I have to hand it to Ubisoft. The people they've got in their PR department are marketing geniuses. They could sell refrigerators to people living on an iceberg, or a stack of Bibles to a group of atheists. Look at Assassin's Creed. The smooth operators behind the ad campaign have taken what is essentially a tech demo propped up by a rudimentary mission structure and parlayed it into one of the most anticipated titles of the season.
BioShock is a simple, straightforward first-person shooter dressed up in next-generation trappings and superb artistic design. There are numerous distractions attempting to draw the player's eye away from the basic formula at its heart, but really, that's all it is.
I think it would do most developers well to remember that every videogame is someone's first videogame. NHL 08 is the most egregious example I've seen of this problem in a long while. It's a wonderful hockey simulator that, through its total unwillingness to instruct me on how to play, proved far more frustrating than I'm sure the developers had hoped.
Game Description: With new features EA-Sports NHL 08 is your virtual world into hockey—almost as real as the game itself. But you're no longer a spectator. You're inside. Whether you're managing or playing, you're choices reap benefits and consequences. Who'll be the winners or losers in NHL 08? It's up to you. With virtually real images, action, and visuals and new gameplay features, move up to the top with NHL 08! Take on the hardest job in sports and seize control of your goaltender with a new 3rd person camera. Stack the pads, butterfly and make glove saves with your entire team depending on you From player likeness, to the signature jersey tucks and sock preferences—each athlete is rendered with a meticulous attention to detail to create a truly authentic on-ice experience.
Game Description: The Orange Box includes all the content of The Black Box for PC, plus the original Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode One. Innovative games featured in The Orange Box include Half-Life 2: Episode Two, the second installment in Valve's episodic trilogy advances the award-winning story, leading the player to new locations outside of City 17, as well as the pioneering type of single-player action game Portal, which rewrites the rules for how players approach and manipulate their environment, and Team Fortress 2—an all-new version of the legendary title that spawned team based multiplayer action games with a daring new art style features the most advanced graphics of any Source-based game released to date.
Half-Life 2 was for me a little bit of a letdown. It was an epic game of grand scope with superlative storytelling, and I did think it was one of the best first-person shooters I'd ever played. But I couldn't help but be a bit bothered by the game's stubborn adherence to rather dated genre clichés-one man carrying a small arsenal, breaking open crates to find bullets and medicine, and the contrived placement of various weapons, exploding barrels, and magical crates of infinite ammo.
Shoot two portals onto a flat surface and walk through one to appear out the other. This reasonably straightforward game premise is destined to go down alongside "form horizontal lines to make blocks disappear" and "avoid missing ball for high score" as one of the most deviously, deceptively simple in the medium's history.
When I go through a pile of used games, I usually have a pretty good idea of what I'm looking for. I keep tabs on titles that look like solid "maybes"—games that may have a few good points, but are sketchy enough to discourage me from risking $50 buying them new. It's pretty rare that I'll end up bringing something home that I hadn't already targeted as such, but Surreal Software's The Suffering was exactly one such game.
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