Archive - May 13, 2005

Full Circle Jerk

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Memo to Microsoft and MTV: YOU ARE DUMB.

I mean, I expected you to waste my fucking time. I went in knowing, full well, that in your half-hour commercial for the XBox 360, there would be 12 minutes of other commercials, five minutes of a crappy band, and seven minutes of pointless intros and celebrity reactions. I figured six minutes tops of actual information about the first of the new consoles, tops. And maybe half of that would be useful. I thought, going in, a ten percent content, 90% filler ratio was plenty cynical enough.

I should know by now there's no such thing as "plenty cynical enough".

First, we were treated to MTV's history of video gaming. In ninety seconds. They did this by... tweaking the official timeline slightly, by which I mean removing everything from the original Super Mario Bros. to the first XBox. It was very Space Odyssey, actually. Caveman, caveman, caveman, SPACESHIP!

And then a generic hot babe in a purple dress ran up to a podium with a gray tote bag and, erm, whipped it out. At which point any dreams from the past four years or so about Microsoft's next machine not being the size of a house and weighing several tons were crushed forever under the XBox 360. Either they found a nicely-proportioned midget to lug the thing around, or it's another beast. Only this time, it's on its SIDE. Woo. That should be a great comfort to all those people out there who have not developed "two shelves, one above the other" technology. Then a 3D version of The Killers sang half of a shitty song, which the actual Killers, much to everyone's chagrin, finished.

And then, the games! Tony Hawk on a skateboard! Tiger Woods on a golf course! Cars on a road! Football players on a field! The future is here, and it's... just like the past, only shinier! And speaking of shining turds, it's time or the obligatory tie-in, as the Pimp My Ride guys pimp out an old X-Box so that it looks cool, then show us how the actual designers made the X-Box 360 look like a gray block on its side. It is here, at the halfway point, we learn our first piece of useful information - wireless controllers by default. That's all we learn, but it's something, a tiny morsel of knowledge in a vast wasteland of jump cuts. And then we learn you can put faceplates on it like a cell phone, and I feel a sharp pain in my skull.

The next segment is called "The Monster Inside". Finally, some hardware details! You know what we learned? We learned that thanks to the monster inside of the XBox 360, you can use your real money to purchase virtual designer clothes for your in-game characters. The instant I heard that, something snapped in my brain, and for the next 45 seconds, I became a Luddite, rejecting all technology and longing for a simpler time, when consoles came with charming useless features, like a low-res black and white screen built into the memory card. Or R.O.B. I guess we're overdue for a new data point on the size of gaming's Sucker Audience. "Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness" was what, two years ago?

And hey, Rare's making games for the system! And guess what? They're the same two games they were gonna make for the FIRST XBox before IT was released. They actually visited the Rare offices, a giant compound staffed, apparently, by two guys. That explains why Perfect Dark Zero took so long, but doesn't explain "Kameo: Elements of Power". The kind of circle-jerking it'd take to make a game as late as Kameo requires more than two guys.

At Rare, three professional gamers I instantly hated (despite their carefully calculated white guy black guy white girl demographic spread) learn how to play Perfect Dark Zero multiplayer. They then "return" to the big release party, where they lead two teams of celebrities in a four-on-four team deathmatch. Who wins? Who cares? But there's another five minutes in the toilet.

Somewhere in the midst of all that, we get a glimpse at a few more games. The aforementioned Kameo, now with footage! Something called "Gears of War", with a clip containing neither gears nor war. A Tom Clancy game! More cars on more roads! A guy playing basketball! Monsters! Criminals! A guy in World War II! A new Quake! OK, the last one looked pretty good.

Back to the shitty band, and out. That's it, folks. A double-handful of shinier sequels, wireless controllers, and buying nonexistent t-shirts online. That's apparently what XBox and MTV think they need to show people to get theim psyched. There's plenty of time down the road to tell us when we can get it, and how much we'll have to shell out. Don't you see? The chick wore a PURPLE DRESS.

I will, of course, strive to be even more cynical in the future, but keeping up with Moore's and Murphy's laws at the same time is a stone bitch.