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2009 PlayStation preview – part two

2009 PlayStation preview – part two

Yesterday we had a look at the biggest games of the coming year, the games that you probably already know about. Today, we profile those games that you might not know so much about but are probably going to be awesome, what we could term as ‘dark horses’.


Alpha Protocol Sega/Obsidian


The mix of RPG and espionage action doesn’t seem a natural one, but that’s probably because we’re so dreadfully jaded, our imagination having been gradually leeched from our marrow by MTV, successive years of reality shows and beauty-is-on-the-inside fashion programming. Either way, Alpha Protocol may not be the most attractive title, and, judging by what we’ve seen, developer Obsidian is concentrating far more on making it a unique prospect. Inspired by the likes of Bourne, and… well, Bourne, you play Mike Thornton, a blob of ass-kicking Play-Doh for you to fashion your very own spy from. The level-up system is totally classless, so you’ll have freedom to progress down any route you like at any time. Let’s just hope the level grinding doesn’t involve masses of filing and typing up notes.


Bayonetta Sega/Platinum Games


Bayonetta will almost certainly attract the attention of a large chunk of the pubescent gamer demographic. Even in the first real trailer of the game (which we’re guessing will appear as a cut-scene in the final version) we’re treated to a gratuitous gusset shot of the titular witch. Hideki Kamiya has clearly drawn on experience with creating male characters such as Dante and Viewtiful Joe, and included skill sets you’ll have seen before from those Capcom greats. In addition to the bullet time and outrageous combat manoeuvres, Bayonetta has her hair to use in combat. Some of these moves are rather odd, and have a distinct feel of God Hand about them, such as a giant stiletto heel, guillotine, or dragon. The rub here is that using her more ostentatious moves will render the poor thing completely naked, as her magical barnet also seconds as her clothing. Surely some kind of thermal would have been a worthwhile purchase.
Similarly worthy of note is the weapon system, which will enable you to place weapons in various slots on the witch. This means you can blow apart your enemies with guns placed on your feet and hands. Again, there are shades of the customisation offered by that unsung hero, God Hand, which is something we heartily welcome.


Massive Action Game Sony/Zipper Interactive

After an absolutely insane concept trailer at E3, which depicted a full-on war taking place between an unruly amount of players, the tentatively titled Massive Action Game thrust itself to the forefront of the PS3 line-up. Sony has commissioned a new server system that enables 256 players to wage war in the same battlefield at any one time. As a central idea alone, it’s pretty exciting. The SOCOM franchise has dried up in recent times (especially with the deplorably broken Confrontation on the PS3), so Sony’s online presence needs a flagship title, just like the first SOCOM was on the PS2. We acknowledge that this type of tactical shooter is niche in the UK, but in America it has a good chance of becoming a runaway hit. The game breaks up the 256 players into squads of eight, as to ensure that there’s structure to the unprecedented size of these battles. The most experienced player in each is automatically selected as party leader. Expect many different types of vehicles too, including tanks, armoured jeeps and all manner of military aircraft. The maps designed to fit this many players must be unbelievable – will this be the closest gaming gets to recreating war? Sure, why not?


Heavy Rain Sony/Quantic Dream


David Cage is one of the most notable personalities in gaming. We love him for his single-minded pursuit of something unique. You always get the feeling with the French-born videogame maestro that he very much means what he says. If we believe what he says then, we’re definitely looking at something unique. We’re looking well past the release here, but in much the same way as Fahrenheit is one of the most individual console titles we’ve ever played, Heavy Rain will almost certainly be fondly remembered as something that moves the medium of videogames on in some sense. We always found it a little strange that Fahrenheit never saw any kind of copy-cat rip-offs, and with the expense and effort that’s gone into Heavy Rain, it’s unlikely that we’ll see much of a similar ilk on the PS3.
Heavy Rain is an exercise in the art of storytelling. If anything’s likely to advance narrative in videogames, it’s this. With 2,000 pages of script, over 50 actors, and easily the most impressive motion capture ever put into a game, there are plenty of reasons to see Heavy Rain as one of 2009’s most important titles. One to get very, very excited about for sure.


