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The Core Experience

Agent 47 treads carefully upon old, splintered wood. The location is a closed fun fair, shut down after an accident killed several people. The owner, a Mr. Joseph Clarence, still resides within the ruins of his former glory, but not alone. He’s made a deal with a narcotics gang, one whose members aren’t very civil in keeping their end. It’s a short tutorial level to Hitman: Blood Money but it manages to go over all the key details, from sneaking to gunfights to body disposal. And then the killing of the target.

Joseph waits in his office. Not for you, just for a faint glimmer of hope that the good times will come back once again. Considering the downward spiral of his life, Agent 47 can be considered that faint slip of hope. He presents Joseph with a photograph of a young man. The client who hired Agent 47 said that the photograph should be the last thing Joseph sees before he dies. Agent 47 hands over the photograph and pulls out his gun and-

I’m sorry, you’ve run out of play time. Watch an advertisement to earn more! Would you like to learn how you can create your own signature, celebrity style at Kohl’s? What about James Franco’s new thing? Perhaps a commercial for the upcoming Mini Ninja‘s Kinect game is more to your liking? Be wary of your decision however, as the shorter the commercial means you’ll earn less time to play.

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That scenario is Core Online in a nutshell, but if you haven’t heard of Square Enix’s new service, here are the details: Square Enix is making their games available to play for free, or alternatively through micro-transaction purchases. In order to play for free you first have to earn play time by watching advertisements from select companies. The longer the advertisement, the more play time you earn, up to a maximum of an hour.

Now, I like free stuff, but when it comes to games, the majority of its freeware titles are either little Flash games, crap Facebook games or MMOs (with the exception of Dungeon Fighter). Whenever I see something is free to play, I immediately question the quality of that game. It’s come from experience, having played way too many games that seem to continue existing only because the price to enter is so low. I don’t know anyone who’d actually pay for a copy of FarmVille.

That’s why I like the idea of Core Online. The ability to play games that were not necessarily developed for the free-to-play model for free sounds great. And, even with the issue that play time may bottom out and create immersion breaking scenarios, it works well. While playing Blood Money I noticed no frame-rate issues. Mini Ninja was smooth sailing.

But this is where the problem starts. It’s still in beta, so it’s incomplete. There are only two game choices available: Hitman: Blood Money and Mini Ninja. And while it’s still a better selection then if they decided to offer up Kayne and Lynch as their initial available choice, these aren’t world breaking titles. The business model is sound, but it doesn’t matter if no one cares about the games being released for it.

Now, if they started releasing their classic catalog, that’s when the service will really shine. I’d watch advertisements if it meant I could play any of the Final Fantasy games on there. They just re-released Final Fantasy VII on the PC barely a month ago. That would be an acceptable title.

The only caveat would mean that I’d have to watch a lot of advertisements if I expect to complete the game in this manner. If 1 minute of ad watching equates to 20 minutes of gameplay, approximately, then in order to play through all 60 hours of Final Fantasy VII I would have to watch, cumulatively, 3 hours of advertisements. Still better than regular television.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2011.

Gentle persuasion

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