@Brodehouse: Also, I hear what you're saying about Patrick, but I also think that meeting and talking to the creator (or even just knowing more about them) gives you an important and interesting perspective on a game, one that necessarily changes how you think about it. I struggled with this when I tried to write my review of Dust: AET, because I had talked to the creator at PAX, and I knew it was all the work of a single dude, and that it was a very personal creation to him. Perhaps the best thing is to try to be honest about how you think those interactions change your bias toward the game.
Apocralyptic's forum posts
I think one of the big challenges of video games journalism is that compared to other kinds of media journalism, the subject matter is so highly technical that writers need to have a greater level of familiarity with the engineering and design processes involved in creating games. I tend to trust more the opinions of people who actually know about what goes into making a game, the same way I have greater trust for the opinions of sports commentator who actually played or coached the sport. Unfortunately, it seems like in games journalism, that level of familiarity makes you an "insider" who is unfit to render trustworthy critique.
I understand the concern for the boundaries of journalistic ethics, but instead of automatically assuming that familiarity with the industry will make these peoples' opinions biased, maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt, and use our own judgement to determine what we think about the quality of their reporting?
October has been a hell of a month. First of all, on October 20th I completed the Extra Life 24-hour gaming marathon, and (with the help of some very generous friends) raised $1,462 for Boston Children's Hospital. Other exciting events included catching a debilitating stomach virus during which I literally lost a week down the toilet, my son turning four, and a hurricane. And now I realize there's more excitement yet to come, as I look upon this freshly delivered copy of Assassin's Creed III. Here's a rundown of everything (at least, everything video-game-related) that happened this month.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Xbox 360)
It's hard for a pessimist like me to remember this, but sometimes dreams do come true. XCOM: Enemy Unknown—the recent remake/reboot of the 1994 game XCOM: UFO Defense—turned out to be every bit of the experience I hoped it would be, and then some.
Most of what I needed to say I put in my review, but to summarize: Firaxis did a superb job of translating an 18-year-old PC cult classic to a modern console setting, by staying true to the spirit of the original while making some bold changes to the core gameplay. Whether you're a fan of the original, or simply a fan of turn-based strategy, aliens, challenging gameplay, and/or being eviscerated by mutant cyborg space bugs, you should check out XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
Bomberman LIVE (Xbox LIVE Arcade)
As I've mentioned in the past, my friends and I have a standing Thursday night Xbox LIVE play-date, brilliantly dubbed "TNGN" (Thursday Night Game Night). Though traditionally staunch Gears of War supporters, we recently began to tire of blowing each other away with sawed-off shotguns, something I genuinely thought we would never tire of.
To break the monotony, last month we dug out our old Halo 3 discs, and soon we were joyriding in Banshees across the Valhalla map like we'd never left. (For a five-year-old game, it holds up incredibly well.) Of course, we quickly realized that with Halo 4 coming out November 6, perhaps we should find another way to spend Thursday nights in October. (Besides, of course, with our families.)
I don't know who mentioned it, but someone pointed out that there was a Bomberman game on Xbox LIVE Arcade, and we were sold. After all, we all remembered that Super Bomberman for the SNES was the ultimate party video game when we were kids. It was easy to learn, difficult to master, fun as all hell, and once the bad blood started to build up after a few rounds of cheap shots and broken alliances, no other game was better at causing a bench-clearing brawl. Good times.
However, before you go out and drop 800 credits ($10) on the XBLA version, a quick word of caution. There literally have been dozens of Bomberman games, and although I'm nowhere near well-versed enough to claim that Bomberman LIVE is the worst among these, I have to believe it's somewhere near the bottom. There's little in the way of single-player options (e.g. no campaign), its menu system is so poorly designed that it almost appears to be intentionally obtuse, and the online support is cumbersome, requiring you to re-invite your party to the game whenever you change the slightest details of the match setup. Having voiced those complaints, I can now say that once you do finally manage to get an eight-player match of Bomberman LIVE working, you realize that playing even a half-assed version of this classic game online with seven of your best friends from around the country is a hell of a good time.
Dishonored (Xbox 360)
I played Dishonored for almost the full 24 hours of my Extra Life marathon, and before I took ill last week, I fully intended to write a review of it. Unfortunately, with Assassin's Creed III now in my hands, a review is seeming somewhat less likely. Nevertheless, I thought it was a high-quality game deserving of some careful discussion, so I'm going to hold off on my comments for the time being, with the hope of publishing a review by the end of the week.
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Xbox 360)
Like music, televison, or film, finding quality video games that are appropriate for young children can be difficult. However, as is true for the Beatles, Sesame Street, or Pixar movies, some of the best video games transcend generations, appealing to kids and adults alike.
When I first played Lego Star Wars on the PlayStation 2, it was a magical experience. Legos, Star Wars, and video games: three pillars of nerd culture, impossibly combined into a thoroughly enjoyable experience that didn't feel anywhere near as exploitative as it should have.
Unfortunately, like so many wonderful things in this life, I totally forgot about Lego Star Wars until a friend recently reminded me about it. After spending 60 seconds and $20 on Amazon, two days later my son and I were chasing down our lost droids on Tatooine. Now I get to spend quality time with my son while playing a game that's actually fun for an adult.
So that pretty much wraps up October. Now, I'm off to re-fight the American revolution in Assassin's Creed III. If I'm lucky, I'll be so busy patriotically murdering redcoats for the next week that I won't have to see another political ad between now and the election.
@Dredlockz: Did you ever find Ironman frustrating from a interface/control point of view? I tried to play my regular game as though it was Ironman mode (i.e. w/out reloading), but every once in a while a glitch or control issue would make me glad I could re-load my save game, like having a soldier not go where I meant them to. This especially would happen from time to time on boards with multiple floors where the cursor jumps around a lot between levels.
Also, sometimes the enemy does things that are totally bullshit--for example, once I had an alien just sit there and not respond, and then when I got closer, it decided I had "seen it", and went through its rushing-for-cover animation. The problem was that it rushed for cover right past my guys, ending up totally behind my defensive perimeter and flanking all my guys. I don't think anyone took their reaction shots because that initial animation doesn't trigger Overwatch. Not exactly what I would call fair.
I just passed my $1000 goal! The rest of you bitches better get crackin'
Does anyone else ever get PMs from people advertising video game writing jobs? About once a month or so I get a message from someone claiming that they've read my stuff on the site and would like me to apply for a (usually non-paying) position. Typically they're sites I've never heard of, although they look somewhat legitimate (i.e. not a total scam).
Has anyone ever checked one of these out? I would assume that if you want a real job writing gaming reviews and analysis, it's a bit tougher than getting a random message from some unknown user on GB. Maybe someone who is an actual paid writer could comment?
@Commisar123: I'm actually surprised more of my squad didn't die given some of the decisions I made. I think one thing that helped was that I ended up researching the nanofiber vest item pretty early, and after that point no one carried anything else as their item unless they had an Arc Thrower. (And those were the only soldiers I lost early on.)
I think I spent too much on research and buying equipment early on though, because right now I'm really struggling with getting enough money, power, and engineers to get more satellites up.
@RollingZeppelin: @KoolAid: I didn't find the alien base to be particularly tough (playing on normal), but it was mainly because (1) there were no mutons, and (2) I had finally researched a few plasma weapons. I even brought back the alien commander alive. (Though I think it was mostly because of a glitch; he took over one of my soldiers, but then they both just sat there for the next three turns without doing anything.)
I've been using pretty much the same strategy as I did in the original XCOM of skipping the R&D for the human tech (e.g. laser rifles) and racing to get the plasma weapons ASAP, especially since you can get them from enemies.