The Xbox 360 is an amazing machine. I watched movies on it, used it to share achievements to Facebook, communicated with friends across the world over XBL, bought and played games without having to leave the house, watched other people play games, accessed YouTube, and even used it to surf the interwebz. I kept it clean, maintained it, and added parts to soup it up. Now I have a new machine in the man cave, and I feel like I parked a brand new Corvette next to my old Camaro. My new machine does more, looks better, and outperforms the old machine in almost every way. However, I am not ready to put my 360 up for sale or cart it off to storage just yet. The old girl still has plenty of life in her, but her relevance is waning and she is no longer the Queen of the Streets. So to honor the achievements of my beloved Camaro I invite you, dear reader, to sit shotgun as I take a drive to some of my favorite places that the 360 has taken me. These are the 10 games that, for me, defined the Xbox 360.
I led my silent protagonist into an underwater Ayn Rand dystopia, met a nice fellow with an Irish brogue and a family in peril, got juiced up on some plasmids, and made my way to the medical center of Rapture where I came face to face with my first Big Daddy. After I dispatched the big guy I was presented with a moral choice about the fate of his Little Sister: harvest the girl for her Adam, destroying her in the process, or cure the girl, receiving only a drop of the stuff in return. The nice man on the radio urged me to harvest her and assured me that the Adam would be necessary to save his family and escape the city. There was also a lady German doctor who reminded me of the girl’s humanity and ultimate importance. Although I have happily played the villain in numerous games, I could not bring myself to destroy the squirming, dirty little girl that I held firmly in my grasp, and found that the paltry drop of Adam was enough to get me by.
As I progressed through the game, I spliced away my humanity one shot at a time until I became the most terrible thing in Rapture: the deadliest Big Daddy of them all. In Andrew Ryan’s underwater paradise, no one is who I thought they were, even me. Especially me.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Infinity Ward dropped this bombshell of an online military shooter back in 2007, and it is now considered to be the FPS archetype that almost every modern shooter patterns itself after. Modern Warfare innovated the killstreak, airstrike, cover and heal, multiplayer XP, and the three position stance. I would like to say that it changed the way that online teams worked together to accomplish a common goal, but the backstabbing bitches willing to fuck their team over for a better K/D ratio was much more prevalent. This is also the game that introduced the word “camper” into our modern vernacular: we had them before, we just didn’t have a name for it.
This is the game that convinced me that online multiplayer shooters were not for me: I had a hard time differentiating friend from foe, I died a lot, I was laughed at, and I was cussed at by thirteen year old punks. Nothing tests my patience and temper more than being called a “faggot cunt ni**er” by some kid who hasn’t had his first shave yet. However, I was very good at the single player campaign, which in turn helped my foul-mouthed preteen son destroy campers and confused dads like me. Iconic moments such as the shootout at an abandoned Russian amusement park and getting nuked to death are standouts in a game that excelled both in online gameplay and single player satisfaction.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Although Skyrim is the fifth game in the series, Bethesda’s glitch-riddled masterpiece stands out as the very best. Focusing more heavily on player choices than Morrowind or Oblivion, players could choose to be the good guy, the bad guy, or the very bad guy. Playable beast classes, like the Khajit and Argonians, were able to utilize the same armor used by humanoids, dual-wielding was improved, and there were fucking dragons. Dragons, I said!
Skyrim added powerful shouts, obtained from the souls of vanquished dragons, to an impressive arsenal of weapons and magic to transform the Mighty Sarcasmo Fjones into the most formidable hero, or villain, ever to ply his trade in the land of ice and snow. The opportunity to become either a werewolf or a vampire was an added bonus, and the two excellent DLCs were icing on the Cake of Awesomeness. For those of you counting DLCs, Hearthfire doesn’t count, and if you bought it after reading my review then I cannot be responsible for you pissing away your money. Jackass.
Fans of the original Fallout games cried foul when Bethesda whipped out this action RPG, casting players into the postapocalyptic Capital Wasteland, until they actually played it. The Wasteland is an inhospitable place for the vault-dweller looking for Daddy, voiced in epic fashion by Liam Neeson, and is full of radioactive hotspots, irradiated food and water, mutants, Deathclaws, psychopathic raiders, ghouls, slavers, and dangerous robots: no place was truly safe.
In typical Bethesda fashion, players were rewarded for being good, bad, or Switzerland, which encouraged me to play through the game multiple times. I mini nuked a Behemoth Super Mutant into dust, cured a suburb of its fire ant infestation, collected all the bobbleheads, met a talking tree named Bob, followed Liberty Prime into battle at the Jefferson Memorial, and killed President John Henry Eden. Yeah, I’m a badass. The four DLCs were all fulfilling expansions to an already awesome game that I still play from time to time. Don’t forget to visit me at my house in Old Olney.
My first introduction to this hidden gem of a game occured after I completed the Half-Life 2 content in the Orange Box. I gave Team Fortress a cursory look, then turned my attention to the silent protagonist, Chell. What seemed like a kid’s game at first very quickly morphed into something both dark and addictive. Since Chell has no voice of her own in the game, the lone voice of the increasingly malevolent GLaDOS, voiced by Ellen McLain, sets a perfect atmosphere of isolation and imminent mortal peril inside the Aperture Life Enrichment Center.
