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Friday, May 05, 2006

Games I Want to Play Right Now – E3 Edition

So a friend/co-worker of mine asked me for my recommendations on what to make sure to see at E3 this year, and I thought it’d be cool if I made a post out of it. So what follows is my complete and wholly subjective list of the 10 games of E3 that I am most looking forward to, done up in a handy ranking format:

10. Resistance: Fall of Man

I don’t consider myself a shooter guy by any means. Sure, I buy them just as often as any other genre, and I count Half Life 2 as one of the greatest games ever made. Doom and Doom 2 probably hold the record for games I’ve beaten the most times, and the series gave me my first taste of competitive multiplayer gaming, from which I’ve never truly recovered. But I’ve never reached that Nth level of nirvana, never truly connecting with the spirit of the first-person shooter in that way that I’ve connected with, say, the fighting game. Thus, it may seem strange that this game appears on my list. Well, R:FoM is being developed by none other than Insomniac Games, makers of by far and away my favorite video game series of this generation, Ratchet & Clank. I will go anywhere they lead me, and from the looks of things, where they’re leading me is to a grayish world with heavy guns and scary monsters. Sign me up.

9. Gears of War

What’s this, another game with heavy guns and scary monsters? I’m sensing a next-generation theme here. I respect Epic as a company, but I’ve never been personally enamored with their games. But with Gears of War, something changed. That something, I think, is that the games that the developers name drop when describing their game – namely Resident Evil 4 and Kill.Switch – are pretty cool in their own right, and in this industry great ideas tend to be built on the backs of other great ideas. Plus, Epic seems poised in the exact same position that Criterion was in last generation. They are the makers of the hottest middleware in town and they must show the power of what their product can produce. Criterion did it with Burnout, and Epic will do it with Gears of War.

8. Resident Evil 5

So Capcom did something really cool last generation. Without anyone really noticing, they quietly produced some of the boldest, most daring, and purely entertaining software around. Then they capped it all of by releasing Resident Evil 4 – a game that many consider to be the best game of last year (more on this later). If I was a betting man, I would wager that subsequent Resident Evils will owe a lot of their themes and concepts to RE4 (and to a larger extent, many games in many different genres will all take a feather out of RE4’s cap. Look for closer third-person cameras, cameras offset from directly behind the character, escort missions, and horror themes to permeate into all your favorite games). Resident Evil 5 will garner huge attention the closer we get to its release, and I’m hoping that all kicks off starting at E3.

7. Dead Rising

If you know anything about me, you probably know that I like zombies. There is just something about the despair created by the world falling apart and the co-dependent relationships that develop as the few remaining survivors struggle to make sense of it all that I find irresistible. The Japanese, on the other hand, like zombies because a zombie is as close as you can get to killing real people without actually killing real people – something that, I guess, is still largely distasteful there. So like chocolate and peanut butter, my love for the human drama and the Japanese love for killing humanesque things will come together in the form of Dead Rising. Plus I hear the blood effects are pretty swanky. We’ll see.

6. Lost Planet

Lost Planet – the third Capcom game on my list – is a game I’m looking forward to both as a fan and as a developer. I’m excited as a fan because the game looks amazing – the enemy designs and setting choices are spectacular. I’m not a big mech guy, but this game seems to be trying really hard to correct that, and the on-foot action looks frenetic and exciting. Am I the only one who detects a slight Zone of the Enders vibe? As a developer, I’m really curious about the third-person shooting. I find the third-person perspective to be so much more compelling for a console audience – particularly the Eastern audience, which places a very high value on character attachment, and I’m eager to get a non-Resident Evil take on the perspective.

5. Metal Gear Solid 4

By George, this generation I became a Kojima fanboy. Having never thought the Metal Gear series to be anything particularly special, I was completely caught off guard by Metal Gear Solid 3. I personally find it to be a more compelling and enjoyable experience than nearly any other game this generation, up to and including the venerable Resident Evil 4. As has been stated many times before, Kojima Productions holds a stranglehold on presentation and refinement that no other developer on the planet can seem to match. But not only that, Metal Gear seems to possess an awareness of what it is as a game and a purposefulness in what it intends to communicate to the player that just seems light years ahead and what anyone else is attempting. And yes, they make very pretty games as well.

