Three Big Games That Are Missing In ActionBy Dustin Mendel | July 8, 2011 | Editorials | 9 comments | Share
July is finally here, and with warm weather and an increase in lime flavored beer on the horizon, so too is the annual video game drought which always occurs in the summer months. It also means that there will likely be very few, if any, announcements for new games at least until the conferences next month, although many games will likely be saved until next year’s E3 conference. With so many developers and potential new games no-showing this past E3 conference, let’s look at some of the bigger titles we’re still waiting to hear from, and what their status might be. Keep in mind, many of these games have in no way been confirmed, but it seems like a certainty that they will eventually be released.
Grand Theft Auto V
To say that Rockstar Games has had a banner year would be an understatement. Last year, Red Dead Redemption took the sandbox style game made famous by Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto franchise and made massive improvements in every aspect, from mission design and free roam content to nearly every part of the game’s online experience. Looking ahead, Max Payne 3 is the only game scheduled for release under the Rockstar banner any time soon, and while it could be a great game, the series, like Manhunt, is a bit of a niche title for them. Sandbox games have been Rockstar’s bread and butter for years now, and with the success of Red Dead, there’s nothing to suggest that that will change, so where does that leave us?
Bully 2 would be nice and all, and there have been rumors that it’s in the works, but what everyone is waiting for is the next Grand Theft Auto. It’s been over three years since the release of GTA IV, which had some critics hailing it a masterpiece, while others felt it was a step back from the “do anything” feel of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Regardless of how you felt about the game’s serious tone and stripped down customization, it was an impressive piece of software, and with the improvements made in Red Dead Redemption, the game would likely blow any previous game in the series away.
When We Might See It
We are now a month removed from E3 without a peep from Rockstar regarding their next big GTA game, and judging by the overly dramatic reveal Grand Theft Auto IV was given way back in 2006, I think it’s fair to assume we won’t be hearing anything official before the E3 conference in 2012. That said, a casting call put out by Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Rockstar, seems to hint at the next game in the GTA franchise, whatever that may be. The casting call, for a game codenamed Rush, includes characters like Ira Bernstein, a “publicist for an actress known as America’s newest sweetheart who just so happens to love animals, orphans, drugs and sex.” If that doesn’t sound like a character from the GTA universe, I’m a British nanny.
It seems like a safe bet that the game is in the works, and that by this time next year, we’ll at least have some solid details on the game.
In a perfect world, I would like to think we’ll have something to discuss about this game next year as well, but at this point, it seems like a miracle if Agent ever evolves from the original flashy logo that was shown back in 2009. This is Rockstar’s second game on the list, and while we technically know more about this game than we do the next GTA, we basically have no idea what this game will be, what platforms it will appear on, or even what genre it will be.
The history of Agent is filled with rumor and speculation. The story goes like this: back during the Playstation 2 era, Rockstar and Sony were thick as thieves, and many of the developer’s biggest games, like Manhunt and the three Grand Theft Auto games of that generation were all PS2 exclusives, at least temporarily. When the next generation of consoles was released, Sony likely assumed that their exclusivity deal with Rockstar would continue, but Microsoft had other ideas. Dropping a huge chunk of coin to ensure not only that Grand Theft Auto IV would arrive on the Xbox 360, but that they would have first dibs at any downloadable content.
In an effort to appease Sony, Rockstar apparently offered them an exclusive new IP, which is where we now are today, years later, waiting for said new game to be released. This was the story as told by Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. A variation of the story suggests that it was when L.A. Noire became multiplatform that Agent was offered up as an exclusive.
When We Might See It
Agent is in a unique situation, because unlike the other games on this list, it has been officially announced, but it has been so long since anyone heard anything about the game, Rockstar has had to reassure people that the game hasn’t been cancelled. If the game is in fact a PS3 exclusive, new IP, Rockstar likely won’t wait until E3 to make an announcement, meaning the door is open for them to provide information on the 1970s espionage thriller whenever they want, perhaps at this year’s PAX or Gamescom in Europe next month.
If, on the other hand, Agent follows in the footsteps of L.A. Noire and suddenly becomes a multiplatform game, it may get a bigger announcement at next year’s E3, which is becoming increasingly likely. Shortly before last year’s E3, during Take-Two’s quarterly earnings call, company president Strauss Zelnick reaffirmed that the game would be a PS3 exclusive, but since then nothing has been said about the game.
