Surprisingly though, it turns out that the Wii U isn’t Nintendo’s only console release this year. While rumored in small circles for months, they’ve recently, officially unveiled a redesigned, reduced size, and reduced price version of the Nintendo Wii in the Wii Mini.
Priced at a very handy $99, the Wii Mini isn’t exactly the Nintendo Wii you know and love, and that’s not just a comment on the incredibly attractive new design. While you do get an included Wii Remote Plus controller, this is otherwise a pretty bare bones model of the classic console as Nintendo has taken away the Wi-Fi capabilities (though it still may support online play through add-ons via the USB ports) as well as the backwards compatibility feature with the Gamecube (this includes removing the memory card slots and Gamecube controller ports), essentially reducing the system to its barest essentials.
Is this a good buy then? That’s difficult to say, as ideally this is for gamers on a budget, or those that prefer their 360 or PS3 and want the cheapest way to add the famed Nintendo system to their collection. However, considering how easy it is to find an actual Wii system at a reasonable price (in some cases with game bundles) it’s hard to support such a watered down version of a once proud console.
I usually try to avoid the mass hysteria of Black Friday, but in the case of video games, I too fall victim to the beautiful deals and throw myself into the madness with open wallet, and little regard for common financial sense.
Luckily when it comes to games you can find a lot of great deals online that don’t require you to arm yourself and push some fellow human being on the ground to take advantage of. In that spirit, here is just a small sampling of the best online deals available right now.
*Note: Don’t be surprised if some of these are gone by the time you get to them as deals move and sell out quickly. Be sure to act accordingly then and as always consult the great Dealzon for the best finds.
Grand Theft Auto IV Complete Edition, GTA: San Andreas, and LA: Noire Complete (PC Download) – Amazon – $14.99
Have you ever eaten a food that was too rich and decadent? Same thing with this deal. Countless hours of Rockstar Gaming greatness for under $20 is almost too good a deal, as you’re basically forfeiting your life by buying it.
Dishonored (PC Download) – Green Man Gaming -$22.50
Anytime you can get a game that’s barely a month old for under $25 it’s a deal worth checking out. When that game is one of the best of the year by a mile, you should probably stop what you’re doing right now (including reading this) and pursue it.
Mass Effect Trilogy (PC Download) – Gamefly – $23.99
I once bought a Rolex watch in Chinatown that was an absolute perfect knock off, but broke later that day. It was a valuable lesson on something being too good to be true, and is the only reason I wouldn’t recommend jumping on this deal. It’s so mind-blowingly cheap, there almost has to somehow be a catch.
Xbox 360 250GB Bundle with “Skyrim” and “Forza Motorsport 4” – NewEgg – $189.99
If you were somehow waiting to buy a 360 until just the right moment, then getting one for under $200 with one of the best RPG’s and one of the best racing games of all time, would finally be that moment.
Finally it is once again time for the Steam Autumn Sale, which is running until 11/26. With almost too many good games to list, and deals rotating constantly, as well as mark downs of some kind on pretty much everything, it’s the first place any PC gamer should go.
“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (physician, poet, professor, lecturer, and author)
I truly, truly hope that the above quote is correct because this week in video games we saw a case of a dangerous old way of thinking and a potentially new idea of thinking that if carried over to other projects, and taken in as a new idea, will stretch the limits of what we once believed to be standard, or even possible.
Ironically whereas “Hitman” is a game ideally about subtlety, and the art of skill, it’s story has all of the approach and delivery of a blunt hammer to the face delivered by a laughing lunatic. On the other hand, a game like “The Walking Dead” (which often asks the player to smash something in the head with a blunt object) delivers a tale so refined that we must now be careful how we speak of other game’s stories while praising them so we don’t accidentally lump them in the same league with “The Walking Dead” and therefore lose perspective.
“Hitman” is a dangerous game, and I’m not talking about the controversy surrounding the sexy nun enemies, or the general violence of the title. Instead it’s a dangerous game because of its disgusting and obvious story and stroytelling that,despite a couple of here and there moments of quality dialogue, fails to inspire a moment of emotional reaction, whatever that emotion may be . Whereas previous games in series wisely shunned a grand plot in favor of environment and mood as the larger themes, “Absolution” tries to go another route by making its presentation more of a high production, low grade movie. It’s every effort in that respect is so insultingly awful, it is the first game that should have not received the traditional M rating, but rather IM for “immature”.
