Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 01.29.04

Hello! The snow is on the ground (it’s freezing cold, HOW SURPRISING) and I’m here. Thank God It’s Thursday indeed!

Seriously, I am a cold-weather fan, but this winter has been absolutely ridiculous. I don’t know how the rest of the country is living, but New York has been one giant icicle for the past two or so weeks. The sidewalk in front of my house is covered in ice. Why bother to clean it up when it’s just going to freeze up again?

(Note to self: You have to shovel the 10 inches of snow that rest on top of said ice in the morning.)

Will it never end?

Argh. Anyway, there’s a good amount of news today, which means there’s not a lot of time for bitching and moaning. But to give you a heads-up… next week’s Commentary is going to be a Mailbag, so if you have any thoughts, send them in! The week after that, the 12th, is going to feature a very special Commentary to commemorate one year of TGIT. A must-read if you’ve been on the bandwagon for the past 12 months.

And now… the news!

GTA News
A few new items came up in GTA Land recently, one of which is surprising, with the other being more predictable. Let’s start with the former. The group of Florida-based Haitian-Americans who have filed suit against Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive (the group will, from here on out, be affectionately known as “The Haitians”) have changed the details of their suit. It will no longer be a federal case; instead, the suit will be moved into Florida State Court.

This is actually a pretty shrewd move by the plaintiffs, as Florida’s a pretty big immigrant state, a factor which will certainly come into play here. A federal court full of white people couldn’t really see where The Haitians are coming from, whereas a Florida jury might have a few people who could relate to their plight. It seems like each week, there’s news to report that slants the tables in favor of The Haitians. That’s surprising, given the stature and resources of Take-Two. Interesting, eh?

Now, for the second bit of news. Senator and 2004 Democratic hopeful Joe Lieberman has come out and denounced GTA in front of an audience of women at Dartmouth College. Lieberman criticized the game for awarding points for violence towards women, calling the game “horrendous”. He did defend the right of game companies to provide this sort of entertainment, but felt it was unbecoming of a future era of males who may follow this lead and treat women with disrespect.

I generally like Lieberman – even when I don’t agree with the guy, at least he’s a straight shooter – and he brings a valid point to the table. But he fails to mention that Rockstar’s not saying “Beat up women! It’s fun!”. The point of GTA is to provide an experience that most of us will never get to live, and it succeeds in that area. And yes, violence towards women is definitely a part of the gangster lifestyle. I doubt Lieberman has actually played the game enough, if at all, to fully grasp this point.

D-Generation S
More details have been revealed about Nintendo’s new system du jour, Nintendo DS. As reported last week, the device will feature two screens of equal size in order to focus on two separate gameplay areas. It has now been revealed that the two screens will be placed on top of each other, creating a sort of reverse widescreen. Also, gamers have the option of using both screens together in order to have a larger view of one area.

While Nintendo and a portion of the gaming community are going bonkers over the new system, some companies aren’t so keen about working with Nintendo on it. Electronic Arts, a key publisher for any system, has publicly hesitated when asked if they will be producing any titles for the DS. However, the same company has TWELVE titles in the works for the upcoming PSP. At this point, only Namco has signed on to create games for the DS, with Konami said to be in the later stages of negotiation.

Sony fanatics will use this as proof of the superiority of the PSP, but these people need to realize that the DS was announced just one week ago. Of course it’s not going to have immediate overwhelming support, and the smart companies are the ones that consider all options before making a public declaration of confidence. Besides, direct competition with the PSP isn’t the goal of the DS – that’s what Game Boy Advance is for.

Quick Hits
Bi-Yearly Sequels For EA? Rumor coming out of Electronic Arts that sports games may be put out every two years instead of each year. Odds are good that this wouldn’t include top sellers like Madden and NBA Live, but would probably cover games like NBA Street that don’t need constant roster updates.

Microsoft #2 – Again? To go along with last week’s Quick Hit, Microsoft has again claimed that they are the #2 gaming company, this time in Europe. Shouldn’t Microsoft and Nintendo stop worrying about who’s #2 and instead consider how they could become #1?

X-Box Live Going Platinum? Microsoft already has 750,000 Live subscribers and plan to add 250,000 more before their fiscal year ends in June. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but how many people played console games online two years ago? Microsoft has this market cornered and should continue to do so in the future.

