Conquered: Far Cry 3.

Alternate title: Jason Brody's transformation from party animal to jungle psychopath.

Man, the Far Cry games have gone through this weird identity crisis over the years. The first game was a mostly linear, extremely difficult action game with aliens, Far Cry Instincts made your character become a mutated alien with superpowers, and Far Cry 2 was a promising game with too many stupid mechanics and probably the dumbest story to come out of a big-budget action game. To this day, I still don't understand why people praise Far Cry 2 to the high heavens.

But Far Cry 3 has nothing to do with the others. Seems to be par for the course for Ubisoft: Instead of making a cohesive story/saga with the series, just make them like Call of Duty games where they're mostly standalone and different, with the only similarity being a jungle theme. It seems to be working for them.

Far Cry 3 was one of my many purchases during the Steam Summer Sale this year (along with Tomb Raider, Dark Souls, the BioShock trilogy...), and I bought it knowing that after the disappointment of Far Cry 2 that it could only get better from here.

Warning: Minor plot spoilers within.

When I started Far Cry 3, I was welcomed to a video montage of a bunch of dudes partying out on some island, having fun and being idiots, all set the tune to M.I.A.'s Paper Planes. It's like something out of a horror movie. Then it cuts away to our hero Jason being captured with his brother Grant, who eventually escape, but not without the villain Vaas deciding to kill Grant and leave poor Jason fighting for his life. Afterwards, you're found by a guy named Dennis, who's part of this jungle tribe called the Rakyat and then you go through the steps of trying to save everyone and get out of the island alive. Eventually it leads to a revenge plot, where Jason eventually wants to kill Vaas and his boss Hoyt while helping the Rakyat tribe.

While Far Cry 3 does share a few elements from 2, such as the free-roaming world, outposts, and fire propagation, it got rid of the bullshit that made the game annoying: No longer having to find malaria medicine, outposts can be cleared for XP and convenient fast travel with no respawning enemies, no bullshit faction trust that meant nothing story-wise, and side missions that are actually useful. It's got the trappings of a modern open-world action game, basically.

Get used to seeing this. A lot. An option to quickly craft these would have been useful.

In addition to killing dudes, Far Cry 3 added stuff like skinning animals and cutting plants to make materials. I wonder if the designers were influenced by Red Dead Redemption, because that's what I immediately thought of while doing most of this, complete with the protagonist acknowledging that skinning animals is disgusting but he does it anyway. When you skin animals, you can use their skins to upgrade everything from how much ammo you can carry to how big your wallet is. It is essential to do the “Path of the Hunter” side quests so you can get some of these upgrades conveniently. By the time I got to the other island, I had pretty much crafted everything and didn't need to find any more animals save for the last few Path of the Hunter missions I had to do, which were for pretty crappy rewards.

As for the plants, you use them to craft syringes. Some are useful (healing, fireproof, being able to stay underwater for longer), others are only effective for hunting (repellent, increased damage to animals, know where animals are), whereas two of the syringes are literally “god mode” and “one hit kills.” With so much fauna in the world, it's easy to craft a whole bunch of these syringes and basically be unstoppable. I like the idea, just not the implementation: there's two you can add to quickly use at any time with the 7 or 8 key, or you can use them in the crafting menu which is inconvenient. I'd rather there have been a quick use menu, as well as a quicker way to craft the syringes I wanted to use.

As for the story, very few games ever tackle having a protagonist who isn't already a military mercenary do all the killing. I can applaud Ubisoft for at least trying with Jason Brody. In the first few minutes of the game, you have a fight with a knife-wielding guard who you plunge the knife into, which Jason panics, realizing he just killed a man for the first time in his life. Jason also gets hesitant over doing things like killing people and skinning animals in the beginning, which at least makes him somewhat human.

Well, I certainly wasn't expecting something like this...

Alas, this doesn't last, because once you get further into the game, Jason starts becoming just as bad as the people he's fighting against. I won't spoil exact details, but Jason decides to put his trust in working with the Rakyat and the mercenaries on the island instead of the friends he has to save. It doesn't help that the game exacerbates this problem by adding challenges and skills that further convert Jason into this Rambo-like character, such as giving you takedowns where you can chain kill enemies or pull the pin on an enemy's grenade, or the “Trials of the Rakyat” which are basically score attacks where you're killing swaths of enemies for leaderboard superiority. It's a weird disconnect, and while Ubisoft does acknowledge Jason's quest of being a jungle warrior towards the final story missions of the game, it doesn't fix the inconsistent tone.

