When it rains, it pours in Mag Roundup. Two weeks, there were hardly any magazines to talk about -- this time around, everything came into my mailbox all at once, even the two flight-sim magazines whose subscriptions are (thankfully) about to run out.

We're beginning to enter the boring season not just for mags, but for games, too -- but that's a good thing, because it means we'll see more creativity and originality from mags as they attempt to fill the pages with fresh content instead of the usual previews and reviews. Ostensibly. It'd be nice, anyway.

Let's go forward and see what's new in the mag scene -- and if there's any controversy to be found in the MGS4 reviews that're starting to creep out...

Electronic Gaming Monthly July 2008 (Podcast)

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Cover: Gears of War 2 (split cover)

People may think the GoW2 piece is the highlight of this issue, but it's not -- even though Shoe goes above and beyong, asking Cliffy about a million questions from message-board posters and presenting the usual boring "new guns, new modes" information in neat and eye-catching ways.

It's not the Metal Gear Solid 4 "review," although that's generating the most discussion online -- the editors decided against giving out scores due to "the limitations Konami wanted to impose on our comments," so they just printed a five-page roundtable instead, one mostly filled with praise but also throwing a few jabs (the control system's not as good as Splinter Cell's! Oh noooooo!). It's not even the "Gun Show" spread, where they ask military advisor Hank Keirsey for his take on the Gunblade, the Gravity Gun and other fanciful video-game weapons -- hilarious stuff.

No, the highlight of this issue is the frowny-faced Miis used to illustrate the front-end investigation piece on Nintendo's lackadaisical online strategy. Miis using telegraphs, cans and strings, and a cell phone tied to a headband to communicate with each other. Absolutely tremendous.

GamePro July 2008

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Cover: Halo Wars

With EGM more-or-less calling out Konami's demands on print media this issue, readers are undoubtedly looking toward reviews in other media with an eye that's more than a little jaundiced (if not sneering entirely). GamePro's dense five-page review practically gushes with praise -- the only faults being the lack of a tutorial and "long-winded at times" cinemas, which is sort of like saying going through security at O'Hare is "a little annoying."

The Halo feature this month is in the classic, all-encompassing GamePro style, giving a ton of details on what the game will be like and backing up nearly everything that's written with an explanatory screenshot. There's also some info on the other Halo projects coming, including a look at the aborted DS Halo and the purported film that has about as much a chance of happening.

PlayStation: The Official Magazine July 2008

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Cover: Metal Gear Solid 4

PTOM's "world exclusive review" (the FDA really ought to start regulating this term they way they do "low-fat" and "organic") features a lot more detail on the game itself other print looks and also features Rob Smith declaring it'll always be in his top-ten list, no matter what games come out in the future. Considering the mag just put GTA4 on the cover last month, that's saying quite a lot.

Still, this and GP's review once again begs the question of what EGM was so concerned about that these two mags weren't. Is there some deep, dark secret that Konami doesn't want getting out before June 12? Or is it just the usual "keep the AAA game under wraps as long as possible" shenanigans that Konami did with MGS3 too? We'll see, I reckon.

The MGS4 bit is the biggest feature in this mag, which is otherwise dotted with previews (Fallout 3 and a roundup of shooters), reviews, and a tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving the PS3 RPG drought with suggestions including LARPs, renaissance faires, reading Choose Your Own Adventure books, and learning a new language like Al Bhed. Now that's how you fill a spread, gentlemen.

This issue of PTOM is also noteworthy for using the word "hotsclusive" in a news piece on LittleBigPlanet, a word invented by yours truly right in this column -- Google it if you don't believe me. I'm going to be in the OED (and/or Variety) if this keeps up!

Nintendo Power July 2008

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Cover: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

As always, Nintendo Power pounds down the most hotsclusives per capita in its News section, which is almost entirely filled with the first screens of this or the world print premiere of that. It continues with the cover feature on Order of Ecclesia, which is packed with lovely character art and info.

Iga doesn't comment much within, but that's because he sort of wrote a five-page piece right afterwards going over Castlevania's history and his takes on all the games and series of the past. Brilliant...but not as brilliant as NP interviewing Yuji Horii for the Dragon Quest DS roundup that follows; the dude barely shows up in Japanese media, much less US outlets.

Maybe it's just the fact that Nintendo has quite a bit more presence this generation than last, but NP seems to be consistently kicking ass these days. I'll even forgive them for spending two pages on an interview with Strong Bad in a feature located in front of all this other cool stuff.

Official Xbox Magazine July 2008 (Podcast)

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Cover: Shaun White Snowboarding

The Future mags just can't get enough snowboarding this summer for some reason. I suppose something has to fill the pages now that GTA4's been digested and the summer's suddenly looking a little barren for 360 owners. It's not a throwaway piece, though, because the design on it is pretty brilliant -- quite a bit like what you'd see in a snowboarding magazine, although I'm still not too sure what's so special about this game that it deserves a cover more than, say, Ghostbusters, which gets a much more full-featured preview piece inside.

Top highlight for print-mag buffs is "King of Diamonds," an extremely silly three-page piece where Logan Decker runs around San Francisco with an Xbox Live Diamond Card to see if it's actually worth it. The verdict: Most food-service retailers think the card looks pretty rad, but they don't know WTF to do with it.

Also, Microsoft is still putting Halo 3 ads in OXM. It's like the Jak 2 of 2008.

Tips & Tricks July/August 2008

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Cover: Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Still going! This cover's really nice, too. The inside is still straight-out strategy, though, with 12 Brawl pages, six on Army of Two, then lists of codes. Badabing, badaboom.

Beckett Massive Online Game July/August 2008

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Cover: Age of Conan

Despite cheap printing, boring features and a regular comic strip with about the same entertainment quality as The Family Circus, Beckett MOG shows no signs of going out of business anytime soon.

There is the something of the beginning of critical coverage in this issue, though, as seen in a feature on the top 20 most influential people in the MMO industry. Too bad the rest of the mag is the usual -- basically updates on all the current games, filled with jargon and assuming previous knowledge that nobody but those actually playing the games in question would know.

Very Special Issues

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It seems safe to say that GamePro's Wii Gamers' Guide has replaced Code Vault by this point. It's nothing very fancy, but definitely an improvement over CV -- you've got a neat roundup feature or two, reviews, previews, strategy, the whole bit. It all seems like original content as well. I wonder why the back cover has an ad for GTAIV, though...

Meanwhile, Nintendo Power Posters is exactly what it is -- no editorial content, just 40 posters, printed on really heavy stock, for ten bucks. Great stuff if that's what you're looking for, actually -- I like the two Okami ones the most, although having the Twilight Princess art that was on EGM's cover a couple years back in an uncluttered state is nice, too.

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