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    The Game Guy
    By Mark H. Walker

    The Writing is on the Wall

    No doubt many are girding their gaming loins for the alleged console wars; passionately debating the ultimate winner, be it Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo. Not me, folks. The war is already won. Yeah, will see some hot skirmishes, and the fighting will keep software prices down, but the victor isnít debatable. By 2003 Sony will be the last console giant standing.

    The X-box will have some strong titles, but will lack the breadth and depth of Sonyís offerings. Their effort will be crippled by poor publishing choices, which in turn can be linked to a lack of industry experience.

    On the other hand, Nintendo knows how to crank out the hits, but not the volume. The Perfect Darks of the world have proven that Nintendo knows how to publish a winner, but history shows that Sony out-publishes Nintendo by four games to one. You donít win console wars like that.

    Donít believe in Sonyís dominance? Chew on these tidbits:

    · According to PlayDate 2001, twenty-five United States retail chains were polled on potential Christmas sales. They said PlayStation 2 would be the best selling system, and Metal Gear Solid 2 the best game. Thatís from the folks who put the stuff on the shelves.

    · Cahnerís In-Stat Group reports that PlayStation 2 and PlayStation were the top selling consoles for 2000. No surprise there. What is surprising is that despite the X-Box and GameCubeís launch, In-Stat predicts that Sony will repeat the feat in 2001. Thatís impressive.

    Be Wary of Journalists Bearing Praise
    Once again, itís that time of year. Most sites and magazines will soon publish their holiday season shopping guides, and within a couple more months their ďbest of the yearĒ lists. No one wants to blow their hard-earned gaming dollar on a dog, so the lists are a welcome, but be wary of journalists bearing praise. We could be, and in fact often are, wrong.

    Face it; even the most dedicated gaming journalist canít play every game, or even every game within his or her particular genre of expertise. Hence, writers rely not only on personal experience, but reviews read, discussions with other journalists, and overall gaming buzz. Thereís nothing evil about the approach. It normally yields a shopping or ďbest ofĒ list that includes the industryís notable games. Unfortunately we can also miss obscure titles that are every bit as good as, but less well promoted than, a publisherís front-line products. So take our lists with a grain of salt.  Better still, ask your friends what theyíre playing, download a couple of demos, and talk to the kid behind the counter at EBWorld. In other words, make up your own mind.

    Tight Takes
    Operation Flashpoint. Okay, Iím a bit behind the rest of the gaming world on this one. For a few months gamers have declared Flashpoint the cure to all that ails you. And you know what? They may just be right. To borrow an ancient phrase, the game is simple to learn, but difficult to master.

    For those of you waking from a long slumber, Operation Flashpoint is a squad-based tactical shooter based in a fictional, 1985 war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The game throws the player into the shoes of a gun-toting private, squad-leading sergeant, tank commander or chopper pilot. The graphics are lush, and the battles are realistic, creative, and intense.

    But what Flashpoint does the best is throw you into a new world. You are not the focus of each battle. The fighting swells without you, tanks explode, squadmates die, and friendly forces capture objectives. Meanwhile you desperately hunt for your squad leader, try to keep up with your buddies, and take pot shots at the distant enemy. Itís like living the best chapters of a Harold Coyle military adventure. This is war --crazy, unpredictable, and frighteningóand Flashpoint portrays it brilliantly. If this isnít game of the year material, I donít know what is.

    Then again, you should be careful of journalists bearing praise.

    © Mark H. Walker, LLC 2001 Mark H. Walker is a veteran interactive entertainment journalist who has written over 40 books including his recently released Video Games Almanac and The Parentís Guide to PlayStation Games.
     



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