4. Virtua Fighter 5

I must preface this by saying that although probable, no official mention of a console release of Virtua Fighter 5 has been announced. With that said, it’s more than a little likely that one of Sega’s “three surprises” at E3 is an announcement of exactly that. VF has regained much of its lost luster in the eyes of the Western market with the release of Virtua Fighter 4 and its update, Evolution, and it’s virtually guaranteed that Sega will capitalize on this at the show. My thoughts on this are simple – Virtua Fighter is to fighting games as Ferrari is to automobiles. There are lots of car companies making lots of cars, and while many are good, only Ferrari is truly great. Like it or not, it is the same with VF.

3. Sonic the Hedgehog

The very first booth on the very first day of last year’s E3 that I visited was Sega’s, and upon reaching it I immediately got in line to see what they were showing in their theater. I got to see video of the games they were showing on the floor that year, and many of them were pretty interesting. But of course it was the next generation video that piqued my interest the most, and out of all the games in that movie (Afterburner, Chrome Hounds, and Virtua Fighter 5), it was Sonic the Hedgehog that left the greatest impact on me. In this current generation, Sega has really abused the Sonic franchise. For whatever reason, these games of questionable quality have sold by the bucket load, and it seems there is a new one out every quarter. I have skipped most - but not all - of these games (I did buy Sonic Heroes, which was awful, and Sonic Rush, which was great), but there is no way in hell I am skipping Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s as if Sega is looking at us with a knowing, apologetic look, and Sonic the Hedgehog, with one gloved paw, may wipe a generation’s worth of bad memories from our minds.

2. God of War 2

Let’s get it straight people – God of War is the best game of this entire console generation, let alone the last year. No other game player better, looked better, sounded better, storied better, did more for the platform, or left a bigger wake than Sony’s big-budget action romp. All you people evangelizing while holding down the B-button to run, take note – I’ll be over in the Sony booth, motion canceling my ass off and tipping my hat to the guys – an American team – who showed once and for all that Western development is about more than tech demos and horsepower. This year’s E3 is definitely going to be about bright and shiny next generation consoles, and that’s understandable, but something tells me that you’re going to see more than one game that is directly influenced by this genre-defining series (I’m playing one right now).

1. Super Mario 128

When the time of human beings is over, there is only one videogame from one series that I really and truly hope survives as evidence as to what humanity accomplished with videogames, and that game is Super Mario Bros. 3. Like a lost people roaming the desert, I have waited for a decade for Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka to show me The Way by giving me a proper console iteration of Mario (Sunshine be damned). It’s entirely possible (although not probable) that the only taste of Mario I will get is New Super Mario Bros., but somehow I doubt that. Nintendo is really good at E3 surprises, and I think the speculation regarding this game from the pre-E3 hype is conspicuous by its absence – something tells me that people know more than they’re letting on; here’s hoping I’m right.

So that’s my must-see list, but it’s obviously not all I hope to see at E3. I’m actually really hoping to see a new Silent Hill, maybe even one that responds to what Resident Evil did to their pre-existing gameplay mechanics. I would also really be pleased with a new iteration of Ratchet & Clank; I’m one of those crazy people who enjoy both the platform-centric and shooter-centric versions of the game equally, so I’ll be pleased with pretty much whatever they come up with. I’m also pretty damn excited to see Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. After two versions of the soul capturing system, I’m really looking forward to Iga and the boys (and girls) covering some new ground. Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2, Ultimate Ghouls N’ Ghosts, Tekken 6, and I’m sure a metric ton of other games will all get at least some face time with me; this looks to be one of the best E3’s in quite some time (although nothing really tops the Oddworld booths of old).

Thanks for reading.

2 Comments:

  • At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Michael Bilodeau said…

    It hurts me that you left out Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, though I am amped for many of the other games on the list. Nice blog.

     
  • At 9:52 PM, Blogger omar kendall said…

    If the list was of the top 11 games, Quake Wars would undoubtedly be featured - I can't wait for that game to take over my life!

     

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