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Holiday Tech Guide: Video Games

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Mike Musgrove
Washigton Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 3, 2008; 1:00 PM

Need advice on what to buy your favorite video game addict? Or someone who just bought their first console? @play columnist Mike Musgrove was online Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. ET to provide gaming gift advice for the holiday season.

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Check out his latest video game gifts in the 2008 Holiday Tech Guide.

A transcript follows.

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Mike Musgrove: Hi all - thanks for dropping by.

I've spent a little bit of time with just about every big new videogame title this season (though I've gotten to the very end of none of them).

I'd love to hear about what games you're liking or disliking -- or what games you're considering finding a spot for on your shopping list this year.

let's go...!

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Baltimore, Md.: Where can one find a Wii console this Christmas? Any chance Nintendo will ever have enough supply to meet the demand?

Mike Musgrove: Some analysts have predicted that Wiis will be in short supply for the third holiday season in a row this year.

I've seen them in ample supply whenever I go to an electronics or game store (make a couple of phone calls and you might find, as I did, that they're in stock right now).

Between the economy and the fact that this is the third holiday season where Nintendo will be trying to sell this thing, I'd be surprised if there's a shortage again this year. Anybody having a hard time finding the things?

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Fairfax, Va.: Any rumblings on potential pricebreaks for the Playstation 3 console? The going price of $399 (for 80GB version) seems out of step with other consoles.

Mike Musgrove: Great question - - I've talked to Sony recently and didn't get any pricecutting vibe.

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Buffalo, N.Y.: I own a PS2 and am considering an upgrade to an Xbox 360 or Wii. Any idea whether it's better to attempt to do a trade-in of the PS2 at gamestop before Christmas or after the holiday?

Mike Musgrove: A question on the other end of the price spectrum...

I just called a store at random & asked. The guy answering the phone said they're paying $25 for used PS2s right now --and that's for the newer "slim" model. There's not much further that can go down, and I can't think of any other reason to wait it out.

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks for taking my questions Mike. I have two for you.

1) Electronic Arts is currently trading at about 1/3 of its 52 week high. How do you thing the game industry and EA will do this holiday season?

2) I am in the market for a new gaming computer. Do you have any suggestions on vendors?

Thanks.

Mike Musgrove: I think the "blockbuster" games at the top of the list will sell about as much as ever this year. Half of game sales are to the people who actually play them, for one thing. And the gift shoppers out there might not be buying TVs so much this year, but they gotta stuff the stocking with something.

At $60, to take a typical price for a cutting-edge game, videogames still seem surprisingly expensive to me. But I've been playing Fallout 3 for something like 35 hours and I have at least that much more time ahead of me in there... so you do get a good entertainment bang for your buck.

I think this might not be a great year for titles that are interesting but sort of unkown quantities to the gamers out there - Mirrors Edge and LittleBigPlanet are pretty cool, but I imagine budget-conscious gamers might stick with what they already kinda know they're going to like. Well-known franchise stuff like the latest Call of Duty, for example, will probably perform reliably as a revenue generator for Actvision.

As for your second question, I've had positive experience with Dell as a gaming machine, but I haven't gone out and done a lot of benchmark-y comparison stuff on that front. If anybody out there has a good or bad experience to share, let's hear it !

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Washington, D.C.: Mike,

Which plastic instrument band game would you recommend? Guitar Hero World Tour or Rock Band 2? Thanks.

Mike Musgrove: This is a pretty touchy issue there among some folks... but I find them both to be pretty much the same thing.

Personally, I've been spending more time with GHWT than Rock Band 2. I was kind of tired of GH after GH3, but I'm liking World Tour. I like the controllers and I like the game's goofy aesthetic. My videogame-playing friends seem to mostly prefer Rock Band.

Really, if this is the sort of game you're hankering for, either game will scratch that itch. Folks, feel free to lob your own opinions out here...

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Columbia, Md.: I might be the only person who's interested, and you may not have played it, but I'll go ahead anyhow: How's the new Animal Crossing for the Wii?

