Summer Gaming Mallaise

Some notes before I begin, I am indeed still playing Bioshock.  The game just doesn’t excite me, but I’m determined to finish it….eventually.  I am also still playing Grand Theft Auto IV.  It is still fun, I still like the story, but certain gameplay elements (save system…um the controls) make it frequently frustrating and slow progress.  Other interests play a factor as well, I do love reading and certain other distractions have more than slowed my video game playing.

Unlike certain friends I have always been a fan of first person shooters, not exclusively, but when certain people raved about puzzles or crazy boss battles I am hard pressed not to scoff.  That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy other games but, needless to say, I am typically dubious when others laud certain games. Indeed I am hard pressed to name even one platformer that I’ve actually completed.

Even other action games are not necessarily my cup of tea.  Take for example my experience with the Hitman series.  I was dumbfounded as to why killing the entire household of bodyguards constituted failure when my mark was eliminated along with everyone else.  If no one was left alive to say who did the deed; what exactly was the problem?  At the same time my enjoyment of No One Lives Forever (not NOLF 2, two words: respawning enemies) bucks my anti-stealth trend.  Maybe because it let me destroy my enemies with impunity without punishing me too overtly as a result.

In truth the list of games that stir together the magic brew of gameplay, story, and immersion that can truly grab me are few and far between.  Even recent classics like God of War and, yes, Bioshock while fun have failed to truly draw me in.  Even recent PC RPGs, my other genre of choice, have failed to spark the fervor that older games engendered.  Oblivion, while a great game, is still a world that feels static and empty; even with the bajillion and half NPCs roaming around.  Neverwinter Nights 2, while capturing the essence of D&D, fails to reach the staggering heights of the early Interplay/Bioware/Black Isle collaborations (Baldurs Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape Torment); I never felt that same attachment to my character in NWN as I did in Baldur’s Gate.

Perhaps the failure is in me?  Is my general malaise towards most games endemic of a greater disillusionment with video games at large (i.e. I’ve grown up or moved passed them) or a by-product of an industry that is failing to captilize on the creative potential inherent in the video game form?  I don’t have a solid answer for that question.  I suspect it’s a little of both.  I did enjoy Crysis, weak story asside, because the world around me had a visceral real-life feel.  It was the same and it was different in some strange combination that I can’t quite quantify.

All that being said there are a number of games that I’m looking forward to playing.  Most of them seem crammed into the August through October months.  All of them could slip until later.  Most of them are FPS, or 3rd person action, games.  Many are PC games.  So lets have a look shall we?

Borderlands (360/PS3/PC)
Nutshell:Sci-fi action/RPG on a wasteland planet. The Draw: In development by the good folks over at Gearbox it has some sort of insane content randomization and, even better, co-op.Potential for Failure: Moderate-High. The ridiculous amount of weapons seems kind of gimmicky and the vastness of the world seems a bit ambitious. When? Supposedly an early September release; I expect delays.
Legendary (PC)
Werewolves and mythic monsters run amok in modern times thanks somehow to opening pandora’s box. The Draw: Supposedly excellent enemy AI, corroborated by early play discussed in this month’s EGM. The mythic enemies vs. modern technology aspect sounds interesting as well Potential for Failure: High. Gamecock is dubious on name alone. It’s from a smaller developer so this one is up in the air. When? Early September.
Project Origin (PC)
The sequel to F.E.A.R., takes place in the wrecked city destroyed in the first game. The Draw: F.E.A.R had some nice AI, and that will continue here. I only played the demo so I don’t know too much about the original game. But this one does have a giant power suit/mech. Potential for Failure: Moderate-low. Developers Monolith put out solid titles and F.E.A.R. while often seen as flawed seemed interesting at the least. The devs seem bent on ironing out the problems of the original game to draw players into the world/story they’ve created. When? Beginning of October.
Far Cry 2 (PC)
Set in a fictional Africa, hazy on plot details but you’re out to assinate someone called “the Jackal”. The Draw: Advanced AI (seems to be my theme for these), open world, brilliant graphics. Potential for Failure: Low. I think this one is almost a sure thing, but I could be wrong. Everything I’ve seen and read looks great and the devs seem like they’ve gone out of their way to create a dynamic, living environment for the game. When? Early October; I expect a slip.
Aliens: Colonial Marines (PC/360/PS3)
Aliens….’nuff said. The Draw: Atmosphere, co-op, pure fear. Nothing chilled me more than that first beep on my motion tracker in Aliens vs. Predator and I hope the same sense of atmosphere and terror translates to this game. Drop-in, drop-out multiplayer (co-op) also sounds crazy awesome. Potential for Failure: High. We’ve seen little of the game except for a few stills. When? 2009? So says Eurogamer, but doesn’t specify if that is a UK or US release date.
Fallout 3 (PC/360/PS3)
An action RPG set in a post-apocalyptic future. One shouldn’t have to say much beyond that. The Draw: Everything? Fallout and Fallout 2 are classic games in an interesting world full dark humor; a wasted America full of blasted art deco atmosphere and crazy sci-fi action. The change from a turn-based isometric RPG to a full on 3rd person action RPG is interesting, but understandable. Potential for Failure: Low. Bethesda is a great company that has put out some quality products. As long as they maintain the character of the game world everything will be ok…oh and a Ron Perlman voice over would be nice! When? October, maybe.
Ghostbusters (360/PS3/Wii/PC)
Bustin’ ghosts in NYC as the new guy on the team. Draw: This is essentially Ghostbusters 3 with all of the original crew back on board for voice work. Early shots look fantastic and there is certainly a lot of enthusiasm and love behind the project. Potential for Failure: Moderate. I’d say it’s 50/50 this could blow. A major x-factor here is the Wii version which is supposed to be unique visually to handle the lower horsepower of the system. Given the nature of the “proton pack” and the Wii remote it’ll be a tough call whether to go with that or the more visually detailed versions. When? October. Close to Halloween maybe?

Well, that’s it for September and October.  November and the holiday season will bring on more new A-list titles so those last 3-4 months of the year should be pretty ridiculous.  Noticably lacking above are the Wii titles.  I’d like to see more from Nintendo but they seem to be keeping any first-party stuff in the dark; maybe they’ll have some news at E3 in July or the Tokyo Game Show in October.

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2 thoughts on “Summer Gaming Mallaise

  1. ricker2005

    I’m in a bit of a rut too. Some of it is not having enough time to play stuff extensively. Some of it is not having people here who play and not having the ability to hook up consoles to the internet in the apartment. Think I’ll write a followup about the mallaise and upcoming games.

  2. Time is clutch, I feel that. The heat of the last few weeks have actually helped cramp my desire to turn on my 360 since it raises the temperature in the room quite a bit. Despite being a fifth the size of my computer it generates about 4x the heat.

    I did start playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which despite a bupkis hit detection system and poor quest management menu, is actually pretty good.

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