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Vivendi Universal Games
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 17, 2004   |   Episode 24 (Show Archive)  

Although Vivendi Universal published some of the most anticipated games of the year, much of 2004 was spent with them worrying about who would own them and if they would even still be a publisher in 2005. For the most part things have died down, so we're just going to assume that by the time this article runs Vivendi Universal will still be around, and will not have gone the way of Acclaim and 3DO.

What do you expect from the publisher of some of the biggest games of the year? Half-Life 2 was touted as one of the most revolutionary games of all time, so should we expect the same from their website? Should we be disappointed if it's nothing more than your average fact sheet with crummy pictures and next to no news? That's what we found out when we visited VU Games' website.

Carmen Electra seems to end up in all the video games, undressing must not be paying the bills!
Look and Design: There are a lot of good things that can be said about VU Games this year, they really came through when it came to the big games (and even a few of the small ones). But there's not much good I can say about their front page, which is simply cluttered for no reason. The dark blue vertical stripe is just obnoxious and the ad placing is amateurish at best. That's not to say there aren't a few nice quirks about the design, but the look is just too busy for its own right.

Things go from bad to tragic when you go to any one of the list pages on the site (such as their line-up of games). The strange 1970's Partridge Family background is fused with a dark blue that could not be any less attractive. Occasionally the webmaster throws some green in there to make up for the dark blue, but even this new color doesn't mix well with the fondue party theme VU Games seems to be going for.

Accessibility: The first thing you're going to have to get used to is the crazy "liquid" navigation bar at the top of the screen. Depending on what section you choose (from Games to the Store to Corporate) you'll get a drop-down menu that you might not see at fist. These menus seem self explanatory at first, but finding the specific game you want can prove to be a somewhat trying process. The main problem with VU Games' website is their constant use of lists, just one list after another with very little useful information.

The actual game pages are so bad you need to see them to believe them. Thanks to their dark blue color scheme, most of the text is encased in a lighter blue outline. This effect just does not work, and makes me wonder who, if anybody, gave their okay for this set up. The rest of the game pages are equally appalling, with very little information, not a lot of helpful buyer suggestions, and no user comment. There are a lot of missed opportunities here, but somehow they are overshadowed by a truly horrific color set-up.

Insider Information: Although there is a news section, you actually have to go searching for it and it's not immediately apparent where to look. Once there you probably won't want to stay long,

Here's Catwoman before she hunts a leather-clad mouse!
since it's mostly news you have already heard, deals you already know about, or events you could have guessed. Don't expect to find any information about their business woes or financial troubles, but then, that's not really what a game website is for. I will say this section is one of the few places on the site that doesn't look like it was designed by the colorblind. The gray and blue actually goes well with the crazy yellow and orange background. If all of the site used this color scheme ... well, I'd probably still complain, but it wouldn't have taken up as much room.

Parting Thoughts: Universal, you already have my support because you green lit the Firefly: Serenity movie, and that makes me very, very happy. So now maybe it's time you build up some good buzz by releasing a kick ass game based on the various adventures of the Firefly. Let's face it; there are a lot of stories that could be told, and even a few un-produced scripts that could be used. Joss Whedon was very hands-on with both of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer games, so it can't be too hard to get him to help out on a Firefly game. It's not like he has TV shows to worry about. Sigh.


(Important Note: This review was written in 2004. As is the case with websites things tend to change and get moved around. We've decided to cover major companies who should have a presence on the web for many years to come, but the actual reviews of the layout may not be relevant for more than a month to a year. Having said that, we're hoping this article was still interesting, and if not, at least you go this extra little paragraph of explanation that you wouldn't normally get on the other websites.)


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