Hey, I’m Ethan. This is a small piece of my work from my personal blog, Musings on Gaming, where I throw my thoughts on video games, their players and their creators. I have a lot of them. You’ll find my musings on games as art, reviews of games I’m playing, thoughts on upcoming releases or consoles and the occasional bit of original reporting. Head on over to the main site to see more content!
When new IP rolls onto the market, it can be exciting and terrifying. The trailers all look fantastic and everyone gets excited, but it's not the kind of safe bet we're used to making on established franchises. Remember Me is one such game, hotly anticipated with very little to base said anticipation on. I was certainly on board regardless.
Remember Me puts players in the role of Nilin, a memory hunter operating in Neo-Paris in the year 2084. Climate change, memory-based technology, and global conflicts have dramatically altered social class, geopolitics, and culture. Nilin wakes up in the reconstructed Bastille Prison in the heart of Paris with her memory wiped. After a quick jail-break, she has to figure out who she is.
Nilin is applaudably regular. She's certainly attractive, but not the bombshell that the new Lara Croft remains. She feels in no way sexualized and is from a multi-ethnic background. Not only is this fitting for the time period, but says a lot about the maturity of the developer. It's no secret she was a tough sell, so props to Dontnod for sticking to their guns.
The premise of the game is fantastic. Nilin's story is engrossing, as are those of the entire world. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the game alone does a very good job of establishing the latter. The developer, Dontnod, put together an interactive online journal chronicling the life of Antoine Cartier-Wells, the founder of Memorize, the company at the forefront of memory technology. Additionally, they produced an intriguing mock speech given by Cartier-Wells.
The story of the Cartier-Wells family and the dystopia they have fueled in 2084 is compelling all on its own, but if the player didn't embrace what has been, in my opinion, the single greatest PR campaign we've seen this generation, most of this would be missed. The 7-8 hour game simply can't encompass all of these characters effectively while still telling Nilin's story. Whether or not you plan on playing the game, I strongly recommend exploring both of these items.
In fact, it can feel like the game intentionally steered you away from really exploring the ramifications of Memorize's technology, the Sensen, and what it's done to the world. Despite being ripe for exploration, Dontnod keeps you on the straight and narrow while moving through Neo-Paris, and very few events are scripted bringing to light these issues, and most conversation is directed at "Get Nilin's memory back".
That being said, the game doesn't miss the mark entirely. Nilin does take a genuine interest in the Leapers, semi-human monsters corrupted by memory addiction, and Scylla Cartier-Wells's reconversion project highlights many ethical dilemmas that give the player something to walk away with.
At one point, should the player notice, a preacher stands in front of a group of people speaking about religion and God, but it's fascinating to see that Dontnod considered how memory technology would shape religion in 2084 and explored the idea of religion adapting to culture, and not the other way around. The whole event may last only a few seconds, but was one of my favorite parts of the game.
For every compelling story, however, there's a not-so-compelling one. The game ends flatly and awkwardly with an antagonist who's story feels out of place and generic next to those that shined so brightly in Neo-Paris. Additionally, many of Nilin's allies make very brief appearances, practically disappearing a short cutscene after their introduction.
This occasional spottiness from the wet-behind-the-ears developer is much more apparent in the actual gameplay. The combat system as a whole is a really cool idea. While button combinations for the player's four combos are set in stone, the effects of each button press are fully customizable with tokens called "Pressens". These pressens can be used to design combos that recover health, cut buffer times on special moves or deal massive amounts of damage. Enemies and encounters are well-tailored to draw the player to the combo lab where these are customized and to decide how best to approach each situation, and it all works together very well.
Unfortunately, executing on these can be a hassle. Despite looking and feeling a bit like the combat we've all come to love from the Arkham series, kicking enemies around in Remember Me does not play off nearly as smoothly. Despite the heavy focus on combos, large groups of enemies prevent the player from stringing them together, as chaining from enemy to enemy is a tough task. The combos in general are intermittently effective. Players may find themselves resetting combos for a few seconds when they thought they were in the midst of one, and other times may not pull it off despite it feeling like all the buttons were there. The building blocks are here, with Pressens and special moves called "S-Pressens" giving combat a distinct flavor and variety, but it just doesn't play well off the fingers, and is the biggest problem with the game.
