It was announced in January that Hellgate: London, the futuristic sequel to Diablo, would offer up some kind of hybrid pay model for its online experience. The word is out, now, and there isn’t much consensus on whether their "Elite/Free Play" tiers represent a reasonable value. At this point, I don’t know if we as potential consumers know enough about the base, boxed experience to discern if it’s enough content. It seems like every post, now, we must discuss the transformation of gaming from product into service.
Calling All Cars really is as good as one could hope, and does indeed set a standard for downloadable, pick-up-and-play content on this generation of consoles. I downloaded it the moment it was available yesterday, relieved see it appear after hours of feverish refreshing. The pace is exactly like Basketball, which I know is weird, but it’s true. You are essentially playing basketball, seizing criminals and then "dunking" them in prison. They mix it up by closing the "basket" from time to time, offering up mobile prisons instead, which will set opponents on you like jackals on a desert hare. That’s right: jackals and hares playing basketball with felons. Have I missed anything?
There are only four maps, but the maps themselves are tuned, destructible, and elaborate - they aren’t like, say, a Marble Blast map which we might consider more elemental. There’s a lot of flash and polish here, up to and including the online experience. All my games yesterday were extremely smooth. There is a concern with the lobby UI, where if the host starts a game and you are not ready, it doesn’t initiate a forced join - you simply wait there in the lobby while other people enjoy themselves. I don’t know if that’s great. I suspect it isn’t.
It will be very interesting to see what happens with this game going forward: will these maps be bolstered by additional content, and will this content be free of charge? This is the resounding question of the community. Like Resistance: Fall of Man, which is a good game in its own right but is also a kind of rhetorical bulletpoint, will Calling All Cars be enhanced with free content simply to provide the counterexample to Live’s "Pay, And Then Pay Again" mantra? I’m curious.
I was heartened to see that in Sega’s ever intensifying westward push, Condemned was back for a sequel - for both next gen platforms. I never found out how well it did, though I always seem to find individuals who are passionate about it. The melee combat could certainly have been more robust, but this was a concern more in the earlier levels where you actually the luxury of worrying about shit like that. After doldrums in or around Chapter 4 new content starts to ramp up: environments, powerful setpieces, and some of the best writing and voice acting in the medium. Seriously, it’s sharp. It’s sort of like CSI, if the C stood for Cthulhu.