A Halo of Alternatives


The cat's out of the bag, people, so there's no sense in trying to dance around the issue: Halo 3 comes out tomorrow, and judging by the various previews, reviews , sneak peaks , and bloggy accolades I've read thus far, it's going to be a monster. A monster addiction, that is. I plan to invest what little free time I have to stopping the Covenant -- at least until the Xbox 360's Rock Band comes out. You hear me, Guild Wars? It's Master Chief time. I just don't have enough hours in the day to be a dual-platform gamer. And in this case, the 360 has struck first.

But never fear, you stalwarts of PC gaming. Here's a quick run-down of all the awesome titles that you can be playing instead of Halo 3... otherwise known as the "somebody in marketing just got fired" list:

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts

Why You Should Care: I can't complain about this one! Company of Heroes was an awesome game. Provided THQ didn't screw up the expansion, I would be more than happy to show scorn for the console by shooting Nazis. Or Russians. Or whoever it is you're fighting in this game.

Why You Shouldn't Care: Well, it is an expansion. Company of Heroes was fun, but expansions to real-time strategy games tend to follow one of two models: more units or more sides. It's rare to find innovative gameplay in an RTS expansion -- and if you were so-so with the original game, there's no way you're going to pick this up.

Halo 3 Hours Distracted: 4. Maybe 5. 6, but only if I can tank-rush somebody.

Hour of Victory

Why You Should Care: Suppose you get done playing Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts, and you think to yourself, "Self, I have just not gotten my fill of World War II today." Thank god there's Hour of Victory to satisfy your Wolfenstein-like urge. Sneak about, kill stuff, do your first-person-shooter thing -- as if the epic Call of Duty series didn't wet your whistle enough.

Why You Shouldn't Care: This game is getting as lambasted by reviewers as Nazis in an Indiana Jones movie. If you see this one in the bargain bin, you should take it out -- not to purchase, but only because it's tarnishing the quality of its neighbors. Sweet gosh. Who greenlights these things?

Halo 3 Hours Distracted: 1/2. No gameplay, just laughter.

Brain Spa

Why You Should Care: Puzzle games rock. Seriously. When I'm sitting on the lovely municipal transport, killing time in my living room, or hanging out with my cat, I love to pass the time with a good puzzle game or two. Newspaper Sudoku just doesn't t do it for me anymore; I need straight-up, digital puzzle action. That said, Brain Spa looks to deliver on that promise. Granted, I have no idea what's actually in the game. Ubisoft's web site leaves much to be desired. Still, odds are good that the game will involve puzzles in some capacity, and apparently Brain Spa features a little virtual town that grows and evolves as you play the game. Good enough for Animal Crossing; good enough for me.

Why You Shouldn't Care: If you don't like puzzle games, you are going to avoid this like the plague. In fact, you probably stopped reading this little description about one or two sentences into it. Just in case, I'll stop now.

Halo 3 Hours Distracted: ∞, but only in little spurts. It's not like anyone here's going to have an all-night frag-fest with a puzzle game.

Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2008

Why You Should Care: Um. Well. If you're one of the many people who purchased any of the previous editions in the wonderful "Cabela's Big Game Hunter" series, I would like to venture that a game like Halo 3 is a bit out of your skill range. Thus, you should be thrilled to death -- literally -- that there's yet-another version of this first-person wannabe. Seriously. If you want to kill wild animals, go play Oblivion. Big Game Hunter? You have to be kidding me.

Why You Shouldn't Care: I tried to hide my contempt for these hunting-themed "games" in the last paragraph, but like a little child after drinking a Big Gulp, I just couldn't contain myself. I burst. You shouldn't care because pointing a cross-hair at a poor representation of a bear has to be one of the most mind-numbing experiences ever put to pixels. Yuck.

Halo 3 Hours Distracted: 1. 1/2 an hour to buy the game, and 1/2 an hour to take it right back to the store.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Hard Evidence

Why You Should Care: It's the closest thing to a "fun adventure game" on the market right now.  And.  Uh.  It features... the CSI cast.  And you.  Solving awesome mysteries that really-aren't-that-tough-but-shh-it's-not-that-bad-sorta.  Barring any new updates in Sierra's fabled Police Quest series, you're simply going to have to swallow the bitter pill that is the CSI series.

Why You Shouldn't Care: Want to know how to beat this one?  Here's a clue -- use every tool on every scene.  Click every area on the screen.  Then taking your findings and talk about them to every single person you know.  Rinse, wash, repeat, and you'll get through the "game" in about an hour.  Honestly, I'd rather watch the TV show.

Halo 3 Hours Distracted: 1, as noted.

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