So the highly anticipated games of the year are starting to trickle in, our anticipation is beginning to be satiated and our wallets are slowly becoming lighter. Borderlands, one of my top 3 most anticipated games of the year, arrives in under a month and honestly I've been having that old “sweaty palm” nervousness as the day gets closer. Recently it seems like Randy Pitchford has felt that disturbance in the force and released the following quote and screenshot:
[b]So, Borderlands is pretty damn huge. How huge? We're talking 60+ hours of questing available to the player in just the first playthrough. But the thing is, all of those screenshots and trailer footage have just been showing the noobie areas of the game. You haven't even met the real bad guys yet in Borderlands; the content past level 15.
We've been trying really hard to hold things back and not reveal too much and spoil most of the game. Yes, it has been mentioned that Borderlands has other environments in the game like snowy mountaintops and the military installations, but we arent showing it! Remember all of those movie trailers you've seen that give away all the best stuff and the whole damn story before you're even at the theater? Yeah, we think that sucks too.
We are just a few short weeks away from release and we want to assure gamers there is way more to Borderlands. A lot more. So to get that point across here is just a tiny little tease and screenshot.
Meet the Crimson Lance.[/b]
Ah. Sweet, sweet relief. I knew the game had a great look, thanks to the marketing campaign I knew they had decent writers and a good sense of humour and, by god, I knew they had a gazillion guns. But what I wasn't shown yet was a world in which all these things could come together. Speaking with Brad from Four Player Podcast I agreed with the Diablo-esque quality of the loot system but I was wondering where the dungeons were. A few cliché caves with scorpion monsters does not a dungeon make! What use is a shotgun that shoots rockets with acid damage without varied and interesting creatures to meet their doom at the end of such an instrument of destruction?
Does the game have armor?
I wanted to know...where's the beef.
The beef, my friends, is hopefully hidden in that picture and that quote. Together, they both make me see that ,possibly, there is a huge world out there if only I can discover it. They show that there is story to find, and story to end. And, yes, perhaps some new flashy armor to wear while I do it.
Gearbox made an interesting decision in keeping so much of the game hidden away from the eyes of their potential consumers. Its quite a dice-roll to make since I imagine that I'm not the only person who's had these questions. But they played a good hand with their AI-Weapon Creation system and cell-shaded art style. Those two things alone sucked in a lot of people and put the game on the radar. It seems there's a lot more hidden out there to keep us playing. Who's gonna help me kill it?
Hey so what did you do this week? Oh yeah? That's pretty cool. Me? Oh not much...I just went to the mother fucking HALO ODST release party! Alright, well perhaps its not something that really requires an exclamation point. But I did go, I did see, I did get drunk and I did get to chat a bit with some Bungie people. So without further ado...here we go!
Going to the ODST release party wasn't something I had planned. I've never been a huge Halo fan. In fact, prior, to this I had only played one 15 minute session of Halo 3. It was while I was on tour, laying on the floor of some strange persons house, drunk on half a bottle of Rum and playing the single player campaign in standard definition on an old, shitty, television. So it is fair to say that I had never REALLY played Halo. Full disclosure also requires me to say that I've never been really drawn to the Halo series much at all. The world itself never really appealed to me very much and I've never really been a fan of the frantic type of multiplayer experience that Halo is known for.
So what drew me to this release party? JOURNALISM my good man! That, and the fact that for all my non-interest in the series, I respect Halo for what its done over the years. In creating an extremely vibrant community of frothing fans and securing its place in the annals of gaming. One would be dishonest if they were not to admit that forever more we will be putting Halo in the same categories as Mario and Zelda. Now whether it deserves that position is not the point of this post. I'm actually playing through Halo 3 now and I can assure you that in the future I'll have a lot to say concerning that.
I arrived at the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle around 6:30pm. Doors opened at 6pm so I figured that I would give things a little time to settle down before I arrived. Little did I know that it would make no difference. So when I arrived I found myself at the back of a line that snaked around the corner and down an entire block. “Looks like I picked the wrong time to stop sniffing glue” I thought to myself and took my place behind a man who had either just gotten off of work at a dirty job or was a completely crazy street person who simply had an affinity for frag-fests with prepubescent boys. (Upon writing that last line I realize that it can be taken a few different ways...I like the double entendre so by god I'm leaving it.) This man was filthy and clearly not being the good little gamer mascot which should be required at such events. Damn him to hell.
