In a year dominated by game sequels, movie tie-ins and brand extensions, original video game ideas (referred to as original IP, or intellectual property) are hard to come by. Grand Theft Auto IV was on target to be one of 2007's biggest games before its recent delay, but two other franchise entries, Halo 3 and the latest Madden game, will clearly dominate the holiday shopping season. One of the reasons 2K's BioShock, released at the end of August, has generated such positive buzz among gamers is that it represents a rare high-profile stab at an original game.
Fortunately, not every game publisher has given up on building new properties. We recently got a sneak peek at two new original games set to hit store shelves in 2008, and both looked surprisingly polished, even in early demo form.
Prototypetakes place in an open-ended virtual version of New York City and tells the story of an amnesiac victim of a scientific experiment gone awry. That's pretty standard sci-fi fare, but the interesting twist is that the (anti-)hero can shape shift at will, either stealing the identities (and faces) of people he encounters or growing offensive appendages like giant claws. The stealth-plus-action mix sounds promising, and during the extended demo we saw, the in-game version of Times Square had just enough real-life touches to pass muster with the natives. Currently, the game is scheduled for Summer 2008 for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
A second original project we got a look at recently was Wet, a third-person action game from Sierra (also due in 2008) that mixes cinematic influences from Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill and Grindhouse to over-the-top Hong Kong cinema (the production team also snagged a writer from the hit TV series 24 to pen the script).
It's got all the hallmarks of a modern shoot-em-up, from the slo-mo bullet-time gunplay to a franchise-ready hero in Ruby, a freelance "problem solver" who naturally solves most problems through a copious application of gunfire. While the violence-prone protagonist is clearly modeled on characters such as Lara Croft, the demo level we saw offered an impressive mix of acrobatics and shooting--most games can do one or the other well, but not both. We'll have to see more of Wet to make a call, but so far, it looks like an amusing pop-culture pastiche.