The Eight Least Compelling Games of E3
Ah, yes ... E3. The gigantic hype machine has been toned down compared to its heyday, to be sure, but it's still a major industry event designed to get gamers salivating over the latest and greatest offerings from developers, publishers and hardware-makers alike. Or, in the case of Nintendo, it's a chance to leave gamers confused and mildly frightened. Either way, there's been so much gaming news coming out of LA this past week that, unless you're dead or stuck on a desert island, you've probably been caught up in the hype.
Look, there were interesting-looking games at E3, for sure. Resident Evil 5, Fallout 3, Gears of War 2 -- these titles and others are looking exciting and fun. Some of them even look like they might change or advance the face of gaming in some minor way. I'm particularly intrigued by Prince of Persia's "no punishment for sucking" philosophy, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is really starting to sound great.
But for all of the intrigue and excitement, a bunch of games on the slate that got some major press at this event just don't do it for me. So here, in reverse order, are my least compelling games of E3.
Don't do it, Kenny Rogers! He's not worth it!
Okay, this one only really makes the list because I happen to find the Splinter Cell series dull, plodding, overly concerned with realism, and generally non-compelling. I don't care about Sam Fisher and his exploits with or against the U.S. Government. I enjoy stealth-based gameplay to a point, but Splinter Cell went flying by that point at Ferrari-like speeds, never to return.
Even better, the word on the street is that, in an attempt to right what appears to be a sinking ship, Ubisoft has taken the series back to the drawing board. That, my friends, is very rarely a good sign. Now we're looking at a game whose premise and setting don't interest me, that was having such substantial problems that it had to be essentially scrapped and started from scratch. No, thanks.
It's not a Sonic game until someone is angrily thrusting their groin at you...
Perhaps it's my innate skepticism, but the combination of Nintendo DS + RPG + Sonic the Friggin' Hedgehog does not exactly scream "Game of the Year" to me. Sonic has had his goofy, spiky-haired, EXTREME ATTITUDE self stuck into a whole variety of gameplay types, and I have yet to like any of them. The original series on the Genesis was dull and repetitive. We then moved on to pinball, weird pseudo-RPGs, interspecies love stories, and god knows what else. None of this changes the fact that Sonic and his world just aren't terribly interesting.
I know, I know ... it's BioWare and BioWare can DO NO WRONG (it should be noted that I actually only like about one out of every four games Bioware makes ... but that's a different editorial). I'm just having a hard time believing that they can pack their typical depth into a DS cart, and an even harder time believing that the Sonic universe is ever going to be able to support something called "The Dark Brotherhood" in any logical, reasonable way.
Quick! We need to destroy generic alien building #17!
#6 - Halo Wars
I am among the minority of gamers who thought that Halo was a mediocre-at-best title. Its sequels haven't done any more for me than the first did. Now we're taking Bungie's generic sci-fi world and combining it with the desperately-in-need-of-a-reboot real-time strategy genre. Whee...
Oh, and did I mention this is an Xbox 360 title? Awesome, the tedium of yet-another-RTS combined with the amazing limitations of console controls. Two great tastes that will likely taste clunky and frustrating together. I guess the idea of Covenant-rushing a UNSC base will get some people's motors revving, but I am not some people.
Nothing says "Super Hero" like beating up women.
Look, I've only ever liked three fighting games in history, but I'll admit that one of them was Mortal Kombat II (try to guess the other two in the comments!). That said, the MK series has been in a deep funk for longer than many gamers have been alive. The latest plan to jazz it up involves bringing in DC Comics' cast of characters in a move that shrieks "please like us as much as you liked Marvel vs. Capcom!" I'm unconvinced.
For one thing, I'm not sure I can possibly take it seriously, to see a lithe girl in army fatigues swing a roundhouse kick at Superman, and having him actually react as if it hurt. This is SUPERMAN for Christ's sake. That most jackass-y of superheroes can pretty much survive being crushed between two planets and you're asking me to believe that a roundhouse kick from a 120-pound woman, military-trained or not, is going to do anything other than shatter her brittle, brittle human bones? I think not.
