Saturday, 19 January 2008

Unforeseen Thrills for 2008


Thought I'd start this thing off with a broad, shallow minded post before I attempt the deeper subjects (no doubt reluctantly including the 'Are Games Art?' and Manhunt 2 debates...) So, 2007, great year right? But looks what's coming for us. Quite a lot indeed is what. Well, I'm sure you're aware that GTAIV, MGS4 and SMBB are reasonably big titles on the horizon, so I'll push those, along with their friends, to the side and express my anticipated button tapping for the slightly more overlooked games. You may find something new, it'll make me feel more sophisticated, so why not?

Braid



Braid is for Xbox Live Arcade and is entirely created by Jonathon Blow, a man of many interesting gaming philosophies, many of which I agree with. His wide criticism for modern videogames (avid Halo fan he is not) leave me confident that a game created independently by himself will not disappoint in quality. Its time shifting focused gameplay in a luscious 2D platformer/puzzle world not only looks great, but managed to win "Best Innovation in Game Design" at IGF '06. You can count that its time playing will be far more complex and interesting that what's found in Prince of Persia.

Brutal Legend



Looking at the screens it may not look like much is happening here. A quirky hack n' slasher with that 'not quite as funny as he used to be' Jack Black doing the voice over for the lead character? On first glance it looks like someone was making a Dynasty' clone before realizing that 'Guitar Hero ain't selling half bad', - cue a quick change of theme and setting and voilĂ ! That's what I'd be saying at least if Tim Schafer wasn't behind the thing. He's proberbly the only game developer who has a 100% perfect record - he's literally never made a game that didn't go down in the history books, from Monkey Island to Psychonauts. As such, I believe this shall be fantastic.

Mirror's Edge



Mirror’s Edge can be simply summed up as 'the most first-person of first-person shooters'. It's amazing that even in the latest and graphically advanced shooters, a quick glance at the floor will reveal you have no legs or feet. This game has the lot, knees, elbows, forearms - all moving realistically as you leap and lunge parkour-style around the spotless metropolis this game takes place in. Finally, running down a corridor from a stream of chasing bullets will be as frightening as it should be, with the camera (your head) shaking violently with every stride, your arms flailing rapidly within eye shot. Keep an eye on this one. I wouldn't be surprised if it influenced many future shooters in the coming years.

Heavy Rain



Can't say much about this one, because other than a short teaser video showing off some pretty realistic tears back at E3 '06, there's been nothing to speak of. But the guys behind it at Quantic Dream last showed what they were capable of with the overlooked Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophesy in the US). It wasn't perfect, but I generally found it refreshing. Not many action games have gameplay that draws similarities with both The Sims and Dance Dance Revolution. Maybe their next effort will accomplish the same effect with a better level of polish. Consider me intrigued to say the least.

The Crossing



Innovation can come in many ways. In this instance, it comes in complete confusion. Basically, Arkane Studios want to deliver an FPS where the singleplayer and multiplayer intertwine. To give quick examples how, if playing singleplayer the enemies around may sometimes be real life players. Or when playing an objective 2-team multiplayer game, a singleplayer guy could walk right into the middle of it tasked with aiding one side. It gets stranger than that, but whether it's easy to understand or not, it's certainly an interesting concept. Set in a distorted Paris which is still under the rule of the Templar’s, and powered by the Source engine, it has artistic quality too. If Arkane can get their ideas to work it could be a great game.

Hydrophobia



A slippery little survival-horror from Blade Interactive set in a giant ship under terrorist attack. You play an aqua phobic woman trying to fight them off. Seeing as the ship is filling with water, her phobia won't do much to help. Using the HydroEngine, water should appear and act with greater realism than ever before. I thought BioShock's water looked pretty nice, but apparently it didn't. Still, I like survival-horror games, and switching blood-eyed Japanese girls for the simple panic of a flooding room could create some moments of great desperation and suspense.

No More Heroes



Already out in Japan (and proberbly out everywhere else by the time you're reading this), but I needed a Wii game here and this is the only one I wanted to write about. Goichi Suda, or Suda 51, is behind this with his Grasshopper team who brought you the stylistically similar Killer7. To be honest I didn't play much of Killer7, partly because what I did play was 60% loading screens. Nonetheless, there's something cool and amusing about this game, and it looks great despite the Wii hardware. Unfortunately it may also be the final straw between Suda and Nintendo - the game sold terribly in Japan and Goichi has expressed much desire to work on 360 for western audiences who may appreciate his hardcore styled games more. Either way, you should definitely pick this up... Or not, if you'd rather see a sequel in HD.

Rez HD



I missed this one when it first came out years ago, and was never willing to buy it off ebay once prices were often higher than its original RRP, so imagine my amazement when I hear an even slicker version is coming to Live Arcade. It's a rail-shooter trance music synesthesia wonderment by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who also brought you Lumines and Every Extend Extra. The game is an exact port of the PlayStation 2 version, but with zero jaggies and 5.1 surround sound, the way Mizuguchi wanted it to be all along. I generally can't wait to see what I've been missing, and I think Live Arcade is a great way to distribute this game. It wouldn't surprise me if it sold okay.

EchoChrome



I really like this idea, building a game around optical illusions. This is a platform/puzzle game where your environments are impossible objects, leading you to have to shift the perspective of the object to create a working path for your ever-walking mannequin to safely travel through. It's not just the idea, but also the styling that really makes this stand out. The lack of any colour, the classical music, the echoing footsteps of the lonely mannequin protagonist. This'll be a great addition to PlayStation Network and PSP when it arrives.

Saboteur



Finally a World War II game with a difference, two in fact. Firstly you play as a French ex-racing driver fighting the Germans in his occupied home of Paris, and secondly the use of colour. In areas with a large German presence, or a low 'Will to Fight', the area will be predominantly in black and white, with only the Nazi flags beaming in red. Once you have weakened their presence through means of sabotage, colour will begin to seep back into the region you've saved. It's a nice idea that did wonders in Okami, and it'll hopefully work beautifully here too. Here's perhaps the only WWII game that can get away with being 'another WWII game'.

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