The Aftermath of E3 2012

E3 2012 wasn’t the greatest show in its history, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. This year in gaming is the perfect example of the time where next-gen consoles are guaranteed, but the time to reveal them has not yet come. It is years like this where we get to see developers make games that take full advantage of the hardware of current consoles.

I’m the kind of person who tunes in for the games. New consoles are great, but it’s hard to look at a pricey $500+ box that may not launch with compelling games that are worth the sticker shock. Because of that, I’ve highlighted a handful of titles that I feel are going to make the second half of 2012 and into 2013 great. Now that the dust has settled and the near future of video games has been shown to us, here are my picks for games that struck a cord with me. Along with a few words, enjoy the videosfrom IGN, Gametrailers, and Youtube I’ve attached.

Tomb Raider

I honestly never played Tomb Raider. Back in the PS1 days I didn’t get into Lara Croft’s adventures probably on account of being too young. Over the years, she was also the victim of shoddy sequels that demoted her from a well regarded video game character to the biggest joke in the industry. This reboot to the franchise looks really promising, as it gives Lara a new origin story and shows how she became the femme fatale that many people fondly remember her as. It’s a great feeling to see a game character age as technology improves. Lara has evolved from a rigid, wirey-framed girl with a big polygonal chest to a realistically proportioned young woman. Watching Lara make use of both the limited tools she has with environmental hazards to take out the bad guys makes her out to be a very resourceful heroine. The preliminary footage of this new Tomb Raider is very promising, and if all goes well, I’ll be waiting in line to pick this up when it drops on March 5, 2013.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Need for Speed is constantly fighting against the likes of other racing franchises like Forza and Gran Turismo, but between the three, I’ve been enjoying Need for Speed the most. When Criterion started reimagining Need for Speed starting with 2010’s NFS Hot Pursuit, they succeeded in making a racer that didn’t have to be super-realistic, but still was very fun. However, the original Need for Speed: Most Wanted from 2005 is still my most beloved Need for Speed title. I can still remember climbing up the Blacklist 15, starting with a junky Fiat Punto and eventually blazing through the highway in a Porsche Carrera GT. Seeing it remade will satisfy the racer in me. With the Autolog, Most Wanted will monitor almost everything the player does, such as recording a new best time in a race. To fuel competition, this information can be broadcasted to other friends. Although it will be out on October 30, 2012, I’m willing to bet that the price for it will definitely drop just in time for Black Friday.

The Last of Us

After finally seeing some real gameplay footage, The Last of Us definitely has me interested. Naughty Dog has taken a bold step to create a harrowing experience where the combat isn’t just about taking cover and shooting a couple of times and moving to the next objective. Sometimes, you gotta get dirty. Combat appears to be more desperate, putting players at the edge of their seats. It was a nice touch to see that your enemies react to the sound of the player’s gun running out of bullets. Hopefully these struggles aren’t completely scripted, and the player can fail if they aren’t actually pressing a button. If the game is full of moments like the end of the demo, then I’m sold. This game is the perfect example of showcasing an exclusive game that Playstation owners can show off to their buddies who are missing out. The dreary atmosphere reminds me of The Road, but hopefully after playing this I won’t feel as depressed once it’s over. We’ll see more of the post-apocalyptic world in The Last of Us when it is released sometime in 2013.

PlayStation Plus

Although it isn’t exactly a game, the indirect value that PlayStation Plus offers continues to sweeten the pot for PSN subscribers. Many digital downloads for games are offered at discounted prices, and more often than not, for free. As of Sony’s press conference, inFamous 2, LittleBigPlanet 2 and MotorStorm: Apocalypse are free to download and own for Plus members. More free games are going to be offered every month as well. Barring any discounts, a full year subscription to PlayStation Plus is cheaper than a year of Xbox Live Gold. For those of us multiplatform gamers out there who have Xbox Live but haven’t gotten PlayStation Plus, we might really be thinking that our PS3’s aren’t being put to their fullest potential.