Mike Musgrove: I can't say I know much about this franchise, but my 7-year-old stepson thought it was pretty cool for a while, then he seemed to get bored of it. Seems like i saw a lot of reviews online from Animal Crossing fans who were disappointed that there wasn't enough new stuff in the latest version.

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Reston, Va.: I'm looking for a first-person shooter for XBox or PC, and I'm considering Crysis, Far Cry 2, and Fallout 3. Any thoughts on those or any other titles I should look at?

Mike Musgrove: Gears of War 2, the latest Call of Duty. I'd rank those ahead of Crysis and Far Cry 2 (though those titles are pretty good too...). Fallout 3 is great, tho it's not exactly a first-person shooter.

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McLean, Va.: Just a reminder to potential system buyers, all systems come stock with one controller and an occasional game. If you want accessories, additional controllers, add at least $50-100 more. If you have a HD TV, invest (online vs. in the stores) for an HDMI cable. And if you do get the system for someone, offer at least one game. Nothing like spoiling the surprise on Christmas by not having a game to play.

Mike Musgrove: This is a good point, McLean, thank you for bringing this up.

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Rock Band vs. Guitar Hero WT: Both games are great, but I play Rock Band more when friends are over because it's easier to just pick up and play. Guitar Hero is more challenging. I think, tho that Rock Band is more fun.......

Mike Musgrove: Alright, here's one gamer's take on the matter...

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Wii Available: To those of you looking for Wiis......The EB Games at Pentagon City has a bunch.

Mike Musgrove: Just passing this along.

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Anonymous, please: about de Blob for Wii: How is the deBlob game on the Wii, compared to the free computer game downloaded from the Internet? Would a teenager who enjoyed the PC version (couple of years ago) now enjoy the Wii version? Or would it be too similar to make much difference? And can two people play it simultaneously?

Mike Musgrove: There are some multiplayer options in de Blob, but I think its strength is really in the solo player stuff.

If you have a Wii & want some fresh content on that sucker, that would be a title at the top of my list. (I wouldn't run out and buy a Wii for it, however.)

De blob, for those who haven't heard of this title, is a nifty game for the Wii where the object is to control these Blob-shaped guys as they roll around a drab, gray city filling it up with color.

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Texas: Will the PSP be getting any interesting first or third person shooters in the near future? It seems that developers of late have forgotten that gaming platform.

Mike Musgrove: It does seem that way. Sony has told me a time to two that there is good stuff in the works for the PSP, but that's all they'll say. So, I guess I'll believe it when I see it.

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Leesburg, Va.: On the question of Rock Band 2 or GHWT. One thing to keep in mind is that Rock Band has a huge selection of downloadable songs (around 500 now), and they put out new songs every week. Guitar Hero's downloadable library is much smaller.

Mike Musgrove: Yup, and if you had the original Rock Band, you can import those songs as well (for a relatively small fee, I believe).

I personally haven't gotten far enough along in either title where I'm shopping for downloadable content, but this is soemthign to keep in mind. I'm sure the GH people are rushing to fill the gap, but Rock Band does have a head start.

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Washington, D.C.: Could Wii system be used to exercise at home?

Mike Musgrove: Yes.

I wasn't really impressed by the "Wii Fit" balance board as an exercise device (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/24/AR2008052400036.html ), but some people have used the thing this way. I've noticed online at retailers like Walmart selling ankle or wrist weights that are being marketed for use with the Wii balance board. (I can't imagine they're any different from wrist weights that AREN'T marekted for use with the Wii.)

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Jon, Arlington, Va.: Aside from Guitar Hero/Rock Band, is there anything else worth playing on the Wii that's not made by Nintendo? I'm not part of the "Mario Generation".

Mike Musgrove: De Blob, as I mentioned before, is a title that shines on the Wii and isn't by Nintendo... after that, I'm drawing a bit of a blank.

