As sunlight glinted off a grenade reaching the zenith of its soldier-bound arc, I could only wonder what my hapless opponent was thinking. See, the man was rooted -- as though entangled in nearby bushes -- to his position. There had to be a reason. Maybe he was a mathematician without peer; he'd done the calculations and no matter how fast he ran, he'd soon be engulfed by my ordinance's cantaloupe-colored splash. Or maybe his path in life had been bordered by four leaf clovers -- his luck so great, he was certain the grenade would be a dud. Maybe he just couldn't take life anymore. But then all of that ceased to matter.
As I continued my stroll through the brightly colored playground of destruction, I noticed that other soldiers were, all told, pretty okay with Havok-powered, life-halting flights.
Yeah, my enemies were walking vegetables. The only damage I accrued was a sinking sense of utter disappointment. Mercenaries 2, after its top-notch predecessor, labored development cycle, and catchy commercial jingle, was a big, fat letdown.
So, have you ever surfed a game's hype wave, only to reach a completely non-descript shore? What's your biggest gaming letdown? What game had you brimming with excitement, but only left you shuddering with rage? (And don't say Daikatana, because that's a cop-out.)
Today's Roundup is reporting live from outside a dark, ominous cloud that's recently enveloped one of the decade's biggest upcoming games. Additionally, you'll find stories about the MMO market's failings, a dev whose unmentionables you'll want to boot, and the Xbox 360's upper limits. All that and more after the break.
This past weekend, legion of sweaty nerds – 60,000 strong – invaded the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle to celebrate video games, table top gaming, and nerdcore at the fifth annual Penny-Arcade Expo. Maximum PC was on site for all three days of the event to witness (and take part in) the spectacle and immerse ourselves in unabashed mass geek-out. And just as we did with Comic-Con, we’ve brought back a massive photo gallery of the 128 standout cosplayers from the convention, comprised mostly of video game and anime characters. And if you were that dude adorned in armor made entirely of Magic: The Gathering cards, you’re our hero.
A few days ago, a friend and I were discussing the venerable Tim Rogers, an opinionated games writer if ever there was one. Here's the fun thing about Rogers, though: If you were to shuffle one of his reviews in with those of ten other game reviewers, his piece would stand out like the Batman in daylight, foremost for one obvious reason -- it'd be really, really long. Rogers meanders all over the place, delving into each aspect of a game, as well as many things seemingly unrelated, which he then acknowledges as seemingly unrelated. Sometimes, after noticing that 15 minutes have ticked away from your life and your web browser's scroll bar thing is only half-way down the page, you just wish he'd get to the point.
Rogers, as far as game reviewers go, is an anomaly. People don't want a novel; they want pros, cons, and a numerical score, because they'd rather be dashing someone's virtual brains against the pavement than learning. So I guess it kind of makes sense that games generally exist on the flipside of that reviewing stereotype.
Take, for instance, Resident Evil. Find the red lion, blue tiger, and green goat to form a key so that you can crank open the Voltron door. Sure, your gun-toting pyromaniac of a hero probably could've written a book titled "101 Ways To Pop A Door Off Its Hinges," but where's the fun in that?
Oddly, even though we constantly quip about padded-out sequences or pointless sidequests in our favorite games, we sound the sirens on the whaaambulance when those elements finally take a hint.
So which do you want? Games that toss in chores and fetch quests in exchange for that ever so marketable "60 hours of gameplay!" bullet point, or masterfully designed experiences -- like Portal -- that leave you hungry for more?
Well, today's Roundup, described by some as a "masterfully designed experience -- like Portal -- that leaves you hungry for more," hopes to satisfy all comers. Caged within, you'll find stories about a bill of rights for PC gamers, a new race for StarCraft II, and free gas! You heard me -- free gas! It's all after the break.
I can't sate my Twitter addiction. I'm loathe to hit up my favorite gaming sites. I can't even allow my glance to linger on iGoogle. Why? Because PAX is in town, and I'm, well, not. Due to circumstances beyond my control, PAX is out of my reach this year. So while the hardest of the hardcore come together for a weekend of gaming goodness, I'm doing my best to avoid a jealousy-induced pity party. But, even though my non-presence at PAX is a huge loss for the entire gaming community, it got me thinking:
The PAXian legion, as I mentioned earlier, is predominately composed of so-called "hardcore" gamers. Without even being in the same state as the community-focused gaming expo, I can assure you that over 100 attendees will be clad in "Green Linen Shirt" T-Shirts, replete with armor stats and a sour tinge of body odor. Why? The answer's obvious: they're gamers -- and proud. For a number of reasons -- the medium's relative youth, alarmists' tendency to buzz about, etc. -- dedicated gamers embrace their hobby with a near religious fervor.
Sure, movies have "cinemaphiles" and literature has its bookworms, but gamers are Scientology to other mediums' group of co-workers who meet sporadically for a round of Putt-Putt. With time, I imagine our community will fragment -- genres will expand and tastes will narrow -- but for now, we're a thick stew, full of assorted meats and veggies, but still part of a cohesive whole.