Tech-wise, this game screams “console port.” The radial menu is clearly meant for a 360 game pad, and instead of having multiple keys for the different purposes, you have to hold the use key (E) to do everything. With having one key have multiple purposes, it does lead to many unintentional deaths. (Because I totally wanted Jason to hop over the top of the radio tower and fall to his death instead of grabbing the zipline above him.) It doesn't help this game also throws quick-time events at many opportunities, switching you between mashing E, Spacebar or Control while occasionally hitting the mouse buttons to do things. There's also the map bound on a key that's hard to reach in normal play (M instead of the unused TAB), among other things. I know the 360 and PS3 makes beaucoup bucks for publishers like Ubisoft, but at least make your PC port not feel like you slapped on mouse and keyboard controls to a game built on the 360. Despite that, the game looks gorgeous and has fairly robust graphic settings. It's definitely a looker if you got the PC to handle it.

Pretty sure my revolver's not supposed to do that.

Far Cry 3 is also buggy at times. When doing Path of the Hunter missions, there are times where I swapped my flamethrower with the bow that the mission required, but when I opened the radial menu to check what syringes I had equipped, it switched back to the flamethrower I previously tossed, causing the bow to disappear. I had to restart the mission to get the bow back. It was either that or said mission required weapon somehow appearing in my arsenal while I was trying to clear an outpost, or appearing while doing a story mission. Yeah, I totally wanted to toss my cool assault rifle for a bow, thanks Ubisoft.

As for multiplayer, I only dabbled in co-op with some friends. I liked the more team-focused action, but didn't like how it was disconnected from the main story. I wouldn't mind Ubisoft making a standalone Far Cry co-op game with the unique characters they made for this. I *am* a sucker for co-operative games like Borderlands 2, Killing Floor and Payday 2. I can't say anything about the regular multiplayer, but I assume it ticks all the boxes of a modern-day multiplayer focused shooter.

Such a beautiful horizon... for me to set on fire.

Other than that, Far Cry 3 is a first-person open world action game set in a jungle where you stop evil men doing bad things while saving your friends. I paid $7.50 for this during the Steam sale, and it's a fairly competent action game. Better than FC2 by a long shot, but hardly the best game out there. It does make me mildly interested in Far Cry 4, though I hope they actually build the PC version from the ground up and not do some dumb “best on PlayStation 4” or some bullshit marketing thing like that.

IF I HAD TO SCORE THIS: From the average gameplay to the weird bugs and the tonal shift, I think this is about a 6, maybe a 7. There's not much here that makes it stand out from the others.

Other random observations:

  • I wonder if Far Cry 3 was the trendsetter for the “year of the bow” that permeated a lot of games in 2013. It's a damn shame the bow is useless in this game, though.
  • If you're a completionist, Ubisoft made most of the collectables reasonable. Stuff like memory cards and lost letters are easy to find and collect, and there's not a lot of outposts, radio towers or side missions to do. The only collectable they screwed up on were the relics, where there's 120 of them strewn all around the islands. Funny thing is, even they realized how worthless they were because there is an achievement is for finding only half of the relics, and not one for finding them all.
  • You get XP and money handed to you like candy. Some of the special takedowns give you ridiculous amounts of XP (up to 500-750XP per kill), and there's loads of money everywhere. By the time I got towards the last few missions, I had fully maxed out everything, and still had plenty of money to spare. (Here's a challenge I thought up: Try to play through the game doing just the story missions and none of the side stuff. I wonder how much progress you could make.)
  • There's dumb bullshit stealth segments where you have to walk past enemies while getting to an objective, where being spotted counts as an instant mission failure. Considering this is from the same company that brought us Splinter Cell, this makes no damn sense, plus these kind of stealth missions have never, ever been fun.
  • Vaas is one of the more underrated shooter villains, his crazy demeanor and attitude fits perfectly with the crazy jungle atmosphere. (It's a shame he's replaced by some asshole in a purple suit halfway through the game...)
  • On a side note: uPlay seems real useless. One time I had the game constantly nagging to check the "Far Cry 3 servers" while playing single player, presumably to update some things. It kept checking every few minutes, and there was no way to cancel it or go into an "offline mode." The only upsides uPlay has are redeeming credits for bonus content, and being able to stream through Twitch. Why Steam hasn't done the "stream your games to the internet" thing is beyond me.
  • This is a problem not just with Far Cry 3, but with many other games over the past few years: Shorten your freakin' credit sequences already! FC3's clocks in at 25 minutes, and it's ridiculous to have such long credits. Can't we take a few pointers from movies and make them short and sweet, please?
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A look at a Mortal Kombat PS2 controller.

