Nick's Gaming Blog

Bargain Bin Column

Bargain Bin Column (Director’s Cut)

If I asked you to come up with several prominent sectors of the economy disrupted by the recession, you’d probably list off the housing market, the auto industry and the Wall Street meltdown. However, I would also go out on a limb to suggest that the electronics industry/video games weren’t anywhere to be found on this proverbial list of yours. Yet it doesn’t take much research to discover that not all’s well in the world of portly plumbers and princesses. Perhaps the most mainstream example comes in the form of Circuit City’s filing of Chapter 7 bankruptcy no more than two weeks ago. As much as many of us thought of the institution as Best Buy’s little brother that harbored a severe inferiority complex, one cannot help but worry that perhaps Best Buy has a little less of an incentive to provide deals, with its main competitor out of that way and all.

But that’s not all. Microsoft recently laid off 1,400 individuals in its Entertainment and Devices division and EA handed 1,000 of its employees pink slips and closed their in-house studio Black Box (responsible for the recent Need For Speed: Underground, along with other recent series entries). It also appears that “the house that Madden built” is suffering a “curse” of its own, as it also reported a $310 million dollar loss in the previous business quarter, its rivals Activision and THQ hardly faring any better at $108 million and $115 million dollar losses, respectively. This is still a preferable alternative to several of the smaller independent development studios like Factor 5 (of Rogue Squadron fame) and Free Radical (Timesplitters series) that have been forced to shut down outright. With frugality being an understandably prominent theme of the times, I figured I’d utilize the remainder of this article’s space to assist my fellow gamer in listing several affordable alternatives to the 50-60 dollar price tag of recent releases for consoles.

First off are multiplatform (for both PS3 and Xbox 360…and sometimes for Wii) titles. Many gamers are aching to get their hands on EA’s pants-wetting masterpiece Dead Space, which I reviewed back in October. Problem is, despite above average sales and stellar reviews, Dead Space has refused to “undock” from its launch price. Instead, I’d advise those seeking a moody and atmospheric shooter with amazing visuals and an equally stellar plot to remove their gaze from the stars above and place it firmly on the watery depths below…of Bioshock. This masterpiece of art deco and H20 is only $30 dollars on the Xbox 360, while the more recently released PS3 port is still hovering around $40.

Now, if you still want a great “narrative FPS” with a little bit of everything on the side, and a multiplayer option to boot, one could not do better than The Orange Box. Just what is inside the box? Calm down, Brad Pitt, only Half Life 2, Half Life 2: Episode 1, Half Life 2: Episode 2, the multiplayer extravaganza Team Fortress 2, and the freakishly frustrating puzzles of Portal. Considering that the assorted contents would have cost at least upwards of a hundred dollars bought separately, the meager price of an Andrew Jackson is more than reasonable. Sharing the 20 dollar price tag and an affinity for all things C4-able is EA’s Battlefield: Bad Company, a place-holder for the two most recent Call of Duty titles that more than holds its own against Activision’s flagship franchise. Imagine a more sandbox-style CoD with an emphasis on vehicles of all sorts where 92% (actual statistic) of the game can be exploded, for a third of the price. Throw in witty banter, a genuine sense of camaraderie with your three squad mates in Bad Company, and some of the best visuals found in an FPS, and Call of Duty might find itself being served walking papers as the king of military FPSs. Oh, and it also serves as an affordable upgrade (contradiction, it is not) to the flagrantly overpriced Mercenaries 2.

RPG junkies afraid that they’ll have to wait for a post-apocalyptic future before Fallout 3, Fable 2, or Valkyria Chronicles (the PS3’s only claim to RPG-dom) slash their prices have viable alternatives as well. 360 owners can find sci-fi solace in Bioware’s action RPG masterpiece, Mass Effect, which is only twenty. Those in the mood for a more Japanese style RPG with gravity defying hairstyles and turn based combat would do well to pick up Lost Odyssey for the 360, only thirty dollars. PS3 fans would be advised to dust off the PS3’s RPG-laden older brother, the PS2, unless you happen to have one of the few backwards-compatible models. Persona 3 and 4 and the recently released Kingdom Hearts: Re Chain of Memories are excellent, budget-price RPGs, and for those still holding out on the current generation of consoles, are an excellent way to get a little more mileage out of Sony’s nine year old system.

For Wii owners, admittedly, it is hard to find quality titles, let alone reasonably priced ones. Throw in the fact that Wii games launch price is ten dollars lower than the other consoles, and there’s even less of an incentive to lower prices. Nonetheless, I picked my brain and have three affordable Wii titles to recommend. For starters, if you never played Resident Evil 4 on the PS2 or Gamecube, the Wii version is easily the best of the three. Sporting slightly touched up visuals, all of the bonus content from the PC, PS2, and Gamecube versions, and an unparalleled control scheme, those looking for an eerie, action-packed romp through the Spanish countryside could not do better. Zelda fans should find a comparable adventure in Okami, Capcom’s tale of Amaterasu, the sun god of Japanese mythology. Its visuals resemble traditional Japanese artwork, and, again, the decent control scheme on the PS2 has been much improved on the Wii. Finally, those looking to take advantage of the Wii Zapper should find House of the Dead 3 and 4 a splendid throwback to those arcade days of old.

Of course, this is a very cursory list, and those who are really, really set on a title, and have the patience to wait a few more months, should probably do exactly that. This list is moreso for those looking to try something new, or simply are waiting for an affordable “fix” until Resident Evil 5, like myself. In addition, if anyone desires more advice on games to purchase, feel free to send me an e-mail at nicholasbwhite@gmail.com.

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