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Arlington, Va.: I like first person shooter games, and adventure games like Fallout 3, but I have almost zero interest in multi-player online features. Given that, is Resistance 2 worth getting for it's single player campaign or are the multi-player features the real draw?

Mike Musgrove: I'm with you.

I like the singleplayer campaign ok, but I'm not sure I would buy this for the solo aspects.

I didn't get very far because had another problem with the game. The graphics are way too dark on my TV screen, and the game doesn't apprently have one of those "graphics slider" things where you can lighten up the picture. So, I could either adjust my TV for just this one game... or I could get back to a pile of other great games that didn't have this issue on my set. Looking online, it seems some other players have had this experience too.

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Fairfax, Va.: I've put in nearly 100 hrs. on Fallout 3. Nearly 150 hrs. on Call Of Duty 4. And only 20 hrs. on Assassin's Creed. Some games just have either more replay value or enough for you to do.

And if you shop frequent enough, last year, Best Buy reduced prices for a couple new games for a week or so. I got COD 4 for $42 rather than $60. The following week, I saw Assassin's Creed for that. Keep an eye out for unadvertised deals!

Mike Musgrove: Wow. You have more free time than I.

By the way, my gamer tag (on both Xbox 360 and PS3) is MikeShotgun.

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Re: Animal Crossing: I'd heard the same. There's so much opportunity for it to be a great Wii game, but apparently it's just underwhelming. I'll stick to my gamecube version. Thanks!

Mike Musgrove: Yeah, seems to be a concensus on this title.

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Arlington, Va.: Hey, I'm tired of playing Spider Solitaire and Free Cell on my laptop. Can you suggest any good video games for laptops that aren't too demanding for memory and graphics?

Also, would love to rehabilitate my old favorite Krondor for playing on XP. Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Mike Musgrove: Try Peggle, from the company that developed Beadazzled. It is some addicting stuff. It recently came out for mobile phone and I have to admit I'm kind of hooked on it all over again.

Speaking of which, is anyone underwhelmed by iPhone games? I've tried a bunch of them and they're...ok, but none of them seems to hold my interest for very long.

As for vintage games like Krondor, you might want to Google around for free, downlaodable emulation programs like DOSBox.

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McLean, Va. again: Hey Mike,

Could you (or have you) write an article about the post-purchase process of a system? I am an avid gamer so I knew enough about the way these next-gen systems work, but I can imagine many folks wouldn't know what to do with system updates/downloadable content, user accounts, Hard drive space, and all that. It can save a lot of time and make it less frustrating.

Mike Musgrove: That's a good idea... yup.

Who is this ??

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Chicago, IL: Mike:

I can't decide between Fallout 3 and Dead Space. Both have received good reviews and have a gritty edge to them. Which one would you recommend and why?

Thanks.

Mike Musgrove: That's an interesting decision to have to make.

Dead Space is pretty good but it's straight-up horror. Monsters are constantly jumping out from vents trying to scare you, that's pretty much the flavor of the whole thing. Also, it's "on rails" like a traditional action game, as opposed to being an open "sandbox" type experience like you get in Fallout.

Fallout isn't horror per so, though there's a lot of gory action in there. I prefer Fallout because I find the post-apocalyptic setting and the stories in there to be interesting. I'll probably circle back and finish Dead Space, but Fallout is grabbing most of my attention -- and that's the one I'd recommend more strongly.

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Washington, D.C.: Wii Games not made by Nintendo:

Resident Evil 4, Okami, Boom Blox, No More Heroes

Mike Musgrove: Good ones. Thank you.

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Alexandria, Va.: Re: which plastic instrument game to buy...

It's a bit of dilemma for most, as the gameplay and design of Rock Band 2 is superior to Guitar Hero:WT. RB2 has more downloadable content too, which gives the game more legs in terms of how fun it is to play as time goes on. However, GH has superior instruments. I personally bought GH:WT just for the instruments, and then went and bought a copy of the RB2 disc.

Mike Musgrove: That's pretty hardcore. I actually like the design of Guitar Hero... I find the avatars on RB to be slightly annoying to me.

