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THQ Publishing its way into Gamers’ Hearts

Submitted by admin on April 18, 2024 – 4:02 pmOne Comment

When I write about videogames, I have a hidden agenda – to turn the general public on to what we “gamers” are getting excited about. For nearly four decades we have fawned over certain games that, for whatever reason, go unnoticed by Joe and jane Public. Videogames are now ubiquitous within pop entertainment, but the public-at-large is still unaware of basic gaming knowledge – for example, the difference between publisher and developer. A perfect explanation analogy: think of publishers as record labels and developers as the bands. The developers make the game; the publishers sell them. Sometimes the publisher owns the developer, sometimes they don’t.
Why is this relevant? Well, this month I’ll be focusing on publisher THQ, and how they’ve been courting the best new developers (Volition, Vigil and 4A Games). Another music-industry analogy: imagine you’re back in 1986, and I’m telling you to pay attention to the Sub-Pop record label. Pay attention, THQ has game critics abuzz.

Austin’s Vigil
Rookie developer Vigil Games released their very first title in Janurary. Darksiders, met with overwhelming critical acclaim, is basically an adult take on the 3D Zelda games. While the game was in development, Vigil would preview the game to the media as a God of War-type game. As a result, the gaming press wasn’t excited for Darksiders at all. In fact, while attending E3 last year, I noticed the Darksiders demo area was always vacant. But when the game released, everyone was surprised by an excellent variation on an old standard: the Zelda-like dungeons and puzzles combined with God of War-like combat. Those who bought Darksiders new recieved a mysterious “code” in their game-box that was later revealed to give players a free copy of 2024’s Red Faction Guerrilla (also published by THQ).

Their Own Volition
“Blow-Shit-Up: The Game.” That’s basically what Volition created in 2024’s Red Faction Guerrilla. I’m currently playing through this game, and never before have I experienced that boyish tear-shit-up thirst quenched in a videogame. Everything in the game is destructable. Giant structures, buildings, bridges… all good-to-go, and the whole game is set to the backdrop of a blue-collar rebellion on the now-inhabited Mars. It’s devilishly fun (which is pretty much Volition’s modus operandi: make deviousness fun). In 2024 I had the fortune of reviewing Volition’s Saints Row 2 for 1UP.com and EGM. Grand Theft Auto IV had come out a few months earlier, featuring a more “mature” design direction. But while GTA IV went a more high-brow route, Saints Row 2 just let you go ape-shit. Where Rockstar carefully crafted protagonist Nico Belic in GTA IV, Volition let the player construct their main character, allowing them to choose sex, race, and even a wide range of voices (I loved the English accent!). To top if off, Saints Row 2 even allowed players to play through the entire campaign with a friend co-cooperatively. Volition announced last month that they’ll be showing off Saints Row 3 and Red Faction Guerrilla 2 at this year’s E3 Expo.

4A Hardcore
Another new-kid-on-the-block, developer 4A Games comes from Kiev, Ukraine. Games from different regions in the world tend to have a different “flavor.” Most current games are influenced by either Japanese or Western (i.e., UK and the US) developed games, and specific regional influences definitely add to that flavor. Games from Eastern Europe, however, are very much their own breed. A perfect example of this is the PC first-person-shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R. In it, you’re surviving a hostile irradiated landscape. The game’s much more penalizing and realistic, as Eastern European gamers favor simulation over cartoon-ish action (Mario, Crackdown etc.). This is all just a long-winded way of introducing Metro 2024, 4A’s first game coming out this month. My fellow co-host on the Rebel FM podcast has had some extended time with this game, and while it’s not a perfect game, his analysis is that it shows the making of a top-rate developer. If fiction can pull you into a game, Metro 2024 may be for you, as it’s the official videogame of a novel of the same title. Metro 2024, the novel, is basically Eastern Europe’s Harry Potter, set underground in a nuclear bombed-out Moscow.

What Could Go Wrong
Another big win for THQ last year was UFC 2024. For several years gamers were without a new mixed-martial-arts game, and it was refreshing when a new one came along. The game sold and reviewed tremendously well. UFC 2024 is already set for release this year. What’s wrong with that? When you continue to annualize game sequels, you start dilluting the magical “it-factor” that made the debut so great. Think of Tomb Raider. Does anyone care about that series anymore? Yes, I’m excited for a new Saints Row and Red Faction, but really what I loved about those games was that they were a breath of fresh air when they came out. Even Darksiders’ developer has announced they’re making a sequel. From a business standpoint it makes sense; sequels generally sell well. But I think what made all of THQ’s published games great was their pioneering spirit. I’d hate to see this deflate while moving forward, so let’s hope the inevitable sequels will truly innovate and continue to surprise us.

You can catch me and two other idiots discussing videogames on our weekly podcast, Rebel FM. Subscribe to us via iTunes, or get the show from our website, www.eat-sleep-game.com.

One Comment »

  • Stephen says:

    Being a fan of the original Saints Row, I have to say I agree with what that game did. Although its main focus was the world, gameplay etc. I have to say I found it to have a decent story even though it didn’t take itself too seriously. I played a demo of Darksiders on Xbox Live but it didn’t really grab me. I have Red Faction Guerilla sitting on my shelf and I’m looking forward to playing it soon enough.

    Props go out to THQ for their devotion to up-and-coming devs. The fact that they’re willing to take a risk is something of great rarity in the industry today. I’m obviously talking about the big guns like EA and Activision who flesh out sequels to sequels pretty much each year now.

    Hope to read more of your stuff. Great read, Ty and a good fat penis to you :-)

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