Sat, Apr 23, 2011 | 21:31 BST
The Weekly Wrap – Skyrim, Portal 2 backlash, PSN Outage
You are cordially invited to discuss the week’s happenings. If you refuse, we’ll spoil Portal 2. GlaDOS kills Dumbledore. You’ve been warned.
What happened: Bethesda brought out its big guns, leaving Utah a smoking crater of sheer want with heavy hitters like Prey 2, Brink, RAGE, and – of course – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. We’re going to bed now. Wake us when it’s November.
What it means: Argh, it’s too early. Oh, right. We still have to do this whole “writing” thing. Anyway, this may sound like a PSA from Captain Obvious, but Skyrim’s looking pretty darn incredible. While not exactly an earth-shattering observation at first glance, it’s worth noting because the game’s hardly playing it safe. New additions like dyanmic questing and a leveling system that essentially lacks a cap could easily turn the game into a dragon-sized dud, but Bethesda’s RPG savvy has been on full display so far. Granted, that’s no reason to give your inner skeptic the rest of the year off. Need we remind you of Oblivion’s enemy leveling system? Or horse armor? Bethesda’s far from perfect. Even so, those particularly ugly face-plants came as a result of attempts to push the genre forward, and so long as that’s Bethesda’s goal, we’ll respect the hell out of them.
What happened: Portal 2 launched to the sort of rave reviews typically reserved for, well, other Valve games, and everything was pretty much peachy. Then – oh horror of horrors – some poor soul was ambushed by a vile console prompt in the game’s PC version. You know what that means, right? Sensible acknowledgment of a tiny boo-boo followed by continued enjoyment of an excellent game? Haha, no. The answer we’re looking for is war.
What it means: For Portal 2 itself? Almost nothing. The PC version’s definitely not a port – merely the victim of a last-minute update snafu. Those complaining about length, meanwhile, are fleet-footed speed runners at best and bold-faced liars at worst. The store and ARG, however, do merit some real discussion, but not as points in someone’s entitlement-ridden “why Valve wronged me personally and deserves death, or – worse – my incessant whining” speech. In both cases, players are/were required to do nothing. Our question: since when did options become a bad thing? If they somehow made Portal 2 a lesser product, that’d be one thing. But the game released on-time and complete. Yes, there’s a fine line between options and potential exploitation, but Valve hasn’t crossed it yet. So get off your high-horse-mounted soapboxes, people. Preferably by falling face- first.
What happened: Believe it or not, a day in the Activision offices doesn’t merely involve pressing the giant red “MAKE CALL OF DUTY” button and gathering around the money printing machine until you’ve pocketed enough to fuel up your private jet and head home. As such, the mega-publisher asked itself a very big question: Is Call of Duty on a collision course with the same iceberg that sank Guitar Hero?
What it means: Activision’s analysis of the situation was fairly thorough, but we’re not so sure about its conclusion. Yes, Call of Duty’s shown tremendous staying power in a time-tested genre – accomplishments of which Guitar Hero could never boast – but that doesn’t mean “build our entire strategy around pumping out a million of ‘em” is the right option. Annual sequels are one thing, but numerous spin-offs and services reek of over-reliance. Also, the gaming industry’s in a tremendous transition period right now. Certainly, “put your best foot forward” is a good policy when dealing with new business models and whatnot – but only up to a point. If that interferes with your ability to experiment and think outside the box, it might be time to approach things from a different angle. Activision, however, seems to be building its walls ever higher while the rest of the industry rapidly expands its borders.
What happened: Please hurry up and make that official announcement (which is itself only a rumor) soon, Nintendo. We’re really tired of trying to make sense of a veritable flood of “leaks.” This week’s batch: It’s called Project Cafe, or maybe Stream. It’ll cost between $350 and $400 to manufacture. And look, grainy pictures! You love those, right?
What it means: Someone, please give us some concrete information! Until then, we’re going on a hunger strik– God, we’re hungry. This isn’t working. Well, it’s sounding like the Streaming Cafe Project (which sounds like a bad indie pop group) is shooting for a late 2011 or early 2012 launch. Coupled with multiple reports that Sony and Microsoft plan to tread technological water until 2014, Nintendo could have its own mini-generation all to itself. Who knows, though? Plans can change. We want concrete details, damn it, and we won’t eat until– hey, a brownie!
What happened: The universe conspired against PS3 owners to knock out their trusty online service just as Portal 2 and Mortal Kombat dropped – amidst a holiday weekend, no less. Sony admitted today that the outage is a result of hacking.
What it means: Even if some Anonymous off-shoot is responsible, some transparency is better than letting everyone’s imaginations run wild, and Sony stayed quiet on this for far too long. Frankly, the whole situation is a mess, and we’ll be quite interested in seeing how Sony apologizes for it. PSN is still down, and has been since Wednesday. More than 75 million PSN accounts are registered worldwide, and the service holds millions of addresses and credit card details. That it can be brought to its knees by hackers will raise serious questions in the coming week, and silence won’t be one of Sony’s options.