9 days before the extended warranty ends. Ha!

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Game of the Year — not

Fallout 3 would have easily been my pick for game of the year — until I finished it.
What happened, Bethesda Softworks? Run out of money for writers and artists after filling a post-apocalyptic world full of pathos and intrigue?
There is probably 100 hours worth of stuff to do in Fallout 3, but don’t count the main story quest among them. The ending makes little sense, and doesn’t allow you to continue to explore what is otherwise an astounding experience.
I walked all over the virtual map in Fallout’s post-nuclear wasteland (the remnants of Washington, D.C., and the surrounding territory), and I found things that made my heart sink. An abandoned home with a child’s skeleton in a room full of toys. The remains of the Lincoln Memorial, with a headless statue keeping watch over the  irradiated National Mall. An audio recording of a father, hiding from deadly creatures, telling his daughter that he’s sorry he won’t be there for her as she grows up. A nuclear explosion that takes the lives of dozens of people you know (and that you had a hand in detonating).
There are little moments in Fallout 3 that make up for the over-the-top ones, like the cartoonish gore, the idiotic AI and even a crashed UFO. What can’t be overlooked, though, is a main story that comes off as an afterthought more than a unifying theme.
I’d still heartily recommend it, but it was so close to being a classic that it’s almost as tragic as the setting.
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Fun yet?

GTA IV is an amazing piece of art, but only a good game.

There was a period of about a month between the time that I first got to the final mission to the time when I finally beat the final mission. Part of that was due to the length of the mission and the gazillion things that can go wrong at any time during the course of it, forcing you to repeat it from the beginning. But the major reason it took so much time to finish is because I didn’t feel compelled to finish it.

The world of GTA IV is gorgeous. Breath taking at times. The detail and the subtleties are nothing short of brilliant. But the game could use some more "fun."

That’s one of the reasons why I’m looking forward to Saints Row 2. The first Saints Row was something like Grand Theft Auto 3.5 — it lacked the polish and some of the layered humor of the GTA games (if GTA is a "guy walks in to a bar" joke, Saints Row was more of a fart joke), but it was a really good time. A recent trailer for Saints Row 2 chastized — with tongue firmly in cheek — the world of GTA IV and promised that Saints Row 2 would bring the fun. Let’s hope they’re right. We’ll find out in October.

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Yeah, it’s that good.

Currently, life is interfering with my ability to spend more time playing Grand Theft Auto IV. I start summer break in about a week, which will help.
If you don’t have a PS3 or (preferably) an Xbox 360, go get one now and grab a copy of GTA IV — assuming you’re old enough. I’ve managed to spend about 5 or so hours on the single-player game and another 2-3 hours on multiplayer. It’s living up to the hype so far.
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Prey for Older Games

I picked up Prey last weekend, when Steam had it on sale for a ridiculously low $4.95. I wish other old titles were available like that — I’d gladly plunk down $4.95 for the convenience of downloading Deus Ex or System Shock 2.
Anyway, Prey shares the same engine as Doom 3, and it shows. Stuff that would have been jaw-droppingly gorgeous two years ago now looks a little dated. However, I’ve got to say that in every important way, Prey is the game that Doom 3 wishes it had been.
For starters, the story, while filled with sci-fi cliches (and an odd plot twist courtesy of The Matrix movies), is light-years ahead of Doom 3’s. You can argue that plot and characters aren’t that important in a first-person shooter, but it can make the difference between an experience that feels like a tech demo (Doom 3) or a real game (Prey).
Second, while there are plenty of darkened corridors in Prey, there’s a vast difference in level design over Doom 3. (The lead character in Prey actually makes fun of Doom while walking a darkened corridor, sarcastically saying that he’s "doomed.") While I wasn’t a big fan of the fake boss battles near the end of the game, I never felt like the level designers on Prey were just phoning it in.
If there’s one fundamental thing that bugs me, it’s the space station that 99% of the action takes place in. Thinking strictly in terms of efficiency and engineering, how much work can get done on a station where getting from one side of a room to another can involve a puzzling mixture of inputting codes, turning the gravity upside-down and crawling through vents? No wonder a single human manages to take the massive station down… it’s a very silly place.
Still, Prey is well worth your $4.95 if it ever goes on sale like that again.
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Insert Witch Pun Here

"The Witcher" starts off with one of the worst video-game cliches ever: you’re a really powerful dude… but you’ve lost your memory! From that not-so-fresh premise comes one of the better computer RPGs to show up in a while.

It ain’t perfect — and I’m not just talking about the bugs that cause the game to crash so dang often — but it’s got one very important thing going for it: there’s no strict "good" and "evil" alignment. Decisions you make may have far-reaching consequences, but they’re choices that can be justified in either direction. It’s more, for lack of a better phrase, life-like than all of the black-and-white, light-side or dark-side games out there.

It’s also an incredible time suck. I’m still not quite done with it and I must have piled on about 40 hours of gameplay by now. I’m not sure if I’ll immediately dive in and replay it to experience the opposite decisions I’ve made so far, but I will eventually.

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Gamer Cred

I got laid off about a month ago. I finally had a real job interview at a real company yesterday. It went really well.

How is this game related? Under my expensive and oh-so-classic Brooks Brothers suit, I wore a Doom 3 t-shirt. That’s gotta be worth some geeky gamer points to somebody.

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