My favourite thing about games last month was when David Jaffe answered a question by admitting he had no idea what "remuneration" meant. Laugh all you want - his soul is fundamentally purer than ours. Yours and mine. We never admit when we're wrong. Apart from that time I did. So really it's just you. What's your problem?
Of course there are lots of way to answer questions. You can toe whatever line you've been given, like Sony executives. You can say every single thing that comes into your head until the interviewer interrupts you to ask about Japan again because otherwise there won't be any good bits to write news about, like Microsoft executives. You can refuse to be interviewed by everyone except newspapers, like Nintendo executives. Or you can be honest and hope it works out, like Eurogamer Hero Keith Chegwin.
The best policy though is not to leave yourself exposed in the first place. Subscribe to Dictionary.com's Word Of The Day and write down all the ones you don't know. Buy Fowler's Modern English. Put clothes on. The alternative, and it's barely worth contemplating, is giving up completely and just hoping. Which brings us to some of this week's exciting new releases, like "EyeToy: Play Astro Zoo" and "Buzz! Junior: Monster Rumble". Are these not just the same things we have had before with random words assigned to them? Look further and you realise everyone's doing it. "Avatar: Burning Earth". "Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror". "Imagine: Babies". "What's New? (2nd Nov, 2007)". There are no lines any more.
There are fourteen marks of punctuation in modern English. Can you name them all? Of course you can - you're sitting in front of a keyboard. This is called preparation. It helps. It makes a difference. Getting to the end of four years of drawing pictures of dropships and writing "Space Attack: Cobra - The Unicorn Incident" is the opposite. Like buying a sofa for £700 and then discovering it doesn't fit in your flat, and offering the delivery men 25 quid to knock the doorframe out, only to discover they're not cowboys. Hoping is not enough! So from now until next week, What's New will be awarding STARS OF MERIT to games which have sensible, inoffensive titles. Or use excellent made-up words. Recipients today:
Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War - "Bladestorm" is the sort of word that What's New admires, and not just because it will stop Michael Bay making a film about flying swords. But the correct use of the apostrophe - even on the box - is critically important. Last time people got this wrong was "Two Weeks [sic] Notice", and that inspired Lynne Truss to write that book everyone gave you for Christmas, and, as a cultural event worthy of filling newspaper columns, deprived at least a dozen Observer journalists of time they could have spent injecting cod psychology into vapid fawning profiles of unknown comedians. For all this and more, as they say in the GamesIndustry.biz style guide, KOEI is our heroes.
Hellgate: London - London may not be as glamorous as it was before Ellie got burgled twice in a week and I got beaten up by a crackhead, but Hellgate is particularly meritorious on the grounds that it's the first game in the history of games to demand absolutely no suspension of disbelief whatsoever. In fact, it's a formula that's virtually indestructible. Hellgate: Los Angeles. Hellgate: Paris. Hellgate: Plymouth. It all works. And when it stops working, minute adjustment will sustain the concept without diluting the brand. Gungate: Manchester. Can'tgetataxigate: Berlin. Foodpoisoninggate: Western Road, Brighton. Closethegate: Gran's House.
TimeShift - Just, TimeShift. Say it to yourself a few times out loud. TimeShift. Time Shift. TiiiimeShift. It may be a fairly generic FEAR clone with a Half-Life 2 complex. It may have enemies who don't react when you shoot them in the chest with a shotgun. It may be a lot of things without really being a thing. But it's the sort of name that embodies everything that has ever been good about rubbish computer game names: 1) It's completely meaningless. Has someone paused Sky Plus? Is the radio clock on the fritz? Is it when you close your eyes on the motorway and wake up in someone's front room? In a car? Nobody knows! 2) It completely fails to convey what the game is about. TimeShift is a first-person action game in which you can use slow motion, pausing and rewinding to make shooting-people-until-they-notice-you easier. And let us not forget point 3) It's due out at the end of the week the clocks go back. Which is so good it probably puts marketing people out of a job. And if that's not something we can celebrate, What's New has taught you nothing, and will never attempt to do so again. If that.
For every tip of the hat though, there is a wag of the finger, and for every upsurge in relevance, there is a struggling denouement, which is why I have saved the very worst for last. "The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night". Which is it? You have to make a choice. Is it The Legend of Spyro? Is it The Eternal Night? Somewhere, in the depths of Sierra, a war is being waged. The words of generic, indistinct brand extension on one side; the words of generic, indistinct brand extension on the other. The people fighting this war are to the written word as bears are when it comes to honey-pots: fictional, and stupid. Their differences are, apparently, many, despite being none, and if that's not a metaphor for the decision that lies ahead of you in your favourite dingy games shop tonight on the way home, it is at least a vacuous platitude, of questionable merit, flung lazily at the end of a useless column about nothing, at the end of a week of failure. John, welcome back to my pain. And happy 30th birthday.
- Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties (PC)
- Avatar: The Burning Earth (Xbox 360)
- Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War (PS3, Xbox 360)
- Buzz! Junior: Monster Rumble (PS2)
- Championship Manager 2008 (PC)
- Chessmaster: Grandmaster Edition (PC)
- Chessmaster: The Art of Learning (DS)
- Clever Kids: Dino Land (DS)
- Clever Kids: Pony World (DS)
- EyeToy: Play Astro Zoo (PS2)
- FIFA Manager 08 (PC)
- Hellgate: London (PC)
- Imagine: Babies (DS)
- Naruto: Rise of a Ninja (Xbox 360)
- Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes (PSP)
- NBA 2K8 (Xbox 360)
- NHL 2K8 (Xbox 360, PS3, PS2)
- Operation Vietnam (DS)
- Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror (PS2)
- Tabula Rasa (PC)
- Telly Addicts (DS)
- The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night (PS2, DS, GBA)
- The Simpsons Game (Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, DS)
- The Sims 2: Castaway (PSP)
- TimeShift (PC, Xbox 360)
- Tony Hawk's Proving Ground (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, DS)
- Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (DS)