Welcome to the revival of CHUD.com’s video game presence, Master
Control Program
. Since it’s an exciting [and expensive] time to be a video
game aficionado, what better time to bring back the column that almost was, a
look at all things console and handheld? That is what they call in the business
a rhetorical question.

Today’s Roundtable: Apathy? At Christmas?!?!?

Nick Nunziata (‘CHUDcom’
on XBOX LIVE and Mii ‘7629 0050 6369 6322’): It’s funny how Nintendo is keeping kids
playing with their Wii long after puberty. I nabbed one of those suckers and so
far find it to be a cute and gimmicky diversion. I can see the value in it,
especially if they find a way to get gamers doing something… ANYTHING active
but I wonder just how effective and responsive that controller is going to be
when real golf games and baseball games come along. The test of this machine is
not in its first party games as some suggest. Nintendo people will flock
regardless. It’s how this odd hybrid of remote control and Fisher Price weapon
(I flogged my face with the wire several times while trying to kick the ball in
Madden) will allow people to step a little closer to Virtual Reality [trademark
the 1980’s]. If my actual skills at baseball and golf can translate to the
video game world with the same effectiveness my lack of skills at other sports
have, it’ll be a worthy purchase.

That said, I look at this year’s holiday season of offerings and
I find it odd and sad that the stuff I’m most excited about has either already
come out [Gears of War and Rainbow Six for the 360 and Lumines II for the PSP].
The PS3 is not only a case of asinine and faux mass frenzy, it also looks like
much ado about nothing. I’ve never been as apathetic about a new console as
this, including the Jaguar. Gaming is about progress and evolution and how time
and experience molds the way we play. The XBOX is a perfect example of
sometimes painful but enriching evolution. Big, ugly box with a hideous
controller became a big ugly box with a great controller. The online experience
went from being a hindrance to a pleasure [albeit a pleasure with dumb
motherfuckers spouting racial epithets to the four winds and folks who forgot
that playing with others is about fun and not finding the easiest way to
cheat]. The 360 was still big, but beautiful. The controller was the product of
all the good from the previous model being retained but with added grace and
logic. The online experience was drastically improved and the amounts of
upgrades showcases that Microsoft is dedicated to the owners of their machine.
It’s not perfect, but it is evolving. Ninendo’s online component is balls two
weeks after launch with no browser, very little games, and news and weather
channels that only exist in name. Sony has big ideas but their launch titles
are lame and their controller’s big deal is a tilting feature that is less than
perfect and improved trigger buttons. The Dual Shock isn’t a dinosaur, but it’s
a Neanderthal. I’m stunned that they haven’t made big strides with it.

So, as I look for stuff to make it easy for loved ones to get
presents for me I gravitate to the same old stuff. Re-issues of classic games
for the handheld or puzzle games. There’s nothing really exciting other than
Gears of War and the fact we have new consoles. What gives?

Alex Riviello (Wii
Number ‘3609 2823 5748 1076’): Well, my first thought after reading this was that you were
insane. But shit, you’re right. I can’t name one huge game coming out before
Christmas that I’m really looking forward to. It’s probably because everyone
shot their load with the new systems, though. All the big games are out

The only games I’m interested in picking up are the Metal
Slug Anthology
(I need my shmups!) and Castlevania for the DS (It’s
ridiculous how much better that series is on handheld than on consoles… they
really have to drop that 3d bullshit.) Those are some old-school games though,
which goes to show you how apathetic I’ve gotten towards new games. That’s the
reason I haven’t picked up a 360 yet. That, and the fact that when I do I’ll be
able to get lots of great games on the cheap. Suckers!

Nick, forget the sports games and pick up Zelda. I’m 20
hours into that masterpiece (yes, masterpiece) and it’s just getting better and
better. The Wii’s been taking over all of my time lately, and while the
gimmicky aspect of some of the games is overpowering, for the most part it
makes everything feel like a new experience. Trauma Center for example plays
even better than it did on the DS. The system ain’t pretty, it ain’t online
(yet..), but I haven’t played a new system nearly as much as this one. It
managed to make me excited about videogames once again- and for that, it’s all
aces to me.

I don’t know anyone personally who has bought a PS3, or is
looking forward to one. I’m glad that the bubble seems to have popped with
those ridiculous ebay auctions, at least. Not sure if any of you have read about
it, but the shakeups that have recently happened with Sony’s upper management
are seriously threatening the future of their gaming division. There most
probably won’t be a PS4 now. They really fucked things up with their arrogance
and their lackluster launch- so it’s pretty amazing how they still managed to
get all the headlines with their overpriced system. This is going to be a hard
year for them.

