If there's a theme of the video game releases of 2008, it is that they are all just delayed big budget blockbuster titles that were supposed to come out in 2007. I can't really blame the companies for delaying the titles, Super Mario Galaxy, The Orange Box, Call of Duty 4, Bioshock, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Halo 3 were all released within four months of each other. Had it been any other year, any of those titles could have easily taken Game of the Year from just about any game publication. The slew of delayed AAA titles released this year included Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. These delayed titles, thanks to some added development time are some of the strongest games of this generation with Grand Theft Auto IV getting reviews as strong as Super Mario Galaxy (though I'd take Super Mario Galaxy or Legend of Zelda over GTA any day) and Super Smash Bros. Brawl is second to only Nintendo's top tier Mario and Zelda franchises when it comes for the best rated Wii release ever.
The rest of 2008 is really hard to judge for especially before most of the big holiday guns are revealed at this year's souped down E3. Prince of Persia and Soulcalibur IV highlight the multi-platform releases and I'm sure Guitar Hero: World Tour will sell a lot for imitating Rock Band but I doubt it will really be anything spectacular. The PC is getting Spore which is Will Wright's much delayed follow up to Sim City and The Sims franchises. While the Xbox 360 is getting Gears of War 2, Too Human (a title that went in and out of development hell for the past 10 years) and the third entry of the Nintendo 64's popular Banjo-Kazooie franchise. The PS3 has the way cool looking LittleBigPlanet and a sequel to Insomniac's Resistance franchise. Not much has been announced for the Wii yet apart from Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (which I'm hoping is as good as its Gamecube counterpart) and De Blob shows promise, I'm sure Nintendo has an ace up its sleeve for Christmas at this coming E3 convention.
With Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots released only a few days ago, I'm feeling a stronger and stronger temptation to get a PS3. The fact that Wal-mart is also offering a $100 gift card with all PS3s including the MGS4 Bundle and the ability to play Blu-Ray discs helps a lot too. While I know that there is a chance that MGS4 could very well be ported to the Xbox 360 by the end of the year much like how Resident Evil 4, Killer7 and Viewtiful Joe were ported to the PS2 despite being touted as Gamecube exclusives for most of their development. If anything, the PS3 version will still be better than anything they could release on the Xbox 360 because the game was designed around the 60 GBs available on a dual-layer Blu-Ray disc and I really can't see them cramming that onto a few DVDs without a ridiculous amount of compression. On top of that, millions of dollars were spent from both Sony and Konami for them to make the game's engine optimized for the PS3 and I doubt Sony will ever let Konami let go of it. Besides, I really REALLY want LittleBigPlanet and you can't really discount the multi-platform games like Oblivion, The Orange Box (which is fine with the new patch), Assassin's Creed, the sequel to Beyond Good and Evil and that way cool looking Prince of Persia game coming out. I'm not really all that interested in the frat boy mentality of most of the Xbox 360 exclusives anyway and most of the Japanese titles I want are out on either the Wii (which I have and love) or the PS3.
So far, I watched the first three hours of Metal Gear Solid 4 played on a live-stream off of Giant Bomb. As someone who's only really played Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes on Gamecube and just watched his brother play through MGS2 and 3, I'm actually pretty excited for this one. They seemed to lighten up the intensity of the stealth mechanic with new ways to hide, new melee attacks and a slightly more liberal cone of vision. On top of that, the game adopted a lot of the gameplay elements from Gears of War making it a fairly competent action game if you want to totally ditch the stealth element altogether. I heard they have better unlockables and hidden weapons if you play it killing as few people as possible though which is great reward for the purists of the series.
If your reading this in my blog, here are a couple of clips from the game so you can see what I'm talking about...
The cutscenes did drag on a bit much though. It would be generous if I said half the footage I saw was gameplay and the other half was either a cut scene or a codec conversation. Fortunately, what I saw of the cutscenes looked REALLY good. The direction of the tension and action looked every bit as awesome as the trailers shown at the past few Tokyo Game Show and E3 conventions and the themes of the war economy in a not too distant future hit a little closer to home than any other entry in the series. Did I mention that aging Solid Snake was one of the smartest moves made in this one, while each Metal Gear Solid game is famous for having an "edge of your seat torture" scene of sorts putting a 70 year old version of Snake through the bowels of war makes the entire game feel almost like a torture scene for him...and yes, that is a good thing.
Will I buy a PS3 within the next two months solely for this game? probably not, but its really hard to resist...