Alright, Windows 8 fans. You’ve taken our advice and speed-ran your way through a clean installation (or upgrade!) of Microsoft’s latest OS. You’ve created or attached an existing Windows Live account to your installation, you’ve taken care of the few prompts Microsoft’s asked you to fill out or click through, and you’ve even given a cursory glance to the company’s brief “How to use Windows 8” video.
Hey, remember that whole Mass Effect 3 ending thing? Mercifully, I don't plan on giving it any further attention beyond that sentence. But it did – in its less oppressively obnoxious moments – give rise to a renewed discussion about videogame endings. The general consensus? It's the point where even the mightiest fall, tumbling from a perch of lofty regard to the turgid depths of disappointment. BioShock, Fallout 3, Knights of The Old Republic II – even the most beloved franchises have proven all-too-capable of heinous back-stabbery at the 11th hour.
And those are only the standouts. Plenty of other series have committed last-second crimes both large and small, so you could be forgiven for thinking we're in the midst of an epidemic fatal specifically to fond memories. Where, after all, is your satisfaction-fueled victory lap? Why, instead, is there an angry mob waiting at the finish line, pitchforks, torches, and voices raised in a howling thunder of angry regret? Why do games seem incapable of producing satisfying endings? That's the question many gamers have been asking themselves, and they've yet to uncover an answer.
Perhaps that's because they're asking the wrong question.
When I devote time to media – whether it's a game, TV show, book, or slice of delicious chocolate cake drowned in molten frosting lava – I tend to lose myself in it. I think about it constantly. My speech becomes laden with referential jargon, and probably by pure coincidence, my friends start punching me in the throat more frequently. That's the power of a great world, though. You have to drag me away from it kicking and screaming, and even when you do, I bring a few chunks of officially licensed astro turf along for the ride.
But it's fun to be hopelessly and utterly absorbed in a place halfway across the galaxy from Real Life's day-to-day doldrums. Whether it's a million-mile-per-hour escape from reality or something that ends up hitting all too close to home, there's something downright magical about, say, wandering Fallout's wastes or selecting the “family” conversation option of every goddamn person in Mass Effect 3's entire galaxy. Things like that are, in large part, the reason I play games.
So I think I'm probably qualified to talk about why transmedia's insidious, spindly web of Facebook games, apps, iOS spin-offs, art books, and delicious chocolate cakes drowned in molten frosting lava is doing it so very, very, very wrong.
I am frightened. I am alone. I feel like there are eyes following my every footstep, stripping away chunks of my calm, collected guise as though clawing open a Christmas present. I don't think I can keep it together for much longer, but I can't run. My legs maintain a disarmingly leisurely pace, like they're trudging through a quicksand-flavored Jello mold. Will I spot a ghost first, or will it spot me? Where? When? How? I'm like a child who's afraid of the dark. The suspense makes me want to toss a blanket over my head until a Real Adult chases the Bad Things away. Unpredictability, as it turns out, is terror at its purest.
This is my third playthrough of Dear Esther, and it's the hardest hitting yet. I still haven't figured out this amorphous, ever-shifting puzzle of an island, and I don't think I ever will. Moreover, I'm not some improbable mix between a Ghost Buster, Rambo, and Wolverine. I'm not even sure if I have hands. I feel utterly powerless – all at once breathless with both awe and fear. This world doesn't revolve around me. I am not its master. I can only speculate as to what it all means and why I'm here. In a word: incredible.
Then the peanut gallery chimes in: “Wait, I can't shoot stuff? This clearly isn't a real game. Yuck.” And now we have a very, very serious problem.
We take a look at the best the fledgling Windows 8 Store has to offer
Whether you love it or hate it, you’ve installed Microsoft’s Windows 8 Consumer Preview to give it a whirl and see which side – light or dark – you fall into. While we’d normally use this space to feature all the various third-party apps you should install on your brand-new operating system to make it more useful, more awesome, and more beautiful, it only makes sense that we instead turn our Eye of Sauron to Metro. Specifically, programs you can pick up right now, within Microsoft’s store, that install directly into Windows 8 like apps onto a smartphone.