The game almost perfectly progresses the difficulty of each test, which you must pass if you want to continue living, because GLaDOS wants you to fail...and then kill you. Armed with my portal gun, I was able to push through with the help of my trusty sidekick, companion cube, and the promise of cake. Portal 2 would have also been a great game, if Wheatley hadn’t ruined it. Fuck you, Wheatley, I hate you.
If I were to number the games on this list, which I intentionally neglected to do, Forza 3 would be number one. This is the game that brought me to 2old2play, so naturally it is particularly important to me. So if you’re one of the folks who doesn’t like me, this is the game to blame. It is a magical game steeped in the land before AWD was nerfed, Positano was a particularly long and challenging road track, Camino Viejo was extreme in reverse, and Fujimi Kaido came back in a big way.
This is the game where I discovered the 2old4forza clan. These guys taught me how to tune, made me faster on the track, and taught me humility. I was ranked in the top 50 on the Forza leaderboards when I joined 2o4f, but I wasn’t even close to being as fast as these guys. I made friends with some of the fastest virtual racers all over the world, and we’re still friends today. I’m sure most of the folks here at 2old2play have a similar story to tell about their clan and drug of choice. My drug is Forza, and there are a lot of Forza addicts running around this site. It must be good shit.
I am not a Halo fan. I played through the first two games on the original Xbox and had enough. I played the third installment some time after I finally acquired a 360, and only played about fifteen minutes before I decided I didn’t like it and traded it in for Mercenaries 2. However, the importance of this game, in particular, cannot be denied, especially since it happens to be the game responsible for the genesis of 2old2play.
I eventually played Reach on my own accord, and hastily purchased Halo 4 at a Gamestop in Schaumburg at the last LAN, with the intention of playing it at the LAN, but being lost and hopelessly outgunned I hid Master Chief in my gym bag and went back to Forza 4 and deep dish pizza. I love this site, and most of the people here, but Halo 3 is not one of my favorite games.
The Walking Dead
The television show was a hit, so naturally a game based on the show would be a hit, right? Nope, but the game based on the source material was surprisingly deep, emotionally touching, and terrible to behold all at the same time. My time with Lee, Clementine, and Kenny forced me to make some hard choices. Would I save a man trapped under a tractor instead of the annoying child who caused the accident? Yep. Would I allow Clementine’s friend to fall to his death to give Kenny some closure over the death of his family? Yep. Would I abandon an ally in the zombie-infested darkness over a fatal misunderstanding? I’m afraid so. I hope you packed some running shoes, bitch.
Telltale Games delivered on a zombie game that, on paper, shouldn’t have worked. The game looks like a comic book and isn’t exactly chock full of zombie headshot action. The Walking Dead compelled me to look around and interact with the other survivors of the zombie apocalypse. It was a game where the murderer could be the hero, where a little girl could survive and be as lethal as any adult, and a game that taught me that any old slab of meat on a plate wasn’t necessarily food. The Walking Dead gave me very little time to make some hard choices that carried consequences for the rest of the game, and then told me what kind of guy I was at the end of each episode. Thanks Telltale, I already knew I was a dick.
Mass Effect Trilogy
Yeah, I know the ending was a huge kick in the crotch to Mass Effect fans all over the world, but the original Star Wars trilogy has a shitty ending too and I still like the movies...fucking Ewoks. Anyway, there are no Ewoks in Mass Effect, but there is a whole lot of heroic action RPG goodness. I liked Commander Shepard, and whether you started as a guy or FemShep, your reputation in the ME universe was legendary. I liked the fact that Mass Effect 2 and 3 remembered that I played the game before, and carefully omitted the folks that were killed because of my actions in the previous games. It made Mass Effect more personal to me, and I redoubled my efforts to keep everyone alive on every mission. Voice acting from Jennifer Hale and Mark Meer as the two Shepards, Lance Henrickson, Martin Sheen, Keith David, and Seth Green delivered a familiar authenticity to the folks trying to save the universe from extinction. Does anyone else think that Garrus could have been an awesome protagonist?
I felt like I always had my hands full playing this game. I was dealing with Reapers, fulfilling my Spectre duties, punching reporters, keeping morale high on the Normandy, trying to finish off the Geck, deciding the fate of other races, dealing with political squabbling, and doing my best to insure humanity’s place on The Citadel was deserved. Never a dull moment, never a lull in the action, and rarely have I had more fun playing video games.
Assassin’s Creed II
There was nothing wrong with the first Assassin’s Creed, aside from the fact that Altair was an unlikeable dick and every environment was a dreary shit hole. Assassin’s Creed II greatly improved upon both issues: I thought Ezio was charismatic and fun to play as, and the Italian cities he worked in were both beautiful and (mostly) historically accurate. Florence and Venice lent themselves to video games quite nicely, and the inclusion of historical figures, like Leonardo DaVinci, only made the game more appealing.
Scouring the tombs of my assassin predecessors, stalking the Venice street festival, and the ambush at the ruins stand out as classic AC II moments, and some of the very best in the series. Although the difficulty bar may have been set a little high for a sim racer like me, I did eventually finish the game, which is more than I can say for Connor’s stab (see what I did there?) at Assassin glory. If you missed out on this one while it was free on XBL Games With Gold, then you missed a milestone in gaming history.
Grand Theft Auto V
Splinter Cell: Conviction
Keep in mind that this list is just one gamer’s opinion. If you think a game doesn’t belong here or I committed some sort of injustice by not including your personal benchmark 360 game, let me have it in the comments, amigo!
