Man, when the World Cup is on, it completely wrecks my ability to get anything done at home. I don’t get enough sleep, I don’t find time to read my books, I don’t have time to watch any movies and I have a ridiculous stack of laundry that is waiting to be done.
Even catching up with all the various news and impressions on E3 took a lot longer this year as I was too busy getting my hopes and dreams crushed by wonky Italian referees.
With that said, its a lazy Sunday afternoon and having now caught up more or less on all that E3 had to offer, here’s a few thoughts I had on this years showing.
Holy shit does this thing look amazing. The current Nintendo DS holds the distinction of being the bestselling video game console of all time (outselling even the Gameboy and Playstation2 ) but I can easily see this thing giving it a run for its money. Even without seeing it in the flesh, the concept sells itself: it does 3D visuals with no glasses required. Not only that, Nintendo then threw the kitchen sink into the design concept and built the 3DS with a touch screen, 3D movie playing capabilities, a camera to take 3D photos with, a grunty graphics engine capable of ‘Dreamcast quality’ graphics, a gyroscope for motion sensitive gaming and their first ever portable console with an analogue control input.
If the design of the device itself wasn’t appealing enough, Nintendo then proceeded to announce a killer software lineup for this device with a handful of major franchises (Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil) right out of the gate. The price and launch date remain unknown for now but this was clearly the highlight of the show.
Move & Kinect
I’m lumping these two together because quite frankly I found both underwhelming.
Playstation Move is Sony’s answer to the Wii remote. It looks like a colourful anal bead on a stick and is apparently technologically more accurate than the Wii remote in registering the z-axis (basically the distance that the device is from the screen).
Microsoft’s Kinect (previously known as Project Natal) is more akin to the Eyetoy in that it uses a camera that picks up movement and gestures from the player to allow for controller-free gaming.
Of the two devices, I had higher hopes for Kinect. I wasn’t even particularly interested in what it could offer from a gaming experience, I just liked the concept of how it could be utilized as an interface when using the Xbox for watching films, browsing Facebook or listening to music etc. Unfortunately, in my head I was envisioning a sleek Apple influenced aesthetic. Instead, it appears that as an extension of the family-centric audience that they’ve targeted for their games, the interface looks rather kitschy and basic.
The games for both devices were bland and derivative. The range of mini-game collections modelled on sports, party games and pet-raising sims are insultingly familiar when compared with Nintendo’s launch strategy for the Wii when it launched four years ago. I feel like both companies are going to be fighting over scraps with the audience they will be selling this shit to. If you already own a Wii and fall into the casual gamer market that Sony and Microsoft are targeting, are you really going to shell out another few hundred bucks to play the same thing again?
For a gaming experience that offers a little bit more depth, neither company had anything substantive to offer, with both choosing to shoe-horn the controls into current titles (Forza Kinect Edition, Heavy Rain).
Donkey Kong Country Returns
I was absolutely stoked when Nintendo announced this game. I love me some Donkey Kong Country. I love it. It blew my mind with its gorgeous graphics, fantastic soundtrack and terrific levels when it came out seventeen years ago. I can’t wait to play a successor on the Wii. This is absolutely a game that is playing off my nostalgia so I’m hopeful that they don’t change it *too* much. The fact that they’ve kept the soundtrack nearly identical and have shown off some mine kart levels is a good start.
Kirby Epic Yarn
I don’t really play Kirby games to be honest but this thing looks friggin’ adorable. And fun to play. There is something very appealing about Nintendo and their design aesthetic which I find hard to verbalize but basically, they are capable of creating some wonderfully surreal environments that just seem to work so well. A lazy short-hand comparison would be to compare them to Pixar I guess. They seem to have a knack for consistently creating characters that are full of imagination and charm.
Rock Band 3
Assuming that EA don’t completely balls-up the distribution of the game in Australia (Rock Band 2 was never released here), I am pretty amped for this latest installment. To be honest, I’m actually one of the few people that hasn’t even grown tired of the basic format so ‘more of the same’ would’ve been fine. As it so happens, we’re now getting an additional keyboard instrument and a pro-expert mode that essentially teaches you how to play a real guitar. I’m curious to see whether it’ll actually be a good teaching tool or not. Revisiting this post in a year’s time and seeing if I can play an actual guitar will be a good indicator. I’m definitely game to give it a try.
Lots of Awesome Games
There was a whole slather of games that looked pretty great that I want to get my hands on. Here’s a quick bullet point list with a word or two on why its appealing to me:
Portal 2 – I want more of the humour and clever level design of the original
Child of Eden – sweet looking trippy visuals and is a spiritual successor to Rez
Halo Reach – the beta was great and Halo is pretty much my go-to shooter
Gears of War 3 – the games have always delivered a great spectacle and I enjoyed playing co-op with Jen. Cool to see that she now has the choice of a female avatar to control
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – love the franchise and am happy with more of the same
Journey – enjoyed their previous game Flower. Dont know much about this game yet.
DJ Hero 2 – original game was a great concept if a tad underdeveloped. Would like to see the mixing fleshed out more
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit – I love Burnout and want to see what Criterion do with revitalizing this franchise
Deus Ex – it basically looks like a playable version of BladeRunner which works for me
Metal Gear Solid Rising – I really enjoyed the excess and bizarre humour of MGS4. A trailer that spend 10 seconds focusing on watermelon slicing makes me think I’ll get more of the same
Glee Video Game Announced
I absolutely love this tv show and was eagerly anticipating the announcement of a Singstar Glee Edition. Which is why I was absolutely crushed when they announced Karaoke Revolution: Glee Edition.
Other Random Thoughts
We’re definitely coming to a crossroads in the video gaming industry and it’ll be interesting to see where things go from here. Historically, we should be coming to the end of a console cycle and should only be a year or so away from the announcement of successors to the Wii, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. And yet, there seems to be so much in the ways of technological gimmicks and gadgets that I can’t really believe a single company would feel particularly comfortable in making the first move. There is currently a lack of standardization for graphics quality (Wii quality vs Xbox/PS3), control schemes (classic, waggle, no controller), online integration (free service or a premium add-on) and the medium in which the games are delivered (DVD, BluRay, digitally downloaded). So how the hell can you make a Playstation 4, Wii HD or Xbox 720 and be sure that its future proof?
My guess is that no one will have the balls to announce anything until the dust settles and we can see which of these formats really have the legs to go the distance.