May 17, 2006
Just Say No:
How A Game Demands More Than $500 To Play
I'm taking a personal stand against "Final Fantasy XI Online." Playing video games should be a smooth experience; put a game in an Xbox 360 and start playing. I couldn't do that with "Final Fantasy XI." Merely plugging it in was a nightmare.
To make the most of it, you need to own the most expensive Xbox 360, the one with a hard drive. That's $400. You have to belong to Xbox Live's online gaming network. That's $8 a month, or $50 a year. I'm fine with all that. Those are good, premium things to have around the house, if you can afford it.
Then the horror comes: you have to register for the "Final Fantasy XI" online service. I couldn't even find out how much more that costs, because I refused to capitulate. Here I will remind the makers of "Final Fantasy XI" that the game itself costs $50. Isn't that payment enough just to see computer graphics kill each other?
Giving your money to "Final Fantasy XI" isn't easy, either. You type in five separate, 20-letter registration codes. You have to type in your mailing address and phone number. Two hours into the process of signing up for stuff and typing in personal info, I gave up.
It's one thing to buy a game knowing it's online-only, and that you'll have to sign up for Xbox Live, which is a fantastic pay service. But I have to tell a game company where I live? And my phone number? And, oh, by the way, here's my credit card number to charge me more fees? Uh, no.
I don't want to go on too much of a tirade, but this is one more example of how stupid and time-waste-y life is becoming in the high-maintenance end of video games.
If you play games on a PC, you have to run expensive software like McAfee to make sure your laptop doesn't get infected and die.
To make some of my game-related techie stuff work — such as my $200 Logitech TV remote control — I not only have to regularly plug them into the wall to charge their batteries, I have to hook them up to my laptop and install tons of software, just like I have to do with my iPod.
Games are depressingly fragile, too. I was going to review "Tomb Raider: Legend" this week, but when it arrived in the mail, the disc was bent in one tiny spot — I almost couldn't see the blemish — and it wouldn't work at all.
So I never did play these games. And I will not fondly remember the endlessly unsatisfying experience of "Final Fantasy XI," no matter how many other critics have heaped high praise on the teen-rated title. Stick it in your ear, "Final Fantasy XI."
Instead, here's what I'll recommend. A game came out a year ago called "Hitman Contracts" for Xbox and PS 2. It's a classic. You play as an assassin. I was so angry about the "Final Fantasy" business, I played "Hitman Contracts" again for 10 blissful hours, shooting bad guys with sneaky prowess.
Yes, and you can buy "Hitman Contracts" in used-game stores for $10.
("Hitman Contracts" for Xbox, PS 2 — Plays fun if evil. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "M". Four stars.)