What Comes Around Goes Around… Over in Japan, PSX sales are said to be sluggish at best. 50 percent of surveyed customers claimed that they were disappointed in the PSX, which is bound to happen when you take half the system’s features out at the last minute.

Square Enix To Offer FFXI Data Recovery. User mishaps result in mass loss of saved data; Square asks affected players to e-mail their information in an attempt to recover their characters. No charge for this service now, though Square will probably add a fee once this crisis is averted.

News Reports
Alex Williams – 411MAX: News News Revolution. Kliq Reward Points will become the biggest story of 2004, mark my words. And let it be said now that Alex Williams RULES.
So don’t listen to the “hardcore” players who practically live at the arcades and only count arcade accomplishments as “true” accomplishments. If you’re able to do something in the comfort of your own home, that’s good enough. Believe me.

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Cory’s got my back on ESPN Page 3. Page 2 rules. Page 3 is excessive and unnecessary. So there.
Nintendo is planning on doing a global launch, which would be a first for Nintendo. I’m putting odds of this actually happening at 15-1.

Misha – The As-Yet-Unnamed International Tuesday News Report. Misha’s news reports are continuing to take shape and improve as the weeks progress. His Commentary this week brings up a very significant aspect of gaming – the “in spite of it all, I still love this game” game.
And it’s the same syndrome; you know it’s not good, you know there’s infinitely better stuff out there, but you still find the far-less-good to be Strangely Compelling.

Alex Lucard – Retrograding Mailbag. Every time Alex writes a column, even if it’s a mailbag, I learn something. That’s the sign of a great writer.
Because the Net fans of a particular topic are generally negative and pessimistic by nature, one can get the sense that people are in general against anything and everything.
But the people coming to that conclusion obviously spend WAY too much time online and not enough interacting with people face to face or improving their social skills.

Frederick Badlissi – The Gamer’s Conscience. Every time Fred writes a column, the entire gaming community is forced to change the way it sees video gaming. Another sign of a great writer.
In that regard, I’m beginning to wonder what the younger gamers of today are going to consider classic soundtracks. That is, are they going to revere a score from something like Final Fantasy VII in the same degree that people 7 years their senior regard the Zelda theme?
BTW: Fred’s Bad Religion reference is not just a great way to close the column, but is very much deserved. I just re-discovered Generator again after a number of years. If you haven’t checked out BR, you need to do so.

Alex Lucard – Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel (X-Box). 411’s most prolific reviewer tackles yet another game that I’m not familiar with. Sorry, man.
It’s like Smash TV. But with a plot. And levels. And giant radioactive Scorpions.

Cory Laflin – Project Gotham Racing 2 (X-Box). Another of the X-Box Holiday Giveaway games gets a review. See what Cory had to say about one of the biggest X-Box titles in recent months.
There’s no story, no plots, no weapons. Just V-8’s, V-12’s, V-6’s, 4-bangers, and Wankel rotary engines driving the rear, front, or all four wheels; in all cases JUST like God intended.

Alex Lucard – Curse: The Eye Of Isis (X-Box). Curses! (Sorry, had to throw that one in here) This is a really well-done review. So I’m giving TWO quotes from it!
It’s a cheap game for a reason folks.

Worth a rental, but decidedly not worth a purchase, the only Curse this game suffers from is the curse of Mediocrity.

The Dreamcast Feature, Which I Foolishly Forgot To Plug Last Week
To everybody on the 411 Games Staff: I’m really sorry that I forgot to plug this one last week. Seriously. I really feel terrible about it. Sorry.
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Just a quick survey of the audience, to help me with a decision I’m making. I’m strongly considering purchasing an IMac once I’ve got enough money saved for a new computer. I’ve had this Gateway Pentium III 733 since August 2000 and instead of upgrading the crap out of it, I figure I may as well go nuts and get a new system altogether. And the IMac is looking like a really strong competitor for my computer dollar.

So anybody who has an IMac or has used one fairly extensively, e-mail me with your thoughts on the system. Any responses would be totally appreciated. Thanks!

Commentary of the Week
Only one thing I could discuss this week – Super Bowl XXXVIII. Carolina vs. New England in the battle for the rights to the Vince Lombardi Trophy. It’s going to be a good one – if you can’t appreciate good defensive football, you’re not a football fan.