That being said, perhaps the best gameplay aspect is the memory remixes. Nilin physically manipulates people's memories, scrubbing through them to trigger bugs that alter the way the memory plays out and convince the victim that events transpired differently than they actually did. This process is fun enough in itself, but its results are much more rewarding. In one instance, the process is used to turn an impending enemy into an ally, and it works like a charm. The first feeling is accomplishment as the new ally offers a hand in the quest to upheave Memorize, but is quickly followed by hollowness in realizing that the entire partnership is manufactured on lies.
While these remixes offer quite a bit of independence and can result in multiple scenarios, the game can otherwise be quite forward. Hints lead you to every stat upgrade, intrusive combat tips intrude upon most encounters and bright orange arrows point you in the right direction. The arrows are forgivable, as most platformers do this in one way or another, but I would prefer to find my own collectibles and fight enemies in peace. Journal entries about people and places in Neo-Paris are littered around and not so blatantly pointed to, and these are perhaps the most valuable collectibles. Taking the time to read them expands even more on this fantastic world.
Remember Me is an ambitious game. It's just as much not about Nilin as it is, and is best at painting a brand new sci-fi dystopian society for us to enjoy. I feel a sequel could more effectively capitalize on the themes laid out both within and outside of the game, and film or book entries could be fantastic additions to round out the world and, in ways, better dissect its many facets. For now, we have a perfectly adequate game that could be a jumping off point for a magnificent new multimedia franchise.
Crystal Dynamics picked up the Tomb Raider franchise and turned heads as early as Guardian of Light, but it was clear they were itching to do something more. Breathing life into a near-dead franchise, Crystal Dynamics has reimagined Lara Croft as a new kind of hero.
The new Tomb Raider is nearly unrecognizable from its roots and could be passed as a new franchise. A young Lara Croft and the rest of the Endurance crew are shipwrecked on a mysterious island with hostile natives.
The biggest change is the absence of Angelina Jolie in exchange for a more toned-down, younger Lara Croft. Many people appluaded this, and the move deserves praise, but let's be real - Lara may be less objectified, but she's still an idealized bombshell. At least we're now par for the course with other mainstream media.
The other big change is an entirely new style of gameplay. With a significant lack of supplies on hand, the beginning of the game is much less focused on dual pistols and more on survival. Experience is doled out for finding rations and fruit while boxes of salvage fuel the weaponry fire. This survival gameplay is really engrossing. As opposed to putting bullets into everyone she encounters, the player must avoid altercations and limp through the shadows after the latest stab wound. It's an approach that not many games take and immediately hooked me.
Unfortunately, as gameplay progresses, the facade drops and the video game equivalent of Michael Bay rears its ugly head. The player quickly realizes that rations and fruit are an illusion and the player will survive with or without them. Lara can only run so long and finally takes up arms against droves of enemies. It was fun while it lasted.
This doesn't mean that the rest of the game isn't fun - just not as unique. Lara can feel a little clumsy getting around, lacking the polish that treasure-hunting vet Nate Drake has, but nonetheless offers a different experience. Lara is usually on her own and this resulted, for me, in a very intimate relationship between protagonist and player in which every time Crystal Dynamics beats the crap out of her, it feels like a limb went through my own throat.
On the same intimate level, set pieces are not necessarily massive, but are fantastically contextual. I love racing out of buildings or climbing tall spires and despite merely shoving the control stick forward and tapping perhaps one other button, thousands of things happen around me. Floors fall out and handholds collapse, but instead of taking the reigns from the player, the game changes the way it reacts to you.
It's a fine art, and not all of it is finely polished in Croft's new outing. When it's not so hot, it's usually in the vein of quick-time events. These are impossible at first because you assume the input might change. Once you realize it's always the same button, it gets easier, but feels cheap and unsatisfying. Gripes aside, when Tomb Raider's contextual moments sparkle, they shine.
Despite all this being new ground for the Tomb Raider franchise, the player has the opportunity to raid tombs in traditional fashion. To widen appeal, these portions of the game are completely optional, giving the player the reigns to play the game he or she desires - bask in the guns and platforming or explore the puzzle and survival aspects underneath.
And all of this would have been enough - really it would have - but to round out the obscene budget spent on this game by Square Enix, making it a financial "failure" despite selling over 3.4 million copies, a multiplayer mode was tacked on. The offering includes four game modes - Team Deathmatch, Cry for Help, Rescue and Free-for-All.
Overall, the game's mechanics don't hold up well with the increased pace of PvP multiplayer. You can also constantly jump up and down to gain practical invulnerability. The two objective-based modes, Cry for Help and Rescue, are brutally awful. The sides feel lopsided, removing any fun that may have been there. Team Deathmatch and Free-for-All aren't the best things I've ever played, but tolerable as something to do with my brother online. Two months past launch, however, the servers are predictably barren.