Hey GB. I don't post often, but I thought it'd be interesting to post a video I made a few weeks ago about a Mortal Kombat controller I got. For $3, hours of headache and learning how to take apart things the hard way, all culminated in this.

Is there any kind of controllers you have that are bad/good/worse?

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I wrote a thing about Snoop Dogg.

I wrote a dumb thing about Snoop Dogg in video games. Because I could. I was honestly expecting to have this done by the time Way of the Dogg came out, but things came up.

I don't know if anyone really reads these blog entries. I like Giant Bomb, but I don't know if I can engage in the community, I've always had difficulty with being a part of certain communities.

Props to Ryan for introducing me to Dogg's Turismo 3. It's the dumbest song I've heard in a while.

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Finished Deus Ex. Again.

Deus Ex is a pretty awesome game. The game is so good that it has a thing called the "Deus Ex Effect," in which if anyone talks about, mentions, or waxes nostalgic about the first Deus Ex, there is someone bound to grab their CDs and reinstall, or buy it off Steam.

Deus Ex is great because it gives choice, and a lot of it. You can kill everything in sight. Go for the pacifist approach and avoid killing anyone. Pull out your Prod Charger and knock every enemy unconscious. This was also apparent in every single level, even the last one at Area 51 has choices in some way.

There is one thing I have to knock about it, and that's the combat. I played it on Realistic, and it was a pain to have an enemy get a lucky hit in the torso or head and kill me outright, negating my progress a few times. I think if you're gonna tackle this game, play it on Easy or Normal. You're here for the choices, the experiences, and the strategies, shooting and stabbing dudes is not what makes this game great.

Now that I finished this, I might actually crack open my copy of Human Revolution just to see if Eidos was able to duplicate that formula even without having Warren Spector or Harvey Smith. Maybe I'll play that fanmade DX mod called "The Nameless Mod." Maybe I'll actually try out Invisible War. Okay, I'm kidding on the last one.

Deus Ex is a game I replay almost every year, because I still find new things about it, including strategies and easter eggs. That, and this old classic.

I hope the Deus Ex effect is happening to you. You can thank me later. Make sure you get past Liberty Island, though. The game has such a strong beginning that it makes the rest of the game, even the duller parts like some of New York and Hong Kong seem less cool in comparison. Now to tackle games actually in my backlog, like Uncharted 3...

I'm still writing stuff on You Found a Secret Area, for those interested. Lately I posted an article about a 1999 Nintendo Power catalog. Why? Because I can. I usually hate advertising my blog on places like this, because I feel like I'm just using Giant Bomb to spam my stuff. Hopefully it's just me being paranoid...

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The FUD of E3 2012.

I'm gonna be honest, E3 didn't really wow me too much. Yeah, hey, the Wii U looks pretty cool and Ubisoft's Zombi U might be a cool game provided it isn't like Red Steel.

Perhaps this is just me, but this year was the year of pessimism. Every game that got featured was nothing but hatred and depression, people not really getting "hyped" for anything except for maybe Watch Dogs, and just an overall lackluster feeling all around E3. That's not to say it's not warranted -- I can understand being sick of the Medal of Honor/COD types -- but some of the games like Halo 4 and a handful of the Wii U offerings seemed cool. Maybe not "OMFG GOTF," but still pretty darn cool.

It's clear we're at that point in the generation where it's getting long in the tooth. Here's hoping we see new Xboxes and PlayStations announced by next year. At least could we try to be somewhat happy about video games in spite of this year's showing? All the depressing comments made ME depressed.

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Oh man, I forgot I had this.

