Halo 3 launch | September 2007
This. Was. Huge. It might be easy to forget in the aftermath of Modern Warfare 2’s record-breaking, megaton launch. But this was a seriously big deal. Still the most anticipated 360 game of all time, the pre-release hype train gathered enough momentum to punch a whole in the Earth’s core. This was in large part thanks to Bungie’s big budget ad campaign that painted the Chief’s arrival on 360 like it was the second coming of Christ. Only with less prayers and more shooting Ewok-esque aliens in their absurd little faces.
Epic, well-directed and unashamedly rousing, the trailers painted an ambitious picture of intergalactic war. Granted, the final game looked like a four year old’s colouring book account of the events promised in the ads, but it was hard not to get swept up in the unapologetic pant-wetting anticipation in the weeks leading up to September 25th. Halo 3’s global launch event was also given all the weight of a summer blockbuster, with the game even being treated to the glitzy red carpet treatment in London. Like Spartan 117 or not, his title whipped gamers into a pre-ordering, pointless special edition-buying frenzy like almost nothing before.
The announcement of Street Fighter IV | October 2007
In the generations following the era of the SNES and Mega Drive, fighting games felt lost to many of us. Having either died out or become so prohibitively complex as to exclude all but the ultra hardcore elite, the tight, competitive, raucously fun games that had shaped an entire generation were gone. They lived on in our hearts, but in our consoles? Just a distant ROM. But then one day on the internet, this happened:
Ten million fanboys vibrated, burst into brief tears, and then dropped into an immediate, collective, adrenalin-induced coma. When we regained consciousness two days later, the world was a changed place. Street Fighter was coming back, 2D fighting was coming back, and Street Fighter IV’s marketing seemed to emphasise SFII (ie everyone’s favourite 16-bit game ever) as its starting point. It’s rare that a game can garner universal good will and excitement throughout its entire hype period, but SFIV did. And it’s even rarer that such reverence should turn out to be totally deserved.
Kane and Lynch debacle (Gerstmann gate) | November 2007
Whether Jeff Gerstmann’s review of Kane and Lynch was bang on the money or not, it didn’t stop GameSpot’s editorial director mysteriously losing his job shortly after awarding the criminal caper a contentious 6/10 score. We say contentious, but it was only ever a point of contention in the halls of Eidos Interactive, the game’s publisher, who just happened to be paying for hefty advertising on the website at the time.
Above: Jeff Gerstmann knows the truth. But isn't telling
Sadly for idealistic games journalists everywhere and more pressingly, Jeff’s bank account, reviewing games can often delve into questionable politics governed by advertising. Although it’s never been proven, it was widely suggested Jeff lost his job due to pressure put on his employers by Eidos in the aftermath of the lukewarm review. It was seen as such a morally murky move, especially since Gerstmann was given no official reason for his dismissal, that several other GameSpot editors resigned in protest. And to think, all this fuss for a game that’s currently rotting in the bottom of your local bargain bin.
Mass Effect's alien sex on Fox News | January 2008
This was beautiful. A classic case of mainstream media and ill-informed commentators wading into a subject that they knew absolutely bugger all about, showing themselves up to be a bunch of remedial clowns. The title of the segment was the inspired '"SE"XBOX? New Video Game Shows Full Digital Nudity and Sex'. You've surely seen it by now, but why not watch the whole sordid affair again. Just to remind yourselves.
You can probably also recall the fallout, in which Cooper Lawrence, the condescending smug face, had her book receive an absolute kicking in the reader reviews section on Amazon. To her credit, she made a grovelling, PR face-saving apology soon after. The most terrifying aspect of the whole thing, though, is that it highlighted how spectacularly off-target Fox News and its shoddy research was capable of being.
Phil Harrison leaves Sony | February 2008
We’ll always see Phil Harrison as synonymous with the PlayStation brand at Sony. So it came as a massive surprise when his 30ft tall frame moon-walked into the role of Directeur Général Délégué (read: Deputy Managing Director) of Infogrames.
Above: Harrison keeping it real in 1995 when the PlayStation launched
The biggest shock of the move was the timing. Having seen out the rough times of PS3’s debut and all the dirt lobbed at Sony, Big Phil wowed the crowds with Killzone 2 gameplay footage at E3 ‘07 and the world started to warm to it. But as soon as the good times started to roll, he left. Surely it would’ve been easier to leave while the knives were out and not when the plaudits were flooding in? But, hey, this is how it happened.
Since his high profile move he now holds the slightly less glamorous role of non-executive at the company following the Infogrames merger with Atari. We’ve barely heard a peep from him since. It may be a cushier, less pressured job at Atari, but their gain is the game industry’s loss of one of its biggest (literally and figuratively) characters. E3 isn’t the same without him reppin’ Sony’s latest wares.