Succumbing to the multiplayer trend and gaming trends in general effectively sum up all that is wrong with the new Tomb Raider, which isn't a whole lot, but enough to hold the game back from being something truly special.
Genre: First-person shooter
ESRB: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco)
Video games have constants. Common themes and elements that happen, generally, every time, some more than others. For this reason, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut as you play through a backlog – shuffling from one to the next without much thought. Bioshock Infinite manages to manifest these constants while rising above them at the same time.
The game tells the story of Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent also present at the Wounded Knee massacre who has incurred large amounts of debt, and must now pay them off by rescuing a girl named Elizabeth from the floating city of Columbia.
“Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt”
It embraces historical tropes of fiction and those of video games. The flawed hero, Booker, struggles with his checkered past, and Elizabeth is poised to play the damsel in distress in need of a big strong man to save her.
But from here, things unravel. Infinite becomes a commentary on these tropes and mirrors Columbia both in exceptionalism and rising above them.
Elizabeth is in no way constrained to the damsel in distress role. Players who feared one long escort mission may find themselves on the other side of that coin, as Elizabeth revives the player and tosses Booker supplies in the midst of firefights. Her incredible power to open tears in space and time force the question -
“Booker, are you afraid of God?”
“No, but I am afraid of you.”
Irrational has done a wondrous job of creating the most compelling character ever imagined in a game. Elizabeth’s wide eyes are a stark contrast to the enemies rushing at you, reminding us of her depth of character. That intensity can’t be captured by cosplayers – it can only be conveyed properly in this Bioshock art style. Her relationship with Booker is complicated, taking many turns over the course of the game as she copes with your violence, much like our parents cope with the violence in our video games – just one example of the game’s commentary on games. To say much more would involve discussion of the ending, a can of worms that not only goes beyond the scope of this review, but feels sacred enough to keep out of reach of those who didn’t experience it first-hand forever.
Sacred. Playing the original Bioshock, many people were stunned by Rapture’s presence as a character. It’s hard to believe one could create a surpassing environment, yet Columbia captures that same magic. Before Booker has a gun in his hands, Columbia presents itself in the middle of its glory days, every nook begging exploration. The hymn “Will the Circle be Unbroken” permeates the entire experience and becomes impossible to shake. It complements the gold-plated and sunbathed city. However, we peel back the layers of Columbia and get a taste of the exceptionalism, the disturbing merging of patriotism and religion, the racism and the class warfare, and the hymn takes on a new role as a strange and haunting juxtaposition.
The game does a stupendous job of drawing your attention to the right corners of Columbia, and all of those corners are important at the end of it all. From a barbershop quartet rendition of “God Only Knows”, a 1966 tune from the Beach Boys somehow finding its way into 1912 Columbia, to seemingly meaningless lines from passerby have an entirely different context upon completion. The sheer number of similar instances simply on recollection are staggering and beg a second playthrough to capture them all.
However, a second playthrough won’t be required to illuminate some of the themes, the interpretation of which are left up to the player. In the original Bioshock, Rapture painted a picture of individualism gone wrong – Ayn Rand having her cake and choking on it. The game questioned player choice, but had an obvious agenda when it came to its objectivist critique. Infinite overcomes this with Elizabeth’s tears in space and time. The player gets to experience several realities with various incarnations of the Vox Populi, the working, minority class of Columbia. These multiple explorations of an “Occupy Wall Street”-esque sequence of events suck any “liberal agenda” out of the game.
Behind this ironclad wall of narrative and thematic elements, we’re reminded that Infinite is still a game, if only for the sake of advancing those elements. This manifests itself in the form of what is, astoundingly, a very tight first-person shooter. It would be easy to expect sacrificed gameplay in exchange for everything else Infinite offers, but such expectations would be folly.
Reminiscent of the first Bioshock, Booker is equipped with vigors – essentially super-powers – and guns. There are many of each, and instead of feeling overwhelmed by options, the player is encouraged and rewarded, especially in the 1999 mode tailored to those with a glutton for punishment, for paring down their specialties and focusing on a style of play. Juxtaposed against the game’s commentary on the medium, we wonder when player choice is really most important?
