E3 is days away!  The buzz, and hope, is that E3 will feature the games of the next generation and a better understanding of how all the new consoles' hyped features will impact the games.  We are all excited and counting down but we all also know that the hype machine is capable of misinformation and misleading marketing. 

With the new generation dawning, we have little reference for the announced games because we have not yet experienced the systems.  Considering the extravagant hype that envelopes anticipated games much less new consoles much less if a game such as The Last Guardian or Half Life 3 is announced as a exclusive for a new console and releases on launch day, I wondered about how the buzz has shaped the current generation's games. 

Part of the hype is the video game preview but previews are tricky to use as a source of information for a gamer.  Arguably part marketing and part journalism the written preview gives gamers a glimpse into their awaited but unreleased games.  A preview is a contained moment of a game that remains in the design process.  A full length game trimmed into a bite size piece exclusively given to video game journalists for reporting to the general public.   

Typically, a preview is exclusive game footage, a live demo, or a playable demo that a journalist converts into a written article.  In these instances, the developer tightly controls how the game is disseminated.  Most previews are at worst neutral and rarely outright poor because, as with all design fields, any complaints are potentially fixable since the game is unfinished.  In design, hope springs eternal and until the final game is dropped the possibility that any and all flaws will be addressed remains.  Granted, many games wildly viewed as terrible after release did not provide a preview opportunity to the gaming media.  Arguably, without the worst games available for a preview, most games previewed have the potential of a good game alongside any problems that could still be hypothetically addressed. 

We all know the horror stories.  Gearbox brought us the famed Borderlands franchise along with "we all thought that these franchises could not get any worse but we were wrong" Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens: Colonial Marines. 

A road sign giving us all an important life lesson.  Ignore at your own risk. 

But how can we measure a preview's accuracy?  In November 2012 Game Informer's cover was "Five Under The Radar Games Worth Watching."  The games shared the magazine's cover with each game bestowed unique cover art.  These games were handpicked by GI, whose staff live and breathe gaming, as games worthy of our attention.  Even for the experts, predicting next mega-franchise or even highlighting an overlooked game as a game worth playing is more intuition than science because the preview can be a lie (and so can cake).  8 months later, were any of these forecasts based on what were ultimately fake cake previews?       

As of today, 4 of those games are released and the fifth game, Beyond: Two Souls is not released until October 8, 2013.  I cannot wait until October 2013 to post this blog because that amount of patience is beyond (pun!) me.  So let us look at the 4 that are available in chronological order of their release.    

Even the cover evokes games that were more common years ago. 

Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch, release date: January 22, 2013

GI Score, 7 by Kimberly Wallace / Metacritic average score, 85

Side by side releases: DmC: Devil May Cry (January 15, GI Score 9), The Cave (January 22, GI Score 7.75)

Ni Nu Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch is a polarizing game. I do not have much firsthand experience of this console generation.  JRPGs are largely absence nowadays in 2013 with games such as Infinite Undiscovery, Tales Of Vesperia, and Star Ocean: The Last Hope released in 2008 and 2009.  This past week I began the Xbox exclusive, Lost Odyssey, a game sitting patiently in my backlog until GI's Kimberly Wallace noted the game for its RPG writing in her recent article.  With checkpoints that are only usable while playing, aka turning off the game because I need to go to work throws me back to my last save point if I do not beat the boss (I did not) while I can see a save point behind the boss I remembered the traditional JRPG frustrations.     

All of us gain video game-esque powers when we wear a cape.  

Impressions: The return of the JRPG genre with Ni Nu Kuni, exclusive to the Playstation 3, with the esteemed pedigree of Studio Ghibli and Level-5 behind the title did not reinvent the genre for the consoles.  Rather the most acclaimed JRPGs remain as portable games for this generation.  Ni Nu Kuni provided enjoyment to many who enjoy JRPGs, with all of their strengths and weaknesses from a magical imaginary world rich with lore to infuriating save systems, with a current generation rendition.  But those preferring "save anywhere" mechanics and a game that does not feature an overly precocious pre-teen did not jump aboard a revitalization of the JRPG. 

Can zombies swim?  Do zombies drown?  Does the game answer these questions?

Dead Island: Riptide, release date: April 23, 2013

GI Score, 8 by Tim Turi / Metacritic average score, 61

Side by side releases: Injustice: Gods Among Us (April 16, GI Score 9), Star Trek (April 23, GI Score 5.75)

A while ago I rented the original Dead Island and played the game for a few days.  Yes, the game has visceral melee combat and protagonists who are all proficient jump kickers.  If the zombie apocalypse really requires the jump kick for survival, I am dead.  Do you know the level of cardio required to continuously jump kick?  Amidst a buggy release of the original the game quickly developed a reputation as "the" game for in-depth zombie melee combat with upgradable weapons the degrade and clear weapon impact such as a blade actually slicing off a bloody zombie arm.    

