Free cake?

Of white balls and garrote wire

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 | 01:59 PM | by
I picked up Rockstar Games Presents: Table Tennis. When they first announced this title, I was really interested in it... I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was just the novelty of a company like Rockstar doing a complete 180 in gametype from something like GTA. Or I wanted to see if they could really simulate a good game of ping pong.

It definitely delivers some good gameplay. There's a learning curve, but one on one matches against someone else can be intense. Unfortunately there isn't a whole lot more to the game than that. I thought the single-player mode was a bit boring. Great graphics and great gameplay this game definitely has, I just wish there were more to the game modes.

I also played through the Hitman: Blood Money demo that came out on Monday, and it felt good to be back in Codename 47's shoes. And with a new graphics engine to boot. The game appears to be just as violent and fun as it's ever been, but I do have a few issues with it.

First and foremost would be the tips, the "headlines" at the top of the screen. I'm not sure if they were quite that explanatory just for the demo level, or if it will be like that in retail, or if you can turn them off via an option I didn't see, but they literally walked you through every step of the mission. It must not always be there, because Hitman was always about choosing from 3-4 viable methods of assassination, depending on preference. I'll hold out for retail and see.

My other issue is a love-hate relationship concerning the control "tree" on the top left of the screen. I love that it tells me exactly what one of my three main buttons will do at any given time if pressed. Too many times in games one button does multiple actions depending on context, and if you aren't standing in exactly the right spot, it may do something you don't intend. Pick up a weapon when you want to open the door. Open the door when you want to drag a body. Drag a body when you want to urinate on the remains. You get the idea.

The problem with the system is that I found myself always looking at the tree to see what action I was performing, before doing it. I felt it sort of yank me out of the gameplay every few moments, because there were such a wide variety of actions spread across these three buttons, I wanted to know what I was doing. Again, I'll hold out for retail and more than one mission to pass final judgement. It may be something that becomes second nature.

I also like that damage you take stays with you for the mission. Nothing like running around an abandoned amusement park with a large, bloody hole right through your sternum.

Blood Money

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 | 04:31 PM | by
Matt from the UK just emailed to inform me that the Hitman: Blood Money demo mission is in fact the tutorial for the game, and the rest of the game doesn't walk you through the missions like that.

Thanks Matt!

Sony Shtuff

Thursday, May 25, 2006 | 02:02 PM | by
Two things, actually.

First, there's a rumor floating around (wildly unfounded at the moment, mind you), suggesting that Sony will sell licenses for PS3 games. Basically you're paying your $50 for the license, and the actual software, digitally downloaded or a hard copy, is just a distribution method. This is to prevent the sale of pre-owned games. Amen, I say.

I believe the pre-owned game industry hurts gamers. Retail outlets buy these used games really low, and sell them really high. I've seen pre-owned games on sale for like $3 less than a brand new copy. $50 for a used game they probably paid $20 for. $30 profit, and the video game companies don't see a cent of it. In fact they've lost a potential sale.

Video games nowadays cost nearly as much to make as blockbuster movies. They're getting expensive, and between pirating and the pre-owned games market, it's getting harder for companies to recoup the expenses.

I know this is controversial. I know a lot of you are saying "But if I buy pre-owned, I can get games cheaper". Well yeah, if you're only looking at the here and now. But if half the consumers are waiting and buying the game used, then the game companies have to charge more on the original sales just to break even. And then the retail outlets are going to see a higher price cap, and take advantage of it to charge more for the used games. So over time you're contributing to increased prices across the board.

However, I do see a couple of problems with the concept, but nothing that couldn't be worked around. I don't buy used games, and I don't sell my games back to stores. But if I'm finished with a game, I'll give the game to a friend, and a license system would make this tough...

Unless, there was some sort of one-time license transfer system in place. Where you could directly transfer the game from one person to another, once, so the retail outlets still wouldn't be able to take advantage. Most pre-owned games sit on the shelf for a while, and a retail outlet isn't going to put a game up for sale, and then when someone buys it, call the original owner into the store to initiate a license transfer. That's too much hassle.

I recognize that there are still problems here (What if I want to just lend the game to someone? More than one person?), and no protection method is ever perfect. I guess the bottom line is, whether you disagree or agree, if Sony decided to implement that system (and trust me, I think it is highly unlikely), it's important to remember that it is completely within their right. Just as it is our right, as consumers, to choose whether or not to buy the product and support such a system.

Also, the Ghost Rider trailer. Brian thinks it will flop, but I always liked Ghost Rider. Fingers crossed.