The gossamer glow of glow of GamerVania is nearly at the end, as next week brings the final installment for WW. It's been fun, but it is time for me to end my internship and begin my exciting new career as an unemployed Oregonian. On the bright side, I will have plenty of time to play video games, or “research,” as I will tell my friends when my stink begins to bring tears to their eyes. I will miss taking showers, but not as much as I will miss reviewing video games, both good and bad. And this week brings to the surface one of each.
This week I reviewed two games and a DLC. Of the offerings, one was solid but slightly overpriced, one was a decent value for a DLC, and one made my brain hurt and regret playing video games at all.
Best Game of the Week The Sims 3 (PC)
The eagerly anticipated sequel to the life simulators has dropped. This game is for when life just isn't cool enough. If you haven't seen The Sims before, it is hard to describe it accurately. After all, try telling someone that there is a new game out where you have to feed, bathe, and even find a job for your character. Awesome! How do you explain the appeal of a life simulator where you have to dedicate roughly 1/3 of the game to making sure your character gets enough sleep?
Where the game really shines is in the God-like power you wield, as your avatar basically became your Job, forced into a life of thankless tortures for the amusement of his creator. There is a certain twisted appeal to a game where you create your character's house, but omit any doors. The agonized wails of your avatar will carry as you mutter to yourself, “it rubs the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again.” Don't lie, if you have played any of The Sims games you have tried that at least once. There are even YouTube channels dedicated to new and interesting ways to kill your Sims. Also fun and much more time consuming is interacting with characters, and The Sims 3 offers more choice on that front than ever.
Your actions have immediate consequences in the Sim world. If your character is in a relationship and caught flirting with another character, you will pay for it as your significant other slaps and punches you. It may not sound like the most fun thing ever, but it is incredibly addictive and hard to put down. Your character will also respond to multiple trips to the gym, as their size and popularity will both rise. Interactions have also been revamped, and you now have more options than ever to communicate with other Sims.
The newest addition features many upgrades of previous games, but nothing too surprising. Most of the changes are simply upgrades and logical progressions. Notice I did not list this game under “Best Value of the Week”? There's a good reason for that. Much of the additional content costs real life money, which, frankly, sucks. Beyond that, The Sims continues to allow people to live out their God fantasies. But in a socially acceptable way. Oh, yeah. The Sims 3 has already sold 1.4 million copies, making it EA's fastest selling title ever.
Worst Game of the Week Damnation (360, PC, PS3)
I have played a lot of bad games recently. From the simply asinine Hannah Montana, to the deceptively crappy Ninja Blade—a game that featured almost every single thing I dislike in video games. But of them all, so far the worst game of the year award goes to Damnation. And it is a shame too, because the idea is cool. Building on the Steampunk genre, the story takes place in an alternative United States, post Civil War. The war unleashed things like steam-powered robots, airships, and steam-powered motorcycles, and the world took an unusual new course. Sounds cool enough, right?
During the game, there is a bad guy that wants to do bad things for bad reasons. It really is that simple. They took an interesting background and plastered on a weak story. But worse than that is the gameplay. The controls aren't actually bad, but the game is so uneven in its play, that it quickly feels like you should earn achievement points simply for keeping at it. The level designs are crap as well, but that is almost to be expected with a game so poorly designed. The game switches between a hooter and a jumping game, with very little connection between the two, giving it a schizophrenic feeling. There will be times, when you will run through this game and not seen an enemy for 15 minutes, then you will suddenly be ambushed by dozens of people that force you under cover for up to five minutes as you very slowly pick off your attackers. Most of my deaths came from when my frustration peaked and I decided to look—not run out screaming—but look at where all the enemies were. There is an online version too, but when I tired to jump on no one was playing. No surprise there.
This game is bad on so so many levels that I simply could not imagine playing through all the way to the end. So who knows, maybe it defied logic and became rad. Unfortunately, the only way it could do that is if it suddenly became Bioshock mid-game. Very seldom do I say this, but this game is not even worth a rental, or even a borrow from any of your friends unlucky enough to have bought it.
DLC of the Week Call of Duty: World at War Map Pack 2 (360, PC, PS3)
Not for the faint of heart, this week's DLC is a collection of new maps for Call of Duty: World at War. Yes, it is a World War 2 game. That shouldn't be surprising, since about 1/5 of all games on the market are WWII based as we've discussed in the past.
Call of Duty: WaW is hard to recommend to someone that hasn't played the full game. The learning curve is ridiculously steep, and players have long since memorized each and every trick as well as every corner of the existing maps. It sure is neat to spawn and be sniped before you even have a chance to take a single step. That is super fun. But, for those that have managed to survive, the new map pack offers four new levels, and a new map where you and up to three others work as a team to kill Nazi zombies. And that is exactly as awesome as it sounds. The new levels may not mean anything to gamers that aren't familiar with WaW, but the vast majority of fans of the game will have already shelled out the 800 Microsoft points the moment it became available.
HOT COFFEE AND NEWS
In a sad bit of news, Yahoo reports that video game sales are down for the third month in a row. Whether it is the economy, or the fault of crap games like Damnation is open for debate. Once some of the high profile games come out later this year, like Bioshock 2, HaloODST, and God of War 3, the industry should pick back up.
Straddling that thin line between ironic and just simply dumb, Gamespot is reporting an unusual story of stupidity from EA. Or maybe from Christian groups. Again, thin line. To promote their new game Dante's Inferno, EA hired fake Christian protesters to picket EA with signs like “My high score is Heaven," apparently under the impression that any news is good news. That alone borders on dumb, but what really pushed it over the edge is that the LA Times blogged on it thinking it was real, which then got the attention of Catholic bloggers, who were channeling Queen Victoria and essentially said “we are not amused.” No wait, it gets dumber. Margaret Cabaniss of InsideCatholic wrote, "It's been clear for a while now that the entertainment industry views Christians on the whole as priggish, thin-skinned fun-killers.” Hello can of worms. Open!
My new found crush on the Natal is quickly becoming a fetish as it turns out that I am not alone. Jimmy Fallon recently featured the technology on his TV show, and it looks just as cool as it did last week. How long do you think until the porn industry gets a hold of this? Weeks? Days?
Gamespot is reporting that Nintendo says it actually had the technology for Natal, long before Microsoft introduced it at E3, or Sony announced their own version. Nintendo claims that they considered the technology for the Wii, but ultimately went with the Wii nunchucks currently in use. They also announced that they were the first to discover music, they created the Internet, and they invented oxygen, but decided to pass on it in favor of other stuff.
This is one of those stories that you read and just scratch your head and say, really, Japan? Really? I am all for freedom of speech, and I believe the Market will determine what games will continue and what won't. People will either buy it or they wont. That being said, even I have trouble getting behind the Japanese game RapeLay, where you, and I am quoting from the Fox news story I first saw this on, “In the game players earn points for acts of sexual violence, including following girls on commuter trains, raping virgins and their mothers, and then forcing them to have abortions.” If you follow the link, there is a decidedly disturbing picture of a pair of illustrated Japanese girls near tears as a hand moves in on them. The game will probably only be sold in the US through the developer's website. Which I will not provide, sicko.
PS3 has decided to drop the price of the PS3, and it is about damn time too— is reporting that the system will drop by $100, which makes me like the system a little bit more.