These are supplemented by the Skyline mechanic, allowing the player to fly across various islands of the city via rail and shooting down enemies from a distance before swooping in at breakneck speeds to twist the neck of their comrades. I found this part to play extremely well in some areas as a way to buy time, but to actually engage in combat from the lines can be difficult. You’ll move quickly, and targeting enemies from these distances can be daunting, especially without explosive weapons forgiving a bit of error.
Pair the offense with a memorable defense. Outside the rabble of police and Vox Populi flying at the character, the game is peppered with enemies that are not simply in Columbia, but are part of it. The Handyman is emblematic of the industrial age Columbia finds itself in and garners sympathy via both voxophones, audio logs scattered about Columbia, and dialog. Motorized Patriots echo the religious worship of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin, expanded by spouting claims of their ability to judge actions as a deity might. The only hiccup may be the Boys of Silence, who lack a backstory. Hopefully we’ll see some expansion in DLC.
Infinite garners every ounce of hype it has received and praise pouring in. We’ve seen many games professed as advancing the medium, but very few of them take advantage of the medium like Infinite does here as opposed to trying to emulate others. Infinite embraces the shortcomings of games, and then turns them into an incredible narrative tool that will be arguably impossible to imitate without being completely derivative. Infinite treads new ground while paying homage to the old. On a personal level, this game exemplifies everything I believe games can and should be to solidify their revolutionary position in story-telling and immersion. If you play one game in your life, let it be this one.
I’m not usually one to replay a game much. Online multiplayer is lost on me, and local multiplayer is only valuable insofar as my girlfriend or roommate is interested in the game (in my girlfriend’s case, rarely). The campaign of a game is often a narrative journey for me, and with the sheer number of adventures out there, it can be hard to replay a story just to read it again. But with Hitman: Absolution, the do-it-yourself campaign keeps drawing me back.
Platform: PS3*/Xbox 360/PC
Genre: Third-Person Shooter, Stealth
ESRB: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs)
The story revolves around Agent 47’s own rogue operations, which make it very compelling. The game opens with 47 betraying the Agency, the covert group that bred him to be the ultimate assassin, by failing to complete a hit on his former handler, Diana Burnwood, and running off with the young girl she had kidnapped from the Agency. After a brief fetch/favor takes the momentum out of the story, the game recovers nicely on 47’s terms and rules. He’ll be pursuing his own targets for his own reasons to keep the young girl Victoria out of both enemy and Agency hands – alluding to the independence the game offers.
Each level usually culminates in one or more assassinations on your part, hence “hitman”. Agent 47 is no stranger to the game, and so a slew of options are available with every level. For your average patrolling enemy, a piano-wire strangulation may suffice, should you choose to kill him or her at all. However, main targets beg for a little more creativity. From gas-stove explosions to poisonous seafood to exploding disco balls, Absolution offers a plethora of options for fulfilling the hit. These various paths to success are supplemented by challenges and score bonuses for completing them. Rarely will an in-game challenge draw me back, but I found myself replaying levels over and over again to earn various styles and even complete them unseen or without disguises. Never have primary weapons felt so useless.
The voice acting and writing are also superb. Backwoods business magnate Blake Dexter is detestable in all the right ways, delivering the highlight of the experience. 47 is cold, sometimes in an almost humorous sort of way – a facet the game capitalizes on with outlandish disguises ranging from a chicken costume to a tin-foil-hatted conspiracy theorist.
The Glacier 2 engine looks beautiful, even running on the PS3’s cell processor, which is at this point not only unwieldy for programmers but also quite outdated by tech standards. The facial capture is acute and particularly eye-catching. I can’t wait to see what this puppy will do with the next generation.
Where does Hitman fall short? The game seems overly-sexualized at times, something the maturing medium is working on. Male antagonists seem to dig near-bare-breasted BDSM to an overzealous extent. However, this certainly lends a hand to creating a level of detest for them and perhaps is trying to lift the veil on an underground skeez culture we aren’t aware of, so I’m not ready to criticize it as an artistic decision in all instances. I recognize its value as a character development device, but it certainly warrants the game’s M rating, one that should be considered heavy-handedly.
Artistry cannot save the entirety of the game, however. The scantily clad Saints sent to eliminate 47 have no explanation for their skin-tight habits. Victoria and even Burnwood, in her small role, are both strong and admirable, but other female characters are largely relegated to secretary-like roles with stereotypical features to match.
These debatable missteps do little to draw from what is otherwise a fantastic game for both the Hitman faithful and newcomers to the franchise.
