Showing posts with label E3. Show all posts
Showing posts with label E3. Show all posts

Monday, June 11, 2012

E3 2012 - Part 4

Here it is, my final E3 post. When all is said and done, while technically we didn't see a lot of new stuff this year, we saw a lot of stuff that was still in early production or only mentioned in passing last year and it's all stuff that is on the horizon for the next 12-18 months. I'm coming away from E3 very excited, even if I know I'll never have the time to play all these games.

Hawken (video link)
These guys have got to be annoyed that a new Mechwarrior game is finally coming out because before that, this was going to be the only stop for giant pilotable mecha action. If you like big robots (and if you grew up with Robotech and Voltron like I did you damn well better like big robots) then Hawken is a dream come true. Even with a new Mechwarrior game in the works, I think there is still plenty of room for success for both projects. If history (and source material) is any indicator, Mechwarrior is likely to be a much more detailed game, bordering on simulation. Based on what we've seen so far of Hawken, it's less heavy on the simulation and instead concentrates on kicking ass. Hawken looks like it could be the Counerstrike of mecha games and I'll gladly take that and still enjoy the brutal simulation I assume we'll get when Mechwarrior Online launches as well.

Deadlight (video link)
Zombies may come and go in TV, Film, Comics, and Literature, but in video games they seem to be a mainstay. At the very least zombies are a humanoid enemy that it's totally OK to kill. Personally I can't get enough of zombies; they're easily my monster of choice when it comes to horror regardless of how they're portrayed. Deadlight not only gives me zombies, but it does so with in the style that seems to blend part point-and-click adventure with the "metroid-vania" formula. The end result is something that (if it works) will likely constitute pure digital crack for me.

Metro: Last Light (video link)
The first Metro game is one whose premise and visuals I loved to death, but that turned me off in several other ways. The town sections were boring, the barter system was confusing (mainly due to a UI that didn't let you see what ammo went to which guns you currently had), and the shooting itself wasn't quite tweaked enough. It was 75% of a great game though and someday I may finish it. From initial impressions I've heard regarding Last Light, it would seem that at least some of my issues have been addressed. If anything, the video (above) that I've seen of the game features some interesting first-person stealth and that's always going to turn my head. Along with the aforementioned visuals and setting of the first game, if Last Light has indeed smoothed some of the edges off its forebears, then that 75% of a great game may get to 100% quite fast.

Miner Wars 2081 (video link)
When it comes to space games, I'm something of an aficionado and that generally leaves me clamoring for information about anything new in the genre since it has been by and large dead for over a decade. Once a PC staple, the space genre didn't evolve quickly enough away from requiring pricey peripherals and towards keyboard and mouse and just sort of disappeared. Every once in a while a new space game will come out, but they're usually small and seldom very innovative. Miner Wars 2081 doesn't look like it's going to save or reinvigorate the genre at all, but it's breaching the MMO space in an interesting way and it's utilizing game play that reminds me an awful lot of the hallowed Descent series, specifically the third installment. It may be nothing more than a curiosity of mine at the moment, but I'm interested to see how this one plays. It seems like a sound formula for a genre I enjoy. 

A Game of Dwarves (video link)
This is another game that I didn't take a look at until several days into E3. Once again the name turned me off. "A Game of Dwarves"? It just sounds like they're trying to blatantly associate themselves with A Game of Thrones and such pandering doesn't sit well with me. The thing is, I kept seeing posts about this game all week and so eventually I had to see what the fuss was. I have to say, I like what I see. It appears that what they've done here is combine Dungeon Keeper (the classic dungeon builder/defender game) with Dwarf Fortress (the indie 4X-style micromanagement simulation). What they end up with is a game that has the sim and management elements of Dwarf Fortress, with the direction and ease of Dungeon Keeper. I've gotta say, it's a damn brilliant combination and I can definitely see myself spending some time with it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

E3 2012 - Part 3

I'm back with the penultimate installment of my E3 coverage. First up, another game about zombies:

