['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]

If I'm any later submitting this it will no longer be Saturday, so let's drop the pleasantries (and the ferret pix) and get right down to business. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Since I'm still in Japan and on weird hours, it wasn't Saturday by the time this was published! But just wanted to praise Kevin on the amazing job he's doing with these round-ups. I feel like I learn things, and often useful things, too! Yay.]

Every other week, I cover all the game magazines that hit US shelves, complete with cover images and commentary I almost always regret on Sunday morning. Click on to, er, read on...

[Click through for the full column!]

Game Informer October 2006


Cover: Devil May Cry 4

Again, I don't care nearly as much about the cover story (which is looooooooong and not even a "World Exclusive" this time around) as I do about the news section, which continues to kick all sorts of ass. As far as I can tell, GI is the only magazine (besides Game Developer, of course) that regularly concentrates on serious industry news these days -- hell, if GameWeek or MCV US were like this back in the day, they might have actually survived.

I say all this because the top piece in Connect this time around is "Communications Breakdown," an investigative report (complete with sources speaking on condition of anonymity and everything) about how the culture of Japanese publishers often makes life difficult for their US branches. This is the sort of thing that Dean Takahashi might write, and I think any Japanese-major thinking about getting into games should read it.

Also: EIC Andy The Game Dandy McNamara writes the longest of the "E3 is dead" editorials in game mag-dom, and one of the only that goes beyond the whole "No more babes NOOOOOOOOOOO" humorous vibe and explains why it's a very good thing for the industry.

Classic: Is all about System Shock 2 this issue, complete with tons of commentary from Ken Levine. It's enough, in fact, to make me wish there was a SS2 Special Edition with Levine commenting on stuff as you play. (Why hasn't anyone done this with a game that I give a flip about? Huh?)

PC Gamer November 2006 (Podcast)


Cover: Guild Wars: Nightfall

PCG has inneresting news of their own this month by going inside a Chinese gold farm and publishing photos of their immaculate offices and crappy youth-hostel-like worker dormitories. The news section doesn't last long, however, since there's 11 pages of Guild Wars: Nightfall coverage that takes up most of the magazine's midsection. (Buying this issue entitles you to a free quest and "mini pet" in the game, if such things are important to you. I'll give you my access key if you can find me 2001-era issues of Gamers' Republic. Reply below. Thanks.)

Nearing the holidays: Due to Future's breakneck 13-issues-a-year cycle, we're already into the November issues in September, and as such PCG is getting a little thicker. There still aren't too many games to review quite yet, however, and as a result most of the "Guide" section this month is previews -- everything from Battlefield 2142 and Shadowrun to Company of Heroes and the Left Behind RTS.

The have and have nots: As in the previous issues, the reviews are mostly of pretty crap games -- the highest scorer (space strategy game Sword of the Stars) gets 89%, but it's tempered by scores like 20% for Big Oil and 18% for shooter World War II Combat: Iwo Jima ("a waste of disk space and shelf space").

Computer Gaming World October 2006 (Podcast)


Cover: Team Fortress 2, part of a larger Valve piece that includes Portal and HL2E2

EIC Jeff Green confirms that this is the next-to-last issue of CGW -- starting in December, Games For Windows: The Official Magazine will be gracing our bookshelves, hopefully with great success. "It's an acknowledgment that PC gaming is here to stay, that it matters, and that it deserves its own official magazine," he writes in the editorial.

The main interview this time around: is with Epic's Mark Rein, a man who isn't afraid to say what's on his mind (especially if it's about anything that isn't utterly hardcore, such as the Wii). In this talk he picks some more on episodic content ("This is not an Epic interest thing. This is me, worried about the state of developers who think that they can survive by doing something crazy"), but his main reserve of venom is reserved for Intel, who he says pushed integrated-graphics solutions on cheap PCs that essentially render them unable to play modern games. "For some reason," he says, "they've decided an $800 PC shouldn't be as capable as a $300 game console." Considering I'm typing this on a $400 Fry's laptop, I'd reckon he's about right.

Best quote: From a thought piece on the state of AI in games comes this pull quote from Warren Spector: "I don't know if cheating AI will always be necessary, but it certainly seems to be necessary now."

PSM November 2006 (Podcast)

psm-0611.jpg   psm-0611-2.jpg

Cover: Skate or Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

My Future magazine subscriptions finally kicked in this week (after I ordered them back in May, goddamn clearing houses mblgrmbl), and apparently just in the nick of time, since I haven't seen the Skate cover anywhere besides the newsstand. This is kind of funny since the top feature/preview inside the mag is neither Skate nor GTA:VCS -- instead it's EA's Def Jam 3 (working title), which gets eight pages of Kaiser Hwang text and pics of two impossibly well-detailed gangsters beating each other up silly. (PSM's designers smartly printed EA's art huge, although you can't help but notice that it's the same two dudes in every dang screen.)