New to the party but sporting Wolverine-esque claws.  Maybe he will share. 

Impressions: Riptide is more Dead Island without the game breaking release day bugs.  Riptide is Dead Island's second chance for the franchise to make a first impression on gamers.  The game is not a stunning breakthrough sequel that launches the game into a generational milestone but a solid representation of co-op zombie killing.  GI's preview is fanbase building for a franchise with potential.  If Techland, Dead Island's developer, used Dead Island as a creative playground for zombie survival game mechanics as inspiration for their newly announced next generation zombie survival game, Dying Light, as a new generation "must play" experience then the effort is well worth it.  However, Dying Light will be Techland's third zombie survival game.  The game will either show Techland as an eminent developer of zombie combat and survival or a developer constantly releasing middling fun for those who can tolerate certain bugs.   

This game is brought to you by the letter M.  

Metro: Last Light, release date: May 14, 2013

GI Score: 8.5 by Jeff Marchiafava / Metacritic average score, 81

Side by side releases: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (May 21, GI Score 8), Resident Evil Revelations (May 21, GI Score 8.75)

Metro: Last Light has a particular buzz as the maybe last game (if South Park: The Stick Of Truth is never released) of its original publisher, THQ, who publicly went out of business due to bankruptcy.  GI featured the game in November 2012 and THQ no longer existed in January 2013, within three months of the preview.  As a direct sequel, I am interested in playing the first game in the series, Metro 2033, first but no new physical copies are available and the used price has skyrocketed to an average of $30 for a 3 year old game if a used copy can be found.  Meanwhile, the game is downloadable on PC for $15.  Before THQ disappeared, Metro 2033 was for sale at bargain bin prices.   

The un-fun post apocalypse, living in the metro stations.  All those germs are the least of our worries but still.   

Impressions: Metro: LL is a direct sequel to its predecessor Metro: 2033.   The sequel refines irritating gameplay design such as combat and inventory management but does not make the jump into a must play franchise such as Mass Effect 2 and Assassin's Creed 2.  Metro: LL focuses on an environmental mood of the below and upper ground in the wake of devastating radiation, even to the detriment of a story with a slow pacing that highlights the environment more so than the characters.  A slow pace, especially for a shooter as a genre that typically espouses holding down the spring button and gameplay that requires minutiae survival such as cleaning a gas mask and checking oxygen levels focus on an post apocalypse environmental feel above all else.

This cover teaches me that the game is bathed in an orange light and that no characters have heads.  

Fuse, release date: May 28, 2013 

GI Score: 7.75 by Dan Ryckert / Metacritic average score, 64

Side by side releases: Grid 2 (May 28, GI Score 8.25), Remember Me (June 4, GI Score 7.75)

The Fuse buzz intrigued me.  The game was marketed as more than a co-op shooter experience, at a time when the co-op shooter experience is gameplay that is well represented on the market today.  Rather the abrupt art style change and the insistence of unique weapon types led to the hint that maybe Fuse is the next Borderlands.  A sudden change in development is usually a metaphoric SOS flare for help but instead the shift is a regrouping and the developer manages the release of a critically and commercially acclaimed franchise.  So far that did not happen. 

Fuse weapons!  A crossbow!  Wait, I have played games with a crossbow before.  

Impressions:  Fuse is the only game on this list with a demo available to me as an Xbox 360 owner.  I played the demo and the game is no more or less than what it proclaims itself as, a 4 player co-op third person shooter.  The game strongly reminded me of Mass Effect 3's multiplayer.  A map must be cleared while accomplishing objectives.  Players assist each other, each has a "Fuse" weapon from shields to exploding arrows, and in the games I played "game over" occurred when one member of the team died.  Even the in game cut scenes for laying explosives or cutting grates features the team working together.  If you have 3 friends to play with, I am sure the game is fun but if nothing else this generation there is a wide variety of shooter games ready and waiting to test your twitch reflexes. 

The video game industry is young and growing just a little older next week.  The game previews will make us squeal with glee and turn us all into an amateur Nostradamus casting our predictions for the next big thing and the next major flop (anyone playing Sony's Wonderbook nowadays?).  Ultimately some games will amaze and others will disappoint.  For now the glitz will shine but remember that the day of reckoning for each title will come.  Just see the above.

As always, thank you for reading during your scarce free time on the internet.  May you have the ability to watch E3 as it unfolds this week and here is hoping for as much good news as possible.

What game for you changed the most from preview to release?

Do you use previews when determining to purchase games?

What game do you want to see most shown at E3?

Are you playing any of the 4 above mentioned games?