Sequels haven’t been too bad in recent years, but even with that fact it is hard not to be skeptical every time one is announced from a series we care about. This week the Cursed take a look at the sequel(s) coming out this year that concern them the most.
I can’t shake it, I’m nervous about both Mass Effect 3 and Gears of War 3. I couldn’t be more excited for either one, and I had a lot of doubts heading into Mass Effect 2. But both 2’s made me love the series to the point that they rank up there with my favorites of all time. So I feel I have a lot invested in both of these games.
For Gears, I wonder, is more of the same enough? There have been a lot of 3rd person shooters that have tried to build off the Gears formula and maybe the traditional is a bit boring the third go ’round. I’ve never been drawn into the story too much, all I ask is that Coletrain and Baird have plenty of one-liners. Then, again, the Bulletstorm writers may be able to help with that one. My Mass Effect fears seem unfounded, but we are talking a sequel to potentially one of my favorite games ever (still waiting for the dust to settle on that one). 2 managed to walk the line perfectly between action game and RPG, and that’s a delicate line. 3 could skew either way and be weaker because of it.
The reason I want both of these games to kick ass is because both are supposed to be the end to the trilogy, they need to wrap up strong and that’s something just about every trilogy ever has had trouble doing. Someone has to get it right, and I’m sure one of these well, but I can’t bet on both.
I don’t think there are any sequels coming out that really scare me, but the continued DLC support of a sequel from 2010 in Fallout: New Vegas does have me a bit nervous. Dead Money didn’t exactly get critical acclaim and with Skyrim coming out I’m nervous that the goal will be to pop out a bunch of medicocre content quickly as not to compete with their newest title.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim looks awesome and I hope that it totally crushes everyone’s expectations, which I think it will. That being said, the idea of that game scares me not because it may not live up to expectations but that it will suck my free time away.
The main thing that scares me about sequels in general this year is how behind I am, and how I probably won’t be able to enjoy them without putting hours into a ton of other games.
The one thing sequels have going for them is that most of the time I feel like we don’t have as high of expectations for them because they are sequels. This actually helps them out because if you expect it to be mediocre then it doesn’t take much for them to change your mind and say “Hey, that wasn’t bad.” I wasn’t disappointed at all in Gears 2, and I don’t really expect to be let down again 3. Sure, it’s going to be more of the same, but that game was a formula that didn’t need much change as long as it keeps the story entertaining. Gears 2 had enough tricks up its sleeve to switch it up enough from the first. If Gears 3 can pull off the same then I think it’ll be a success. If I was to be worried about a game at all it would be Portal 2. I feel like sequel 2 is judged harder than any one after that. Also, after being pushed out about 4 months past its original due date, people are going to expect it to be good.
I’m kind of in the same boat with Justin when it comes to Mass Effect 3. I’m sure that our fears will be unfounded, but we’ve been burned so much in the past that it’s ingrained into our souls. Luckily, that trend has kind of waned in the past few years and the sequels have actually been better than their predecessors. Like Uncharted and Mass Effect. Even though I’m hearing really good things about Batman: Arkham City, I am more nervous about that game than any other, especially since it was announced so soon after the first game. I’m glad that they didn’t rush it out and took a two year development cycle on it. Batman: AC is the game I’m most afraid of because of the love I have for Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Oh god, if they hurt Batman, I’m not sure I’ll recover. The reason that one makes me nervous is because Rocksteady is such a new developer; granted they came out of nowhere to make one of my favorite games, but sequels are rough. I’m also with Ethan that the 2nd game is probably the toughest to make in a series because you really nail down what your franchise is at that point. In some cases, that means redefining it and alienating some of your fans, and other cases it’s about polishing up something from good to great. I just don’t know what you should do when your game is already great. Just don’t break it.
I can’t say that I’m actually worried about the sequels that are coming out that I’m a shoo-in for buying. I’ve already heard JDevL talk about Dead Space 2 like it’s his first born child, so considering how much I like the shooter/horror genre (and the first one), any concerns I had are mollified. Gears 2 was a big improvement over Gears 1, I think Epic’s a good developer and as long as it has chainsaws attached to assault rifles and a lot of junior-high one-liners, I’m going to be pretty happy. I suppose I do have a little apprehension about Mass Effect 3, but before Mass Effect 2 came out, I was skeptical about the normal shooter/changing clips approach, but considering how badass Mass Effect 2 was (and how much post-release support BioWare offered) I can’t say I have any justification for thinking it’s going to be less than spectacular. If I think about it, I suppose some of my optimistic attitude is coming directly from how great Gears 2, Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption and Halo: Reach all were in the last 18-24 months or so. If you’d asked me this right after playing Halo 3 (or Bioshock 2…shudder) I’d probably be much more cynical.
It’s just so weird to be spoiled by so many good sequels. My brain is trained to think sequels are weak. This is a great problem to have.
