Weekend Short-Takes: 11/8/14

Tony Hawk making pro-skater sequel next year


Simon Wu: 

Evidently four years is the amount of time deemed necessary for the general public to forget about the terrible games that put the series on hiatus. The last game in the series was Tony Hawk: Shred, a game which got such poor reviews that it sold about 3,000 units in its first week. Even though it was no Call of Duty, those took poor numbers to a new level. Aside from a 2012 HD remaster of the original Pro Skater series, the franchse has been on hiatus ever since that debacle. It was partly the incredibly tired formula and also partly the expensive digital skateboard peripheral which did the series in. With a new console generation, the developers have the chance to take the series back to basics. Better graphics, better physics, more realism. End of story. 

Alex Miller: 

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was one of the first games I remember playing for hours at a time. Same level, same character, same awesome track list, over and over again. I also remember that I was having the time of my life doing so. At its best Tony Hawk's Pro Skater allows players the creativity and freedom of expression that games like Minecraft offer, albeit it in a different way. Like Simon said, going back to the fundamentals is key for this game. It needs to control well, needs maps that offer a variety of different ways to skate, and for me it has to have great music. The original Tony Hawk series had a fantastic mix of punk rock that just added to the experience. Activision needs to do their homework when putting together the track list, as that is a very easy way to make or break the experience. 


Blizzard Announces Overwatch


Max Gruber: 

From what I gathered from the cinematic trailer and the gameplay footage of Overwatch, it seems to be going the route of Battleborn, BattleCry, and the elephant in the room, Team Fortress 2. It's interesting to see them shift directions with the usual formula of either strategy (StarCraft) or RPGs (World of Warcraft, Diablo), although this could be due to the rise of MOBA-style games and F2P shooters, which everyone seems to be jumping into seven years later, but better late than never, I suppose. Another detail I think is commendable on their part is the way they're treating the diversity of each character. None of them seem to be stereotypes, and what's even better is that none of the women are overly sexualized (unless you count the sniper with the visible cleavage, but what do I know about fashion). I am starting to like some of the characters and their abilities, like Tracer, since she's my favorite way to play: fast-paced, teleporting left and right style reminiscent to Painkiller. 

Jonathan Tung: 

When I first learned about this during the opening ceremony, the only thing that immediately came to mind was, "Is this some kind of joke?" By now, we've already had several Team Fortress clones on the market, some of which have failed to even make a splash (save for Battlefield Heroes, but that's mainly due to Brazilians and Russians). I also got vibes of Battleborn, Gearbox Software's FPS take on the MOBA genre, as well as the lesser-known Firefall, a F2P MMO shooter that plays a lot like Defiance meets Borderlands. To see Blizzard enter this area of FPS games makes me feel doubtful of what path they wish to pursue, though I do fear that the game might end up being cancelled, similar to what happened to some of Blizzard's earlier experiments (see StarCraft: Ghost for example). But then again, Blizzard managed to pull off F2P pretty smoothly with Hearthstone, so there is a chance the game could prove to be successful for both Blizzard and Activision. 

Alex Miller: 

I, as I'm sure everyone else did, got a major Team Fortress 2 vibe form this game. From the specialized classes to the game's humor, it definitely has a similar feeling to Valve's workhorse F2P shooter. However, the description of the game and the insistence on using the word "Heroes" for the player's character also make me think of MOBA games. Blizzard already has plenty of experience in this area with Heroes of the Storm, and by combining two of the most successful F2P genres they could perhaps be crafting a fantastic F2P game. It will be important to see how Overwatch differentiates from other games. Games like Smite and Dota 2, not to mention League of Legends, already have a solid hold on the MOBA market in the same way that TF2 has a solid chunk of the F2P shooter market. If Overwatch can't distinguish itself from these games then I feel it might have a hard time getting going, though with the money and power of Blizzard behind it I find it hard to believe this will fail.