Kurt Miller (Chud boards ‘Egg’)
(XBOX Live ‘Barnaby Fist’): As unimpressed as I am with the PS3, any declarations
of Sony’s demise are premature at best. Shortages, weak games, and technical
bugs are pretty much par for the course in console launches. Who’s to know what
the real reason for the executive shake-up was besides some severe-looking
Japanese men? And who really cares what they’re going to do with the next
generation while we’re only a few weeks into this one?

What’s odd is that we’re thinking about dinner while we’re
eating breakfast. The PS3 hit a few weeks ago and we’re speculating about the
PS4. All the holiday heavies hit in November and we’re wondering what to do
with December. Now’s the time we can stop looking to the horizon and actually
playing some games. I intend to spend the rest of the year bleeding Gears of
dry, picking apart songs in Guitar Hero 2, and maybe actually
picking up a Zelda game for that little purple box that’s covered in dust under
my television.

If you’ve already snapped up every new item on the shelf and
reduced them to smoldering heaps, then I guarantee there’s stuff you might have
passed up on earlier in the year. And now is about the time they start slashing
prices on last year’s games. Maybe
Condemned wasn’t worth $60 last year,
but I’d easily recommend it for the $20-$30 I’ve seen it selling for lately.
And if you’ve done too, then go out for a walk. Maybe write a letter to your
aunt. Or plant some jasmine. Whatever it takes to pass time until January
brings us Pat Sajak’s Lucky Letters.

Robert Cummings (CHUD
Board Jacob Singer) (XBOX Live Jacob Singer 45) Can’t say I’m really all that jazzed about this holiday season
OR the new consoles. I’m mildly interested in the Wii, just like I was mildly
interested in the Gamecube, and we all know how that turned out.
Nintendo just doesn’t make many games I like. And we’ve already beaten up the
PS3, and as I mentioned in the last Roundtable, it’s simply a non-starter for

There are a few more titles coming out that I’m (sort of)
interested in, like the new
Rainbow Six and Star Trek: Legacy
(bite me), and, like Kurt mentioned, I may go back and check out some titles
that passed under my radar over the last year or so, though those are few and
far between.
Guitar Hero II is already getting somewhat boring
(blasphemy, I know!) And there are always hidden gems on the pc front.

Jon Cassady: Right now we are in the afterglow of the largest gamer circle
jerk in the past five years. November was a huge month with its 1.25 system
launches, a few AAA titles and more online bigotry than we’ve ever seen.
Companies are now holding out until next March when Sony shows its hand,
Nintendo starts pimping out Samus and MS completes its quest to
microtransaction the hell out us.

And while Nick is right about the slow month, I can use the time
to put into Zelda, two new Final Fantasy games, Guitar Hero, Trauma Center and
eventually tearing my rotator cuff playing Wii Baseball. We also have to
remember that there are about 2-3 million people (kids) who won’t be joining
the next gen until December 25. Until then, the companies will be focusing on
getting parents to buy what they put out in November.

Speaking of parents, it seems that most parents have absolutely
no desire to buy PS3. Parents I talked to said that PS3 is way too expensive.
Of course, when I told them that a price drop wouldn’t be happening for a long
while, some seemed resigned to the fact they might have to sell out $600 to buy
their child’s love.

In terms of the new systems, the online play is suspect. How
does Super Mario Bros. not get a launch spot? Zelda was cool, but Mario Bros.
and Metroid should have been up immediately. Fuck Golden Axe. Fuck it right in
its shiny luxurious ass. However, it seems that only Xbox 360 has online close
to adequate at the moment. It shouldn’t be any surprise that Sony, whose PS2
online system was cock, is in a complete state of chaos with its online

If there is a story of December, it could be the power of the
Nintendo PR machine. Since the Wii launch, the President of Nintendo of America
has been all over the place doing interviews, from mainstream magazines, to
CNN, to network news programs. In all of these interviews he’s said all the
right things, including taking some jabs at Sony. And while we’ve all seen
Colbert’s Wii (HA), I doubt we’re going to see Leno playing with his SIXAXIS.

