Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

The Warp Whistle: July

Once a month Ben Van Iten blows on his magic warp whistle to take a look at the (immediate) future of video games.  These are his findings.

Ah, summer.  The temperatures are climbing, the sun is out, and the birds are chirping.  This is, of course, a perfect time to sit in your dark apartment and spend hours upon hours getting acquainted with your favorite video game system.  Let’s see what’s on tap for July!

This is what happens everytime someone jaywalks

Crackdown 2, July 6th (Xbox 360): The first Crackdown game was infamous for its lack of linear story.  You were assigned with the task of cleaning up Pacific City, and you could go about that however you pleased.  Spoiler alert – there was a lot of death.  But one of the frequent complaints of the game was that there was almost too much freedom.  Gamers were disoriented and confused.  Developers have supposedly rectified that with the opening of the game functioning somewhat like a tutorial.  The execution of this will have a lot to do with the game’s success.  One unique online feature the game boasts is that you are able to control if your friends are allowed to drop into your game whenever they please, and wreak a little havoc.  New features aside, at the end of the day this game is about blowing stuff up and having fun.  I’m cautiously optimistic.

The Cages – Pro Style Batting Practice, July 6th (Nintendo Wii): If I was an ad exec at Nintendo, this is how I’d pitch this game.  “Is your copy of Wii sports broken?  Did you only like the baseball part?  Okay, cool.  Buy this.”

Nursery Mania, July 6th (Nintendo DS): Seriously, there are always about ten Nintendo games that come out each month that garner a “what the hell?” reaction from me.  If I dig any deeper, I’m afraid of what I might find out about this one.

Sigh

NCAA Football 2011, July 13th (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 2): The very top of my list of video games to buy for July is the latest installment of the NCAA football franchise.  I enjoy watching the NFL more than college, but as far as video games go I’d rather play this than Madden.  There’s something liberating about not having to deal with money (this is of course unrealistic, as USC and countless other programs have shown us) and perfecting your recruiting strategies.  Turning a sub par team in a big conference (Baylor was my project on last year’s game) into a national powerhouse over the course of several seasons is quite satisfying.  The gameplay is getting some tweaks for this year’s version, and supposedly play calling has been streamlined.  If I can get past the nausea I will feel every single fucking time I look at Tim Tebow on the cover, I think I’ll waste a lot time on this one.

Little League World Series 2010, July 20th (Xbox 360, Playstation 3):  Almost all sports video game enthusiasts are in it for the license.  One of the biggest video game thrills I ever had was the first time I played Madden on the Playstation, and I saw Lambeau Field rendered in 3D.  We play the NBA2K series to dunk with, or on, Lebron James.  When the license of your game doesn’t mean anything, it’s very possible that very few people will want to play said game.  The tagline of this one literally says “Don’t miss a chance to become the next Little League World Series Champion.”  I can’t imagine there will be too many sleepless nights over this missed opportunity.  It could have the greatest gameplay of any baseball game of all time, and I doubt most people would care.

There's a lot of stuff happening here. And it's all awesome.

Starcraft II – Wings of Liberty, July 27th (Mac OS X, Windows Vista/XP): Simply put, Blizzard makes great games.  The Diablo series had great storytelling, powerful cut scenes, and gameplay that was simplistic and addictive.  MMORPG World of Warcraft almost ruined my life before I escaped its sinister clutches, and nerds from all over have been clamoring for the sequel to the Real Time Strategy classic Starcraft for years.  You can pick from three different races: the mysterious Protoss, the nomadic Terrans, or the badass motherfucking Zerg.  Each race comes with their own special abilities and heroes.  This will most likely be all out science fiction warfare at its best, and if I had a computer that I thought could handle this game I’d probably check it out.

Clash of the Titans, July 27th (Xbox 360, Playstation 3): What we have here is a game that is based on a movie that is a remake of another movie.  Does this sound like a disaster waiting to happen to you?  Why yes, yes it does.  Titans was originally conceived by the woefully inept Brash Entertainment, a game studio started by Hollywood big shots as a means to better market their movies with crappy video games. Since then it has thankfully been handed off.  And oddly enough it appears that the development team at Game Republic might have made a competent action title.  Early hands on reports are average, which is much better than I thought they’d be.  There is a lot of hacking, slashing, and epic boss battles.  Does that sound familiar?  If I was an ad exec for Game Republic, this is how I’d pitch this one.  “Have you never heard of God of War?  Good, keep it that way.  And buy this!”

Despite a few notable exceptions, July really is a barren wasteland for video games.  It’s mostly littered with Nintendo offerings whose existence I can't rationally explain.  Yet every time I bring Jeff his morning coffee at the Culture Blues headquarters he’s lighting up the Nursery Mania message board on Gamespot.  But enough about the future, let’s take a look at this month’s blast from the past.

I can't imagine this is still fun

Excitebike (NES): In many ways this game was ahead of its time.  This seems a tad absurd when you look back at the graphics now, but keep in mind this was one of the first Nintendo games to ever be released.  Creating your own course and making your buddies go through it had some sick replay value, and all in all made for one of more interactive features in the history of this paticular console.  This is one of the few games that my parents used to play with me, and I have many fond memories of it, and a few chilling flashbacks.  I actually used to have bad dreams about overheating my bike.  That poor little guy just sat off to the side of the course, with that annoying noise reminding you of your failure.  It never dawned on me until reading some reviews of the game earlier this week that the other bikers on the track were simply obstacles, as you can pass an infinite amount of them.  This was an odd choice, as typically the object of a racing game is to beat your opponents and not attain a certain time, but it worked anyway.  There have been new versions released for multiple systems since (the N64 version was outstanding) but for my money this is one of the greatest racing games of all time.

Did I miss something you plan on buying this month?  Do you think Tim Tebow will one day end up on the cover of Wii Communion?  Let me know in the comments section.

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7 Responses »

  1. I just want a baby so bad.

  2. I'm definitely planning on giving Deathspank a shot, available on XBox Live and PSN this month. It's an action RPG from Ron Gilbert, the Monkey Island guy.

    I also loved Excitebike and I recently picked up Trials HD on XBox Live. It's basically a cross between Excitebike and a physics based Flash game where you have to keep your balance. Plus it has a ton of unnecessary and gratuitous pyrotechnics. It's fun.

  3. The biggest impact that StarCraft 2 is going to have won't be in the US, but South Korea. Over there the original game is the king of all e-sports, capable of filling arenas. There are also camps that folks can attend, where you're essentially trained to play the game at the master level (some of these are a complete racket). There's also the scandal. A few months ago it was revealed that some of the top players were paid to take dives. God only knows what SC2 is going to do to this scene. Silly Asians.

    This month we also get Blacklight: Tango Down, which was nominated for Best Shooter awards at E3 by IGN and Machinima. It's $15 for multiplayer, and nothing but multiplayer, which is kind of awesome. I shelled out $60 for Modern Warfare 2 last November, and have maybe played the actual single player campaign for all of six minutes, so getting just the part of the game I actually want for cheap is awesome. Word on the street is that they've decided to NOT include the kinds of weapons and weapon attachments that drive people batshit crazy in multiplayer FPS'es (grenade launchers, for example). I think it comes out tomorrow. I think I'm gonna buy it.

  4. Is that South Korea stuff true? Because, if so, I'd like to learn more.

  5. Tragically, it is. Check the image at the top of this article. That's from a Starcraft match.

    http://kotaku.com/5515798/south-korea-rocked-by-starcraft-betting-scandal

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go start a Command And Conquer gambling front.

  6. I just downloaded the Deathspank demo, pretty fun. I will probably buy this.

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