Metacritic Predict – Watch Dogs, Wolfenstein, Mario Kart

Trying 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 edition, we ask: Can Watch Dogs really hack it? Will anyone be adding Mario to their cart? And if, for you B.J. Blazkowicz, the war is finally over? Alright, let’s get predicting:

Wolfenstein: The New Order – Developer: From Software. Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, PC. Current UK Release Date: 20/05/14

Wolfenstein Image 1

From time to time you catch wind of a story, usually apocryphal, that some old soldier, wizened almost to point of being anatomically recategorised as a walnut, has stumbled out of the jungle in a suitably remote location and started taking pot shots at the first tank-sized, fanny-pack-totting American tourist he clapped eyes on, totally oblivious to the fact the war is over.

In the world of video games, that man, is B.J. Blazkowicz.

While the games industry’s fleeting, all-consuming wartime romance with WW2 may have only lasted a couple of tours of duty, the Wolfenstein series has been fighting those no-good Nazis since 1981, and Blazkowicz is still on active service today. In terms of running times for ongoing conflicts, that’s more Peloponnesian than 20th Century European.

B.J. was first drafted in for Id Software’s 1992 release Wolfenstein 3D, and, after all those years of front line combat, perhaps the most depressing thing for him is exactly how irrelevant all his efforts appear to have been. In The New Order’s twisted counter-factual history it’s now 1960, and not only did the Germans win the war; they’ve spent the subsequent years celebrating by subjugating. That is until Blazkowicz returns to take yet another death or glory run at the Aryan Race.

The last outing for the franchise, 2009’s simply titled Wolfenstein, was a first-person shooter with just enough self-awareness and fun B-movie bravado to drag you through the unnecessarily irritating parts of its design. By contrast, The New Order seems to be taking a more strait-laced, horror-inflected approach. From the trailers, this deviation in direction appears to have been incorporated to interesting effect. Whether it’s enough to elevate the game above anything more than becoming yet another solid shooter is more doubtful. Its main appeal may be the novelty of its World War II setting. At least someone remains convinced that’s something still worth fighting for.

Predicted Metacritic score: 73

Watch Dogs – Developer: Ubisoft Montreal. Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PC & Wii U. Current UK Release Date: 27/05/14

Watch Dogs 2

For a game whose central theme is the evolution of information technology into a clandestine tool for observation and oppression, there’s an obvious irony to the fact that Watch Dogs was intended as one of the first flagship releases for the Xbox One. A console whose Kinect camera forced members of the tinfoil hat brigade to play Ryse with a sheet over its lens, a wastepaper basket on their heads and a cyanide pill squeezed between their teeth. (Incidentally, did you realise that the name Kinect is an anagram of ‘i c Kent’. A chilling revelation if your name happens to be Kent, or you live in Maidstone).

When Watch Dogs originally dropped off the grid it did so anything but surreptitiously. Instead, the news of its delay was accompanied by loud cries of dismay and the softer, but more telling clicks of a fair few console pre-order cancellations. It was easy to understand the disappointment.

In amongst the slightly prettier but stubbornly iterative offerings like Dead Rising 3 and Call of Duty: Ghosts, Watch Dogs was ambitious, innovative and exciting. Everything the next generation should be about.

In the game’s modern Chicago everything electronic from traffic lights to ATMs, machinery to personal data is connected and controlled by an omnipresent computer system known as CtOS. As super hacker come cyber vigilante Aiden Pearce, using nothing more than your cell phone, you can do something much smarter than fight the power. You can usurp and reroute it to further your own personal justice program.

The extended wait for Watch Dogs has apparently allowed the developers to add the extra polish necessary to give players the experience they were expecting. The network Aiden can tap into will have to stretch comprehensively across the game’s large open world and interactions with it will need to be both meaningful and malleable to different play styles as well as allowing improvisation on the fly.

Ubisoft likely anticipates Watch Dogs as its next major IP. One as popular and prolific as Assassin’s Creed. Looking closely, it’s not hard to spot the parallels between the two, and in terms of successfully delivering on the hype, I can see this falling somewhere between the original AC and AC2.

Predicted Metacritic score: 85

Mario Kart 8 – Developer: Nintendo. Platforms: Wii U. Current UK Release Date: 30/05/14

Mario Kart 8 Image 1

It’s hard to write anything about the Wii U these days without it ending up reading like a premature obituary.

The debilitating treatment the system has endured since its release a whole year ahead of its closest rivals (or, at least six behind them depending on the way you look at it), makes the Wii U the perfect encapsulation of everything that’s currently wayward and wrong within Nintendo. It’s the Wario to the Wii’s Mario. The dark side of the incredibly fine line between innovation and gimmickry.

Mario Kart 8 could easily turn out to be one of the best games of 2014. It’s the perfect Mario vehicle, mixing the classic with the contemporary and keeping the fun pedal firmly pressed to the floor. Decked out in rainbow-bright racing colours and pin sharp 1080p, it cruises along at 60fps, only slowing to accommodate up to three additional players in split screen multiplayer.

Along with 16 fresh tracks come another 16 renovations of classic circuits and a driver roster that’s now swelled to 27 characters, including all seven of the Koopalings. Two new weapons (the Piranha Plant and the Boomerang Flower) and the content sharing Mario Kart TV tools also make their debut along with the game’s most eye-catching addition, antigravity racing. An idea with a lot of attraction, but one that surely should have been saved for that new F-Zero game everyone’s screaming for. (And by ’everyone’, I mean ‘me’).

It all looks like gloriously hectic fun, but putting Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U is a bit like putting a Lotus 49 in the Antarctic Motor Museum. How many people are actually going to get to appreciate it? Unless Nintendo is ready to swallow its pride and take some drastic action, like ditching the second screen and slash the price to £150 (which it won’t), the Wii U could soon be dead and buried. I suppose at least then, we’d finally find a purposeful use for that controller. It makes a perfectly sized tombstone.

Predicted Metacritic score: 87


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