All games have characters. It’s pretty much the one unifying trait of every videogame ever made. Some are as utilitarian as Doom’s space marine, whose soul expressive outlet was the occasional grunt or scream. Others are damn near fully realized humans with realistic personalities and intriguing stories and lives, such as John Marston from Red Dead Redemption. Boring or entertaining, fully-formed our merely a bare outline, most characters serve the singular purpose of putting you, the player, into the game. They’re there to give you a more enjoyable experience.
Then you have the occasional character that is so messed up, so freaky and disturbing, that they leave you with no proper response other than to pause the game, step back and ask “What the fuck did I just see?”. These are a few of those characters. As always, this list simply reflects my own opinion. If you disagree or want to put in your own example, then get to posting in the responses.
5: King Hippo (Punch Out & Mike Tyson’s Punchout)
Both the original Punch Out! and its ear-bitingly rebranded follow up are full of insanely cartoonish, stereotypical characters. All of them, however, make sense as boxers. You have lightweights (Glass Joe), middleweights (Great Tiger) and the heavyweights (Bald Bull). Then you have the “whafuk” weight class. King Hippo can jump around the ring like he’s on a pogo stick, but is unable to shift his massive bulk up from the canvas when knocked down even once. Also, while punches to the mouth have no effect on him, a quick jab to the gut has him pissing blood for a month.
We should all be eternally grateful, by the way, that the Punch Out! games have been relegated to 8 and 16 bit systems or cartoony Wii games. I shudder to think what King Hippo’s moobs would look like flopping around in the uber-realistic graphics engine of the Fight Night games. Hell, I still have occasional nightmares about his big mushroom nipples in the Captain N cartoon. How that got by network censors defies reasonable consideration.
4: Shade (Borderlands 2: Captain Scarlet’s Pirate Booty DLC)
Shade is a supremely messed up man. He lives in a dried up, desert, ghost town, and his only companions are a surly shopkeep who won’t even talk to you unless you have some seraph crystals and five corpses. Corpses that Shade has wired up with speakers that spout out creepy one-liners that were recorded in barely altered voices, and tied up into poses, making them into gruesome mannequins being used as characters in a one-man play. It also doesn’t help that Shade looks like the Joker if he were on his way to a Hunter S. Thompson convention.
3: King Of The Cosmos (Katamari Damacy) & Captain Kabuki (Jumping Flash! 2)
I put these two characters together at number 3 because they are, essentially, one and the same. They’re both gigantic, bothe have over-sized faces with the unsettling, pouty of a serial killer whose newest victim just learned the rule about the lotion and the basket, both are mystic creatures who live in deep space and both wear disturbingly tight unitards. Captain Kabuki’s game may have come out nearly a decade before his majesty’s, but I’d be willing to bet that they graduated in the same class at Creepy Bastard Academy.
2: The Entire Cast Of The Cho Aniki Series
I don’t pretend to be an authority on Japanese culture and art, but videogames have taught me that subtlety doesn’t seem to be a requirement in Japanese storytelling. I’m not saying that American games, movies and television are beacons of low-key entertainment (if that were so, the entire Wayans family would be homeless), but while an American TV show might have a character run on screen and scream “A shark just ate Uncle Joe!”, on a Japanese show that same line would be delivered by a grown man, who’s wearing a diaper, that’s riding a dragon that shits gold coins. Also, the shark would only eat Uncle Joe after it had finished raping him with its many tentacles. Tentacles which ejaculated rainbows.
What I’m trying to say is that, in Japan, if you want to make a point, you have to make it clear enough that Helen Keller couldn’t fail to get the message. Therefore, to portray someone as being homosexual, you have to make them the gayest person that has ever existed (search for “Super Gay” on YouTube for a prime example). They have to be so over the top gay that the cast of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy would be tempted to seek membership in the Westboro Baptist Church after being exposed to them.
Enter the cast of the Cho Aniki. Rather than try to describe them, I’ll just show you.
1: Tingle (The Legend Of Zelda Series)
Ahh, Tingle. Volumes could be written chronicling the night terrors that this guy has inspired. Tingle first appeared in The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, where he fawned over Link’s “fairy” clothes and expressed his desire to find his own fairy and live like the “fairy people”. He reappeared in The legend Of Zelda: The Windwaker. This time he had apparently enslaved several men, whom he forced to dress like he does and work at his map-making light house. After being rescued from prison by Link, Tingle proceeded to stalk the young boy, following him around for the rest of the game and spying on him as Link worked his way through the game’s dungeons (if you ponied up the cash for a Game Boy Advance and a link cable, that is). Tingle’s creepiness was even strong enough to get him his own spin-off game for the DS.
Everything about this guy screams “molester”. His picture should be use to educate children about what signs could indicate that someone is to be avoided. His weird, green body stocking, his John Waters moustache, his obsession with Link and Link’s clothing and his strange private language. All of these things, when put together, say “I’m a predator, and I’ve got a van full of lollipops, comic books and small, K-Y scented corpses to prove it.”
While there are plenty of cantankerous old bastards (like myself) who’ve been playing videogames for 30 years or more, our industry is still seen by many as a pastime for children and teenagers.
Though we’ve moved out of the total lack of mature content that defined gaming in the ‘80s and ‘90s, there are still many game elements that are removed from games before release, because the publisher doesn’t want to court the dreaded ADULTS ONLY rating, which pretty much guarantees that the game would be carried by no major retailer.