So, do you call yourself a gamer? Are videogames an integral piece of your personality? Is your pride inextricably tied to your Gamerscore? Or are you just a person who happens to play games, and nothing more?
Today's Roundup is like a perfect sundae, with just enough gooey non-gamer-friendly fare drizzled over a vanilla base of terms like "ESA," "second-hand videogame sales," and "Starcraft II release date." There is a spoon, and it's after the break.
Last night, before tossing and turning for a good three hours, I finally finished George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones." I'd been nibbling my way through the book -- a 900-page tome -- since late May, so I was understandably thrilled to see its final page, as well as its wildly out-of-place ad for the "A Game of Thrones" collectible card game. But AGoT's only the beginning of a planned seven-part series that began in 1996. Needless to say, AGoT's sequel has been on shelves, Amazon, and wherever else books are sold since before my age had taken on a second digit, and because AGoT ended on a huge cliffhanger, I nabbed the second book from my local Borders with all the subtlety a frothing nerd could muster, clasping it in my hands with a grip that bystanders described as "air-tight."
However, if I'd voraciously devoured AGoT back in '96, I'm fairly sure my satisfied smile would've flipped upside down. The final chapter felt like a build to the climax, but then -- as though it was a badly planned rollercoaster -- the story just ended, leaving readers dangling for roughly two years. (Yeah, the bad kind of rollercoaster.)
Obviously, literature isn't the only medium that backhands its users this way. Games, too, have a habit of rolling out large, red, inappropriately timed stop signs just when things are getting good. Even worse, development cycles now pack double the staff and take twice as long to complete compared to only a few years ago. Looks like the wait between sequels will only grow more arduous before it tapers off.
So, what's the least satisfying game ending you've ever come across? How did you react? Did you pen an angry email? Boycott the sequel?
This installment of the Roundup features the successor to a top-notch game with an abysmal ending, a peek behind the scenes of a controversial game that's attempting to tell a titanic, cliffhanger-laden tale, and so much more. See the stunning conclusion after the break.
"Gordon Freeman is a menace to society. When he's not bludgeoning our men with cars and annihilating our demolition teams with their own ordinances, he's white-washing their corpses with paint and treating wild, endangered headcrabs like lowly mammalian bulls. Sure, we enslaved his species and all, but does he have to be such a jerk about it? He toys with us as though this were some sort of game, and we won't stand for it."
--An excerpt from The Combine Times, the final Combine paper to include anything other than obituaries.
--Gordon Freeman's reply
Yeah, Gordon Freeman isn't the most loquacious guy around. He speaks through his actions -- or rather, your actions. But that's what makes him great. He's a videogame character under your direct control. He fights like you, so why shouldn't he think like you?
As you've probably noticed, my particular Gordon Freeman is, well, have you ever imagined what it'd be like if one of the loud-mouthed, rap-prone kids on Xbox Live was tasked with saving all of humanity (and managing a classy goatee)? Am I like that in real life? No, but slipping into the hazard suit of a silent protagonist like Gordon Freeman allows me to project a side of myself into the game that hardly even exists in reality. I'm not constrained by any pre-set personality the man might have, so my imagination washes over the game, and it becomes a whole new experience.
Sure, I enjoy having the tightly braided engagement-lasso of a compelling, whip-smart lead wrapped around my neck as much as anyone, but I also think that such a lead doesn't lend him/herself well to gaming's main strength: interactivity.
So, how do you like your protagonist: strong and silent with a side of whatever you want, or glib -- fried up and delivered just as the developers ordered?
Today's Roundup features heroes of both varieties, along with a smattering of other stories about your favorite industry. From details about WoW's colossal (and free!) pre-WotLK update, to exclusive titles' death knells, there's no way you'll leave this Roundup without something to talk about. Jump past the break for more.
Life is full of shortcuts. Whether it's using connections to briskly bound up the corporate ladder, pumping out a term paper with the help of a less-than-legit online service, or simply cutting through the gas station instead of waiting for the stop light, there's always an easy way out. But no matter how much weight walking the path of least resistance may lift from your wearied shoulders, a nagging voice -- whether in your mind or from the mouth of an onlooker -- will tell you that you're cheating. "Everyone else worked to get where they are. Why can't you?" the voice asks. "You're doing it wrong, and you're only hurting yourself."
Videogames are, of course, loaded with such shortcuts, cheats, and "teh haxxors." And when a gamer admits to kicking their feet up and punching in the ol' Konami code, they're met with derision. "Wimp, wuss, lame" and the ever so fashionable "The developer didn't intend you to experience the game that way" readily come to mind.
Really though, is cheating that bad?
One of the most fascinating aspects of gaming is discovery. Games allow us to traverse fantastical worlds totally unlike our own, yet arguably with more tangible obstacles to keep us from seeing the sights. (Is "living for 21 years" a tangible obstacle?) For someone who can't play a game without hurriedly glancing at their watch every few minutes, cheats seem like the solution -- not the problem. Why drop two hours against a single foe when you can see more of the game world instead?
