Revisiting the Exclusivity Argument

It was revealed today that Rise of the Tomb Raider is not only coming to the Xbox One first, but is in fact being published by Microsoft outright, which more than likely precludes it from ever coming to the PS4 (though PC is not out of the question).

I went on a big rant about this earlier this year, long before I decided to buy an Xbox One – though if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that this forthcoming Tomb Raider game was definitely part of my decision to finally get one, even if it’s not coming out until next year.

Of course, Sony went ahead and made Street Fighter 5 a PS4 exclusive just this past weekend, thereby raising the ire of many Xbox One fans who were expecting to play it.

I’m not sure why this needs explaining, but I was misunderstood on Twitter, so I figure I might as well give it a shot:

Every console needs exclusives; otherwise there’s no point in having different machines.  I don’t own a Wii U, nor do I ever intend to (regardless of what others might say), but man – people keep talking about how amazing Bayonetta 2 is, and if I’m ever going to play it, that’s the only place to do it.

Still:  there’s a fundamental difference between first- and second-party exclusives, and third-party games which become exclusive.

Brianna Wu – who is much smarter than me – tweeted this:

The problem is that all the games she cited – GOW (whether you’re talking Gears of War or God of War), Titanfall, Forza or Halo – these are known quantities as console exclusives.  Uncharted has always been a Sony exclusive; Forza will always be a Microsoft exclusive.  I was pissed when Tomb Raider 2 was announced as an Xbox One timed exclusive because I didn’t own or plan on owning an Xbox One at the time, but more to the point – I was expecting it to appear on the PS4.  Tomb Raider HD came out on the PS4 earlier this year, and it was fantastic, and no less an authority than Digital Foundry proclaimed the PS4 version to be superior in terms of performance to the Xbox One version.

I don’t have a dog in the Street Fighter 5 fight; I’m not a big fighting game fan, and in any event I own both consoles now, so it doesn’t directly affect me.  But I can guarantee that if I were a big fighting game fan, and I only owned an Xbox One, I’d be just as pissed about this news as I was about Tomb Raider.

Imagine, if you will, that next year’s Batman Arkham Knight – possibly my most heavily anticipated game of 2015 – was suddenly announced as an Xbox One console exclusive.  Or if part of the delay in developing The Witcher 3 was because it was now coming out as a PS4 exclusive.

Your skin is crawling right now because if you only own one console, you were probably expecting to play at least one of those games next year.  And if it came out on the one you didn’t own, you’d feel cheated.

Third-party exclusives feel like a cheat because, well, they’re bought; they weren’t nurtured in-house, but rather procured to fill a competitive need.  Microsoft came out and said they went after Tomb Raider because they didn’t have a first-party response to Uncharted; so rather than taking the time to develop a response, they simply bought the only available competition.  I don’t see consumers winning in that equation.  If anything, consumers lose the possibility of brand-new IP.

All we can realistically hope for, then, is that by focusing Rise of the Tomb Raider’s development specifically for the Xbox One’s architecture – and by Microsoft giving the developers anything and everything they could possibly need – that the best version of that game gets made.  Swap out Street Fighter 5 and Sony in that sentence and the same sentiment is shared.  I’m not happy about this development, but it seems it’s going to become a bigger issue as the console war continues to heat up.

The Xbox One: What Now?

Even after sleeping on it, I’m still trying to wrap my head around yesterday’s news that Microsoft will start selling the Xbox One without the Kinect in June.  There are so many angles to this story that it’s hard to know where to start.

Well, I suppose I should start with the most obvious question, being that this move seems tailor-made for me in particular*:  Am I now more likely to purchase one?  Well, it’s certainly got my attention, that’s for sure.  I’m still a very happy PS4 owner, even if the games aren’t quite there just yet, but I’m also a long-time Xbox loyalist, and I’m not against owning one – as long as there’s a good reason.  Bringing the price down goes a long way towards making the purchase easier/more justifiable, but it doesn’t solve all the problems the XBO has.