ZombiU (video link)
Nintendo (like mobile phone game developers) is largely trying to entertain an audience that is not me. Because of this fact I believe I should be forgiven for thinking that the Wii U was simply a Wii add-on for the past year. As it turns out, this is a new system entirely and as with most Nintendo systems, I have found it difficult to muster any enthusiasm for it. That is, until I saw ZombiU. While it may not be the best example of the Wii U out there and it may not even be that great a game, ZombiU is the kind of demo that gets someone like me interested in something like Wii U. It seems that Nintendo has realized that while motion control is cool, people still like real controllers. That tactile part of gaming is still very important to us and until we start using haptic holographic displays like in Mass Effect, it is likely going to be. The Wii U seems to combine the good parts of motion control with the tactile usefulness of a controller and the augmentation capability of a second, personal touch screen. ZombiU appears to put all of these elements to good use and while the trailer is very heavily produced, I'll at least keep an eye on it and the Wii U over the next several months.

XCom: Enemy Unknown (video link)
I actually knew about this game a bit before it was announced last year. A co-worker knew someone at Firaxis working on it and spilled the beans. Make no bones about it, I can't think of any developer better suited to finally bring us a real XCom game than Firaxis. For one thing, they understand that turn-based gaming is a choice and not a relic of the past. For another, they have a track record of releasing top-quality products such as the Civilization series. From everything I've seen of this new XCom it looks to be both a faithful adaptation and a much needed modernization for this series. I am very much looking forward to playing this and saving the world again like it's 1994.

Company of Heroes 2 (video link)
I had some really good times with the original Company of Heroes, most of it in multi-player. While my circle of friends were waiting for Relic to release Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War II (a game we thought we'd all spend a lot of time with but didn't) we played a ton of CoH. As far as multi-player RTS games go, CoH is easily my favorite of all time. Where other games rely on gimmicks and require non-stop micro management and twitch RTS skills, CoH was a decent meld of old and new. With tactics, area control, approach, and timing all being crucial factors, CoH reminded me of the old days of Age of Empires II albeit with a much more modern approach and an excellent supply line/control point system. There isn't much on display from CoH 2 at the moment, but I have to hope that it will follow closely in it's predecessor's footsteps.

The Unfinished Swan (video link)
I don't think it was until day 2 of E3 that I actually checked out the video for this game. The name spoke to me in a way that turned me off. "The Unfinished Swan", it just sounds like one of those obtuse Japanese games meant only for native or serious otaku consumption. Eventually curiosity got the better of me and I took a look. What I found at first glance looks like some kind of first person version of the PS2 game Okami or Epic Mickey for the Wii. The Unfinished Swan is a game where (at least initially) you are presented with nothing but a blank white screen. Without any visual cues, there is no way to know where you are going or even if you are going anywhere at all. The player can throw globs of paint at the world though and when they do, the shape of the level is partially revealed. Apparently there is more varied game play later on, but initially it's a concept that's intriguing and one I'm surprised we really haven't seen up till now.

Aliens: Colonial Marines (video link)
Aliens is the movie that made me an unapologetic James Cameron fan. I probably watched Aliens more than any other movie during high school and I was very much into the extended universe that could be found through books and comics. To my adolescent mind the world of Aliens had so much more going on than what was being shown and I wanted to explore those Stygian depths. Aliens: Colonial Marines is more or less a direct sequel to the Aliens movie. From what I can gather (and based on my knowledge of the film) the titular marines are likely the rescue party that Ripley and the others were going to have to wait 3 weeks for on planet LV-426 until it was revealed that the fusion reactor for the atmosphere processing plant was damaged and was going to blow. Gearbox has been working on this game for quite some time and I have to assume they've just been shifting around resources between it, the Borderlands games, and Duke Nukem Forever because it seems like this should have been out a year ago. Still, the game looks great and I trust Gearbox quite a bit so they can go ahead and take their time to give me the best xenomorph extermination simulation around.

Next: Mechs, Mines, and Mutants!

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?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

E3 2012 - Part 1

Let me start by saying that I haven't personally attended E3 in about 10 years. I went once about a year after being laid off from Turbine with hopes of networking (something I'm not good at and have since learned is a lousy way to get into game development) and while that effort didn't quite pan out, I did get to see the floor show. The best way I can describe E3 is that it's like being stuck inside a giant pinball machine. E3 is all loud noises, flashing lights, and wall to wall people. If you've ever been to PAX or a big comic book or anime convention then you've experienced only the barest hint of what it's like being at E3. Simply put: it's a madhouse ... a MADHOUSE!

