing I’ve ever [——]”, and I wasn’t even able to say that until I’d finished it, and that’s because when I was reading Infinite Jest, during my junior year of college, when my own life was in a bit of upheaval in all sorts of directions, partly because of close friendships gone astray, partly because of girls that I cared deeply about and kept making mistakes with, partly because of non-stop pot smoking, and partly because I was contemplating giving up the acting life (and thus negating my 6-figure tuition that my parents had scraped together) in order to try and become a rock star, which I seriously entertained as a legitimate possibility – and but so in the midst of all this I started reading the book and ended up staying in my dorm room and not moving or talking and just lived with that book for an entire week, cover to cover, from the opening sentence to the very last 6pt-font-ed footnote; the sum total of all of that was a life-altering experience, and I could feel it happening as I was reading it. I had changed after reading that book.

Which is to say – when you care about something, when you spend money you don’t have in order to experience it in all its forms, and you obsess about it and you maybe start a blog in order to better organize your thoughts about it, and you end up getting a job in a field where you get paid to talk about the stuff you care so deeply about, and the job is high-profile enough that people you don’t know and will never know hear the things you say and read the things you write and take you at your word because you are now an authority, and then you experience something as part of the daily course of your job and then immediately call it the best experience you’ve ever had, without any sort of visible period of gestation and self-reflection, without providing any sort of context, and especially in this post-Gerstmann-gate era where you never quite know if there’s under-the-table payola being bandied about, you’d better fucking mean it.

>The 2009 Lust List

>I haven’t even started my 2008 GOTY post and yet here I am working on a 2009 Lust List. Blame it on Prince of Persia, which arrives later this week (and which is already starting to get some decent reviews). And blame it on my own avoidance of World of Goo, which I finally Steam’d last night; it had been getting all sorts of fawning adulation for months and I could no longer ignore its siren call. And I can’t very well hand Braid an indie award without at least trying WoG.

Nevertheless. We are in December of 2008, which means that 2009 is nearly upon us. And as such, it would behoove us to figure out how we’re going to be spending our money (and/or divvying up our rental queue real estate). 2007 set an insanely high standard in terms of AAA titles, and while it could be argued that 2008 may not have exactly equalled it in that regard, it was no slouch. So, then: what can we reasonably expect from 2009?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult for me, an industry outsider, to say. If one were to only peruse Gamestop’s release calendars (as I did), one would never see such heavy hitters as Heavy Rain, Alan Wake, Brutal Legend, The Witcher, and Uncharted 2 (the last 2 being sort-of announced just this morning). 1UP is running a Games of 2009 feature this month, but they’re only doing one game per day; I’m sure the other big sites will run similar features as well.

That said, I’ve done what I can, and what follows is a pretty good idea of what’s happening for (at least) the first half of 2009.

JANUARY

  • LOTR: Conquest (multi). I’m hedging my bets on this Battlefront-in-LOTR title, but you never know.
  • Peggle (DS). Never mind that it’s been on the PC since last year; it’s Peggle on the DS!
  • Star Ocean (PSP). Gamestop lists maybe 5 titles for the PSP coming out in 2009; this is one of two that I was curious about. If it turns out to be a strategy JRPG, though, it’s off the list; I do not care for that particular subgenre one bit.

FEBRUARY

  • Halo Wars (360). My appetite for strategy titles was born purely out of my intense (but brief) love affair with Civ Rev this past summer; Halo Wars is not Civ Rev. And I really don’t care all that much about the Halo universe. But this looks to be a quality title, and it will probably be a cold winter.
  • Killzone 2 (PS3). As far as I’m concerned, this is the most important PS3 title of the first half of 2009. Early reports from the Beta are very promising.
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction (multi). I was unaware that this was back on track, but Gamestop lists it as coming out on 2/2/09, which seems awfully soon for a title so riddled with development problems. I am crossing my fingers but not expecting very much, which is kind of sad.
  • Sonic – Ultimate Genesis Collection (multi). Self-explanatory. I’ve always been a Sega Genesis fanboy, and I probably already own too many of these games as XBLA releases to justify purchasing it, but, well, if you haven’t figured out that I’m a total whore by now, you haven’t been paying attention.
  • Street Figher 4 (multi). I haven’t bought a fighting game since… Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast. I am inexplicably excited for this one, though.
  • Godfather 2 (multi). It’s blasphemy that they’re making yet another game out of the greatest movies ever made, but at least they’re shooting high with this one. It remains to be seen how all the different elements of the game will play out, or if the game even needs the Godfather IP to be successful. I’m moderately intrigued, which makes me nauseous even just typing.
  • DragonQuest 5 (DS)
  • PuzzleQuest Galactrix (DS)
  • Damnation (multi)