Didn’t think that was funny? Well now you know how I feel as I tried to suffer through some of the most horrid attempts at sexual references, characters, plot, and of course comedy that have ever graced video games. It’s not even the content I’m against, but instead the delivery. It aims for Guy Ritchie, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino, and instead ends up with an effort more in line with the works of Roger Corman. The only difference was Corman’s schlock knew it was bad and had a sense of style about it, whereas “Hitman: Absolution” seems either unaware of how bad its bad really is, or otherwise doesn’t give a damn and couldn’t be bothered to make what’s there work.
“The Walking Dead” on the other hand? Don’t be surprised if the fifth and final episode in the game’s first season just won the series overall game of the year honors, as its use of characters and plot, and more importantly the player’s involvement in those aspects, is nothing short of revolutionary. The game works off of the same promise of “Mass Effect” or a TV show like “The Wire” where all the pieces supposedly matter, and what you do in the end will be just a reflection of the steps you took to get there.
Unlike “Mass Effect” though, but much like “The Wire”, “The Walking Dead” achieves this as suddenly your choices do come to bear upon you as you now are faced with the prospect of facing the tough moments that defined your journey in a fresh light, and only in the end when you see the ramifications of them are you given the gift of hindsight that allows you to regret, smile upon, and always question your choices, as the end results, and your reactions to them, give you something that few games ever have, and that is a better sense of who you are, and the person you’d maybe rather try to be.
Does a game like “Hitman” have to do the same? Well it would be nice, but that’s not the point. The point is that a title like that handles its story with a dangerous indifference can no longer be accepted. This is not the NES where a brief kidnapping of your girlfriend by some thugs leads to all the motivation you need to reach a single frame resolution and expect satisfaction. You don’t have to have a masterpiece story, but don’t try to pass an entire adventure that is framed by the mentality of the average thirteen year old boy, and done with all of the effort exhibited by the average two year old boy, and honestly tell yourself it is the best you can do without expecting to receive both the mixed reviews and mainstream public backlash you are getting now.
And if you do decide to be dumb and lazy in the same week, whatever you do don’t release that high profile game at the same time as a title that provides a blueprint for the future of the medium and expect to save face in the minds of either your peers, your critics, or your fans
That, and I’m sure the creators of “Hitman: Absolution” can understand this, would just be silly.
“Bioshock 2” wasn’t a bad game at all, but overall it couldn’t escape that dreaded cash-in feeling it exuded by virtue of being a somewhat superfluous sequel to one of the greatest video games of all time.
Instead it’s a mystery game, and while it’s set in the first person, don’t dare call it a shooter. It’s a story of a girl going to her families’ new home after some time abroad, only to find no one is home, and a note left by her sister pinned to the front door saying to go away and not to come looking for her. The entire game then looks to be the player (as the returning girl) exploring the home in order to discover just what happened while she was away.
The developers are touting that “Gone Home” will be entirely about environment, with one of the major aspects of this being the game’s setting of the mid 90’s which is supposed to give it a distant, yet oddly familiar feel. It’s a time that isn’t vastly different from our own, yet it still allows for an original vibe, and represents a time period which doesn’t specifically get mentioned much in gaming.
More than the when, or who, of the game though, it is the where that really matters, as the home itself is to be loaded with insane amount of details not necessarily relevant to the plot, but intricately designed all the same. Nearly everything in the house, from trash, to receipts, to old diaries is fully interactive and has something to tell the player about the virtual life of the people who inhabit this place. It’s the classic idea of sandbox gaming, but instead of a sprawling metropolitan area, or sweeping outdoor terrain, it takes place in a more intimate dwelling where the plot isn’t point A to point B, but rather a living, breathing idea that can be explored with little in the way of pre-determined objectives.
“Gone Home” looks to be a title that wants you to appreciate the little things in life, and how they make up the bigger ideas that we eventually use as landmarks in our personal history. A great example of this detail is a note written by the character’s mother that’s handwriting looks like the handwriting style one would have if they were a typical middle aged mom from around this time. Another might be how the players is able to define the entire father character by the books he keeps, and the gifts he gave his children more than anything directly, or even indirectly, said about him. They’re little things, but then again, this is to be a game of little things.
Also of interest at this point is the vague horror nature of the game. The whole “family missing” bit, along with some ominous warning signs about the house’s history and a vague suggestion to avoid the attic that have been mentioned, are all little hints that something indeed went seriously amiss here, and lends the game a sense of uncertainty, which can sometimes be something a great deal more terrifying than straight up horror.