And what's more: GTA:VCS's four pages of extra content (interview with studio head, sample missions) is pretty hot, too. PSM certainly has no lack of cover choices this month.

Amusing note: Def Jam 3 gets more pages than PSM's entire Fall Game Preview 2006, which only takes up six. That's, like, the opposite of EGM's approach.

Inserted in this issue: Is a set of coupons from Circuit City, somewhat similar to GamePro's Level-2 stuff. It's in OXM, too, and trying to take the insert out in one piece will cause the magazine to disintegrate, so don't try it.

Official Xbox Magazine November 2006 (Podcast)


Cover: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent

A somewhat lean month overall for coverage, compared to Future's other mags. The top page-grabber is a start-to-finish hands on with Double Agent -- I can't help but wonder what writer Paul Curthoys will have further to say in the review. If you bought this issue off the newsstand, you also get a Splinter Cell calendar. A staff "where are they now" piece reveals that old Game Players standby Dan Egger has passed the bar in Mississippi.

For magazine dorks: The top feature this month, as always, is the OXM fifth-anniversary blowout. All the usual bits you'd expect in such a feature are here, from the commented timeline of covers to a photolog of great moments in Xbox history, from Peter Moore's tattoos to that time Muhammad Ali showed up at the E3 conference. (Wait, were those both at the same event, or am I getting my years mixed up? I'm so old...)

On the disc: Is Dead Rising, in case you were too lazy to download it, as well as LOTR Battle for Middle-Earth II and some Project 8 stuff.

Scarface: Hey, remember Scarface? Scarface made the cover of EGM at one point; can you believe that? The game's coming out soon, and OXM devoted the most pages to it out of any mag this month -- an entir spread devoted to Ryan McCaffrey slagging off the story, controls, missions, the whole bit. It scores 4.5 out of 10, a shade lower than PSM's 5.0. (PSM only gave the game a couple paragraphs, which I suppose you could interpret as an even more devastating diss.)

Play Magazine October 2006


Cover: The Darkness

I haven't heard of The Darkness before now, but I really should have -- it's the newest from Starbreeze, makers of The Chronicles of Riddick, the game that kept legions of Xbox fanboys from committing hara-kiri during one dry-as-a-bone summer long ago.

If this were a Future or Ziff cover feature, you can bet the screenshots would occupy entire pages, but you know that ain't the way Play rolls. Screens are kept demure, and in their place, there's all sorts of Brady-text and dev/creator interviews. It's killer.

Best-of Series: This month's spread is on adventure, and once again, you've got a neato page of art from Dany Orizio. His Chinese comic-book-ish takes on Ico and Amaterasu are mega-rad.

Only in Play: Will you see a full-spread review of Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning. Not that I'm complaining, mind. Dave likes it a lot, by the way.

Trainspotters Alert: Someone forgot to fill out a pull quote in a preview of Resistance: Fall of Man. The result: a very large piece of text on the page that reads, and I quote, "Xxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxx xxxxxxxx x xxxxxxxxx xx xxxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx..." All mags flub now and again, but this is the first one from Play I ever recall. At least they didn't commit the error their forefather GameFan did and use the dummy text to talk about how wild and woolly those Japanese folks are.

Girls of Anime Volume 1


This isn't strictly games, no, but it's from Play Magazine all the same and is the follow-up to their three past yearly "Girls of Gaming" specials, so I'll give it a blurb here. Yes, it's anime chixxx all over your face for 100 or so pages -- and if you're feeling particularly ribald, you can download the mature-content Digital Edition from Play's website right now. Oh my.

Hardcore Gamer October 2006


Cover: Destroy All Humans! 2

I didn't think DAH!2 would get a cover, but HCG came through in the cluth. I like the expression on that hippy lady's face.

Features this month: On horror games and machinima. Oh, and there's some rad Awesome Possum fanart in the back. Why can't Newtype get cool art like that? It's all boring ol' InuYasha instead. Janet Jennings, if you're reading this, send some of your Awesome to us too, OK?

Game Developer September 2006


Simon Carless (ie. my boss) says the other really intelligent thing about E3's death in his editorial this month: it's bad for the rank-and-file developers who can't "get a comprehensive snapshot of the state of game development" any longer.

For the layman: You'll want to read the cover interview with Alexey Pajitnov, where he talks about everything from trying to start a development company in the USSR to how those YouTube Tetris: The Grand Master videos aren't that impressive. There's also a pretty comprehensive piece on the "state of the industry" in PC games, as well as another interview with Goichi Suda and a postmortem on NOM, a crazy cell-phone game I kinda wish I could play.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]