A First Half Analysis
It has been a strange six months. 2012 has yet to provide a great or defining game, no equal to Red Dead Redemption from the first half of 2010 or anything as enjoyable as last year’s Yakuza 4. However, with electronica blocks, space diplomacy, far eastern zombies, a gun totting alcoholic and everything else in between, I have been consistently entertained by 2012’s early offerings and have yet to find myself without a game to play.
For all the new shinnies that have graced my systems in the last six months, it was an old favourite that proved to be the best. Now in glorious HD, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was every bit as excellent as I remember and I'm now fighting the urge to buy it yet again for my PS Vita which, despite a less than ideal start, has given me another compelling reason to use my thumbs. My at-launch adoption of Sony's latest was my biggest gaming event of 2012, even if the subsequent months have done little to assuage my concerns regarding its long term prospects.
Outside of my living room, it has been a turbulent few months for video games. This is an industry in flux, gearing up for major changes and a new generation while at the same time stubbornly holding on to outdated practices. DRM and used sales continue to be points of contention and will remain so well into the next gen. With the purchase of Gaikai, Sony has taken the first step in committing to a future of clouds, streaming and expanded subscription services, hinting at what the next decade of gaming might look like.
With the continued expansion of mobile games, some of the old-guard are now reassessing their core operations and acting accordingly. SEGA have begun a global consolidation, closing offices and concentrating on their four biggest franchises – Alex Kidd, Hang On, Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and Seaman - whilst pushing everything else into digital and mobile. THQ is teetering on the brink and it’s a fair bet that we will see a couple more developers disappear in the coming months. Things have been far from peachy on the high street as UK retailer, The GAME Group, barely escaped closure back in March. They exist now as a shadow of their former self, though they still cling to their comically high prices.
E3 brought a disappointing end to an underwhelming six months, offering little more than tired ultra-violence and regurgitated pixels. Despite a console launch, a Mass Effect uprising and girl wood, it has been a fairly uneventful 2012 thus far but things are looking up for autumn and winter. It feels like every other game once slated for the second half of this year has since relocated to the first quarter of 2013, but there remains a handful of impressive looking games warming up for the second half. Hopefully they will succeed in keeping me entertained until the end of the year and prevent me from having to venture too far into my backlog.
First half standouts:
Mass Effect 3
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Most looking forward to in the second half:
Assassin's Creed 3
Far Cry 3
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Need for Speed Most Wanted
Papo & Yo
PS One Classics on Vita
What have we learnt in six months of 2012?
1. The European Pokemon Video Game Championship committee frowns upon shit throwing, especially in hotel corridors. In Birmingham.
2. Sony is hell-bent on killing off the Vita, dragging their heels when they should be firing on all cylinders. A lack of software and piss poor cross-compatibility with the PS3 - trophy, friend list and connectivity issues date back seven months to the Japanese launch - are indicative of a company that seems content in fumbling its way towards failure.
3. Publishers see gamers as a bunch of blood hungry savages, albeit savages who are partial to a bit of Mario.
4. Despite a change of scenery, Peter Molyneux remains an evil genius. No other developer would have the balls to release a mobile app with a $50,000 slice of DLC and label it a social experiment.
5. Rape is a topic best avoided when promoting your forthcoming game.
6. This is an industry where it is acceptable for an "impartial" audience of journalists to whoop throughout a publisher's press conference.
7. A game dedicated portable can still succeed, at least when it has Nintendo’s name on it.
8. Need for Speed: The Movie will not be tied to any one entry in the series.
9. A new IP can still find an audience, as Dragon’s Dogma looks set to become a core franchise for Capcom moving forward.
10. If a vocal minority complain long and hard enough, there's always a chance that you’ll get to see Zaeed reclining on a sunbed