['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.]

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Oh, drat! Beckett Spotlight: Cheat Codes has ceased publication with Issue 17, June/July 2007, and now I (as a subscriber) will get yet more copies of Beckett Massive Online Gamer crammed into my mailbox every other month. Not that anyone, even me, will miss it much -- there was absolutely nothing inside of it that online wasn't doing better 12 years ago.

When a magazine ceases publication, that's usually my cue to try to collect every back issue I'm missing. But I don't know where to begin with this one. I didn't start buying it until Issue 12 last fall, and it had been going for two years previous. Does anyone actually have any back issues of this title they'd be welling to sell? For that matter -- hey, Beckett writers! I know I've said a lot of bad things about your mags and all, but c'mon, how 'bout we let bygones be bygones? I mean, here's a guy who actually wants a complete collection of all your cheat-code mags. How many other readers do you think were that dedicated to your publications? Not many, I can tell you that.

With that bit of sad news behind us, let's take a look at all the US mags that hit mailboxes and bookstores the past fortnight. Game Informer leads the pack with Fallout 3 coverage, but one gets the idea GI's editors had other games on their minds...

Game Informer July 2007

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Cover: Fighting person

The cover may be devoted to Fallout 3, the fire of the loins of PC game nuts worldwide, but I have the sneaking suspicion the GI staff is a great deal more passionate about the other hot-sclusive this month, Harmonix's Rock Band. EIC Andy McNamara spends his entire editorial talking about it, and while Bethesda's game gets 10 pages of by-the-book GI game reveal (lots of dev narratives, lots of pre-pre-pre-alpha screens for fanboys to whine about on the net, lots of sentences along the lines of "You'll be able to do X and Y and it'll be awesome"), whoever wrote the eight-page Rock Band piece honestly put his/her heart and soul into it. I mean, they couldn't get a pic of the (still under development) drum set planned for the game, so they had some outside artist render a version of the drums they saw for the magazine! How much dedication does that require? A lot, and you can see it in both the text and the dev quotes.

The Connect news section is pretty low-key this month, with two articles (Starcraft II and Sony's Gamers Day) that had better coverage online, another on elite Gears of War player Daniel Vasquez that seems more appropriate for a Beckett mag, and yet another on "alternate reality gaming" (i.e. Perplex City) which doesn't seem to have much to do with video games.

GamePro July 2007

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Cover: Somewhat recognizable fighting man

This month all of GamePro's editions include an "interactive CD" produced by eTAGZ you play on your PC or Mac. GamePro has a long and varied history of never doing anything unless there was some kind of instant money to be made off it, and this CD is no exception, being sponsored by ITT Tech and a couple other outfits. Load it up, and you'll find a few game videos, a couple of old buyer's guide articles (and a PDF strategy guide for Halo 2 just in case you haven't played it yet), and that's about the entirety of it. In other words, pretty much like any demo DVD packed into a British game mag.

Over on the paper side of things, Halo 3 is king, and the feature story is essentially an info dump, covering every possible facet of the beta (and beyond) and getting downright obsessive with describing every item and weapon. The other feature, on Crysis, features a lovely 2-page opening art spread and continues on with several bite-sized infoboxes, done up similar to Nintendo Power's style and making it much easier to read through than most coverage on this game, which tends to be extremely verbose for some reason.

I just realized that GamePro is about the only US game mag willing to print a single screen shot full-size across the entire page. It definitely gives the mag's previews and features a unique sense of style, something that I know GP struggled for years on end with not too long ago.

Games for Windows: The Official Magazine July 2007 (Podcast)

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Cover: SimCity: Socities

GFW has a three-page article on Dwarf Fortress (a.k.a. the first PC game I've really cared about in approximately six years) this month, and for that it once again wins my utter gratitude and peon-like faithfulness. Surely its ASCII graphics would've made for a compelling, eye-catching cover, but instead the editors thought a bunch of rendered buildings would be more interesting.

Oh, I kid, I kid. SimCity: Societies does have a fascinating story behind it, at least, partially because Will Wright all but declared the series dead in the water three years ago. Ryan Scott gives a very smart and Edge-like look at what's being done with this game to revitalize it and make it relevant to a large audience, and you'll almost certainly want to read it once you're done with Dwarf Fortress. Tom & Bruce is also great this month, covering LOTR-Online and being consistently funny throughout. It's amazing they still have it after all this time.

Hardcore Gamer July 2007

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Cover: PS3 WTF?

This cover (a somewhat less confrontational version of the question EGM asked a few months ago) belies a feature article that's just a wall of freaking text -- which is pretty outside the box by HGM standards, definitely. Daniel Keyser of gametrailers.com always seems to write the wordier articles in this mag, and he gets his money's worth here, spending eight pages discussing the PS3/PSP's fortunes and what future games are worth paying attention to.

It's an oddly "mainstream game-mag" sort of article to put in HGM, but the mag gets it out of its system soon enough by devoting a two-page spread to The Red Star, which (naturally) gets a perfect 5 out of 5 score. It's an interesting contrast to their review of Odin Sphere -- game mags (Game Informer in particular) seemed to lap it up, but HGM picks on its "dumb-as-rocks story" and claims "there's no way [it's] a finished product". Rough!

Game Developer June/July 2007

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Cover: Quality of life

The cover article of this Game Developer has a lot worth reading even to the average gamer. It brings up the case of EA_Spouse's weblog two years ago and takes a free-wheeling look at whether quality of life has improved much for game makers since. All manner of folks on both sides of the issue get interviewed, and the ultimate conclusion I took from it was that yes, things are better, but not in any very tenable fashion.

Future specials

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Magazine racks are getting a heapin' helpin' of Norman Chan's quizzical face this month. He's the editor of Future's specials, and you'll see him all over these two latest $9.99 one-offs, which I can't seem to stop myself from buying.

The Ultimate Xbox 360 Encyclopedia is a simple compilation of OXM reviews, while PC Gamer Proudly Presents the 2007 PC Building Bible is a more thorough examination of PC technology and homebuilding from the utter beginner stage onward. Quite handy if you're looking for a quick reference and can't be bothered to sift through Google results for every question that comes to mind.

Tip specials

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Tips & Tricks 2007 Video-Game Codebook includes an original Halo 3 beta wrapup that reads quite a bit like GamePro's, actually, though GP's feature has nice art and T&T's is mostly populated by tiny screen grabs. The pencil puzzles are around, too, although they're printed on glossy pages this time, which seems odd.

Meanwhile, Code Vault -- or the name, at least -- seems to be gradually fading away into the ether. The logo's gotten smaller and smaller lately, and as of this Summer 2007 issue, it now plays second fiddle, by far, to the cover game and its title. Inside it's the usual business, although I'm glad to see the Brady Games strategy excerpts gradually getting phased out in favor of original stuff -- even if it is mostly borrowed from Gamerhelp, IDG's FAQ website.

[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.]