On The Prowl: What's Due Later In 2008
So, what's on the horizon for us gamers in 2008? This is the kind of commentary that should probably have been posted in January but the way I see it is that this year will hopefully still have a lot to offer even in the light of current releases. For me, GTA IV did not set any particular gold standard that can't be potentially bettered by upcoming future releases. There seems to be a sense right now amongst us gamers that GTA IV set the level and it's likely going to be the benchmark game of '08. I'm not so convinced.
Whether any other game this year manages to make five hundred million in release sales is not what I'm asking here. I'm pondering on whether there are any titles on the horizon that have the potential to prove superior to IV or other released games of this year in terms of playability.
On the MMORPG front Age of Conan looks set to do something. What that something is though seems debatable. Today marks the day it was officially released and launched in the US. If this proves to be a great MMO then I will probably give it a try although ever since my tours of Ultima Online back in the day I have vowed never to return to the world of the Massively Multiplayer. This was largely down to my unwillingness to pay monthly for access to a single game. However, I did dabble with World of Warcraft briefly. I never got on with it though. To me, it just felt like a generic race through repetitive stop and go levelling areas. I'm told the game becomes the great experience upon reaching the higher levels; its magic being in the high-end raiding and PvP. This may be the case but I was not prepared to grind for hours and hours to get there. It wasn't fun and didn't immerse me like UO did.
The most AoC can likely hope for is to dent the World of Warcraft market and find a foothold no matter how small. It won't suddenly become the new top dog in this genre. All one needs to do is read the WoW forums to discover the consensus view that people just aren't prepared to have to start from scratch in a MMO unless that new MMO is utterly astonishing and worthy of the days and days of grinding and tedious levelling. AoC looks set to be superior to many pretenders out there but Funcom don't have a particularly great track record.
Anarchy Online was a mess, with one of the worst launches in MMO history, and died a painful death a few years back. Launches make or break MMO games. Funcom have obviously learnt a lot since then but there are already rumours lurking that AoC's launch has been far from flawless. Many were simply conned by a promise that if they pre-ordered the game they'd have been able to play a few days before every one else. Turns out you needed to pay extra for this and all the subscriptions to it sold out rather fast. Nice way of ensuring big pre-order sales that.
On the FPS front, things look promising. Let's face it: so far this year FPS games have been painfully inadequate. Vegas 2 was weak and meant that no one really moved away from Call of Duty 4. We are close to the release of Battlefield: Bad Company and from the hype this one sounds like it's aiming to do a few things differently. The crucial selling point of this game is its claim that almost 100% of the map will be destructible on and offline. The thought of being able to make your very own firing hole in a sturdy wall to snipe from just excites me. However, I have my reservations about this feature. My concern is that it will prove gimmicky or, worse still, end up meaning everyone just rolls around in tanks and blows everything up until there is no cover left in the online games. I know from experience that Battlefield games are often ruined by the behaviour of those playing and the exploits usually discovered. Dice have a good track record but seem to have sold out a little in recent years with some pretty shoddy releases. Battlefield 1942 still represents their crowning achievement but let's hope Bad Company will mark some kind of revolutionary new style of online combat.
With a little longer to wait we will soon have Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway at our fingertips. This is set to be just another clichéd WW2 FPS game loosely based on reality I'm sure. However, ignoring all the story elements, the actual combat in this game looks very promising. Back on the Xbox, the original Brothers in Arms was a breath of fresh air and was genuinely a realistic romp around occupied France. This new offering looks like it's based on the same system of hand signals and flanking orders but backed up by truly stunning graphics and promises of Co-Op. If this game proves to have implemented a decent cooperative mode with a fellow player at least then it'll be well worth the wait. I just have a feeling about this one - although that feeling has often proved fatally flawed in the past.
Although I don't know a great deal about it, Left for Dead sounds very interesting. It's set to be a Co-Op survival horror game that pits four players up against the zombie hordes. The idea sounds like gold and I'm aware that this is precisely what many have been waiting years for to see in a game. It should be with us in the next few months, although no concrete release date is set.
So there we have it. Just a brief look at a few of the promising titles due out in the next few months. I'm hopeful that at least one of these will prove more playable, and ultimately tighter and of more quality, than other games released so far this year. In the meantime, I'll probably see you buzzing around Liberty City. Don't get too close to me though. I'm known to RPG all incoming vehicles with extreme prejudice.
by The Critical Alien