It's E3 time once again. You've got questions, and the video game industry has a convention center filled with answers to those questions.
Before you get too caught up in the pre-outrage portion of the game release cycle, why not take a look at some of the stellar titles said to be making an appearance at this year's show? It couldn't hurt, and it'll be a nice break from trying to perfect your fake media credentials so you can get into the event.
Not that I'm saying that review you posted on Amazon doesn't make you an honest-to-god journalist...
Assassin's Creed Victory
In what is to be the 15th installment of a series that has only been around for 8 years, Ubisoft hopes to further grind their fanbase into a state of unprecedented supplication. For years, they had been steadily wearing down the resistances of people like me, who were dumb enough to buy game after game where you did little more than wait for some guy to swing at you before stabbing him in the throat with the world's sharpest cufflinks.
Past titles have included such infamous assassin activities as renovating neighborhoods, crafting and selling furniture, and collecting feathers. Oh, where is there left to go? Can our delicate constitutions possibly handle anything more exciting than that naval combat minigame that made Flappy Bird seem esoteric and involved? Better still, can we count on this installment to introduce more of the non-assassin stuff that takes place in the future because they thought it was a cool twist on the first one but no one really liked it and now they're kinda stuck with it even though everyone and their mother would just love for it to dry up and blow away in time for the next game to come out five or six months later?
But you know, as long as there are iconic cities around the world, you can count on Assassin's Creed to take you there and clumsily tie you into every important event and person that has ever been in that place. This one's in Victorian England. I hope we get a wisecracking cockney sidekick! Ooh, and a bulldog (spoiler alert: the bulldog is preorder DLC).
Boy, I love collecting orbs. That was what got me into playing Crackdown in the first place: jumping around a city collecting orbs that in turn made me jump higher so I could collect more orbs. They even got me to buy into the second Crackdown, which was pretty much just a shortened version of the original with very nearly the same damn map. And it never occurs to me that when you get into the full game, you find out that it takes way, WAY longer to get enough orbs to start clearing entire buildings in a single leap. And so yeah, that's what I'm expecting here.
Crackdown, not to be confused with Crackdown, is the third game in the Crackdown series. As you can imagine, the cracking has never been more down than it is now: as you'll recall the second game ended with... something. I think there were mutants involved and a bunch of bombs that shot UV light, or some other silly thing like that. Well now we get to find out what happened to all your favorite characters like the silent, nondescript agent you control, along with that narrator guy who is constantly talking trash about your sucking, and don't forget about... Actually, that's really it. Not exactly a deep bench in the Crackdown series.
Man, I can't wait to collect those orbs.
Doom. Not Doom, or Doom 3, which was a remake of Doom. Just Doom. Why bother messing with something that works? The answer, of course, is that you tweak it just a bit so that you can continue to wring the dollar bills right out of it while reminding everyone that once, long ago, you made a game that changed everything, but is now not really changing anything.
We first heard about this one 8 years ago, but that is no reason to be worried about how this one will turn out. We've been reassured that this one will feature a return to the run-and-gun gameplay of the original (i.e., no more struggling to see bad guys because you can't figure how to hold a flashlight and a gun simultaneously) and you can carry as many guns as you want. But just in case you long for the trappings of modern AAA gaming crap, the game will also feature brutal executions and death animations, because nothing says "nonstop action" like stopping to watch a scripted kill sequence for the 20th time in ten minutes.
Fun fact: the phone in my pocket is 1000 times more powerful than the PC I used to play the original Doom more than 20 years ago.
Gears of War 4
Are you getting the itch? You are, aren't you? How long has it been? How long since you last sidled up to a chest-high wall and clung to it like a nursing infant? Don't you want to just hunker down and engage in some good ol' pop-n-shot? Don't you miss the days of you and your best pals playing refrigerator-sized men taking pot shots at each other from across an arena of oddly-convenient wreckage either 3 or 6 feet in height?
Well let me tell you something: if you thought things couldn't get any better, you were wrong. If you thought space marines couldn't get any bigger, wait until you see the sides of beef we're calling character models. If you thought the same plot about these brave bricks of meat fighting off mutants or whatever couldn't be recycled yet again, you were wrong. If you thought a modern shooter couldn't support the idea of shooting from behind chest-high walls without having some other interesting hook, well... we'll have to wait and see about that.
