Call of Duty: Black Ops selling a bazillion copies, yearly sports updates, bad Nintendo Wii adverts at Christmas – the game industry is often a pretty predictable place. Of course, the internet doesn’t help; the clamour for up to date, accurate information has led to an industry that is often all but devoid of surprises. Still, regardless of the efforts of sites such as ourselves, there are always a few titbits that fall through the cracks, a few games that seemingly come out of nowhere and a handful of titles that, despite the blanket coverage, manage to exceed expectations or fall desperately short of their potential.
Be it a pleasant surprise, a bitter disappointment or a major announcement from out of the blue, this year has delivered its fair share of shocks – here are Brash Games’ Top 5 Biggest Surprises of 2010.
5) Steel Battalion announced for Kinect
For those who don’t know, Steel Battalion was a mech shooter developed by Capcom back in 2002. Beyond being an exclusive for the original Xbox, the game was famed for its colossal cockpit controller – with 40 buttons and 2 control sticks, it was an absolute behemoth of a peripheral.
Sadly, despite decent sales, the series went into hibernation after the release of Steel Battalion: Line of Contact back in 2004…..that was until this year when Capcom announced that Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour was in the works for Kinect…….Wait? What? Kinect? Yep, Capcom, in one of the this years most surprising moves, decided to move the series away from the use of the extremely complex but still very awesome cockpit controller and towards, well, nothing. Quite how the simulation infused Steel Battalion will work using Kinect’s peripheral free control method is anyone’s guess but for the core gamers still not 100% convinced by the Kinect technology, expect Heavy Armour to be one of the core games with the potential to convert the doubters.
4) Sonic Colours being better than Sonic 4: Episode 1
After 15 years of disappointment and a raft of average at best, terrible at worst 3D instalments, it looked as though the prayers of Sonic fans the world over had finally been answered with the announcement of Sonic 4 for XBLA and PSN. Gone were the unnecessary secondary characters and unwanted gimmicks; this was going to be a true sequel to Sonic & Knuckles – a fast paced 2D Sonic title built upon the template of the classic 16 bit releases of yesteryear.
While it didn’t quite live up to expectations thanks to a bizarre change in Sonic’s momentum and the games somewhat uninspired, dare I say, workmanlike quality, as a whole, it still rather unsurprisingly delivered an enjoyable, nostalgia-fuelled experience for fans of the Blue Blur. What was surprising however was that Sonic Colours, developed for the supposedly inferior Wii, and in full 3D no less, proved to be the far superior product.
With its faultless physics, memorable locations, unbelievable graphics and inspired level design, Sonic Colours turned out to be one of 2010’s most pleasant surprises. As great as the 2D Sonic adventures are, it’s great to know that Sonic Team has the potential to move the series forward onto bigger and better things. It may not make up for Sonic Team’s cack handed previous efforts but my God is it a positive step in the right direction.
3) Gran Turismo 5 not being the best racer ever
The world waited patiently for 5 years. After a myriad of photo real screen shots, unbelievable videos and extremely exciting promises from Sony and developer, Polyphony Digital, the world was ready to embrace what was widely expected to be the finest racing simulator of all time. What the world got was an enjoyable, featured filled, but nonetheless disappointingly flawed final product.
Don’t get me wrong, Gran Turismo 5 is a great game…..it’s just not quite as great as the most of us were expecting. The cars look fantastic (well, some of them anyway), the tracks have been meticulously created and the amount of content and attention to detail is, at times, simply staggering. The thing is, as fantastic as many aspects of Gran Turismo 5 are, it’s also home to a surprisingly high level of technical issues, a horrendously ponderous front end and an online setup stolen from 2001. Needless to say, after 5 years in the garage, the majority of folk expected perfection and despite its many positives, Gran Turismo 5 fell painfully short.
2) The epic decline of peripheral based gaming
Ok, so Tony Hawk’s: RIDE may have sold poorly simply on the basis of it being, well, a bit pants, but what about Guitar Hero and Rock Band? Just a few years ago, Guitar Hero III managed to do over $115 million dollars worth of business in its first week on sale in North America alone, shifting well in advance of 500,000 copies in the process. That’s in stark contrast to the latest figures for Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock which managed to sell a measly 86,000 copies over the same period. Many attributed these poor sales to gamers waiting on the better reviewed Rock Band 3 being released soon after and while it did fare slightly better, it still sold very poorly in comparison to its predecessors.
Maybe it’s the economy (Rock Band 3’s professional set-up was especially expensive), maybe gamers got bored, perhaps the market has been oversaturated in recent years. Whatever the case may be, it looks like gamers tastes have changed. Dancing seems to be all the rage nowadays and with the heavy emphasis on motion controlled gaming this Christmas, it looks like the peripheral based music genre might well be on the wane. It’s not quite dead in the water yet but its decline in 2010 has been nonetheless astonishing.
1) The Nintendo 3DS
The announcement of a new handheld from Nintendo wasn’t a surprise. The fact that it was 3D and didn’t even require the lame specs associated with the technology – now that was a surprise. Using a process called autostereoscopy, the 3DS will be the first mainstream technology to use glasses-less 3D and in doing so will most likely make Nintendo the company with the keys to widespread adoption of 3D technology. On top of that, the fact that it is to be released as early as February 26th 2011 in Japan with a European and US release date not too far behind will have also proved something of a pleasant surprise for fans of Nintendo
Despite the medias best efforts, early rumours regarding the DS’ successor were all built around some kind of advanced motion tracking technology – goes to show that Nintendo are still king when it comes to keeping secrets.
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