White Knight Chronicles Sony/Level-5


Assuming we actually manage to finish Disgaea 3 some time this year, we’re going to want another massively time-consuming Japanese RPG to pour our lives into, and White Knight Chronicles looks like it’s going to be just the ticket. It’s going to have everything you could possibly want from a JRPG. For starters there’s an incredibly long, convoluted story that doesn’t make much sense and, at its bare bones, is identical to every other JRPG story anyway, but you stick with it because it’s just got so much goddamn charm. However, an epic narrative means nothing if it doesn’t have a set of bottomlessly deep character and equipment development systems backing it up. Fortunately, White Knight Chronicles has that too.
One character in your party is 100 per cent customisable, and can even be taken online to play four-player co-op quests and earn rewards that can be transferred back to the single-player campaign. Rewards come in the form of items, equipment and currency, as you’d expect, but there will also be an abundance of raw materials that can be used to create all kinds of other things. But the customisation doesn’t end there…
You can even customise the combat commands available to each member of your party, tailoring them to your preferred playing style and/or top the strengths and weaknesses of specific enemies. Battles then play out in real-time, requiring careful timing of your actions in order to take advantage of your enemies’ vulnerabilities and combine your character’s skills effectively.
All this customisation might seem like it could get a bit much, but we’re not intimidated. We’ll have been playing Disgaea 3 for several months by the time White Knight Chronicles arrives, so it should be a piece of piss by comparison.


L.A. Noir Rockstar Games/Team Bondi


Feel like playing a Rockstar game with crime in it? You do? Even if it’s not a Grand Theft Auto title? You do? Really? Okay, then L.A. Noire should be right up your street, assuming your street is dark and smoky and has trams on it and there’s jazz music coming from somewhere but you can’t figure out where. All these things will be familiar motifs if you’ve ever seen a film noir, but if you never did any kind of film studies course at college then you almost certainly won’t have seen one because basically they’re mostly really old and normal people don’t take much of an interest these days.
However, game noire is a completely new genre, and that’s what makes L.A. Noire so intriguing. Next time you’re in a game shop you can impress staff and other customers by casually mentioning that you, “Mostly play game noire these days.” They’ll be terribly impressed with how intellectual you are.


I Am Alive Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal


When Destiny’s Child sang, “I’m a survivor, I’m gonna make it, I will survive, keep on survivin,’” they weren’t talking about the struggle to stay alive after a cataclysmic natural disaster laid waste to the city of Chicago. No, they were singing about not needin’ no man and sistas doin’ it fo’ theyselves, or something. However, in the aftermath of such a catastrophe, the sentiment would still very much apply.
In I Am Alive you play as Adam, a Chicago office worker and, subsequently, earthquake survivor. Your main objectives during the game will be to “keep on survivin’” and, if you will, to “make it”. As far as we can tell, none of the lyrics to Bootylicious will apply to I Am Alive, although earthquakes are renowned for making stuff, booty included, shake about, so you never know.
Anyway, with or without booty, I Am Alive is an intriguing prospect. With many survival horror franchises taking their focus away from problem solving and a feeling of vulnerability, and shifting it towards relentless, bloody combat, there’s something of a gap in the market developing. I Am Alive isn’t a survival horror game, but it does share the same underlying mentality as all the best early survival horror titles. Your resources are extremely limited and you need to figure out ways to avoid confrontation and conflict if you are to stay alive for more than a few hours. That’s what we loved about the first two Resi games, and that’s what Ubisoft is hoping we’ll love about I Am Alive. We’re already loving its refreshingly different setting. Now all Ubisoft has to do is make it work.

Check back tomorrow for a look at rumoured games of 2009, PlayStation Network and what the future holds for PS3…

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