The Friday letters page worries that the whole games industry has lost its way, as one reader looks forward to The Plucky Squire.
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I wrote into the Inbox a few weeks ago saying I was planning on upgrading to the current gen later this year and was leaning towards an Xbox Series X over the PlayStation 5. I did say I’d wait for the summer showcases before I made my final decision though… and Sony seem to have made it for me! I can’t believe how underwhelming their showcase was. I wasn’t expecting them to announce 10 first party games or anything but after saying the showcase was the official ‘second phase’ of the PlayStation 5 life I was expecting pretty big things and can’t help but feel massively underwhelmed.
Spider-Man 2 looked very pretty and everything but it seemed very QTE heavy and I wasn’t blown away by the 10 minute demo. But to not really announce any other major PlayStation 5 exclusive single-player games really shocked me. I wouldn’t have been that excited by it, but I at least expected Ghost Of Tsushima 2 to be shown, along with a couple of other new exclusives. But nothing? I can only think GC are right and Sony are holding back their big exclusives until the Activision Blizzard deal is sorted?
All Microsoft really need to do now is confirm that Starfield is definitely coming out in September and maybe announce one other exciting Xbox exclusive on 11th June and I think that’ll be my decision made: Xbox Series X it is.
GC: To be fair, Sony didn’t say anything about a second phase, that was insiders.
Another quiet year
As Sony’s first showcase in two years, which are not State of Plays and meant to be about first party stuff, that was also given billing as some sort of next phase of PlayStation 5, the showcase on Wednesday night was terrible.
I’m can’t remember which of those live service games were Sony’s to be honest and for me the Spider-Man 2 gameplay trailer was visiting a well-trodden and generic path. I had the Uncharted 4 gameplay trailer in my head when watching it, but watching that back that game looks more interesting seven years ago than Spider-Man 2.
I couldn’t care less about Spider-Man 2, from the trailer I feel like I’ve played that type of game many times already. If you do care though it looks as slick and well made as you would expect a Sony first party game to be. The idea of them putting out a Redfall is incomprehensible to be honest. I’m sure it will do extremely well.
The positive was that all the studios I care about, like Bluepoint, weren’t present so it’s a case of what not being at the showcase was the disappointment, rather than what was shown was bad. Does again though make you scratch your head as to why it was given the big sell. I’m not too put out though or have alarm bells ringing about it being an indication of Sony’s focus on new ventures like GAAS. Just seems like it’s a bit of a quiet year for Sony in the main.
Favourite games for me were The Plucky Squire and Teardown.
Coming soon to Xbox
Who says the Xbox has no games? It was so nice of Sony to show off the upcoming games for Xbox. And to add insult to injury, before I saw the livestream there was adverts for Xbox trailers! OK, just kidding as an Xbox owner, I thought it was OK. Not great, though.
Highlight for me was Alan Wake 2. I can’t believe it’s finally happening. But seriously, I’m hoping Remedy mix up the combat for that game. And I’m not talking about special powers or anything like that, just something innovative that doesn’t involve torch, flashlight, gun, rinse repeat. Because I know that was the main criticism of the first game.
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Looking at the next Mortal Kombat, (I refuse to call it by that stupid name, Mr Boon!) I would have to concede that the fatalities are probably going in the wrong direction. Okay, Shang Tsung is a bad guy, but would a hero go to such elaborate extremes to kill their enemy? Seems… sadistic.
It felt that way in Mortal Kombat 11, too – especially with D’vorah. My God, those fatalities were genuinely upsetting. Shouldn’t we be going for funny? Like Happy Tree Friends or Itchy & Scratchy? Of course, the humour there comes from the cutesy animation. Make it more photogenic and it’s easy to just become needlessly unpleasant.
Also, I long had my suspicions that the next NetherRealm game would be the one to force my hand into shelling out for a ninth generation console. But, then again, I saw in the trailer that it would be coming to Switch, too. No doubt thanks to the magic of streaming.
As it will be released come the end of September, I imagine we’re about to get a blitz of marketing in the way of character reveals, new mechanics and whatnot. However, I can’t help but think Street Fighter 6 is about to eat Mortal Kombat’s lunch in a big way.
Towers of Time and Multiverse before that were bloated, tedious rubbish and Street Fighter looks like it might have a single-player campaign to finally unseat the first two Soulcalibur games. If that’s the case, then this year’s Mortal Kombat could be seen as very much a poor relation…
PS: I suffered Gloom damage by getting hit by a Gloom-infected enemy in Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom. I don’t want people to think I just go around walking on the obviously dangerous looking red stuff like some kind of rank amateur! Thank you.
GC: Mortal Kombat is a much bigger franchise than Street Fighter.
The state of gaming
So I don’t have any skin in the game with PlayStation, but even I had to double take at the paltry selection on offer during Sony’s summer showcase. Xbox may crow about it but they’re no better, have they forgotten about Redfall already? Then on PC you’ve got a seemingly endless stream of broken multiformat titles, that are so bad they’re bordering on scams.
