No, this article is not about the Summer Olympics. I will be boycotting most of the events this year in favour of quality time with my mountain bike, running shoes, running stroller, and, if raining, my Xbox 360. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the Olympics, it’s just that China is one of my least favourite countries these days for so many reasons (e.g. Tibet, Myanmar, Sudan, Tiananmen, Three-Rivers Dam, lead-based paint on toddler’s toys, wholesale environmental destruction) and I want these Games to fail, embarrass the sponsors, and prompt the International Olympic Committee to use their heads next time before awarding the Games to a repressive, totalitarian state with a human rights record that would make Idi Amin blush. The way I see it, Beijing 2008 is the modern-day equivalent to Berlin 1936.
But I digress.
For me, the only Summer games that will matter are the pixilated variety. If it rains, that is.
Summer is typically a bland season for video game releases, presumably because people are preoccupied with summer blockbuster movies and spending more time outdoors than hooked up to their gaming console. Fair enough — 2008 is still shaping up to be a huge year for gaming, blowing Hollywood out of the water with titles like Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV.
Although the biggest games will come in the fall — Gears of War 2, Final Fantasy XIII, Mercenaries 2, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Mirror’s Edge, Fable 2, Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, NHL 2009, etc. — there are a few summer games that nobody will want to miss.
If you’re an Xbox 360 owner like myself, your best bet is GTA IV because of the hundreds of hours of mindless action, and sheer variety of missions available. The best new game this summer will actually be the re-release of an old game, Vigilante 8, on Xbox Live Arcade — I was a big fan of Twisted Metal on Playstation, and Vigilante is the Xbox’s rough equivalent. If you have any Live points left after Vigilante, pick up Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords.
Other top-rated games on Gamespot (www.gamespot.com) that are worth a look include The Orange Box, Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution, and either Guitar Hero or Rock Band if you’d prefer not to be antisocial.
For PS3 owners, the biggest games so far are GTA IV and Metal Gear Solid IV, both of which got perfect scores from Gamespot. If you’re looking for something a little different, the puzzle game Echochrome is getting rave reviews, while the multiplayer game Warhawk is available for download with a lot of new upgrades.
Wii’s biggest summer game, if you’ve finished Super Mario Galaxy, could be Skate It — if you’ve purchased the Wii Balance Board and didn’t break your TV playing Super Smash Bros. Other than that there’s not much in the way of exclusives to brag about, but Lego Batman looks pretty good, and Wii Fit is probably a better way to waste time than the majority of other console games. Also, Nintendo recently confirmed an attachment for their Wiimote controller that allows it to mimic your arm movement exactly, and that will be featured in upcoming games like Wii Music and Sports Resort.
For PC gamers, especially the World of Warcraft kind, the next big release will be the Wrath of the Lich King for WOW, followed by Command and Conquer Red Alert 3, and hopefully Diablo 3 in short order. All three titles will likely be available on Macs as well as PCs. The recent additions of Crysis and Team Fortress 2 proved that PC gaming is just as viable today as it ever was — Microsoft Vista will even support an Xbox 360 controller, as well as various exclusive 360 titles.
Here’s a short list of websites you can visit for news, reviews and previews: www.gamespot.com, www.ign.com, www.joystiq.com, and www.gamasutra.com. PC gamers might also want to visit www.gametap.com, a website where you can download free games and purchase other games at a discount.
Apple iPhone selling well
Despite concerns about pricing, the Apple iPhone is selling extremely well in Canada. At the official launch last week, Apple fans lined up overnight to be the first to own the iPhone and within days the launch shipment was sold out. Exact figures were not announced but it’s believed to be in the tens of thousands.
Responding to demand, Rogers Communications — the only carrier in Canada to offer the iPhone — is bringing tens of thousands more iPhones to Canada this week to meet the demand. Rogers also confirmed that it was the best-selling weekend for a phone in the company’s history.
The new iPhone 3G sells for $199 for the 8 GB model and $299 for the 16 GB. While the purchase price is low, buyers also have to commit to a three-year plan with Rogers with the most basic plan starting at $30 a month. The good news for buyers is that it appears that Rogers caved into consumer outrage over pricing that was sometimes double what American carriers charge, and cut their rates substantially. Original plans ranged from $60 to $115 a month.