Everything you wanted to know about gaming, and less
by Jamison DeLorenzo

The last time I wrote about E3 I made some bold statements regarding the death of its relevance in the industry. A lot of this has to do with the confusion of what it’s image was, in that what the perception was of what it was trying to be. Originally it was a conference to open up the industry to the gamers. It became a showcase for everything that was coming. People turned it into a money-making event, and the VIP booths and viewings were born.

As in most cases, money became the downfall of the event’s popularity. Like the news became, once the focus transitioned to profits, the core of the event’s integrity dwindled away. Some of the best things in this world only work when the focus isn’t profit. This only works in a fantasy world with unicorns and magic frogs wearing funny hats. As the old saying goes, once magic frogs take over your event there is no turning back.

Hmmm, I may have pushed that metaphor too far. Regardless, this year’s E3 turned out to be a great platform for announcing what is coming in the next year to our beloved consoles. Even though we are not done with the event this year, the point is that it we are still paying attention to it, so the rumours of its death may have been greatly exaggerated (not that I have ever exaggerated anything since the dawn of time).

Speaking of rumours, we got to hear about some of the latest project being worked on. Based on most reactions we are hoping that none of this stuff will remain vaporware. We saw a lot of interesting things for all three major consoles. My goal is not to cover all the announcements or even the most popular ones. Rather, my focus is going to be on what game I think will have the most riding on it.

Before we talk about the main prize I should point out a couple of the other items worth keeping an eye on. The announcement with the most impact was two-fold. Both Sony and Microsoft announced work in the motion controls department. If anyone had doubts about the impact the Wii had on the gaming industry, although with how much the console is still selling that doubt should have been dead and buried over a year ago, they should definitely be gone now.

The evolution of game interaction continues to gain momentum for each party. The Wii finally put this in the forefront, and is now, in my opinion, cemented as the most important change in the industry this generation. I mentioned this before – the seeds were planted with the rhythm games, and Nintendo drove the point home beautifully. How we move forward will be very entertaining, pass or fail.

Finally, there are three games were discussed that I will be paying close attention to. One of these games I cannot speak to why, other than there is still a sense of mysteriousness about it – Alan Wake. The gameplay sounds like it will be GTA-like and have a cohesive story. In essence, this game has several good things in common with BioShock. Ever since Doom 3 I have been suspicious of games that focus on scaring the player and making the combat tense, but this game could deliver something special.

The second game is a sequel to something I have a well-documented addiction to. Commander Shepard is making a return in Mass Effect 2. More work has been done in the combat department, the story is darker, and works information from your original Mass Effect game into its story. Think of KOTOR, only BioWare is now keeping the sequel’s work in-house. In other words, expect another series of articles on my latest gaming addiction by mid-spring next year.

The last of the three games is what I wanted to talk about the most. Somehow I spaced on this sequel’s arrival, but Assassin’s Creed 2 is on its way this fall. The first game was a big project by Ubisoft. In many respects the work paid off, although nobody is going to call the game perfect. Two things that were complained about the most were the repetitiveness and the combat. Most of the missions ended in gigantic and unavoidable bloodbaths, which seemed odd for an assassination-based game.

The presentation and core game mechanics were still quite excellent, and not in a Bill and Ted sort of way. The vehicle for driving the story was interesting as well. This kept the sales high enough to warrant a sequel. I suspect many people who played the first game are not overly ecstatic about this announcement. The first game was repetitive and the combat was slightly clumsy. Sure, it wasn’t hard to fend off guards, but the system could have smoother and battles against half the city’s guards should be avoidable in a game about stealth and assassins.

There are so many good things about what Assassin’s Creed brings to the table. There are seeds of a GTA-type franchise here. Once missions began you have the freedom to do whatever you wanted. You could be as merciless to the townspeople as you wanted. There was a ton of terrain to explore. This is part of what makes GTA such a popular game, and Assassin’s Creed can play in that arena too.

What’s more, I really believe that’s what draws people to Assassin’s Creed. They want it to be that game. It’s GTA crossed with Prince of Persia, and that is an incredibly compelling concept. If the sequel does not deliver on how much promise this experiment has it will be a failure, and it will be something to be bitter about.