Monday, September 2, 2013

Fall Feedbag - Gauging excitement for some upcoming games

Pre-release hype can be a factor of many things. Sometimes it is legitimate fan anticipation, other times it is the fabrication of the publisher and, often, it is a mix of the two. With school back in session and the summer release lull drawing to a close, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look at some titles expected to be released in the next few months and provide my take on the public hype for each of them.

Grand Theft Auto 5
Release: September 17, 2013
My Hype: Damn Excited
Public Hype: Damn Excited

In case you have been living under a rock, Grand Theft Auto is the definitive open world crime simulator. Each iteration presents a sand box where the main story is only the beginning of exploring the world. I think that the high level of hype is mostly justified with GTA5. Rockstar has perfected the open world formula and each new addition to the series has brought in a slew of new activities to pursue and has consistently made positive additions. While the much touted multiplayer overhaul won't be available at launch (it will be added as part of a free patch in a few months), I think that enough new stuff is being brought to the table to lay the groundwork for another instant classic in the series. It is has been a good few years since the last installment and Rockstar is unlikley to drop the ball here, everyone should be primed to get back to stealing cars and speeding them through a deep and engaging world.

Playstation 4/Xbox One
Release: November 2013
My Hype: Tepid
Public Hype: Exploding in Pants

I am sure that a lot of people will read my hype level up there and immediately think I am smoking crack. How can I consider myself a gamer and not be dying to get my hands on the next console? To be direct, new console launches suck. First generation hardware can have issues (red ring anyone?), launch titles rarely push the system to its limits, and supplies are so limited that getting your hands on one usually involves camping out in an urban environment. None of this means that I am not stoked to see what the new consoles will bring, its just that I don't think we will have a good idea of this until at least the new year. No doubt, both Sony and Microsoft are doing everything they can to fuel the hype for the launches of their respective systems as much as they can so gauging genuine public hype can be a bit hard. That said, given that every article I see covering even the most minute detail of the new consoles garners an epic novel worth of comments I think that people are about as excited as they can get; for me, I intend to keep it in my pants, at least for a little while.

Nintendo 2DS
Release: October 12, 2013
My Hype: Max Payne classic stinky cheese expression
Public Hype: uhh... what?

What the hell is this? I absolutely do not understand how this brings anything at all of value to gamers. The system rips out the chief selling point of the 3DS (namely the no-glasses-needed stereoscopic 3D), retails for only a bit lower than the price of a new 3DS, and, as many people have pointed out, is in the running for the most hideous looking handheld ever designed. I think public reaction has pretty much been on the button here with even the most ardent Nintendo fans questioning this move. I hate to see it happen, but I think Nintendo is in for a rough year ahead and I hope instead of desperately floundering to salvage bad decisions they use the time to figure out the right direction to go (pro tip: this isn't it).

Batman: Arkham Origins
Release: October 25, 2013
My Hype: Skeptical
Public Hype: Eating it up

For me, this seems like an extremely obvious cash grab by Warner Brothers. Rocksteady, the developer responsible for the sublime Arkham Asylum and Arkham City have been supplanted for WB Games Montreal, a developer who was just created. Everything about this smacks of trying to quickly cash in on the established series without actually doing any of the work to keep things fresh. While I am sure that the fundamentals will probably carry over and the game will be passable, I am just not expecting anything great. Unfortunately, public hype seems to be all too excited for another game in the Arkham series and doesn't care where it comes from. Perhaps some of this hype is due to the marketing juggernaut that WB is, but I feel that a good chunk of it is genuine from gamers who only look at the title and fail to realize it is actually the developer and not the license that counts.

South Park the Stick of Truth
Release: Late 2013
My Hype: Surprisingly High
Public Hype: Surprisingly Subdued

I really don't know what to make of the upcoming South Park MMO. On one hand, South Park games have had a reputation for being pretty junk and consistently failing to port the magic of the television show. On the other, every preview I see of this game looks like they might actually get it right. Further, while the idea of a South Park MMO sounds ridiculous on paper, it is actually looking like it might be the fresh take the genre sorely needs. With every morsel of info I find on Stick of Truth, I feel my excitement rising like Cartman's weight during his beefcake regime. I think public anticipation has been relatively muted mainly because the game hasn't received a lot of publicity. This is like due to the game originally being published under the now bankrupt THQ and the advertising dollars simply not being there. While I can easily handle the disappointed of another bad South Park game, I genuinely hope it is a smash hit and gets my vote for dark horse game of the year potential.

Well there you have it. A mixed bag of some of the big releases expected this fall. Of them all, I think GTA5 is most likely to deliver the goods and it is little surprise to me that this is the only spot I agree with general consensus (barring the 2DS which no one cares about anyways). On my radar is Stick of Truth but I certainly won't be putting in a preorder as a lot of unknown elements will have to come together right for it to be a success. Arkham Origins has the whiff of guano about it and will not surprise me if it is a flop.