Aug 2011 18

by Bob Suicide

Being the old man that I am, I remember gaming back when we used simple controllers with a limited amount of buttons, sat on our butts for days on end –– without a single save point in sight –– and I liked it. When DDR came out, I was suspicious of this “new” interactive format, and wholeheartedly believed it was part of some giant government conspiracy to get me off my couch. Not being particularly “rhythmically coordinated,” the government’s devious plot failed.

However, little did I know that this set a dangerous precedent, and that something far greater was looming on the horizon of interactive gaming: the Wii. I was actually working at GameStop when the Wii came out. Those were dangerous times on the front lines of the war of retailers vs. consumers. Many a man was lost, either trampled by the hordes of moms trying to bag “the ultimate Christmas gift” or nagged to death with the sonic onslaught of “is it in yet?”

But, after the dust settled and we finished mourning the loss of our beloved brethren, the Wii didn’t really live up to the hype. Ok, I know that’s not an entirely accurate statement to make considering the sales of the Wii and the ground it has made in expanding the casual gaming market. But, as a hardcore gamer, has the Wii ever really provided a satisfying gaming experience? Not really. Sure, Zelda was fun and the console lends itself well to rails shooters like Resident Evil. However, I have two Wiis and I can say with certainty that mine have been used as doorstops more than they have served as relevant gaming consoles.

Needless to say, when the PS3 Move was released it seemed like Sony had missed the marketing mark yet again, since their sad “EyeToy with a wand” failed to capture the hearts and minds of the consumer the way the Wii did. And I joyously snarked –– as any fanboy does –– at their lame attempts to regain relevancy.

So when the Kinect made its debut I sneered at the projections people were making. And I wasn’t alone. Even Penny Arcade gods Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins scoffed at the idea of a motion-sensitive gaming experience that could galvanize the hardcore market.

Even upon playing with Kinect at E3 I was not converted. There was no amount of cute animals that I could pet that would keep me from insulting what I saw as a “glorified peripheral” that was sure to fade from gaming relevance as soon as it was released.

Surprisingly robust sales proved us curmudgeons wrong, but it still didn’t make us like the motion-sensitive gaming genre. However the potential for the Kinect outside the gaming world was interesting. Wii and Kinect were fun at parties, and great for making fools of casual gamers, but the ability to pet ponies all day long never circumvented the desire to capture the flag or fragg 12-year olds online. It would take a powerful, adult title to replace those joys.

House of the Dead: Overkill almost did it for me. The Grindhouse-esque addition to the franchise that I knew and loved was a welcomed adult addition to the over-abundance of candy-coated titles available for the Wii. But at its core, the rails shooter wasn’t enough of a “heavy hitter” to win me over. And, after I beat it, I quickly lost interest in my Wii once again…never to return.

However, Sega and the pre-Overkill team behind House of the Dead seems to be hitting the nail on the head with the upcoming survival horror game, Rise of Nightmares. I was able to preview the game myself at a recent screening event and I was surprised that I went home excited by my gaming experience. The gameplay is contextual and immersive. Taken off the rails, the player is able to freely navigate and interact with the environment, and the environment is filled with a host of horrific denizens. Rise of Nightmares is the first “adult” game for the Kinect, and while people often scoff at the over-abundance of blood, undead, and implements of destruction, I for one love the clear tongue-in-cheek homage to the slasher/torture horror genre.

So how does all of this come together? Well, upon playing the Rise of Nightmares demo, my heart grew an unprecedented three sizes that day.

In the middle of my Kinect-piphany, I was reminded of the joy I had playing Heavy Rain. It’s titles like these that I hope and pray will revolutionize the gaming experience. Titles that find the perfect blend of engrossment and interaction (placing the gamer both in and amid the game and reality) to create a new and exciting gaming experience. However there’s all too few of these. After experiencing titles like Rise of Nightmares and Heavy Rain, I can see where other developers can take the hardcore gaming experience –– and the true immersion that could be had –– and I get excited.

Three months post-Heavy Rain, playing through my next interactive fiction purchase, Alan Wake, I was disappointed that my contextual interaction with the environment did not have the same resonance that Heavy Rain did. I was ruined for life. When I pressed “x” to grind some coffee for example, I was disappointed, since I felt that winding my analog joystick in a “grinding” motion would have immensely added to my gaming experience. But, sadly, Heavy Rain failed to influence the gaming market the way I expected/wanted it to.

I therefore hope Rise of Nightmares gets the recognition it deserves, that my excitement for this title is shared by others, and as a result my predictions regarding the game’s rightful place and subsequent effect on the gaming world come true. But given my track record, I may be grudgingly petting more Kinect puppies in my future than zombies. And that’s a damn shame.


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Bob Suicide
Bob Suicide

Check out my Confessions of a Hardcore Gamer: The Rise of my Nightmares...more Kinect Puppies.