Not a lot more is known about “Gone Home” at this point and it’s pretty clear that is how the developers want it. Level design is consistently the most unappreciated aspects of gaming, and “Gone Home” looks to be almost solely a well designed level. It’s the type of game then that might not be easy to judge by its eventual sales then, but rather measured on its success from a pure design standpoint. A game like “Gone Home” succeeds if it gets those who play it talking about it, and if it gets people in the industry considering it when making their next title. From the little shown so far, it looks like it could be well on the way to accomplishing just that.
So you probably know that digital downloads for games are slowly becoming the norm, but it seems that recently disc manufacturers are going out of their way to insure that happens even sooner.
In what is a set of very improbable incidents, two recent big video games have been released with serious potential errors for customers that purchased the physical versions of the game. The first belongs to EA and Treyarch whose much anticipated “Black Ops II” release was blemished by news that some copies of the second disc of the PC version were not actually “Black Ops II”, but rather copies of “Mass Effect 2”. Of course this being EA, I’m sure that any customers that contacted them in regards to the problem where promptly told “What? You don’t like Mass Effect 2?”
I’m joking, of course, but what is funny is the similar incident that has befallen Warner Brothers at the same time, as their game “LEGO Lord of the Rings” has apparently shipped out some copies of their Xbox 360 version that contained only the demo disc. The gaff was made public when a Game Informer editor discovered that when they tried to purchase the game, it had been recalled only to find that another store they visited had received every single Xbox 360 copy with just the demo disc. The event is even more shameful than the embarrassing incident that occurred when people who bought “LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean” received “LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean” with no apology.
Currently people who received the wrong “Black Ops II” disc are being advised to download the game through the optional Steam method, while an alternate solution has not been brought up at this time. Meanwhile Warner Brothers is working on recalling the incorrect copies of “LEGO Lord of the Rings” which would suggest that they are attempting to resolve the matter, although they have not yet commented on how many copies were affected, or when the correct copies will be available in mass.
While we’ll have to wait for the initial sales figures, considering how much of a critical hit it has been already, “Halo 4” is looking to become another runaway successes for the famous franchise. Having now played it, I’m thrilled at how the game truly does invoke that feeling of the original titles while not coming across as the cash-in of a well established formula that it so easily could have been. While it’s not quite so simple, we can thank this in large part to the efforts of the series new developer, 343 Industries, who have admirably taken over from the great Bungie.
When I first heard that there was to be a “Halo” game not made by Bungie, I got worried. Now that I step away from it though, I see that it really was the only way that “Halo” was ever really going to flourish again. In fact, the more I think about it, if we’re being honest, there are a lot of classic franchises that have gone stagnant and could use a fresh start courtesy of a new developer. Here’s five of the biggest examples.
The “Castlevania” series was forever altered with the release of “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night”. Gone were the days of the incredibly challenging and linear, classic 2D side scroller, and in came a new “Castlevania” game that emphasized exploration and advancement, similar to the “Metroid” series (coining the term “Metroidvania”). It was such a success in nearly every respect that it changed the outlook and direction of the series for years to come.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that was way back in 1997, and the series entries ever since have mostly fallen into the realm of knock offs of “Symphony of the Night” or misguided 3D action romps that are at best average, and at worst “Castlevania 64”. As all time great a developer as Konami is, they don’t seem able or willing to make a truly noteworthy entrant to the franchise anymore. It’s just impossible to believe that with the series rich timeline and incredible gothic atmosphere there isn’t a significant amount of fuel left in the tank. Whether it be a glorious and long overdue return to the series roots, or something else entirely, it’s time that one of the greatest series of all time reminded everyone why it is just that.
Who should develop: From Software, the makers of “Demon’s Souls” and “Dark Souls”. I salivate at the thought honestly, as both “Demon’s Souls” and “Dark Souls” feel like the direction the “Castlevania” series should have gone in long ago. They feature larger than life bosses, a variety of spooky enemies, and a “make you regret that you can’t stop coming back” level of difficulty. The series would fit the developer like a glove.
The James Bond franchise has seen more developers than the role itself has actors, which may help to explain why we still haven’t gotten a significant game from 007 and crew since the legendary “Goldeneye”.
That’s not to say that every entry has been as bad as the recent “007 Legends”, some like “Blood Stone” and “Everything or Nothing” are actually decent, but rather that the it is in dire need of a rejuvenation that no developer has been able to conjure since Rare. Even when they are not great, when we are treated to a Bond movie every 4 years or so, it always feels like an event, and consistently entertains in one way or another. Considering the wealth of material that the James Bond franchise has, and how much of that can easily translate to games, there is no reason that a competent developer shouldn’t be able to produce that same effect for Bond video games.
