It's November. The next-gen countdown is on!
Please don't do sci-fi, Naughty Dog
I say Naughty Dog is the premiere developer of the past six or seven years. I'd put Uncharted 2: Among Thieves , Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception and The Last Of Us in the top ten games of the generation (and I'd put Uncharted 2 at #1). They alone continued to push the PlayStation 3 in a variety of ways, technologically and artistically. I don't think any other developer continued to excel with each and every installment. That's not one, but two stellar new IPs in one generation. Era-defining IPs, really. And that's not easy. Therefore, I have faith in whatever that development team decides to do, and I'm always behind them 100%.
That being said, if they go the sci-fi route, I will not be happy. Naughty Dog toured SpaceX , which could hint at a sci-fi-based title. Now, I have no doubt that it'd be great. I have no doubt that I'd at least attempt to play it. But although there's no bigger proponent of new IPs than I, I'd much rather get Uncharted 4 first, and they better not take Drake into space. I'm sorry, but that just doesn't fit. As for why I don't like sci-fi, I could write a dissertation on that; let's just say I dislike it and leave it right there.
Levine has his work cut out for him
Ken Levine is one of my favorite people in the industry. He's one of the few designers I'd label as a true visionary. So, when he says he wants to find a way to add replayability to narrative-driven games , I believe he can do it. The Bioshock games have fantastic storylines and characters, and proves that a first-person shooter format can indeed be home to an engaging, well-written plot. But we are entering an age where stories in games appear to becoming less important, not more. Open-ended games are, by default, less about story – because stories are linear and can't be otherwise – and more about gameplay, and the ongoing trend of blending multiplayer and single-player further impacts any concept of a cohesive story. Unfortunately, gaming wants to go faster and dumber.
So, while I'm sure Levine will continue to produce games with great narratives and memorable characters, adding "replayability" will be a big challenge. The problem is that even if the story is fantastic, the game itself probably won't be anything different. I think we'd need an innovative form of gameplay to go along with a top-notch story; only then will more people be inclined to replay the adventure. I replay old-school RPGs for two reasons: Great stories (despite the amateurish presentation) and turn-based combat, which I can't get anymore.
Personal gaming update
I'm all about Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag right now; expect to see a review later Monday night or Tuesday. It's a huge game, after all, and I had to do two other high-profile reviews last week; Battlefield 4 was great fun but I don't really do online multiplayer, so I'm done with that (unless I opt to play through it again on the PS4), and Batman: Arkham Origins didn't really do it for me. It was a bit of a letdown because even though I'm not a superhero buff, the previous Batman games were absolutely amazing. As for Blackgate for the Vita , it's not that it's a bad game. It's definitely entertaining to some extent; it just isn't good enough, IMO.
I have Killzone: Shadow Fall sitting there, waiting to be played in a few weeks time. And I'm looking forward to trying games like Knack and Contrast . Oh, and Vita owners, if you need an addictive game to play, don't forget that Rainbow Moon is coming . It's catnip for strategy/RPG fanatics!