A note: I’ve decided to forgo the use of scores from this point onward. I, personally, appreciate scores in a review and understand why the scale works the way it does, but in the end, it doesn’t change the content of the review itself and if anything, draws people from actually consuming the text.
As a teen, I watched both American Beauty and Super Troopers in the same night. I loved Super Troopers and I hated American Beauty. Everyone in the room hated it. Years later, several of my friends that were around that night have rewatched it and claim it to be fantastic - a result of matured taste I suppose.
Similarly, my first experience with turn-based strategy games, not including a slew of Pokemon titles, was back on the Gamecube with "Future Tactics: The Uprising". It doesn't help that this was already a pretty subpar game, but it certainly turned me off of the genre. But years later, here comes XCOM and its universal acclaim, begging me to sit down and have a taste.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown casts the player as commander of XCOM, a military project spearheaded by a council of the world's most powerful nations fighting off alien invaders.
The player’s primary job is to direct troops in combat. Each mission begins under a fog of war, and the player must lead their troops across the field, find the enemy and eliminate them.
Troops come in a variety of classes with many weapons in tow. Kills on the field result in promotions in the barracks as troops earn perks depending on their class. Devastating perks at higher ranks are paramount to keeping any individual soldier alive on the field and make it hard to level up young squaddies without late-game armor and weapons at their disposal.
This is countered by varying stages of alien opposition. Early on, rookies stand a chance against mere Sectoids and Thin Men, but later on the game, should the player lose high-ranking officers in a disastrous mission (permadeath, anyone?), the challenge can be insurmountable. Unfair at first glance, punishing a poorly-rounded team is vital to the tooth-and-nail style of the game.
The enemy forces are one of the shining points of this game. Beyond individual enemy abilities, weapons and traits, each enemy species has behaviors not spelled out in a menu somewhere, but available only by observation and vital to success. While the first encounter with some strains of opponents can leave a player decimated, a little retooling to the strategy and some heavier weapons and armor will always solve the problem. Every kill feels like a massive accomplishment.
Between battles, the commander is in charge of resource management – facilities, research, engineering and UFO response. How well this is conducted dictates monthly funding. High panic will cause countries to leave the council, and with it, their funding and full-continent benefits.
This portion of the game is just as large if not larger than the combat aspect, and just as fun. The first playthrough can be brutal, as money is tight and the player has to figure out how to effectively allocate it early on to keep every country around from month to month.
In fact, everything about this game can be punishing in a wonderfully satisfying way, even on normal difficulty. Fortunately, the player can save at essentially any time. The brave will tackle Ironman mode, which forces saves at every turn, leaving the player to deal with losses permanently.
All of this is so engrossing, it's easy to forget the overarching story, dictated only by a few scripted missions. Random encounters fill in the holes as you complete the story at your own pace. That narrative, of course, is trying to overcome the alien invaders and uncover their motives, but the more compelling narrative results from the permadeath and turn-based play allowing you to soak in every move. Memories are made on the battlefield with individual soldiers. "Colonel Zimchenko is a damn hero" might sum up my game, but even other XCOM players may not know what I'm talking about. Stories of that time you were cornered by Ethereals when your veteran assault made a critical shot at 10% odds make XCOM special to each player.
Graphics aren't really a point of contention for this game. Characters are detailed enough, but the player will spend most of the time looking at a larger portion of the map and not focused on individual troops or opponents. There's one battle audio running on loop when enemies are in view, and otherwise simmers down to ambient background noises from the playing field. Rarely will the player notice either, as there's a huge amount of focus being dedicated to the battle itself and the accompanying strategy.
Occasionally, indicators will signal a troop has view of an opponent when none are actually in view. Additionally, shots will sometimes fire through objects in the environment and hit the opponent. The maps that crop up are varied enough in size and environment, but aren't necessarily representative of the locale in which the mission is supposed to take place. English storefronts can be found in Beijing, and forest-surrounded streams aren't uncommon in Egypt.
These, of course, are merely aesthetic gripes. On a more substantial level, troops are subject to panic when mind-controlled enemies are killed, since they are "allies" at the time of death. This seems silly. Panic will also sometimes result in troops literally doing an about face and shooting an ally behind them, which also seems outrageous. There's also tell of a teleport bug spawning enemies behind your line of troops - a bug that will decimate any Ironman run.
It would also be nice to have an idea of what the field of view will look like in a new position before actually moving a troop. Often a position seems to offer a better vantage point, when it actually prevents view of the enemy entirely.
