est year ever? That's definitely what we were thinking back in January 2007, as the year's release calendar featured an unprecedented amount of big-name titles (Halo 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, just to name a few). But then month after month, it was almost like Ebenezer Scrooge and his bah-humbug ways took over the videogame biz, pushing several major releases out of the holiday season and into 2008. So as much as we'd hoped to play the likes of Metal Gear Solid 4 and Too Human last year, it just wasn't going to happen. So, we decided to examine a bunch of the games that got delayed, and if they'll help make 2008 the year we thought 2007 would be.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Wii | Nintendo | March 2008
Why was it delayed? In a sense, you can blame Shigeru Miyamoto. The Mario creator and Nintendo's head creative force once uttered these words of wisdom: "A delayed game is eventually good; a bad game is bad forever." It's basically become Nintendo's mantra, which is notorious for continually adjusting release dates for its homegrown software. So while the move of Super Smash Bros. Brawl's launch from December to February is surely a disappointment for Wii owners, it's hardly a surprise.
What exactly led to the delay? Nintendo isn't talking, but we bet it has to do with the online mode. Game Director Mashiro Sakurai recently confirmed through the Brawl website that it would indeed feature Internet-based fights against three other friends or strangers. And since Nintendo doesn't exactly have much online experience, we wouldn't be shocked if that particular mode required a bit more testing.
Worth the wait? After getting in a few rounds with Brawl, we can say that the series has definitely made a successful transition to the Wii. Just don't expect any revolutionary changes to the skirmishes; the improvements are much more subtle. The first notable addition is the Smash Ball, a glowing power-up that players will feverishly battle to break open because it grants their character the ability to execute what is essentially a finishing move, such as Samus' screen-wide laser shot or the blue blur's transformation into Super Sonic (yes, the hedgehog is finally part of the Smash roster). Assist Trophies are also new here. These items not only provide wonderful aid during fights, but from Punch Out's Little Mac to the sprite-looking militia from Advance Wars, are also a very blatant form of Nintendo fan service. And classic bouts are just a fraction of what Brawl has to offer. You've got online play, the new story-based adventure mode (it's basically a side-scroller that can be played cooperatively), and a yet-to-be-revealed "creating and sharing" function. Yep, this game will pack quite a punch.
PS3/360 | EA Games | January 2008
Why was it delayed? Criterion's plans for Burnout: Paradise are ambitious. The developer is hoping to deliver a truly open racing world -- one filled with traffic where you can do whatever you want whenever you want, that has absolutely no loading screens, and includes the ability to seamlessly join online. Executive Producer Matt Webster tells us that with all of those goals in reach, delaying the release is a matter of seeing things through to the end.
Worth the wait? From what we've played, Paradise looks capable of achieving Criterion's goal. Completely eliminating lobbies changes the entire complexion of the online racing experience. And forget about wasting time wishing the host would get things going -- you'll hit the street the moment you join a game, and from there it's totally up to you.
Paradise presents your options so well that it's all about deciding what to do next, not figuring out how to access this mode or that. The "Today's Best" leaderboards give you the latest stats to challenges such as biggest air, longest oncoming, and such. Also, every one of the game's 64 roads has its own events. Of these, fans of the old crash mode will surely become addicted to the "showtime" tasks -- here you try to cause the highest dollar value in damage from a crash starting on a particular street.
For a more organized event, you can create challenges on the fly by gathering the group of players anywhere on the map and picking one of 50 objectives. It becomes a natural thing to say, for instance, "Hey, let's meet at the lighthouse and see who can get the best stunt score from there." It all works: You become comfortable with Paradise -- like you do the real world -- because everything is based on landmarks and points of reference. And when you remember that nothing ever interrupts the flow of the game (no lobbies or no loading screens), you surely won't mind waiting a li'l longer to race through this Paradise.
360 | Microsoft Game Studios | July 2008
Why was it delayed? The word "delayed" doesn't even begin to explain the status of Too Human, the first installment in an epic sci-fi action-RPG trilogy from developer Silicon Knights (Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Eternal Darkness). We guarantee that no other game in this feature has had a stranger gestation period. The project first began well over a decade ago, with scrapped iterations for both PS1 and GameCube lingering in the minds of both gamers and the company's outspoken head honcho, maverick game designer Denis Dyack. And the game's modern Xbox 360 incarnation hasn't had an easy going, either -- a disastrous demo at 2006's E3 gaming summit and a high-profile lawsuit against developer Epic Games (creator of the Unreal Engine 3 middleware tools that Silicon Knights initially used in developing Too Human for the 360) stirred up plenty of bad buzz and set the project back a few months. "Clearly, our development difficulties are out in the public," Dyack says. "We didn't go into this intending to write our own technology; we were more or less forced to."
