The ESRB has unveiled the latest update to its ratings offering in an effort to keep consumers informed about the games they play. It seems like a great addition that, when used alongside the actual ratings and existing descriptors, could be much more useful to concerned parents. And hey, some of the politicians, like Hillary Clinton and Joe "Night Trap" Lieberman have come out in support of the change.
But it also serves a purpose for people like me, the game loving man-child who still giggles when people talk about poop and butts! Now I can search their database for the most awesome sounding games and ensure that I see the weirdest, most extreme games in the world!
Also, it seems like this will totally replace our entire reviews process. Seriously, when you see these paragraphs full of the "worst" things in games, why would you need to read anything else? OK, fine, in addition to their summary, I'll post my take on the game based on how the summary makes it sound.
Rating summary: Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode 2 is a 'point-and-click' adventure game based on characters from the online comic Penny Arcade. Players battle enemies using a role-playing game style combat system, taking turns using fists and weapons to harm various robots and humans. Several cutscenes depict 'cartoony,' over-the-top instances of violence, including heads being blown off, characters sliced up by lasers, splattering blood and flying body parts. Humor is often based on bodily functions and 'by-products' (e.g., syringe injections full of urine) and sometimes sexuality (e.g., robots humping legs, testicles and taxidermy). The game also contains frequent use of strong profanity (e.g., "f*ck" and "sh*t").
My take: OK, you had me at "syringe injections full of urine," but the concept of a robot humping a set of testicles? They call that going the extra mile. Five stars.
Rating summary: Call of Duty: World at War is a first-person shooter in which players assume the role of Allied soldiers in both the European and Pacific Fronts during World War II. Combat can be intense with extensive use of camera effects (e.g., slow-motion, blurring, and screen shakes) and realistic sound effects to highlight the tense and frenetic nature of each battle. Fighting is fast-paced with players using a large array of military weapons (guns, grenades, and flamethrowers). Collateral damage includes sprays of red blood when enemies are shot; maimed appendages from explosions; and flailing and screaming when enemies are set on fire. Cutscenes and historical footage can contain graphic depictions of prisoner/POW executions. Strong profanity can be heard during gameplay (e.g., "f*ck" and "sh*t").
My take: Maybe this one is a bit unfair since I've already played the game, but "flailing and screaming when enemies are set on fire" sounds pretty good. Sadly, that part doesn't look so hot in the actual game. Also note that just like my review of the game, it doesn't talk about the Nazi Zombie mode you can unlock. I smell conspiracy! Four stars.
Rating summary: Fallout 3 is a action role-playing game set in the barren wasteland of a post-apocalyptic society. Players assume the role of a resident of an underground complex who emerges from a vault to explore a wastleland universe through a series of quests/missions. Mission objectives sometimes involve exploring various caves, sewers, and subway tunnels, while other quests involve combat with human and mutant survivors. Fighting can be frenetic and intense, highlighted by various camera effects (e.g., slow motion, blurring, screen shakes) and depictions of realistic dismemberment with trails of red blood. In one scene, players enter a black-and-white virtual reality simulation in which they use a kitchen knife to kill household members and pets. Characters are sometimes seen consuming fictional drugs (e.g., "Buffout," "Jet," and "Mentats"), while the player can also use – with no visual depiction of consuming/administering – a narcotic called "psycho," which with repeated uses leads to addiction. A screen-blurring effect indicates the state of characters' intoxication and the need to use the narcotic to fend off various side effects. Several of the characters are prostitutes and the details of their sexual activities are mildly insinuated (e.g., "You got the cash I got the time…I take care of men around here."). Strong profanity can also be heard throughout the game (e.g., "f*ck," "a*shole," and "sh*t").
My take: They make the entire game sound like it's about drugs and hookers. Normally that'd be pretty exciting, but post-apocalyptic drugs actually sound really boring. Three stars.
Rating summary: Lips is a karaoke music game in which players sing along with music videos of various styles and genres. Players score points by matching the pitch and duration of notes displayed on the screen. Music videos often depict provocatively dressed women in suggestive dance routines or poses (e.g., women in bikinis crawling on the beach, short shorts with rear close-ups, metallic body paint, and frequent depictions of cleavage). Some song lyrics contain mild language (e.g., "God damn" and "whore") as well as frequent sexual references (e.g., "A chick walks by ya wish ya could sex her"). A custom video depicts an animated battle between two armies of sword-wielding robots. In another music video, a young woman in a school uniform smokes a cigarette in the foreground.
My take: You heard it here first, Young MC's "Bust A Move" is bad for kids. Wait... short shorts with rear close-ups? Five stars!
Rating summary: Little Big Planet is an action adventure game set in a whimsical land filled with puppets and platforming puzzles. Players can create, customize, and guide their character through levels of platforms, enemies and hazards. Hazards include bombs, spiked vehicles, stampeding bulls, and even giant shoes. One ancillary character makes belching noises while talking to the player's character.
My take: Boooooooorrrrrrinnnnnnng! Obviously this is one that gets by with the "Game Experience May Change During Online Play" notice. Two stars, but only because it has bombs and belching.
Head over to esrb.org to join in the fun, but be patient, it looks like their server is having trouble keeping up this morning.