Looking forward, here’s what interests me for the next couple of
months. How well will MS do at Christmas? It appears quite content for the
Wii60 combo to develop. Will Sony get its shit together or will there be talk
of a price drop? It’s next to impossible for Sony to actually drop the price,
due to production costs, but I wonder how loud the commotion will get when the
real launch occurs. Finally, will Nintendo continue to support the Wii
channels? The first step is to get multiplayer online Wii games and some
multiplayer virtual console games. It will be their bread and butter.

Brian Condry (XBOX
Live and Chud Boards "Medium Dave"; Wii Friend "7547 7303 2381
1883"): In the past month, I’ve picked up 2 PS2 games (Guitar Hero 2 and
Final Fantasy XII), 2 360 games (Gears of War and Rainbow Six Vegas) and a new
console and game (Wii and Zelda). I
don’t fucking need any new shit to come out.
My bank account is already hemorrhaging.
And were I to look into the musty darkness of my entertainment center,
I’d see around 40 PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox games that still need defeating. I, for one, am hoping that nothing really
noteworthy comes out until next year.

Do we really need to pummel our wallets and senses with more
games? I know I have a short attention
span, but for the love of Cthullu, that should enough to keep me. But, as ever, I/we are looking towards the
future. Even as I run from cover to
cover in Gears of War, I’m thinking, "You know, I hope the sequel tightens
up the controls." And waiting for
Mass Effect is causing dark mysteries in my pants. It’s almost too much.

I think the end o’ year apathy is caused by the companies. Seriously, we had to have two NEW systems
release a couple days apart? Everyone’s
killer ap in a month? What happened to
letting stuff breathe? Where’s the
summer release? Movies drop their
blockbusters then; why not have our Gears then?
Then release those fun, overlooked, little games later, away from the
thunder of the big boys.

I already bought my shit.
I’m compulsive and have (had) money for it. Not everyone is like me. I’ll have friends who next year will buy
of War
when it’s $30 and I’ll run co-op with them. I’ll be passing Zelda around like candy to
buddies who buy the Wii and are stupid enough not to get the Big Z. And they’ll get
Resident Evil 4 and a
Wavebird because, goddamnit,
RE 4 is still the mutt’s nuts. I think the winter seems long and dry to us
hardcore purchasers because we just can’t wait to play the new thing. And next year, when we’ve bought all 17, AAA,
kickass new games that come out all in the same 2 weeks in November, we’ll
bitch again how bored we are and December and January just don’t have anything

Nick Nunziata: Alex, I have Zelda, Madden, and Wii
for the Wii and they all have their merit. I have always looked at the
Zelda games as RPG’s for people who don’t know what an RPG is, but as adventure
titles they’re quite good. This one looks to be fun if not aimed just a little
towards the high school set. Madden bodes to be quite good, though it’s
impossible not to feel like a wet glandshake while playing it. Funnily, I
pre-ordered a PS3 ages ago and was actually glad when they called me the day
before launch to tell me that they were five short and I was number five on
their list. I sighed in relief, knowing I wouldn’t be dropping 3DO money right
before my daughter’s fourth Christmas. Yesterday the call came. The thing was
in and I was to come pick it up.

The response should have been zeal. I’ve been a gamer since the
year the Odyssey 2 came out and have been avid all the while. For the first
time ever (not counting the Phillips CD+I and the Virtual Boy) I could care
less. I tried to figure out a reason not to sell that bitch on Ebay. I tried to
find ONE GAME for it that made sense. The only reason, and I am not kidding, I
almost decided to keep it was because I got rid of my PS2 in anticipation of
this and have some titles I love gathering dust. Also, I harbor secret hope
that this machine would abolish the slow load times on those old games.

That isn’t right. There’s no reason a person of my fantaticism
should feel this indifferent to a system from Sony. While I am an XBOX guy
first and foremost these days, it’s just odd. Brian’s comments make sense, but
I’m the belief there needs to always be an urgency to keeping the A and A+
titles coming. Just because we find a handful of ones that satiate us, there’s
always needs to be options. A lot of us know the way it feels during the lean
months when stores get virtually nothing interesting. If the pacing was more
fluid and consistent I think it wouldn’t sting, but to both have the industry
create a frenzy and then not feed that frenzy with software is horrendous.
Honestly, there’s not one mature title in the launch for either new system. The
XBOX is guilty of it too, but if folks like KOEI put out a deep strategy game
or we had some finer cuisine apart from the franchises it’d be a less bitter
pill. I think the buyer may beware should this wave of video games keep the
fire lit.

