It has been a while since I've done much gaming, but now that I'm a bit more secure and deeper into my new discipline, I'm creeping back.
I am certainly a snob when it comes to the games I care about, and they are reduced to a fewer few. Even given all of the new stuff announced at E3 for this year, all I need for the next year, I already know.
First and foremost, let me make one crack about three people including myself. Thin ice. The other two are Adam Sessler and Peter Windsor. Windsor, who was as far as I knew in my introduction to F1, the premeir gadfly when it came to wrangling soundbites from pit row just before the race. His attempt to start an F1 racing team flubbed and now he seems to be behind the mic again, but way off the broader mainstream - which aint particularly broad here in the states. Will Buxton, that young whippersnapper has taken over at Speed. And similarly, Blair Herter has pushed old Adam Sessler aside in an unfortunate succession. Did I sense that one coming? Hmm. Well, the other crap on G4 TV is crap and Herter has seemed to ditch his ambiguously gay asides as he stepped up. He still seems genuinely more happy (especially when it comes to Batman) about games and gamers, then did Sessler and the new stage and new vibe is established. Morgan Webb is, by the way, irreplacable. She is the perfect straight man, which is probably going to become more evident. The change may actually be welcome in retrospect because it's obvious that the n-year running joke about wierdness behind the curtain of X-Play is running thin, ALTHOUGH, the parody of getting the Skyrim sword was the best ever. And so where will Sessler land? Windsor, I don't care. Sessler should organize the best gaming podcasters and replace the young snarkers. Gaming crit is damned difficult, and Sessler is literate and deeply experienced. Nobody else comes close - even the MMO Report should be dropped and let Herter and Webb get shiny on the air, with the occasional faces that were at E3.
So there it is, Sessler should ratchet up to Machinima / Satellite Radio quality, his own 90 minute weekly podcast with a new partner or three. That would be the only force to be recognized. If he shows up on another TV channel, I won't watch. Speaking of which, it is only through a podcast that Sessler can let his snark through in which he gives a more righteous savaging of what has recently been hinted as 'brutally honest' reviews on XPlay. As soon as he said 'brutally honest' we knew the game was going to be shite, but he still has to smile for the camera. No more. Go PG-13 Adam. Hell, go R. Now's the chance.
The unqualified hit of E3 was Watch_Dogs. Once it happens, we will wonder how we lived without that style of gaming for so long. I wondered all along. I mean I didn't want to do LA Noir, and I got nice and bored with Alan Wake's flashlight after a dozen hours. I like an urban sandbox where I have badass powers, but not necessarily strictly destruction. While it's very difficult for me to choose between Mercenaries 2 and Saints Row the Third where that was concerned, the more realistic games were more problematic. GTA Four, for example. It did the narrative perfectly and gave me a character I liked to be, but... Stealing cars and shooting people and running from cops, it's so tired. Somebody give me a sword or some other weapon. Which reminds me, the *next* Assassin's Creed will be the best one - when Ezio is in today's time, and then next when he's in the future. But Watch_Dogs is going to be the first one to do this super nice with cyber powers of the sort we kind of expected from Splinter Cell Double Agent, but more nicely got from Conviction ..yet.. downloading all that cyberbadness to a man in the field is badass. Can't wait.
The best thing about GRFS is that there is a cover system and you can go indoors. Basically that was the difference between Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon. Ghost Recon could only do outdoor battles, covering large distances in big maps, which made more sense finally when vehicles were added. Rainbow Six added the cover system and made a giant leap forward in setting up marking targets and blasting doors. My preference went to R6 for the close quarters and multiplayer - loved blowing up those slot machines and the control was marvelous. Meanwhile Gears was owning the outdoors (no matter what MW folks said). Speaking of which, I have to say that Battlefield 3 has really become the game that I want to play instead of Modern Warfare.
Call of Duty was best, best, best, when there were huge 16 on 16 battles with WW2 weapons and people used mics. Something went wrong and now the battles seem cartoony without being a fun as Halo. The objective battles on Future Soldier are the right combination with the sprinting and cover system as good as Gears (better in some respects) and the necessity for teamwork and using mics. Anyway I think I'll stick with Battlefield 3 DLC and Future Soldier. Yes I'll have to play the new MW Black Ops 2, but...
Forza realizes that racing games are social? Well duh. I can't tell you how well it may actually work, but I kinda like the idea that there might be car clubs rolling in that game. That will make it a winner - the idea will be inevitable and I think it's going to work. You can't beat Forza control, and although I still prefer Codemasters Grid for damage and realism, Forza is just as perfect. Yes I'd try one more Project Gotham, but what we need for all of these is Next Gen stuff - especially for the Clancy brand.
So let me say what I want to see for Next Gen, now that XBox 720 rumors are all out.
1. I don't give a crap about 3D, and neither should anybody. I won't pay extra for it at home. It's crap - just like those 5.1 systems they were selling 8 years ago.
2. The XBox controller is one of the greatest UI inventions ever. They should Arduino the hell out of it. If it wasn't Microsoft, that would already be a $50 million business.
3. Multi-voice recognition is more important than multi-gesture recognition. That should be the focus of Kinect tech. Siri will know this and it will be a big differentiator.
4. Everything depends on three things. XBox, Playstation, AppleTV. I cannot imagine that Nintendo does any settop integration - and too bad, but. they want to play with kids. Fine.
5. Microsoft cannot brand streaming content. Forget about it and just be a platform. Metro suffices. Netflix was a huge win. Now get Time Warner and MGM and those guys before it's too late. Speaking of which..
Whomever partners with Amazon in the living room wins. This is so bloody obvious. If Amazon makes a set-top the market is going to stay interesting and volatile for another five years. So even though Apple could own music and movies, they are nowhere near getting sophisticated PC and console gamers. So yes, there is yet another chance for a Netflix/Amazon/Tivo entry into the market where Roku and Vudu are still minor players. This is the future, not MSNBC.
Hell, even Marvel and Ubisoft have a shot. Who is going to learn first from cinematics and the Next Gen console on how to make more mergey content gamey-movies? OK that's all.