One of those problems – and, indeed, probably one of the biggest reasons why I haven’t bought an XBO yet – is that multiplatform games receive a noticeable, measurable performance boost on the PS4.  With this new, Kinect-less XBO, however, there are reports floating around that the XBO could now theoretically devote extra resources towards game performance, now that it doesn’t have to save those resources for the Kinect.

If this helps to bridge the performance gap with the PS4 as far as multiplatform releases are concerned, that’s also a plus in my book.  But this now reminds me of the early days of the Xbox 360, when it launched without a hard drive.  360s that had hard drives performed better, and games that were designed with the hard drive in mind obviously make life difficult for 360 owners without one.  So, then – what happens to XBO owners who already have the Kinect?  Would they not be able to get these hypothetical performance advantages?  Would the XBO be smart enough to turn the Kinect off if, say, Titanfall 2 or Halo 5 required the extra juice?

That obviously doesn’t concern me, specifically, since I’m not one of those people.  Except that now I can’t help but wonder if it might be better to hold off until Microsoft comes out with a new and improved XBO model in a year or two, with improved specs (and a Kinect-less design philosophy) that can directly compete with the PS4?  This is not unheard of, as both the 360 and PS3 went through a few redesigns, though those were mostly cosmetic.  But in this case, Microsoft – who is clearly trying to right its perceived wrongs as quickly as possible – might very well put out an XBO with specs that could go toe to toe with the PS4, thus ending the performance gap once and for all.

I still maintain that exclusive games are the key to getting my money, and right now the PS4 has the better-looking lineup – especially as far as the indie scene is concerned.  But if Microsoft is making this announcement now, a month before E3, one has to assume that they want their E3 presentation to be as positive, forward-looking and with as much emphasis on games as humanly possible.

So, then:  this looks like it’s going to be yet another really interesting E3.


*  In an interview with Forbes, Yusuf Mehdi, a senior officer at Microsoft, specifically says:

“People have been more satisfied with the Xbox 360 than the PS3, so in that respect people have less of a need to upgrade in the short-term due to regular updates for the Xbox 360…”

This is 100% true.  I still kinda mess around in GTAV on my 360 every once in a while, and I do intend to see that last bit of Mass Effect 3 DLC that I’ve not yet gotten to.  Meanwhile, my PS3 is currently acting as an extra BluRay player for the bedroom TV.  Given that we do not watch BluRays in our bedroom, and also given that we have a Roku in there as well, I literally haven’t turned my PS3 on since I moved it in there to make room for the PS4.

>getting it back

>So it’s been quiet here at SFTC, and for that I apologize.  Things have been pretty quiet on the gaming front since my last post.  There wasn’t anything new to play, and I wasn’t necessarily doing all that much on the backlog, Steam sales be damned. 

But then Little Big Planet 2 came out, and then Dead Space 2 came out, and now the 3DS and the PSP2/NGP have been formally announced/dated, and I find that I’ve got some things to say.

LBP2:  I finished the single-player campaign earlier this week, and started to dabble with some of the community-made levels.  The game is as charming as ever, and the single-player campaign certainly did its best to illustrate what the game is capable of.  And it should be noted that the game’s website, lbp.me, is perhaps the best game-related website ever made – the ability to look at community-made levels on the web, add them to a queue, and then have the game automatically have your queue waiting for you the next time you log in – it’s so elegant and well-made that it seems downright bizarre that it hasn’t been done before.  If I have a problem with the game, then, it’s that I don’t think I’ll ever have the time/patience/imagination to make my own levels, which makes me feel like my experience with the game will be artificially cut in half. 

Dead Space 2Finally got this via Gamefly yesterday, and I’m about an hour in.  I never finished the first game, though not for lack of trying, and so my first playthrough of DS2 is being done on the easiest mode, because I’d really like to make it all the way through and see where the story goes.  As the game is apparently very friendly in terms of incorporating previous playthroughs into new ones, I can see myself giving it another go on a higher difficulty level.  I’ll say this – I’m loving the hell out of it.  I do scare pretty easily, when it comes to movies, but games don’t really scare me – sure I’ll get startled (like when the dogs jump through the window in RE2), but there’s a big difference between being startled and actually being creeped out and scared.  So, then, no, I’ve not been scared.  And I wasn’t scared in the first one, either – I never finished it because there were sections that were just too hard, or I didn’t have enough ammunition, and I got frustrated and gave up.  The first hour of DS2 has been thrilling, however, and certainly startling, and there’s been a few times where I’ve said things out loud that I normally wouldn’t say.  I’m very much looking forward to diving back in.