In reality, the line was very diverse and it took me a few minutes to disconcern if I was really in the correct line. On the same night as the ODST Release party, Pearl Jam was playing a concert at Key Arena, which isn't very far from the EMP at all. Since the release party was requiring anyone under the age of 16 of being accompanied by an adult there was an eclectic mix of young kids, middle aged gamers and old people who looked like they had no idea what was going on, and who I really couldn't see screaming into a headset while they set the very world before them on fire. But then I saw this..
...and all my fears were allayed.
The line moved relatively quickly and as we rounded the corner we were treated to the site of the ODST SUV (or would that be ODST-SUV?). You see Halo isn't for GIRLS. Halo is a MANs game. And how does a MAN play a game? Certainly not sitting in his comfortable living room, lounging on the couch. FUCK NO! A MAN drives his ODST-SUV deep into the wilderness, taking down as many trees and small woodland creatures as he can along the way and slamming can after can of that Budweiser mixed with Clamato drink. He then sets up camp upon a great mountaintop and pops open the rear of the ODST-SUV, builds a small fire, sits IN the fire and uses the pain and smell of burning flesh to fuel his RAGE has he plays ODST like a MAN does!
Obviously Bungie hates the environment. You heard it here first folks.
We were led into the building to get our badges from the required booth babe type girls and buy a poster if we wanted to (I didn't). The party was split into two major sections on two floors. The bottom floor held the poster selling and signing section and the second floor was reserved for all the hot ODST playing action. The bottom floor was dull, fuck the bottom floor.
The top floor is where things get interesting. Gamers clamored around 40 stations split up into 10 groups all hosting the Firefight multiplayer map. One grouping was located on a main stage with a giant projector screen above it which was projecting one of the player screens for the audiences amusement.
An XBOX Live Insider crew was skulking about interviewing gamers, and a few fat Master Chiefs, as the Insider “newscaster” girl tried her very best to look like she really wanted to be there. Her smile said she did...but her eyes. Her eyes said “I went to journalism school for 6 years (I'm presuming she was a party girl) and here I am interviewing an overweight guy in space marine outfit made out of cardboard. Kill me please...kill me.” And I watched her ask nonsensical questions to nonsensical people as the angels of CNN and MSNBC fluttered away into that festering muck in which dreams die.
As the main rooms 40 stations all blinked furiously with Multiplayer I began to realize that the, touted as improved, single player campaign was conspicuously missing. It wasn't until later that I found it. Four stations, put off to the side with very little fanfare surrounding them, hosted the single player campaign. Odd. Especially since in everything I've been seeing concerning ODST they have been pushing the campaign fairly hard. I mean, they spent all that money to get the actors from FireFly to do the voice acting (and lend their likeness which just ups the money prize). Not only that, you didn't get in line for the Campaign at the party, oh no. You had to play the multiplayer and then a representative from Bungie (the Bungie guys were all wearing black Bungie polos) would give people tickets at random to come over and play the single player game when they were finished.
I had to know. So I spoke to Bungie about this most serious and confusing thing. I was told that they wanted people to play the multiplayer at the party because they expected that when gamers bought the game that evening, they would come home, sit down, and play the campaign first at their leisure. Really? When Halo 3 was released 2 million people signed onto to XBOX Live on the first night and joined multiplayer games. Bungie, obviously, knows this so whats going on here? I think its very simply the fact that though Bungie, on their face, are trying to tout this campaign but they know full well that people don't buy Halo for the single player experience. Halo 3 single player is mediocre at best and abysmal at worst. They know full well that the bread and butter of Halo is the multiplayer, but you can't sell a 60 dollar game on multiplayer that everyone already owns. So the hat-trick is to talk a big game about the new single player experience but keep it under lock and key as much as possible while, in public, flaunting the new mutliplayer Firefight mode.
