Gaming Wishes For 2011
Much like I did last year, I am looking forward with some gaming wishes for the New Year. Some of them are firmly grounded in reality, whereas others are mere flights of fancy. The only thing that binds them together is that none are predictions. I’ll leave that thankless task to the Michael Pachters of the world.
Comments are always appreciated.
1. The PSP2 builds upon the success and failures of the PSP
With the notable exception of Japan, where portable gaming is still almighty, the first six years of the PSP have been a mixed bag. The unit sales are impressive enough and there have been some platform exclusive titles of note (Metal Gear Solid Peacewalker, God of War Chains of Olympus, Final Fantasy Crisis Core etc), but the system suffered a premium price point which has yet to sufficiently fall, and is notoriously difficult to develop for, resulting in a consistently sparse release schedule. UMD bombed as a movie format and Sony’s initial attempt to do away with physical media in the form of the PSP Go proved an embarrassing miscalculation. Clearly there are many lessons to be learnt from the PSP's maiden voyage.
If the rumours are true, it would appear that the PSP2 will do away with the UMD format, disappointing as a PSP owner but an understandable move nonetheless, and that it looks to share in some of the success of the smart phone and ipod (smaller size, touch screen etc). Hopefully it will come in at a more reasonable price - Sony should be more concerned with the RRP of the 3DS than smart phones and ipods - and I hope some sort of trophy system will be featured, perhaps compatible with the PS3. We should know more come January 27th when Sony is expected to unveil their new portable.
2. The Last Guardian cometh
We have been waiting patiently for Team Ico's return since our tantalizing first glimpse of Last Guardian at Gamescon 2009. Tokyo Game Show '10 was the second TGS in a row I attended with hopes of a playable demo or new trailer, only to be left wanting. Sony has since announced a disconcertingly vague Holidays 2011 release date. Who knows, maybe I will finally have a chance to give it a go at TGS '11, though I wouldn’t be surprised if this one slips into 2012, by which time I will be playing everything in 3D and using my brain as a controller.
3. Sequels come good and new IP’s keep us on our toes
3. Sequels come good and new IP’s keep us on our toes
Having a stimulating conversation with myself regarding the potential gaming highs of 2011, I quickly realised that my list was populated almost exclusively by sequels. 2011 promises a plethora of additions to a number of high profile franchises including Uncharted, Mass Effect, Call of Duty, Little Big Planet, Killzone, Yakuza, Dead Space, Resistance, Dragon Age Origins, Infamous, Batman Arkham City, Portal, Bioshock, Elder Scrolls, Zelda, Final Fantasy Dissidia, Deus Ex and Gears of War. Let us hope that they are more Mass Effect 2 than Bioshsock 2.
As for new IP’s, aside from The Last Guardian which is a new IP in the loosest sense, there is one solitary title that has my attention; LA Noire. Developed by Tema Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, who have an outstanding track record with capturing a moment in time and making it come alive in their trademark sandboxes, this Noire crime thriller boasts excellent pedigree and is already wowing pundits with its facial animations, able to capture the smallest of nuances, vital for the interrogation scenes that are to feature prominently.
4. Nintendo learn from the Virtual Boy and give 3D to the masses
With the might of Nintendo and the universally recognized DS brand behind it, the 3DS has the opportunity to achieve something which hasn't been done before: bring 3D gaming to the masses. Nintendo's previous attempt, The Virtual Boy, was a disaster and tragically was to be Gunpei Yokoi’s - creator of Game & Watch, Gameboy and Metroid - final major contribution to the industry before his untimely death in 1997. Headache inducing, it was a portable device in the loosest sense, requiring a flat surface and an unwieldy stand. The 3DS can do away with these painful memories, disposing of the glasses/headset that make you look like one half of Daft Punk, and put 3D gaming firmly in the here and now.
Looking on the bright side, even it is a bit rubbish we will still have an updated version of Metal Gear Solid 3. Finally, I can feed on a tree frog in 3D.
5. Something to rock the boat
i. Gamers and the press give Bobby Kotick a break
ii. A PSN rewards system that isn’t shite (come on Sony, give me something worthwhile for my 1700 trophies)
iii. Playstation Home becomes something other than dashboard clutter
iv. Roger Ebert goes on record as saying video games, more specifically Gears of War, are art.
v. Keiji Inafune says something complimentary about Japanese video games
vi. I avoid writing about the Sega Saturn at every opportunity
6. Some repackaged love for the Sega Saturn
We have had our fair share of digital and packaged Mega Drive/Genesis collections, and have also seen Dreamcast titles make their way to the PSN and Live services, as well as a disappointing retail collection due next month. Surely its time for the Sega Saturn to enjoy a rebirth, be it a retail or downloadable collection.
How about a HD Panzer Dragoon Collection (Dragoon, Zwei, Saga and Orta) or Virua Cop 1 + 2 for Move and Kinnect? Let’s get Nights, Guardian Heroes, Die Hard Arcade and the Shining Force Trilogy in on the action as well. Come on Sega, at least give us the chance to play Radiant Silvergun without having to take out a second mortgage. Unfortunately, if SEGA stick true to current form we will probably get a collection of Olympic Soccer, Street Fighter the Movie, Virtual Volleyball and Sega Bass Bollocks Fishing.
7. Something from Kojima-san
8. Final Fantasy XIV gets straightened out before hitting consoles
Has there ever been a more tortuous release in a series as acclaimed as Final Fantasy? The tumultuous first few months on the PC of Square-Enix's MMORPG saw sub-par reviews, equally disappointing sales and a public apology from Square-Enix for a game not yet fit for release. The outcome: a greatly extended grace period where by all subscription fees were waived and a complete restructure of the FFXIV development team. All of this was highly embarrassing for a developer/publisher who hangs their hat on attention to detail and the level of polish in their games.
As a console gamer, I'm relieved that these problems reared their ugly head on the PC first, giving S-E plenty of time to iron out the significant wrinkles before a console release this year. Despite the limitations of FFXI and the piss-poor showing of FFXIV thus far, I’m still excited by the prospect of a FF MMORPG on my PS3.
What are you hoping for in 2011?
Odds & Ends
1. One of my favourite past-times in Japan was hitting karaoke on a Saturday night, pissed as a newt. Unfortunately, Karaoke booths are not common place in the UK, and those that do exist are expensive and extremely limited. Fortunately, Def Jam Rapstar has come to the rescue, allowing me to replicate some small part of my old Saturday night routine, much to the amusement of my wife. Im having great fun with it, though I must admit I rarely play it sober, and have surprised myself with my ability to consistently score 90% + on "lyrics" and "timing", even on hard difficulty. However, my less than stellar scores on "pitch" further support something that I have long feared: that i'm tone deaf. There is a good selection of tunes, my favourites being A Tribe Called Quest "Scenario", Roots Manuva "Witness", 2pac "I Get Around" and Biz Markie "Just a Friend", which thankfully rewards the inability to hold a tune.
2. There is nothing like jumping on the bandwagon a year late. Earlier this month I picked up Borderlands Game of the Year Edition (PS3) for a song and have been enjoying plundering and murdering my way across Pandora ever since. I haven’t really gotten my head around the online multiplayer yet, as most games I have joined descend into tedious forays into the wilderness, running around like headless chickens and shooting at each other. Unless you are at a similar point in the game as your partners, completed missions don’t appear to translate into progression for your character. Am I missing something?