While the most famous case of game censorship is the infamous “Hot Coffee” scenes from GTA: San Andreas, there are many others that don’t make it onto most gamers’ radar. While most instances of game censorship are understandable, I’ve put together a list of the 5 most ridiculous cases that have stuck in my mind over the years.
5: Playboy The Mansion
OK, this entire game is pretty much an excuse to play the Sims. but with bare tits and actual sex. Simple, right. You play as a young Hugh Hefner, just getting the Playboy empire up on its feet. You build the mansion and host lavish parties to make connections that you then use to fill the pages of your magazine with articles, interviews and pictorials. About those pictorials.....they extend to just topless photos, which is understandable. Heaven forbid a teenage boy who gets ahold of this game sees a three polygon bush. What always stuck in my head about the game was the sex. Another famous aspect of Hefner’s life that the game tries to recreate is his famous hedonistic attitude. Hef is famous for fucking just about every woman who sets foot in the mansion (I think that they hand out a Viagra tablet and tube of KY as you come in the door). Well, the in-game Hef can indeed engage in sexual relations with many of the women in the game, but the developers censored themselves to the point that the sex became less titillating and more laugh inducing. After talking up a female character successfully, Hef will invite her to have sex in either a bed or on a nearby couch. You need not be in private, Hef will drop his load in public, no sweat. The sex itself consists of the female participant stripping to her panties and Hef to his boxers. They then proceed to have what can only be described as sex as imagined by a spastic 8 year old who was raised in the monkey cage at a zoo.
It’s easier to show you than to describe it. The show starts at the 4:30 mark.
4: Samurai Shodown
Samurai Shodown was famously censored for the home console ports. The blood fountains that resulted from the game’s fatality like power moves were removed, the zoom out feature when the fighters moved apart was left out and several of the fighters’ taunts were toned down for language and content. One character’s opening taunt was reduced to idiocy, however. Charolette, the female French knight wears a suit of full armor. In the arcade version of the game, she sometimes tells her opponent “Don’t ever talk about my breast plate again!”. Nintendo of America apparently thought that gamers were too sensitive to read the “B” word, though, so they removed it, changing the quote to “Don’t ever talk about my plate again!”. Really, NoA? Was the word breast so upsetting that you had to make it seem that the poor woman was being remorselessly taunted about her choice of flatware?
3: Indigo Prophecy (Xbox)
This game from “Heavy Rain” developer Quantic Dream was presented as an interactive murder mystery/supernatural thriller for adults. It was released on the Xbox (and later the PS2 and Gamecube), a console seemingly aimed at more mature gamers (Halo 2 Timmies aside). Why, then, was it so stupidly censored whenever the slightest adult situation occurred? The game contains two shower scenes, both of which are rendered ridiculous by the same juvenile method of censorship. Take female lead Carla’s shower scene as an example. Carla, fresh from a day of detective work (a day that was that was capped off with a boxing match, no less) comes home and decides to relax with a nice hot shower. Sounds, reasonable, no? However, American audiences were considered incapable of dealing with a little fuzzy, 128 bit booty, so underwear was added to the character model. Tyler, one of the male leads, also does this. Showers while wearing his boxers. Hell, why do laundry separately, right? Now I’m not some digital pervert just aching for polygonal tis, but this kind of thing just draws you right out of the story. It still happens today, as well. In Mass Effect 3, if you manage to romance Samantha Traynor, she and FemShep take a shower together while fully clothed. Mmmmm...sexy.
Head to the 7:30 mark:
2: Mortal Kombat (SNES)
We all know the story behind this one. The SNES version of MK came complete with neutered Fatalities and copious amounts of sweat replacing the blood. Only Liu Kang’s retarded cartwheel uppercut and Sonya and Scorpion’s nearly identical fatalities survived unchanged ( because ripping someone’s spine out is too brutal, but burning them to death is just fine). The stupidity is not in the way the game was censored, but that it was censored at all. This was at the height of the SNES/Genesis wars, and Nintendo had been holding a firm lead up until this point. This game is what allowed the genesis to pull ahead of the SNES and take a large chunk of the big N’s game sales for the rest of that console generation. The Genesis port, through the use of the ABACAB code, sported gloriously unaltered blood and gore. This meant that, even though it was more technically superior and more arcade accurate, the SNES port came in a dismal second to the offering from Sega. The loss was so great that Nintendo actually made a point of advertising that the SNES port of MKII would be uncensored, basically saying “Hey, we want to protect the kids, but we want their money more”.
1: Conker’s Bad Fur Day (Xbox)
Back when RARE was exclusively a Nintendo developer (and when RARE made games that were worth a shit) they released an adult-oriented adventure game called Conker’s Bad Fur Day. It was dirty, vulgar, scatalogical, politically incorrect and hilariously brilliant. To this day it’s my favorite N64 game. So, when Microsoft purchased RARE and announced that they were going to release a graphically updates port of the game for the Xbox, I was understandably excited. New graphics and a controller that’s not a hand-cramping monstrosity! What could go wrong? Well, Microsoft could misplace their testicles, that’s what. Historically, Nintendo of America has been the company known for censoring games for their consoles. They’ve always chased the family-friendly image, tending to the extreme when sanitizing games, but even they didn’t cut Conker’s up as badly as Microsoft did.
