Why Xbox 360 Is the Shit

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Publisher: Rockstar
Developer: Rockstar Leeds/Rockstar North

GRAND THEFT AUTO: LIBERTY CITY STORIES is the first GTA for the PSP that's based in a fictional NYC. There's something perfect about being able to take what's essentially a driving game on the road with you. Not to get all Kerouac on you, but like Kerouac, the makers are trying to work in revelations, not just story. You're Toni Ciprini, a tough introduced in GTA III, and you do the gritty bidding of Mafia warlord Salvatore Leone. That in itself isn't revelatory. But it's a deep gaming experience, almost as multi-faceted as the console versions, one of the best the PSP has to offer. Here, you've even got multiplayer action (not just single player as in the console versions). And you've got a system that easily locks onto your foes when you want to do them the requisite sadistic damage. All that evil on one tiny PSP disk. Pretty "Last Exit to Brooklyn," huh?

Soul Calibur III
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco


There is a certain creepy, meticulous, lurid quality to the Spider art of Louise Bourgeois. Like, when you go to the cavernous Dia:Beacon and see "Spider," all enclosed and adorned, you feel the hairy arachnid creeping inside you. You get that same feeling from Soul Calibur III, probably the best fighting game ever made. After you play it, it lives inside you. Now, what distinguishes the Soul Calibur III series is its artful attention to story and its careful consideration of the most minute detail. There are some games, just a few of them, that can be called art—not just tech art like some Ipod-like gizmo from Wired, not just popular art like a cartoon from Spain Rodriquez. In Soul Calibur III, the art is so rich on alls levels from gameplay to graphics, it could be displayed in the Gug.

In the latest version, the character rendering is more lurid than in past iterations. Even the darkest characters seem brighter. The newest, the pixie-ish Tira with her circular fighting sword and vivid green outfit, is a cross between the delicacy of Peter Pan combined with the hard-edged spirit of Courtney Love.

And (oh, joy) you have to be a reader to really sponge up the story in SCIII. Take time to read the odd grammar within the text that appears on the screen when each character fights through the single player mode. Here, the character's personality unfolds. Whether it's the sad immortality of Zasalamel, which recalls the most passionate yearning of Anne Rice's vampires, or the almost religious purity of Sophitia, you get to know the compelling, complex nature as though they were real people.

Buy this and you'll find it's like a drug and literature rolled into one. As you sleep, you'll dream about SCIII. During the day, you'll analyze it, deconstruct it, even wonder about influence of myth upon the creators. And you'll kick some real A when you play.

The Complete New Yorker
Publisher: The New Yorker
Developer: The New Yorker

The Complete New Yorker puts 8,220 jpeg thumbnails of covers in a file on your computer. It took such a long time to install its "New Yorker Viewer" files on my new Toshiba, that I wondered if every word of every issue were going onto my hard drive, or if my Pentium IV chip had reverted to an old Intel 386. When it finished taking my laptop on a one hundred yard dash, the first thing I looked up, of course, was video games.

The New Yorker is the closest thing to literature in magazines: that's not news. But would the writers over the years treat video games as they treat any other popular art? Though the search engine took some getting used to, I finally found Elizabeth Kolbert's piece on "Ultima Online" from 2001. It was beautifully and meticulously written, but it just did not seem to take any joy in the beauty of the game or the gaming experience itself. Is this a pattern? In December, I will continue this search through The New Yorker archives for words about video games—to let you know if they're written with condescension or with the same adulation and appreciation that you get from a New Yorker writer, when, say, you're reading a pop music piece about Keren Ann.

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