Backhanded Box Quotes: Cursing MaddenWelcome back to "Backhanded Box Quotes," a collection of measured, thoughtful criticism from the user reviews of Metacritic, Amazon and elsewhere.

This week's Backhanded Box Quotes concern a game that needs no introduction: Madden NFL 13, which has somehow managed to sell a zillion copies the past eight years despite not having anything good said about it by the people who still buy it every year.

Madden NFL 13

Released: Aug. 28

Critic: yayonaize (Metacritic)
"The no fun league has transcended into a video game form."

Score: 0.

Critic: Hooky586 (Metacritic)
"There are several uniform mistakes throughout the game. For instance when have your seen the Bears wear orange pants?"

Score: 0.

Critic: Skaterpunk444 (Metacritic)
"I literally spent 2 days of playing this game ONLY PUNTS/KICKOFFS AND BLOCKING FIELD GOALS... in till I decided to end my relationship with this game."

Score: 0.

Critic: gridironjunky (Metacritic)
"This game itself deserves better than the zero I'm giving it. However not much"

Score: 0.

Critic: Megan M. Sims (Amazon)
"the Madden 13 coaster is easily a 3 star rated item due to the hole in the middle and no anti-slip coating."

Score: 1 star.

Critic: Brandon P. "Brandon" (Amazon)
"The kicking suck like butthole."

Score: 1 star.

Backhanded Box Quotes will be an occasional feature of Kotaku's Anger Management hour, unless it isn't.

You'll Get Final Fantasy Versus XIII, When It's Good and ReadySquare Enix is being tight lipped about Final Fantasy Versus. And from the sound of it, that game could still be a while off.

According to Square Enix boss Yoichi Wada, who recently spoke at a Final Fantasy anniversary event in Tokyo, said that Square Enix was "diligently making Final Fantasy Versus XIII", but added, "When it gets to the stage that it makes one think, 'This is Final Fantasy,' we'd like to show it to everyone."

Final Fantasy Versus XIII was first revealed back in 2006.

Wada's comments are interesting, noting that the goal is make one feel like Versus is Final Fantasy. The comments are interesting because the concept behind Versus always seemed to be to make a game that was different from your typical Final Fantasy game.



Customer Service Sucks For Those Inside the Gaming Industry, TooConsole failures don't just happen to the little people. No, they happen to gaming industry professionals, too, and we're happy to report they don't get a customer service batphone and valet replacement service just because they happen to work for a major publisher, as "Frank" does here. He gets to suffer through the same tale of woe as thousands of frustrated Xbox 360 gamers.

We were sent this and given permission to publish it without using "Frank's" real name because his boss has, let's say, a significant relationship with the console maker in question. Maybe it makes you feel better to know that people in a position of power or access share your experience or understand it. Maybe it makes you feel better to know that someone working for a large publisher is suffering through a console failure in his home. In either case
Anger Management offers it here, verbatim, for your entertainment.

Day 0: I sit down for an evening of demon-slaying fun with Darksiders 2. As I'm wandering the Realm of the Dead, my Xbox 360 flips out and shuts down. Inconvenience, but nothing I'm not used to after a lifetime of gaming. I restart the console, jump back into my game, and it all happens again. Then the 360 suddenly shuts down and I see something extremely ominous—a single flashing red light. Fear grips my heart but I assume it's a temporary blip and the console will be fine if I check back tomorrow.

Day 1: No luck getting the 360 to power up. Now I know what I must do: contact Microsoft Customer Support. Support departments are generally awful, but gamers know that Microsoft's customer support sits in its own special area in the Seventh Circle of Hell. I decide to first go through an online agent because I assumed they would be a bit more savvy and easy to work with than phone support.

That was stupid of me.

After a two-hour conversation consisting of such oldies-but-goodies as "Unplug the console, then plug it back in," and the cherished all-time classic "Try starting it up without the hard drive," we came to an agreement that my console was indeed broken and would need to be sent in for repair. The most pressing concern is that as part of my job, I need access to this console. That's a primary issue here, and one I'd like you to keep in mind for the duration of this rant.