On the N64, pretty much the only word that was censored was fuck. Shit, twat, damn, bullocks; all flew by the Big N’s censors. Move forward a few years to the Xbox; a console marketed as being more mature. A game system for those of us who don’t get the whole summer off for vacation. A system laden with games whose characters routinely drop more ‘F’ bombs than Andrew “Dice” Clay pissing on an electric fence while suffering from an urinary tract infection. But not Conker. Not only was fuck censored, but most other curses were also bleeped. I’ not a fan of swearing as a shock tactic, or vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake, but when I play a scene in which an animated shit golem, who’s standing in a lake of shit that is itself inside a cave made of shit, sings an operatic tune about shit, and the word “shit” is censored, then I have to call Shenanigans.
They even changed the tune to the point that it sounds like it’s been re-recorded (it may have).
The remake( go to the 10:15 mark):
Feel free to post your own ideas in the comments.
So I was going to create this last night but I managed to kind of screw things up. Long story short, I should know better to use the wireless in that part of my house. It works but its weak and that may have been the cause of the 1 hour+ update. I realized my mistake and tried an old cable I had lying around but I think it was too late. Anyway..unboxing time!
After removing it from its sturdy brown wrapped container (and after 18$ is custom fees..WTF!??!) the OUYA was packaged in an attractive black box with somewhat shinier black letters that surprisingly spelled out O..U..Y..A..
Here are the pics of the box...
Once I removed the tape circles that seem to be so in vogue and slid the inner case out...I found a friendly little note inside..
Pulling back the note revealed the OUYA and the controller...
The "broken" look of the controller was a little alarming at first until I realized what they were trying to tell me..."Put Batteries in here!" It was not shipped loose but instead it was pressure fit into one of the attachment points. I was a little relieved but moreso impressed with the design consideration there..
This is all that was underneath. Batteries, HDMI Cable and Power supply. There is also a lovely paper booklet that has the OUYA logo on it and....that's about it. Other than the obligatory safety jargon and compliance statements it is pretty much useless. Not that I think it needs more instructions but I always default to the lowest common denominator. Some folks just need a little help so even a quick little how to on the batteries and hook up may be helpful to some.
Speaking of which, it took a minute for me to realize that both sides of the controller open up like the picture above to allow for 1 AA battery in each side. The pull out string in the battery compartment is actually pretty sturdy and made it a little difficult to seat the battery properly in each side. However a good shove down in there and they were ready to go!
I am not sure how many remove and installs those covers are designed to take but I am hoping its a fair bit.
Here is the OUYA and the controller free of their confines
Both still have the protective film on as that is Mrs. Soup's job to remove...it's some weird kind of fetish of hers but harmless so she gets to have at 'er!
The side is etched with the names of the backers that paid for that priviledge...such as Notch (minecraft) and FourZeroTwo (former COD community spokesperson) to name a couple.
The bottom is vented as there is a small fan at the bottom that either sucks air in or more likely forces it out
The all important connection ports! It looks like there is a micro HDMI out as well. I was wondering if it was a Micro USB connection but that seemed odd especially since there is a standard USB port available. I think I have a micro HDMI cable around...maybe I'll give it a shot.
Here is is turned on and roughly hooked up. I will put it in it's proper place later.
I threw it on the big screen to see how it would fair and it did...ok. The initial splash screen and the update screen both looked pretty nice. Not as sharp and clean as say the PS3 or XBOX but nowhere near the pixilated mess the wii at 480i would look like either.
All in all I was pretty impressed. I am going to play with it for a while and see what I think. I believe one of the other writers recently acquired one as well so we will probably compare notes and throw an article together for you in the near future!
Let me know if you are online and maybe we can try some of the multiplayer games currently available.
Editor's Note: The content of this post was originally submitted on ChunkySoup's Blog on May 29, 2013.
As a product of the latchkey generation, I played my fair share of video games and have seen a lot of trends, exclusive to the industry, rise and then play out. What I have noticed lately is the fact that video game developers are making shorter games. Just in the past few months I completed Aliens: Colonial Marines in under eight hours, Tomb Raider in about twelve hours, and Bioshock Infinite in just under twelve hours. Max Payne 3, Halo 4, Dishonored, Far Cry 3 and Dead Space 3 also provided short gaming experiences around the twelve hour mark. Why are these games so much shorter? Will players support these shorter games in a market where games providing more content are in no short supply? Who would these shorter games appeal to?
Brace yourself! It’s about to happen again. Spring is that wonderful time of year when germ-carrying geeks converge in the Northeast for games, good times and drinking at the much loved annual convention, PAX East. As PAX makes its fourth appearance in Boston later this week, many attendees focus on packing and planning various shenanigans throughout the weekend. Though one thing that seems to fall unnoticed until it’s too late is the invasion of the PAX Plague. If you plan ahead, you can avoid this hideous beast of illness that seems to devour even the most healthy of souls. With four PAX events under my belt and no plague in sight, I have some tried and true tips for avoiding the plague.
Tip #1: Start taking Vitamin C supplements....now.
This will help build up your immune system and help you fight off any lingering germs. Any basic supplement will do so don't worry about finding something high-end or expensive. Also a 500mg pill should do the trick if you plan to follow the rest of the tips below.
According to WebMD:
Vitamin C is one of the safest and most effective nutrients, experts say. It may not be the cure for the common cold (though it's thought to help prevent more serious complications). But the benefits of vitamin C may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.
Tip #2: Don’t touch anything or anyone on the way to or at the event!