MARCH

  • Chronicles of Riddick (multi). I loved the hell out of it on the Xbox and I will love it again.
  • Resident Evil 5 (multi). I’m not entirely sure how excited I’m going to be for this one. I only ever played the first 20 minutes of RE4 on the Wii and fucking hated it, which makes me one of the only people on Earth to think so.
  • MadWorld (Wii). I have been avoiding coverage of this title for some bizarre reason; everyone seems to think it’s going to be totally insane. Maybe it’s because it makes me think of No More Heroes, which I never got into.
  • Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure (DS)
  • Alpha Protocol (multi)
  • Phantasy Star Portable (PSP)
  • Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. (multi)
  • Star Ocean: The Last Hope (360)
  • Broken Sword (Wii)
  • Scrabble (DS)

APRIL AND BEYOND

  • Fuel (multi). I loved Codemaster’s DiRT but was disappointed in GRiD. I saw some previews for this a little while ago and it looked absolutely insane.
  • Ghostbusters (multi). I’m a little concerned by all the publishing drama it’s gone through, and it’s probably going to suck. But still. It’s Ghostbusters. With (mostly) the original cast, writing their own lines. At the very least, it should be good for a few laughs.
  • Heavy Rain (PS3). I have been told by those in the know that this is going to be 2009’s GOTY.
  • God of War 3 (PS3). I’m embarassed to admit that my first GoW game was the PSP title released earlier this year; I have to imagine that this title is going to be ridiculous.
  • Alan Wake (360). If this game doesn’t get released this year, I will probably stop caring about it.
  • Final Fantasy XIII (multi). This will be my first FF game. Not sure which platform I’ll play it on; if the Achievements are to be as esoteric and impossible as they were for FFXI, I’ll play it on the PS3 (which is supposedly the lead development platform, anyway).
  • Brutal Legend (multi). Oh please oh please oh please.
  • The Conduit (Wii). Yet another Wii game that I’m strangely ambivilent about.
  • The Agency (PS3)
  • Just Cause 2 (multi)
  • Bayonetta (multi)
  • Dragon Age Origins (multi)
  • Uncharted 2 (PS3)
  • The Witcher (multi)
  • Duke Nukem Forever (multi). A boy can dream.

>Can’t Talk About It

>

Heard on Major Nelson’s podcast a couple weeks ago that Microsoft would be pre-releasing the New Xbox Experience to a small percentage of the respondents of a specific survey. For some reason, I was utterly convinced that I would be one of those lucky people, and was actually a bit crushed when I wasn’t. A week or so later, they gave out even more pre-release NXEs, and I again missed the cut. The NXE officially launches in 7 days, though, so I guess I can wait another week. I’m not sure why I was getting so bent out of shape over it, though.

On the other hand, I got an e-mail from __________ last night, telling me that because I’d downloaded the free __________ PS3 dashboard theme about 3 or 4 months ago, I was now eligible to participate in that beta program.

Maybe my luck was starting to turn around, after all. Maybe I’d finally be able to talk about something substantive and new here instead of just listing all the games I play.

Except, according to the beta EULA, I’m not sure if I can talk about it… here.

1. As a condition of your participation in the Trials, you must:

a. keep the contents of the Trials, including any information, software and service in connection with ___________, confidential as between you and us and not discuss any portion of the Trials with anyone beyond your close friends and family and other Trialists. You shall not discuss or disclose any portion of the Trials with any third party who is a competitor of ___________ or is linked to any news, press or information service (whether on television or radio, in newspaper or magazines or via the Internet or any other online medium) without the express, prior, written consent of ___________.

See, the phrase “anyone beyond your close friends and family” is what’s tricky, here, because I’m not sure anybody reads this blog besides people who actually know who I am. But the internet is the internet, and I’m pretty sure this blog is Google-able, and I don’t feel like getting sued.

Understand, it’s not even like I have that much to say about it. The truth is, there’s really not very much to talk about.

Consider me even more skeptical than I already was.

Keeping my fingers crossed, though.

So there.

>The Weight of Waiting

>

I am compelled to keep blogging in this space – even more so than on my other, “real-life” blog – because the wait for GTA4 is turning into an all-consuming hunger. I’ve already taken time off from work for it (even though I have a legitimate and necessary reason for doing so that has nothing at all to do with it), and every time my RSS reader dings, I become inexplicably giddy at the thought of getting new GTA4-related information.

And so today I’m trying to figure out what other soon-to-be-released games I can recall getting this bent out of shape over. This list isn’t necessarily reflective of my all-time favorite games (although certainly most of these would make the list); this is simply a list of the games that I absolutely could not wait for any longer.

