On The Horizon – April-May 2011


What makes a good game? It’s a question that haunts developers the world over as there is no set production line method to making one, and no mathematical formula that can predict how a title will be received. Unless the game in question is already part of an established franchise, no matter how well known the developer is, they’re still basically taking a shot in the dark.

The problem is that while the people who make the games may find them innovative and entertaining, the average gamer is a fickle creature whose tastes are constantly changing. Things get progressively more difficult as the games industry strides forward like the new colossus of entertainment, mainly because the bigger you are, the greater the effects scrutiny and market forces. A bad review can kill the shelf life of a game, so developers are continuously pushing themselves to find new ways of garnering that all important user interaction, or enhancing existing methods to appeal to a wider audience.

And with that in mind, here’s this week’s games to look out for.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings


A possible sleeper hit for 2011?

Developer: CD Projekt

Publisher: Atari

Platform: PC

Release: 17th May 2011

Okay, so you may or may not have heard of the original game which received a fairly warm reception when it was released in 2007, but it wasn’t without some criticisms, the main ones being about the combat system, storyline and a mediocre lead character. That being the case, it’s somewhat surprising to see a sequel to the game, but such is the faith that Poland’s CD Projekt have in the franchise, and to be honest it’s not looking bad so far.

The developers have decided to keep certain elements from the original game, but have then rebuilt almost everything else from scratch. The combat system has undergone a major overhaul and it looks as though there’s a lot more flexibility with the new system. Likewise the graphics are no longer powered by the Aurora engine, but are instead  run by a new system developed by CD Projekt themselves. Skills, weapons, magic, and quite a few other aspects of the game have been enhanced, tweaked, or changed outright, all in an effort to provide a quality gaming experience, and at the moment it looks like CD Projekt and Atari may have a sleeper hit on their hands.

Oh, and for the more red blooded males (you know who you are), the game is being publicised in May 2011 in the Polish version of Playboy, which features the character Triss on the cover. Add to that the fact that the game will not be censored in any regional versions, and it may be fair to say that a few gamers will be suffering from more than just sore thumbs 😛



The dark horse of this year's FPS's?

Developer: Splash Damage

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Platform: XBox 360, PS3, PC

Release: 13th May 2011

First Person Shooters aren’t really my bag, but that doesn’t mean that they’re bad. I just find the whole run, jump, strafe, crouch, strafe while crouching and edging forward, etc, etc, etc, to be frustrating and annoying. All I want to do is play the damn game!

Well it seems that some God has heard my plea, or at least someone at Splash Damage if Brink is anything to go by.

The current hot topic on the FPS scene features a rather nifty engine called SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain), which basically allows you to focus on getting where you want to be without having to worry about stopping to crouch, jump, etc, as all of that will be done for you. The downside is that the actions that your character is capable of will depend on whether you’re heavy, medium or light, but that’s a minor niggle really.

The game features a campaign mode, free play, and a challenge mode, four character classes (each with unique abilities), which can be changed on the fly at friendly command posts, lots of weapons, online multiplayer capabilities for up to 16 people at a timeand more besides. Graphically the games looks the business, and the combat environment is made up of complex terrains that can either help or hinder the player, depending on what your trying to achieve.

It may be that Brink is the dark horse in the fight against the big name FPS’s.

L.A. Noire


The exact opposite of GTA, or is it?

Developer: Team Bondi

Publisher: Rockstar Games

Platform: XBox 360, PS3

Release: May 2011

One of the most anticipated games of the year is this crime thriller from Team Bondi and Rockstar Games. The player takes on the role of Cole Phelps, a Los Angeles police officer, and the aim of the game is to rise through the ranks, solving crimes as you go along.

Hang on, why does that sound familiar.

The game will blend aspects of mystery and crime solving with a fair amount of action, and Phelps can navigate the city using a number of vehicles or on foot.

I’m still getting the feeling that we’ve been here before.

The game is generally played from a third person perspective, but there will also some over the shoulder moments during combat. There are also over 100 vehicles to choose from, various famous landmarks to visit, and a fairly interesting approach to solving individual crimes. In addition to the main storyline there are bonus missions that can be accessed by responding to calls for assistance, and players will have the ability to redo investigations to achieve a better result.

Oh, and apparently there’s a lot of voice acting going on so expect lots of cut scenes, but then you probably won’t mind them too much given the quality of the graphics.

Okay, it all sounds very interesting, but I still can’t get over the fact that the game is basically the narrative opposite of Grand Theft Auto. There are major similarities between the two after all, even if one disregards Rockstar’s involvement.

Well, whatever the case may be, L.A. Noire might very be the game that breaks the stranglehold of GTA once and for all.

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