Hello, all 15 of you whom actually follow me in some way. I guess I should give you guys an update.

So I started a new games-oriented blog called You Found a Secret! which talks about obscure gaming crap. My most recent article is one about budget game title WWII: Iwo Jima. I've been posting other things there, so give it a look.

I mentioned this in the past and it bears repeating: There's so many freakin' sites with a blog function that I can't post the same thing to every spot. If there was a mass blogging program that could make me mass post this to every major gaming site, I'd use that instead. But alas, that has yet to be made, so here you go. That's why I don't post much here.

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Game hauls for 9/24-25, Retro Gaming Expo edition.

Hello gentlemen. I am back with some random goodie buys, partially because of a recent event called the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, a small little convention for old and new school gamers alike. Most of the booths were selling old games from the 2600 to the PS1, but also some current and last-generation games, so it was more of a gaming flea market than a mini-version of PAX or anything like that.

Among seeing plastic statues of Master Chief and Naked Snake, I saw a bunch of arcade units including Capcom Bowling and Vs. Super Mario Bros. I also met Pat the NES Punk but missed out on the opportunity to see David Crane of Pitfall and early 2600 fame. Clearly I had my priorities straight. I also spotted a dude wearing a Whiskey Media shirt, didn't catch his name though. Perhaps that was for the best, he might've been a fan of Comic Vine. (I kid, I also saw him at the convention).

So on my regular-ass normal blog I write about the old games I bought. Since I'm an unoriginal bastard, the format is loosely based on Chris Kohler's sporadic "Weekend Thrifting" articles he posts on Wired's Game|Life blog. Hope you're just as interested on the silly games I bought as much as I am.

Picture on the left's the haul from Saturday the 24th, the other is from yesterday on the 25th.

So there's a lot of Quake games in that first picture. Quake (Saturn), Quake II (PS1) and Quake III Arena (Dreamcast). The PS1 Quake II has a few features unique to that version, as well as a prologue level not seen in the PC version. I honestly bought it because I was curious how that version handled.

Quake Saturn was made by Lobotomy Software, and actually uses the Slavedriver engine used to run PowerSlave on the consoles rather than reverse-engineer John Carmack's Quake engine to run on a system not built for 3D. Duke Nukem 3D on the Saturn was also a Lobotomy project and reused the Slavedriver engine as well, which is baffling because the Build engine is not a taxing piece of hardware.

Quake III for the Dreamcast was rare at the time for having cross-platform play with PC owners, as well as mouse/keyboard support. If you were still rocking a 486 in 1999 and couldn't play any modern game, the DC version was probably one worth checking out. Granted, you wouldn't get levels like Chronic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHN7EGj2Pf8) on the DC, but maybe that's for the best.

Soldier of Fortune on the Dreamcast was, like almost every game I bought, more for curiosity's sake. See, back in the day PCs were drastically more powerful than the average console, thus it was interesting to see developers tweak and modify PC games to run on older, weaker hardware. Soemtimes to even give incentive they'd add new stuff to that version. I bet Soldier of Fortune was a bare-bones port but hey, at least I can play it since my PC copy refuses to install on my Vista box.

The World is Not Enough for the PS1 was a random impulse buy because I'm always curious on the James Bond games not called "Goldeneye." While many people still think there hasn't been a good Bond game since Goldeneye, some of the EA games barring junk like Goldeneye: Rogue Agent were actually pretty good. This was made by the same guys that gave us the Syphon Filter-esque Tomorrow Never Dies a year prior, but this is a FPS. I have no clue if it's any good.

I bought considerably less on Sunday, but I bought Aladdin on the Genesis (Pre-Shiny Entertainment game, complete with Dave Perry and Tommy Tallarico!) and Toejam & Earl III (mostly for my mom, she loved that game). Lastly, that Nintendo Power is to replace a destroyed copy I've been mysteriously holding onto for years. I knew a friend who had a cousin who had Nintendo Power issues, and most of them got damaged or ransacked, but I was able to pilfer a few issues from them, including issue 28, which featured the new SNES hit Super Mario World. My copy was missing the front cover and the first 10 pages. Now that I have a complete issue, I should probably use the destroyed issue as a firestarter. You think retro game fans will go nuts for me destroying an old gaming magazine? :P

WHY DO YOU EXIST

Also spotted at the convention was a copy of Snatcher for the Sega CD for too damn much ($250!) and Cardcaptor Sakura Tetris for the PlayStation ($50). Yeah, I don't know what to say about that last one.