As for the new handhelds…

I’m certainly intrigued by the 3DS, there’s no doubt about it.  But I’m not really all that excited about the games that have been announced, and ultimately that’s the most important factor.  Hell, right now I play my DS maybe once or twice a year, if a good puzzle game comes out, and I can’t justify spending $250 on a snazzy piece of tech that I’m never going to use, especially since I’ll be getting a Verizon iPhone 5 later this year.  And I really don’t want to spend $250 just to play up-rezzed ports of N64 games, no matter how snazzy the ports are. 

Similarly, I’m very intrigued by the new PSP – very snazzy tech, and a more hard-core lineup of titles (I’m especially interested in that new Uncharted title) – but I don’t know that there’s any one must-have title out there that can help me justify the purchase.  And I’m already wary of Sony’s ability to sustain a handheld – I was excited to buy a PSP, sure, but I got bored with it and sold it back within 8 months, and I haven’t missed it at all.  And if the plan is simply to port over 360 and PS3 titles, well, that’s not necessarily what I want out of my handheld experience.

I generally play handheld games either on the subway or in bed.  I never have the sound on, and I’m not really all that interested in narrative.  I want something to do for a few minutes here and there while I’m unable to do anything else.  My iPod Touch has been excellent at filling that void, and the $1 – $6 price point is very appealing.  So, again, it’s hard for me to justify $300 + $50-60 per game, when the games they’re offering are games I’d rather play on my HDTV. 

I still think I’ll end up with a 3DS, eventually.  I think I can wait for the inevitable redesign and price drop, though.  The PSP2, on the other hand… I don’t know.  The PSP2 is the machine I’d rather have, frankly, but I need to know that Sony can maintain a healthy game library for more than 6 months.  Otherwise, I’m just going to stick with the iPhone.

>The Lull

>Now that I’ve finished Final Fantasy 13, I’ve got all this free time on my hands. I guess it’s time to look at the calendar and pinpoint when exactly I’m going to go completely broke. [May 18th, as it turns out. -Ed.]

Bold = games I’ve already pre-ordered, or intend to own
Italics = games in my rental queue
Plain = games I’m keeping an eye on, just in case

May 11

  • 3D Dot Game Heroes
  • Lost Planet 2

May 18

  • Red Dead Redemption
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • Alan Wake
  • Prince of Persia
  • Split/Second

May 25

  • Blur

Beyond

  • Alpha Protocol
  • Tiger Woods 11
  • Singularity
  • Crackdown 2
  • Mafia 2

And then there’s another little bit of a lull, and then Starcraft 2 comes out. My interest in Starcraft 2 is mainly due to my PC’s ability to run it successfully; I’m terrible at strategy games and never played the original. Frankly, I’m on the fence about Civilization 5, and I was obsessed with Civ 4/Civ Revolution – I played it on PC, 360, and DS. But we’ll see.

>E309: Keynote Wars

>It used to be easy for me to follow E3. For starters, my use of the internet was far more streamlined – I’d just point my browser at Gamespot all day and take in as much as I could without getting fired from my job. More to the point, I’d put a laser-like focus on what Microsoft was announcing while dismissing – nay, mocking – Sony and Nintendo’s efforts without a second thought.

But it’s a bit more complicated now. I’m sounding like a broken record by this point, I know, but I have a personal, vested interest in pretty much everything that’s happening at E3 this year, and pretty much every game journalist has a twitter account which appears to be jacked into their cerebral cortexes so that every single thought and vision gets tweeted, and my RSS feed pretty much exploded yesterday with almost 800 stories coming through. I feel more shellshocked than anything else. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to process all the information that’s coming in; I get a chance to look at videos here and there and that’s really about it.

That said, I did follow along with Kotaku’s liveblogs for each of the major press conferences, because I had to.

