This video game company called Pandemic Studios created one great game after another for 11 years - "Full Spectrum Warrior," "Star Wars: Battlefront," "Mercenaries" and "Destroy All Humans!"
Then game-maker Electronic Arts bought Pandemic in 2007, and closed Pandemic down a few weeks ago, laying off 200 workers. Among those gone are Pandemic founders Andrew Goldman and Josh Resnick.
Did EA buy Pandemic, a one-time rival, just to close it? Was it sabotage? No. It's a recession, some game sales weren't great, so EA said it needed to "improve our cost structure." This was another sign, I think, of how corporations in the fat-economy years overextended themselves only to end up retreating, like the Nazis did when they tried to take on Russia.
I'm not even slightly comparing EA to Nazis. I'm merely pointing out an obvious truism from Econ 101: Overexpansion leads to downsizing. Hitler and Napoleon are simply prime examples.
Anyhow, Pandemic Studios was shut after it delivered its last game for EA, the Dec. 8 release "The Saboteur" - a very good, "Grand Theft Auto"-type "sandbox" game.
In fact, "Saboteur" is basically a "GTA" set in Paris during World War II. You portray an Irish race car driver who works in the French Resistance to kill Nazis, hijack cars, blow up Nazi anti-aircraft guns, and do all kinds of other violent missions.
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Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, according to retailer Game Crazy. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Most games are priced $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PSP; $30 for DS and PS 2.
1. "Left 4 Dead 2" (Valve) for Xbox 360; also available for PC; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, language)
2. "Super Smash Bros. Brawl" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "T" (cartoon violence, crude humor)
3. "Assassin's Creed 2" (Ubisoft) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, intense violence, sexual content, strong language)
4. "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E" (comic mischief)
5. "Infinite Undiscovery" (Square Enix) for Xbox; rated "T" (mild blood, mild language, suggestive themes, use of alcohol, violence)
6. "Fight Night Round 4" (EA) for PS 3; also available for Xbox 360; rated "T" (mild blood, mild lyrics, mild suggestive themes, violence)
7. "Fight Night Round 4" for Xbox 360
8. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" (Activision) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, drug reference, intense violence, language)
9. "Madden NFL '10" (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for Wii, PS 3, PS 2, PSP; rated "E"
10. "Borderlands" (Take Two) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3 and PC; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, mature humor and strong language)
(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone"; "T" for "Teen"; "M" for "Mature 17+")
So, for instance, one timed mission to blow up a depot might make you climb quickly up buildings, jump across rooftops, all the while shooting Nazis left and right with machines guns, sniper rifles and a rocket launcher. Oh, and I can't fail to mention the flamethrowers. They burn flesh.
You can climb just about anything, including the Eiffel Tower. You can blow up just about anything, including zeppelins, which catch aflame and sift-soot downward, looking similar to that old footage of the Hindenburg. Oh, the humanity.
Nazis are mean snakes. You might be driving down the road when you see Nazi soldiers executing people in the face.
This is prettily illustrated. Parts of Paris that you and the Resistance have overpowered appear in full color. Parts of Paris under massive Nazi rule appear as gray hues of black-and-white.
As you liberate the Eiffel Tower and other neighborhoods, those areas turn colorful again.
Downers: Like all "GTA" rip-offs, there's too much driving across long roads to get to mission starts. And depending on which difficulty setting you choose, you can either feel as if you're never in any danger, or too much danger.
Your character is full of vengeance for the death of someone close to him. The game itself feels like a fantasy revenge against Nazis, in the vein of Quentin Tarantino's film, "Inglourious Basterds."
In real life, revenge against Nazis came only after the killings of millions of people. And there is yet no revenge for Pandemic employees, presumably cashing unemployment checks and looking for work.
But vengeance isn't called for in times like corporate layoffs. Sadness is, and saluting is. Gone from the world is a great game company that brought much joy. Pandemic is dead. Long live Pandemic.
("The Saboteur" by Electronic Arts retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for PC Plays very fun. Looks great. Easy to challenging, depending on settings you choose. Rated "M" for blood, intense violence, nudity, sexual themes and strong language. Three and one-half stars out of four.)