The big pc gaming hardware news to come out of this year's Leipzig Games Convention is the announcement of Microsoft's extension of the popular Sidewinder peripheral line. The Sidewinder gaming mouse, which was introduced last year to mixed reviews (we thought it was too big and had a mediocre scroll wheel) now has a little brother, the Sidewinder X5. The wired, 9-button device sports a 2000 hardware-adjustable dpi and the same awesome vertical thumb buttons that we liked about the original. In addition to the new mouse, Microsoft also announced the first Sidewinder keyboard, dubbed the X6. We are much more excited about this product, since it touts innovative features such as a detachable numpad and unique "cruise control" option. Microsoft stopped by our offices to let us get our eager hands on these new products.
Click through for the full specs, impresions, and more hands-on photos!
With the Internet's collective knowledge at our fingertips, we generally know what we're in for when we purchase a game; even when reviews steer us wrong, exhaustively in-depth 75-page forum threads usually give us at least something to go on. But at some point or another, we've all found our more rational sides obscured, and due to a low, low price tag that just screams "Buy me," a movie license that would make a totally rad game, or what have you, we've retched up an all-too-clear "This game sucks."
So, what's the worst game you've ever played? What factor intoxicated your poor brain into giving the game a shot? Was it a friend's recommendation? A movie/comic book/TV show license? A kindhearted, but woefully uninformed birthday gift?
Well take some solace in the fact that today's Roundup won't steer you wrong. Between quantifiable proof that digital distribution is the future, Crysis' surprising success, and one man's dirge for console gaming, the Roundup tells it like it is. See it all after the break.
Each year, we ask, "Was this the best year ever for games?" A good deal of the time, our answer tends toward "Yes," with a few nostalgia-maniacs vehemently worshipping 1998 instead. "Oh, they're just raving fanboys," I've always thought of those stuck in '98. "Their opinions are rooted in so much misguided subjectivism that even a bulldozer couldn't budge them."
However, a recent post at the always-interesting Sexy Videogameland gave me some insight into another, altogether more-acceptable reason for gamers' unyielding grip on the past. The post, by Leigh Alexander, of course, took a look at our tendency to play a game once, shove it into a nice, dusty shelf corner, and leave it there with no hope of excavation. Why do we do this? Especially when, as Leigh pointed out, many of us were happy to bury months of our lives in a single game back in the day.
But the answer's simple, really: You're reading this column.
As a bleeding-edge gamer, when you're not playing a game, you're probably reading about other games -- basking in the ever-brightening glow of a new title's hype -- and getting yourself psyched to play them. This column, with its daily dose of the latest gaming news, only helps propagate this trend.
Really though, does it matter? As Leigh pointed out, our consumer-focused society breeds hit-driven industries. Movies, TV, sports -- you name it. "15 seconds of fame" is an apt phrase. So we're just like other media. Big deal. But I think it does matter. I think games, by virtue of their interactivity, are meant to break the typical, rapid-fire hype cycle. And that's why so many gamers love 1998. The year was chock-full of top-notch titles, but gamers still spent hundreds of hours with their favorites -- testing boundaries and pushing limits. Why? The hype train as we know it hadn't quite picked up steam. Print was still strong and the Internet wasn't the all-knowing force that it is today.
And therein lies the problem. As the gaming industry grows -- as the press expands and the hype train takes on new carts -- it defies its own potential. Someday, games will shrug off the shackles of linearity, but will gamers stick around to experience those trailblazers in different ways? Or will our own anticipation for The Next Big Thing get the best of us?
Today's Roundup details a couple of initiatives that could grab at gamers' ankles and never let go, but will they work? Can't say. But for now, my commentary will have to suffice. It's all past the break.
If not for the fact that I was able to actually make physical contact with David Hayter at this year's Capcom E3 press conference, it would've been a total letdown. The whole thing was just a giant shill for Capcom's Lost Planet film, and its reception was nearly as icy cold as the movie/game's setting. But in between cracking big, corporate grins and repeatedly uttering the Japanese equivalent of "So awesome," the Capcom big-wigs dropped a tiny bomb. See, as it turns out, Lost Planet had popped from Capcom's collective womb with a ticket to Hollywood in hand. The game was born to be a film.
