Bigredcoat

Videogames, politics, science, all the important things in life.

Four Reasons Why Post-Kinect Gaming Doesn’t Suck (yet)

Posted by nfinit on June 14, 2010

It’s 11 pm eastern standard time and as I write this the professional internet games journalism community is in a convention center in Los Angeles being indoctrinated by Microsoft and it’s newest attempt to counter Nintendo’s Wii, Kinect, formerly known as Project Natal.

And all I can tell you is that this process involves Cirque Du Soleil, illuminated ponchos embedded with electronic devices of unknown origin or purpose, a girl/boy hybrid coated in gold lamé, pan pipes, Billy Crystal and a life sized elephant puppet but the end result of this insanity will be that the only thing the professional internet games journalism community will be able to talk about for the entirety of E3, and in that, Microsoft will have won.

Sony merely embarrassed itself with RIIIIIIDGE RACER and GIANT ENEMY CRABS back in 2006 when they tried to sell the world on a six hundred dollar videogames console.  A couple years later Nintendo would simply disappoint it’s hardcore base by using E3 to sell Wii Music to soccer moms and greyhairs.  Microsoft in 2010 though, they’ve crammed the entire gaming community inside a flaming van and shoved that fan off a fucking cliff.  Maybe you’ll hate it, maybe you’ll love it, but you’ll remember it, and because of that Kinect-nee-Natal doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea in comparison.

And what I’m trying to get across here is that it’s a dark time to be a hardcore console gamer.  The narrative of E3 2010– and perhaps the remainder of this console generation– will be about Nintendo tricking Microsoft and Sony into chasing their own tails in an effort to grab whatever is left of the casual gaming marketplace that hasn’t already relegated their Wiis to the closets next to the dedicated Pong consoles inherited from their parents.  The few hardcore gamers the games industry seems interested in going after is the Modern Warfare-infatuated dudebro set.

This sudden lunge toward the middle has taken it’s toll on hardcore-friendly stalwarts.  Rare, once revered for keeping the concept of the 16 bit sidescroller relevant with the Donkey Kong Country series, has been tasked by Microsoft with manufacturing a line of spasm-controlled family favorites with Kinect.  Capcom, long a standard-bearer for quality hardcore gaming goodness chased the Dudebro crowd so far down the rabbit hole that Lost Planet 2 is now unrecognizable– and that’s before we get to the part where Capcom entrusted their single player legacy to unknown quantities and allowed mainstream-friendly western developers to ruin Dark Void and Bionic Commando.

But there are bright spots upon this dark horizon, brave souls who cannot be quenched by the rising tide of mainstream popularity, companies who refuse to bow before the concepts of co-op friendly gameplay and frenetic gesturing in the general direction of your on-screen avatar.  Developers who are not afraid to produce some hardcore-ass hardcore games, games that are obscure and hard to love, games that are not afraid to be labeled as videogames.  And here are a few of them:

1: Vanquish

This may seem hypocritical of me– after all, I’ve spent most of this post deriding the same dudebro mindset that brought us Gears of War and Modern Warfare and Battlefield: Bad Company, so why am I praising this particular 3rd person cover-based shooter?  Because, my dear friends, this 3rd person cover based shooter is being brought to us by Platinum Games.

You remember.  Platinum Games.

That’s right, the Bayonetta guys.

Platinum has proven to be the go-to people for hardcore excellence this console generation and they’ve yet to disappoint.  They even managed to make waggle tolerable by allowing gamers to throw their enemies onto meathooks in real time with Mad World, and Bayonetta is possibly the finest third person action game ever crafted.  Added to this, Vanquish is being directed by Shinji Mikami, the man responsible for inventing Resident Evil and then making Resident Evil enjoyable again with Resident Evil 4, in addition to having a hand in certified hardcore classics like Viewtiful Joe, P.N. 03 and God Hand.

So if nothing else, Vanquish will be a third person shooter produced to the exact specifications demanded by the hardcore console gamer– and while that basically means it’s doomed not to make a dime, at least it’s production is presumably keeping Sega from spending money on ruining Shinobi.

2: Devils’ Third

Until I see evidence swaying me otherwise, I’ve decided to be irrationally hyped for Devil’s Third.  We don’t really know much about Devil’s Third yet beyond what’s going on in this trailer, but it’s the first game produced by Itagaki since leaving Team Ninja, and despite what you may think about the man’s obsession with well-endowed teenage girls and.. well, himself, the man doesn’t suck at creating videogames.  We’re talking about the guy who directed Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2, as well as the Dead or Alive games, although that’s probably not as much of a selling point these days.

We don’t even really have a release date for Devil’s Third as of yet, but it should be a glorious triumph of violence and at least the three seconds we’ve seen of the female lead isn’t and embarrassing hormone-fueled fever dream.  So if nothing else it should have the same frenetic quality of Ninja Gaiden without the layer of sleaze that permeates the whole affair and makes you wish Itagaki would just get a girlfriend already.

3: The Last Guardian

There’s a reason that trailer looks a lot like Shadow of the Colossus– it’s produced by the same company responsible for the game I personally consider the best console game of the decade, and more importantly directed by the exact same guy as SOTC and IcoFumio Ueda.  It’s something I’m badly hoping we see some more information and footage from at this year’s E3 and hopefully a playable demo on the show floor– the game is slated to be released this year.

In something of a break of the previous two games, The Last Guardian looks to explore the relationship between a young boy and the titular guardian, and from all appearances will be more influenced by Ico rather than the air of  desperate futility that defined Shadow of the Colossus.  That said Ueda has said that the game was inspired by the interaction of the hero of SOTC and his horse, Aggro so while the Last Guardian looks to be absolutely charming we can only assume it’ll be absolutely heartbreaking as well.  Which is fine– if art can be defined as exploiting a medium to evoke an emotional reaction the SOTC was absolutely art, and I hope for no less from Last Guardian.

Team Ico is proof that we can demand better from our games and our games industry, and they’re a large reason why I own a PlayStation 3 today.

4: Shank

If there’s anything that’s guaranteed to scare away both the soccer moms and the dudebros it’s ultraviolence and 2d, and brother does Shank bring all that!  Gorgeously animated, ludicrously violent and smooth as a vanilla latte, Shank is everything we loved about 16 bit brawlers brought up to date to 2010, and with distribution via Xbox Live Arcade and a release date sometime this Summer, it looks to continue the fine tradition set forth by Bionic Commando ReArmed and Shadow Complex.

If you’re familiar with N+, then you already know what these developers are capable of– outstandingly smooth animation and outstanding platforming.  Jamie Cheng and Jeffery Agala basically took those principals and shoved them inside a Robert Rodriguez movie.  Bringing the writer responsible for God of War onboard seems a bit of a stretch, but if anyone knows about blood and revenge, it’s the writer behind Kratos, and at any rate it won’t interfere with the quality of the game outside of cutscenes so it’s probably not a horrible idea.

***

These are the sorts of games that caused me to become a gamer in the first place, the sorts of games that will always be produced no matter how thick marketing may try to lay on a saccharine-sweet coating of mainstream-friendly gloss.

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