Microsoft probably had the most solid performance this year. Certainly they had the most star-studded, even if most of the celebrity appearances felt a bit unnecessary – but then again, this is E3, and if you’re going to go for it, you gotta go for it. Not a lot of jaw-dropping announcements or surprises, save for two that kinda got glossed over (at the time) – Crackdown 2 and Left 4 Dead 2. The footage I saw of Halo: ODST looked frighteningly so-so, although I’m not really that big a Halo fan so what do I know. The Beatles: Rock Band looks fantastic, and even though there’s no way I’m getting them the new instruments look amazing, especially Paul’s bass. Alan Wake looks promising, although I guess I was expecting something a bit more stunning, considering the lengthy development time. And I must admit I’m a little excited for Forza 3, even though I’ve never really gotten that far into the previous 2 iterations. It’s hard for me to get excited about Project Natal in its current state – I need to see it in context. The Lionhead demo looked too scripted, although I must admit I was stunned by the business with the water.

Nintendo’s press conference wasn’t nearly the disaster it was last year, but that’s not really saying a hell of a lot. Kotaku’s liveblog reported that they started off the keynote by saying that one of Nintendo’s missions is to “create surprise”, which (ironically) is precisely why I feel like the Wii is like a novelty item. The first time you play with it, it’s exciting and interesting and, yes, surprising, but once that wears off you realize you’re playing shitty games with shitty presentation and it ends up collecting dust. I couldn’t care less about Wii Fit Plus or Wii Remote Plus – I’m wouldn’t play Wii Sports Resort for more than 10 minutes, and the whole premise behind the Remote Plus pretty much makes me feel like the original Wii Remote was under-designed. And don’t even get me started on the Vitality Sensor. When all is said and done, though, there were some decent game announcements – Super Mario Galaxy 2 is something I’ll be looking forward to, and I’m definitely excited for Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story for the DS. I’m not that excited for the new 2D Super Mario Bros., nor am I particularly excited for the new Metroid.

To be honest, I was probably most excited for Sony’s press conference. The 360 might be my console of choice and the place where I play anything multi-platform, but Sony’s exclusive titles are nothing to sneeze at. From what I’ve seen thus far, Uncharted 2 is probably my game of the show; the brief video of single-player they showed looked absolutely amazing. And I’m definitely going to be looking forward to God of War 3 and The Last Guardian, and I’m certainly intrigued by Rockstar’s PS3 exclusive Agent, even though they didn’t actually show anything. The PSP Go seems awfully unnecessary to me – the real problem with the platform isn’t the design, but the lack of compelling content – and so it was nice to see some PSP game announcements (like LBP, MotorStorm, Gran Turismo). I was especially excited to see that Final Fantasy VII would be appearing in the PSN store (I was led to believe that it would be online last night; alas, I couldn’t find it). The only real problem with Sony’s press conference was that most of what they showed wouldn’t be available until 2010.

So that’s that. As for the rest of the show, please stay tuned – there’s going to be some new and (hopefully) interesting content here at SFTC over the next few days, with some special guest commentators.

>State of the Console Warzzzzzzzzzzzz

>Most of my most productive creative thinking comes in the shower. And during this morning’s shower, I had an idea for a SFTC blogpost – taking a general lay of the land in the console war. 2008 is my first holiday season in which I have a vested interest in every console and handheld, and so I finally have as complete a sense as I’ll ever have of what my options are as a consumer.

Problem is, I pretty much knew how it was going to end even before I turned off the water. And this chart of each console’s attach rate pretty much speaks for itself.

Let’s face it: the Wii is a joke. I knew it was a joke even though I wanted one so desperately, and now that I have it, the only time I even think about it is when the stupid Mario Kart Wheel is taking up valuable real estate on my shelving unit. The last game I was genuinely excited about for it was freakin’ Boom Blox. Did I really spend $500 on a stupid Circuit City bundle for this? Is Wii Music really the big Wii holiday title? I read a quote this morning that sums it up quite well – this is from Sega’s Darren Williams:

I think on one hand the Wii has become the most expensive board game on Earth – it’s the kind of thing that families will play at Christmas, and probably won’t play again throughout the remainder of the year.