Viewing E3 from afar is a much saner activity and these days it's easier to do than ever. Sites like do a great job of acting as aggregates of E3 information from across the web and gaming news blogs like Joystiq and Kotaku are jam-packed with info on everything their teams see. As a gamer and game designer I can't get enough E3 news. This is the week when many of the biggest announcements that will direct the path of the industry over the next year are made and it's also when all types of titles due to launch within the next 12-18 months are unveiled or on display.

We seem to go through cycles in the game development biz. First there's the console cycle where every 5-6 years a new batch of home gaming systems are released. The beginning of a console cycle is always a little shaky, but by the end people are pulling out all the stops. We happen to be coming to the end of a console cycle right now. Another cycle is a bit more discreet and it's tough to put a finger on it. Still, it seems to me at least that every other year is a great year for games, with tons of amazing titles on display. Last year was decent, this year seems to be one of the great years.

At this point in the week most of what is newsworthy has already been posted as the big developer press conferences have come and gone and the floor is now where the action is. Usually you'll hear about a few lesser publicized games in the last couple days, but these days the majority is unleashed right up front. With nearly 20 titles on my watch list from E3 this year, I figured it was as good a time as any to start talking about what I've been following. We start with the relaunch of a classic PC franchise:

Tomb Raider (video link)
Truth be told, I was never a fan of this series back when it was a "thing" in the late 90's. For me the controls were always awkward and the save system infuriating. Luckily this genre has come a long way, with perhaps the most perfect expression being the Uncharted series of games by Naughty Dog. Watching footage of this new Tomb Raider, it's impossible not to see the Uncharted influence. The nice thing is that from what I've seen so far, it seems like they've done a good job with it. While I hope there's a little more exploration in this game than is usually on offer in the Uncharted series, I think I'll be happy with whatever I get from this title.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist (video link) 
Not even a full week before E3 I had remarked to someone in my office that maybe one of our co-workers who was leaving for a job with Ubisoft, was going to work on an unannounced Splinter Cell game. It turns out that our co-worker will not be working on this game, but Ubisoft did indeed have a Sam Fischer in it's hat. The original Splinter Cell was one of the game I spent a bit of time with at the E3 I attended 10 years ago and it was the first game I bought for my original XBox. I sort of lost track of the Splinter Cell series after the 3rd game however, which incidentally also seemed to be the point where they started messing with the action/espionage formula. Even with that in mind, it's nice to see the franchise return and even though there's no stealth in the portion of the game that they've been showing off, I'm interested nonetheless.

Sim City (video link) 
What can I say? I'm a Sim City fan way back to the Super Nintendo port from the mid 90's. I've played every version since then and even though not a ton changes, I still get drawn into crafting a bustling virtual metropolis. Since Sim City 4 several years back there have been a few attempts by other developers (and even Maxis itself with Sim City: Societies) to innovate in the city building genre. Perhaps the closest to Sim City itself is Cities XL, a series that while lacking in some of Sim City's nuance and polish, pushes boundaries and adds features that the genre was sorely lacking. I was happy to see in the footage shown of this new Sim City that many of these features appear to be incorporated. Even more enticing is the online option where you can connect to and bargain with your friends cities. A really good city sim has been a long time coming and the game that started it all looks to raise the bar again here. I know I'll be spending some long nights pleasing my virtual citizens and crafting a sim utopia.

Dead Space 3 (video link) 
I was a big fan of the original Dead Space. Not only was it artistically interesting, it utilized an interesting new IP, and polished its survival horror game play to a brilliant shine. Dead Space 2 (which I finally finished just recently) was also an amazing experience. While it featured a bit more action in the mix, it was still survival horror and made me jump more than a few times. Having seen what's on offer in this latest installment, it's not difficult to assume that they're adding even more action elements and while it may be true, I'm not willing to jump to that conclusion just yet. A lot of what they've shown off is co-op and a lot of what they've shown off is shooting. I know from experience that horror is a tough sell not just on the E3 floor, but on video in general. It's tough to make a sizzle video of anything horror related and seeing as how they obviously want to feature the new co-op feature, I'm not surprised there's a lot of action. Even if there is more action in the mix and the horror is tamed, I'm still going to dig this title. There's more to this series than getting scared and I enjoy those other elements just as much.