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation

While I don’t have a Playstation Vita yet, Assassins Creed III: Liberation looks to be one of those titles that will help put more copies of Sony’s handheld into the laps of more people just like me. Admittedly, the change of setting to the New World has renewed my interest, and most importantly, this game stars a female African-French assassin. I dare you to think of how many games in the last ten years that have done this. Details are pretty scarce at this point, but by its October 30, 2012 release date which also coincides with Assassin’s Creed III, we’ll know much more.

Watch Dogs

One of the disappointments of this year’s E3 was that almost everything that was shown was either leaked prematurely, or we’ve known about it for months. When you actually reveal a new game at your press conference like Ubisoft did, you create real E3 moments. Posed as a high tech Frankenstein of features from both Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, Watch Dogs thrusts players in the near future, where every piece of information about us exists as data. In the hands of the capable, this data can be exploited. The gameplay video explains it all. I would love to carry around a smartphone like that. When people are wondering if this is a current gen title, or something for the next batch of consoles you know you’ve made an impact. Couple that with an open world third person shooter and you just might have the highest acclaimed game in the show. Watch Dogs will be out in 2013.

Star Wars 1313

In my opinion, I have yet to see a Star Wars game on the same level as Jedi Outcast. Contemporary Star Wars games have tried to deliver on so many fronts that when taken as a whole, they simply failed to reach their mark. Star Wars is a legendary IP and presents a universe where thousands of stories have been told beyond the movies in the form of games, novels and television shows. It appears that Jedi, Sith, and other aspects of the Force in general are absent. The player is a Bounty Hunter, and well, shoots stuff. This premise might fall into the mold of “just another third person shooter,” but I’m really hoping that it doesn’t. Although the cover based shooter style is tried and true, 1313 could spice things up by taking advantage of the various tools that bounty hunters like Boba Fett had. Jetpacks, flamethrowers, grappling hooks anyone? This “mature” take on the Star Wars universe got many fans watching with great interest. Also, this game looks absolutely amazing. Details are also slim, but more information is likely to be on the horizon.

Agni’s Philosophy

The idea of next-generation consoles permeated the air of this year’s E3 like the subtle aroma of breakfast in the morning – we all know it’s coming, but can’t really do anything until it emerges on the table. Everyone whispered and speculated, but Sony and Microsoft had nothing to talk about. Square-Enix had a rather dismal offering in its RPG department – Final Fantasy Versus XIII was absent for yet another year, and as much as I like Kingdom Hearts, its handheld outings have not done much to move the story forward at all. Enter Agni’s Philosophy, Square-Enix’s tech demo showcasing the graphical potential a next gen game engine could be able to produce. While this is just an exercise in eye candy and graphical muscle, let’s play the what-if game for a minute. What if Agni’s Philosophy could be a starting point for a new style of Final Fantasy, where dragons and other creatures are really monstrous? Not everything is as elegant and pretty, yet the world is a perfect mix of gritty environments married in with locations where magic and technology go hand in hand? If this is a taste of what Square-Enix is capable of, faithful fans will be frothing at the mouth to play their new stuff. That is, after get around to finishing the numerous projects that have been announced but have yet to materialize.

There’s tons of games and new technology to get excited for, and there are a number of other titles, peripherals and software not mentioned in this article, this is just a taste of what’s to come. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with a controller once these great titles finally release.

 

Video Credits – Gametrailers.com, IGN.com, Youtube, and all of the developers and publishers who showed of their great titles at this year’s E3.

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The Importance of Demos

In a time where many of us gamers judge potential game purchases by reading reviews on Metacritic or the video game publication of our choice, I’ve noticed the growing lack of immediate support for demos on our main consoles. We’ve progressed past receiving demo disks in the mail; packed with trailers and excerpts of a handful of choice games that are poised to be out, because next-gen games are so large in size it simply isn’t feasible. Now that I think about it, this was the main way that I decided what game I wanted to buy when I was much younger. While Youtube bridges the gap between reading about a game and actually playing it, nothing beats test-driving a game where you can judge it yourself, devoid of someone else’s insights and opinions which are inherent to reviews.