These mild issues aside, XCOM is a beast of a game perfect for anyone who enjoys a challenge. Even for people who object to a slower-paced game, XCOM is high-tension enough to keep you on your toes anyway. This is a must buy for anyone and everyone, and it can't be stressed enough.
Guess I should go back and rewatch American Beauty...
After a couple weeks of buzz, the PS4 surfaced at Sony's February 20 press conference to no one's surprise. What did we learn?
A lot, but at the same time, not much.
The Good A big talking point was the user experience in buying and downloading games. Not only will downloads be playable as they download, but the console will pre-download games it thinks the user may one day purchase.
Of course, the system is going to be chock-full of new tech. Sony confirmed 8GB of RAM and lots of other techie stuff, but despite that, gamers have been concerned that the graphical leap won't be comparable to what we've seen in the past from succeeding generations of consoles. And they're right, so the big focus was on features - social, mobile and the like. The biggest news on this front was the "Share" button on the front of the new Dualshock. This button will allow players to broadcast their play session at any time and even trim up footage constantly being recorded to be posted...somewhere.
The Bad and Concerning We don't know where that somewhere is. Notedly absent from the conversation was the Playstation Network and where its headed. Recent leaks have expressed that we might end up paying for it a la Xbox Live, and for that not to be addressed is a bit concerning. It'll be interesting to see the kind of overhaul the network gets to support user video, a sort of RealID and integration on the mobile front that Sony dug at during the conversation.
Also missing was the hardware itself. We have no idea what this console is going to look like. It doesn't much matter, but we're curious to say the least. Predictably absent were price points and release dates, but we'll probably hear more at E3.
Big surprise - the console won't play PS3 games. The company suggested that they hope to stream PS1, PS2 and PS3 titles to the PS4, but we've gotten empty promises at these events before, so don't get rid of your PS3 quite yet.
Finally, the Dualshock has gotten some kind of overhaul. The 'Share' button is super cool, but tossing in a Move sensor and the touch pad will likely lead to features shoehorned into launch games.
The Games On the note of games - we didn't see a lot of them. In the vein of new titles, we saw footage for a new Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack, a third-person action game. Killzone looked pretty and gets me excited, but Knack was obviously a game designed as a tech demo and I don't expect much from it. "Look at how many polygons we can get on the screen and manipulate!"
A few other new titles from Sony studios were announced as well, including inFamous: Second Son and DriveClub. Capcom dropped a video for something called Deep Down, which served more as a tech demo. We also got some new footage from Watch Dogs, which was confirmed for PS4.
The biggest news on the game front for me, however, were from non-Sony studios. I've always felt that Sony's biggest advantage over Microsoft was their stable of games, and Sony is going full-court press. Blizzard confirmed Diablo 3 coming to both PS3 and PS4, although it's certainly possible we'll see this on Xbox 360/Nextbox, and we also got an announcement for Johnathan Blow's new title, The Witness, which Blow has suggested will appear on multiple platforms as well.
The real nail in the coffin is not only the confirmation of Destiny on PS4, but the announcement of exclusive content for it. This one will surely show up on Nextbox, but Bungie has gone from being Microsoft's flagship Halo studio to a multi-console developer. This could really dent Microsoft.
The Verdict I don't think anyone is disappointed by what we saw tonight. We've got a long way until launch for more games to get announced, and unless the hardware is obscenely obtrusive, it probably won't turn the tides. The big thing to note here is that the pressure is on for Microsoft. We haven't heard a lot from them on the new console, especially concerning the social and mobile front that Sony stressed so much. Their ace in the hole at this point is Kinect, keeping Xbox Live ahead of PSN and Surface.
Kinect, unfortunately, hasn't seen massive adoption from the hardcore crowd. I will say that I'm excited to see what it can do with the full-room projection system we've been seeing patents for, and I can see this being a real focus for Microsoft as the Nextbox gets its own inevitable press conference.
And should that come to fruition, it'll be interesting to see the schism it could potentially cause. A product like that doesn't seem to compete directly with Sony's gamer-focused PS4, but at the same time offers way more than the Wii U, which has, as I predicted, been a pretty hard flop, not only in capturing the 'hardcore' crowd, but in selling at all.
This means keep a close eye on Xbox Live. More than hardware, each companies online and social services are going to be the bigger players.
So more questions than answers, perhaps. I think everyone will be keeping a close eye on all the offerings as we near E3. Drop your thoughts and anything I missed in the comments! I'm sure you have lots...