Flash forward to this year’s E3, when G4TV’s Geoff Keighley grilled SCEA President and CEO Jack Tretton about the status of Agent. When asked about the game’s status as a PS3 exclusive, he replied, “”I’m not sure where we are going to end up on that (exclusivity), again, that probably is a better question for Rockstar.” Whether Mr. Tretton is just shrugging his shoulders about the game because of how long it’s been M.I.A. or Microsoft has managed to get their paws on yet another PS3 exclusive, the platforms the game will appear on will likely determine when the game is officially unveiled.
Chances are that if you’re a Half-Life or Valve fan, this entry has you rolling your eyes. Half-Life 2 was released way back in 2004, making it nearly seven years since Valve’s flagship franchise was in the new release section of retailers. Since then, Valve has released two “episodes,” continuing the HL2 story, but they’ve remained tight-lipped about the future of the series. Now that Portal 2 has been released, Valve’s slate seems to be clean, giving them the opportunity to begin work on the next chapter in Gordon Freeman’s saga.
If you read between the lines, there’s a real possibility that Valve has already begun preparing for Half-Life 3. This past May, Valve president Gabe Newell officially announced that the company was done with making episodic games, which didn’t exactly come as a surprise, considering how long it took to release the first two episodes, but it also showed that Valve was ready to put Half-Life 2 behind them, perhaps paving the way for an entirely new game. It’s also worth mentioning that hidden within Portal 2, a game set within the Half-Life universe, there’s a reference to a certain ship you might remember from Half-Life 2: Episode 2, and with the remaining episodes cancelled, it seems fair to assume that Valve plans on continuing the story in a new game altogether.
When We Might See It
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to even guess when Valve plans on finally unveiling the next Half-Life game, for a couple reasons. Looking at another game on this list, the
Grand Theft Auto series has worked similarly to the Madden series of games; each game is an improvement over the last, but the changes and improvements are often cosmetic, keeping the same core game. It’s fair to expect a significant amount of time between GTA IV and the next game in the series, but it’s also fair to expect that the next game won’t reinvent the wheel. Valve, on the other hand, will have the burden of creating the follow up to what many call the greatest game of all time, from a visual, gameplay and storytelling perspective.
Recently, IGN theorized why it may be a long time before we see Half-Life 3, suggesting that without a new gameplay innovation like the Gravity Gun and the ability to produce graphics that will raise the bar like Half-Life 2 did, the game will remain in limbo. This may very likely be the case as to why there has been such a long delay, but I would argue that Valve possesses all the necessary tools to create Half-Life 3 now. Judging by Portal 2, Valve is more than capable of tasking their Source engine with creating a breathtaking, expansive environment, but that’s beside the point. If graphics are the reason why Valve has held off on Half-Life 3, they’re treading dangerous waters.
For starters, with a few exceptions, this generation of consoles have somewhat peaked in terms of what they can do graphically. Games like L.A. Noire and the upcoming Bioshock: Infinite have certainly raised the bar, but unless Valve plans on abandoning the Source engine, which we know they won’t, they’ll have to work around certain limitations, and really, that should be fine. The only real way of providing jaw-dropping visuals at this point would be to wait for the next generation of consoles, and the longer Valve waits, if only so that the graphics are at a certain level, the higher the expectations get.
“The graphics in Half-Life 3 only need to be good enough to where they aren't a distraction.”
Instead, I would argue that the graphics in Half-Life 3 only need to be good enough to where they aren’t a distraction, allowing the gameplay to shine. In terms of gameplay and this concern that Valve needs to top the innovations found in Half-Life 2 like the Gravity Gun and destructible environments, there is one option that may not seem immediately obvious, but it would set Half-Life 3 apart from every other shooter out there: the Portal Gun.
Valve has already made a point of including the Portal games within the Half-Life universe, and without spoiling either game, they have provided a plausible way of introducing Aperture Science’s technology to Gordon Freeman and his friends. Obviously the Portal Gun couldn’t be a regular part of the game like the Gravity Gun was in HL2, but bringing Chell and her gun into the story would be huge, not only from a story perspective, but as a way of differentiating the game from other shooters.
Ultimately, I guess I’m saying that Valve doesn’t need to worry about making the perfect game or a competitor to other action or shooter games. Half-Life 2 remains one of the greatest games of all time, and people will line up around the block to buy it sight unseen just like they do for the next Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto game. Ultimately it’s just up to Valve to put together a game that won’t live up to the expectations after such a long wait (see: Duke Nukem Forever). Whether that will happen next year or next generation remains to be seen.
What do you think the chances are of seeing these games any time soon? Did we miss any major titles that are currently missing? Sound off in the comments below.