The ensuing discussion was tougher than any breakup I've ever had. This was going to be a $99 repair of hardware that failed through no fault of my own, thanks to the 0ne-year warranty for the Slim, as opposed to the three-year warrant for the more delicate Xbox 360 Pros and Elites. I pleaded for some kind of forebearance considering that part of my job requires me to have a functional gaming console, even if I didn't play the "Well, I work for so-and-so harumph harumph harumph" card. The highly trained customer service professional gave me a case number and told me to call customer support if I wanted to continue the discussion. That's it. No resolution, no further instruction, just "here's your case number and goodbye."

It's a good thing there were no puppies nearby, because if there were I likely would have punched them.

Day 2.5: I get on the phone immediately with a customer service agent, lay out the situation and explain the predicament. At one point in the conversation we discuss the possibility of an advance exchange, where Microsoft will send me a "loaner" console while they repair my broken one. She promises to escalate my case and tells me I should expect to hear from someone in 3-4 business days. What a useful solution, and now I can get back to work! Thank you, Microsoft, for getting me back on track so quickly!

Day 3: I do not have a functioning console on this day.

Day 4: I do not have a functioning console on this day.

Day 5: I think you get the idea.

Day 6: Desperate, I turn to the famed Xbox Support Twitter team. The group claims to be the "Guinness World Record Holder: Most Responsive Brand on Twitter." I tell them what's up and after a brief back and forth they ask me to wait two more days for follow-up.

That is, indeed, a response. It isn't a helpful response, but it meets the Guinness Book of World Records' stringent criteria.

Day 8: No email, no phone call, so it's back to Twitter. "Hey guys, no one ever called. Little help?" The response I got was to "wait until the end of the day," because Microsoft Customer Support exists in a time zone you probably don't know about where you can call someone nearly three full days after you say you will and that person will be cool with it. Doesn't matter though, because no one ever called anyway.

Day 9: Called customer support (Did you lose my number? Are you playing hard to get? Call me maybe?) and am told their system is down so they can't look up case numbers or really do anything but sit in their cubes and fantasize about having less-shitty jobs. OK, so they didn't actually SAY that last part, but I was able to infer from context and tone of voice. I go back to the Twitter team and after four hours I'm told that despite being the Guinness World Record Most Responsive Super Action Happy Fun Team they can't, in fact, really do anything. I'm told to call customer service again.

There is a great disturbance in the Force now. It's as if a million faces were palmed and suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.

Final entry: I call customer service and eventually discover the reason no one called me back is because my ticket was never escalated in the first place. The helpful agent I talked to over a week ago basically hung up with me, laughed at my despair and then decided to add to it by not doing the only thing she promised to do, which is pass the buck to someone else. It literally wasn't even her problem anymore, she could have just sent me off to some other uncaring bastard and then gone back to her life of sounding as sweet as possible while not actually helping people.

The last thing I heard before my vision went white with rage was the new agent telling me "I'll get this escalated right away and a specialist will contact you within—oh, dear [I swear she said this]—four days."

I'm not sure exactly what happened next, I just know when I came to I was standing in a wooded area surrounded by bodies and what appeared to be the wreckage of a police helicopter. I heard armored vehicles in the distance, but it actually sounds like they're moving away. Man, I'd really like to get out of these woods, go home and play Darksiders 2. Oh wait, my Xbox 360 is broken, has been for a while now.

Well maybe someone will help me out; I mean, I'm in the gaming industry and need a console to do my job, surely they'll help me get back on my feet right away and not waste my time, right?


Guys, why are you laughing?

Hey folks, Something Negative is a rant. Love it or hate it, we all need to blow off steam on Fridays. Let yours out in the comments.


Not In Seattle? Watch PAX's Best Panels Right Here, Right NowAre you somewhere other than PAX this year? Then let PAX come to you. The folks at Twitch TV are livestreaming soooo much of the show. Check out a lot of PAX without getting out of your chair, via the livestreams below:


This stream is for the events in the Main Theater. Highlights include: "Assassin's Creed III PAX Prime Panel" (4:30PM PT, Fri.), "Hideo Kojima Introspective: Past, Present, and the Future of METAL GEAR" (1PM PT, Sat.),


This stream is for the events in the Kraken theater. Full schedule here. Highlights include: "After Notch: The New Minecraft Team" (4:30PM PT, Sat.), Which "Interactive Lie Did I Tell: A conversation on game writing with Chet & Erik of Valve Software" (6PM PT, Sat.), "Plot vs Play: The Duality of Modern Game Design -The Sequel!" (Noon PT, Sun.)

