So. We’ve made it to April. Spring is turning into summer and we haven’t seen a decent game release since Christmas. Now it’s conference and trade show season and all the big boys are announcing their game releases for the rest of the year. GDC has already happened and has already begun the year long tease that is the video game industry. E3 is up next and it’s supposed to be a big deal this year, back from the grave yard of canceled conferences. I know it’s early to be talking about the rest of the year, but I couldn’t wait. Allegedly we’ll get much firmer release dates, a lot more media and even a few new announcement by the time we get to E3, but here’s what I’ve got on my radar so far.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising – Admittedly, I’ve never played a OpFlash game before but they do come highly recommended. Quite a few people either really enjoyed the PC original or played the PS2 port which was apparently a definitive PS2 multiplayer staple for quite a while. The idea of a full on war sim with modern weapons intrigues me quite a bit, especially the potential to pilot tanks and choppers. Release: May.
ArmA 2: Former developers of OpFlash form their own studio and are working on a game they describe as the ultimate combat simulation. Also promising tanks, choppers and plenty of ground combat, this has also peaked my interest since we have an obvious lack of Battlefield 3 (hello, EA, are you fucking listening???). Unfortunately, the release date is TBD as is it’s appearance on anything more than the PC. Consoles are still up in the air. Release: Who knows.
The Bigs 2: Sequel to last years The Bigs. Baseball for the casual player. No supper hard team management, no ridiculous control scheme to memories, no super exact pitching mechanics. This is the next-gen version of old school MLB 94 on the SNES. You can pound the ball out of the park countless time and trounce the Yankees 106-2 if you feel like it. Complete with a super-fun Home Run Derby mini-game, the original was quite a bit of fun and I can’t wait to hear if they’ve added more features and improved it or just did the obligatory roster updates. Release: June
Red Faction – Guerrilla: I loved the original Red Faction. I spent countless hours, multiple LAN parties and a good deal of time in the single player campaign, blowing shit up. The physics engine in the original was something ahead of it’s time. If you wanted to, you could take a rocket launcher and start tunneling to the center of the earth, provided you had a ready supply of rockets. It’s story and characters were mediocre but that wasn’t the point. The point of the game was total and complete destruction. When I learned that not only had the development team recognized that this was the strength of their franchise but they fully embraced it and truly took it to the next level, this game shot up from “could be neat” to “will pre-order”. They’ve spent 5 years in development, the first two on just the engine alone. Check out any of the footage that’s been released and you can clearly see that they’ve taken destruction to the next level. Very excited about this one. Release: June
Alpha Protocol: This one has been called everything from “Mass Effect in modern times” to “Spy RPG” to “what the Borne game should have been”. From the looks of the media, they’re all kinda right. It’s an action RPG, which of course means it’s just an action game with “skills” you improve over time. I really wish they’d come up with a better name for this category. Even Mass Effect wasn’t very RPG. Does RPG all of a sudden mean anything with an inventory system? Probably. Anyway, as both a fan of the spy genre AND that particular game play mechanic, this is pretty high on my list as well. It also has the potential to be horrid. The voice acting, cut-scenes and media I’ve seen up to this point are far from impressive. This one is going to need a lot of polish. Worth keeping an eye on though. Release: September
I’ve left out a few games on purpose, most notably Velvet Assassin, Prototype and Infamous. I didn’t think it was honest to talk about games I wasn’t genuinely interested in, and those three seem like they wouldn’t pass Matt’s Infamous 15 Minute Test.©
Oddly, there’s also nothing really listed between June and September, and odds are that if a game was shooting for a release during that period, we would have heard about it by now. Of course, the game companies could be holding out on us, but I’m willing to bet that we’ll get another round of announcements, all with winter ’09 dates, by the time E3 is over.
With CoD: Modern Warfare 2, Bioshock 2 and Mass Effect 2 already scheduled for the winter, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we’re going to have a repeat of last year. A few things here and there, a couple games in the summer and fall and then 50+ huge releases over the holidays.
I hope they realize that people simply didn’t have enough time or cash last year to wade through all those releases and that poor sales of any of the major releases could probably be attributed to a saturated market. Many have decried the practice of releasing everything over the holidays and I hope that this year will be the last of this kind. I can understand if the games released this year were already too far along in their development time frame to avoid this holiday backlog, but after that it’ll simply be inexcusable.
2010 should have 2-3 major releases per system over the holidays and then 1-2 major releases a month for the rest of the year. I think we can all agree that something along those lines would be good for not only the consumer but would also help the industry smooth over and “dry spells” it has throughout the year. It’s a win-win.
That’s all I have so far. I’m sure as the spring turns into summer, they’ll be quite a few more announcements and quite a few more interesting titles, but, so far it’s looking like it could be an interesting spring.
I’m hoping the economic downturn leads to a lot more budget priced downloadable mini-games, the likes of Braid and Castle Crashers. I find myself spending more time on these “pick up and play for 5 minutes then get back to life” games these days than the their “spend $50 and 60 hours” brethren.
Although from a number of reports I’ve seen, the economic downturn isn’t hitting the gaming industry nearly as hard as everything else.
I find myself thinking the same way more and more these days. Perhaps I’m searching for the Unicorn of video games. I still want that big budget production, quality and story, but I’d really like a game that I can jump in and play for 5-10 minutes and then save and come back to later.
For example, I’m playing through Fallout 3 right now and while it’s good, it’s also REALLY long with tons of downtime/boring parts in between major quests and story arcs. I can save at any given moment, which is a major plus, but it literally takes 20 minutes of walking through the wasteland to get to a place I’ve never been before. Once you’re there, you can “fast travel” back, which is nice, but if I only have a couple minutes to play I can’t get any major questing done.
A good hack’n’slash always filled that void, but those seem few and far between these days. Even FPS games are tough because the average multiplayer match is about 15 minutes, and once you’re in you’ve got to at least finish the round.
I dunno, I think you’re right, maybe we need some more casual games, or at least some less formal games. The only thing I can think of on the horizon is Battlefield 1943, a multiplayer only, XBLA download that’s recreating 2-3 maps from the classic BF1942. That is exactly the kind of game we need more of, so I really like the idea, but I’m morally opposed to BF1943 on it’s own due to the fact that EA/DICE is ignoring it’s fans and creating bullshit like that and Bad Company and refuse to work on a BF3. So, screw that franchise, but I like the idea.