April 23rd, 2009 5:33 pm | by Ryan Fleming News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Gamevania: Your Week in Video Games

hannah-montana-the-movie-20090324011655358Its a tough life, playing video games for all hours of the day then writing about them. Few understand the level of commitment it takes. The hand cramps, the eye strain, the deadly “gamer stigmata” towards girls. Okay, so it's actually pretty awesome, but it does lead to some awkward moments, like having to go to my local rental store and avoid eye contact while putting down Hannah Montana The Movie Game on the counter. I try to mutter things that will explain it away like “research”, but renting games about underage girls for “research” purposes can apparently be taken a few ways, none of them good.

Some weeks—like this one—when there is a light schedule of releases, you have to try games you might not otherwise play. The results can vary, but for value seekers, it is good to know the highs as well as the lows. That said, I hope to rent a title next week that will repair my badly damaged gamer cred. Preferably something very manly and violent with (adult) girls in bikinis on the cover, holding guns. Big ones. Onward!

Value Game of the Week
Excitebots (Wii)
This week saw the release of of the Wii exclusive Excitebots, the spiritual successor to the NES classic Excitebike. Titles like this are why the Wii has been consistently steamrolling the competition: it isn't the prettiest game out there, it doesn't create any new genres, and there is no real story to push the trends of the industry, but it is a whole lot of fun. Giving the middle finger to physics, this racer offers the type of play control you would expect from a remade NES title, intuitive and tight. At points in the race, it nurtures the feeling that you are just a hair's breathe away from losing control, keeping you on the edge of your seat and totally immersed in the game. The game offers a solid, if unspectacular, campaign mode for you to play alone, but the real bread and butter of this game lies in the multiplayer.

Nintendo's big advantage with the Wii is remembering something other publishers seem to forget: It's fun to play games with people. I'm not talking about online co-op battles with foulmouthed 13-year-olds jabbering over the headset, but old-school multiplayer, right next to you on the couch, where they can hear your smack talk in real time. There is something much more satisfying to winning a close race and watching your friend slump in defeat as you debut your newest victory dance, than in beating someone online and hearing “you suck” before they disconnect. That isn't to say that the online racing isn't fun—it is—but this game offers enough fun play modes to keep it in the regular party rotation for years. Adding to the standard versus races, there is a poker race, in which you circle the track looking for cards to give you the best hand, as well as a new wagering system where you can transfer your personal game stats to your friend's Wii and bet stars (the in-game rewards for winning races, pulling off tricks and completing various other objectives). These stars can be bet online or in person, and add a new layer of competition that gives the versus modes more depth than before.

Worst Value of the Week
Guitar Hero: Metallica (PS3, XBox 360, Wii)
guitar hero metallica
Metallica just keeps rubbing people the wrong way. Maybe it is bad timing, maybe it is a lack of understanding, but regardless this week's newest rhythm game, Guitar Hero: Metallica, just seems to come at a bad time. The game itself is solid. It plays well, offers a good selection of difficulty and game modes to play, but it really only appeals to the hardcore Metallica fan with money to burn. The game offers 28 songs from the band, plus 21 from groups that the band admires, or shares a label with, or had dinner with once, or some other obscure critera. Games in the same genre, like Guitar Hero: World Hero, offer nearly double that number to begin with, and offer several more artists via download, all for the same price. This is kind of like the Hannah Montana game for Metallica fans—if you are a fan of the band you will already be predisposed to buy the game; if you are not, you wont. Metallica isn't the only band to release their own Guitar Hero games—both Aerosmith and AC/DC preceded them—but they are the only band that never entirely recovered their reputation after their noble crusade to kill Napster in an effort to upgrade their toilets from gold to platinum. With that in mind, a $60 game that could have been a $20 download may not be the wisest course of action during a recession. Not that we're still bitter or anything.

DLC of the Week
LEFT 4 DEAD (PC, Xbox 360)
New out on Xbox Live and available for download is a Left 4 Dead DLC that is an easy pick as the value DLC of the week, because it is free. In a somewhat shocking break from the norm, Valve has decided to release the expansion pack on both PC and 360 at no cost. The expansion will feature two new campaigns as well as a new game style called survival in which the player must survive multiple waves of enemies that respawn until he dies. Fun! L4D's biggest knock has been the relatively light campaign offering with just four playable scenarios, although they are well designed to give maximum replay value. This new DLC is not just a great value itself, what with it being awesomely free and all, but it makes the original game a better value as well, especially if you can find a good used price. Compare that to Halo 3's recent multiplayer map pack, which ran about $10 for the privilege of getting killed, then teabagged by a 13-year-old screaming, “Noobs get pwned pussy, srysly!”, and then they throw in something about your sexual orientation and maybe even your Mom, and overall L4D with its free content is just a better value, okay? And leave my mom out of this.

-Gamespot reports that sales for the newest expansion pack for WOW, Wrath of the Lich King, beat out other MMORPG expansions, the Sims 2, and Company of Heroes. And yet some argue that it is an inaccurate way of reporting the numbers as DD and MMO are not accurately reported in NPD results. Either way, solid numbers for the PC market. Good news for people that understood any of that, we guess.

-It's more tech news than game news, but Fingergaming reports that 12-year-old Nicholas Weintraut has developed an iPhone app called Moo Cow Fury. The app is available through the iPod App Store for $0.99. Whether this is a sign that the iPhone is an extremely user friendly device to program for, or it just means kids these days are too freaking smart, remains unresolved.

-According to QJ.net, Amazon.com has jumped into the DLC market. After recently agreeing to sell Xbox Live content on their website, Amazon will now begin to sell Wii downloadable content as well. Amazon refuses to comment on any pending negotiations, but PS3 downloads can't be too far away. The downloadable content will be a new category for Amazon, who now officially sell everything ever made, ever.

-Epic Games is hard at work on a new urban golf game, based on Tony! Toni! Tone!'s Raphael Saadiq's youth in Oakland, called Ghetto Golf, according to MTV. The only thing you can be sure of is that someone is going to be offended. We don't know who yet, but someone, somewhere will be.

-Yahoo News reports US-based Hindu leader Rajan Zed has leveled criticism at Sony for releasing the game Hanuman: Boy Warrior for the PS2. Rajan Zed elected not to take advantage of his awesome badguy-like name to take to the controls of a giant Gundam mech, but instead issued an equally mind-blowing email to Sony that claimed the gaming giants were trivializing Lord Hanuman, a highly revered deity of Hinduism, who battled demons in Hindu mythology. Imagine if you took the controls of Jesus to fight off bad guys. If Jesus had led a monkey army to fight a demon king, that is. Actually, that would make a pretty terrific FPS...

-Although not typically thought of in the same breathe as “cool,” Matthew Perry scored some points with gamers by admitting to the ladies of the talk show The View that he was an avid gamer, so much so that he hurt his hands and had to seek medical help after playing too much Fallout 3. (You can watch the video on Gametab here). He even manages to jokingly scold one of the hosts about her lack of gaming knowledge before Whoopi Goldberg appears to say something funnyish, apparently.
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