Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The announcement of a new Deus Ex game provoked mixed feelings. On the one hand, Deus Ex is one of the most influential works in the videogame canon; on the other, Deus Ex: Invisible War is regarded as one of the most disappointing sequels of all time. It certainly wasn’t a bad game – far from it – but it had the unenviable task of following something that inspires such rabid devotion that seemingly nothing could ever satisfy its legacy.
Fortunately, Deus Ex: Human Revolution seems to be doing everything right. The cinematic trailer released at E3 2010 is one of the very best I’ve ever seen - a bracing vision that fuses the past and the future in a manner reminiscent of Blade Runner. Granted, it didn’t show much in the way of actual gameplay, but I can confirm that Eidos Montreal understands that choice, consequence and player agency are at the very core of what makes Deus Ex so special. If this is anything less than brilliant I’ll be very, very surprised.
No videogame has ever skirted so bracingly close to perfection as Portal. Built around an ingenious central mechanic and shot through with surreal, pitch-black humour, it was the sort of game you could proudly show even to those who see the medium as a colossal waste of time. Design of this quality transcends bias, but a significant part of what made Portal so special can’t be easily replicated in a sequel: first, at little more than three hours long it had just enough time to explore its ideas without running them into the ground; second, it felt utterly and disarmingly new.
Portal 2 will certainly be longer, and it can’t help but feel familiar, but if Valve can balance the difficulty of its new gameplay elements – special gels that let you navigate the level in new ways – and deliver on the promise of its standalone co-op mode, we’ll bet on this being the best game of 2011.
Child Of Eden
Microsoft’s Kinect sensor has been more warmly received than anyone had a right to expect, despite a noticeable lack of compelling software. For the core gamer, the prospect of controller-free mini-game collections simply isn’t enough to justify the cost, and while the Kinect’s astounding sales should spark a rush of third-party development, it will be at least a year before we start to see the results.
No matter, because in the meantime we can seek consolation in the existence of Child Of Eden, the latest project from Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Q Entertainment, the studio behind the seminal Rez. Indeed, it could be argued that Child Of Eden is a kind of spiritual sequel to Rez, blending movement, music and gameplay in an orgy of Synaesthesia – but with Kinect removing the necessity of a controller, Child Of Eden has the potential to be an even more overwhelming and intense experience.
The Last Guardian
In the long-running and increasingly tiresome ‘games as art’ debate, Shadow Of The Colossus is arguably the most frequently cited example. And with good reason: no game before, and very few games since, have explored the emotional territory Fumito Ueda and his team charted with so little compromise. Isolation, guilt, grief, loss; these aren’t feelings normally associated with videogames, but they are Ueda’s stock in trade.
The announcement of The Last Guardian was greeted with predictable excitement, but even two years later we still know very little about what Ueda is planning. On a purely personal level, I find the dog-bird-creature-thing a good deal less intriguing that the silent, stoic colossi, but it’s clear that The Last Guardian will be another exploration of trust, co-operation, and building emotion through gameplay, with a gratifying absence of space marines, zombies and dusty war-zones. For that, we can only be grateful.