Watch live video from TwitchTV's Official Channel on www.twitch.tvTwitch TV's own gaming-centric stream/

Tons of games being demoed in this one. Full schedule (via the Twitch blog):

FRIDAY, AUGUST 31 (All times are Pacific Daylight Hours)
9AM PDT: Runic Games, Torchlight 2 Release Date Announcement
10AM PDT: ScrewAttack
11AM PDT: Destructoid
12PM PDT: MANvsGAME hosts Trion Worlds
2PM PDT: Sony Online Entertainment, Planetside 2
3PM PDT: Level|Up Series hosts Tekken Tag Tournament 2
5PM PDT: Hi-Rez Studios, Tribes: Ascend
10AM PDT: AriaBlarg
11AM PDT: Namco-Bandai Games, Tekken Tag Tournament 2
1PM PDT: MANvsGAME hosts Trion Worlds
2PM PDT: Sony Online Entertainment, Planetside 2
3PM PDT: Wired
5PM PDT: Hi-Rez Studios
10AM PDT: ScrewAttack
11AM PDT: Destructoid
12PM PDT: CheapAssGamer
1PM PDT: ffstv, Video Games Awesome
2PM PDT: Sony Online Entertainment, Planetside 2
3PM PDT: Wired
5PM PDT: Hi-Rez Studios

Watch live video from 2K on www.twitch.tv2K Games' stream.

Lots of Borderlands 2 and X-Com: Enemy Unknown.

Capcom's stream.

Lots of DmC, Lost Planet 3, Marvel vs Capcom Origins, Okami HD and Resident Evil 6.

DOTA 2: The International (tournament).

And there's... more. Trion Worlds, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Guardians of MIddle Earth and lots of other streams, all detailed at TwitchTV's big PAX 2012 livestream round-up.


You know what I hate? Audible character heartbeats in games. I can't deal with that. It's too stressful. I start breathing harder and I start to feel my own blood rushing as I start pondering the possibility that somehow—despite all logic—I'm about to suffer a heart attack. I mean, listen to my heart (which is now also audible!) go, feel that chest tighten! Ugh.

Okay. At that point I need to stop and regroup. Breathe, Patricia. You're not going to have a heart attack, idiot. Really. Usually, this retreat takes place outside of the game—I put my headphones down, close my eyes for a bit. I try to calm down and relax before I tackle the game again.

Usually, I don't think feeling like this is worth it and will just quit a game right then and there. But today I played the demo of Fibrillation, an experimental indie horror game, and things felt different. That's because the game has a mechanic that I'm surprised I haven't seen in a game before, especially a horror game: the ability to close your eyes. Yes, in-game.

Eventually I found myself clicking the "blink" button just so that it seemed like my character was blinking all the time, too.

Closing your eyes isn't the most ideal way to deal with a situation, but having it there added to the atmosphere. There was my character, trying to make out pathways in dark hallways and creepy rooms, suddenly there's this random apparition and you know what? Maybe that thing in the corner of my eyes wasn't actually there. Maybe my character needs a short break, or maybe this isn't real and I just need to close my eyes for a bit to realize that. Closing my eyes helped me feel like I was more in-tune with the character.

Eventually I found myself clicking the "blink" button just so that it seemed like my character was blinking all the time. There's no way he's breathing as hard as he is without having his eyes go a little erratic. But more importantly, having the option meant that I didn't have to pause the game and do it myself: I could close my eyes in-game and just take a breather that way.

The funny thing is, the more I did it, the more it felt like my character's heartbeat calmed down—even though it's entirely possible that the heartbeat audio didn't let up or become softer. What mitigates fear is often psychological like that.

I could see this working in other games. A lot of horror games like to use situations where you're managing something—like opening a lock or foraging your bag for supplies—while a threat looms. If you had to close your eyes so that your character could calm down before moving forward even though something was about to get you, now that'd be compelling. You'd have to be brave and keep collected even though you can't see what's happening around you: not an easy feat!

I didn't get far enough in Fibrillation to see if it pulled something like that. I got lost in this big warehouse and things got kind of claustrophobic in there. My cowardly, wussy self gave up. Those of you who are the courageous type can find the game here, if not vote for it on Steam Greenlight here.


Guild Wars 2 Bear Loves to PhotobombThere the player was, getting the camera right, the lighting right, the character's pose just right for that perfect screenshot and...oh, hi bear.

