Monday, March 28, 2011

PlayStation Rewards Delayed, Beta Ending March 31

PlayStation Rewards, Sony's crazy program that went into closed beta last year that tries to reward gamers for "doing what you love" (like spending money), is being delayed beyond its planned April launch.

Sony emailed PlayStation Rewards beta users today (myself included) to thank them for their participation in the beta, which is ending on March 31, and let them know they'll be getting a free t-shirt mailed to them.

Personally, I thought the program had a lot of potential, but didn't capitalize on it. It was just a little too transparent about encouraging me to engage in marketing ploys and spend more money rather than playing the games I already own. And while getting new avatars and themes is cool, the rewards just never felt like good enough incentive to get me to click through the marketing emails or review games on

Here's the full text from the email:

Hi whatisdelicious,

We wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your participation in the PlayStation®Rewards Beta, which is ending on March 31st. Your feedback helped us understand the kinds of things that make you feel appreciated and valued.

Based on what we learned, we have decided the program is not ready to roll out to the public in April as originally planned. But rest assured, we will continue to thank loyal and devoted customers like you with innovative offerings.

In the meantime, to show how much we appreciated your participation, we made you a special and exclusive PlayStation® T-shirt. This limited edition shirt will be mailed to beta testers who have reached either Select, Pro or Legendary status by March 31, 2011. Please make sure your mailing address is up-to-date on your PlayStation®Network account.

Thanks again for your participation and feedback.

PlayStation®Rewards Team

Friday, March 11, 2011

Game of the Year 2010 // Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

The "Game of the Year" award goes to the game that had me hooked harder than any other game last year. If I wasn't playing this game, I was thinking about it. It made other games look lazy and deserves to be recognized as the best game of the year.

This time last year, had you asked me what I thought my Game of the Year would end up being, I'd have scoffed and said, "What a ridiculous question. You do realize that God of War III comes out this year, right?" And yet here I am, giving the award to Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, a game everyone thought would be just a lazy cash-in.

Anyone that knows anything about me is aware of my unhealthy love for Kratos and his everlasting rage. So... what happened? Well, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was a better game; that's what happened.

Holy shit that game was awesome.

So what was it that made Brotherhood stand out? Why was it so much better than every other game released in 2010? Glad you asked.

It Was The Boldest and Most Ambitious

On the surface, Brotherhood looks like an incredibly unambitious, uninspired game. It's set in the same time period as the last game and stars the same character, which initially seems like a betrayal of the franchise's core tenets. But those are such petty gripes when you consider how bold the game was in every other way.

Faster, better combat. Crazy new gadgets like poison darts and parachutes. The ability to leave the Animus any time you want. Challenge rooms. Recruiting, managing, and fighting alongside other Assassins. Multiplayer. Everything that happens in the last hour of the story.

Really, for such a big-budget game, it's shocking (and more than a little refreshing) how many risks it took. No other game last year felt this ambitious.

It Had The Coolest, Smartest Multiplayer

I'll be honest: most multiplayer games just don't seem to do it for me. They're too mindless and don't encourage style. Not to mention that I think playing against other humans is an incredibly overrated experience. It just feels like an empty experience, lacking the sense of purpose that a single-player campaign offers.

Brotherhood's multiplayer is unexpected, innovative, and fresh. It brilliantly slows the pace down dramatically, forcing you to play with flair and craft an interesting experience for both yourself and your victim. It's not just about whether or not you killed an opponent, but how.

That sense of purpose I've been craving is there, and the paranoia of knowing that unseen enemies are hunting you down is exhilarating, whether or not you're the one with the controller in your hand. It's everything I've wanted from multiplayer games lately.

It Was The Most Empowering

I don't care how awesome your customized gun was in Black Ops or just how "unleashed" your Force powers were, you simply cannot beat Ezio's finger.

Now, I don't mind feeling weak in video games; in fact, I often prefer it. It's usually much more interesting to play as a weak character than a stereotypical, overpowered badass. But when Brotherhood offers the ability to whistle and point at someone, then have your Assassin pupils appear out of nowhere to kill them, it's hard to argue.

The gutsy move to switch from flying solo like in previous games in the series to rolling with a crew of fellow killers really paid off. And so did the quicker, more brutal combat that made Ezio seem more like the bubonic plague than a mere Assassin.

It Was The Most Addictive

That burning tower represents my free time.

Even if I was only planning to play Brotherhood for a little while, I still made sure that the next couple hours of my schedule were clear. There's always something to do that's just around the corner, whether that's another shop to renovate, a side mission to take on, a flag off in the distance to collect, Assassin recruits to send on missions, viewpoints to get, towers to burn, etc.

And it's all really fun.

Brotherhood doesn't care that you have a life outside it. And you know what? Neither did I. It kept me up late at night and early in the morning. If I didn't outright skip class to play it, I spent the time thinking up multiplayer strategies. It's a stunning example of how to make an open world feel full.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood hooked me harder than any game last year, and that's why it's my Game of the Year for 2010.