Back in the day, demos for the hottest titles dropped months or weeks before their release date. This gave ample time for the intrepid gamer to check out a game, and if they liked it enough, they went out to buy it. Now that demos are digitally distributed through avenues like Microsoft’s Xbox Live, Sony’s Playstation Network, or Nintendos Wii Shop Channel, I’d assume these games would be much more available to us all (since most of us have an internet connection, right). Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that demos for a lot of big name titles don’t go up until months after the game’s original release date. Mass Effect 2 as well as both Call of Duty Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2 are guilty of this. It costs a developer a significant amount of money to provide a demo for users to download, but I’m having trouble understanding why the likes of Bioware and Activision respectably took a while to get their latest games out for people to test out before buying.

As an aside, the only reason I ever considered playing Mass Effect 1 and 2 a few months back was entirely due to the fact that Mass Effect 2’s demo was released. If ME2 didn’t have a demo like ME1 didn’t, I’m quite sure I would have never played it at all.

This week saw the release of the demo for El Shaddai, an action adventure title that is said to blend the fighting elements of Devil May Cry, the platforming of Mario, with the visual style of Okami. After reading an article or two about it in a couple magazines, I was pretty excited to see that this game had been uploaded. My interest peaked after watching a gameplay clip followed by an interview with it’s producer. As I grabbed my credit card to renew my Xbox Live Gold subscription after 3 months of inactivity, I knew I was making the right choice. After completing the demo, I didn’t arrive at a definite conclusion about El Shaddai like I had expected. While the demo had brought something fresh to the table, I saw a couple problems that I knew I would be wrestling with if I went to buy the full game. Luckily, El Shaddai doesn’t release until July – people in my situation have will enough time to evaluate the game more, and most importantly, they haven’t missed the boat and are coming into a new game much later than everyone else. Although I’m personally unsure of if I’ll be buying El Shaddai right now, I still have the opportunity to play the demo as many times as I need to until I can answer that age-old question of “Is this game worth spending my hard earned money on?”

I think it’s very important for more games to do what El Shaddai did this week, regardless of if they’re guaranteed to reach astronomic sales like Mass Effect and Call of Duty does regularly. If there’s a demo to speak of, I believe it would be in everyone’s best interest that it should come out before the full game is released, so we can all play through it and decide to take the plunge and buy it, or choose to skip it. If more people are given the chance to support any given game, it’s preliminary sales would increase, as that demographic of gamers who still prefer trying a game themselves before purchasing them would be accounted for.

It’s Been a Year Already?

It’s a calm night. I look to my fireplace altar, my college’s newspaper, and sometimes, Google. These are a few sources, but they’re all places where you can go to see what I’ve done. While it hasn’t been a drop in the bucket compared to the professionals of this field, I’d like to think I’ve made a great start. Somewhere out there, my words have touched someone else. I’m not saying that I’ve given a spiraling depressed person some hope for life, but in the span of a year, I would like to think I’ve done something nice. To me, it’s something important.

This month marks an anniversary of sorts. I’ve been pursuing video game writing for a year now! It really doesn’t feel like it, but it has been a great ride so far.

The duties of an aspiring video game journalist are always as tough as they want them to be. One could occasionally write game reviews, and just be satisfied with quietly submitting their work onto a blog like this. If that isn’t fulfilling enough, they could kick it into high gear; suddenly, they would be cycling through an endless queue of titles, playing and reviewing from sunshine till moonlight. Of course, people in my position aren’t being paid for doing the same bread and butter things that actual gaming websites and publications pay their staff for, and that’s okay. If you’re like me, you’re also a college student, and have a job to top that off. More often than not, it’s going to be difficult juggling two important responsibilities like those with a time consuming hobby. Nobody ever said it would be easy, but doing this for a year has definitely helped me grow not only as a writer, but as a lover of video games.