As we've seen with movies like Doom and Resident Evil, and games like Guitar Hero, media convergence is inevitable. United we stand; divided, we make less money. And that just won't do. However, whereas other instances of convergence have taken two (or more) disparate media forms and none-too-subtly mashed them together -- casualties be damned -- Lost Planet, if all goes according to plan, will straddle the line between games and film. Instead of removing what makes the game special -- effectively neutering it with a rusty knife -- Lost Planet: The Movie has the potential to usher in an era of game-themed movies not unlike what we're seeing with comic books right now.
But is that what we want? Last I checked, comic book fans were a tiny niche, nearly fit for a somber, "Don't let these beautiful creatures die" commercial from the World Wildlife Fund. Yeah, I'm not sure comics are the greatest role model. Plus, do we really want cherished characters having their in-game appearances altered just so they can more aptly fit their roles as movie characters (See Nick Fury, among others)?*
So, are you ready for some top-notch game-to-movie conversions, or would you rather our hobby stick to the small screen, interactive and proud?
Today's Roundup features a big-name title that's already being preened for stardom, and wouldn't you know it, Electronic Arts is the, er, preener. Inside, you'll also find Rockstar decrying the hardcore/casual divide, a top-15 list of Olympic proportions, and massive success from a WoW competitor. Hurdle past the break for more.
Recently, I was flipping through the latest Electronic Gaming Monthly when I came across an ad for Too Human. The ad itself was nicely produced, essentially screaming "This game is about killing robots," with hero Baldur standing confidently before a heap of his slain foes. The plethora of robo corpses that cluttered the page wasn't what interested me, though. Instead, it was a small quote by Friedrich Nietzsche that drew my focus. After that, my first thought was, "Well, now I need to read up on Nietzsche to fully understand the point that Dyack and co. are trying to make with their game. Cool!"
But, by that same token, I've met and spoken with plenty of people who, after a long, exhausting day at the office, want nothing more than a little catharsis. With their brain already floating in a hazy cloud of near-unconsciousness, they don't want to think. Games as art? Who needs 'em? Some people just want to have fun.
So, which side of the line do you call home? Do you F5 Brainy Gamer all day long while extolling the virtues of story in games? Or did you think Metal Gear Solid 4 was a pretentious pile of crap -- treading on territory reserved for literature and film? Thought-provoking or mindless fun? Which do you prefer?
Today's Roundup has a little something for everyone. With a story about one of the artsiest designers out there packing up shop and heading for the PC, some big news concerning the most cathartic series in all of gaming, and a use for games that's neither art nor entertainment, no one will walk out of this theater with a dissatisfied frown. Jump past the break for the full thing.
When I was a youngster, in between seven hour sessions of the latest 60 hour role-playing behemoth, I always told myself that I wouldn't be like those other adults when I grew up -- those adults who whiled away their days in front of a cramped desk, wishing they still had room in their busy schedules to work through their ever-expanding pile of shame. But here I sit, leg sandwiched between a desk and my chest, foot resting on my chair. Yeah, the prognosis isn't looking so hot.
These days, I'm happy to fit in some game time every couple of days, so it's only natural that my tastes have changed. While many vocal gamers whipped up sternly-worded message board posts after beating Portal in a single afternoon, I only grinned. I'd taken the tour, seen the sights, and gotten the ubiquitous tune stuck in my head -- in and out, no filler. If the credits roll within a mere couple of hours, so be it. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time; I see no reason to be dissatisfied. In the end, short games fit snuggly into the hustle and bustle of my life, while encouraging their creators to craft tightly-paced experiences. Win-win.
But what's your take? Do you prefer long journeys whose plot threads tangle you up and never let go? Do you gripe when a game doesn't include any sort of multiplayer? Or do you currently have Braid penciled in for this weekend, with all times subject to change?