Frankly, I don't think a game's developers will begrudge you for it, either. You put money in their pockets and you're deriving enjoyment from the world they crafted. It may not be the straightforward, A-to-B path they wanted you to stroll down, but it's still an experience. And isn't that what games are about -- creating "stories" through our unique experiences?
So, do you approve of cheating? Have you been known to crack open the dev console and enter a few choice phrases, or will you sooner rage-quit a game than enter a code for a pithy 20 extra hit points?
Today's Roundup features the only variety of cheating about which I'll really hoot and holler, but that doesn't seem to hinder its unbridled success. Additionally, you'll find a couple of big-name game delays, and a discussion about how games compel us to keep playing. It's all after the break.
Ahoy hoy! This week, Maximum PC is going to be reporting from Nvision 08, Nvidia's three day visual computing festival in downtown San Jose. In addition to being a massive LAN party (bigger than the GeForce LANs of previous years), Nvision is also playing host to an epic gathering of Demo Scene developers, ready to show off their visual coding skills. We'll be there to sit in on the keynotes to be given by Nvidia's CEO and Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer (seriously?), check out the various workshop tracks, and test drive the new hardware and software on display. Keep your eyes peeled for daily photo galleries and event reports. And if you're in the area and going to Nvision yourself, stop by the exhibit hall on Tuesday at 2:30pm to watch a presentation run by our own Will Smith. Personally, I can't wait for the Buzz Aldrin meet and greet session and a chance to heckle the too-kool-for-skool hosts of Diggnation during their live recording session. Hope to see some MaxPC readers there.
Join Nathan Grayson in His "Free From WoW for a Whole Year" Bash!
August 22, 2008 (Dallas, Texas) -- Nathan Grayson, a Maximum PC freelancer and unanimously-voted "snappy dresser," has, on this day, officially avoided Blizzard's World of Warcraft MMORPG for an entire year.
"It's been great finally living life on my own terms," said Nathan, flashing a gloriously bright smile. "To mark the occasion, I'll be canceling my WoW subscription tomorrow. What? Oh sure, I could do it today, but, uh, tomorrow for sure. No problem."
To be sure, the journey from his luxurious armchair into the comforting grip of real life wasn't an easy one.
"Oh, it's been a wild ride," he quipped. "On cold, lonely nights, my mind used to slip back into Azeroth, and I'd dream of raids, epics -- legendaries, even! But it's been, er, I've -- I mean, whew. Anyone have a PC handy? I, uh, just need to check on some things. Sure, I'll follow the cue cards again afterwards."
Nathan Grayson's soul is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. (www.blizzard.com, NASDAQ: ATVID). Nathan is a great guy -- single, too. Really, he's one in approximately 10 million. Among other things, he's well known for posing the following question: Have you ever found your claws locked into your keyboard, signifying your irrevocable addiction to a game? Sound off in the comments section. Passers-by don't really know what to make of it.
He also runs Maximum PC's Gaming Roundup, available every week day. Peep today's edition for all of the latest World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King news and info. Oh, there's some other stuff too -- something about how suing file-sharers is a bad idea -- but that's not really important. The phony PR-speak ends after the break.
"Mwahahaha," I cackled gleefully as I skewered a yet another hapless Storm Trooper in the recent Star Wars: The Force Unleashed demo. "Help!" the poor soldier's cry echoed off the walls. But I didn't care. With a flick of my character's wrist, my foe's armor was put to its final test: a steel reinforced ceiling. My grin only widened when gravity yanked the Storm Trooper out of his skyward flight, planting him on the cold floor with a satisfying crack.
I'm a maniacal jerk.
Or at least I was -- in the game. Actually, "irl," I'd say I'm a fairly mild-mannered person. But unless you consider cheaply-constructed, mass-produced action figures to be an artistic medium, videogames are the only medium that allows us to act out our (seemingly sick) fantasies. Gaming's greatest detractors fault our hobby for being violent, and I'm not inclined to disagree with them. But hey, over-the-top violence goes hand-in-hand with interactivity. With the aforementioned action figures, many of us staged tumultuous battles, with swords, guns, fists -- everything -- in an almost primal manner. And it was fun.
Fact is, people are inclined towards violence. We wolf down popcorn while watching actors pretend to put bullets in each others' brains; we slow down traffic for a gander at a car accident. Our media expresses this -- caters to it, even. But society goes on. Few of our sane population are lugging around shotguns or holding up convenience stores with trusty stabbin' knives. Sure, circumstances cause people to do some pretty awful things, but generally out of necessity -- not for fun. And really, that's why videogame violence is great. It's catharsis -- a harmless arena in which we can live out our horrific, Trooper-smashing fantasies.
So, what's the most sadistic, cringe-worthy thing you've ever done in a game? To take things a notch further, think about the gamess you typically play. How many of them aren't in some way violent?
Today's Roundup features games that are, as you'd expect, violent, but one in particular uses its controversial brand of destruction to further a greater cause. In addition, you'll find Clive Barker's pie-in-the-sky dreams for the horror genre, hardware manufacturers' dirty little piracy-related secret, and more. It's all after the break.