Friday, September 14, 2007

Column for Saturday, Sept. 15

The “WOW” effect

Meet Blitzcreg. He’s a noble soul at peace with the earth mother. He also looks like a giant cow. He’s my new Tauren druid character on “World of Warcraft” and he’s almost level 17.

“WoW” is a Massively Multiplayer Online game, where players from all over the world make characters of different races and join one of two opposing teams; the Alliance or the Horde. People on the same team kill monsters and collect treasure together; people on opposing teams kill each other.

Frankly, I didn’t think much of “WoW” when I first played it. I loaded it, used it for about two days, and then had a vision of the future. I saw myself sitting in front of my computer for weeks on end, a handprint-shaped cheese-puff stain on my double extra large T-shirt.

The game went back in the box and I didn’t touch it again. Then I went to Dragon*Con. I was fascinated by how normal it was to play “WoW”; how everyone connected to it on a very casual level.

Millions of people play “WoW.” For computer gamers, it’s become the MySpace of MMOS. You can get a lot accomplished on “WoW” just by logging on for 30 minutes to an hour. It’s very easy to stay longer, if you have the time. But I get the feeling I’ll be a casual “WoW” gamer, for now. Blitzcreg will show up every once and a while, like a John Wayne with bullhorns, pop off a few spells at some Alliance scum and clip-clop off into the artificial sunset.

It’s the way it was meant to be.

“Metroid Prime 3: Corruption”

Among the franchises Nintendo has created, the “Metroid” series has stood out: Its hero is female and playing it involves massive amounts of backtracking and retracing steps. In almost every other “Metroid” game, the sense of isolation is palpable. It adds suspense in a way zombies, gore and dark lighting just can’t. It’s one thing to be fighting evil in the dark; when you’re fighting evil alone you could be doing it in a field of daisies and you’d still be on edge.

And that’s really the only gripe I have with the new “Metroid Prime 3: Corruption”; you’re not alone.

Granted, it is nice for the franchise to try something new. But there are never any moments where you feel it’s just you against the world. There are other bounty hunters, and galactic Marines. Even your own spaceship can be called in to help. The atmosphere never feels quite right.

Otherwise, this game is amazing. The graphics are excellent and the gameplay (from new weapons, Hyper Mode and evil puzzles) is one-of-a-kind. It gets five buttons out of five. End of story. Just know that if you’re a “Metroid” purist, you’ll love it, but not the way you loved the original.

— John Dietrich

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