Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gamers ready for the Next Big Thing

By Bryan Crowson
Sythbane Squadron leader

The day has finally come when even the most stalwart shooter fans on my Xbox Live friends list are tired of Call of Duty. Until recently, whenever I got online, most folks were playing Call of Duty: World at War. Now, hardly anybody is playing it regularly. The friends and party list show a variety of games and genres, as people revisit old favorites. Fable 2 has popped up again as people explore some of its new downloadable content, and some have dipped back into Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2.

Last night, I joined a lively series of Halo 3 slayer matches with Big Daddy Ogre and several other friends. Playing Halo 3 online against random opponents can be off-putting, because the Halo community is unfortunately burdened with more than its share of mutton-heads. But if you can play Halo online with actual friends, it remains one of the most fun games ever. It's interesting to note that when people tire of everything else, Halo 3 is the fall-back game!

I've also gone back to Fable 2 a bit. I fired it up to try out the See the Future expansion and noticed that my main character had acquired enough cash to buy Fairfax Castle. I did that quest and (possible spoiler alert here!) got to the part with the sex-changing potion. OK, so it did warn that was permanent, but I assumed I could go back to a previous save. I wanted to see if there were any cool animations to the effect, and to see what my character would look like as a woman. I saved the game, so I could revert to my old self if I didn't like my estrogen-enhanced self, and then drank the potion. Blip, and there I stood, a woman in ill-fitting clothes. No fancy animation.

And, aside from the anti-climax of the transformation, I was NOT a pretty woman. You'd think a high-level female fighter would be a sexy, athletic woman like Xena, Red Sonja, Witchblade, or -- a more recent example -- super-hot Aneka of Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire on Comedy Central. I don't know what the folks at Lionhead were thinking, but a female high-level fighter in Fable 2 looks like a male heavyweight wrestler wearing a bra. Haven't any of them ever picked up an issue of Heavy Metal magazine?

I was displeased, so I tried to reload my last saved game, and guess what? Peter Molyneux got the last laugh, because the game saved automatically when I drank the potion. I'm stuck looking like a refrigerator in a dress. This transformation should have been a blessing, not a curse! I got online and searched the message boards and forums for a trick to change back, and it looks like lots of people have done exactly what I did. There apparently is no way to change back. Like many of those folks on the forums, I've gottened annoyed with Fable 2 because of this and set it aside.

Now what? Heads up, game makers!

To be fair, there have been some decent game releases lately, but nothing that seems to be widely embraced as a must-play for everybody. This limbo period, with gamers adrift, looking for something new, is an opportunity for game makers to break this absurd fall holiday season glut of game releases. With new video games at $60 a pop, who can afford to buy all these games? You should be feeding the beast throughout the year! Quit saving so much of the best stuff for fall.

There are a lot of games I'm looking forward to, but I'm having a wait through this period of malaise for too long before I can play them. The longer I wait, the greater my expectations are for the games. Here are some of coming releases that I'm really eager to get my hands on, and some of my hopes for the them:

- Alpha Protocol. I'm really ready to get my hands on another good role-playing game for my Xbox 360. This looks like a Jason Bourne-type character in a Mass Effect type game, which could be awesome. Release date: Oct. 6! Dang it!

- Halo 3: ODST. A fresh take on the Halo universe, playing as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, the special forces of the UNSC. How long until this one? The release date is this fall. Doh!

- Red Dead Redemption from Rockstar Games. I don't know much about this one, but I get the impression that it might be a role-playing game like Grand Theft Auto IV, but set in the Old West. The trailer looks fantastic, like a movie. I'm really stoked to try this. I thought the seedy atmosphere of GTA4 was depressing, but I could get into the wide-open spaces of an Old West RPG. Again, the release date is this fall!

- Aliens vs. Predator from Sega. This one makes me giddy. A shooter, with multiplayer as an Alien or a Predator or a Colonial Marine?! Holy face-huggers! Sign me up! How could anybody possibly screw this up, with so much cool source material? And yet, the movies keep screwing up this franchise. Here's my advice: IGNORE the ill-conceived abominations known as Alien 3, Alien 4 and AVP: Requiem. Key the game on Aliens and the original Predator, and it will be a winner. Release date: early 2010. Argh!

- Modern Warfare 2. This one will have everybody tied up, game makers. The 500 pound gorilla will own Xbox Live when it's released Nov. 10, so don't you want to throw us a bone before then?

- Brutal Legend. I am ready to rock.

- Dragon Age: Origins. This swords-and-sorcery RPG from BioWare hints at a mature treatment of the genre, not the namby-pamby Saturday-morning kind of thing we're used to. I say: Bring it on.


Joe said...

Ms. Pac-Man only wore a bow.

That was pretty hot.

fartknocckker said...

I also agree that great games should come all through the year, not just Q3 and Q4. Although, I have noticed a slight improvement in that respect in the last couple of years. I think that will improve as the game industry continues to grow.