N'Gai Croal and I conclude our e-mail discussion about his departure from Newsweek with a conversation that covers 1) the widespread acceptance of flaws in games and 2) a very special pony. This is the final round of Vs. Mode...for now. Read More...

It's time for a very special edition of Vs. Mode, in which N'Gai Croal and I discuss and debate his move from games journalism to games sellout-dom (I mean, games development).  "Resident Evil 5" joke incoming... Read More...

On February 6, game design legends Todd Howard (Bethesda, "Fallout 3") and Ken Levine (2K Boston, "BioShock") will join Newsweek's N'Gai Croal and MTV's Stephen Totilo for a New York Comic-Con panel we're calling Vs. Mode Live. Read More...

N'Gai and I don't lie. We said a week ago that we'd conclude our grand debate about "Grand Theft Auto IV" by addressing some of your comments. N'Gai's picked three great comments from his blog. I've picked three great -- well, two great and one ridiculous one -- from mine. And we've each had our say on them.

Who made the cut? And how'd you readers push us in new and interesting directions? Read on. Just don't think we'd actually give you the very last word. That's not our style.

(As with all the other 'Vs. Modes' - spoilers abound.)


In the second round of Stephen Totilo's and N'Gai Croal's Vs. Mode, the pair continues to wage their war of words over "Grand Theft Auto IV."

Totilo explains why he liked "San Andreas" better for its player liberation; meanwhile, Croal responds by hailing how Rockstar has married emotion to gameplay in "GTA IV." Who do you agree with?

If you missed Part One, check it out here. As always, these exchanges are mirrored on Croal's Level Up blog.

(And beware -- spoilers abound.)


'Grand Theft Auto IV'

It's been a while since Newsweek's N'Gai Croal and I have disagreed as much as we have in the exchange you can read below. We're arguing about "Grand Theft Auto IV" for the first installment of an all-new Vs. Mode.

Whose side are you on?

Follow the debate below or on N'Gai's Level Up blog. Check back Thursday for Round Two. And, yes, there are plot spoilers below.


'Grand Theft Auto IV''s Playboy X

This entry comes courtesy of Newsweek's N'Gai Croal and kicks off a new round of the most interactive Vs. Mode yet

Whoever said that you can't improve perfection never met the staffs of Level Up and Multiplayer. For the newest installment of Vs. Mode, in which we spar over "Grand Theft Auto IV," we're doing something different. Because as much as we enjoy the clack-clack of our own deep thoughts being typed out for your edification, we like mixing it up in the comments with you, our Dear Readers, even more. So to help make Vs. Mode less dueling monologues and more of an open dialogue, here's how we're tweaking the formula.

Rather than just throw you into the deep end of mine and Stephen's opening exchange, we're kicking off this series with today's brief introductory post to both preview our debate of "Grand Theft Auto IV" and solicit some comments and questions from you. Then, on the final day of our debate, Stephen and I will not only engage each other, but we'll also tackle any statements or questions that you've posted on our respective blogs. Today's topic is "Who Moved My Sandbox?" in which we discuss whether "GTA IV" has gotten too far away from the series' sandbox roots. Some excerpts of what you'll see in full on Tuesday:

Stephen Totilo: This new "GTA" was made to be more sophisticated, more grown up, I think. It introduces moral choice. It skips rainbow afros and giant sex-toy weapons for a story that, initially, is a barely violent exploration of the eyes-just-shut start of the American dream. It's a more mature "GTA." Yet there's a guy at work here at MTV who is inconsolable over the exclusion of planes and tanks in "GTA IV." He wants to wreak mayhem. He sees a "GTA" as the sandbox it was once hyped to be. He wants unhinged "GTA."

N'Gai Croal: I want Rockstar to take the possibility space that is Liberty City and keep building on it. They can experiment with tone: one expansion pack could be primarily comic; another tragic; another brutal; another frothy. They can set one in the 1970s; another in 2020. I said that Rockstar is showing its maturity by realizing that it doesn't have to be all things to all gamers, but let me revise that statement: it doesn't have to be all things to all gamers at all times.

Based on these excerpts, who do you agree with?

Does "GTA IV" need a wilder, richer sandbox, or did Rockstar North get the balance right? Let us know what you think in the comments below. And check back tomorrow for Round 1 of Vs. Mode: GTA.

PataponI started debating the highly-regarded PSP game "Patapon" with Newsweek's N'Gai Croal early last week.

We thought we'd be done by now.

Today we are.

In our first exchange we both praised the game, but I went off on my feelings about gamer guilt and why so many games make me feel guilty for playing all or even just select parts of them.

In N'Gai's e-mail below he explains the the three types of video game imperfections, complains about the game's grind and suggests a few ways to "Patapon" better.

And then I defend grinding in games. Really, I do.

So when we last left off I asked N'Gai: "Do you ever feel any of that gamer guilt?" He answers below...


PataponBack for your Monday morning procrastinating is a new Vs. Mode, the monthly series of arguments between me and Newsweek's N'Gai Croal. This time, we tackle PSP rhythm-war game "Patapon."

Slight problem: we both really liked this game.

Never fear, however. I think we've got some stuff in here that will provoke you.

  • N'Gai lays out the three things that make the game special for him: The Power of Indirect Control, The Importance of Feel, And The Thrill of Iconic Design. And he wonders what it means that he was obsessed with the game for 21 days in the winter but doesn't think about it at all anymore.
  • I proclaim that "Patapon" is nifty and doesn't make me feel guilty, stating that "Devil May Cry 4," "Pursuit Force 2" and most other games I've played do make me feel guilt. "Patapon," sweet "Patapon," does not.

Did you say you want criticism of video games, something meaty, something that isn't just a graphics/audio/gameplay review. With Vs. Mode we try to give you that.

Here's a quote from my letter for everyone to chew on:

How many games do we not have to apologize for when recommending them to others? How often do we have to say not to mind the character design or the dialogue or the music or the controls or something else? How many did we in some way suffer? Is the high tolerance for imperfection not unique to gamers, at least to the extent we have to suck it up and try not to be bothered by the bad parts -- or, if you're like me, feel guilty that we spent time with things so full of bad parts?

What follows is Round One of Vs Mode: "Patapon"... (You can read it below or on N'Gai's "Level Up" blog. Round two follows late this week)


burnoutparadiseN'Gai Croal and I have been trying to discuss "Burnout: Paradise" all week in this very special can't-stay-on-topic edition of Vs. Mode.

In Round One we did talk about the game: why I went from like to dislike to like for the game, and why N'Gai knew since the day he was born that "BP" would be awesome.

In Round Two we didn't talk about the game as much. I wound up explaining why I think "Paradise" is a better "Animal Crossing" than "Animal Crossing" and soon stopped talking about the game. But then N'Gai got us even further afield. He even proposed that this game points to some sort of nutty One Game Future.

Except that he didn't call it nutty. He left it for me to decide if it was, which I do at the top of today's concluding installment, Round Three. After my letter comes more Mr. Croal, who writes about the possibilities of a "World of Burnout" and a "Little Big Burnout."

Read on for the final letters. And soak in what may be the final drips of sanity we're going to ever pour into a Vs. Mode, given the direction these things are going in...

(These exchanges are mirrored on N’Gai’s “Level Up” bog.)


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