Also, please ... Batman would totally kick Sub-Zero's ass.
#4 - Pretty Much Anything on the Wii
So tell me, gentle reader, which type of Wii gamer are you? The casual fan who bought the system, and has never bothered to play anything except Wii Sports since then? Or the hardcore gamer who bought the system, played Wii Sports for two weeks, and has basically not touched the Wii since? From those I've surveyed, there seems to be no middle ground, and judging by Nintendo's E3 lineup I'd say they're aware of this and really targeting the first group. I'll give you a guess which group I'm not a part of.
Bzzt, wrong! That actually was a trick question. I'm not a part of either group, because nothing about the Wii strikes me as remotely interesting in any way. I understand it's a glorious new control scheme that's going to forever change the face of gaming, and also that I can make a hilarious little cartoon version of myself, but for some reason standing in front of my TV and wiggling around lost its appeal for me about seven seconds into playing Wii Tennis for the first time at a friend's house.
Nintendo's sold about six zillion Wiis, so they're doing something right ... but not for me.
Onward, to more piles of bricks!
#3 - LEGO Batman
The LEGO Star Wars series turned out to be an excuse to print money, so apparently I'm in the minority here, but I didn't find the combination of "Star Wars: Now With Mutes" and uninspired, platform-y gameplay particularly enticing. The idea of "playing the movie" is a fun one, but "walk to next screen, hold down 'assemble puzzle' button, repeat ad nauseum" doesn't really seem to capture the full experience.
I'm not sure how they're going to apply this to the Batman franchise ... Here you'll have a game where, yes, the fans will be familiar with the characters, but they won't have an entire set of plotlines pre-filled with exciting action pieces that conjure up 30 years of fond remembrance. What you will have, though, is lots of little piles of puzzle-bricks hopping around, waiting for you to stand in front of them and hold a button until a little machine pops up and ... buh ... zzzzzzzaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa11111111111111 ... sorry, I fell asleep on my keyboard.
Spore's subtitle? "What the hell is going on here?"
#2 - Spore
Heresy! Sacrilege! No true gamer could possibly have any feelings about Spore other than excitement, unremitting love, and possibly mild sexual arousal (judging by all of the things you crazy kids have been turning out using the Spore Creature Creator). Will Wright is a god among men, and surely his latest creation will be yet another multi-platinum smash success and a true gift to the gaming world. Right?
Well, ok, I'll admit that it's possible. I didn't expect to like The Sims, and I ended up spending way more hours than I'm willing to admit assembling ever-more-expensive furniture around my lesbian Mad Scientist and Sports Superstar couple. I played the hell out of The Sims 2, too. Here's the question though: What, if anything, have you seen so far in Spore that indicates there is any kind of game there? I've seen a Creature Creator, and some mildly strategy-looking action that reminds me way too much of Black and White for comfort.
I will concede that of the titles on this list, Spore has by far the greatest chance of making me eat my words, but what I've seen right now isn't really very compelling.
"Woohoo! More jumping puzzles! Come on, creepy ragdoll guy!"
#1 - LittleBigPlanet
Nope, I don't get it. The ways in which some people have reacted to this game have made me wonder whether you need some kind of special gene to fully appreciate what it is that you're seeing. What I'm seeing, when I watch video or look at screenshots, is something that looks very much like a boring (and at times frustrating -- watch how many times the people recording the video fail to make a jump and have to repeat their actions) platform game. A boring platform game where four players basically all do the same shit, one after the other, through levels that mostly rely on some very nice texture work to look interesting.
"But wait," you say, "These levels can be designed by other players!"
Hold, mine heart, lest you palpitate so wildly as to cause me to black out ... content designed by other players? That NEVER goes wrong! Why would we want work produced by experienced professionals when we can play levels created by the same Internet retards who can't stop making Spore creatures that look like Big Jim and the Twins?
So there you have it, folks: Boring Platformer + Frustrating Gameplay + Internet Retards = The Least Compelling Game of E3. Feel free to begin calling for my head, insulting my mother, and questioning my sexuality in the comments. Remember though: This article is but one man's opinion; it just happens to be right.