PAX 2008

PAX 2008: Top Five Disappointments

John Funk | 8 Sep 2008 15:29
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2.) The Wii (Nintendo)

When the Wii launched, I was as ready as anybody to support Nintendo's plucky Little Console That Could against detractors. It represented innovation in a stagnating industry, an evolution of gaming that wasn't just prettier graphics and hi-def resolution. I played Wii Sports with my friends into the wee hours of the morning, I loved Twilight Princess ... but then that was it. Yes, the console has seen absolute gems - Mario Galaxy is unquestionably one of the best games this generation on any platform - but other than the handful of hits based on the same old Nintendo franchises ... what else is there? Rather than fostering innovation, the Wii has led to a bevy of low-budget minigame titles based around random remote-waving instead of random button-mashing (to paraphrase a certain rant-happy Brit).

There was only one Wii game I was looking forward to at PAX - Wario: Shake It! - and I never actually had time to get my hands on it. Everything else was thoroughly unimpressive: the graphics were ugly (come on guys, we've seen Metroid Prime and Mario Galaxy, we know you can do better than that!) and the gameplay gimmicky. I wanted to love the Wii, but it seems that few developers outside of Nintendo themselves are willing to put the time and effort into making a good game that uses the Wiimote as a tool to enhance an already-solid core into a unique and entertaining experience.

The potential that was there when the Wii launched is being squandered, and other than the glimpse I caught of Shake It! , there was absolutely nothing at PAX that made me want to take a closer look.


1.) Guitar Hero: World Tour (Activision, 360/PS3/PS2/Wii)

I loved Guitar Hero. When Rock Band came out, adding two new instruments for a complete multiplayer package, I ecstatically belted my lungs out and slammed the virtual skins with the rest of them. Not to be outdone, though, Activision has countered with Guitar Hero: Rock Band ... er, I'm sorry, Guitar Hero: World Tour. Sure, Rock Band might have added two new instruments and a robust career mode, but Guitar Hero offers one additional pad on the drum kit (for a total of five plus the pedal - that's one more than Rock Band's four! Wowzers!) and a clunkier, less intuitive interface.

At this point, the two battling franchises are so close to being identical that it's almost silly. Even the songs one could play on the PAX show floor were similar: attendees could be heard rockin' out to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" or "Everlong" by the Foo Fighters on both games, and those two are by no means the only overlapping tracks. Guitar Hero's return shot feels almost like an embarrassing acknowledgement of defeat, and one mere additional drum pad is hardly the leg up on the competition that it would have really needed to save face.

The interface is less intuitive than Rock Band's, with no immediately evident way to see how well (or poorly) individual instruments are performing. Other than that, they might as well be the same damn game. At this point, I wonder how much longer the industry can support two competing and otherwise identical franchises. In the end, it'll likely just come down to a battle of deeper pockets when one simply can't keep up.

I suppose the game isn't really bad, but being this much of a shameless imitator makes it hard to take the game - and consequently the franchise - seriously.

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