My guess is that the cause for the strong sequels lately (and I’m going to go ahead and pre-emptively include Batman: Arkham City, Mass Effect 3 and Gears of War 3) is three-fold:
- Development of (these) games from strong source material/the first entry and/or someone plotted out the story arc before they started the first game. We slag Activision pretty hard on The Horrible Show for driving their developers/IP too hard, too fast. I don’t know what planetary alignment gave Rocksteady, Epic and BioWare the foresight to make sure they had a strong backbone for the series (to be fair, Rocksteady had Bob Kane and Frank Miller to fall back on), but the story lines are coherent, the tone is consistent and I never got the feeling that there was any identity searching between Gears 1 & 2 or Mass Effect 1 & 2 (contrast w/ Bioshock 1 & 2). Along those same lines, Rocksteady’s reply to the multiplayer pressure is probably more evidence of the “we know what this game is and what it’s not and if we shoe horn something or radically change it, it’s going to spoil it.”
- Neither Epic nor BioWare (again, assuming the same from Rocksteady) rested on their laurels in between games. There was good post-release support with DLC, tweaks/patches to improve the gameplay and, to the best extent possible for Epic, in finding and eliminating DB multiplayer exploiters. The sequels followed in those footsteps: gripes from the first game were addressed, new game modes (Horde) were added and the studios decided to try some new things to find out if they’d work (e.g., swapping the cool-down for clips in ME2, adding the “duel” to chainsaws).
- These developers have got to all be aware of the crappy-sequel syndrome as well as the potential for interest to fall off during a longer development cycle if the previous game isn’t supported. In addition to keeping gamers’ interest with new DLC, whether weapons, map packs or expansions, I’d hazard a guess that it also gives them an opportunity to surreptitiously try out some of their new ideas for the next game with a BIG group of testers. For example, the Hammerhead DLC for ME2 was about as well-designed as a 1972 AMC Gremlin. Just a guess, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing in ME3 without some significant tweaks.
Justin has said this in the past and I totally agree with it. Sequels are better now because the development teams build the universe and the system in the first game and then improve on it by leaps and bounds in the second. They have more time to concentrate on the actual game development for the sequels rather than building the whole world behind the game. Plus, they might have a ton of ideas they couldn’t implement into the first game due to time, money constraints, etc.
We’ve mentioned Uncharted 2 and Mass Effect 2. Both of these games benefited from making a first game and improving on it by ten fold for the sequel. Will Batman: Arkham City do the same to Batman: Arkham Asylum? My biggest fear is that they aren’t able to, but it’s looking good that they will continue the model that Naughty Dog and Bioware have built.
Another game that needs mentioning this year because it doesn’t seem like anyone is talking about it is inFamous 2. I didn’t personally play inFamous because I was burnt out on open world games at the time it was released but I have heard great things. The sequel is coming out in June and the hype isn’t on the same level with Mass Effect, Batman and Uncharted. Does it deserve the hype and those of us who actually played that game, is it a sequel worth being afraid for?
Being someone who loved the first inFamous, I can’t say I was exactly thirsty for more. The first game was able to carve a bit of a niche in the open-world genre by letting you play as a superhero. InFamous was one of those games that was just long enough and fun while it lasted, but without significant changes I can’t see myself too interested in where it’s heading. Especially because the 2nd game appears to playing up the good and evil choices angle without any room for subtlety, but it isn’t carrying over your choices from the original. So it looks like my evil abomination version of Cole will have to start his evil practices all over again. However, this is all from fear. Sucker Punch is an outstanding developer has excelled at creating original titles to this point, so inFamous 2 has the most room to prove me wrong out of any of these titles.
Didn’t play the first game, but considering the fact that you have to actually turn on your PS3 to play inFamous 2, I’m going to say “no.”
I really wanted to play inFamous, but on my Xbox. So I got Prototype instead which is pretty much the same thing with achievements and mutations instead of electricity. One factor I’m not sure we really pointed out is the publishers who bounce between different developers for sequels. I actually really enjoyed BioShock 2, but I went into it knowing that this was just a pet project of a new development team and didn’t really expect it to top how amazing the first was. However, with the original team working on BioShock Infinite I expect it to blow my mind like the original did whenever it decides to come out sometime in the next 20 years. They also probably have an advantage with that one since BioShock 2 wasn’t quite as strong. Same thing goes with the Call Of Duty series. Every Other COD game sucked because Infinity Ward wasn’t involved. We don’t even need to get into how Activision is going to destroy that series. Maybe I’ll play COD World Tour 8: Warriors of Zombie Nazis on Skateboards when that comes out next year. I think we’ll be up to that by then. Anyway, back to my point, Gears continues to stay strong because the same team is constantly improving the experience they created. I think this is going to be the case with any franchise. Switching developers or even teams within the same developer is going to dramatically affect the experience of the sequel.
God, I hope that Modern Warfare 3 fails and dies a horrible death. Long live Respawn Entertainment and hopefully their game can dethrone the monster that they helped create. Infinity Ward is a shell of their former selves and I hate to hate on any development company because they mostly get screwed by their publisher overlord, but I hope this game is crap. I loved Modern Warfare and like MW2, but that series is STALE. Give me something new and I might take a second look. Or I’ll just rail on it like I railed on Black Ops and Black Ops guy.
Long live Infinity Ward! It’s tough to top the experience they pulled off in Modern Warfare 1 & 2.
So maybe things are as bad as we initially feared. 2011 is shaping up to be a year of stellar sequels by proven developers who have been down this road before and blown our minds. Still maybe that’s just what they want us to believe…
Giant Bomb (images)