While it’s always nice to see the return of one of our favorite old franchises, it really is the games that take a chance with a new IP that help push the industry forward. Many series that we know and love today had to start out from nothing, so it’s always good to see new ideas emerging in an industry that has become increasingly brand focused. This past year the Xbox 360 saw a good number of new original IP’s that are potential franchises, but may also offer new perspectives on game design that hopefully other aspiring developers will adopt. However the original content doesn’t end with 2007, as next year brings a wealth of new IP’s exclusive to the 360. So let’s take a look at what new IP’s made a mark on the 360 this year, and those that still have yet to make it onto shelves.
New Original IP’s for 2007
BioShock was a major introduction of fresh air (or fresh water if you will) that the somewhat stagnant FPS genre needed. It also featured well integrated RPG elements that enabled players to customize their character with a variety of plasmids and tonics without drowning them in details and tedious menus. This freedom carried over to letting anyone play BioShock the way they wanted to, and make their own decisions from determining the ending of the game, to simply how they saw fit to take down a Big Daddy.
It also allowed players to make moral choices for an emotionally engaging experience not normally found in FPS games. BioShock constructed an artistic style for the world of Rapture that was completely unique instead re-creating the tired cliché of space marines and aliens or World War 2 soldiers that most shooters take up. BioShock isn’t just a great IP because it can potentially be another franchise, but hopefully its originality will also influence other game designers to think outside the box.
This one had been brewing at BioWare for some time, and upon its release the world saw what the company was really capable of when it came to developing their own brand of sci-fi rather than using the Star Wars license. Mass Effect introduces gamers to an incredibly realized and intricate science fiction universe and just never stops giving in terms of storyline. However, it also succeeds in the gameplay department as well, adding squad based gameplay to the mix while keeping classic RPG elements with the biotic powers, character classes and skill sets.
Like BioShock, the game also offers its own moral choices although there is certainly more weight to them, such as deciding if an entire race lives or dies. Adding to the level of interactivity is the innovative dialogue system that allows players to have a smooth natural conversation with lifelike characters, which was an important development for the RPG genre in general. The universe of Mass Effect is so, well… massive, that it can definitely be seen as a trilogy, and we can’t wait to see what happens in part two.
At first, most gamers probably just viewed Crackdown as their golden ticket into the Halo 3 beta, but after the beta ended many were surprised to see the innovative game that lay beneath. Like the previous games mentioned Crackdown offered a mix of genre elements. While it may have been a free roaming action game it also introduced RPG elements as you developed your character’s ability in fire arms, strength and explosives.
It also added a platforming element with the collecting of agility orbs across the city that made for the most addictive collectable since the coins in Mario. Crackdown went even further with the addition of online co op, which allowed two players to explore the city together. The game even sported an original visual style with comic book like graphics that were still detailed and looked spectacular in HD. Crackdown helped show how much can be done with the sandbox genre besides stealing cars and abusing prostitutes, and hopefully more original uses of the genre will follow.
Arriving at the beginning of the year, Lost Planet introduced some impressive visuals as well as a good variety of gameplay elements that made for a great start to the year. The frigid but beautiful landscape of the game’s environments proved not just to be eye candy but also factored into the gameplay by giving the player a thermal energy that constantly dwindled due the cold and had to be replenished by killing enemies. The player was also given pretty nifty gadgets such as the grappling hook, which could zip the player off to almost any area of the level that the anchor could reach.
You weren’t always just spending your time on the ground either, as giant mechs came into play that allowed the user to take control of their arsenal of interchangeable weaponry that could even be detached from the hulking machines and be carried around by the player. But the best part of these features was that they were all transported over to multiplayer. While it may not have been up to par with other online hits, it did make for a good extended experience, and also transferred the great graphics online very well. Not everything worked perfectly in Lost Planet, but the groundwork for some interesting play mechanics were lain down that could always be polished up for a sequel.
[Editors Note: We know that Lost Planet has been confirmed for Release on the PS3, but due to the long delay in a port, we felt this title was worthy of consideration, specifically since other titles on this list have also been rumored to reach the PS3 in the future.]
It seems that despite the 360’s lack of success in the Far East, Japanese game developers are still coming up with creative content and new properties for the system. Blue Dragon’s lead designer, Hironobu Sakaguchi, also has another game on our list in the future releases section with the title Lost Odyssey. Blue Dragon was the first Xbox 360 title to take up three DVD’s, and it provides over fifty hours of gameplay.
To the game’s credit, the gameplay does manage to remain fresh and entertaining, despite the number of hours, and things get really interesting when the characters of Blue Dragon finally see their shadows. The three person party is eventually increased to five, along with the eight available shadow classes, which makes for some in depth in organization and planning in order to prepare your party in a variety of ways. It’s great to see more Japanese games for the 360 reaching America, but it’s also nice to see designers like Sakaguchi that have mostly been known from mammoth franchises like the Final Fantasy series really spread their wings in an all new universe. If Sakaguchi has already done it with two new IP’s, there’s no reason others can’t as well.