Worth the wait? Now that we've played over an hour of the seemingly near-finished game, we feel that, yes, Too Human successfully bridges the gap between addictive online dungeon hacks such as Diablo and Phantasy Star Online and character-action offerings like Devil May Cry and God of War. But trying to distance the title from all its poison press won't be easy. "A lot of people have talked about Too Human in a very wrong way for a very long time," says Dyack. "And I hope that we can recover from that. But even if we can't, at least I know that I've created a good game." Dyack believes that the backlash his opus has received isn't unlike the doom-and-gloom reports surrounding another wildly ambitious creation -- James Cameron's Titanic. "While they were still filming, the actors noticed that all the advance press was saying that the movie was s***," Dyack says. "And anytime when people say that long enough, it doesn't matter who you are and how tough you are. It will get to you...and that's why [people] want to get me Net Nanny -- so that I can't post on gaming forums anymore." Luckily, Dyack won't need to wade into message-board flame wars to defend his baby for long -- he hopes to get a playable demo into gamers' hands early this year.
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
PS3/360/PC | EA Games | April 2008
Why was it delayed? "We're kind of perfectionists," says Scott Warner, lead designer of Mercenaries 2: World in Flames for developer Pandemic. After several months of Internet speculation, Warner recently confirmed the game's delay from its original holiday '07 date to an early '08 release. "We want to have everything be as well executed as possible," he says.
The first Mercenaries was technologically impressive, pushing the last-generation consoles to present an open world in which a lot could be demolished. With the sequel's even more ambitious plan -- promising, among many other things, the ability to use lifelike fire as a weapon -- we weren't terribly surprised to learn of World in Flame's delay.
The game didn't exactly blow us away the last time we saw it, either. In addition to some gameplay slowdown, we witnessed too much scenery pop-in throughout its Venezuela backdrop.
Worth the wait? "One of the biggest things we're always looking at is performance of the engine," says Warner, "making sure we're maintaining a constant 30 frames per second. There are also some design challenges: We're adding a cooperative element, and that's something very few people have experience with in open-world settings."
So will all this late tweaking and polishing make much of a difference? Perhaps. But then again, open-world experiences are notorious for being nearly impossible to bug-test exhaustively, so we're not sure another few months can have that big of an impact.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
PS3 | Konami | June 2008
Why was it delayed? Even the big dogs can fear the crowded shopping season, as MGS3's poor sales in '04 helped convince Konami to push back Solid Snake's sneaky final tale.
Worth the wait? It's sure nice to know that the extra time is being used wisely. "It's affording me the opportunity to do playtesting in the U.S. and Europe," says Assistant Producer Ryan Payton. "This has never been done for an MGS title."
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Wii/PS3/360 | LucasArts | April 2008
Why was it delayed? Since LucasArts keeps the real reason close to its chestplate, we imagine the recent announcement of a Wii version contributed to The Force Unleashed being pushed back.
Worth the wait? Playing as Darth Vader's Sith subordinate does seem cool, but the unpredictable nature of Star Wars games (for every Battlefront, we get garbage like Revenge of the Sith) keeps our hopes in check.
Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway
PS3/360 | Ubisoft | April 2008
Why was it delayed? "We could've cut corners and rushed it out," says President Randy Pitchford of developer Gearbox Software, "but [we] want the game to be really good."
Worth the wait? A few extra months for this WWII first-person shooter will equate into grander destructible environments and the addition of realistic- looking injuries (the total opposite of Soldier of Fortune: Payback).
PS3/360 | D3Publisher | March 2008
Why was it delayed? "It really boils down to the holiday rush," says Producer Sheldon Carter of developer Digital Extremes. "You get protective of it and really want people to be able to see it stand alone outside of the huge mix of holiday titles."
Worth the wait? A li'l more prep time is not only helping make the game and its blade-tossing newcomer prettier but also give the pacing a muchneeded adrenaline shot.
PS3/360 | Touchstone | March 2008
Why was it delayed? "It's allowed us to put a lot of extra polish on the game," explains General Manager Josh Holmes of developer Propaganda.
Worth the wait? It looks promising, with a highly focused, Halo-esque approach to man-versus-dinosaur gunplay. "We don't want to win one of your magazine's Tobias Bruckner awards," Holmes tells us, referring to EGM's annual craptacular accolade named after Turok Evolution's silly villain.
Battlefield: Bad Company
PS3/360/PC | EA Games | March 2008
Why was it delayed? The main contributors to Bad Company's change in release date were a desire to flesh out this shooter's narrative and a need to make the environments more destructible.
Worth the wait? Since EA is emphasizing the single-player experience (most of the other Battlefields focused on multiplayer), it definitely won't hurt to give the developers more time to tweak the story.
