Just when you finish convincing yourself that the industry is nothing more than a simple machine regurgitating old games with shinier graphics and online multiplayer, a handful of hopeful new IPs come along that give you that fleeting glimpse of hope and progress. Even among its first generation of exclusives, Sony’s Playstation 3 was producing powerful new titles and has continued to do so during its long first year running with the Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox 360.
After the lukewarm reception of the PS3-launch title Genji: Days of the Blade, Japanese developer Game Republic went to work on Folklore. The stylish action game is experienced through different characters, which both play on a stage awash with vivid colors and striking art direction. Players take the souls of in-game creatures and use them to combat other unfriendly Folks and larger behemoths known as Folklore; hundreds of ability combinations are offered to the player with this combat system.
Amidst a sea of high-energy action, sports, and shooter titles, flOw appeared as one of the simplest and most relaxing new games of the year. Eating and not being eaten comprise all levels of this simple yet engaging title: play as one of several organisms, each with different ways of hunting and protecting themselves while hunted, and progress deeper into the ocean. Successful ingestion of said tasties allows your organism to grow into complex and graceful creatures. With no leaderboards to climb, no regimented missions, and no plot to progress, flOw finds itself comfortably supported by those who don’t play games for an adrenaline rush.
3.) Heavenly Sword
When debating the artistic value of video games, the obvious disconnection between in-game actors and real people is one of the first (and strongest) arguments against games as art. As if on cue, Ninja Theory wowed the world with Heavenly Sword and proved how important production value was to good storytelling and emotional involvement in a game’s characters. One of the world’s most prominent motion capture studios, WETA Studios, was brought in to bring the main characters to life unlike ever before. A promising new action title in the vein of God of War, we hope to see more of it in the coming years.
2.) Resistance: Fall of Man
Developer Insomniac Games spent years with their colorful and fun franchise Ratchet and Clank, but when they began development of their first PS3 title, a launch title no less, the company dropped their friendly past and dove into the gritty world of alien-invasion shooters. In Resistance: Fall of Man, World War II never happens because a much more dire threat emerges from Russia and decimates Europe in a matter of months (think smart zombies with superior technology). Insomniac’s unique charm still comes through with an arsenal of weapons that continue to impress, even a full year after release.
1.) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
While Ninja Theory was busy pouring their talents into motion capture, Naughty Dog was taking familiar tastes from action movies and popular games and applying them generously atop a heaping plate of gorgeous. What may sound like a Franken-title became Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, an incredible distillation of what the gaming industry has learned about platforming, gun fighting, and storytelling. Chock full of Hollywood clichés, like a witty hero fighting alongside a reluctant female love interest, the game excites in the same ways that Indiana Jones does: it tends to help you forget the oft-used formulae and simply enjoy the ride. Add in one of the most dynamic animation systems and most beautiful settings, and you have TGR’s choice for 2007’s Best New PS3 IP.
Continue on to see what we found the most promising of 2008!
Announced earlier this year, Sony Online Entertainment’s The Agency is taking the world of MMOs to both consoles and PCs. This game breathes some fresh air into a genre monopolized by high fantasy and sci-fi, as players join one of two spy agencies and work their way up from a lowly grunt to the head of their own agency. The Agency, from what has been shown so far, is including your typical MMO faire with shooter elements and ways to play outside of the game itself (SOE mentioned that they wanted to use text messages to communicate updates to players). It’s still marked at “TBA 2008,” but you should keep an eye out for this title.
Sick of seeing new shooters? Me, too. They are all either another alien invasion or some terrorist group, set in either World War II or in the very near future. Enter Haze, brain child of Free Radical: while the plot built for the game sounds interesting enough to hold interest through the campaign (which supports up to four players in cooperative play), it’s the asymmetric gameplay that sounds the most fun. Two opposing factions, the army-for-hire group Mantel and the scrappy Rebels, use very different tactics to overwhelm their enemies. Mantel uses a drug called Nectar, which sharpens their skills and gives the player a number of boosts the efficiency, while the Rebels capitalize on the ability for Mantel soldiers to overdose on the superdrug, causing them to lose control of themselves and either kill fellow soldiers of themselves. It looks good, plays well, and should be in stores early ’08.
White Knight Story
The Playstation 2 has held the RPG crown for many years, but its big brother is still waiting for developers to move onward and upward. Level 5 has done just that with their forthcoming RPG White Knight Story, which combines standard RPG storytelling with a battle system that successfully spans the gap between menu-based and real-time combat. Chaining attacks together is as simple as creating a “palette” in the game menu, where each attack type controls which types come next, and then executing the chain in-game. If your puny human form is too weak for the larger creatures you’ll undoubtedly come across, you can transform into the White Knight, a gargantuan creature of old. Japan is getting this title soon, while the rest of the world must wait expectantly until 2008.
You’ve heard of this game, right? Cute little creatures hopping through settings straight out of your little sister’s latest puppet show, collecting sponges and jumping oversized skateboards off ramps should ring a bell. Accepted warmly by those at the 2007 GDC, Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet aims to take user-generated content to a new place, through intuitive menus, a promising community network, and charming art direction. Don’t be fooled by its adorable facade, hardcore gamers: you’ll find that with enough time and creativity, you’ll be running through a Quake-themed level or a red light district. Delays have already pushed this title back from a demo release in late 2007, but look expectantly to the latter part of 2008 for the full title.
If you want to see what we thought about the Xbox 360, click here!