Now do I think they are being nefarious? Not necessarily, they know full well where their talents lay and we simply cannot forget that at the moment Microsoft are their Lords and Masters. My personal feeling is that Bungie desperatly wants to be rid of Halo and are RACING to complete their contract with Microsoft so they can be rid of the series and do something new. Bungie still owes Microsoft Halo games...which is why I think ODST became a standalone game and why Bungie is now moving everyone who worked on ODST to work on Halo Reach. (also conveyed to me by the Bungie Rep when we spoke). I imagine that they are furiously working toward the finish line and I wouldn't be surprised if, internally, Bungie was already drawing up a new non-Halo in anticipation of the event.
I left shortly thereafter. Honestly there wasn't a whole lot going on if you weren't interested in waiting on line to play Halo. So I went over to the Funhouse, located on 5th avenue in Seattle, and proceeded to have a drink. Meeting some new friends there I proceeded to have another. Now Funhouse is one of my favorite bars in Seattle. Its your basic Punk Bar, probably one of the last of its kind, and they pour drinks which will make your liver run in horror.
I've had long heartfelt talks with my inner organs, sometimes using high diplomacy, after a long night of drinking at the place. During one of those long sessions me and my heart decided that I could do anything I wanted until I was 50, then it was open season. Not bad odds considering my lifestyle. One drink at The Funhouse is really two and a half drinks anywhere else...sometimes three.
Using that logic, 6 drinks later I ended up at some small diner with people I hardly knew, ranting and raving about our incessant need to fellate mediocrity as a culture. How Halo's assent into popularity is akin to Larry the Cable guy and Dane Cook becoming popular and “BY GOD ILL FINALLY BE HAPPY WHEN THE BOMBS START FALLING!” (Direct quote from me as told to me by someone there). And “Halo was released in 2007 with GTA IV, Mass Effect and Bioshock so don't tell me that I'm being too hard on a two year old game!”
The next day I was talking to my one friend. She conveyed to me my passionate ramblings and the fact that all the people I was sitting with were Microsoft Marketing people.
Slick Entertainment first came onto the scene back in February of 2008 when they released a port called N+ for the XBOX 360's XBLA. Originally a flash game called N, developed by Metanet Studios, N+ was one of those game exceedingly reminiscent of early console nostalgia while still allowing the gamer to enjoy a rich depth within its gameplay.
Fast forward to now, particularly the show floor at PAX 2009, and Slick Entertainment was on hand to showcase their next game, and their first release completely developed in house from the ground up. Scrap Metal shares some similarities with N+ in that it feels like an early NES isometric racer. To put it quite simply...this game is RC Pro-Am with guns. If, like me, you grew up having an NES, or at least enjoy old school gaming, this prospect should send tiny shivers of delight up and down your (probably over 25 year old) spine. Now yes...that's some pretty serious verbal hype. Does it actually live up to it? Well, I got some play time with this title at PAX and I can say yes and....maybe?
As a top-down isometric racer, Scrap Metal does many things right. The controls are perfect and revel in their very simplicity ,while the handling of the vehicles is floaty in a console classic sense without being too hard to control. To pick a modern equivalent I would say that the drift within turns feels around the same as GripShift with being perhaps a few notches tighter. It can feel awkward at first, but once you get a feel for it you can pull off some fun maneuvers around the track.
The demo had two modes and two tracks. The first was a straight racing mode. Now of course this is not just an ordinary racer, its a racer with GUNS. So you have two choices, play the race to win by being the fastest or blow up the competition until you are the only one left. If I was a betting man...and I might just be...I know where my money would go on how most people will probably play this game. If regular racing isn't your thing there is also VIP protection mode, target-Take Down, rampage mode and Demolition Derby modes. Which all should change up the gameplay nicely. Destroying other cars allows the player to take ownership of them and add them to their garage between races. Winning races and destroying cars is also a way to gain points which can be used to upgrade your vehicle as well.
Ah...so RPG elements? Well...a bit. Seems your car is upgradable between races in single player mode but they were a little hazy at the booth as to how this transferred to online gaming. As a quick aside...I was talking about the game with a Booth Girl, and Booth Girls are usually given an extremely rudimentary understanding of the game they are looking hot for and not much else. So when I asked about a players Scrap Metal character being persistent when gaming over XBLA, her look of feigned excitement slowly melted into one of very real and awkward bewilderment. It was a magical moment.