Who should develop: There’s a ton of candidates I would love to see take a stab at this, but the one that keeps coming to mind is Remedy (“Max Payne”, “Alan Wake”). They’re a developer that exceeds at creating atmosphere in their games, and when making a good Bond game, your first job is to perfectly capture that iconic James Bond atmosphere, without messing up the gameplay too bad. They’re not a huge developer, exactly, but the impossible level of polish and charm they put in their titles would be very welcome for a Bond game.
At times the “Star Fox” series feels like the Buffalo Bills of the early 90’s. Always so close, and never quite there. The original “Star Fox” was revolutionary for its graphical style, while 1997’s “Star Fox 64” had everyone believe that Nintendo had the next great franchise on their hands. From there, though, 2002’s head scratching “Star Fox Adventures” threatened to take the series into an ill-advised and unwanted new action-adventure direction, while every other release has been either a rehash or re-make of the originals, which in all fairness have been good enough to remind us of the series potential, but not great enough to put it over the top.
It’s time then for some new blood that can realize that the lack of games in the rail shooter genre, and the name power “Starfox” still has, and make it all come together for a glorious return to form. The last couple of “Star Fox” installments have produced quality with little to no effort, so it would be interesting to see what the result of an honest new full effort push would be.
Who should develop: This one is tough, but I’ll go with Ubisoft Montpellier. The development team behind the brilliant “Rayman Origins” can pull off that difficult mix of cartoon looks and intense gameplay that “Starfox” needs to succeed.
Ever since then, a few different developers have attempted to re-imagine the franchise and, with only a few very specific successes as exceptions, have all failed in providing any of the quality of the originals. “Silent Hill” was originally defined by its dread filled atmosphere and psychologically challenging scares. In shying away from an action first mentality, it provided a gaming experience that you almost regretted playing, but couldn’t help but be captivated by. The mystique and intrigue the series maintains is as thick as the fog that made the town itself famous, and there is still a lot it has to contribute in the right hands.
Who should develop: There were talks recently of Hideo Kojima taking over the series (which might actually happen), and while that would be fun, while I’m dreaming I’ve got to go with Frictional Games, the developers of “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” and the “Penumbra” series. They’ve been quietly making revolutionary and truly terrifying titles for years now, and a shot at more mainstream, big time success with the next “Silent Hill” game would be incredible.
The WWE Series
Along with titles like “Goldeneye” and “Mario Kart 64”, wrestling titles such as “WWF No Mercy” helped to make the N64 the system for multiplayer gaming. Of course that was in the heyday of wrestling, and of developer AKI who had a great feel for how to make a wrestling title sing with its gameplay. Since then the series has been passed off to Yuke’s, and while 2003’s “Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain” is one of the best wrestling titles ever, even the most hardcore of wrestling fans have been left feeling cheated by their most recent offerings.
Much like the “Madden” series the complacency of recent WWE titles has removed a real sense of urgency from the games that have taken the competitive spirit a title like that needs to thrive. Respectable attempts to keep the series fresh have been made, but attempt doesn’t mean success, and Yuke’s is sadly failing, even if their intentions are for the best. This game needs a new story mode, a new engine, and a fresh perspective. In short, a complete overhaul.
Who should develop: It’d be fun to see AKI, now Syn Sophia, do it, we don’t know how much of their team from the original is still in tact, plus this is about fresh starts. Instead, why not Team Ninja? The “Dead or Alive” fighting series has always been over the top and incredibly fluid with a variety of unique personalities, which are a few of the most important elements you need for a good wrestling game. Not to mention a Team Ninja developed WWE game would be original to say the least.
While previews are upcoming for the game itself, we’ve been teased with screenshots for months, and we’ve already been treated to the debut trailer for the game, if you think about it we know surprisingly little about what looks to be the biggest title of 2013.
However, if the previous second trailers for the series are any indication, that should all change by the 14th. In fact, in viewing the second trailers for the last few “GTA” games (of which both the “GTA: Vice City” and “GTA: San Andreas” trailers are phenomenal if you need a refresher) there are a few things we can expect to see on Nov. 14th.
A Major Music Track From the Game:
It may be obvious, but Rockstar loves to show off their incredible video editing skills by using a big name track from the game set against their typically awesome previews. Hopefully they will do the same here and give us some idea of the type of soundtrack we can expect (or at least one major track they’e acquired) , even if it will be typically diverse. I always felt that “GTA: IV” had the weakest soundtrack of the series, so I’ll be particularly interested in this part to really hype me up.
