Videogames, politics, science, all the important things in life.

Wallet Abuse Wednesday Year in Review Part 2

Posted by nfinit on December 29, 2010

**June **

It was right around here where we realized something was amiss.

Peace Walker and Sin and Punishment 2 provided quality hardcore gaming experiences on their respective consoles (and no one cared), Alpha Protocol gave a strong argument against any further attempts by Bethesda to develop it’s own intellectual property, and Green Day Rock Band will best be remembered as the slight scraping noise barely heard above the band in the Titanic’s ballroom.

Microsoft unveiled Kinect just prior to E3 in a garish, surreal media event featuring lighted ponchos, levitating suburban families, and a parade of nightmare-inducing forest spirits. This was merely the beginning of Microsoft’s half-billion dollar advertising blitzkrieg designed to promote Kinect, a sum of money sufficient to buy every speck of dry land that comprises Micronesia.


Sony tried to counter Microsoft’s momentum by revealing their own motion controller, simply dubbed the Move. Like everything else Sony’s done since the launch of the PS3, The Move felt more like something Sony was forced into rather than part of an comprehensive strategy, a fact apparent to anyone who has perused the Move software section of their local Best Buy.

Not that E3 was a total parade of failure. During Nintendo’s traditional announcement of DS hardware revisions Nintendo actually announced a brand new system, the 3DS, helpfully signalling to the gaming masses that they could wait at least two years on the 3DSi before buying a new Nintendo handheld.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Alpha Protocol)

But that’s a tangent for another time. What I do find interesting is the parallels you can make between the complaints voiced for Alpha Protocol and the stuff we all overlooked for another, beloved game, Deus Ex. Good writing, fundamentally bad gameplay (until at least you put some points into your skillset), good universe, an abnormal amount of 3dclunkiness– the important distinguishing characteristic between the two being that Dues Ex was released a dozen years ago, before we accepted the idea that a game can have maintain excellent RPG elements and also some semblance of competent shooter-based gameplay. I somehow doubt Deus Ex would have been as well received in a post-Mass Effect world.

I’d like to take this moment to apologize to all fans of Deus Ex; anyone who has ever played Deus Ex; any game store clerk to ever come in contact with a box containing the game Deus Ex; Warren Spector; Warren Spector’s dog; the fictional construct “JC Denton”; anyone reading or associated with Big Red Coat; my mother; and Tim Berners-Lee, for cheapening the internet with my diseased, ill-formed opinions.


I’m not going to say July was a total waste; at least we got Dragon Quest IX and Limbo out of it, but the only boxed console release of note was Crackdown, which was notable for being Crackdown 1, only somehow worse. Somehow I managed to summon enough interest in games to find something to say about July’s releases, a Herculean effort that I’m sure all my fans appreciate, even if none of you actually cared enough to send me money or videogames or booze or high quality nylon fetish pornography.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Arc Rise Fantasia)

Which I suppose is about right, as Arc Rise Fantasia is as generic as a generic JRPG can possibly be, and most of it’s hopes pin on the fact that not very many games like it exist for the Wii and this is possibly the last JRPG release of note for the system until The Last Story, which won’t come out until sometime shortly before President Newt Gingrich’s first midterm election.

This would appear to be a risky foundation on which to build your hopes upon– after all, if you’re a JRPG fiend who happens to also only be a Wii-exclusive gamer is about as common as a Gran Turismo addict who’s Wii-only. Moreover, the supposed success of ARF leads to troubling questions about our own industry– if ARF can succeed on a recipe of exclusiveness and mediocrity, what does this mean for Kinect?

That said, ARF provides what promises to be Perfectly Acceptable Gaming provided you can ignore it’s “Jill-the-master-of-unlocking” level of voice acting, it’s mid-generation PS2-level graphics, the fact that it relies on the Classic Controller to play properly

Turns out ARF isn’t just generic; it’s actively terrible, as archived by Nitrobeard’s own Imran Kahn.

**THE LOST MONTHS: August and September**

Videogame publishing companies are operated by old men who remember a childhood where children willingly spent Summer outside and active instead of inside and in front of an air conditioner; as a result few games are released during the Summer break. This becomes a problem in October when these same people realize they’ve neglected to sell a single game in the preceding three months and desperately scramble to have games out for the Holiday season before they are forced to file for bankruptcy.

The result of this insane system are games like Enslaved which enjoy a three week long window where they can be realistically sold for full price. Whereas if any of the October games had released a month earlier they would own the field because no one releases games in September other than Bungie.

This Summer was especially abhorrent for PlayStation 3 owners. At least Wii gamers got to argue over the relative merits of Metroid: Other M while 360 owners enjoyed the annual ritual of convincing themselves Halo is still relevant. What did PS3 owners have to enjoy? Kane and Lynch 2? That thing lasted all of five hours. Dead Rising 2 came out, but I have a hard time believing it was easy to be excited about Dead Rising 2 without exposure to the first game. Valkyria Chronicles saw a sequel, but that was for the PlayStation Portable.

For my part I spent most of the Summer obsessing over Persona 4 instead of, you know. Writing. Sorry about that.


So after a four month period where the best title released was– what? Dead Rising 2?– we were presented with four weeks of the following:

*Shantae: Risky’s Revenge
*Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
*NBA Jam
*Fallout: New Vegas
*Costume Quest
*Super Meat Boy
*Rock Band 3
*Fable 3
*Bit.Trip FATE
*Super Scribblenauts
*Kirby’s Epic Yarn
*Enslaved: Journey to the West

And that’s not even touching on random shit like Comic Jumper or EA MMA or the sequence of events the lead up to this:

If you’re Platinum Games do you really think it made sense to release Vanquish on the same day as New Vegas instead of releasing it sometime in August and dominating the gaming media for at least two weeks? What’s the point of releasing Rock Band 3 so soon after Green Day? And I’m almost positive Enslaved was already on sale for forty bucks by the time Black Friday rolled around.