With the caveat that many of these apps are still in a preview phase themselves, here are our top picks for must-have Windows 8 Metro apps! Try saying that three times fast.
Like a Sith to a Jedi, a Cylon to a human, an Apple to a Gordon Mah Ung, every good thing said about Windows 8 seems to be matched by an equal and opposite reaction: Something bad. To trade in our angel wings and prop up our Google Hangout devil horns for a moment, there’s plenty about Windows 8 that you just aren’t going to like.
Unless you’re one of those stalwarts still clinging to Windows XP as if it was a stuffed animal from your childhood that you need to squeeze just to sleep at night, the announcement of a new Windows operating system usually summons up one singular question: When can I upgrade?
Note, we said usually. For Windows 8’s errors are so flagrant and its annoyances so widespread, this might be the first operating system in your Windows lifetime that you’re going leave right there on the retail shelf. That’s right. We said it. Microsoft’s not only created a new operating system; the company has also created a healthy amount of doubt in the minds of potential purchasers.
Read on for some of the main ingredients that make up our tasty Windows “8-erade.”
Windows 8 has certainly taken its share of criticism since the official debut of Microsoft’s Consumer Preview last Wednesday, but let there be no anger within this article. It would be wrong to just crap on all of Microsoft’s latest attempts at Windows brand revitalization because, guess what? There are some pretty nifty features to like within Windows 8.
I think The Darkness II's Jackie Estacado deserves an award for being more utterly screwed in a single instance than any other videogame character in history. So here's the tale of the tape: I – playing as the main character of all first-person shooters: camera-glued-to-the-main-character's-forehead – was locked in a dark, dingy room while a horde of vaguely supernatural mob goons turned my mega-mansion (and my horde of vaguely competent regular mob goons) into a gory pile of mob goop. “Mansion under attack, lol #firstworldproblems,” I could almost imagine Jackie tweeting if he hadn't also been, you know, crucified at the time.
Then one of my none-too-subtle foes wheeled a TV inches away from my eyes so as to – both literally and figuratively – rub my face in what was to come. “It's your own personal snuff film,” he proudly announced. On the screen were two of my particularly talkative underlings – beaten, bound, and on their knees, with backs mercifully turned away from the pistol pointed in their general direction. “One lives, one dies. Pick.” And I should have cared. I really should have.
But I didn't. Not in the slightest. So, what changed between the original Darkness' masterclass in characterization and this sordid tale of heartlessness and heart-eating? Simple: time.
Gordon Freeman is a coward. Or at least, he is when I play him. It's those damn poison headcrabs. As soon as they start hissing – shrouded in darkness, probably fresh off the assembly line from some Nightmare Factory – I turn into an orange-and-black blur and beeline for the nearest corner to cry in. When Alyx is around, I push her into the poison headcrab's Terror Lair and hide until she makes the bad things that can kill me in two hits go away. Meanwhile, in real life, I lean away from the screen until my spine feels like it's recently been on the receiving end of a Mortal Kombat Fatality. If you haven't gotten the picture yet, I really, really don't like poison headcrabs.
I love, however, that they exist. Half-Life 2's enemies in general are some of the most memorable I've ever encountered. In fact, I haven't experienced such a visceral reaction to any game enemy since.
Humans are a fickle species: Easily distracted by anything shiny and new, the majority of us are always on the lookout for the next big thing, especially where technology is concerned. Fortunately, as we saw at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, there's a whole universe of new-fangled gadgety goodness being cooked up by the high-tech powers that be--especially in the area of smartphones. There's a lot of anticipation surrounding a number of the handsets due for release this year, and with good reason: As more and more companies vie for a cut of the coin consumers are dumping into the smartphone market, hardware manufacturers are being forced to up their game, bringing innovative products to market in the hope of squashing their competition like a bug. We've assembled 10 of the most anticipated handsets due to drop in 2012, and as you'll see, they're all lust-worthy.