Welcome to another edition of the Game Ranter Banter. Five writers take a few minutes out of their busy schedules to give their opinions on some of the most compelling and controversial recent news stories of the game industry. This week, we discuss the Portal 2 ARG, the breaking news of Nintendo’s new home console, Rocksteady’s words on Batman and this year’s superhero video games.
Our readers are as knowledgeable and opinionated as our own writers, so here is the place for all of you to discuss these stories as well as any others that may have piqued your interest throughout the week.
The Date Was a Lie
This past week Valve put out an alternate reality game that was thought to have been the key to picking up Portal 2 early. Instead, the game ended with the reveal of a countdown clock that could be sped up with purchases on Valve’s digital distribution platform, Steam. After this perceived “bait and switch” Valve began receiving a ton of backlash, but backlash that was most definitely undeserved.
Yes, it may have been a misrepresentation, but that is only because of the assumptions that were placed upon the ARG. Valve knew exactly what they were doing: helping indie developers out and allowing eager fans to possibly play Portal 2 early. It wasn’t like they were delaying Portal 2 again; Valve simply wanted to lend a helping hand to both their fans and friends at the same time. What is the harm in that?
Ruining My Movie Experience
There are four big budget superhero movies hitting theaters this summer. As per gaming industry law, there are tie-in video games (read: cash grabs) for three of them, all of which are taking the approach of telling another “story” that’s supplemental to the films and not a recreation of them, in an effort not to sound like a typical “movie tie-in,” for which they all are. We have Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters, Thor: God of Thunder and Captain America: Super Soldier, all following the same formula of adding a subtitle and bringing the star actor of the film in to voice the main character in the game.
So what about X-Men: First Class? Well, we have X-Men: Destiny on its way later this year from Activision and Silicon Knights and if you looked at the graphics from the screenshots released thus far, it also looks like a movie tie-in. Why are the studios and license owners letting potentially sub-par video games tarnish the brand? We went through this with Sega already with the terrible Iron Man and Incredible Hulk games. Look at what Rocksteady is doing with its Batman titles and take note. Those games make Batman awesome. Those games are on everybody’s anticipated lists. Those games do justice to these important and loved characters. And those are the types of games we want.
First impressions are not positive on any of these titles, but time will tell if we have another X-Men Origins: Wolverine/Spider-Man 2 gem on our hands.
Nintendo’s New Console
Details on the next-gen Nintendo console didn’t just leak this weak, they cascaded across the internet like lava free-flowing through a countryside. The new console from the Big N is said to have better graphics than the Xbox 360 and PS3, a controller with a touchscreen, and the ability to play Blu-ray discs. While all of these rumors are far from confirmed, the classic “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” saying pops into my mind.
Nintendo’s Wii is often laughed at by gamers and third party developers alike for its lack of power, but if these rumors turn out to be true than Nintendo could be heading in an entirely different direction as they attempt to be the first to kickstart the next generation of console gaming. The deciding factor may be how well the online is for Nintendo’s new console, because if it can’t support multiplayer chat (via headsets and not that stupid Wii Speak peripheral) or make hooking up with friends online easy, then nobody is going to bother playing a game like Call of Duty on their system.
Also, Smash Bros. in 1080p? Freaking right.
Batman vs. Nonlinearity
So, Rocksteady, and Dax Ginn in particular, think that Batman: Arkham Asylum was “too linear” and plan to fix that for Arkham City. My question is: what’s wrong with linearity? Arkham Asylum was an excellent game in ’09, and deserved every accolade it got. The fact that it was a linear game didn’t detract from it at all. In fact, I can’t imagine the game being anything but linear! What is with the recent trend in gaming of making everything open-ended? Sandbox-style gameplay, multiple choice dialogue, karma systems… these aren’t necessarily bad things, but they’re becoming incredibly overused, and aren’t as diverse as people say they are. We could use a little more linearity in games. What I’m trying to say is: linearity does not automatically make a game worse, and open-endedness doesn’t automatically make a game better. I wish developers would see that.
Nintendo’s Hardcore Opportunity
Nintendo has maneuvered themselves into a sweet spot. The recent news of how powerful the Wii’s successor will be has taken off like wildfire and caught many a hardcore gamer’s attention — a feat Nintendo should not take lightly. They have been highly successful in cornering the casual market with the Wii and DS, but they can’t last on that alone while all the buzz-worthy games hit the competitor platforms.
Apple’s iOS devices are clearly becoming the new favorite for casual games and Nintendo needs to adjust their current game plan. It’s time they offer a system that rewards the loyal fanboys, yet also gives gamers that own a Xbox 360 or PS3 a reason to buy their console besides the fact that it will be home to the next round of Mario, Zelda and Metroid games. Trust me, Nintendo. You do not want to waste this opportunity.