Dishonored (video link)
Just hook this game straight to my veins. With its mix of stealth and action and its unique steampunk setting this game is basically the ideological successor to the venerable Thief series of games. In fact, I'm pretty sure the guys in charge of Dishonored would agree with that given that Harvey Smith actually worked on the last Thief game when he was with Warren Specter at Ion Storm. Dishonored goes a step and a half beyond Thief however with a much more stylized world and a much more open game play feel. Unlike Thief's Garret, the protagonist of Dishonored has access to an assortment of supernatural abilities, allowing him to teleport, possess living creatures, see through walls, and more. This is the first time we've seen any Dishonored game play at work and it fully lives up to the expectations set by their CGI teasers last year. As far as new IP's go, this is one I'm looking forward to in a big way.

Next: Ubisoft reads my mind with Watch Dogs, there's a 3rd person Star Wars game that doesn't look like it will disappoint (re: Force Unleashed), and we find the best looking boat-level naval simulation I've ever seen in the least expected place.

Friday, June 24, 2011

E3 2011 - Part 2

Wasn't this a driving game a few years back? Apparently Id has decided to go back to what they're best at and make an FPS. While I'm looking forward to this game, don't mind me if I'm a little underwhelmed. It's not that anything about it looks bad, it's just that conceptually and even technically there's nothing ground breaking from what I've seen of Rage. What I have seen looks like an incredibly tight FPS, very much in the style of play I expect from Id. What does that mean though "style of play"? For Id the style is a throwback to the genre they adopted as a zygote and raised to maturity, where variety of weapons, waves of baddies, and a bit of creeping horror were par for the course. From everything I've seen of Rage it seems to be progressing in this direction, which is a nice break from the quick time event laden cover shooters we're being exposed to non-stop from every other direction. I'm looking forward to a thoroughly modern experience that at it's core adheres to the gameplay tropes I've come to revere from Id games for the last 15 years.

I'm not going to talk much about Bastion except to say that it looks like it's finally coming out. All told, the game that got everyone talking about the gimmick of the on-the-fly narrator seems to have become something more than just that and I'm looking forward to exploring what appears to be a visually interesting game world with enough unique narrative touches to create a compelling experience beyond graphics and gimmicks.

Batman: Arkham City
The first game (Batman: Arkham Asylum) was simply amazing, a 3rd person action adventure title with excellent, uncomplicated controls that had just enough arcade brawler and just enough Splinter Cell to leave me feeling like I was Batman after each session. Arkham City looks to continue in that vein with a host of improvements, a larger, more open world, and a playable Catwoman. These guys can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned, so they might as well already have my money.

Aliens: Colonial Marines
There hasn't been a really good Aliens game since Monolith's Aliens vs. Predator 2 in 2001. The one thing anyone who grew up watching and re-watching Aliens in the 90's has ever wanted to do is to simulate being a colonial space marine. James Cameron's sci-fi action film gave us just enough reference to feel what this would be like and subsequent games made it real, while sharing play time with Aliens and Predators of course. This time around we get to be the Marines 100% of the time and as a project that's been cooking for a while I can only hope it's been time well spent. This could be the game to revitalize a franchise from the slow, painful death brought upon it by progressively worse AvP films.

Sonic Generations
I haven't been a fan of Sonic since the game moved away from 2D as it's primary view and as most will tell you, there hasn't been much recently to be a fan of. With last years Sonic 4 however and the upcoming Sonic Generations it appears as if Sega is rebooting everyone's favorite speed demon in a way that everyone can enjoy. So far what I've seen of Sonic Generations is reassuring. There's no narrative fluff clogging up this game, no crazy powers, no dumb sidekicks, just Sonic in 2D and 3D doing what he does best: go fast!