Meanwhile between Super Meat Boy, Comic Jumper, Shantae, Costume Quest and Bit.Trip FATE we had the strongest month for downloadable console in recent memory.

On the bright side, sales figures for October would reveal more people cared about New Vegas than did Medal of Honor, so there’s some hope for quality gaming amid the dudebro hordes. On the other hand, over half a million people were tricked into buying Fable 3. I don’t know how to explain that other than either the Xbox 360 userbase is largely comprised of easily fooled simpletons or there is a disturbingly large contingent of English people within North America buying terrible, terrible videogames.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month (re: New Vegas)

I’m trying very hard to stay optimistic about New Vegas, but this is an Obsidian Games joint and in the wake of Alpha Protocol there’s every chance that Obsidian is a bad studio. I mean, let’s look at the record:

Alpha Protocol: Complete, irredeemable shit

Neverwinter Nights 2: Good, albeit fantastically glitchy despite the engine and setting being handed over whole cloth from NWN1

Knights of the Old Republic 2: Fantastic as an RPG, probably better than the first KOTOR, but also buggy as a Brooklyn used mattress store and obviously releasing incomplete (despite again the engine and setting being established in KOTOR 1)

I dunno. It’s entirely possible that New Vegas is an outstanding game, you just can’t deny Obsidian’s dubious pedigree. And it’s not like Obsidian is exactly working with the most stable engine ever created– Fallout 3 had some rather astounding issues with free-world jank:

Turns out I’m an idiot and New Vegas is an improvement over Fallout 3 in almost every conceivable measure. The only problem? Two years is not nearly enough time between open-world CRPGs of this magnitude set in the same universe. Sure New Vegas is by far the superior Fallout 3 experience; but playing it this soon after FO3 almost seems like a chore.

I mean, it’s a fantastic chore full of mohawk-sporting hookers with electrical tape pasted over their jibblies, but still. That’s a whole lot of game, and as with most Western-developed RPGs of it’s nature it’s impossible to see all the sides of the story on a single run. Thankfully sales for New Vegas have been strong and the general public does not agree with my insane opinion on the matter; but I still feel like everyone involved would have been better served had the game went through another six months of bugfixes or at least find a way to make sure buildings make contact with the surface geometry of Nevada 90% of the time.


The good news is, November gave us the year’s best 3d platformer in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the best arcade racer in Need For Speed; Hot Pursuit, and the year’s best game of Snake in Pac-Man Championship Edition Deluxe.

The bad news is everything else fell off a cliff.

That’s not to say November didn’t also have a ton of games; it’s just that the games released were either awful or pandering mainstream crap. November saw the culmination of Microsoft’s five-hundred-million-dollar Kinect advertising campaign, resulting in Kinect Adventures (a high definition copy-and-paste of Wii Sports), Kinect Joy Ride (the racing game that plays itself), and Kinectimals (the Eyepet-meets-Viva Pinata crossbreed brought to you by the shambling corpse of the studio once responsible for Jet Force Gemini.)

Blood Stone was released, resulting in the immediate dissolution of Bizarre Creations. Eight million people people bought Call of Duty: Black Ops. The less said about Epic Mickey the better. After mos of a decade in development Gran Turismo 5 was released, featuring a car list of eight thousand vehicles, seven hundred and ninety three of which were imported from Motor Toon Gran Prix

November served as the culmination to the ominous, shadowy warning delivered by the videogame publishing industry at E3. In October the hardcore had thier fun; November was when the bills were paid, and if rumblings from Microsoft are to be believed then 2011 looks a lot more like November 2010 than October 2010.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month (re: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood)

So I finally got around to playing Assassin’s Creed 2 this year, and I admit I was totally wrong about that game– it’s an improvement in every conceivable way over AC1 and I’d have no problem saying it was last year’s premiere action game over Arkham Asylum.

And the great thing about AC2’s gameplay was that it was solidly a single-player game. There was none of the gameplay or design choices that crop up when you build a multiplayer game in mind– Instead Ubisoft Montreal presented us an open-world Prince Of Persia; a rare combination of intricate sandbox gameplay with intense 3d platforming action. It was so good that I didn’t even mind the silly and distracting sci-fi Dan Brown-meets-Minority Report story that wrapped around AC2.

Suffice to say it’s not the sort of game where I played it and thought “what this needs is deathmatch”

Which is pretty much what we’re getting with Brotherhood. Admittedly more of a good thing is still a good thing– It’s not like they’ve stripped out the single player game for Brotherhood, this game continues Enzio’s story through Rome, which sounds pretty fantastic. But I also have to think that with only a year of development time provided– and Ubisoft splitting the game between five different developers just to get another Assassin’s Creed through the door for 2010– that the game can’t help but suffer. It’s also entirely possible that Brotherhood was what caused Patrice Desilets to flee Ubisoft and that can’t possibly be a good sign.

Yeah, I was wrong about this one, too. Turns out Brotherhood is probably the best Assassin’s Creed to date, even if the multiplayer sections don’t work well. Who knew that slapping a game of Assassin Tycoon into the middle of Prince of Persia-meets-Splinter Cell would work?


No one releases games in December unless you’re Nintendo and have managed to turn trolling your own fanbase into a viable business strategy. Which is also why I’ve spent the past four weeks recapping crap instead of being bothered to find witty things to say about Tron: Evolution and/or Jam City Rollergirls









One Response to “Wallet Abuse Wednesday Year in Review Part 2”

  1. More Wii bundle programs are being put together at great prices than ever before. Glad to see prices coming down on Wii programs.

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