Monday, August 24, 2015

Ode to the longest, possibly greatest, console generation

For the past few days I've had the opportunity to go through some older games. First, definition of terms so this isn't so confusing:

Current gen - Xbox One, PS4, Wii U
Last gen - PS3, Xbox 360, Wii

The last console generation started around 2005. 2005. Think about that. That was over 10 years ago. Hard to believe a console cycle lasted this long. Technically it's still 'current gen' for many players who haven't bought a new console yet.

When you play what is considered 'last gen' and you've already played 'current gen', you'll be surprised at how good last gen games are, even with comparatively less impressive graphics. One time I fired up the original Gears of War (inspired to play it over thanks to Microsoft's Xbox One backward compatibility announcement). The game holds up. It really does. Gears of War has this look that belongs to it, that no one else could ever pull off right. I'd dare say it does 'post-apocalyptic' better than Fallout 3 ever did.

I even got the chance to replay Bioshock lately. The introduction to that game, is probably the greatest introduction in the history of games. It's just pure interactive storytelling, and even if you already know what happens, you get an experience that you probably can't ever get in any other medium, and it's polished the most in this particular game. It's really old, by the way. I think the box said '2007'. (i dont remember the exact year when the game came out) Very few games have accomplished the ability to engage you so much as Bioshock 1's original introduction. It was so good that Bioshock Infinite could never match it, no matter how many millions of dollars 2K/ Ken Levine threw at it. It's basically a perfect storm of various elements that make it such a unique set piece that will probably be remembered for many years.

Would you believe I played Burnout Paradise for the first time a few days ago? There were just so many games that came out last gen, over the span of 10 years, that not everything has been played by everyone unless you're some crazy hermit who doesn't need a day job and still gets electricity at your home. I was really impressed by the game, too. The graphics looked really old, but the core gameplay and the crazy crashing mechanic still holds up. The game just feels good and there's a 'roller coaster ride' feel to the whole thing. I hope EA makes another one soon.

I guess I just realized one thing after this whole experience. We all complain that games are too short, are repetitive or never really innovate. At the same time, we've all got ridiculous backlogs of games that we've never finished, and some of them are truly gems despite what people on the internet will tell you. I propose this. Play your back-catalogue. You'll be surprised by the games you already have. Some of these games, I've already forgotten their mechanics or storylines and I find myself geniunely enjoying the experience of replaying them, after several years had already passed. Give it a shot. Play an old game from the 360/PS3 era which you haven't touched in a while. It's a great way to pass the time while waiting for the next big thing.





Friday, June 19, 2015

E3 2015 Conferences from the Big Three - My thoughts

Microsoft:

- They get a lot of points from me for actually announcing games that will be out in 2015.
- The Backwards Compatibility update is a huge surprise that I absolutely did not expect. Having BC is difficult and expensive to do, but somehow MS managed to do it, which leads me to believe the solution they found is an inexpensive one if they've decided it's practical to do QA work for the Xbox 360s gigantic library of games and make them all work on the Xbox One. If it was too complicated or expensive they probably wouldn't have bothered. But since they did, I think we're going to see full BC some time soon for all games. It's only a matter of time.
- Halo 5 looked fantastic, but 343 has a lot of work to do to restore faith, after the horrific launch of the Halo Master Chief Collection. I think they can do it, and I'd imagine they're certainly motivated now. If they screw this one up....MS might reconsider forming a new team to handle the Halo franchise.
- Gears Ultimate - not a big fan of remasters, but i did get to try the Beta two days ago. The game looks current gen, and the dedicated servers make it even better than the old version I played way back in 2006. Netcode is somewhere between Halo 5 beta and Titanfall, but since this is a beta, there's lots of room for improvement.
- Gears 4 - More of a first look than anything else, i do wonder what the story will be.
- Forza 6 - I now want to sell my copy of Project Cars.
- Recore - Keiji Inafune finally got some funding! I'm sure they'll do well with this game.
- Final word - a great showing with a nice surprise with the BC announcement. Wish they showed Quantum Break and Crackdown, but i think they just didn't have enough time.

Sony
- The Last Guardian - I didn't really play its predecessors, Shadow of the Colossus, etc...but it seems this got a good reaction. For me, i wish they told more about the background, the setting, the world, why it is going to be "interesting", etc. The gameplay bit looked like a puzzle game of some kind where you lead the giant 'griffin' / creature around the level. It's artistic, sure. But I need a better idea of what the game is to really like it more.
- Truly epic reveals with the Shenmue 3 and FF7R announcements.
- I do wonder if those two games will sell with today's gamers. I'm a big fan of Yu Suzuki ever since his days with the Sega Saturn/Dreamcast and arcade games. I do think he has a good sensibility of what makes a good game; however, times have changed so much ever since he was in the business. I think Shenmue 3 would do well only if he worked with an experienced Open World Game developer like CD Projekt Red or Rockstar...otherwise, their game may look dated once it does come out --- (and when is that? 2018?? man....)
- FF7R - was a shock, really. But the same question applies like Shenmue 3. FF7R is legendary because of the context of the time it was released. But by today's standards will it still work with gamers? Do JRPGs really still sell to the mainstream, considering how they've not been doing so great lately and have not really evolved from their core style of gameplay? I still believe in JRPGs but the problem is making general audiences play them. FF7R will sell well based on hype alone but will people be able to swallow such an old-school style game?
- For both Shen 3 and FF7R these are both mythical games that are just fantastic ideas in our imaginations....but will the reality ever match our expectations? I have a feeling this will be like the Star Wars prequels...the hype for those was through the roof, because we all imagined how good they would be. But will the developers actually deliver on the hype? Can their work ever match the version of those two games in our collective minds? I'm honestly not too sure. I'm of the opinion that those two games would have been better as games that stayed as myths, because I just don't think they could ever meet expectations. And today's gamers have really evolved in their taste in games. Perhaps gamers like me, a bit older at 30+, might enjoy the nostalgia factor. But how about the younger players? A lot of people in my age group have moved on. Shenmue only hit its 2 mil target because people were giving 500$ or more to the cause, but overall in terms of player base it's going to be so niche. I hate to rain on people's parades but I guess I've seen so many E3s already so I kind of know the score. It's all about the hype and building that sizzle. Sony certainly will be seen as the 'winner' of this E3 just because of these two announcements. But will these two games ever meet expectations and live up to the enormous hype they've built up over the years? Only time will tell. Maybe I'll dig this up in 2018 and see if I'm right or wrong.
- No Mans Sky - the dev on stage looked really stressed. Well, this game looks like it was built with some sort of randomizing dungeon engine. How will this be interesting? It's going to be a vast galaxy of randomized planets with randomized creatures, and atmosphere....but there has to be a point to it, a storyline or something. Otherwise I think this type of game can get boring quick. A technical marvel, absolutely. A programming masterpiece, yes, agreed. But a good game? I'm not so sure.
- Most interesting game to me was Horizon, the post-apocalyptic game from Guerilla Games. That one has great potential to be a franchise, if they do the world building, characterization and storyline very well. Gameplay already looks quite promising on that game.

Nintendo
- Not much to say really, I wish they gave some info on Project NX and the new Zelda Wii U game. Sadly, they decided to hold back on those reveals for a later time.
- Their Digital Event felt like a typical Nintendo Direct, which is kind of sad because this is E3, guys. It's all about building hype. At the same time I do understand they don't want to create insane expectations (like Sony has). But there has to be some sort of balance between the two. And Nintendo did not strike that balance at all.