Read on to find out what we found the most promising sounding IP’s of 2008
From Remedy Entertainment, the Finnish developer behind Max Payne, Alan Wake has been described as a psychological action thriller, and is slated to arrive exclusively for the 360 next year. The game begins with Alan, a novelist suffering from writer’s block and insomnia, who has checked into a secluded clinic outside the small town of Bright Falls. Once in the town, he begins dreaming and writing again, except the dreams become nightmares, and the town itself starts changing according to his terrifying visions. The developer has stated that the town will serve as a free roaming environment, but the game will still be highly character and story driven.
While Wake will feature intense action and combat, the gameplay is mainly focused on adventure and exploration, adding to the story driven theme. It has also been revealed that while Alan my carry a gun, his flashlight will also play an integral role as the enemies are vulnerable to light. The aspect of light is suspected to play an important part in the gameplay, and will need to be taken advantage of by the player in order to survive. Although many gamers may have been anxiously waiting for Max Payne 3, Remedy went a different route and decided to create something new. And after seeing what they’ve done so far, anyone can appreciate their decision to move in a different creative direction instead of offering the same old stuff.
Unfortunately vaporware is an all too common problem in the videogame industry, and Too Human has suffered the same troubles as when it was first shown back at E3 1999. However things are starting to look more positive now, as the game seems to finally be coming together for a 2008 release. It offers an intriguing storyline inspired by Norse mythology featuring an epic struggle between machines and man. In order to stay strong against their mechanical adversaries mankind has used cybernetic alterations on itself, helping them defend their humanity, but sacrificing it at the same time.
Too Human possesses fast paced melee and ranged combat, but also makes use of RPG elements such as skill progression and exploration. Obviously, the cybernetic aspect of the story will factor into character creation as a wealth of classes, armor, and cybernetic enhancements will be available to the player. The game is also planned to be a first part of the trilogy, which will allow players to carry over their skill progression from one game to the next. Also included is a cooperative multiplayer mode which allows up to three other players to join your campaign at any point in time. While Too Human may be having a tough time making its way onto the retail shelves, its originality in story and ingenuity in game design has many gamers cheering for this one to reach the finish line and finally be released to the public.
Zombies have always been a token element of videogames, but rarely have they been included the way that Turtle Rock and Valve are planning. Left 4 Dead is designed as a team based multiplayer game, where four players will assume the role of human survivors and another four will lead a hoard AI controlled zombies. The game will allow for a unique experience regardless of which side you play on, and each will involve different strategies and options.
The humans of Left 4 Dead will be given two tiers of weapons ranging from shotguns, M16 and M14 rifles as well as submachine guns, which will be available to certain players depending on what character you play as. While the zombies may not make use of projectile weapons they will also be given different classes with abilities such as throwing large objects, seeing through walls, and of course carrying more AI controlled zombies with them. They also carry an advantage over the human team as they are able to continually respawn, while humans must be revived by team mates. While incorporating zombies into a game is nothing new, Left 4 Dead is changing the classic scenario of man versus the undead into a team based multiplayer shooter that is adding something new to the world of online FPS games.
As said in the other section, Final Fantasy creator Sakaguchi is branching out into some new intellectual properties including the RPG Lost Odyssey, which is being developed by Feel Plus. In the game, you play as the character Kaim, who has been sentenced to live for a 1,000 years. Sakaguchi has said that he is experimenting with a number of different game design scenarios because of Kaim’s extraordinarily long life. What these may be is unknown, but some have speculated that the game may go in a different direction than other Japanese games which usually present a clear conflict between good and evil.
The game takes place a point during tremendous social upheaval due to an industrial revolution combining advanced technology and magic that could have dire consequences. So far details of the combat system are scant, but a few details have seeped out. The game includes over 150 combat rings which possess a wealth of different elemental powers that can be thrown during a fight, and can also match an enemy’s attack. The party system will also include a function that allows the stronger party members to protect the weaker ones by forming a defensive line and take damage for them. So far it seems that Lost Odyssey is going to introduce some interesting new elements to the world of Japanese RPG’s and help push the genre forward.
Last but not least comes the MMOFPS (is that acronym official yet?) that gamers have been waiting for, and hopefully in 2008 the waiting will finally cease. Huxley takes place in the far future where nuclear radiation and natural disasters have thrown the world into disarray and have split the population up into two factions, Sapiens (humans) and alternatives (mutants). The developers at Webzen have stated that the gameplay is somewhat similar to the Unreal Games in that it is very fast paced. It has also been mentioned that the early stages of character development will proceed more quickly so players will be able to get in on the action fast, like most other FPS games.
Webzen has stated that the cities in Huxley will be able to contain up to 5000 players, and player vs. player battles can contain over a hundred combatants. Besides PVP play there will be cooperative quests available like other MMO’s where players can team up against AI controlled opponents. The game is also said to be cross platform between Windows Vista and Xbox 360, but details on exactly how this interaction will work are unclear. This is not the first time an MMOFPS has been attempted; PlanetSide was released in 2003 by Sony Online Entertainment but never really took off. Hopefully Huxley will successfully combine the world of FPS gaming with MMO’s, because it is still a genre that has yet to be properly established and could very well have a large audience on the 360 given the popularity of shooters on the console.