OK, that’s not really possible, so be sure to carry some hand sanitizer with you, at all times. It is ok to shake hands and hug people, but just be sure to gel up before touching your eyes, nose, etc. Here’s an example of what I do.
Me: Oh hi [insert name], it’s so great to see you! *gives a handshake that awkwardly turns into a hug*
We chat for a minute and then I point over to someone else I know (or pretend to know).
Me: It was so great seeing you, but I really need to go catch up with [insert another name].
*as I’m leaving with my back turned, I grab some hand gel from my pocket and lather it on*
According to the CDC:
Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. If clean, running water is not accessible, as is common in many parts of the world, use soap and available water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean hands.
Tip #3: Start taking Airborne the day before you travel and continue it through the entirety of PAX.
Twice a day, every day. Airborne has an interesting blend of vitamins and minerals that is said to boost your immune system. There is a variety of ways you can take this supplement, from effervescent tablets in water (my favorite) to on-the-go packets. They even have a new plus energy formula that I plan to test out this weekend.
I do not consider myself a germaphobe but I saw what can happen to people at these events and I do not want any part of that. This is the one time of the year that I get to see many of my gaming friends in real life and I do not want to miss a second of it. While following these three tips is not a guarantee that you will not get sick (no lawsuits here!), they can certainly help you stay healthy at PAX East as well as any other gaming event you may encounter. They worked for me and I hope they will work for you too!
I first saw a glimpse of the rebooted Tomb Raider series at E3 last year. To say I was blown away is an understatement. I was immediately sold on the story of Lara’s origin as the tomb raider and the ongoing suspense of her survival. And just like that, from one viewing of the game, the seed for my obsession was planted. Fast forward about nine months, and the birth of my obsession. I guess that was enough time for Lara to come to maturity and all this merchandise to become more than just a concept.
Collector’s Edition Survival Kit ($99.99 USD)
Tomb Raider Collector's Edition Content
Lara Croft 8" Figurine
3 Iron-On Badges
Weapon Pack DLC
15" x 19" Double Sided Island Map and Poster
5" x 7" Lithograph
I think that I’m still bitter about missing out on the Borderlands 2 Loot Chest, which is why I keep pre-ordering the collector's editions of games. I will not miss out on awesome gaming merchandise again! While this edition is probably not worth it for most people, I could not pass up on the Lara doll...I mean action figure. She deserves a place of honor with all our other gaming and geek paraphernalia. I may have to glue her down though, so she doesn’t end up cat carnage like these guys.
Xbox 360 Tomb Raider Limited Edition Wireless Controller ($59.99 USD)
This dark red controller is just for the Xbox 360 and comes with a downloadable character to play in-game. The DLC was not part of my buying decision, as I could care less about the multiplayer for this game. The controller is awesome though with great weight distribution, a shiny silver D-pad and some etchings in the actual face of the controller. The etchings, while I thought they were odd at first, actually enable greater grip and less slippage when my palms get sweaty from some intense gameplay. The controller is themed after Lara's climbing axe and you can see it had a rough life. If you are looking for a new controller with some signs of distress, this one is for you!
iPhone/iPad Official Tomb Raider Map App ($2.99 USD)
I’m almost ashamed to admit that I purchased this for the full price. I hardly ever spend more than a buck on apps. It is a very helpful app though, and especially for those of us that are game completionists. The App has maps of the different areas of the game and the locations of all the in-game collectibles. If you played through Tomb Raider already, you know that some of those collectibles are really hidden well. Even when you feel like you’re on top of them, you can not see them easily. You can use the App to not only find the collectibles, but you can mark off the collectibles as you find them. My only complaint here is that it’s really hard to tell for some of the icons if you clicked them already. Is the magnifying glass supposed to be black with white outlines when I mark it or white with black outlines? The whole black/white to white/black icon change is annoying and a terrible design decision. Other than that one complaint, this is a great companion to help you around the Island.
BradyGames’ Official Tomb Raider Strategy Guide ($24.99 USD to $36.99 USD)
I love game guides, which is odd because I don’t buy physical copies of books anymore. I obtain all my content digitally and think it’s a waste of money to do anything else. So why do I love these game guides so much? I think it is the collector’s aspect to them and the quality of information they provide. They have beautiful, high-resolution photos and some really great, in-depth content. I really enjoyed reading the background stories on the Tomb Raider characters and wish I had this guide before I completed my first play through of the game.
In general, I do not think that strategy guides are any better than finding walkthroughs on the internet and this BradyGames guide is no different. With the cost of the Signature Series ($24.99 USD) and the Limited Edition ($36.99 USD) versus the cost of the Map App, I can not in good conscious recommend this for most gamers. If you are a fan of the series, then by all means, this is a must have! I have a copy of the Signature Series version and I really enjoyed reading through it so far. It's interesting that 80% of the book is focused on the single player and the multiplayer section is weak at best...just like the game. BradyGames also has a Limited Edition version of the guide which has a hardcover and a custom designed amulet. Both versions include codes for multiplayer characters, which again, I could really care less about. This game is all about the single player experience for me and spending some quality time with Lara...alone.
Quick Summary for Tomb Raider Merchandise
Collector’s Edition of the game: Not worth the additional $40. Not at all. Don’t waste your money.
Xbox 360 Tomb Raider Limited Edition Wireless Controller: A great option if you need a new wireless controller...or if you like the distressed look of a well-used axe.
iPhone/iPad Official Tomb Raider Map App: Worth the $3, especially if you want to find all the collectibles.
