Backlog: Game Over

Backlog - 1UPUGOGS Closures As was reported by several outlets this week, long-running brands 1UP, UGO and GameSpy are expected to be shuttered by their parent brand Ziff Davis in an effort to maintain IGN's inexplicably profitable coverage of the gaming and entertainment industries.

The closure of 1UP in particular is a sad, second sting from Ziff Davis, which originally started 1UP.com in the early 2000s as a companion to its larger gaming publication family (which once included a Silicon Sasquatch childhood reading staple, Electronic Gaming Monthly) before selling it to UGO in 2009.

NewsCorp recently sold the UGO/IGN entertainment package to Ziff Davis (technically j2 Global) this January, but it seems that the only affordable option was to put down three well-known websites.

We expect that Rupert Murdoch's slimy fingers will clutch a few million dollars more as a result of this deal -- if only to help his quest to force-feed racial insensitivity and political lunacy to scared white people worldwide.

In all seriousness: Our entire staff extends sincere condolences to all the writers, editors, designers and more who are now out of work in the wake of this restructuring.

It's going to be a crowded job market for gaming journalists over the next few months, that much is certain. Best of luck to everyone.

Now: onto the 'log. It's just Nick and Tyler this week, all mano-a-mano. It's kind of adorable.

Enjoy their contributions after the break! -- Aaron Thayer

You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain

Nick

This has been an uneventful week for me in gaming, so I'll keep it brief with a few highlights:

  • I finished Assassin’s Creed III. Good riddance. That’s twenty-eight hours squandered on the most misguided and bloated open-world game I’ve ever played -- and this is coming from someone with the dubious honor of having S-ranked the original Just Cause. I’d hoped the game would manage to redeem itself over time with a robust naval combat feature -- not so much -- or at least a satisfying conclusion to the massive storyline wrought over the duration of the five-game-long trilogy (still trying to figure that one out). Unfortunately, the final act sees both Connor’s and Desmond’s narratives fizzling out abruptly and with very little thematic consistency. Straight up, this is the worst game I’ve completed in years.
  • I’m creeping up into the back half of the insanely deep Persona 4 Golden. I don’t really feel comfortable sharing how many hours I’ve logged into this weird and wonderful little RPG, but I’m still having the time of my life with it.
  • This will be the weekend where I finally get deep into Virtue’s Last Reward. For serious.

In space...only your bros can hear you scream

Tyler

I'm still processing all the information from Sony's PlayStation 4 info-dump in New York on Wednesday, so I'll save discussing that for another time. Nevertheless, I am excited to discover if they can follow-through on what they promised during the presentation. This seems to be a much different Sony than the one that showed off the PS3 monolith and silver-batarang controller eight years ago.

This week I returned to walk another mile in the space-zombie stomping boots of Isaac Clarke with Dead Space 3. The original title made a similar impression on me as the first Mass Effect had. Normally I enjoy science fiction, but with games I need a heavy level of immersion and a good reason to become invested in these mythical futures, at least more so than from other media.

I rather disliked Dead Space 1 at first. I had already played Gears of War and it felt like another new franchise trying to repeat the success of Resident Evil 4 (a game I hold in very high esteem). The idea of marching around killing space zombies as a wannabe-Gordon Freeman on the ship from Event Horizon held little appeal. Not to mention I scoffed at the idea of a game trying to break me of my raw instinct when given a gun and a reticule, i.e.: shoot for the head. I kept at it though, and eventually became completely engrossed by the USG Ishimura and the cult of Unitology.

Dead Space 2 evoked a different reaction in me. Fellow Sasquatcher, Nick, praised the game endlessly. I didn't get a chance to play it until after our Top 10 Games of the Year for 2011 were published. (Ed. Note: Dead Space 2 took the ninth spot.) While I wouldn't make a case to move it off our list, I don't quite hold it in the same regards that he does. What I missed from the sequel was what made Dead Space appealing to me. Developer Visceral did a great job of allowing players to explore more of the Dead Space universe but I missed playing as an everyman in a horrible situation. Forcing players to return to Isaac Clarke and learn more about him and how the events of DS1 effected him reduced his appeal. Not to mention the fact that as a necromorph veteran Clarke gave an aura of reduced tension; no longer were scares shared with the player but they were an excuse for the story to reveal the psychosis he experienced from his contact with the marker. I don't need Dead Space to be a hard-line horror title, but the more I learn about its mysteries the less I care.

I will give credit where it's due, however. In Dead Space 3 Visceral has made a more playable game. Dead Space 2 controlled better than its predecessor and was an overall more enjoyable experience, so I stopped lamenting what the sequel had thrown away and instead respected what it added. I'm approaching Dead Space 3 in a similar fashion. The biggest worry series fans had prior to release was the addition of cooperative gameplay and how that would impact playing the game alone. It can be a hard ball to juggle: keeping the campaign identical either makes it too easy in co-op or too hard to solo; at best, adding an AI companion slightly reduces tension -- at worst it forces the player to babysit. There are also story implications to consider as to whether or not the player is alone. See the Halo franchise for how awkward continuity seems when there are four Master Chiefs. So far the presence of co-op as a feature is barely noticeable. Clarke was frequently running into other living humans in DS2, and as such it's not much of a stretch. Also the difficulty seems largely unchanged.

Another major addition is weapon crafting. Weapons are now murderous Legos that Clarke can snap together to create combination weapons. To keep things interesting the player can carry only two weapons instead of the previous maximum of four. This can be a boon in some situations, but easily forgettable most of the time. Along with universal ammo, my playstyle remains largely unchanged. For instance, the Plasma Cutter: all-day, everyday.

Thus far the only alteration to Dead Space that has frustrated me is the lack of save points. DS3 saves progress exclusively through checkpoints and saving and quitting the game only saves what's in Clarke's inventory. Checkpoints aren't always very noticeable and are sometimes far apart, which make quitting the game a risky gambit.

Dead Space 3 still scratches a nice itch for me, although it may be more Aliens than Alien. Yet the universe Visceral has crafted still captures my attention, even if the mystery is mostly gone.