Spore lets you take an extremely high-concept journey from a single-cell life form swimming through the seas to a continent-spanning superpower to the overlord of a galactic empire. Over the course of about five hours, you shepherd your critter through four introductory stages; then you leave for space.
If you’re reading this right now, it means that 2008 just settled into its final resting place inscribed across its own grave stone, and that you’re reading this right now. I think we both have reason to celebrate. How to celebrate, though? Well, that’s your call. If you want to know which game – of the thousands released this year – is quantifiably GAME OF THE YEAR, then go here, here, or here (then everywhere else) and have a few repair hammers standing by for your reading glasses. However, if your 2008 -- like mine -- was defined by a number of exemplary moments in your favorite games, then why not get your gears turning with my favorite gaming moments of 2008? Enjoy!
Left 4 Dead’s Opening Cinematic – Sure, L4D is a meticulously sown-together Frankenstein monster of moments that both bring players together and blow them apart, but snuffing out Smokers and playing whipping boy while my buddies tangoed with Tanks wasn’t what impressed me most about the game. Instead, it was L4D’s subtle, yet utterly potent opening cinematic that really snuck its hand into my cranium-shaped cookie jar. As pointed out by the always fantastic Offworld blog:
“It wasn't until I actually started playing Left 4 Dead about a week ago that it all clicked for me. I popped the disc into my 360, decided to watch the opening cinematic again, and found myself just as unimpressed as I had been the first time. But when I actually started to play the game, I discovered that I somehow already knew how to play the game. I knew what abilities the zombies I had. I knew what strategies were effective. I knew that a pipe bomb was good for getting the horde away from your group; I knew that when I heard crying, I should shut off my flashlight; I knew that I had to help up fallen team mates, and that I wasn't surprised that I could should my guns when disabled.”
“Without once having booted up the game, I knew how to play it. “
We’ve played plenty of World War II shooters but have yet to find one that makes us care for its characters like we did for Tom Hanks and Vin Diesel in Saving Private Ryan. Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway comes close and rekindles our love of gritty 1940s warfare with its perfect combination of nail-biting tactical shoot-outs and a gripping character-driven story—an admirable feat in modern first-person shooters.
We liked Crysis. Despite its less-than-stellar AI, annoying alien baddies, and flawed final mission, we liked it. We liked the game for its wide-open jungle combat and the power and flexibility the nano-suit gave us to approach combat any way we wanted. Whether we wanted to skulk through the jungle, shooting enemies half a klick away with a silenced rifle, or get up close and personal by throwing our enemies through the nearest wall, the game accommodated pretty much any play style.
While in all honesty, you’ll probably never need a quad-core processor in your laptop, it’s nice to think about. And while you’ve got that on your mind, know that Acer has already heard your thoughts, and are answering them with the release of their new Aspire 8930G laptop, featuring an Intel Core 2 QuadMobile Processor Q9000.
According to Acer the notebook will feature “ four processing cores, 12MB of shared L2 cache, 1066 MHz Front Side Bus and clock speed rates upto 2.53 GHz.” To them, this makes the notebook an ideal option for “extreme users.”
And heck, as long as you’re being extreme you can be smart. The 8930G will run you a very reasonable $1,799 with the Q9000, an Nvidia GeForce 9700 GPU and a Blu-ray drive standard.
What’s better than seeing the world? Seeing the world during its post-life crisis – at least, according to Valve. And so, during a recent pow-wow with Kotaku, Valve writer Chet Faliszek confirmed that a smattering of new L4D scenarios are currently making sure their crumbling shacks and snaking paths are undead-accessible, as is the long-awaited L4D SDK.
However, as of now, details are sadly few in number. Apparently, Valve wants to “deliver more content you can play at this point,” meaning that the SDK probably won’t arrive with the initial batch of DLC.
On the bright side, the zombpocalypse preparation tool’s first tune-up will add versus mode support to the Dead Air and Death Toll campaigns, allowing you to feast upon your friends’ flesh at all of the game’s fine locales.