So who in the world could have called this matchup in September? Carolina showed some promise last year, but they were 1-15 in 2001. The Pats got crushed in Week 1 and lost just about everybody on their defense afterward. Yet here these two teams are. How do they stack up? Let’s break ’em down, Fantasy team style!

Here are two total underdog quarterback stories. Tom Brady should send 10 percent of his paycheck to Mo Lewis each week for taking out Drew Bledsoe in 2001, thereby giving Brady the starting job. To his credit, Brady never let go of the job, and Brady never let go of the team, taking it to the Super Bowl title in 2001 and to a respectable 9-7 finish in 2002. On the other hand, Jake Delhomme was the typical journeyman quarterback just four months ago. Now, he’s starting for a Super Bowl team. Who would have thought? Before you bash Delhomme, remember that the last time a journeyman started a Super Bowl, Trent Dilfer led the Ravens to a 35-7 shellacking of the Giants. Still, who would you rather have quarterbacking your team in a big name (besides Brett Favre) than Tom Brady?
Edge: New England

Running Backs
To say that the Patriots’ running game is weak is like saying The Beatles were a good band. You have two guys here in Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk who both suck enough not to assume a larget load, but are both decent enough to not let the other take the starting job from them. And then you have Mike Cloud, who actually started a game for my Fantasy team this year when Marshall Faulk went down. (Who did I drop to make room for Cloud? Mushin Muhammad.) Yes, the backs for the Pats are quite bad. Especially compared to Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster for Carolina. Davis was another RB involved in a Mr. Freeze Fantasy bungle (he and the Giants D went for Carolina’s D and Troy Hambrick. Ugh.). But he’s shown that when healthy, he’s tough to stop. The Panthers’ backs will get plenty of chances to break down the Pats’ D, and odds are good that they’ll get through for at least one score. Which is more than New England will get on the ground.
Edge: Carolina

Wide Receivers
Again, no stars on WR for New England. But they manage to get the job done with guys like Troy Brown, Deion Branch, and Bethel Johnson. Whether it’s because of Brady, Belichick, or Charlie Weis is up for debate, but they work very well together, which is all you can ask from a receiving corps. These guys might not put up huge numbers, but they’ll burn you if you let them. On the other side, Carolina’s got some name guys (Steve Smith, Muhammad) and some character guys (Ricky Proehl) who have won before. This is a very nice group who make Delhomme’s job a lot easier. Never mind that Muhammad was an afterthought for most of the season and Smith began the year as a punt returner. They’re peaking at the right time and have done something that nobody thought possible – make the Panthers’ offense a feared one.
Edge: Carolina

Defense/Special Teams
This is already being called The Defense Bowl, and with good reason – these are the two best defenses in the NFL right now. Belichick is on Buddy-Ryan-with-the-Bears level of defensive genius, and he and Romeo Crennel have done – what else – take a bunch of role players and make them into an awesome unit. Of course, they’ve got an All-Pro in Ty Law and more than solid players in Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, and Willie McGinest. All vets, but all playing the best football of their careers right now. Carolina is led by John Fox, another burgeoning defensive mind who once led a dominating defense with the Giants. Their front four is, by far, the best in the NFL, and Julius Peppers is looking like someone who will become one of the greats when all is said and done. They have good linebackers and a DB in Ricky Manning Jr. who is making a name for himself in the playoffs, big-time. On special teams, they’ve got He Hate Me returning kicks and they’ve blocked a TON of field goals and extra points, including THREE in one game against Tampa Bay earlier this year. Still, New England’s got better minds behind their defense, and so they get the nod here.
Edge: New England

So each team has gotten two of the four nods. What does this mean? Expect a close game. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s going to be a high-scoring one. Each team will break 20 points. Each team will commit two turnovers. Each team will throw for a touchdown pass. But in the end, it’s going to be New England by four points.

Predicted Score: New England 28, Carolina 24
Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady

That about wraps it up from TGIT Headquarters. Hope you enjoyed today’s column! Thanks for reading. And remember, e-mail me if you want in on the Mailbag next week. If not, that’s cool too, as long as you forward the link to this column to at least three friends. Enjoy the Super Bowl, and see you next week!