Most Anticipated: The Last Guardian
Optimistic? Perhaps, yet while The Last Guardian has been one of the most anticipated games of an entire generation, I've got genuine faith that this'll be the year when the catweagle finally sticks its curious snout out of the shadows.
You likely don't need reminding of the sorry saga that's shrouded the development of Fumito Ueda and his team's follow-up to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, but I'm still surprised to realise that it has spanned the entirety of my time writing about video games. I saw the trailer, with its placeholder soundtrack plucked from Miller's Crossing, during my first visit to Sony's offices, having to quickly dry my eyes when colleagues turned around to ask what I thought. When it had a wider airing some time after, the placeholder music still in place, its impact wasn't diminished in the slightest.
All these years later and that trailer still has the capacity to move people with its warm enigma and occasional flashes of strange violence, brushed by the cold breeze that whistles through each of Team Ico's games. There's been little to go on since, really - Oli was lucky enough to go within the sanctuary of the development team when he was over in Tokyo for the Vita's launch back in 2011, and it's a report I've scoured for clues and details in the three years since.
That's one of the odd, brilliant things about The Last Guardian - all these years after its initial reveal, and there's still a thrilling cloak of mystery around it. There are no hard facts, just whispered stories, rumours and hopes. It is, as Dan pointed out in his write-up on The Witness earlier today, a sense of mystery that's sadly missing from most games today, where every feature, every level and every set-piece has been dissected through the cold scalpel of a 'vidoc' (a term that, appropriately, sounds like the expulsion of some pale catarrh) until they're totally devoid of life or meaning.
Mystery is what makes games like The Witness so enticing, and it's precisely what From Software's Souls series has traded on so well (although Namco's heavy-handed marketing, with tie-in comic books and gaudy viral campaigns, is beginning to push its luck). The mystery around The Last Guardian will, I believe, be intact when we're finally able to play it ourselves. By virtue of the game's predicament right now, I think it has to be.
SCE Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida, as tired as he must understandably be of fielding questions about the troublesome project since its 2009 reveal, has recently been fairly direct in saying it's waiting for the right time to be reintroduced, while Ueda has said we'll see more of what he's working on in 2014. It's clumsy logic, of course, but it's led me to believe that a reveal will happen at E3, or maybe sooner - and when it does, given The Last Guardian's past, it can't happen without a firm and unwavering release date. I'd also like to think that after all the waiting Sony might take some inspiration from Beyonce - and, looking back further, Sega with its Saturn - and make that date tantalisingly imminent.
So I'm optimistic that this will be The Last Guardian's year, but as giddying as that prospect may be there's still room for caution. When I first played Ico in the autumn of 2001, it was a glimpse of a new way of appreciating games, and of looking at them not as worlds to be conquered but ones to savour. The solemn art only became more pronounced in Shadow of the Colossus some four years later, but even then the idea of games about more than noisy victory was a rarity.
Now, nearly nine years later, it's an idea that's commonplace, thanks in no small part to the foundations laid down by Team Ico's work on the PlayStation 2. Games have become richer, more thoughtful and more willing to take us on journeys that can impact us in so many different ways. They've evolved, too, taking the baton passed on by Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to some strange and brilliant places. How will The Last Guardian's formula, concocted all those years ago, stand up against a landscape that's brought us games as diverse as Gone Home, Brothers, The Last of Us and Journey? Part of me worries it'll clumsily stumble in like the awkward Trico, an anachronistic beast that's out of place and out of time.
But another part of me knows that the magic in Team Ico's games is timeless, and that if any of that's retained for this outing then the wait will have been worthwhile. Optimistic? I most definitely am, but when it comes to a proposition as exciting as being able to play The Last Guardian this year, I hope you'll forgive me.