Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Watch Dogs and The Last of Us: Why E3 can never live up to the hype


Every year, E3 comes around, and every year there are a handful of games no-one knew anything about that show off a couple of things and everyone gets very excited about. As good as all this is, this kind of anticipation is sort of irrelevant, as it can never really be justified.

Don’t get me wrong; I love E3. The next year of video game journalism is basically structured around it. Indeed, E3 has certainly come a long way since I had to glean snippets of it from video game magazines. Live streaming of developers’ key note speeches is awesome, and gameplay videos appearing all over the internet allow casual observers and those who cannot go the opportunity to have the same level of speculation as professional journalists.

This is, however, what E3 will always be; speculation. Two games that seem to be generating a lot of attention are ‘Watch Dogs’ and ‘The Last of Us’. If you don’t know much about them, I suggest you quickly look up a video of them before continuing. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

This is what I do whilst I'm waiting

 Watched the gameplay video? Cool. Then you’ll realise that we get told absolutely nothing about either title. For me, there are 3 things that make up most decent video games: story, gameplay and innovation. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but for the sort of triple-A games we’re talking about here these things seem like a decent guideline.

Now, story can never be judged very well from a trailer. Either the trailer has to say nothing, in which case it’s ambiguous, or it gives away the plot, leaving you no surprises down the line. ‘Watch Dogs’ seems to have a vague ‘Grr evil company conspiracy bad bah *shakes fist*’ type plot, and ‘The Last of Us’ has gone for Fallout without a sense of humour. Chalk one up for not being excited.

Gameplay is also somewhat impossible to judge. Let me put this way. You are a developer with a mediocre game being made that you are planning to announce at E3. Do you:

a)    Give a reasonable demonstration of what the gaming experience will be like, including all the repetition and annoyances.

or

b)   Put all the good bits into a ten minute demo, implying but never confirming that the game will continue to be that good and exciting.

Naming no names....

Not a hard decision is it? Even when I first saw that bit in ‘Watch Dogs’ where you hack the traffic lights to cause a car crash I thought ‘Wow, I bet you have to do that at least 10 more times in pretty identical ways further down the line’. I mean, I counted 8 different hacking….things you could do in that menu screen, and we saw at least half of them in that short space of time.

But even if my cynical appraisal of things is wrong, and these games will continue to have a plethora of exciting and new features down the line, how innovative are these features? ‘The Last of Us’ doesn’t seem to have a unique selling point at all, aside from the AI is apparently quite good and it looks nice. Seriously, it’s just a stealthy cover-based shooter with some quick-time events. Also, the quality of AI is really hard to gauge in one instance. After all, no developer is gonna show the bits where it screws up are they?

So there you go. E3 ruined. And when these games come out and are amazing you can come and smash my door in.

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