E3 is full of bragging and boasting, but ultimately, many of the most hyped games at the show end up under delivering on some levels. What follows are five games either the press or the publishers were really eager to show off, but didn’t quite seem the merit all of the exposure they got. Not all of these games are bad – indeed, most of them look like they’ll shape up pretty well. Plus it’ll still be months before any of these are actually completed, so there’s room for improvement – but most are indicative of unfortunate trends in the next generation of video gaming.
Resistance: Fall of Man (Playstation 3)
I have an incredible amount of respect for Insomniac Games, seeing that Ratchet and Clank is one of my favorite series on the PS2. So when the Sony press conference announced that it was just another first person shooter, I was a little bit dismayed. I generally enjoy the genre, but upon playing the game, it seemed to be little more Call of Duty 2 plus aliens
That’s all well and good, because Call of Duty is a damn fine game, but ripping off competitor’s games isn’t exactly the best way to sell the system, especially since people are already pretty familiar with the Xbox 360 and the famous WWII shooter. Furthermore, Resistance seems to have a dark grey filter over everything, which lends greatly to the atmosphere but greatly reduces any visual impact the game might have. It might be technologically impressive, but it’s still pretty ugly. And when graphics are your biggest selling point – well, that’s not good.
And finally, it highlights one of the biggest problems with the Dual Shock 3 controller. The Xbox is widely regarded as The System for first person shooters, partially because of it’s hardware specs, but also due to it’s controller, which offers two well-placed, tight analog sticks. The Dual Shock 3 still has them parallel to each other, and they’re still as loose as they were on the Playstation 2. I know Sony must be afraid of alienating customers with that terrible thing called “change”, but why not fix things when they have the opportunity?
Heavenly Sword (Playstation 3)
Heavenly Sword was one of the best looking games at Sony’s press conference, and some of the animation shown in the trailer – especially the scene of a vicious warlord ordering the execution of the game’s heroine – were pretty impressive. But while Heavenly Sword played well, it seems derivative for the same reasons that Resistance is – this is pretty much just God of War, again, but for the next gen. The controls are almost exactly the same, right down to the quicktime event button presses. This is, again, precisely what naysayers have feared about the next generation, the same stuff but with slightly better graphics, except this time Sony expects us to pay $500 for them.
But while Resistance’s dark graphics sucked any of the beauty out of the graphics, Heavenly Sword goes into the opposite direction by making things too shiny. For all intents and purposes, God of War was fun but ultimately nothing special – it was the atmosphere and over the top violence that really drew people to it. Heavenly Sword has plenty of style but it’s all washed out by too many fancy graphical effects. Admittedly, there was only one arena playable in the demo, so there’s a wealth of opportunity to show off different styles. But for right now, Heavenly Sword is just another example of things we’ve all seen before, just gussied up a little bit.
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)
Wait, don’t get me wrong! Twilight Princess is still looking to shape up nicely, even though I miss the visual style of Wind Waker, but it really seems like Nintendo had no idea what to do with this when sticking in Wii functionality. When Nintendo first announced Zelda would be hitting the Wii, gamers imagined swinging the controller around like Link’s sword, and began drooling. But that’s not the case – the remote just controls a fairy, which can be used to point at things. It makes aiming the arrows or boomerang a little bit easier, but ultimately, it doesn’t really do much.
Furthermore, it highlights another problem with the Wii remote. If it’s not going to control the camera – and in the demo, it didn’t – then how are players supposed to look around? This seems like a throwback to a lot of old N64 games where you needed to recenter the camera with a button press instead of having full control over it. That’s not something we should be looking forward to.
Additionally, Twilight Princess on the Wii looks and runs exactly like it does on the Gamecube. The Wii isn’t supposed to be extraordinarily powerful, but I was expecting at least a higher frame rate or something. The only advancement, from what Nintendo claims, is widescreen support. That’s not enough. If Nintendo wants to convince consumers to buy a whole new console, they need to have something other than extra (and useless) controller functionality. If having a new controller is more important than graphics, then why not just release it as a new accessory for the Gamecube, if there’s going to be no other technological enhancements? The Wii has it’s share of other decent software titles, but these issues essentially remove Zelda from being a killer app for the Wii.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Playstation 3 / Xbox 360)
Sonic is still incredibly popular with today’s kids, but he’s consistently underdelivered in the past few 3D installments. But Sega is convinced the mascot can do well, so they stuck up “life size” statues of him all around his booth, just they like did to promote Shadow the Hedgehog last year. So Sega’s claimed they’ve wised up and are “returning to Sonic’s roots” for his next gen outing, and and…it looks and plays just like Sonic Adventure, from the Dreamcast, seven years ago. They’ve even emulated all of the sketchy controls and glitchiness as well! Good going, Sega! When the best thing you can say is “It’s not Shadow the Hedgehog”, then you still have a problem. At least all of the stupid weaponry is gone, but it’s still just running, watching the scenery go by, then trying to jump on a bad guy and instead sending Sonic off a cliff.
Sonic the Hedgehog also looked identical on both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 – which isn’t helping Sony’s cause in trying to convince customers that it’s greater power is worth the extra money. Oh well – at least the PSP 2.5D racing game Sonic Rivals looks pretty good, as does Sonic: Wild Fire for the Wii, which uses the remote like a steering wheel to help Sonic blaze past obstacles.
Red Steel (Wii)
Red Steel was one of the first Wii titles announced, having graced the cover of a rather exuberant issue of Game Informer and excited gamers everywhere about the potential of using the Wii remote for first person shooters. While the running and gunning controls pretty well, after a few minutes, it begins to reveal itself as yet another, generic first person shooter. The game doesn’t have any unique visual hooks (other than the abundance of red), and it looks just like a Gamecube title. And could we finally concentrate on getting first person shooters to run at 60 FPS? It’s become standard to keep them around 30 FPS on consoles, which never really made a difference because you were dealing with clumsy analog controller input anyway. But when you’re dealing with the precise movement the Wii remote, 30 FPS just doesn’t cut it. Metroid Prime 3 runs much smoother, and as a result, controls much nicer than Red Steel.
The one big things Red Steel tries to bring to the game – the sword fighting – is also pretty underwhelming. The game doesn’t precisely track your movements – instead, it reads your actions, and executes a number of predetermined attacks. Not only does this feel a little big laggy, but it doesn’t really immerse you in the game like you’d imagine. Without this, Red Steel doesn’t have too much to stand on, especially compared to something like Gears of War. Heck, even Resistance: Fall of Man looks more exciting. The problem here is that Ubisoft/Nintendo is relying too much on its controller carrying the game and not bothering to really push the design forward. This might work for awhile – Excite Truck was an average game that turned out amazing due to it’s fun control scheme – but ultimately the games are far more important than the input decide.