Photobombed in Guild Wars 2 [Reddit]


Minecraft Helped Inspire Skyrim's Newest DLC When the rumors started circulating about a new DLC called Hearthfire for Skyrim, people started excitedly speculating as to what new powers you'd go on in the expansion. Dawnguard brought vampire abilities to Bethesda's hit RPG so Hearthfire would bring what? Magma-flinging? Dovahkiin sidequests involving arson?

No one was really expecting house-building and adoption.

In a new team diary on the Elder Scrolls site, lead designer Bruce Nesmith, environmental artist Robert Wisnewski and co-lead designer Kurt Kuhlmann all talk about how the add-on was created. It turns out that Mojang's hit sandbox construction game Minecraft served as a key inspiration:

Meanwhile Nesmith, a fan of the popular game Minecraft, wanted players to have more ways to create content in the game. "Being a fan of [Minecraft], I asked, ‘Why can't I build things in our game?'"

Hearthfire started out as a project during the Skyrim Game Jam mentioned by Todd Howard talked about earlier this year. It grew from humble origins of being just a cabin to a multi-room home that can hold a greenhouse with plants for alchemical recipes. As for the adoption of little Dovah-kinder, level designer Steve Cornett says:

"The idea of adoption came to me after the Dark Brotherhood questline was presented. After first seeing the [Innocence Lost] questline, I asked, ‘what happens to the kids? What happens to the orphanage after the quest is completed?'"

Hearthfire provided an opportunity to answer these questions, as the concept of adoption seemed a natural fit with the idea of creating a household.

"Build your own house lets you make a house and adoption lets you make it a home."

Players will get the chance to build their own Dragonborn estates when Hearthfire comes out next week.

Skyrim Team Diary #6: Hearthfire [The Elder Scrolls]


The "World's First True Gaming Laptop" is Now More Powerful, Less PriceyFirst revealed a year ago, the Razer Blade was a fascinating machine. Dubbed "The World's First True Gaming Laptop" by its makers, the $2,800 17-inch machine, weighing less than seven pounds, was a bold experiment that traded power for portability, and portability for price.

The experiment was an overwhelming success. Earlier this year the Blade hit the PC market, garnering mostly favorable reviews. Despite performance that fell short of comparably-priced traditional laptops, the Blade's sleek profile and startling portability drove strong sales — Razer could barely keep up with the demand.

And now that Razer has proven the power of the Blade to customers, critics and suppliers, it's time for an upgrade.

Meet the new Razer Blade. It's much more powerful, and costs $300 less.

During a phone interview conducted in advance of today's big announcement, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan explained that the new Blade was a direct result of feedback from customers and reviewers that appreciated what the company was trying to do — create a gaming laptop that was truly portable and not just a desktop replacement — but wanted more.

The New Razer Blade

Price: US$2,499.99
September 2012

Product Specifications:

  • Future platform with 3rd Generation Intel Core Processor
  • NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 660M with NVIDIA Optimus Technology
  • 2GB Dedicated GDDR5 Video Memory
  • 8GB 1600 MHz DDR3 Memory
  • 17.3-in. LED Backlit Display (1920x1080)
  • Built-in HD Webcam
  • Integrated 60Wh Battery
  • 500GB 7200RPM HDD (Primary Storage)
  • 64GB SATA III SSD with NVELO Dataplex Software (Cache Acceleration)
  • Wireless Network 802.11 A/G/N + BT4.0
  • 16.81" (Width) x 10.9" (Depth) x 0.88" (Height); 6.6lbs (Weight)

We wanted more power, so Razer replaced the original unit's NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M with a GTX 660M and swapped the 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 2640M processor with a third-generation i7 processor so new that Intel hasn't announced it yet. We appreciated the speed of the 250GB solid state drive, but wanted more storage. The new Razer Blade comes with a hybrid drive consisting of a 500GB SATA drive and a 64GB SSD — still much faster than SATA alone. They've upgraded the wireless technology, made the fans quieter, and upgraded the USB ports to a trio of 3.0s with charging capability even when the system is powered off.

Looking over my review, Razer has addressed every concern I had about the original unit. Even the innovative but relatively useless Switchblade interface is gaining utility, with an SDK released during Gamescom to ensure developers had the tools required to integrate the customizable LED buttons and touchscreen trackpad into their games. During today's presentation at PAX Prime, developer Red 5 is taking the stage to show off how they've implemented the technology in their free-to-play shooter, Firefall.