Well, for those of you who fall into the former camp, today's your lucky day. This particular Roundup is all about lengthier titles -- from a day-long boss battle to BioWare (Need I say more?), and maybe a quick smoke in between. Jump past the break for the whole shebang.
Gateway struck a nerve with its original low-cost FX P-series notebook, which gave gamers an affordable way to get good frame rates from a portable PC. The company applied the same formula to its new P-7811 FX and again comes up with a winning combination of hardware that’s sure to please budget-minded gamers.
Today, I finally got around to checking out the latest Futurama movie, "Beast with a Billion Backs." It was great, but aside from Pac-Man chess, had nothing to do with gaming. However, an awesome little bonus feature -- cut-together scenes from the disappointingly awful Futurama videogame -- did.
What really struck me about the "game," though, was its meticulous (and oftentimes hilarious) need to explain every gaming cliche in the book. See, the game itself was a trite licensed platformer, but its story went the extra mile toward making that a-okay. Additional lives, level restarts, and other gaming tropes made perfect sense within Futurama's twisted logic. But while I applaud Groening, Cohen, and co. for their creativity, I think story in gaming can do so much more.
Right now, we're sort of in an awkward teenage phase -- just beginning to shrug off the shackles of other media forms. Only now are we collectively realizing that our medium is unique, so our stories have shifted to convey that fact. Whether it's Futurama's wacky antics, Bioshock's "Would you kindly?" or other games taking sly digs at each cliche they so willfully employ, we've come to realize what our medium is, but we haven't even begun to break ground on gaming's well of potential.
So, my question to you: What topics would you like to see gaming explore? What stories need to be told? Are there any games out there that you think could very well be the next step forward for story in gaming?
This edition of the Roundup features, among other things, details on a story that could be one of this year's greatest. Additionally, you'll find an article about casuals becoming hardcores, and another about why I'm stupid for using the terms "casuals" and "hardcores." Jump past the break for more.
Not without their share of pre-release hype, AMD's 4870 X2 videocards lived up to every bit of it by obliterating the competition in this year's Dream Machine (a single 4870 X2 churned out twice as many frames as Nvidia's GTX280 in 3DMark Vantage). And they did it months before they were supposed to go public, which means there were architectural tweaks yet to be made.
The wait is over, and at long last, AMD has finally announced what it rightfully calls the world's fastest graphics card, the ATI Radeon 4870 X2. Built on a 55nm manufacturing process, the dual-GPU videocard comes with the computational muscle to deliver 2.4 teraFLOPS, and ATI can still lay claim as the only manufacturer to support DirectX 10.1 instructions. Rounding out the feature-set, the 4870 X2 ships with 2GB GDDR5, 1600 stream processors, and a 750MHz core clockspeed (reference). MSRP has been set to $549 with stock available now.
AMD also made mention of it's upcoming 4850 X2 videocard. As the name implies, this card will also be a dual-GPU solution (clocked at 625MHz), and like it's bigger brother it will come with 1600 stream processors. Instead of GDDR5, the 4850 X2 will ship with 2GB of GDDR3. Look for availability this September with an estimated sub-$400 street price.
Innovation. In gaming, it's a weighted word, but really, what does it even mean? Portal was "innovative" because it allowed players to slap portals onto walls and travel into their depths. But at one point, Warcraft III was declared "innovative" for mixing basic RPG elements with tried-and-true RTS gameplay. And then we have things like the Wii, which can (potentially) add brand new dimensions to the way we play games.
So, in your opinion, what actually makes something innovative? Do you think an innovative game has to blow minds and shift paradigms, or can it be something as simple as Call of Duty 4's experience system -- subtle, yet effective?
Today's Roundup sees so-called innovators both succeed and fail, with one highly unexpected title snagging an award for Interactive Innovation, while another causes its creator to drop out of the gaming industry altogether. Also, in the "And More" section: data that shows PCs beating consoles at their own game. Hit the break for the full scoop.