Important Characters in Minor Parts:
The first “GTA: V” trailer had a lot of people in it, but it was hard to tell which of them were actually relevant, and which were just there. This should change with trailer #2 as you can expect a barrage of clearly important characters, even if they do not have speaking roles. By the end of the trailer, we should all have a better idea of what sordid types we’ll be working for, and against, in “GTA: V.”
This one is a little more debatable, but since the second trailers tend to be more action packed, expect to see a greater variety of weapons then has previously been revealed. The real question here is will Rockstar go closer to the insane weapon range of “San Andreas,” or stick to something more grounded as in “GTA: IV?”
Another major aspect missing in “GTA: IV” from “San Andreas” was the customization options for your main character. Looking back at the early previews of “San Andreas,” you could tell differences in the main character’s clothing and hairstyles, hinting the expansion of this aspect. Considering how much this has been talked about, I believe Rockstar may do something similar here.
So we know the game will take place in the pseudo-LA city of Lost Santos and, based on the country side moments from the first trailer, the surrounding areas. The question is, what surrounding areas? The best idea I’ve heard in relation to this is the theory that we will be exploring various counties in the area. The easiest way to tell this would be to look out for changes in weather, or general geography of the areas shown. Perhaps with a little help from eagle eyed Californians, we should have an idea of the layout.
The main character…s?:
I’m fairly certain I’ve heard every theory regarding who the main character was from the first “GTA: V” trailer, and I’m confident that I don’t want to hear anymore. I will say that the one that does intrigue me the most is the idea of multiple main characters. While this could prove tricky in an open world game, it would certainly be a new direction for Rockstar in a game that is a true “GTA” sequel. Nevertheless, we should soon know the answer to this.
Keep an very sharp eye out for this one. “GTA: IV” hinted at giving you choices in the game via some very minor decisions. If the series gameplay is going to expand, I’d look for this to be the first place it does so. Look for a careful line of dialogue, or a visual of two people at gunpoint, or anything that might just give away if the game that revolutionized open gameplay truly gives players real options. If Rockstar does go this way, they may be tempted to tease it here.
Maybe the most important, but sure to be most overlooked, aspect of the new trailer will be the tone of it. It was hard to figure out for sure from the first trailer, but looking back on the old “GTA” previews, it’s easy to see in retrospect that we could tell a lot from the tone of them. This particularly applies to “GTA: IV” where the darker, grittier vibe was immediately apparent. Will Rockstar stick to that same style, go back to the more lighthearted nature of the originals, or give us something in-between?
Usually by trailer number two we are left with little doubt about the overall game. The first trailer gave a pretty big hint to this in what would appear to be a criminal trying to retire, so what we should look for here are the circumstances. In other words, the who, what, when, where, and why. With “GTA: V” drawing ever closer, we should expect these large points to be covered.
We end with what should hopefully be the biggest given for this trailer, the gameplay. Considering how beautiful “GTA:IV” is and was, you couldn’t easily tell what was real gameplay from the first “GTA: V” trailer and what wasn’t. We probably won’t see what the game looks like during the actual gameplay, but I would be shocked if we don’t get snippets of missions, distractions, or something equally tantalizing that will actually show us the most important part of the game…the game itself.
If you haven’t gotten to play “X-Com: Enemy Unknown”, allow me to summarize. It’s an experience that somehow feels entirely unique, and yet perfectly captures the spirit of the cult classic sensation it is based off of. Its mix of tension and horror creates an uneasy setting where victory is never assured, never cheap, and always satisfying . Outside of puzzle games, I’ve rarely experienced a title that so perfectly executes ideas like “easy to learn and tough to master” and “one more game”, and playing it gives you a genuine feeling of reward and achievement.
It’s fairly incredible, in short, and is pretty high on my game of the year list at the moment. Not satisfied with having pulled off the impossible in reviving one of his old cult-classic PC franchises to appeal to the masses, though, “Enemy Unknown’s” co-creator Julian Gollop is going to try to do it again.
For the new title, the only details known are that it will be in 3D this time around, and will be for PC, Mac, and iOS. Also, it appears that it will feature fundamentally the same gameplay as the original title.
Obviously it will be no easy task to adapt “Chaos” for the modern world, but I’m glad that the success of “Enemy Unknown” is giving Julian Gollop the chance to bring another unique and under-appreciated gaming experience back into the forefront. Of course, this time around the team will have to face an unknown enemy themselves as hype replaces doubt in the perception of the public.