Titanfall blew the living piss out of all gaming when it was released. Don't believe me? Just ask the marketing team. And then ask them what "oversaturation" means. When it came out, people couldn't believe they were playing a game where you could be doing sci fi parkour one minute, and piloting slightly larger, slower versions of themselves the next. They loved it. They couldn't get enough.
Sadly, like the Mountain Dew and Doritos that helped push the game into the spotlight, people eventually got sick of Titanfall. Now, EA does everything short of giving the game away. I mean, technically, they HAVE given it away on Origin, but only for a weekend. It was just bad luck that two days is exactly how long it takes to get bored of it.
But now the sequel is on the horizon, and the devs have promised an expansion of the Titanfall lore. I hope they expand on what they've already told us about General Braxos and the skirmishes he fought during the Resource Wars of the last century. In particular, I hope they include a map that simulates the infamous Battle of Northface Crater, the largest battle ever to take place on the surface of Mars.
Now I ask you: is any of what I just wrote true? You don't know, do you? I could be making this shit up and nobody would have the slightest idea because the only reason you play a game like Titanfall is to shoot your friends and teabag them with that one Titan that looks like it has a giant titanium scrotum.
Just Cause 3
This might very well be the only game in which I have even the slightest interest. The second installment still holds the title of Biggest Goddamn Free-Roaming Shit Everywhere Dicking Around Jet Flying Under a Bridge Fuck You Grappling Hook Everything Game Ever, so I'm kind of hoping they can top themselves. Maybe they'll let you airdrop a fucking space shuttle so you can go into outer space and lasso an asteroid into the fucking moon! You hear that, Little Prince? Je viens por vous! Por vous!!!
Okay, truth time: Just Cause 2 was super huge, but there were tons of spots where you can tell they just cloned an enemy installation, or mountain town, or whatever to fill in the empty spots. If the game map gets much bigger, they would probably just clone that entire map and stamp it all over the even larger new map. But you know what? That still might be good enough. The amount of pure destruction you could unleash on a totally undeserving third-world country is something I wouldn't mind seeing more of. I don't even care that no part of this game makes any sense, from surfing on top of a jet to firing your grappling hook into the ground to save yourself from falling to your death. If they can figure out a way to crank the mayhem up from 11 to 12, that's Game of the Year as far as I'm concerned.
Mass Effect 4
Ah, Mass Effect. I'm old enough to remember when you were a respected space shooter-RPG hybrid, and not just a punchline about how big publishers will invariably fail to deliver on their big promises.
Regardless, now that we're done with Commander Shepard's disappointing arc across the cosmos, it's time for someone new to take the reins. Regardless of what gender this person is, or what choice of backgrounds they come from, or whether they choose to be a giant hero/dick to everyone until they gain bonus powers, one thing is for certain: some part of their experience will be chopped up and shipped out as DLC over the course of a year, possibly longer.
But how will the DLC present itself? Will a krogan at a bar tempt Nu-Shep with some tantalizing tales of adventure in the far-flung corners of the universe, only to have a popup appear telling you you'll need to pay for this quest a la Dragon Age? Will content from the previous titles be stripped out and added in later via DLC a la The Sims? Will the new game turn out to be a mobile title that takes monetization to such a perverse extreme that you'll swear that CEO Andrew Wilson is in fact the human incarnation of Mammon, a la Dungeon Keeper Mobile?
It's too early to tell. We'll just have to wait until we see the first images of the main character as he/she will appear on cups at 7/11.
I know it seems like this list is for the most part a tale of mediocrity and woe. A forecast for a year that promises to be nothing less than the largest producers of video games doing their best to remind you of their best days by repackaging their early successes infinitely until each title is so thoroughly sapped of life and creativity that even seeing the letters that form the name of your once favorite game will make your furrow your brow in disgust.
That's because it is. I am here to tell you: don't believe the hype. Everything is terrible, and the minute we are born, we begin to die. Our lives, our ambitions, the things we've built, the people we love, all of it will one day be no more than dust.
And a year after that, there will be three more installments of Assassin's Creed.