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Reaching out.

So I’ve been playing some Halo: Reach. Strange, I know.

Anyway, there’s this area where a bunch of civilians are defending a small area from a flood (no pun intended) of Covenant. I was looking for a place to snipe from and I noticed a path. I followed the path for a while, and then my AI partner noted that we had abandoned the civilians and they were all dead.

There was no consequence as far as finishing the game was concerned. I could just have kept walking merrily down that path, not worrying about those dead civilians who aren’t really real and who are going to die a digital death anyway because we know this game ends with the destruction of pretty much everything on the planet Reach.

But guess what — I reloaded my game, went back to a save point before I abandoned the civilians, and I saved their lives. I really have no idea why. A sense of completion, maybe. It says something about either me (pathetic) or the game (pretty darn swell) that I even gave this a second thought.

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Now THIS is a demo.

The Just Cause 2 demo is roughly 30 minutes of a Michael Bay wet dream. Remember the Robot Chicken bit? Somebody went and made a video game of that.

It’s unlike the Alien vs. Predator demo in the two ways that are the most important: it’s fun, and it makes you want to buy the real game. In fact, this wasn’t even on my radar screen and it’s rocketed all the way up to a confirmed buy.

Download it and give it a try — it’s on Steam, XBox Live and that black gaming system’s network, too.

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My In-Depth Review of the Alien vs. Predator Demo

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Digital mana.

There have historically been some major disadvantages with the distribution of game software via download. You have no physical discs, so you’ve got nothing to sell when you’re done with the game. It takes a while to download gigabytes of data. And the biggest disadvantage has been that the downloadable software costs the same price as the physical boxed stuff you can get at a store.

That last one is a doozy. If the middle man has been cut out, and the company that makes/distributes the software doesn’t incur the cost of creating a physical something, why does it cost the same? I understand that companies don’t want to alienate their B&M distributors or cannibalize their physical software channel, but the price thing has been a bit of a dealbreaker.

Steam may have figured this out. They’ve been offering deals this holiday season on downloadable software that have been amazing. I have to admit to being suckered in to buying a couple of games that I wouldn’t have otherwise picked up — Indigo Prophecy, Ghostbusters, Borderlands and Crysis Warhead to name a few.

I don’t know if things will go back to normal after the holiday season, but I don’t see how they can. The deals have been so good, there’s a danger that they may become the new norm. And when I say danger, I mean for the software companies and Steam — not for gamers. For gamers, this is pure win.

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Lumbering never felt so good

As a long-time gamer, I’ve found some franchises that have consistently delivered (N.O.L.F., Freespace, Civ, GTA III+), some with flashes of brilliance punctuated by WTF (Doom, Wing Commander, Deus Ex), and some that I could never quite get in to (C&C, any MMORPG).

And then there are some that will always hold a special place in my heart, no matter how much wrong they do. Mechwarrior would be the shining example.

I’ve never been into the mythology. I don’t know anything about the Inner Sphere, the clans, the politics, the skirmishes, the intrigue — I never gave a damn. I just wanted to pilot a giant robot and blow stuff up. Mechwarrior delivers that ever time.

So I’m beyond psyched that the franchise is set to be reborn with a brand new game. Someone get me a link to a pre-order.

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R.I.P. — Duke Nukem

I’ve got fond memories of Duke Nukem 3D. The multiplayer was a thing of beauty — especially the Remote Taunting System. Basically, you could record your own sound files and share them with your buddies… then, when you kill them, you hit a key on your keyboard and you both hear the pre-recorded taunt. I made packs of taunts from "Full Metal Jacket" and "Aliens" that never got old.

There was no in-game voice chat in those days, so messages were sent via text. Since I could type about 100 times faster than any of my buddies, I’d engage them in a conversation and then kill them while they were hunting-and-pecking on the keyboard to respond. That, too, never got old.

The sequel to Duke Nukem 3D was announced in 1997, and has been due every year since. Something always went wrong with the production, and to this date it has never seen the light of day. And now it may not. The publisher of the game, 3D Realms, has gone out of business. I’m hoping that another company will pick up the assets and finish the game, but I may just have to get used to a world in which there will be no more Duke.

There’s a site that brilliantly lays out the history of what I’m talking about, and offers this poignant nugget: it took less time for the Beatles to form, release all of their albums, and break up than 3D Realms was working on the Duke sequel.

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