1. On the 360, there’s been a lot of big titles to get excited for – and believe me, I’ve been foaming at the mouth for most of them, especially Mass Effect – but I guess I’d have to put Oblivion at the top of my list, which was a surprise to me even while it was happening:

I’m not even sure I myself knew how much I was looking forward to Oblivion; certainly I got really caught up in the hype over the last few months; I pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition, I sucked up every available preview and direct-feed morsel I could find; I even watched some of Gamespot’s 12-hour playtest, which I had originally dismissed as being the most retarded idea I’d ever heard. Here’s the funny part – I bought Morrowind – twice, for both PC and Xbox – but while I really appreciated the concept, I never got further than reaching the first quest-related town of Balmora before I lost interest. Between the two platforms I probably put in a total of 8 hours. Why, then, was Oblivion such a coveted purchase? Why was I so deeply enamored with a sequel to a game I’d hardly put any effort into? Was I a sucker for PR? I don’t even own an HDTV, so it’s not like my inner graphics-whore/crack-addict was going to receive that sort of gratification…

2. On the Xbox, I was tempted to say it’s the GTA Double Pack and/or Fable (I was also excited for KOTOR, but not to the same extent, even if its become one of my all-time favorites), but I think it has to be Psychonauts, which had been first announced in 2002 and was one of my primary reasons for buying an Xbox in the first place (along with the Oddworld games, which, sadly, weren’t all they could have been). That Psychonauts managed to still be awesome under the weight of years of expectations is a remarkable achievement, even if the Meat Circus ended up driving me (and many others) totally batshit insane.

3. On the PC… well, to be honest, it’s been quite a long time since my PC was my primary gaming center, and I can’t recall being amped up for a game that I knew I was only going to be playing on my PC. I did get excited for Neverwinter Nights, I guess, but that wasn’t an all-encompassing hunger. And I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve been looking forward for Duke Nukem Forever for, well, forever – and when they finally get around to releasing DukeNukem 3D for XBLA, I will DEFINITELY be going crazy for it.

After that… well, I’m not sure. When I was a little kid with an Atari 2600, I really can’t recall getting excited about new releases, because (a) there was no internet, (b) since my parents bought the games for me, I had no choice in the matter as to what to get excited about. If anything, I would get excited to get games that other friends of mine already had. Same thing with my brother’s Sega Genesis, which I never bought games for, either. But by the same token, we could play all those old games OVER and OVER and OVER again – we didn’t necessarily need anything new when we could keep having fun with what we already had. (Boy, I miss those days!)

So, what about you? What games have you been unable to sit still for?

>The Want List for 2008

>Taking a break from Burnout Paradise. I’m 9 wins away from my Class A license, but mostly right now I’m concentrating on “discovering” everything:

  • I need to find one more gas station
  • I need to find one last race event – not quite sure how I missed it
  • I’ve got 360 of 400 smash-thru things
  • at least half of the super-jumps
  • I’ve found at least 2/3 of the billboards
  • etc.

This is as good a time as any, then, to contemplate what’s on the agenda for 2008. I’ve been listening to all manner of game-related podcasts lately, and they all seem to be asking the same question.

Off the top of my head, my main must-have titles for 2008 are, in the order that they occur to me:

  • Burnout Paradise
  • GTA 4
  • Mercenaries 2
  • Fallout 3 (and if this actually comes out in 2008, I’ll be stunned)
  • Star Wars: Force Unleashed (which I didn’t start to get frighteningly excited for until I saw the latest tech video)

And then there’s also a bunch of stuff I’ve got lined up for my Gamefly Queue:

  • Lost Odyssey
  • The Club
  • Bully: Scholarship Edition
  • Condemned 2
  • Lego Indiana Jones
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction (I’m a big fan of the SC series, but I’m a little nervous about this one)
  • Too Human
  • Midnight Club: Los Angeles
  • Ghostbusters (keeping fingers crossed that this doesn’t completely suck)
  • MLB2K8 (the last 2 editions have been dreadfully disappointing, and yet I keep coming back; I am so very weak.)

And there’s also titles that I would dearly love to play this year, but am doubtful that they’ll see release before 2009:

  • Brutal Legend (remember, Psychonauts was delayed for about 2-3 years)
  • Fable 2
  • Ninja Gaiden 2 (well, maybe this will see release in 2008; I guess we’ll know more at E3)

Now, these are all 360 titles. I will eventually be getting a PS3, if only for the BluRay; I’d certainly like to buy a Wii, but as I’ve said before, right now it’s easier for me to procure illegal drugs than it is for me to buy a Wii at retail price. (To wit: besides eBay and Craigslist, there is a shady electronics store near my apartment that does have Wiis in stock; they’re asking $500. In cash.)

But since I don’t actually own those consoles yet, I’ve not really been following their release calendars with any genuine interest. To be fair, though: any PS3 game I buy would strictly be a PS3 exclusive, and to be perfectly honest, I really don’t give a shit about Final Fantasy 13 (13!!!) or Metal Gear Solid 4. I guess I do care about LittleBigPlanet, but not to the tune of $500+, and my curiousity about Home is more of the morbid variety than anything else.