Monday, June 13, 2011

E3 Round-up, Duke Nukem Forever, Silent Hill 2

Duke Nukem 4eva, baybee.

Another year, another post-E3 week, with only a mere 358 days until the next event. Get marking your calendars, people who attend E3. Disclaimer: I wasn’t at E3, though it has long been an ambition of mine to attend it. Ideally, that would be in a professional capacity, though. Anyway, I thought I’d touch on the announcements that piqued my interest most throughout the event.

Silent Hill HD Collection – It was Konami’s pre-E3 video that highlighted the upcoming release of this little collection of gems. Having recently espoused my interest for the survival horror genre, I’m feeling torn as to whether I should start catching up on the series now, or wait until this collection comes out and experience it all with high-resolution textures, etc. It will interesting to see where they go on certain design aspects, such as the film-grain in Silent Hill 2 that was designed to muddy-up the CGI animations to prevent them from looking too crisp. Moving into HD re-release territory seems to sort of embrace the idea of such crispness.

WiiU – Nintendo’s big console announcement was arguably E3′s main event, and certainly not undeservedly. Everything about the WiiU is exciting and different, in a way that seems more exciting, if perhaps less different, than the original Wii. Nintendo’s primary goal here is to reconcile its family-friendly Wii unit with the hardcore gamers market. I absolutely loathe the phrase, but it is exactly what Nintendo have set out to achieve, and definitely looks promising for now. My only concern is that the specifications seem to set it reasonably close to the 360, from what I’ve heard, and this doesn’t really push it into next-generation territory.

A far cry from the dull and dingy confines of Rapture.
BioShock Infinite – If Nintendo had the console main-event, it was Irrational Games that took away the accolade of most-talked-about title. Every single video shown and every single word spoken about the new BioShock are setting it up to be a shoe-in for 2012′s Game of the Year. The video of the Skyline travelling system looks frankly incredible, as does most of everything in the new city of Columbia. Even the back-story goes far beyond that of the many other titles it rubs shoulders with.

Mass Effect 3 – Bioware’s agonisingly delayed closer to the completely excellent Mass Effect trilogy had a bit of a rough ride during E3. During Microsoft’s Conference, most of the Kinect-enabled voice commands left me feeling a bit cold. Visually, the game looked great, if mostly similar to ME2, but the prospect of talking to my TV whilst playing didn’t do much to inspire excitement. Then, the next demonstration of the game showed us a turret-based on-rails sequence. On-rails segments are take-it-or-leave-it as far as I’m concerned, and certainly aren’t an element of Mass Effect that leaves me frothing at the mouth. It looked as if we’d have to settle for these until the final day saw the release of the Fall of Earth trailer. This video is literally so exciting that I had to watch it five times in a row, and then I had to find something else to do to stop myself from watching it more. Judge for yourself, anyhow. Oh, and more information on it here.

Dance Central 2 – Dance Central is a game that I have loved from pretty much the second I saw it announced. I don’t have the room for a Kinect at home, and to be honest I still see it as a side-salad to the 360, something to be done when others are around but rarely to be indulged alone. When I finally got the chance to try out Dance Central at PAX East, I loved it, but was a little surprised that you couldn’t play with multiple people at the same time, particularly as this had been demonstrated when I had first seen it: people jumping in behind the main player and taking part. It turned out that this was merely something optional that didn’t actually count in the game proper. Dance Central 2 has remedied this, and now I can’t wait for it to come out so that I can leave all aspiring dancers in my wake.

Chaos ensues in Duke Nukem Forever.
Those are all the main topics that come to mind regarding E3. So now we’ll move onwards and upwards, in a sense, to the long-time-coming release of Duke Nukem Forever, a title that has been fraught with delays and cancellations over the span of some fourteen years. When I arrived into the expo hall of PAX East, DNF was the first booth to catch my eye, and so my friend and decided to queue for it before we even bothered to explore much else of the area. It wasn’t that either of us were huge Duke Nukem fans, but rather that the prospect of being so close to a game that had been so long in development, and demonstrated so many times, meant that we had to try it out whilst we could. The booth got a lot of flak from attendees and organisers alike for having broken PAX’s booth-babe ban, although many (myself included) would argue that it was perfectly fitting with the misogynistic brah-attitude of the Duke himself. Booth babes aside, when I finally got my hands on a controller to try it, I was a little let down. I don’t know exactly what I expected Gearbox to have done, but the game just didn’t feel current or particularly enjoyable. It relegated DNF from first-day-purchase to being something I’ll maybe try out when I find it lining a bargain bin.

The game was prevented from being reviewed until release, and so this weekend saw a flood of reviews start to come in, all of them supporting how I’d felt about the game. If it wasn’t the poor mechanics, it was the lacklustre graphics. If it wasn’t the graphics, it was the awkward feel of the Duke’s sexist behaviour in modern times. As a youngster, exchanging flashes of pixellated cash for flashes or pixellated boob was a winning concept. As a guy now in his mid-twenties, it doesn’t feel totally clear if we’re supposed to be laughing with the Duke, or laughing at him. Anyhow, most reviews seem to wrestle not only with how they feel about the title, but this similar idea of how we should feel about it. Are we supposed to praise Gearbox for simply having worked the title past the finishing post? Should we expect anything more from a game that struggled its way through multiple developers? There really was little hope that the game would ever be brilliant, but it still feels as if it has missed the mark.

The strangest boss battle that I have ever experienced.
Last on the agenda today then, is the exalting news that I finally finished Konami’s 2001 survival horror epic terror game-of-all-games: Silent Hill 2. I have to’d and fro’d on it ever since purchase, at one point having to quit because it was interrupting my sleep and making work unbearable. This weekend I was afforded a little extra time than usual, and so I decided to throw myself into it as fully as I could. In doing so I managed to finish it over the Saturday and Sunday, and I must say I feel much better for it. The game is a masterpiece, plain and simple. The argument over whether videogames are art or not is getting a little hokey by now, but if I had to weigh in, I’d use SH2 as the battle-ender. I have played nothing like it, and I have never experienced a story so dark in all my days. Play it, play it, play it. That’s all I can say. It gets into your head like no other.

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