GameCube on the cheap

Big Dave pointed out to me yesterday that Dixons have dropped the price of all their GameCube stock–both consoles and games. You can now pick up a GC and a game for a pretty amazing £99. (But only in their retail stores–not online, so it seems.) The Register picked up the story today as well. Rumour is that Dixons are dropping the GameCube from their product line. Nintendo denies this, of course. But bringing the bundle down to £99 is a very deep price cut. It’s hard to imagine that “special offerness” is all there is to it…


Alex and I did some shopping while we were in town on Wednesday. We’ve finished Ratchet and Clank for the Playstation2 (actually, we’ve finished it twice so far, and are on our third run through, trying to get hold of all the secrets and extras), and I was feeling in the mood for something new.

I was tempted by Devil May Cry, but ended up buying Maximo instead. I should have gone with my first impulse, because Maximo is severely disappointing. Level design is dull, combat is repetitive and lacks any kind of intensity or threat, and the camera does its own funky thing, mostly in order to stop you from seeing where you’re going or who you’re fighting.

I think I’ve been spoiled by Ratchet and Clank. I have got so used to being able to control the camera with the right analog stick that playing a game without this freedom to look around feels incredibly restrictive. On the other hand, I slapped on Vice City yesterday evening, and even though it has no analog camera control, it is never a problem. So maybe it is just Maximo that’s rubbish.

I stuck with Maximo for about an hour or so, but on top of the camera frustrations and annoying lack of save points, it just wasn’t entertaining me, either. That’s the real fatal flaw. If it had a more interesting story line, or if I felt involved with the characters in any way, I’d be inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt. But it doesn’t. So it gets part-exchanged next time I feel like buying something at GAME. (Or maybe I’ll list it on Trodo?)


I bought a copy of Everquest the other day. (It’s the time of year. The next instalment of “The Lord of the Rings” hits the cinema, and Martin’s thoughts turn to fantasy gaming.) First impressions: it reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon from a few months ago, the one where a doctor tells Alice: “You’ve got interface poisoning. You’ll be dead in a week.” Ick.

Sure, it’s a complex game with lots of interactions, but does all of this complexity have to be passed on to the newbie user as soon as they log in? Whatever happened to progressive disclosure? And do I really need five different mouse actions (left-click, right-click, double-left-click, alt-left-click, left-click and hold) to simply activate different features or objects? You can skin the interface (kudos to the programmers for good use of XML; nuts to the designers for making the basic UI in need of skinning), but it doesn’t make the fundamental problems go away.

Also, the game is basically four years old, and it shows. First-person games on the PC have come a long way since then. Console games, with their smooth, cartoon-like animation are almost fully mainstream now, and so the bar on prettiness is raised. I know they’re apples and oranges, but after playing the gorgeous Ratchet and Clank for a week or two, the stilted and angular first-person Everquest feels bony and cold.

But hey, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like EQ, though. Over time the interface will become transparent, and the graphics will take second place to the gameplay, which seems pretty cool so far. That’s the advantage of it being four years old: it has had time to mature, and the developers have fine-tuned it extensively.

The community seems pretty friendly, too, although I haven’t done much social interaction yet. I’ve just barely figured out how to chat to people without attacking them and being cut down instantly by their reflexes. I’ll give it time.

Grand Theft Auto III: Vice City

I haven’t got all the way through GTAIII yet, but already Vice City is looking enormously appealing. And apparently the rest of the British game-buying public thinks so, too: 300,000 units shifted in Britain alone when it was released last weekend. Amazing.

David Weinberger has some interesting things to say about the game, and the morally dubious world it allows you to enter:

“Why is it that I find the computer game BlackHawk Down reprehensible but I’m ok with Grand Theft Auto 3 (GTA3)? In BlackHawk Down, you’re a righteous American soldier fighting local warlords who are starving their own people. In GTA3, you’re a hoodlum who succeeds by randomly killing innocent pedestrians and taking their money. Also, you hijack cars, kill policemen, and blow stuff up. Why do I have my moral polarity reversed when it comes to these two games?”

Games Day

One room. Two LCD projectors, throwing 2 x 3 meter pictures against the walls. Two XBoxes. Eight controllers. Eight-way, split-screen, multiplayer Halo!

Holy cow, that rocked.

Oddly enough, Microsoft’s games division doesn’t automatically trigger my ethics reflex. I’ve never had a problem with Microsoft producing games software, because there is so much other entertainment content out there, that the chances of them obtaining a monopoly position are vanishingly small. The XBox itself concerns me a little, because there are fewer corporate adversaries in the console marketplace, and I can imagine that Microsoft’s ultimate goal is to have the it be the “default and only” gaming console. (Likewise with their new mobile phone platform.)

I guess I’m happy enough with MS being a competitor in a healthy, heterogenous marketplace, but not with them having a monopoly position, or with them flexing their muscle against a smaller number of players.

Or maybe I’m just trying to justify my desire for an XBox so I can play Halo? These are the questions that keep me awake at night…