Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Most Anticipated 2011 Part 1

Last year I did a great big preview of the 15 games I was looking forward to. Six of them are out, and a couple of predictions from the time ring true:
"That Team Bondi expects us to be able to tell whether or not we're being deceived at all is a unique and crucial step forward; that we're expected to do so not from what characters say but from how they say it renders this an exciting experiment indeed."
"For all the brilliance of writing Portal displayed, in terms of delivery it was rarely a game that introduced anything new. But then, when the content is this good I guess that can be forgiven."
Anyway, it got some good clicks, and I even got to work on one of the games in the list, so I'm doing it again. This is, really, a very subjective 'E3 Made Me Want This' list, expect E3 was ages ago.

09. Max Payne 3
Rockstar Vancouver
December 2011
PC, PS3, 360

When I think of Max Payne I think of a guilty pleasure - ridiculous noire posturing and a central mechanic designed entirely around making the player look cool for minimal effort on his part. To say that that's Max's legacy would be to underplay him, though. For all the tongue that's in his cheek it's a wonder he can narrate at all, but the writing style remains a key strength in a game released at a time when 'style' tended to focus on how much of the screen the word 'HEADSHOT' took up.

That the dev rights now fall to Rockstar's in-house stable rather than creators Remedy shouldn't concern too much. These guys know the franchise thanks to their involvement throughout the series, and they also know entertaining writing.

The Brazilian setting seems all kinds of wrong; so does the newly heavy set star. There's little doubt Max Payne 3 will deliver pretty, satisfying gunplay - but it's always been about more than that. Max Payne is about a linear game world that offers surprising depth through intelligent detail like the Pink Flamingo TV serial or the interactive funhouse. It's  about poignancy through the ludicrous, and even style (or at least structure) over substance.

Suddenly getting the bullet time right seems like the easy part.

08. SSX: Deadly Descents
EA Canada
PS3, 360

God I love SSX. Sure, that's in part because it makes me feel a bit like the mainstream - I can't beat my housemates at Pro Evo or GT, but strap a pair of planks to my virtual feet and I'm off.

SSX On Tour - the last non-Wii iteration from 2005 - stands up as the highlight of the series. Aside from having excellent manly dress-up options its presentation, its accessibility and above all its sound design stand out. From the intro sequence cut to Iron Maiden's Run To The Hills, to the dynamic system that layers the assorted indie rock and electro tracks to reflect your speed and creativity, On Tour was a beautiful, polished experience that to this day reminds me that games can be important to me without bothering to be important.

There's no team on the planet with snowboarding experience like EA Canada, and Deadly Descents is exactly the adrenaline shot this under-supported genre needs.

07. Nidhog

Everyone seems to be talking about Nidhog. Everyone seems to have played Nidhog, even though there's no official release date in sight. I particularly enjoy this faux interview discussing the high end performance capture the game doesn't have. It almost had me going.

Nidhog allows two players to compete in an unending adventure of combat and abstract visualisation. Drawing unashamed notes from Prince of Persia one player's goal is to move unerringly right, the other the inverse; simple arcade swordplay occurs when the two meet. It's fast, frantic, yet retains the promise of tactical play and immense pay off with each successive victory - albeit a pay off that only lasts as long as your opponent's spawn delay.

I like Nidhog because it's pretty, because it's social, and because it threatens to redefine how we interact with one another. Naturally it does so in a very humble way, but nonetheless it feels like something fresh.

Part 2 coming soon.


  1. I'm off to India tomorrow, but I'll be popping up here and there over the next three weeks to put up a post and have a natter. If, that is, they have the internet is farthest Kashmir. Though, frankly, I imagine a few days from now I'd settle for hot water and a sit down loo ;-)

    Enough of my galivanting - what are your thoughts on the list, and what would make your personal top spot?

  2. So they don't have to be released in 2011, given that SSX is listed as 2012?

    The Witness would be my absolute number 1, partly because so much is unknown and my imagination is great at filling in those gaps in an idealistic way, but actually because it offers the promise of a new/unique kind of gaming experience and it includes figuring out what's going on based on observation and subtle clues while having the freedom to wander about and solve the mystery at your own pace - and I love that in games. I trust and respect Jonathon Blow and want to see what made him so excited to tackle this project above all others.

    Last Guardian and Journey are right up there as well but I'll need a PS3 to play them.

  3. Yep, just a bunch of games I think are worth getting excited about.

    I'm excited about The Witness too, in featured in last year's list... along with Journey and Last Guardian! ;-)