Alex Riviello: I’m not
a big fan of the glut of titles that usually comes out at the end of the year,
but one good thing about it is that you get to keep your sanity during the slow
months by picking up the games you missed on the cheap. I’ve picked up games
like Beyond Good and Evil (The
best the Xbox or PS2 is ever going to get to Zelda) and Indigo Prophecy (the
real future of point and click adventure games) for insanely cheap in the last
few months, and plan on picking up a few more classics for just as little…
which was less than 10 bucks for each.

Nick, don’t forget that the PS3 isn’t backwards compatible with
all of the PS2 games. That’s one more thing that’s keeping me from picking up
the 360 and chucking the Xbox out the door, possibly killing a small child in
the process. I’d be more happy with the Wii’s backwards compatibility (it’s
perfect) if I hadn’t already played the handful of great games on that system
to death.

As for the lack of mature games, eh, I can wait. Sure, I’m a
huge fan of horror games (go figure, right? ) and am holding out hope that the
Resident Evil kicks as much ass as it should, but I can deal
with my goofy, fruity Japanese games for the time being. Can’t believe I’m
looking forward to a Warioware game this much…

Kurt Miller: You
mentioned horror games, and I think that’s the one thing that I’ve really
missed this year in spite of the torrent of new games. I’m a little bummed that
nobody has made an honest effort to scare the pants off gamers this year. Sure,
there were action games out there with horror dressing like
F.E.A.R and Dead
, but the last game that went for all-out chills was last year’s Condemned.
Come on, no
Resident Evil or Silent Hill to bring the holiday
cheer? What about that reboot of
Alone in the Dark or the Stephen
King-iness of
Alan Wake? I guess they’ll come in good time, but I’m
surprised more developers aren’t looking to the one genre that benefits the
most from better graphics and sound. And I could just follow my own advice and
look for bargain copies of
Fatal Frame titles or Call of Cthulhu in
the meantime.

Jon Cassady: I think Nick perfectly tells the PS3 story.
Unless get your hands on one for free, is there really a point to having one
before March 2007? Between launch hardware glitches, a lack of a mature AAA
title (or an exclusive one for that matter) and a bunch of blah launch games, I
don’t see the point of dropping another $600 after dropping at least $300 on a

And looking back on what I’ve said about PS3 in the past 3
weeks, I’ve come down hard on it. But that isn’t to say that the PS3 generation
can be spectacular. It just with the investment Sony wants me to make, I want
to have some assurance I’m going to get a state of the art online play system,
full backwards compatibility and some titles that make it worth the fight with
my wife when se sees the credit card bill. There is so much potential there, I
just want to see some progress first.

Alex and Kurt, I’m surprised at the lack of horror games as the
horror genre has proven to be very bankable (as it has in the film biz). If we
get a game in from the
Grand Theft Auto mold every month, why not a
horror game every month? Its not like quality has ever stopped anyone

Robert Cummings: Just to
stay on the topic of horror for a moment, there are several
horror/action/suspense titles on the horizon. Alan Wake, as was
mentioned above, looks tantalizing. We also have Darkness and Hellgate:
, though the latter may see a pc only release. And of course, after
the stunning success and re-invigoration of the franchise that was Resident
Evil 4
, I imagine we’re all looking forward with great anticipation to its

As for the general malaise of the holiday video game season, I
have to agree that this year is somewhat of a disappointment, unless you’re a
huge Wii fan. I don’t see how the PS3 launch can be seen as anything other than
a disaster, and the 360 keeps seeing some of its most anticipated AAA titles
pushed back further and further. Hey, at least I have a lot of books on my
Christmas wish list!

Brian Condry: You
know, I hadn’t really thought about it until you guys mentioned it, but yeah,
no real horror this year. Alan Wake and
Hellgate look excellent, though.
I’ve already got most of my bile out for this round table, but I will
throw out a suggestion for those who mostly play consoles: look to the PC. I know, I know, you can’t sit in front of
your 700 inch
TV with your 18 speaker setup and hold an "easy to use" controller in
your hand, but there are some grand PC games that came out towards the end of
this year. Company of Heroes is a
FANTASTIC RTS with an incredible single player game and one hell of a
multiplayer game, too. Or the newest Dawn
of War
expansion for those who dig Space Marines. Neverwinter Nights 2 is a damn good
RPG with some really fun multiplayer to it.
And the newest (THANK THE HEAVENS!)
Sam and Max game is out with
other chapters right around the corner.
I mostly do console games myself, but every so often there comes
something PC way that I head to and those games right there are definitely
worth your gaming, and Christmas, dollar.