Tomb Raider
Looks like they're rebooting Tomb Raider and I may actually be interested for the first time ever. I never got into the Tomb Raider games mainly because the thing I was best at in them was dying due to shitty controls. Add to that experience a save/continue system that made me want to throw controllers across the room, and I never did more than casually play a friend's copy here and there. This new game looks interesting though. At the very least, controls and save mechanics have evolved and standardized to a point where I'm less likely to be hindered by them. What I've seen so far has promise, but one thing needs to go ... Lara Croft needs to shut the hell up. The videos they showed at E3 were rife with unneeded gasps, grunts, and comments by the player character. This is all great for a demo video, but in a game where I may have to redo sections of a level, it's going to get old fast. Leave the gasps to the player and keep Lara's input to a minimum. Main characters in action games are better off seen than heard.

BioShock: Infinite
I remember distinctly playing the demo for the original BioShock. I did so on the Xbox 360 because there wasn't a PC demo (or the Xbox one was out first, I don't remember) and the combination of gameplay, art direction, and narrative sucked me in instantly. I remember posting some sort of amazing praise online immediately afterwards begging my other game dev friends to check it out and that this was what "good" looked like. The footage of Infinite brings back the same memories. I am simply blow away by the style of their game world and the pace of their game play. It is going to be a treat to delve into another BioShock world again for the first time. Columbia is the new Rapture.

Elder Scrolls VI: Skyrim
Just give me system requirements already. I built the PC previous to this one to meet the requirements of Elder Scrolls V: Oblivion and I'll alter this one for Skyrim most certainly. Something the crew at Bethesda has been fantastic at since Morrowind is simulating worlds and while one can certainly argue about the repetitive core game play of Oblivion and some "lifelike" systems that weren't quite there, you have to agree that there is something wonderful about an open world that's ripe to explore. I think they really got it right in Fallout 3, a game that I logged 60+ hours on and that had me scouring the wastes on and off for several years. Skyrim looks like it's seeking to combine the lessons learned from Oblivion and Fallout 3 and make a better game all around, at least that's what I hope.

Quick Shots:

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
I mentioned being interested in this one last year and it looks like it's finally on it's way out. For all intents and purposes this has all the earmarks of a fun, stylistic indie game and I'm always a fan of that.

Modern Warfare 3
At this point I may not even get MW3. Let's face facts. BF3 comes out a month earlier and gives me all features for free. Unless it turns out to be less than what it appears to be (which is "awesome") then I may not even consider picking up MW3, BF3 will be "the game".

There's nothing much to say about this game except it's curiously moving and I haven't even played it. There's just something about the presentation that evokes a sense of loss, but also a sense of wonder and adventure. Thatgamecompany has made a name for themselves by being atmospheric and Journey looks to be taking that a step further and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Mass Effect 3
I won't say much about Mass Effect 3 being that I work for BioWare and I'm not going to say anything bad. I've been a fan of the series since the start and I'm very much looking forward to how this space epic is going to end. I honestly don't know anymore than anyone else out there right now and I wouldn't want to. I'm very much looking forward to completing my Shepherd's adventure next year though.

Not having been a big console gamer for a long time I never developed the same affinity for developers like Insomniac that others have. I will say this though, I'm aware of Insomniac's resume and Overstrike looks like good fun. All I've seen so far is pre-rendered though, so time will tell how it all actually plays. I expect to be pleasantly surprised.

From Dust
It looked good last year and it looks even better this year. The "god" game has really been dormant for some time (Black and White aside) and this looks like the kind of resurrection that I can really get behind.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

E3 2011 - Part 1

The blog was prophesied and inevitable and so here I am writing about E3 2011. I haven't physically attended an E3 in roughly 9 years, but with the right internet resources it's possible to actually get more out of not being at the show than getting lost in the crazed cacophony of lights and sounds that is the floor at E3. This year as with last I relied heavily on as an aggregate for everything coming out of this years convention. The overall takeaway compared to last year is that this is the year that everyone is making good on the promises made last summer. The vast majority of games being spoken of were projects that I had seen revealed this time last year, so while there wasn't a lot of "new" this time around, it was nice to see so many projects coming to fruition and ultimately leading to what is going to be a very competitive holiday season across all platforms. But that's enough introduction, we're here to talk about games so let's get to it.