BradyGames’ Official Tomb Raider Strategy Guide: Not worth the money unless you’re a hardcore fan of the series. In that case, I'd recommend going with the hardcover Limited Edition as the Standard Edition feels cheap and flimsy.
Be sure to check out our full review of Tomb Raider on the home page!
Special thanks to LB for an intellectual asset and the use of the word "merchandise".
The Forza series is proof that racing games have come a very long way from the early days of Turbo and Pole Position. Forza, Italian for “force”, developed into a force to be reckoned within the racing genre for the level of detail, depth of car customization, massive garage capacity, exciting replay cameras, and tuning and livery options. The size of the 2Old4Forza clan indicates the popularity of this sub-genre racing series. The series’ progression has met with both praise and consternation: for every addition to the game something else is taken away. For every bright spot in the Forza community, there lies a dark secret. For every car made awesome, another is undeservedly nerfed. I have raced the Forza series since its inception on the original XBox, and I have a few suggestions for Turn 10’s development crew to get the series back on track. In order to make an ultimate edition, the next numbered entry must have cars intended for and worthy of track racing, better track selection, a career mode and event list that parallels real world racing events, better leaderboard options, and a revamped replay system.
The Hybrid Hubris
It is an interesting place I find myself having played video games for more than 25 years (more than half my life). I’m in a place where I’m pretty unimpressed with most of the games that have come out. Most recently I have acquired Assassin’s Creed 3 and Far Cry 3. I love the Far Cry games (even a huge fan of FC 2 – owned it on both consoles) and a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series (and a huge fan of anything to do with American Revolution era) but when I got these games (both of which I wanted very badly) and fired them up I was like “meh”. And there is nothing wrong with either of these games – they look amazing and perform great etc.
I think the issue is me. You have to know a little about me for this to make sense. I hate movies (generally) and I don’t watch TV (other than sports) really. I’d rather read a book – or play a video game than watch a movie or TV series. That’s not to say there aren’t some movies that I love and some TV shows that I can tolerate but really given the choice with my time I’d rather play guitar, do art, read a book or play video games and board games. I’ve never really thought about why this is. I chalked it up to most movies / tv shows being mindless and boring (which I still think is a big part of it). But I think more and more that I need to be an active participant in my entertainment. I need to be able to influence it and I have to be able to use my imagination and creativity in order for it to be worth my while.
Ok well playing AC3 or FC2 I would be given this freedom right? Well yes sort of. But what I’ve come to realize is that I’m just doing the same thing I’ve done before for hundreds of hours in the previous iterations of these games as well is in all the games that have come out in the last few years. Mainstream gaming (even Multiplayer which is typically my favorite type of gaming) has just become very sameish. Like yeah – I’ve done that. A lot of the AAA games lack any type of creativity. They just have “better graphics”, some performance enhancements and maybe like one little tweaked game mechanic that makes them somewhat interesting but they just keep turning out the same thing over and over again. In addition to that I think I’m a little burned out on the game showing me everything. Similar to how I like books better than movies. A book lets you create the world in your head. I tell you that the lady was wearing “a red dress”. You would think of a red dress that would most likely be different from the red dress I picture in my mind. In books we fill the gaps with our own creativity and life experiences. Whereas in a video game or movie – they show you exactly what they want. The red dress is very defined in a movie or video game – no room for your creative input. I find this to be not very satisfying at all – it has become boring.
I don’t think this is to say that I’m going to skip all the high end AAA games or anything but I’m certainly putting a lot more of my effort into indie games. I find indie game developers are putting more effort into innovative game play. They typically don’t have the art studio to be able to compete with the AAA games but they can create some interesting mechanics and try doing interesting things with their games. I’m having a lot of fun seeking out and trying all these innovative little games. The most fun I’ve had has been with an ASCII graphics alpha game called Dwarf Fortress. It has been called the most complex game in the world (I don’t know if that is accurate but it is certainly very deep) and yet it has these simple old school ASCII graphics, which even for me initially was a hurdle. I didn’t think I could get into it. In addition to the ASCII graphics hurdle the UI is pretty confusing. I don’t find it as bad as a lot of people seem to find it – but it can be somewhat convoluted and inconsistent (Tarn Adams (he’s the Developer for DF) has even said as much). Yet after playing for a few hours – you become engrossed in the game your imagination is going full tilt – I can picture the whole fortress and all my dwarfs and animals. I spent 4 hours on Saturday night just looking at this ASCII soup on the screen and I totally lost myself in it. It is a fabulous experience especially given all the super unique and crazy game mechanics in the game and how they create these situations and stories that weren’t put in place – they evolved from the AI and systems kind of interacting with each other in the game.
So with all the hype about a new PS4 and a new XBOX etc. I find myself more drawn to the OUYA. Show me what the indie devs are doing. They have something to say that is worth listening too. I’m 100% confident that the next Killzone or Halo or Call of Duty is going to look and perform amazingly on these new machines – heck I might not even be able to tell if it is real life or a video game but I don’t think it will matter. They’ll be showing me games I’ve already played (albeit in a better looking format) and / or games as they want me to see them instead of letting me have some creative input and that frankly bores me.
I think anyone who has played Minecraft or Terraria or any of the Roguelike ASCII games knows what I’m talking about. The graphics don’t make the game – as a matter of fact high end graphics might actually detract from the gaming experience. I’ll take emergent gameplay and the ability for me to get lost in my own head over high fidelity and “tried and true” game play mechanics.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to put some Nine Inch Nails on and play some Cataclysm or Caves of Qud and get lost in a grimy desolate world.
