Musings of a Gamer XV
1. American Creed
Last week saw the much-hyped reveal for Assassin's Creed 3. Set during and just before the American Revolutionary War, it follows a new Assassin, a half English half Mohawk by the name of Ratohnhaké:ton, otherwise known as Connor (!). The trailer puts him firmly on the side of the revolutionaries, though it has been suggested that his allegiances are not quite that straight forward and that the Templar, Assassin divide will not necessarily run straight along British, US lines.
I am both intrigued by and wary of this shift in continent and time period. We must bid farewell to the sprawling and rather beautiful cities of Renaissance Europe that provided the cathedrals, ruins and minarets and that were the perfect climbing frames for our nimble assassin. The tree climbing shown in the trailer seems to offer a replacement, out in the expansive wilderness that stretches between settlements. AC does not strike me as a series that will benefit from large, unpopulated open spaces, unless there have been some major changes to the core mechanics. Perhaps the guys at Ubisoft have been playing too much Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption?
I do have a bone to pick with the choice of historical topic. I've been going back and forth over the last week with people of different nationalities and the consensus is that this is a very unfamiliar period to those of us residing outside the US. Studying history throughout school and then for a further three at university, not once did we study the American Revolution. Though I think it would be unfair to claim that unfamiliarity will put people off AC3, I certainly feel that the non-US audience will be less drawn to it. Once you have taken away the easily appreciated and internationally recognized charms of the Renaissance, a lack of familiarity will likely be more of an issue.
Lastly, with its flag waving and rousing speech from none other than George Washington, the trailer suggests that national identity will take centre stage. This marks a very real shift in tone from the previous games, which rarely concerned themselves with the politics of countries and the issues of nationality. The fact that AC2, Brotherhood and Revelations were set in Italy and Turkey was largely irrelevant to the overall experience; if anything these games were European and not Italian or Turkish.
Of course this is mostly conjecture, as for the time being we don't have a lot to go on, but I do think that this shift in tone and setting may not be in the series’ best interests. Then again, maybe I'm just pissed about the Assassins picking on us Brits!
2. Welcome! PlayStation Vita Game Heaven
I'm used to these kinds of events being anti-climactic and had prepared myself for games that would hold little appeal to the Western audience. Even still, last Friday's collection of Vita, video announcements was hugely disappointing. There was lots of vague discussion about future arrivals, such as an unnamed Keiji Inafune project that had already been touched upon at GDC; some DLC details for games that people will no longer be playing in three months’ time; updates for games we already know about, such as Sumioni and the MGS HD Collection; and further titles being added to the Japan only, UMD passport programme. Hot stuff!
There was footage of robots punching each other in the face as well as the standard baseball and football fare. Persona 4 the Golden will attract the series faithful, but that is still a relatively small if not passionate audience, and there was a handful of other lesser known RPGs that are unlikely to make it out of Japan. With no Monster Hunter and nothing whatsoever from Suqare-Enix, a port of Phantasy Star Online 2 ended up being the biggest announcement. The PC and Vita versions will share servers, but SEGA's latest is currently only 10% complete and won't be with us for a long time yet.
Vita Heaven was Sony's chance to map-out its plan of action for the next 12 months, to alleviate concerns about the viability of the platform, reassure current owners and win over potential customers with a collection of games to last into the foreseeable future. Instead, it left me scratching my head, unsure as to what exactly I’m going to be playing on my Vita in the second half of 2012 and beyond. Let’s hope that Sony has something up its sleeve for E3.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of last week's Game Developer's Conference was Quantic Dream's (the studio behind Heavy Rain) tech demo, Kara. It is a hugely impressive introduction to the developer's latest motion-cap technology, which David Cage insists is already a year old and now even more advanced than the trailer suggests. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since first watching it Thursday morning, and I strongly recommend checking it out so you can join me in being excited for QD's next project, whatever it may be.
4. The Plat Ten
Forget Assassin's Creed 3 - by far the biggest reveal of the first quarter was the official PlayStation blog's list of the most platinumed PS3 games. Assassin's Creed 2 was number one, not surprising as the majority of the trophies are easily unlooked through the course of the game and the remainder just take time as opposed to any real skill. I must say that I’m surprised that inFAMOUS charted at number 6, as I didn't realise people were organized enough nor had the patience to seek out all those blasted shards.
Anyway, here's the list, based on PSN user information. I have five of the ten and stopped just short on two or three others. How about you?
1. Assassin’s Creed II
2. Modern Warfare 2
3. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
4. God of War 3
5. Resident Evil 5
7. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
8. God of War (GoW HD Collection)
10. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (The Sly Collection)
|I bought the last good game, so save yourself a trip|
6. Fire Sale at GAME
As European readers will probably be well aware, administration looms for the GAME Group (the owner of GAME and Gamestation stores). With creditors losing patience, many large publishers, including EA, have refused to deal with the troubled retailer, resulting in GAME being unable to carry a number of big releases, most notably Mass Effect 3. The only truly nationwide, brick and mortar, game dedicated retailer in the UK - the group also has store across Europe and Australia - is now at death's door and has begun offering huge discounts on older stock, in particular the used games that have become such a huge, and divisive part of their business over the last few years.
Like the gaming vulture I am, I visited my local GAMEs and Gamestation last Friday to pick at the carcass with other penny pinching gamers. Unfortunately, the sale was pretty underwhelming and they were still flogging new games for the kind of prices that'll quickly put you out of business (£44 for Uncharted Golden Abyss!). There was no wailing, no stomping and no Binary Domain for a tuppence but I did manage to come away with one, brilliant purchase: 50 Cent Blood on the Sand. GGGGG G Unit! It looks like Mass Effect 2-3 will have to wait as I help Fiddy reclaim his mutha fucking diamond skull, as you do.