The hits just keep coming from the Xbox camp, don’t they? The Xbox One reveal, the internet firestorm that followed, the lack of clarity at E3, the firestorm that followed, the reversal of policies, the firest… You get the point. This week, the man that oversaw all of those events and more left Microsoft to go and work for Zynga. Yep, the head of the Xbox is now the CEO of the company that brought you Farmville.
My biggest problem with this news isn’t the discussion about whether Mattrick jumped or was pushed, or even that Steve Ballmer is reportedly lining up a replacement with absolutely no experience in the gaming sector to replace him. Oh no, the biggest problem that I have with this news is where Don’s off to. Let’s not forget that Zynga laid off 18% of its workforce less than a month before they agreed to hire Mattrick and reportedly line him up for a $50million windfall over the next couple of years.
I know the gaming industry is tough, and I know that people get laid off all the time without us hearing a peep about them. Projects at smaller studios don’t do too well, they cut the teams down to recoup costs. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of the industry. However, slashing almost a fifth of your workforce to then pay a single individual the vast majority of the money they were quoted as saving?! Get out of here. It’s a slimy, horrible practice and I hope Zynga crash and burn, with Mattrick flashing his trademark smug grin at the helm. Still, I guess it won’t matter to him. He’s reportedly earned a $5m signing on fee. It’ll be onto the next job, I guess. Zynga seem like the excitable child of the videogame industry, who get the slightest amount of cash and blow it on the new shiny toy, only to discover that it wasn’t really worth it and then throw it away. Yes, I’m talking about what they did with OMGPOP, which is unforgivable. Maybe good ol’ Don will turn it around, and Zynga will rise to become the monolith it seeks to be. Or, y’know, he could sign off on yet more ridiculous anti-consumer crap that will no doubt kill them for good.
Anyway, with that out of my system, let’s get to what I actually wanted to write about. It’s now July (how the hell did THAT happen?), and I think it’s probably a good time to write up the best 5 games of the year so far.
This one split opinion right down the middle before anyone had even played it, but I’m going to come out and say it. The new Dante is cool. The lack of 60fps is a frustration, but the game plays superbly well at a rock solid 30fps. Some ludicrous boss fights and some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments made DMC a real joy to play through.
Now the hype’s died down a little bit over Bioshock Infinite, it’s failure to deliver everything that was put out at E3 and other places before release has started to show a little. However, it is a stunning game, and a strong candidate in yes column for the “are games art?” debate. Some slightly clunky shooting mechanics might let it down, but honestly, who didn’t spend all their time in Colombia just wandering around and looking at the stuff in the environment?
3. Tomb Raider
I bloody loved this reboot. There were times I felt that the gory deaths were a little out of place, but at its core, this is what action games should be all about. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and given that it can be picked up fairly cheaply now, I’d recommend that people go and pick it up. All of the controversy before launch surrounding the “You’ll want to protect her” comments proved to be a bunch of nonsense, and the game spoke for itself in a compelling and exciting way.
Thank whatever deity you believe in for PlatinumGames. They took whatever thread of a game Kojima Productions had been struggling with, and crafted it into a blistering example of short, sharp action-orientated gameplay. The story is absolutely bonkers, but then what would you expect when Kojima and the Metal Gear universe is involved? Something about cyborgs, something about organ harvesting, a robot dog? Who cares. Just master the combos and slice your way through hundreds of enemies. An absolute riot of a game, and one that fans of the Metal Gear universe should definitely give a try.
Really, who didn’t see this one coming? Asim’s fantastic review sums up a lot of my feelings for the game, and I’ve waxed lyrical enough on the podcast as well, but this truly is a masterpiece. It elicited emotions from me that I didn’t think possible from a videogame, and there were times that I had to step away from the controller and take a breather because things were getting too intense. Whilst Revengeance was a lesson in over the top violence leading to a fun scenario, The Last Of Us paints a horrific and bleak picture of a world that’s gone to hell quickly thanks to a fungal outbreak. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t yet played it, but there are sections in the game that are absolutely heartbreaking, and they can be completely missed. Like Bioshock Infinite, it rewards you if you take the time to wander from the beaten track and simply explore the world that’s been left for Joel and Ellie to survive in. With one of the most intense opening scenes I’ve ever played, and one of the most jaw dropping final sequences, as well as a surprisingly good multiplayer portion, The Last Of Us is going to take some beating, not just in terms of game of the year, but game of the generation.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what the second half of 2013 brings. The dawn of a (true) new console cycle is upon us, and I can’t wait to see what we’ve got in store at Gamescom, TGS and Eurogamer Expo.