The PS3, on the other hand, has started to come into its own. Its roster of exclusive titles is still pretty minimal, but Little Big Planet is pretty great, and I’m looking forward to trying out Resistance 2 this weekend. If nothing else, though, it is a fantastic BluRay player and I take my movie watching very seriously.

That said, LBP’s troublesome online service (as well as the problems I’ve heard regarding SOCOM) only serve to highlight the problems with Sony’s online network. Many people have talked shit about Xbox Live and how you have to pay for it when you can have it on the PS3 for free, but here’s the thing: Xbox Live actually works, and when it doesn’t, it gets fixed pretty goddamned quickly.

Which brings me to the 360, of course, which is in its heyday. Gears of War 2 dropped today, only a week or so after Fable 2, and the NXE arrives in 12 days. (It should be noted that the PS3’s much-discussed HOME thing still hasn’t arrived, and its purpose still hasn’t really been clearly stated; meanwhile, the 360’s dashboard is getting a complete makeover with tons of new features and everybody’s getting it before Thanksgiving.) The vast majority of my gaming time is on the 360 these days, and I’m not even sure why anymore. I’d hate to think it was only because of Achievements; I’m not nearly the whore I was for them last year but I still kinda pay attention to them.

I would discuss the state of the handhelds, but it’s too depressing. My PSP collects dust and my DS doesn’t fare that much better.

>E308 presser gut reactions

>All I’ve seen of E3 are Kotaku’s liveblogs of Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony’s press conferences; there’s been little time to actually see any video. That said, here’s my ranking:

1. Sony
2. Microsoft
3. Nintendo

I could have gone either way between 1 and 2, but it was a new and exciting feeling to have a rooting interest in Sony for once, and even in spite of losing FFXIII exclusivity to Microsoft they still had a solid showing, and – most importantly – they clearly get it now, they were aggressive and focused on the most important stuff – the software. Until I see the footage myself I can’t really comment on quality. I think Microsoft gets the edge in software to come out in 2008, but Sony’s future looks very, very bright.

That said, it’s not even close, as far as 3rd place is concerned – Nintendo’s presser today was depressing, almost completely devoid of exciting news ( GTA:DS notwithstanding) and, ultimately, it made me wonder why I tried so hard to acquire a Wii in the first place. It’s as if they’re not even trying anymore. They’re selling millions of consoles to people who don’t necessarily need a big new title every week – and that’s great, for those people – but I’m a hard core gamer, and they’ve done pretty much everything they can to alienate me and my demographic.

Now that the press conferences are done, we can get on to the real meat of the show. Here’s hoping I have enough time this week to pay attention.

>E308 speculation

>In years past, it was pretty easy for me to get excited about an upcoming E3. Being a one-console owner, my focus could be honed to a razor-sharp edge, and my primary source of information at the time had the best E3 coverage in the business.

Ah, how times have changed. In the past 6 months, I’ve acquired a PS3, a Wii and a PSP, so my focus now has to encompass a lot more information; and at the same time, the Gamespot controversy got me off my ass and got me motivated to switch to an RSS-feed state of constant information from multiple sources. Which is to say, I have too much info coming in and I have no idea what is going on.

That said, this year’s E3 looks to be a little more subdued than, for example, last year. 2007 was one of the best years in terms of quality software ever, and it’s practically impossible to expect that 2008 could compare. Not to mention the fact that a number of companies aren’t even attending E3 this year, but instead are staging their own events nearby.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that I’m not really sure what to expect next week, either in terms of what will be announced or what information I’ll be able to retain. But here’s a short list of titles I hope to see, and news I hope to be announced.

Multi-Platform Releases

  • Fallout 3
  • Mercenaries 2
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld
  • Saints Row 2
  • Force Unleashed
  • Resident Evil 5
  • Mirror’s Edge

Xbox360

  • Fable 2
  • Gears of War 2
  • Viva Pinata 2
  • Banjo-Kazooie
  • Fez (XBLA title that was at the Indie Developers Conference last summer)

PS3

  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Resistance 2
  • Killzone 2
  • God of War 3
  • Home

Wii

  • Animal Crossing
  • whatever the StrongBad game is called

Handheld / Other

  • Chrono Trigger (DS)

So, OK. Certainly not the killer lineup of 2007, but not too shabby either. At this point, the biggest disappointment is easily Nintendo, who is taking the hardcore demographic completely for granted. If a Wii version of Animal Crossing is seriously the best they have to offer in terms of hot announcements, I’m going to be pretty pissed off. And no, Super Mario Sluggers isn’t going to cut it.