A few months ago when George Lucas sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney the internet was all abuzz about having their childhoods ruined. What will Disney do with the Star Wars franchise? Can it really can it be any worse than episodes 1-3? Can I now consider Leia my favorite Disney princess?
One of these things is not like the other
Adventure? Excitement? A Jedi craves not these things
I am particularly curious about LucasArts IP. That was my childhood. I still have my official Rebel Assault baseball cap! My real favorites were all the adventure games. It seemed as I grew older adventure games kind of faded away. Thankfully, the genre recently experienced a resurgence in popularity and I found, if I had just done a little digging, adventure games never really went away.
Legally Reliving your Adventurous Childhood
Surprisingly there are actually many ways to legally obtain your old favorites and get them up and running on modern operating systems and, in some cases, consoles. Fans and developers will never let the Lucas games fade away. SCUMMVM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) is a virtual machine based on the original Lucas engine that can run the old LucasArts games (and now other studios as well) on the new operating systems. Many titles are available legally on the main site for free or, if you are a hoarder like me, you can still use your old CD ROMs.
Steam has several of the old LucasArts titles available. I just picked up a pack with The Dig, Loom and the Indiana Jones titles. Steam also has packs for the old Sierra adventure games such as King’s Quest and Space Quest. The Sierra games were some of my favorites as a young child. Going back and trying to play through them again now hasn’t been as fun. I tried King’s Quest I and III and they felt much more dated, slow (as in lots of walking around and nothing going on), and not quite as humorous. I do still have a soft spot in my heart for the first adventure game I ever played: Goldrush! My dad, aunt, uncle and I will never get back the hour of our lives trying to properly phrase “Put chains on wheel.” Woohoo graphic text adventures! Goldrush! also wins for favorite fail if you couldn’t provide the license key: they actually sent your character to jail in the game!
Many adventure games are getting high quality remakes with updated graphics. LucasArts released The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition in 2009 for iOS, XBox and PC and in 2010 for PS3. It featured 3D graphics and the neat function of letting you toggle between the old and new artwork. Voice over work, featuring the cast of the later games, was also added. Monkey Island II: LeChucks’ Revenge also saw a high definition re-release.
Where Are They Now?
It is probably not a coincidence that some of my favorite game studios are staffed and even headed by the creative minds behind the LucasArts games. My two favorite studios for new adventure games are Telltale Games and Double Fine.
According to Wikipedia (hey I research my journalism!), Telltale was founded by a group of former LucasArts employees shortly after a Sam & Max follow up they were working on was cancelled. While they were never able to wrestle back the rights to that actual game, they did eventually work with the creator of the characters and comics-Steve Purcell-on new Sam & Max games. Telltale’s Homestar Runner gets my vote for game that most needs a sequel and Telltale did an amazing job with the Walking Dead universe in their most recent release.
Double Fine, founded by Tim Schafer of LucasArts, recently made Kickstarter history raising over three million dollars (after an initial funding ask of only 400K was exceeded in mere hours) to create a new point and click adventure game. I eagerly await my copy! Their other games, while not strictly adventure, feature a lot of the same elements and are a lot of fun. I am about two hours in and loving their latest game, The Cave, that’s been brewing in the mind of Ron Gilbert (also of LucasArts) for more than 30 years. And maybe, just maybe, Disney will give him back the rights to Maniac Mansion. Long live Chuck the Plant!
Ron Gilbert & Tim Schafer
What about those other games you said are out there if you know where to look?
So back at the Boston indie games festival last year I was happy to see lots of small developers producing adventure-like games. One developer I remembered to check out when I returned home was Wadjet Eye Games. They’re a small but prolific studio out of New York. I do tend to prefer my adventure games to be full of cute things and terrible puns. That is not exactly their style, but there is solid storytelling, interesting characters and at least the occasional one liner. To date I’ve only played Resonance and Blackwell Deception. I really enjoyed the latter and can’t wait to play the rest in the series. Resonance featured a good story but with four characters that didn’t really have any distinguishing abilities other than their occupations and needing to combine notes and conversations to get the right dialog options to open up, it seemed unnecessarily and tediously difficult at times. I still look forward to playing through their other titles as long as I have a walkthrough handy.
Resonance: I didn’t even notice that pun when I played!
Another title I just started is The Book of Unwritten Tales. It’s a German point and click adventure published by Nordic games. I’m only about an hour into the game. It has potential but hasn’t quite grabbed me as much as many of the other titles I discussed previously.
Jolly Rover by Australian developer Brawsome is another title I recently found on Steam. It’s pretty much Monkey Island with dogs but I love puns, pirates and anthropomorphic animals so I’m not really gonna complain! Brawsome also worked with Wadjet Eye on Emerald City Confidential, a noir game set in the Oz universe. That’s one title I definitely need to pick up!
Jolly Rover clearly innovates on how you solve adventure puzzles!
There is no Certainty. There is only Adventure.
Thankfully adventure games are alive and well. Many of the old ones stand the test of time (for me anyway) and there are still new minds crafting fun games and interactive stories. If you have young children I highly recommend exposing them to these types of games. It’s what I grew up on and I turned out OK! And it really was my foundation for a life long love of games that many years later led to my house being full of consoles and pinball machines. Now if someone would just make me a Monkey Island pinball machine...