Time, my friends, is of the essence. These days time for anything not directly related to working, commuting, taking care of my infant son, or tending to pressing issues around the house is virtually impossible to come by. But not completely impossible, which is why I am able to populate this months Got Game with a few nuggets of gaming goodness.
Some of you may remember that my Game Of The Year was EA's sublime NHL 08. Others of you may also remember that I spend much of my gaming time on the treadmill. So it should be no surprise that for the bulk of early 2008 I have been plugging away at my season with the New Jersey Devils, relentlessly pursuing the Stanley Cup. I make sure to get at least four exercise sessions in a week, which translates into roughly 12 NHL matches. At this very day, I am up 3 games to 1 in the second round of the playoffs against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. By my calculations, I should be skating the Stanley Cup around the Prudential Center ice some time near the end of next week. After that, I am finally putting NHL 08 away for awhile, and will crank up a brand new season of MLB 2K8, which conveniently releases at exactly the same time I'll be celebrating my hockey championship. Perfect timing.
I have been spending a few late-night hours with two of last year's most acclaimed titles. After ignoring it for far too long, I have become immersed in the world of Portal, the amazingly inventive and brain-bending shooter-puzzler on The Orange Box. I have made it through the first 15 levels, and as you would expect each new level really ramps up the difficulty and frustration. To my credit, though, I have not yet resorted to walkthroughs, although I will be shocked if that doesn't change between now and the end. For example, I spent almost 2 hours (yes, you read that correctly) last night desperately trying to figure out Level 15. I finally did, but I can guarantee you that my blood pressure suffered as a result. I can't wait to get back to the next level – as any of you who have played it knows, it permeates your brain and doesn't let go. All I hear is about the amazing ending. I hope I can make it all the way through.
Lastly, I've also re-opened Call of Duty 4 this month. A few of my longtime buddies love the multiplayer, and the past couple of Friday nights I've been able to spend a few hours getting blown to smithereens by the Xbox Live community. I am consistently impressed by the beautiful visuals, superb weapon upgrades, and much-more-mature-than-Halo 3 community that populates the online world. However, I am even more entertained by the single-player campaign. While I can't begin to try and follow the so-called storyline, I just got to the wonderfully bizarre level where you are taking out ground targets from the air, looking through a satellite view and hearing very dry background chatter about your kills. It's a dramatic departure from the on-the-ground corridor killing quests, and really spices up the action.
So I am committed to wrapping up both Portal and Call of Duty 4 over the next few weeks as well as winning the Stanley Cup. Sure, I may be late to all of these parties, but they're still raging. After that, I have to choose from several still-wrapped titles as well as some other games I've played but ignored, including Burnout Paradise, BioShock, Mass Effect, and Assasin's Creed. Oh how I wish I had just a few more hours in the day!
It's kind of bizarre how the month of February seems to have crept up on me pretty quickly. Usually, after the holiday season, nothing more refreshing than a overdue videogame drought approaches, leaving me with an almost infinite (or 6 month period) amount of time to rush through that crazy yet sad thing us consumerist compulsive buyers of gamers call a backlog. But heavens no! Looks like that backlog will still have to go on the backburner, what with several great releases having come out in February. And though they are almost unanimously of the next-generation persuasion, there are one or two handheld titles to keep me busy in the mix.
Devil May Cry 4 is no stranger to my mind, since I've been anticipating its release for some two years now and conceptually imagining it's divine self before it was even announced moments after finishing Devil May Cry 3 the week it was released some time ago. But Dante's back, more or less so in the spotlight in this fourth iteration in the series. Nero is the real hero of this story, a newcomer look-alike to Dante whose a little younger, a lot more emo and sports a snazzy red crusted and bluish arm called the Devil Bringer. Using Nero's a lot of fun, even though he may be limited, it shows how much the player can mix things up on his own. Halfway through the game, you're donned with Dante, who has all of his styles and tricks from the third game ready on the fly, with an added plus of some new weapons. Game's a little too easy though (For any DMC3 vets), so hopefully Hell or Hell mode will prove to be worth some challenge.
Lost Odyssey is another title I've been looking to invest much time in. Basically, the mention alone that Sakaguchi, Uematsu, Shigematsu and Inoue are four words that should sell you on a product almost immediately. Lost Odyssey looks fantastic, no doubt thanks to all the content they've packed into four delectably presented, yet awfully packaged discs. Combat is as turn-based as it's ever been, with standard attack, skill, item and defend commands with your party set up on a cross-axis to the enemy as they do in the majority of most RPGs. The spin on gameplay has to do with Rings, which your party members can equip as sort of a timing game before striking foes. Holding the Right Trigger scopes a larger ring to slowly shrink onto the targets reticule. Managing to superimpose your own circle over theirs deals a good damage bonus, though getting it perfect to the degree offers even higher rewards. It's very pretty and surely a very long quest, especially with the Thousand Years novellas likely to be read. Hopefully Lost Odyssey will in fact not be a tale lost in the sea of 360 titles.
I couldn't say for how long, but I have been a huge WipeOut fan ever since I walked into a video store the day Wipeout XL was first released and fell in love with the fact that it had real music. Having been a big Xtreme-G fan at the time, it took a solid 10 minutes before I threw that franchise away for the Wipeout series and never looked back. Now in 2008, we're still churning out quality titles, the newest one being Pulse. Overall, I really like Pulse. Though it may not be the huge graphical leap between itself and Pure, what is really noteworthy here are all the options, the track designs and custom tourneys you can make off the fly. Don't like how Feisar or EG-X hovercars look? Then make your own. Can't stand to go through the game's pre-determined tournaments? Organize one yourself! It goes on and on and the level of depth has greatly exceeded my expectations. Granted, those who aren't truly fans of the series won't see much difference between this and past iterations, though to the real racer vets, this is the ultimate Wipeout experience. And on the go nonetheless. Oh that and the deep voice of the game's announcer is highly sophisticated and edgy. So they get bonus points for that.