I like the GH drumkit. Some folks have had sensitivity problems, but they've worked fine for me.

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Wii Games: Hey Mike

Can you recommend a good Wii game that I won't get bored with after 2 hours? I'm into shooters, Madden, Super Mario Bros, etc. Thanks!!!!

Mike Musgrove: Seems like I'm seeing a bit of this type of question. The fellow a couple of questions back made some good suggestions. Are there a bunch of Wii owners out there feeling dissatisfied by the amount (or type) of content out there?

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Anonymous: What would be a good first video game system for my six year old son?

Mike Musgrove: Well, that depends on your price comfort level.

I'll assume you want to spend not-that-much money, so I'd suggest the PlayStation 2 as your cheapest option, at $130-$150 for a system.

There's still a pretty decent amount of new stuff coming out for it and there's certainly a huge back catalog.

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Clifton, Va.Need advice on games for an iMac???

Mike Musgrove: Sorry, I'm going to have to outsource this one to the crowd. I loved playing a game called Myth on my old iMac back in the day, but that was a long time ago. I don't think any current cutting -edge games are going to work on an iMac. People who own fairly recent Macs -- the ones with Intel processors inside -- have a wider range of options to choose from. Spore, for example, the new title from the team that made The Sims.

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Detroit, Mich.: I played Doom 3 a few years ago and know that some other games were based on its "engine" (that is software programming). Are there some newer games that are based on more advanced engines and would appear novel to someone who has played this older game?

Mike Musgrove: I can't recall seeing graphics that put Doom 3 to shame in the latest crop of game titles. That game still looks fine, to my eyes. But if you want to see what the latest & greatest graphics look like, I'd suggest the latest Call of Duty game (called World at War) or Gears of War 2.

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Ashburn, Va.: What are the best Nintendo DS games for ages 6-10?

Mike Musgrove: I don't think my answer on that has changed from last year --Super Mario Bros. and Mario Kart Racing. But if you want & need to get something newer, I'd suggest Viva Pinata.

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Lack of Wii Games: i've been borderline ashamed i have the wii. beyond a few mario-based games, i've been frustrated in nintendo's lack of quality games. i also have the other two systems so multi-platform games are bought for either of the two.

Mike Musgrove: here's one.

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Wii Games: Hey Mike

Same poster asking for a game suggestion for the Wii. I use the Wii mostly for the old school nintendo games. I have yet to play a game on it that's disc based and had lots of replayability besides Wii Sports and Mariokart Wii. I'm not a fan of Smash Bros, but I did enjoy Metroid Prime on the gamecube. It seems like the Wii games are really just novelties that don't really appeal to people like me (I have all 3 systems FWIW) I think a cool game for the Wii would be some version of Starwars Rogue Squadron.....

Mike Musgrove: Just passing this along.

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Arlington, Va.: Any game suggestions for cheapos? Vigilante8 from Xbox arcade for approx $10 seems worth mentioning...

Mike Musgrove: Yeah, sounds like this might be from a friend of mine. I'm enjoying Vigilante 8 as a cheapo download from Xbox Live. A vehicular combat game that's a re-make of a game i like about a decade ago. I enjoy it, tho it didn't get rave reviews...

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Anonymous: Any idea how detailed the D.C. setting is for Fallout 3?

Mike Musgrove:

Check out this discussion on the topic...

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/posttech/2008/10/washingtons_role_in_fallout_3.html

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Dissatisfied Wii Owners: Me! Me! I am very dissatisfied with the game selection for Wii. Wish I would have thought about checking that out before I purchased. My question is why they won't release a bunch of the first generation Nintendo games (eg Super Mario Bros, ExciteBike, etc) for the Wii? I would snap that right up! I don't need the fancy games - I would prefer those types. I love the Wii Sports, tho.

Mike Musgrove: Just posting this.

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Mike Musgrove: Ok, thanks everybody for turning up to chat. That was fun. I think we're going to do this again in a couple weeks. See you then.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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