Metacritic Predict – Titanfall, Thief & South Park: The Stick of Truth

Attempting to predict the Metacritic scores of upcoming games isn’t something particularly new. Doing it with this level of inaccuracy, however, is a unique and shameful talent.

In this inaugural edition we try and foresee whether Thief will be making off with the contents of your wallet, if you’ll want to stick with the new South Park RPG and whether it’ll be Titanfall or Titan-fail.

Alright, crystal balls and scorecards at the ready? Let’s go:

Thief – Developer: Eidos Montreal. Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 & PS3. Released in the UK: 28/02/14

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Contrary, it seems, to popular opinion, I think that Thief is one of the most important games of the first half of 2014.

There are three reasons for this:

  1. Hardcore stealth titles often don’t make great mainstream games, or great mainstream money. For many of today’s youth, it seems that lurking patiently in the shadows is only a worthwhile investment of their time if they’re planning to beat someone up and steal their PS4. To try and sneak past this inherent problem, many modern stealth games have resorted to diluting their core mechanic with optional aids and assists. Thief, for example, includes a Focus mode that, amongst other things, slows time and enhances vision. How well this, and Thief in general, is received is certain to have a direct influence on future stealth game design.
  2. Thief is yet another cross-gen title, and cross-gening games has basically become the industry equivalent of inbreeding – on the surface everything looks alright, but after a while you begin to notice that genetically things have been compromised. All I’m saying is, if one of Garrett’s special abilities is a ‘bonus’ finger for lock picking you should start to be concerned.
  3. After publisher Square Enix’s ridiculously vertiginous expectations for the recent Tomb Raider, what will it mean for a potential Thief sequel, and the new Sleeping Dogs and Deus Ex games currently in production, if Thief doesn’t shift a million copies in its first sixty seconds on sale? If Square really wants Thief to perform well, perhaps it should get behind it with some inventive marketing strategies. For example, a ‘Pinch a Copy from GAME’ promotion. Or how about a pre-order bonus level where you play a Square Enix Exec tasked with sneaking out of the company’s HQ past a mob of pitchfork-waving, dividend-starved investors patrolling the lobby.

I think this Thief reboot is going to be a solid game. The idea of being an enigmatic master criminal in a city rich in brooding Victorian opulence and oppression is an inherently sexy one. However, I fear that unfavourable comparisons to Dishonoured and a swag bag full of upcoming big releases could see it slip off into the darkness almost undetected.

Predicted Metacritic score: 73

South Park: The Stick of Truth – Developer: Obsidian Entertainment. Platforms: Xbox 360, PC & PS3. Current UK Release Date: 07/03/14.

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Previous South Park titles have been such utter crap that, no matter who the supposed developers were, you always suspected that each one had Mr Hankey’s faecal fingerprints all over it.

All of this makes it more amazing that Stick of Truth has a legitimate chance not only to be the first decent South Park game, but possibly the best TV/film-based game ever. (Granted, that’s still a bit like winning a tallest dwarf contest, but even so, it’s an undeniably impressive reversal of fortunes.)

The new found optimism and expectations surrounding Stick of Truth stem entirely from the fact that, this time, the comedy is being taken seriously. Rather than tossing out a trailer trash first person shooter or trying to shoehorn Cartmen’s cantankerous little carcass into a cut and shut Mario Kart clone, SoT is a proper fantasy RPG warped into Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s crudely cartoonish Colorado.

With the show’s creators so heavily involved in production, the main questions that remain centre around how well their talents and priorities dovetail with those of Obsidian, a developer with a reputation for ideas rather than execution. Great comedy games are incredibly hard to pull off. Not only does the humour need to be sharp and sustaining but it has to work in concert with quality game design. I’m excited by Stick of Truth’s ambition and encouraged by those collaborating on it. Let’s hope it’s more Make Love, Not Warcraft than Matt Hazard.

Predicted Metacritic score: 81

Titanfall – Developer: Respawn Entertainment. Platforms – Xbox One, PC & Xbox 360. Current UK Release Date: 14/03/14

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To be honest, I’m not sure why I’m even bothering with Titanfall here. If you’ve visited any of the major video gaming websites over the past month, it can’t have escaped your attention that it’s apparently already been crowned game of the year.

Seemingly, none of the big sites can go even the duration of a game of Team Deathmatch without churning out another unnecessary editorial rhapsodising about Titanfall’s smart pistol or its mech entry and exit animations. All of this right next to Titan-sized advertisements encouraging you to pre-order the game right now. I know that part of the press’s job is to champion greatness, but rather than raising my excitement levels, I think I’m coming down with an early case of Titanfall-tigue.

I’m not for a second questioning the integrity of the journalists involved; many of them are fantastic writers and ambassadors for their profession. But considering video games journalism’s rather compromised track record in this area, I do find it unsettling. And I’m not sure what’s worse; that these seemingly highly intelligent people didn’t even recognise the potential appearance of a conflict of interest, or that they did and simply chose to ignore it. (And before you ask, no, the irony of me writing an article trying to pre-judge the score of a game that already seems to have been pre-judged isn’t lost on me.)

As for Titanfall itself, well, I played some of the beta on Xbox One and it’s a thoroughly polished and entertaining first person shooter. In fact, it seems to be the quintessential next gen game. A comfortingly traditional concept made slightly prettier, slightly faster and with a clever USP as a twist.

I have serious doubts about whether the interest surrounding it will be as great or enduring as it was for Modern Warfare and over the merits of its multiplayer only single player campaign. Perhaps the most ground-breaking thing about Titanfall is that it will mark the beginning of a complete reversal from complaints last generation over unnecessary multiplayer modes tacked on to single player games to complaints this generation over unnecessary single player modes tacked on to multiplayer ones.

Titanfall isn’t some giant mech messiah descending from the heavens, it’s just the second coming of COD.

Predicted Metacritic score: 91

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