I wanna say the Retro Gaming Expo was pretty sweet, and I hope they do it again next year, because I'll totally go again. Maybe the price of Duke Nukem 3D on the Saturn won't be $25, or how one booth was selling Mr. Gimmick and Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels reproduction cartridges for $65-75. (Another booth was also selling SMB: Lost Levels for a more modest $35.)

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So that Quake 3 Dr. Dre map mentioned on TNT...

It's real. It's an actual Quake 3 map. and I have played this and recorded it for posterity. 

  Yes, the mapper got permission from the record company to do this and the custom models. It's not that great but it's interesting in that "wow that was a thing" sort of way. If you got Quake 3 you can grab the map here and marvel at bands and music playing together. 
 
I can't tell which is weirder: This, or Limp Bizkit sponsoring SegaNet for the Dreamcast.
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The Game in Game Room: My impressions.

Game Room, Microsoft's fancy little way to make classic arcade games and Atari 2600 games relevant again, is now available to 360 and PC users. While I was busy with other games (and hung out with a friend visiting town for a little bit), I didn't actually get to try out Game Room until Thursday.

Despite the fact that some gamers (nobody on Giant Bomb at least) out there have labeled me before as some 360 fanboy, I'm gonna prove them wrong right now. Game Room right now, in its current state, leaves a lot to be desired. Over time, it could be a creative way to get older games onto Microsoft's console, having a "rival" to Sony's PSOne Classics and Nintendo's Virtual Console. Right now, though, it seems lacking.

The game list as of this writing is a small 30 games. Most of them are commonplace Atari 2600 games like Combat and Yar's Revenge, but there's also Intellivision games I'm not familiar with. (No B-17 Bomber or Bomb Squad? Damn!) And of course, there's classic arcade games by Atari and Konami. At least Konami had the right idea with their selection: Go straight to the obscure stuff like Jungler (lambasted on the Bombcast several times recently) and Shao-lin Road. I'm saddened that Activision's classic lineup isn't there at launch, as I'd love to replay [i]Pitfall[/i] and [i]River Raid[/i]. I'm also saddened other publishers like Capcom or Sega aren't in the mix just yet, but the collection right now is fine for what's there. But the game library's not my only complaints with Game Room. The other is pricing.

I'm not a big fan of Microsoft's Points system. Or as I (and many other gamers) like to call them, "Microsoft Spacebucks." Especially the way the pricing is for Game Room right now. For instance, to buy any game in Game Room, you must pay 240MSP ($3). And that's only for one system (360 or PC), you have to pay 400MSP ($5) if you want it on both 360 and PC. Already bought it on one system and want it on the other? Pay the difference (160MSP/$2). Just want to give it a spin after trying out the free demo? 40MSP (50 cents). See, personally I would've nixed the "pay extra for both systems" choice right off the bat and make it a flat $3 to own it on both systems.

The other problem is that none of the 2600 or Intellivision games are worthy of $3. I can go on eBay right now and pay $1 or less for Combat, sans shipping. Granted, that's just the cartridge and I get no fancy digital cabinet, but I really would've made the older console games be $1-1.50, with the $3 price tag only for the arcade games. Imagine if Nintendo made every Virtual Console game cost 800 Wii Points flat. That's $8 for Super Mario Bros, where you could probably buy an NES and SMB/Duck Hunt for that price. There's a reason various systems have variable pricing, Microsoft: Not everybody's willing to plop down relatively large sums for older games.

The other problem I've heard from others is that they're irritated that their Live Arcade versions of Centipede and Millipede (among other arcade games) don't carry over to Game Room. I can understand why this isn't the case, as Game Room was likely only conceived last year and none of the publishers were factoring in this unannounced thing in the future when they released these 2-3 years ago, but this would only become a problem if publishers like Namco just opt to slap in Pac-Man and Rally-X into Game Room. Nobody really likes double-dipping unless it's REALLY worth it, and I doubt anybody wants to pay $3-5 to have Ms. Pac-Man again.