I wonder what GC (as the experts) take is on the current state of gaming? Is this all a hangover of the pandemic? A lot of the releases the last couple of years would have started development pre-pandemic… so we’re now seeing the results of issues around starting development of new titles during the pandemic? Is it that PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and the latest PC GPU technology is just so resource intensive to develop for and gamers demand for the cutting edge so high it’s not possible for studios to actually put out games with any regularity or consistency? Did Cyberpunk 2077 and Pokémon’s massive sales just give the message to publishers gamers will put up with anything no matter how broken?
We need to step back and allow development tools (probably through AI generation) to catch up to current technology and gamer expectations. As Zelda shows, you don’t need the bleeding edge to make a classic, and I don’t think anyone would turn around and say a PlayStation 4 title like Uncharted 4 looks dated, if a game of a similar fidelity was released today.
I’d take two or three Uncharted 4s for a single The Last of Us Part 1, that’s for sure. It seemed Sony themselves were thinking this with titles like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy at one point. Oh, for more titles like that now. Did they not sell well or something?
GC: You have it about right: publishers are never punished for releasing broken games and the shadow of the pandemic will linger for years to come. Remember that everything that came out during the pandemic was almost finished before it started, everything since then began under its less-than-ideal conditions.
I’m going to look on the bright side of Sony’s admittedly disappointing showcase and say that The Plucky Squire looks amazing. It has nothing to do with PlayStation specifically but I now know it exists thanks to the showcase, so it succeeded in that sense at least.
I also really liked the look of Towers Of Aghasba, which I’m not sure if it’s an indie game or not, which says a lot. Ghostrunner 2 looked good too, and Phantom Blade Zero, and Tower Of Fantasy (what’s with all the towers?). And that’s about it. Not an amazing line-up but at least there was something.
If I was going to have a go at anything I’d say the Project Q looked kind of silly, I’m really not sure who’s going to pay the £200-odd that’s obviously going to cost.
All to play for
Now that I’ve had time to reflect upon the Sony showcase, I think some of the reaction is unwarranted. How dare the Sony fanboys defend that pitiful showing?! To be fair, even some of the Sony faithful are trolling the show. The likes of Colin Moriarty may be regretting their bluster.
Like a football manager’s fortune, a few bad results have fans demanding Jim Ryan is replaced. The amount of plagiarism on display is what struck me. I know Sony aren’t responsible for the hilarious Splatoon rip-off, but I also saw a Minecraft game and Starship Troopers. It would be insulting to call that handheld device a Switch rip-off. The poor man’s Gordon Ramsey looked almost pumped to show off a blatant imitation. Jimbo almost cracked a smile. I tell you who were smiling: Nintendo, but only in amusement.
The momentum shifts of the games industry is fascinating to behold. Team Xbox have gone from rock bottom with Redfall and Phil Spencer being defeatist, to be handed an open goal. Similar to the Activision deal, which looked dead after the CMA blocked it, only for the EU to revive it a few weeks later. The merger now looks more likely than not, so I hope Xbox don’t hold back for their showcase. They need to unload the clip.
If Sony are not already planning another show, Microsoft may hasten any plans in a few weeks. This is good for competition. I’d much rather this than either party pretending to be weak whilst bickering over Call Of Duty.
Am I the only one these days that’s just not excited by exclusive games?
Don’t get me wrong, I am a PlayStation 5 owner, and there’s been exclusives I have really enjoyed and ones that are still in my queue to play, but I simply don’t get excited at thought of another Uncharted, another God Of War, more of The Last Of Us (TV show is awesome though), another Horizon etc., etc.
Enough of the endless sequels please.
Many of these games are good, some very, very good, some are just pretty average, but very, very pretty.
I simply can’t face another Nathan Drake adventure, no matter how pretty it is.
GC: None of that is unique to exclusives. Of the four first party games Sony showed on Wednesday two were new IPs. Also, the next Uncharted would almost certainly not star Nathan Drake in the lead role.
I thought I’d have a quick play of Metroid: Return Of Samus on the Game Boy Advance app on Switch but got distracted and started messing about on my phone. The tune in the opening sequence is an absolute banger though, I might just leave it on all night.
I decided to make Optimus Prime using Ultrahand and found the limit for attachments in the process.
GC: Wow, that’s a fantastic try!
Transform and roll out #TearsOfTheKingdom #Zelda #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/6fXDBGrdWf
This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Lamont, who asks where do you usually play your video games?
Do you have a specific room set aside for them or is it just the living room or bedroom? Is your television set-up specially designed for games and what do you in terms of the sound system and storing the consoles and controllers?
If you do have a special room, does it have a lot of games related merchandise and decoration in it? If it doesn’t do you wish it did?
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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.
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