Ben's Week In Review: March 7
Normally, I would be heading into this week with a boatload of excitement and anticipation...but I admit to being extraordinarily concerned about Final Fantasy XIII.
Just gimme Vice City 2. Seriously.
With all these huge games in the first quarter of the year - bizarre timing for so many, no? - I'd almost forgotten about an impending Grand Theft Auto announcement. Now, there are very few franchises that cause me to buy every last new installment on day one, but GTA has been one of them ever since GTAIII swept me away nearly a decade ago (can you believe it has been that long?). I'm just so psyched to hear that GTAV might get its official unveiling before E3; I loved GTAIV but for admittedly different reasons than I loved past entries, and I'm sure I'll love GTAV. My favorite is still Vice City just because I'm a big '80s buff, and I'd love to see a follow-up to Tommy Vercetti and Co. Wasn't that Scarface-like setting just plain awesome? And who doesn't want that soundtrack back? LOL I'm sure Rockstar is sticking with their more realistic format for the new one, but that's a good reason to go back to Vice City, right?
Think about it. Before, it was all arcadey and silly and while I know people miss that (it's one of the major complaints about GTAIV), I'd love to see a revamped Vice City with the new authentic focus. Besides, I think there's a lot more they could do with that story; I mean, you end up as king of the hill, basically, so why not start a new story where you have to defend your turf, or something? Just a thought.
Quantic Dream can stay open now
When David Cage said he was nervous about the review scores for Heavy Rain, and he also mentioned that everyone in the studio was watching their computers anxiously for the first round of reviews to come in, it drove the point home: review scores were absolutely everything for this game, for two big reasons. Firstly, it's a new IP; it's not an established franchise so nobody is buying it on name-brand recognition. Secondly, it's a very original, ambitious project that turns the industry on its head. Instead of flashy action and over-the-top effects, it's about emotion, human sensitivity, atmosphere and storytelling. It really was a recipe for disaster; if that game had raked in 5s and 6s, it could've meant curtains for Quantic Dream. Cage admits this himself as in that interview, he said the future of his studio essentially depended on those scores. I'm just glad that most critics rewarded the team for their splendid efforts and the early estimates put sales at about a half-million for the first week. That's great.
Hopefully, that number will continue to rise and other developers will take similar risks in the future, 'cuz this one paid off. This also proves that some games require widespread reviewer praise more than others. Madden and Call of Duty, for instance, likely don't need the help, anymore. For the most part, though, reviews in this industry have proven to be more important than in almost any other entertainment industry out there. That tells me gamers are smart consumers, and is also the reason why the vast majority of the best-rated games are also the best-selling titles ever.
Personal gaming update
First of all, just an FYI: Arnold has had God of War III for a few days now, and I know he's been playing the hell out of it. The embargo ends on Monday so that's just about when the review will go up. We are both going to review FFXIII; we're probably going to do two entirely separate reviews, too. As I said before, this is the week I usually look forward to the most in any generation: the launch of the first true FF of the era. FFVII for the PS1, FFX for the PS2 and FFXIII for the PS3...and yet, I'm really, really worried for the very first time ever. It's not the scores; if the game had been turn-based, it would've gotten 3s from idiot reviewers and that wouldn't have affected me in the slightest. It's the other things I'm reading about; the lack of towns and NPC interaction, extreme linearity, and the fact that Auto-Battle seems to be encouraged over manual choices. I'm sorry, but based on all the info I have, it really does seem like a casualty of twitch-gaming.
Now, I hate to add this, but... Okay, look: Square-Enix knew they would be making this for the 360 as well. Don't think they didn't know that until after the PS3 version was done, or something. That's crap; they knew well ahead of time. And for the past few years, all S-E has ever talked about is their desire to reach a larger audience; to expand westward. It's why they opened up their new studio in LA and why, I think, we're seeing a change in focus in their games. Look at the new Front Mission: a franchise that used to be entirely turn-based strategy and Evolved is now straight-up action. There are no 360s in Japan (there really aren't) and in order to make an FF 360 owners want, S-E might've thought they had to change up the focus to embrace the more shooter/action-oriented 360 audience. Whether they'd be right about that isn't the issue. They might've believed it.
It has been on my mind for a while now. What do you think?
3/6/2010 Ben Dutka