It won’t get the ink of “Grand Theft Auto IV,” but if “Fallout 3” isn’t on the short list for Game of the Year, I’ll smash up my copy of the game and eat it in front of my editor. The latest title from “The Elder Scrolls” developer Bethesda Softworks reinvents the classic, post-apocalyptic PC franchise as a first-person shooter/role-playing hybrid on the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Bethesda doesn’t make bad games, and a 40- to 50-hour, single-player epic set in the radioactive ruins of our nation’s capital is too much goodness to pass up. The game begins with your birth, after which you get a crash course in the interface, playing yourself at 1, 10 and 16 before you’re forced out of the safety of the underground vault in which you’ve lived your whole life.
Free of the vault, you’ll start searching for your father in an alternate future that bears the hallmark of the best of ’30s, ’40s and ’50s pop culture and design. When the whole world’s been nuked and you have to scavenge to live, who has time to invent rock ‘n’ roll, color TV or postmodernism? That means you’ll encounter a lot of cool, Art Deco-informed graphic design, winkingly earnest postwar-style advertisements and radio stations filled with music by the Ink Spots and Bob Crosby. Amid this frozen-in-time, retrofuturist world, you’ll eke out a meager living, scavenging what food you can find, battling mutants and keeping a watchful eye on your radiation exposure.
“Fallout 3” is rated M. It costs $50 on PC and $60 on consoles.
“Rock Band 2” has real, bona fide competition starting this week, with today’s release of “Guitar Hero: World Tour” for PS3, 360, Wii and PS2. It’s got the familiar guitar/bass/drums/vocals setup, support for downloadable songs and a song-creation mode that lets you put together your own songs, so long as they don’t feature singing. Developer Red Octane has left out vocals, most likely out of fear that people would use the song-creation tool to make their own homemade versions of copyrighted material. Additionally, the game, rated T, features a new, ultra-easy difficulty level called “beginner” that should allay the fears of daunted noobs.
Expect “World Tour” to feature a ton of branding, with the likenesses of famous musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Ted Nugent and Sting making appearances. The rock shop you use to trick out your musicians should be filled with branded apparel, and the PS3 version will support in-game advertising technology similar to what’s being done in some Xbox 360 titles.
Like “Rock Band 2,” “Guitar Hero: World Tour” is available in a variety of configurations, some of them bundled with instruments. The basic game retails for $60 on the PS3 and 360 and $50 on the Wii and PS2. A bundle including the game, a guitar and a drum kit sells for $190 on 360 and PS3, $10 less on the Wii and PS2. A bundle that includes a guitar sells for $99 on all systems.
The decision as to whether to buy “Rock Band 2,” “World Tour” or both will largely come down to whose song list you prefer, and whether you intend to use the song-creation mode. An additional bullet point to consider: “Guitar Hero: World Tour” features a game mode that lets you import the Wii’s Mii avatars if you’re playing on Nintendo’s system.
If you own a PS3 and just want to sing, you can skip the plastic instruments and pick up “SingStar Vol. 2,” the latest installment in Sony’s industry-leading karaoke franchise.
Don’t forget “LittleBigPlanet,” which shouldn’t suffer saleswise from a one-week delay to remove a music track from the game that contained passages from the Quran. “LBP,” $60 and rated E, is looking like a fun, family-friendly original title with a ton of personality and craft. If anyone at Sony has taken some marketing classes, you should expect to see it packed in with PS3 consoles in a bid to boost holiday sales.
“Scene It: Box Office Smash” is the second Xbox 360 installment of the popular DVD-based movie trivia game, and it’ll give hard-core Xbox 360 geeks an early preview of the 360’s upcoming avatar overhaul. One bundle ($60) will ship with game-show-buzzer controllers. The game by itself costs $40. It’s rated T.
It’s a huge week for fans of racing, as the PS3 exclusive “MotorStorm: Pacific Rift” ($60, rated T) is joined by “SCORE: International Baja 1000,” available on the PC PS3, PS2, Wii and 360. It’s rated E and costs $20 on PC and $40 on consoles. “MotoGP 08,” also rated E, is $60 on PS3 and 360, $50 on Wii, $40 on PS2 and $30 on PC. Over on the Wii, “FIFA Soccer 09” arrives a couple of weeks later than the higher-gloss PS3 and 360 versions, but it sports the inclusive, family-friendly “All Play” mode. It’s rated E and costs $50.