This one’s straight from the I want to believe category. If you’re unaware, Defiance is an ambitious multi-platform, multimedia gaming experience that combines an ongoing television show from US network Syfy, and an MMO shooter from Trion Worlds (which, I learned at E3, is partly owned by owned by Syfy). On paper it sounds great – events in both the game and the TV show can affect the other, there’s an excellent SF pedigree in the show, and Trion’s shown itself to be a highly competent MMO developer.
So why was Defiance disappointing?
Showing off an MMO at E3 is always tough – you never get to see the game at its massively multiplayer best. That said, there were enough people playing in our little mini-version of the world to get an idea of the game, but what really holds it back is its simplicity. It’s a shooter at heart, and while it feels twitchy enough to satisfy, I can imagine cross-Pacific lag will really impact on responsiveness. The mechanics are way scaled back from what I’d consider proper shooter scale, too, though that could be because my demo was on Xbox.
I had access to a mid-level character, but could only swap between two weapons, and employ a single power. While it plays like a shooter, damage is modelled more on hitpoints than hit location, too, so it’s a disappointing mix of highly staged boss fights and just standing in place unloading clip after clip into giant goopy monsters.
There’s just no complexity to it, beyond making sure you’re stocked up on ammo.
We’re possibly not seeing the game in its best light, or on the best platform, but as a first showing of the game’s potential, it really didn’t live up to our hopes.
Guardians of Middle Earth
Disclaimer: I am not a fan, or an aficionado of MOBA games. I’ve not even played one, to be honest, so don’t think my views on what looks to be a very competent multiplayer online battle arena are in any way related to solid fact.
Rather, it’s more related to the fact that it really seems Warner’s trying to suck the life out of its Lord of the Rings license.
I found Lego Lord of the Rings kinda distasteful, but at least there’s a measure of sticking to the source material and showing some reverence. But Guardians of Middle Earth doesn’t even feel like Lord of the Rings – the stuff that makes Middle Earth, well, Middle Earth simply isn’t present in the game.
Gollum and Gandalf teaming up to beat the snot out of Galadriel and Sauron?
What the hell?!?
Spec Ops: The Line
I’m really looking forward to Spec Ops: The Line. It plays competently, and has quite an intriguing plot and setting. It looks good, too.
However, it makes the list because despite assurances to the contrary, there was no media booking for me at the Take Two booth. DISAPPOINTED!
Despite Sniper: Ghost Warrior receiving pretty mediocre reviews across the industry, it was a real hit for City Interactive. The damn thing sold like hot-cakes; enough, in fact, to justify a Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2. Despite critical reception, it seems City knows what gamers want in a shooter.
I’m kind of expecting something similar when it comes Enemy Front, which couldn’t be more derivative if it tried. It’s a World War II FPS, with the player going behind enemy lines to take on the Third Reich single-handed. There is almost nothing innovative in the game, and it was one of the oddest demos we say at the show; pretty much everything pointed out as a point of separation has been done before. Case in point: we were told to pay attention to the fact that the player was not being harangued by voiceovered NPCs – in Enemy Front, you’re fighting alone. It was an obvious dig at Call of Duty, but really, isn’t this what most shooters have done before?
Despite looking quite pedestrian, it’s certainly competent enough to be another money spinner for City. So no doubt we’ll be seeing Enemy Front II in a year or two...
Black Ops II
It might seem like hating on a CoD title these days is the equivalent of taking candy from a remarkably cashed up baby. But it has to be said, that the claims of dramatic breakthroughs in graphics and storytelling that Acti keeps makings just don’t seem to be coming through in anything approaching reality.
Again, I should make a disclaimer here – Activision invited me to its stand rather late, and my calendar was already packed with appointments. But we did see the big gameplay demo at the Microsoft conference.
One of the hype points about the game is the branching story line. However, I’m sure that word actually means what Treyarch thinks it means. In the demo, Dude McGruffs-a-lot (I’m sure the protagonist has a name, but really, who cares?) endeavours to protect and escort the US President to a safe extraction. As he fights along a war-torn freeway, he and his team come to a shattered section of roadway, and there are two floating words before the player – ‘snipe’ and ‘rappel’.
The demo player chooses snipe, and he gets to hang back and pick off enemies from a distance with a nearby sniper rifle. I assume if rappel is chosen, the combat is more close-up.
The thing is... haven’t shooters let you make these decisions before, just without making them implicit? It’s not a gameplay feature, but rather a redundant label for something that good games have been doing for years.