Thursday, June 7, 2012

E3 2012 - Part 2

And so we continue our journey through my E3 experience from afar with the next 5 titles on my watch list for the next for 12-18 months:

Watch Dogs (video link)
The first two people I encountered at work this past Tuesday had only one thing to say to me "did you see the Watch Dogs video?" I hadn't even heard of this "Watch Dogs" before they mentioned it so no, I hadn't seen the video. The tone of voice used by my co-workers insinuated that I needed to see this video immediately and the comment that it was "as if it was based off of William Gibson's novels" only amplified this fact. I went back to my desk and spent the next several minutes with my jaw dropped completely open. Drawing on the kind of modern cyberpunk espionage action that's been at the forefront of William Gibson's latest trilogy of novels, Watch Dogs is just grounded enough in reality to be approachable and familiar, but goes off on the kind of paranoia-induced information distopia spur that nudges it just over the line into the realm of sci-fi. While there still aren't too many details about exactly how the game plays, how open world it is, and how their unique multi-player spin actually fits into the big picture, I'm nonetheless excited for this game and I'll be glued to the Internet for more further information in the coming months.

Star Wars: 1313 (video link)
I don't even know what Star Wars is anymore. There was a time not so long ago when this IP was fairly easy to nail down, but as the expanded universe has ... expanded, Star Wars has really just become an all-encompassing sci-fi universe. I guess this technically isn't a bad thing, the only problem is that the non-Jedi elements of the Star Wars universe just don't seem to have the same branding and unique flavor as the rest of the IP. A lot of times it just ends up feeling like generic sci-fi. Still, if it's fun to read, watch, or play, I guess I can't complain and Star Wars: 1313 looks like it may have the right formula to succeed. While the game play they've shown so far appears to be very tightly scripted, it nonetheless looks like a step in the right direction. Utilizing the now traditional cover-shooter play style and incorporating some Uncharted-style platforming is definitely a much better choice than the dial-a-combo snore-fest mechanics of the Force Unleashed franchise and stepping away from Jedi altogether is both bold and somewhat refreshing choice. What remains to be seen however is how this title is going to make itself relevant to the Star Wars universe and steer away from being just another sci-fi 3rd-person shooter. Back in the day the Dark Forces franchise had the same obstacle and ultimately gave way to the Jedi Knight games and one of my favorite expanded universe characters: Kyle Katarn. Does Star Wars: 1313 have the potential to do the same thing? Perhaps ... if The Force is with it.

Assassin's Creed 3 (video link)
I liked the first Assassin's Creed game, though as most people seem to agree it was a bit repetitive. Still I really dug the idea of the setting and the mechanics; platforming, plus light stealth, plus inventive melee equals a win in my book. I've heard that many of the weak spots in the formula were strengthened or dropped from Assassin's Creed 2, but I never got more than an hour or so into the game to see them. Someday I will finish it, but at present time I still haven't gotten around to it. Regardless of that minor road bump and regardless of the fact that Assassin's Creed 2 spawned something like a half dozen mini-sequels, I'm looking forward to the franchise's third big installment. One major reason for my excitement is the shift in time and location to Revolutionary War America, an underused time period in games and certainly one that's never gotten the action/adventure treatment in recent memory if at all. The other reason is the video (linked above) of the naval combat. I don't know how big a part of the game the naval game play will comprise, but it certainly looks like they spent a decent amount of time on it and it's easily one of the best ship-level representations of naval warfare I've ever seen. Otherwise I expect the game to follow a similar format to the existing Assassin's Creed games, but the setting alone makes this all the more interesting in my opinion, so it looks like I'll have to be getting back to Assassin's Creed 2 sooner rather than later.

The Last of Us (video link)
What is it about the post-apocalypse that so captures people's imaginations? Is it the age-old psychology of learning to face real fears in the safety of a fictional world, or is it simply a power fantasy wherein we long to believe that we have what it takes to survive where others have failed? Regardless of the reasoning, there's something about the alien but familiar nature of a post-apocalyptic setting that I find compelling. The Last of Us takes place 20 years after a strange fungal outbreak ignites a sort of zombie apocalypse. The protagonist is tasked with escorting a 14 year old girl outside of a militarily controlled quarantine zone and what follows seems to be part Ico, part Uncharted, and part Resident Evil. Did I mention the game is being developed by Naughty Dog, makers of the Uncharted games? Based on the E3 footage they've shown this year I'm expecting an action/adventure rollercoaster ride that will likely run the emotional gamut. Naughty Dog have shown a certain affinity for engaging video game characterizations and situations and judging by what's on display in The Last of Us, they don't plan to disappoint.

Beyond Two Souls (video link)
No, I still haven't played Heavy Rain. Having just bought a PS3 a couple months ago there simply hasn't been time. Not to sound like a hipster or anything though, but I was playing David Cage's games long before anybody gave a rat's ass about him and his company Quantic Dream. Having experienced both Omikron and Indigo Prophecy (aka Farenheit) I have a pretty good idea of what Mr. Cage and crew are all about and I'll get to Heavy Rain at some point I assure you. His latest game once again appears to be in the same vein as his more recent offerings in the sense that the "game play" is all about controlling real people in more or less real situations. I have to hand it to him though, many developers (cough ... Hideo Kojima ... cough) make the mistake of sacrificing game play due to their cinematic and story-telling ambitions. David Cage makes finding and/or injecting game play into cinematic story-telling his primary design goal and he is more or less successful. These games may not be for everyone, but as a fan of the classic point and click adventure genre, I see this as a recently grown branch on the evolutionary tree. This latest game seems to be heading back into the sci-fi/paranormal territory covered by Indigo Prophecy with a young woman (played by and modeled to look like actress Ellen Page) on the run from some agency or other, seemingly due to the telekinetic powers at her disposal. The trailer offers us but a brief glimpse into the narrative, but it's enough to pique my interest and put this one on the watch list for the future.

Next: Aliens, zombies, and ... swans?

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