This does have a niche, however. While I was born in the high point of the NES era, I do have appreciation for the 2600 and older systems. I still have a 2600 in a case with about a dozen games, including one of my favorites, Berzerk. For those who started gaming about a generation or two ago (PS1/N64 era) may not appreciate the classics. Even for those who were around back then, they might not enjoy these games nowadays. For instance, I bet if Elsa (probably one of the oldest gamers I know online) tried Game Room, she'd probably enjoy an arcade game for 5 minutes then go back to fragging dudes in MAG. So it's a somewhat limited appeal.

Despite that, I see promise in Game Room. I hope that Microsoft does add more and more games from other publishers, and really adjusts the game pricing later on, because it has promise. I'd certainly hop in and try out the new stuff weekly, and I wouldn't be surprised if I have a personal game room of my own to muck around in. I haven't tried any of the challenges, but I really do like the rewind feature.

On a side note, I am amused at the fact that my friends list Avatars show up if you're visiting the Showcase Arcade where it shows all the mascots, upcoming games and such, but my friend I mentioned earlier needs to stop showing up at every arcade I want to try. It's like she's stalking me digitally.

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How I feel about Spike's video game awards.

 

So tomorrow, Spike TV airs their seventh annual Video Game Awards. Man, I remember about 3-4 years writing stuff like this where I was condemning the awards because of petty, but logical, reasons. You can see my ranting tirades of previous Spike VGAs here and here.


For instance, at the 2005 awards, some of the games that got nominated and later won were 50 Cent: Bulletproof , a terrible third-person shooter, and Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie , a licensed title. Both games were not out yet, which gave the implication of marketing dollars triumphing over credibility that year. I believe they kept doing this for subsequent years, nominating games that came out in November like Call of Duty 3 and Gears of War , but I heard they eventually changed this so games that came out in that period would actually be nominated for the following year's awards. That's a step up, at least.


I bet the celebrity talent isn't gonna be that magnificent either. I remember when Samuel L. Jackson was hosting the 2006 awards and talking about "Grand Theft Auto 3: San Andreas." Or even the time when Sarah Silverman decided to waste five minutes of our time insulting our intelligence with overused and stereotyped "gamer nerd" jokes. Yeah, Sarah, go back to fucking Matt Damon and leave us be, ok?


Oh yeah, I can't forget the corporate sponsorship. "Most Addictive Game fueled by Mountain Dew!" "Best Casual Game sponsored by Stride gum!" "Pontiac presents the Best Driving Game!" I have never seen that on any real award show, like Ford crediting an award for "Best Car Chase in a film," why in god's name would there be sponsorship of a certain award in a video game awards show? And since there's Burger King ads this year, I bet there will be an award sponsored by them and presented by some guy in a Burger King costume. I really find this whole thing cheap and incredibly tacky.


Credibility also goes out the window when you had "Best RPG" in one year have three Square-Enix published JRPGs versus The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion , or three EA Sports games versus one 2K Sports game. Or even better: "Studio of the Year" 2006 was dedicated to a studio that had just closed as the award show happened (Capcom's Clover Studio) and two of the nominees were dedicated to one designer rather than a development studio, like Cliff Bleszinski of Epic Games and Todd Howard of Bethesda Softworks. Yeah, I wouldn't have objected if it was just Epic and Bethesda being nominated, but you singled out the most important guy there and nominated him as if he did the game all by himself. Real smooth, guys.


I stopped watching around 2006, so I can't tell if they have improved. All I do remember about one year's show is a moment where guys from Gamecock Media actually stormed the stage as Ken Levine (of 2K Boston) was about to give a speech for winning an award for Bioshock. Guess which one is still in the business, Gamecock? Certainly ain't you guys.


This would probably be the point in my rant that I would say "Don't watch this," but it's been on the air for about several years and it's not going away any time soon, so I feel it would be futile to do so. Even having people like Geoff Keighley or Jeff Gerstmann involved couldn't make this show any better. At least it's better than the fate of G-Phoria, which used to be the same type of bombastic award event, but nowadays it's just a 30 minute X-Play special. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I'll wait for the real game awards that will actually be held by credible sites with an air of professionalism and won't involve nude chicks being bodypainted to resemble the game boxes and have them strut on stage.

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