Resident Evil 4
Play It On: GameCube, PlayStation 2
Has anyone seen my bejeezus? It just got scared outta me.
The Resident Evil series has been a mainstay of the whole survival-horror genre. It’s just you and some underpowered guns against hordes of shambling zombies and well-placed genetically altered beasts. Only this time the zombies run at you, and some of the monsters are basically immortal. Hoooooly shit.
Oh, yeah. You’ve got the president’s daughter tagging along making things more difficult. (With your luck, it’s the whiny blond one, not the sharp brunette.) Who are you? You’re Leon Kennedy, secret agent/sexy male model type who’s been fighting monsters and zombies for so long now, it’s impressive you haven’t turned into one yourself yet. Maybe because you’d lose that hair-product endorsement deal.
Sure, at its core RE4 is about blasting heads off with a shotgun, just like any twitchy finger videogame. But what differentiates RE4 from games like Doom or Quake is that it’s not just a fast-paced shooting gallery. Ammo and health are extremely limited, and you must use them wisely. And you’ll often have to come up with creative ways of avoiding and killing enemies.
With current 3D graphics technology, videogame makers can translate their visions to the screen as effectively as Hollywood directors. Thus, RE4 is not only a beautiful looking (and scary) game, it’s like an interactive movie - as enjoyable to watch as it is to play. Add improved game play elements, like an over-the-shoulder view, and this intense, claustrophobic experience will outgun any movie you’ve ever seen.
If playing RE4 with a group of friends, make sure one of them is an experienced gamer. Parts of the game are sort of “gamey” and take an experienced touch. But on the whole it’s an enjoyable bone-chilling experience that provides new frights around every corner, and more jump-out-of-your-seat moments than a Wes Craven movie.
Side Note: If you want to experience the true horror of RE4, lock your door (is it still locked from the XXX action?), turn off the lights, put your headphones on and enter. If you can’t go it alone, invite some friends over and crack open a nice bottle of blood-red shiraz.
You’re asking yourself, why do I need another portable videogame machine? Well, even if you never play a single game on the Sony PlayStation Portable, or PSP, it’s worth having. Really, this is gonna become your go-to gadget (until your girl/boyfriend swipes it). But why? Movies, for one. They look amazing on the PSP’s 4.3 inch screen, which supports 16:9 widescreen and has a richness of color and crispness of image that would make Philo T. Farnsworth cry. Oh, and the MP3s. But hell, your cell phone can probably play those. Digital images are another option (for showing baby and vacation photos), and rumor has it that the American version will ship with (or soon support), web and email browsers.
But I highly recommend that you play games on it. The quality of 3D graphics on games such as Ridge Racer and FIFA Soccer 2005 are nearly on par with your PlayStation2 home console. And since the PSP sports wireless networking with Bluetooth, you can get your multiplay on with friends, without the annoying link cables.
But let’s get back to movies for a second, since that’s where the PSP should find mass appeal. The basic media format is Sony’s new proprietary UMD, which looks like a mini-CD in a cartridge. It can hold entire DVDs and games. Sony Pictures is expected to ship UMD versions of many of its movies to retail, including Spiderman 2, which will come packaged-in for North American consumers. You can also transfer movies and files via a 32MB memory stick, which can be upgraded to a full gigabyte.
The new PSP is much more than the next handheld videogame console. It could be the second coming of the Sony Walkman, the ultimate evolution for our ADD-addled society. The good news: it’s not that expensive - $250. And that comes with a bunch of accoutrements and the aforementioned Spidey flick. You might wanna pony up for two, in anticipation of the impending thievery.
Playboy: The Mansion
Publisher: Groove Games
Play It On: Xbox, PlayStation 2, PC
For a generation of young men, Playboy magazine wasn’t just some forbidden XXX rag to be smuggled into the local fort or tree house. We probably didn’t even like girls at the time. But just knowing you were looking at something you weren’t supposed to...well, that was almost more satisfying than the pictures. (“Almost” being the operative word.) And the image of grown men leading slick Bond-esque lives full of exotic cars, tasty whiskies and, most importantly, beautiful naked ladies had a rather large impact on many young minds.
Fast-forward 20 years. The realities of not living a luxurious swinging bachelor life have set in for someone living on a writer’s salary. However, I have videogames to thank for making youthful fantasy an adult reality (okay, a virtual reality). In Playboy: The Mansion, you get to be Hef, as in Hugh Hefner. As Hef, you must run not only your mansion filled with bunnies, but also the entire Playboy empire. In other words, it’s not just a party, there’s work to be done. (Isn’t there always?)
Playboy: The Mansion plays like a racier version of The Sims. It’s basically a grown-up’s sandbox filled with extravagant furniture and big-boy toys. The basic object of the game: throw a great party, have a good time and see if you can talk Miss October out of her bathing suit. Well, the top half, at least.
Of course it’s not all Champagne wishes and caviar dreams. As Hef, you have to run the magazine empire, too, down to hiring editors, photographers and everyone in between. But since most of us wouldn’t mind being in that business, it’s hardly a distraction.
Playboy: The Mansion is a balance between sexy and silly that somehow works. Every time you think things are getting sleazy, you catch yourself laughing at the whole enterprise. But make no mistake, this game isn’t for kids. Not only is there nudity, but outright sex, although the graphic level is more Cinemax territory than Spice TV.
Going to a real party with real Champagne, flesh-and-blood babes and an actual Jacuzzi will always be better than hanging with digital versions. But since none of us will ever be Hef (hell, even the Hefster isn’t himself anymore), I guess there’s nothing wrong with sitting in your boxers with a bottle of bubbly playing the game. Just lock the door.