Friday, June 15, 2012

With Our Powers Combined

It was slim pickings at E3 this year if you were looking for anything that wasn't a shooter of one kind or another.  That being said, there were some excellent PC titles on show, one of which casual readers will probably already be familiar with.  Who knows, maybe one year I will actually get to go to the damn thing.

Starting us off (best foot forward and all that)...

Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Expected: 2H 2012

The sequel to the first (and let's face it, only) MMOFPS, PlanetSide, PS2 ramps everything up a notch for the sequel.  Regular readers will know how much of a big deal this is for me, since I have made enough posts on the subject previously.

PlanetSide 2 was actually playable at E3 (and I am not jealous of that at all) and received a lot of very favourable press from real games journalists, not fakes like me.  Up to 2,000 players can duke it out on each continent simultaneously, and there will be three continents available at launch (namely Cyssor, Indar and Searhus).

I am still staggered that nobody besides Sony has actually launched an MMOFPS, which would seem to be the next logical step in online shooter gaming.  There are other quasi-MMOFPS titles in development, such as Red 5's Firefall, Trion's Defiance (which will launch alongside a SyFy channel TV series early next year) and Blizzard's Titan (which has yet to be officially confirmed and is fast approaching mythical status, like some kind of distant unicorn), but PS2 will beat them all to the punch when it launches later this year.

Sony put up several livestreams of people playing the game at E3, and you can watch all of these on Youtube.  Frankly, the game looks astounding and I can hardly believe it's still only in alpha (the beta is meant to be starting "very soon" according to SOE).  The other unbelievable thing is that PlanetSide 2 is a free-to-play game.  Yes, you will be able to buy things such as aesthetic customisations with real money (a la League of Legends) but you will not be able to buy power, which is the acid test for things such as this.  SOE's ForgeLight engine, which they built from scratch for their new games and which PS2 will be the first game to utilise, looks truly breathtaking.  Rarely am I impressed solely by graphics these days, but damn, PlanetSide 2 is an attractive game to look at.  Since it also looks like it's going to have the gameplay to back this up, it seems like a win/win is in the making.

If there is a merciful god then expect beta to begin before the end of June.

Watch Dogs

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Expected: 2013

One of, if not the, sleeper hit from E3, since it had not been previously announced, Watch Dogs is an action title set in a near-future Chicago where information is currency and everything, from traffic lights to cellphones, is connected and therefore vulnerable to nefarious people such as yourself.

An open world game that immediately struck me as combining elements of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Prototype, you manipulate people and the environment around you in order to achieve your goals.  How exactly you do it is up to you, but you will have a wide array of electronic surveillance and espionage equipment, and even cyber-warefare tech, available to you in order to help you complete your missions.

The E3 demo is embedded below.  Pay particular attention to the artistic style (in particular check our the protagonist's coat as it goes from dry to wet when he is outside in the rain) and then remind yourself that, while this game will be releasing on consoles as well (because, come on, it's Ubisoft) speculation seems to indicate that the demo was running on a PC.  So suck it, Sony / Microsoft / et al.  Particularly Microsoft (you know what you did).

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: THQ
Expected: 5th March, 2013

A spin-off from the South Park TV series on Comedy Central, The Stick of Truth seems to be loosely based around the 13th episode of the sixth season, which was entitled "The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers", in which Stan, Eric, Kyle and Cartman attempt to return a cassette to a video rental store before it closes.

Since South Park honchos Trey Parker and Matt Stone are closely assisting in the game's development alongside Obsidian, you can expect to see the usual jokes aimed at gingers, Jews and nerds, and no doubt plenty of other minorities as well.  The trailer is embedded below, and Obsidian certainly seem to have captured the spirit of the show superbly.  Parker and Stone will also be lending their voices to the game, since they voice the vast majority of the characters in the TV show in the first place.

Unfortunately due to Microsoft hating the PC now (there was a family relationship that got broken quickly), it has already been announced that the first three DLC packs for the game will debut on the X-Box 360, and one of these will be a 360 exclusive.  Hopefully the DLC will still appear on the PC, even if it will just take a little longer to do so.


Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Expected: 9th October, 2012

I know it's a game I have written about recently, but there was enough new information (and a new trailer, embedded below) at E3 about Dishonored to warrant its inclusion here.

Arkane debuted a new 30 minute demo for the game behind closed doors at E3, which consisted of running a single mission multiple times to show the different ways in which it could be completed.  One playthrough focused on just killing everything in sight, using powers and weapons to essentially toast anything that moved.  Another playthrough instead used stealth and subterfuge to possess creatures and humans in order to eavesdrop information and progress through a fortified area to reach your target.

Whilst it may not be a true sandbox game, the fact that the linear missions can be completed almost any way you want will be a big draw to see just how differently they can be done.  I'm really hoping this game does not get pushed back, since it's currently slated to be released in four months.  The E3 trailer is embedded below:

Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Expected: 18th September, 2012

Rounding us out this year comes the sequel to one of the best games of 2009.  Borderlands was a highly enjoyable cel-shaded futuristic shooter with the focus on obtaining guns, guns and more guns as you explored the arid and dangerous world of Pandora.

Gearbox have taken on board people's criticisms of the weak plot in the first game and have promised to do better for the second.  Borderlands 2 promises four all-new playable classes (although the original four from the first game will be returning as NPCs), new guns, new environments and new enemies to shoot at.  Here's hoping they manage to hold onto the magic from the first game, whilst fixing some of the annoying multiplayer connectivity issues and the paper-thin storyline.

And that's your lot folks; another E3 come and gone in the blink of an eye.  Fingers crossed we'll actually get to play some of these games very soon.