PS3 | Sony CEA | July 2008
Why was it delayed? "[It was] purely due to the fact that we didn't want to compromise the quality of SOCOM: Confrontation," says Sony CEA Producer Mark Rogers.
Worth the wait? Well, it can't hurt -- this squad-based shooter's initial showing wasn't too hot. But at least Sony recognizes this. "The title must reflect the excellence in online play that the franchise is known for," says Rogers.
Alone in the Dark
PS3/360/Wii/PS2 | Atari | May 2008
Why was it delayed? "We're trying to do things that have never been done before.... We're pushing lots of innovative elements...." says Producer Nour Polloni of developer Eden Games. Who isn't?
Worth the wait? As much as the structure of this Central Park thriller intrigues us (levels are broken up into cliffhanging, Lost-esque chapters), the constant chatter about Atari's fate makes us wonder if AITD will ever see the light of day.
Grand Theft Auto IV
PS3/360 | Rockstar | April 2008
Why was it delayed? Word around town has development on the PS3 version trailing way behind the Xbox 360 version (which also didn't run very smoothly the last time we saw it).
Worth the wait? Thanks to GTA4's strikingly improved visuals, new targeting system, and online multiplayer (recent reports have it supporting 16 people), we fully expect this return trip to Liberty City to be as fun as the first go-around.
Army of Two
PS3/360 | EA Games | March 2008
Why was it delayed? After hearing all the complaints from folks like us while reviewing the game, EA eventually decided to push its co-op shooter into 2008.
Worth the wait? The Review Crew found Army plagued with technical hiccups such as unreliable teammate A.I., misplaced audio cues, and long load times. We wish more publishers would follow EA's lead and delay obviously flawed software.
PS3/360 | LucasArts | July 2008
Why was it delayed? When the fourth Indy flick got the official go-ahead, it didn't surprise anyone that LucasArts held the game so it would coincide with the movie's release (historically, piggybacking on the Hollywood hype helps game sales).
Worth the wait? With Uncharted and Tomb Raider elevating the adventure genre, our favorite archaeologist has to bring more than the "revolutionary" rag-doll physics seen in the early demos.
PS3 | Sony CEA | May 2008
Why was it delayed? Sony's first PS3 foray into its karaoke series aims to push the genre forward with an extensive catalog of downloadable songs/ videos and user-driven, YouTube-meets-MySpace community functionality. But implementing those features is proving more difficult than expected....
Worth the wait? With Rock Band and Guitar Hero III already competing for your PS3's music-genre attention, perhaps this delay isn't a bad move.
Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors
Wii | Square Enix | February 2008
Why was it delayed? With its own holiday lineup so crowded, Square thought it'd be best to push this first-person adventure into the new year.
Worth the wait? With its own holiday lineup so crowded, Square thought it'd be best to push this first-person adventure into the new year.
World in Conflict
360 | Sierra | March 2008
Why was it delayed? Why was it delayed? "The 360 version was basically finished," says Executive Producer Greg Goodrich, "but then we looked at it and decided that a few controller modifications just wasn't enough. We want to truly make a console game instead of a PC game ported to a console."
Worth the wait? This real-time strategy game was a PC hit, and with Sierra addressing the port concerns, we expect nothing but the same here.
Splinter Cell: Conviction
PC/360 | Ubisoft | June 2008
Why was it delayed? We wonder if Microsoft and its exclusive dollars had anything to do with this stealthy, 360-only effort being held back in order to face off with the PS3-only MGS4.
Worth the wait? Conviction promises to reimagine the somewhat repetitive series by giving sneaky protagonist Sam Fisher a Jason Bourne. style makeover, complete with urban combat and realistic crowd reactions.
Frontlines: Fuel of War
PS3/360 | THQ | February 2008
Why was it delayed? The crowded holiday convinced THQ to push its futuristic shooter into '08.
Worth the wait? Yes, as a few more months should help the developer balance Frontline's 60-plus vehicles, weapons, and remote-controlled bots. Eerily, the team is also experimenting with a brain wave device (EmSense) to monitor excitement levels on the testers. Why? To spot the game's unnecessary dull moments.
PS3 | Sony CEA | March 2008
Why was it delayed? The feedback culled from a closed beta test of Sony's immensely ambitious virtual online community resulted in some major renovations to both the layout and user interface.
Worth the wait? Home's lofty ambitions remain admirable, especially since it's a free service for PS3 owners that will continue to grow and evolve in the coming years.
PS3/360 | Sega | February 2008
Why was it delayed? "Giving The Club a release window of early 2008 will give it space to shine," says Design Manager Nick Davies of developer Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing series).
Worth the wait? At the very least, it's allowing the creators of this combo-heavy shooter to bulk it up with additional content such as tournament mode. "It now gives focus to why players should play through," says Davies.