Battlefield 3
Going into this show there wasn't really much we knew about Battlefield 3 save that is was being developed by DICE and it looked as if EA wasn't going to be playing nice anymore when it came to the multiplayer military shooter genre. You see, Activision has owned this segment of the gaming population since the first Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game came out several years ago. Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops only cemented this position. EA wants in on this territory though and while last year's Medal of Honor fell flat, DICE's Battlefield: Bad Company 2 showed promise. Indeed, the Battlefield franchise has always been a force to reckon with and despite some bumps along the road, DICE has been consistent in producing quality games. Having them helm an initiative to unseat Activision is a no-brainer, especially after Modern Warfare developer Infinity Ward more or less walked off the job en-masse after allegations of unpaid bonus dividends from the studio heads to Activision. If ever there were a time to strike it was now and strike EA did. We had seen a bunch of footage from Modern Warfare 3 leading up to E3, but nary a peep from Battlefield 3 except for the months old teaser. During the EA press conference, Battlefield 3 was revealed in all it's glory, garnering a much deserved outpouring of praise from the gaming press and fans. Planing to launch a full month before MW3, with an open beta a month before that, and completely free to play online (a shot across the bow to MW3's "elite" program") BF3 is poised to storm PC's and consoles this fall and take dominance over Modern Warfare. Is it a lock? It's still to early to tell. BF3 certainly looks like the better game, leveraging DICE's new frostbyte engine, but is the game play going to resonate with the players? Part of Modern Warfare's appeal is the easy of entry. It's a delicate formula that we've seen before with games like Unreal Tournament, Counter Strike, and the original Quake. In order to gain multiplayer dominance you have to look good, play good, and get people engrossed in the game experience from the word go, while still providing a incentives and challenge for the expert players. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was a great game, but it wasn't approachable. Can DICE repeat history and make Battlefield 3 every bit the approachable game that Battlefield 1942 was? I guess we'll find out when the beta goes live in September.

Prey 2
When we first saw Prey 2 several months back, we were treated to a single image that looked nothing like what we had experienced from the series' progenitor. Prey's reluctant Native American hero had been replaced with someone who looked more like Sam Fischer from the Splinter Cell games. We were told that the game was still in the same overall universe as Prey 1, but that instead of being on Earth and dealing with the alien invasion, Prey 2 would take us to an alien world with a human protagonist only marginally related to the first game. Human Head released a proper trailer about a week out from the start of E3 that if anything, assuaged any fears about what Prey 2 may or may not be. Yes, the game is going to be different, but if that trailer is any proof of concept, they're barking up the right tree. Think Blade Runner meets Grand Theft Auto on an alien world. I don't know what they have in store and while it isn't Prey 1, it isn't Splinter Cell either. Whatever the case, I'm interested to see how it pans out.

The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword
Anyone who knows me knows that while I love the Zelda games (the first installment is one of my two all-time favorites) I am not a huge fan of Ocarina of Time. Chalk it up to never having had an N64 and thus never having played the game until the Game Cube port, or the fact that Ocarina is the first Zelda game for an entire generation (the damn kids these days and their lack of historical context), but I just never got into the game. I appreciate a lot of the things it tried to do, but as the first 3D Zelda I feel it stumbles along the way. I am much more enamored of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. In fact, my love of Wind Waker makes me dislike Ocarina that much more due to the prejudice levied at the game by so-called fans wanting a more mature Zelda game. I'm sorry kids, but just because you were little when Ocarina came out and now you're an angst ridden youth, doesn't mean Link should be too. You know why? 2 reasons: a) There were 4 Zelda games before Ocarina (counting Link's Awakening) and b) every game retells the legend of the Hero of Hyrule, no matter what age he is. The other fact at play here is that Wind Waker was beautiful and I loved the game play. Personally I found the open world sailing to be an excellent spin on the type of open world game play we were already accustomed to in the Zelda series. Anyway, the short take away from all this is that I'm a Zelda fan, but at this point in time I'm a picky Zelda fan. Wind Waker showed me two things about my affection for the series that I hadn't before realized. The first is that I prefer I stylized rendition of Hyrule; for me it fits the tone and my own nostalgia of pixelized Links and the very cartoonish renderings in the game manuals. The second is that I really like when liberties are taken with Hyrule and the Zelda world itself. Ocarina was nothing but a bunch of locales I had been adventuring in for 20 years, but Wind Waker changed all that by flooding everything.