The Kotaku-Valve chat was recorded on December 15, so Faliszek’s claim that "We should be announcing that before Christmas, what the DLC is,” was obviously derailed.
"The holidays aren't actually so much delaying it as the press guys--[marketing VP] Doug [Lombardi]'s been taking some time. We'll have an announcement shortly, I don't know exactly when,” he continued. We’re guessing that bit’s still valid.
As is Valve’s wont, the DLC probably won’t cost any money – though arms and legs haven’t been ruled out just yet.
We’ll make sure to let you know when Lombardi and co. finally raise the curtain on Left 4.1 Dead. Pencil us in for “soonish.”
Pockets still belching out quarters after a colossal Christmas cash feast? Looking to really score some bang for your newly acquired buck? Well, right after buying MPC subscriptions for a few friends, family members or neighbors (MPC makes for an amazing house-warming gift!), why not take a quick peek at Steam’s wall-to-wall sales extravaganza?
Should words like “extravaganza” not be enough to persuade you, here are a few more that might do the trick: BioShock for $4.99, Team Fortress 2 for $9.99, Company of Heroes for $14.99 and Left 4 Dead for $37.49.
The sales’s price tag-pulverizing kryptonite applies to all games currently available on Steam, but only until January 2nd. So get your credit card started on its New Year’s workout regimen early; the clock’s ticking.
Here’s a curveball for you. According to Gamasutra, Warren Spector -- the man behind mega-tons like Deus Ex, Thief, and System Shock – is currently giving Disney’s rodent-king an “epic” makeover. Yep, Spector’s trading guns and leather for hop ‘n’ bop, and Mickey’s trading his steamboat for steampunk.
Gamasutra saw a few illicit pics of this very special episode of trading spaces, and noted that the game is set to feature “cities assembled from junk” and “a surreal seashore invasion scene, in which machines wearing the faces of the Seven Dwarfs deposit old-fashioned renditions of Disney characters onto the beach with mechanical hands.”
We know what we’ll be having nightmares about tonight!
Aside from that, however, little is known about the “distinctly shadowed, steampunk” game. In a Junction Point blog entry, Spector claimed that it's a collaboration between Disney and Pixar, but the information trail smacks into brick wall after that.
“Let’s see… I’ll take one copy of Spore – hold the SecuROM DRM, please.”
“Oh, er, sorry. Your order’s already slathered in DRM and, well, we can’t remove it. If you come back in a couple weeks, though, we might be able to scrape off a bit of it. Sound good?”
Has something like this ever happened to you? A pleasant Sunday afternoon installation spoiled by SecuROM’s goon squad? Well, no more. At least, if you ride under Steam’s banner.
“EA is one of the industry’s largest publishers,” said Gabe Newell, co-founder and president of Valve. “The EA titles coming to Steam this holiday include some this year’s top PC titles.”
He’s not kidding, either. Titles like Spore, Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, Mass Effect, Need for Speed Undercover, and FIFA Manager 2009 are already available, with Mirror’s Edge, Red Alert 3, and Dead Space moving in with the Freeman family in the “coming weeks.” And, of course, these games will conform to Steam’s standards; in other words, no SecuROM whatsoever.
So, does this mean we can all finally kiss and make up with EA, and notice that it’s released some damn good games over the past year? C’mon now; it’s Christmas.
Remember Myst Online? You shouldn't. GameTap shut the servers for the fumbling MMO in the beginning of this year, leaving plenty of fans of massively multiplayer online puzzle-solving out in the cold. Until the rights were returned to Cyan Worlds, which promptly promised to resurrect the MMO under the clever acronym of MORE -- the Myst Online Resurrection Experiment. Which was all fine, until funding difficulties killed the project once again. Which has since been resurrected again (surpassing Jean Gray's record), this time as a result of Cyan Worlds turning the entire Myst Online platform over to the open source community.
Strangely, this is the first big announcement from any of the "larger" MMOs that involves open source in any fashion. When an MMO dies, it usually dies for good, regardless of how persistent the fan base is toward resurrecting the fallen title into a working project.
Click the link and come into the strange, shifting world of open-source MMOs!