No time to lose, let's get right to the highlight of the newsstand over the past two weeks:

PCXL Fall 2007

pcxl.jpg

Cover: The Frag Dolls

As Simon mentioned earlier this week, PCXL is a one-off from Future that, while not a clone of the old PC Accelerator (1998-2000), at least tries to recreate the spirit of the old magazine. The book is roughly divided into six sections:

- Gear, pages of gadgets and other gamer-type merchandise, the great majority of which is from ThinkGeek.com
- Trends, the "feature well" of sorts that includes bits on game-related cons, how to run a LAN party, gaming tattoos, and other stuff that'd be at home in the front end of EGM or GFW
- Game Faces, the interview section that's mostly dominated by the Frag Dolls (Ubisoft's team of competitive-gaming hotties) but also includes a bit on the CGS gaming league and a humorous look back at PC Gamer's Nov. 2000 "Game Gods" issue, the one that identified Stevie Case as a shining light of the PC scene's future
- Games & Tech, the previews and hardware section
- The Internets, a few quick one-off bits on net trends and wacky online stuff
- Popular Culture, bits on comics, movies and action figures

Add in a few columns from ex-PCXL staff about the old magazine and the current state of gaming, and you've got your brand-new, 100-page PCXL. It's all well designed, and the text ain't bad, which makes this a very neat (and very unique) one-off. Would I want to see a regular publication like this? I don't think so, and I doubt Future does, either. It's been proven several times by this point that throwing girls into a game magazine in an attempt to snag a broader audience actually serves to narrow it instead. Kicking off the magazine with unadorned, catalog-like pages of gadget photos is also really uninteresting.

Perhaps looming the largest, though, is the fact that the mag PCXL looks closest to in terms of design and general tone is Stuff, the US edition of which is closing with its October '07 issue. If Dennis couldn't keep Stuff going, then I doubt Future could do it with PCXL in this newsstand environment, either.

Electronic Gaming Monthly October 2007 (Podcast)

egm-0710.jpg

Cover: Silent Hill 5

Pretty strong (easily GI-caliber) preview issue this month, with Silent Hill 5 leading and EA's NFL Tour and Ubisoft's Lost following close behind. They're all seriously good articles, and it more than makes up for the usual very old E3 coverage toward the middle. EGM also has arguably the biggest coverage of The King of Kong, the Donkey Kong high-score documentary, and the article inside serves as a neat follow-up to the film as it explains why Billy Mitchell got a bum rap (though I've met him in real life and his "game face" is pretty damn intense, I have to admit).

Game Informer September 2007

gi-0709.jpg

Cover: Borderlands

I really don't like this cover. The coverline is "5-second Hollywood pitch" PR-speak and doesn't tell me anything interesting about the game; why it's exciting and why I should want to read all about it right now. The choice of art features the same sort of pseudo-futuristic army dudes that seem to populate every developer's pet project over the past year or so, and it's also all blurred for a speed effect that doesn't really work. (There are a couple of art pieces in the article itself that could've worked better, including one with an Autoduel-style car and some wyverns that'd match the "Diablo meets Mad Max" line perfectly.) If you're reviewing Bioshock or have exclusive hands-on coverage of Killzone 2, why not make one of those the main subject instead? Both admittedly have the same "buff rugged armored dude" look as Borderlands, kinda, but at least Killzone 2 has those easily-recognizable enemies.

Despite all this, the internal article is really neat, thanks to a ton of colorful screens/renders/character art and the always entertaining Randy Pitchford and his gang at Gearbox commenting. The same goes for Killzone 2, which GI wisely portrays in a "payback for all the crap they got over the E3 '05 showing" manner and rounds out with a bunch of lovely screens.

GI's E3 coverage is also the most solid of the mags I've seen, concentrating extensively on hardware and presentations in lieu of software, although there's plenty of pages on that too. At this point, I'd say GI's position as the most industry-oriented consumer games mag in the US is pretty well solidified -- and for good reason.

GamePro October 2007

gpl2-0710.jpg

Cover: Grand Theft Auto IV

I got a letter the other day stating that GamePro is withdrawing its EX subscription program, which bundled newsstand extras and special bonus items with each subscriber issue. In place of it they're extending subscriptions. Why're they doing this? Because the newsstand GamePro is losing all the posters and stuff, too: "We've decided to focus on that's IN the magazine, and that will continue to be the BEST reviews of the HOTTEST new games," and so on and so forth. I didn't think that anyone really liked collecting all that extra stuff, anyway.

A pretty solid issue, although nothing stands out too much in the eye of the hardened gamer. I really enjoy how their art design has solidified over the past few months. I think the GTA IV article has some new screens, but I don't keep up with GTA media the way many folks do so I could be wrong.

Edge October 2007

edge-0710.jpg

Cover: Super Mario Galaxy

My subscription to Edge has finally commenced (though I got two copies for some reason, will need to bring that up with the distributor on Monday), so I'm skipping September and going right to the very latest issue, one which heavy on the industry stuff even by Edge standards. Up front is a pretty big interview with John Carmack discussing his company's strategy for the current multi-platform marketplace, followed by the Guild Wars guy defending Guild Wars and coverage of BlizzCon and two different UK developer expos.

One of the many subtle differences between Edge and other magazines is that they don't mind slagging off a game in the previews, or "Hype," section. Here's a few excerpts from their full-page Spider-Man: Friend or Foe preview: "[A lack of variety] is the most fundamental problem with Friend or Doe, and it ruins the experience. Scores of indistinguishable opponents may have been inevitable many moons ago, but they're not now... The levels shown aren't pieces of inspired design... It could be claimed that Spider-Man: FOF is being designed for children and should be treated as such. And yet that presumes that children are undiscerning, and that any content produced for them can be simply cranked out, but cross-generational appeal is a balancing act the comics have managed for 40 years, so there's no excuse there." Of course, a game has to be really terrible to get this treatment -- other titles, like Fable 2 and Tecmo's Project Rygar, are handled a little more amicably.

You'll probably also note the extensive dev-oriented coverage, once more. This is really hammered home if you subscribe to Edge -- subscribers get a mass of extra game-school and "how to get into games" literature with every issue, which I'm sure must help out the mag's bottom line a great deal.

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

gfw-0709.jpg

Cover: World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

This is the fifth WOW cover in four years for CGW/GFW, as Jeff Green admits in his letter, but at least it's a pretty feature, and it's accompanied by a few neat side articles on online gaming -- one on stories (with endings) in MMOs, and another on "editorial video games" made by Persuasive Games. Otherwise, the usual gang of previews and reviews, but at least GFW doesn't preview anything and everything.

Xbox 360 Cheat Guide Volume 6

oxm-cheatguide6.jpg

Yep, it's another Future cheat special. Nothing much to say about it, other than it suggests readers consult GamesRadar.com for full walkthroughs of certain games (like Lost Planet), and if I wanted to do that, then why would I be buying a mag like the first place, is what I'm wondering.

[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.]