As for the PS3, I’m mostly curious about Home. My understanding is that the upcoming release is essentially still only a beta, but on a larger scale. There are basically 2 ways that Home can go, from what I gather:

  1. A Second Life type of world, where you’re inundated with marketing as you roam around virtual neighborhoods. As unappealing as that is, it still could be kinda cool, if they do interesting things with Trophies and in-game stats and leaderboards. It could also serve as a general lobby for online play, although the logistics of that are probably impossible. I was going to suggest that Sony could also do some interesting things in Home in terms of digital distribution of movies, similar to what Microsoft does with XBL Marketplace, but then it occurred to me that a push towards digital distribution is a pull against Blu-Ray sales, which would be bad.
  2. A buggy, visually uninteresting series of marketing displays, draped over an unpopulated virtual town, that serves no purpose whatsoever. This is, sadly, a pretty close description of what I’ve seen of Home thus far.

The biggest thing about Home, the way I see it, is how it’s incorporated into the PS3 experience. If it’s there when you turn on your PS3 – if it basically serves as your XMB – then that’s one thing – a little cumbersome, perhaps, and more than likely a resource hog, but it would at least give the PS3 some identity. But if it’s something you have to turn on from the launch screen, then one has to wonder what purpose it serves. Let’s also keep in mind that Home will probably be a large download, and not everyone will have the hard drive space to use it. Let’s also consider that Home will be free of charge, which means that Sony will be pulling revenue from other sources in order to maintain it. Microsoft has been the leader in online console technology for quite some time now, and XBL is a paid service, and even THEY get fucked up sometimes; one has to wonder how Home can sustain itself – if, indeed, it’s something worth sustaining.

Microsoft’s list of exclusives is pretty good – Gears and Fable are obviously going to be huge, and there are also rumors of some Halo-related announcements. That said, Microsoft is in somewhat of a strange position this year. Nintendo is selling Wiis and DSs faster than they can make them, and nobody seems to care that there aren’t any games to go along with them. Sony has won the format war, so more and more people are going to be buying PS3s if only for the BluRay availability. The 360 needs killer apps in order to stay relevant, and while Gears and a Halo title are sure bets, Rare remains an unknown quantity. They need a really big show this year, and right now I’m not quite sure I see it.

I’m holding off on news predictions; other sites are doing much better jobs of that, and in any event I’m not really sure I’d know what to hope for. (Besides LucasArts releasing their classic adventure games as a downloadable package for the Wii, which, in light of recent LucasArts news, seems less and less likely with every passing day, even if it’s a stupidly obvious thing to do.)

————————————————————–

In totally unrelated news, I announced the other day that a podcast was going to be coming shortly. Unfortunately, the technical troubles continue. I’m having a really tough time getting Skype calls to record properly (or at all) on my PC, which means that I’m basically shit out of luck. If anybody has any suggestions, I’d love to hear ’em.

>Cross-Platform Recap #1

>Gaming recaps are boring, but work just got slow and I haven’t written anything in this space in a while. And being that I’m now fully one week into total mastery over this generation of consoles, a little documentation is probably necessary.

PS3: While this was an anniversary gift from my wife, it should be stated that this was bought not for the games but for its Blu-Ray abilities, and to that end I went bananas on Amazon and picked up a bunch of Blu-Ray discs:

  • No Country For Old Men
  • Monty Python’s Life of Brian
  • Juno
  • Walk Hard
  • Adventures of Baron Munchausen
  • Independence Day
  • Live Free or Die Hard
  • Run Lola Run

We haven’t watched all of them, but I can say that Die Hard looks fucking fantastic, Run Lola Run looks far better than its previous DVD release, and Life of Brian looks about as good as its ever going to look, which maybe isn’t saying much but, well, there it is.