"With the new Razer Blade, we set out to design something truly phenomenal with extreme performance for gamers in an ultra-thin form factor," said Min. "The design and hardware advancements, combined with our revolutionary user interface, makes the new Razer Blade, without doubt, the very best gaming laptop we've ever designed. The Beauty is now the Beast."

One would note that it's only the second one Razer has designed, but still.

The "World's First True Gaming Laptop" is Now More Powerful, Less Pricey

Perhaps the most impressive problem Razer has solved is the new unit's price tag. When the original Blade was released, Razer was not in the gaming laptop business. The company had little bargaining power in dealing with component manufacturers, especially with such a unique design. The parts were priced at a premium, and so was the Blade.

That's changed now, thanks in large part to the customers and critics that believed in the Blade's vision. The reaction was positive; the sales through the roof, and so now Razer can pass the savings onto the consumer.

The new Razer Blade will be up for pre-order on September 2 for $2,499, with units shipping to North American customers by the end of next month (when Intel's new processor is out of embargo). Razer is offering folks that purchased the original unit $500 off, a way of thanking them for making the new machine happen.

The "World's First True Gaming Laptop" is Now More Powerful, Less Pricey

The original Razer Blade is a marvel of modern PC engineering, the thinnest and lightest dedicated 17-inch gaming laptop ever created. The new Razer Blade is all of that, minus the power compromise. It might not be the future of PC gaming, but it's several more steps in the right direction.

NBA 2K13 will include, for the first time, NBA All-Star Week competitions such as the Three-Point Shootout and the dunk contest. Bet your ass you'll see this crazy dunk (at 1:15 in the video) in the latter.

The 2K Sports motion capture team brought in a duo called the Team Flight Brothers to put on the ping-pong balls and perform it and many other insane throwdowns. Special guest appearance by the 2K Insider, evidently in witness protection, at 2:10.

There are many other subtle animation upgrades made to the game, such as how the players palm the ball, hang on the rim, and display signature emotion during closeup shots. NBA 2K13 arrives on shelves Oct. 2.


In today's nostalgic episode of the TAY-powered Speak Up on Kotaku, commenter JonathanPonikvar laments the sad plight of the modern-day pinball fiend, forced to go digital to get his fix.

I'm a complete pinball junkie who is forced to go without a fix. Local arcades in my area have completely vanished, except for one — and it has nothing but fighting and gun games, with a smattering of DDR and skee ball. No pinball to be found. I even searched in an online directory of pinball tables (yes, such online directories exist) and confirmed that — at least as far as the site knew — there were none available within a 25-mile radius of my home.

Now, I love Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball. Have every table for them and have a good portion of the high scores on my friends list (about half, in a bit of a grudge match against my brother online for the rest). These tables never quite feel like true pinball though, since they do a lot of things that wouldn't be possible on a physical table (moving characters, morphing lanes, special effects, etc.). The Pinball Hall of Fame releases and most recently the Pinball Arcade on Xbox Live and PSN are my favorites, since they're digital recreations of actual tables produced over the past 50 years. The Williams Collection in particular was amazing since it had my two favorites: Funhouse and Black Knight. But sadly, this is the closest I can come now to getting my pinball fix.

With arcades pretty much on life support in the US and me lacking the $3-10K it costs to buy a table of my own, it's downright depressing to think that traditional pinball machines might be a dying art form. I mean hell, even if I did have the money to buy my own table, the only way to find them is used or refurbished. There is now only ONE company in operation today that still makes new tables (Stern), and they are premium priced collector's items. Digital pinball is fun, sure, but there's just no replacement for actually standing at a machine in person. I can't be one of the only people left who still feel this way.

Does anyone else have this addiction to pinball that has been sorely unsatisfied lately? Or do you have access to an arcade that still houses a table or two? Or even better, actually own a physical table of your own (in which case, I both admire and hate you)?

About Speak Up on Kotaku: Our readers have a lot to say, and sometimes what they have to say has nothing to do with the stories we run. That's why we have a forum on Kotaku called TAY. That's the place to post anecdotes, photos, game tips and hints, and anything you want to share with Kotaku at large. Every weekday we'll pull one of the best TAY posts we can find and highlight it here.