What have you learned in one year?

Writing about games has introduced me to a new sphere of knowledge in this field. I always had a relatively small view of the gaming industry – A select few entities were covering the entire scene. In a nutshell, I simply thought the scene was like this: Publishers and developers worked on the games themselves, while a couple of publications had the magazine aspect of covering games taken care of, and the rare but beautiful G4TV (when it actually has video game-related programming) occupied the airwaves, giving a face to the coverage. Anything in between previously didn’t exist to me.

What dawned on me was the legion of hopefuls that looked on at these lucky people who have the privilege of making a living being surrounded and working within the gaming industry. It was something I couldn’t fathom. By delving deeper into the communities of various video game publications such as 1UP.com, I saw many people just like me – people with dreams of working in the industry. Whether that may be as a competitive gamer, in art, programming, or writing, I started to see how dense and complex this industry I grew up alongside truly was. As a friend of mine took his first step as an art intern at a video game publication, I started to believe that it was possible. I also was inspired by another good friend whose designs were picked up to be the basis of an iPhone game. People close to me were making things happen! I began to see that it was possible to break into this world and work in it as well. Most importantly, I started believing that a pipe dream such as “working in the video game industry” actually had potential to be made true.

What have you accomplished thus far?

At the time of this article, I’ve reviewed six games. Each title has brought me great joy in covering because I’ve not only played through them like everyone else does, I went the extra mile in analyzing what makes them good, or bad. My reviews are my pride and joy, and my experience in doing them has helped me develop as a writer. Rogue writers such as me have to also make sure their stuff is getting out to readers, and for me, this has manifested in the formation of the Facebook Like page I dedicated to this blog. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s another way that I can forward my stuff out for people in the vast social network to see.

For those of you that I’ve continually pestered in conversation to check out my blog, thank you so much for actually coming here and seeing what I’m doing.

I have tried my hand at contributing my work to video game blog sites (1UP.com, specifically) as well. I enjoyed sharing my writing with other like-minded people, and while I was doing it, it was a blast. Unfortunately I have stopped posting my work there a few months ago. I would love to start doing this again at 1UP or another place, when I’m able to make the time commitment in keeping up with another website that for the most part already accomplishes what I do here.

What do you plan to do next?

So where do I go from here? In short, I’ll keep plugging away. Like I said before, my blog stands between the two main demands of my time: work, and school. Both of these will definitely remain fixtures in my life, but despite that, they’ll never keep me down and out for too long. If I ever go a while without posting something new, just know my mind is constantly bouncing to this blog.

In terms of content, I would love to start writing a number of different types of articles in addition to what I’m already doing. Here are a couple ideas I’ve either been mulling around in my head, or have been suggested to try:

1.       More articles about the industry

2.       More interviews

3.       Nostalgia pieces

4.       Covering events such as E3 (this will be the hardest, but we’ll see!)

5.       Persuasive arguments

6.       Videos / Podcasts

7.       Getting my work published in a magazine

I’d love to hear from you guys. Despite the fact that I started this blog for my own use, each comment and every morsel of feedback help me so much. I strongly encourage all of you to take that small effort to write back to me. This could be a comment at the end of my posts, on the links I post via Facebook, or as a private message. Any way you think is necessary, I want to hear what you guys have to say! Do you want to see me review a certain game? Let me know! Was I incorrect in judging a game; too harsh or too lenient? Let’s talk about it. Responding and holding an ongoing dialogue with readers is what keeps writers doing what they do, and for me, I wholeheartedly agree with that.

Writing about video games is my ticket to accomplish my dream of working in the gaming industry. With that said, I want to thank all of you again for supporting me by coming to my page here and seeing what I’ve got to say. There are a number of websites and publications that do what I do and much more, and knowing that you guys make the time to check out what one person is doing really means a lot. Thank you all!

Here’s to another year!