Now, take all this into consideration and then take a look at The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword. That's right, they are making a Zelda game just for me. I honestly don't have anything to say after watching these videos. I think I've summed it up well enough above that anyone can plainly see this game has no weaknesses from my perspective. I never finished Ocarina, I probably won't finish Twilight Princess, but I am itching to get my hands on Skyward Sword as soon as humanly possible. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

E3 2010

With the hype machine for video games active so far in advance of releases it's not rare for me to get interested in a title and then completely forget about it by the time it launches. When I was younger and I used to subscribe to several game magazines at a time I used to follow the PR progress of games I was interested in. These days (especially as part of the industry myself) I don't partake of the hype buffet, rich and bountiful though it may be. Still, it's hard not to notice some of these titles around E3 times, especially when they're on display. It would be like going to the beach to get some sun and failing to notice that you're also surrounded by gorgeous women.

So in an effort to catalogue the beauty I see before me and to hopefully remember them later, I'm going to use this post to grab links to various E3 items of interest. I guess it's my way of saying to these games "I'd hit that."

Metroid: Other M's E3 Trailer - The Prime games weren't bad, but console FPS isn't my thing. This looks like a good compromise and from a talented development team as well. No Ninja Gaiden dial-a-combos though please.

Portal 2 Trailer: The Bitch Is Back - Portal 2 has a long way to go to even get close to the original, but it doesn't mean I'm any less interested.

Medal Of Honor's Singleplayer Trailer: Quadbikes At War - If the new MoH can do what the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games did for game play without being as vapid then they've already made an improvement.

Zelda: Skyward Sword's Debut Trailer - While some are undoubtedly better than others, Zelda games are always well executed and fun. Being the first one specifically designed for the Wii should make this a good one to bet on.

Epic Mickey -Warren Specter is a very prominent figure in my personal pantheon on gods. The fact that he's able to take something as routine as Mickey Mouse and put a new and interesting spin on it is testament to his genius.

Dead Rising 2 - The only thing that sullied the first game was the whole time limit mechanic. If that's gone then let the zombie smashing begin.

Kid Icarus: Uprising - I probably won't play this due to it's being on a handheld, but the first Kid Icarus game in 25 years bears mentioning.

Bulletstorm - Ok, so the game sounds like it was written by a 13 year old boy, but you cannoy deny the sheer unadulterated fun present in the action here.

Crysis 2 - Many shooters strive to feel like big budget action movies that you play, the first Crysis delivered ... right down to the bad dialog and acting. The point is that the game play and the cinematic experience were solid. I don't use the term "rollercoaster ride" lightly, but it certainly was and I'm hoping for more of the same in the sequel. That and a reason to upgrade my PC.

Xbox Live: Summer of Arcade - Mainly interested in Limbo and Monday Night Combat here. Unfortunately the Castelvania doesn't thrill me, although nothing short of a new Symphony of the night is likley to.

Hydrophobia - It's gotten some good press. Looks like a decent action/adventure title with a gameplay twist.

Journey - I never played Flower, but flOw was good and these guys are seriously on the cutting edge of the "Games as Art" debate.

Dust - I don't know that Eric Chahi has done anything notable since Another World (aka Out of This World), but he's a visionary to be sure and this looks very interesting.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet - I think it must only be before or after something becomes popular that it can be truly artistic. When one is concerned with being pleasing to the broadest audience possible the results feel homogenized. That indie game developers are resurrecting nearly dead 2D game types and using the technology of today to put such amazing artistic and game play spins on them is exactly what I hoped would happen to gaming. Sure they do it partly out of necessity with smaller budgets and teams meaning less cutting edge graphics, etc., but they make up for it by being daring in other ways and since they aren't on the cutting edge they're already in a niche and can therefore get away with it. Sorry ... bit of a diatribe there, but this is one of those games like World of Goo, Limbo, and Canabalt that does so much while being simple by comparison to big budget gaming.

Star Wars: The Old Republic - I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my own game. Let me just say that as cool as it looks, it's way cooler in person :)