The purchase of the PS3 also effectively means that we’re now also using the PS3 as our default DVD player; when we bought our HDTV, we also bought a rather awesome OPPO DVD player that has tremendous 1080p upscaling abilities, but the PS3 does a pretty nice job of upscaling as it is.

As for the gaming side of things: I had to choose between Uncharted and Ratchet & Clank, and I chose Uncharted, but then Heavenly Sword arrived in the mail, and I sorta got sucked into it. I didn’t finish it, however. Even though the game is only about 5 hours long, and even though I was almost at the end, the game’s difficulty suddenly went from “OK” to “Surprise, you suck at this game” and, well, I hate it when that happens. I get what the game is trying to do with the motion control sections, but it doesn’t work, and it’s almost never fun. (It also pretty much always caught me by surprise – I tend to slump somewhat on the couch, with my controller pointed upwards, and so whenever one of these sections popped up, it always took me a second or two to realize that I had to suddenly sit up straight and really guide these arrows or cannonballs to their intended targets, which they invariably missed anyway.) That said, the game’s production values are off the charts, and I can honestly say that I haven’t really seen anything like it (or Uncharted, or even the 10 minutes I saw of R&C) on the 360.

Xbox360: I am a little surprised at how little I’ve thought about Liberty City since I finished GTA4. All throughout my time playing it, I was absolutely convinced that it was the best in the franchise (it is), and that Liberty City was the most absorbing and interesting city I’d ever played in (it is), and that I’d end up gunning for 100% Completion simply because I’d never be able to stop playing. Well, I haven’t really played it for more than 10 minutes at a time, very sparingly, over the last week. Perhaps it’s because the PS3 distracted me, but I think another, bigger issue is that the ending of the game, while incredibly satisfying on a story-level, made the end-game feel a little… well, weird. I think I can safely say without giving anything away that Nico is a very complicated character, and unlike the other characters in the franchise, he finishes the story in GTA4 not that different from the way he started it. It’s very easy for me to run around in the San Andreas endgame because CJ is basically lord and ruler over the entire land, with unlimited wealth and total power over gravity (assuming there’s a jetpack handy). Likewise, at the end of Vice City you’ve taken over the town, with lots of real estate and fancy cars at your disposal. (I must confess that I’ve never finished GTA3, but I imagine a similar sort of state exists.) In GTA4, though, Nico may have successfully expunged his demons from Eastern Europe, but he’s got a whole new set of baggage and scars once he finishes the story, and so it’s kind of a bummer to simply maneuver him through the rest of his unfinished tasks; it wasn’t until the endgame that I became aware of the game, and not just the story.

That said, I picked up the Assassin’s Greed Achievement last night, and I’m still only a little over 70% complete. Being that the release calendar is looking slim, I’m sure I’ll get back into it.

Wii: I am absolutely not surprised that I’ve barely touched it in the last 2 weeks. Kath and I played a bit of Boom Blox, but we both wore out our shoulders in the process. I think we’ll play it a bit more when she gets out of her cast and can finally stand up without crutches, but, then, how many times can you play Wii Sports before it just gets kinda lame? Kath has confessed an urge to try Mario Kart, which I had every intention of ignoring… I don’t see any way we can pick up a Wii Fit package before August, nor do I think we’d really use it all that much anyway.

DS: I swapped out WordJong and have moved on to CrossWorDS, which is actually a little disappointing. The Crosswords aren’t that hard and the interface is actually quite annoying – it is nearly impossible to have the game register a capital “I”, which you might imagine is something of a problem. The New York Times Crosswords interface is the gold standard for text input on the DS, and every game that lets you input text ought to use it. The Word Search part of the game is, well, Word Searches, and the Anagram part of the game – the part I was most looking forward to, as I love anagram games – has the stupidest dictionary I’ve ever seen. “Gin” isn’t a word? Really? REALLY?

PSP: I would forget that I owned it, to be honest. I’m an idiot. I do want to finish God of War, and I do want to start Final Fantasy Crisis Core or whatever its called, but it’s at the bottom of my priority list.