BioWare introduces new Mass Effect leads


Jonathan Tung: 

The fact that the lead writer happens to be the same person who ruined Halo 4 with its Metroid-inspired Prometheans makes me question whether or not BioWare actually has a decent idea where they're going. As long as we do not get any more inspiration from Metroid Prime, then we should be alright. Also, not to stir up a hornet's nest of anger, but I'm praying that the game doesn't have three different colored endings like Mass Effect 3. 

Alex Miller: 

I'm not quite as down on this new team as Jonathan. Halo is an FPS first and foremost, and given the length of the game and the need to keep the action moving, a story writer can be more limited. It will be interesting to see how he does with the far more open setting that the Mass Effect series provides. Besides Mr. Schlerf, some of the other new members of the team sound promising, both with good gaming backgrounds. That the rest of the team seem to be long time BioWare veterans provides, in my view, a good balance as new blood and new ideas come in but are helped out by veterans of the series. Mass Effect has been one of my favorite RPG series (I'm a big sci-fi fan), and despite the last 20 minutes of the third one I think each of the games in the series have been excellent. Hopefully this new crew can maintain this fantastic record. 


Call of Duty finds its feet with Advanced Warfare


Simon Wu: 

It looks like the series has rebounded from the rock bottom that was Ghosts by turning on its mission of establishing a realistic military shooter with plausible scenarios (though Latin America taking over the U.S. was really pushing it) and embracing sci-fi. Call of Duty is the amoeba which assimilates any upstart competition. In this case, with the whole exosuit and mech business, the undisputed victim is Titanfall. This edition of Call of Duty really benefited from the lukewarm reception to Destiny and the cooler still reception to Titanfall, while receiving no competition from its main sparring partner Battlefield, which is currently in cop school. 

Alex Miller: 

Call of Duty seems to be the boxer who just doesn't know when to quit and desperately connects on a massive right hook to win the match when all seemed lost. I will admit I did not have high hopes for this game, with Call of Duty fatigue securely entrenched in me. However, I am happy to admit when I am wrong and I think I need to here. Sledgehammer have brought exactly what Call of Duty has needed for a very long time: new ideas. In their first offering they have done enough to change the way Call of Duty is played without abandoning what the game is, and I must admit that is an incredibly impressive achievement that I did not expect from them. This might even be the first Call of Duty I buy for myself since Modern Warfare 2, so hats off to them. This new three-year cycle may be just what Call of Duty needed. We will have to wait until next year to find out. 


OmegaZero's picture

Blizzard is practically guaranteed success in any gaming genre purely by virtue of the zealousness (and quantity) of their fans. I think they're definitely going after BattleBorn, trying to assassinate it before it even gets off the mark. It's a gold mine of a genre nevertheless.

Re: Mass Effect. It's way too early to start predicting what the game is going to be like, although my hope is that the universe stays similar; it wouldn't do for sudden changes to occur to the architectural styles or physical properties of the galaxy. It would be neat to see the consequences of Mass Effect roll in to the new series, which seems like it'll be a good exercise in storytelling for any crew, and presumably the rest of the BioWare crew can keep the craziness in check.

As for the infamous Duty Calls: Warfighter: Battlefieldfront Operations Advanced: Modern Combat 6, it's a bit sad to say it isn't going to die just yet. Good that they finally managed to find something people like, bad in that we get more mindless shooters and an influx of 14-year-olds. The only thing I like about the new game is that it rewards verticality and opens up new areas in maps, but anything beginning with the letters 'exo' strikes me as a stupid marketing gimmick.

live2rock13's picture

I've stated in a previous Short Take how the FPS military shooter bubble is bursting. What I meant was that slowly, but eventually, these shooters would become less and less popular. With every bubble there are a few exceptions. Call of Duty, for now, is that exception. In the next three years however, I suspect that the sales chart would resemble something of a crashing stock market. There would be a downfall, then a brief resurgence, then an eventual collapse. Looking at Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Guitar Hero was declining then Rock Band made the genre popular for a few more years before the eventual collapse. This bubble is no different. 

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