I do have a few concerns with the game as it stands right now. During my playthrough I didn't notice any variation of weapons at all. Each car had a fairly standard machine gun and that was about it. Though the website does boast “powerful weapons” it doesn't make use of the word “multiple” which would be quite a shame if it were true. One of the draws of car combat games has always been the various, and usually creative, weapons which can be employed as you plant your seeds of destruction. Its one of the main things that makes games like Twisted Metal, Vigilante 8 and even Mario Kart such a blast to play.
My other concern is the look of the game. Its brown. I'm talking lots of brown here people. Quake looks to have the palette of a god damn kids show compared to this game. Besides being uninteresting to look at after awhile, with the frantic pace and tight quarters of the racing I sometimes found myself getting confused as to where I needed to go. Some color variation would have helped immensely. Some (well two) of the screen shots do show a little more variation so I hoping this is not as big of a problem as it seems.
Scrap Metal boasts 4 player online multiplayer and 4 player split screen multiplayer for those drunken party gaming moments. And really, its those party moments where I think Scrap Metal will truly shine. Though I'm not sure if we're looking at any Mario Kart killer here, with the right price this game could be a good addition to the hard drive for moments when pure racing / destroying bliss is what the doctor ordered.
Scrap Metal is slated for release sometime in 2010 on XBLA.
I usually don't really hate anything. I find it a waste of both time and energy and will usually turn to a much more passive aggressive “shrug off” if something gets under my skin. There is a bane to my existence however. One thing in particular that brings my blood to a volcanic boil, causes me to tear my garments, gnash my teeth and howl out in the night to a dead god for subjecting me to its tyranny. And, unfortunately, it is something I find all too often in, otherwise, good games.
They are time trial missions. And more particular, time trial missions done poorly. They are an abomination.
Now I can't put all of the blame on game developers. I have to admit that I'm inherently biased. The fact is that I'm terrible when it comes to a deadline. Someone once said “I love deadlines. I love the wooshing sound they make as they speed past.” I don't know who said that but it obviously took him twice as long to get it said as a normal person. Being the same way, time trial missions hit that one special button in me that 1) guarantees that I will fail the mission, 2) make me angry that I failed the mission and have to restart, 3) make me turn off the game and play Lumines.
So already me and Mr. Time Trials are off to a bad start here. But here is where things get hairy on the developer side. Yes. The very existence of the time trial is annoying but what is an even bigger sin is the way games handle the failure of a time trial and this is really where my main gripe lays.
Why does the failure of a time trial automatically make me have to restart the mission? Why don't developers make me live with the consequences of failing the time trial? Make the failure have a negative effect so that I have to live with the consequences. Make the consequence severe so I WANT to redo the mission and make the entire thing a deeper gaming experience?
For example I recently played the Il Sturmovik demo on the XBOX 360 (why Maddox Games are releasing an arcadey version of their Sturmovik series on systems that do not currently support flying joysticks is beyond me). But anyway. I strap myself into the demo and begin playing. The mission tasks me with shooting down HE-111 bombers before they can bomb the city of Dover, and to cut off some Stuka Dive Bombers before they can sink ships that are stationed in my harbor. Now being known for high end simulation games it struck me as odd that the bombing of the city of Dover is equivalent to THE WORLD ENDING because, you guessed it, it was a time trial mission and I did not succeed causing the game to end and me having to restart. Maybe deep in the city of Dover is the secret EARTH CRYSTAL and its destruction marks the end of the universe as we know it. Or maybe, just maybe, this is really bad and lazy game design.
Ill go with the latter.
Why not allow Dover to be destroyed and then have me live with those consequences? Give me fewer wing-men in later missions since we lost the airmen that were stationed there. Or maybe I have less ammo because supply lines running through Dover have now been cut and it is taking longer for equipment to reach my base of operations. Anything to deepen the game play rather than just make it inexplicably end. Hell, if I lose enough cities, and take enough negative impacts the game would end anyway since I couldn't even get fuel for my plane. I mean that's how war works!
I hear Prototype has a lot of time trial missions. I will never play Prototype.
Resident Evil is another game that incorporates time trials but often times they do it correctly by incorporating a life ending consequence into the failure of the time trial. This I can deal with, its not only incorporated into the story but sometimes you're treated to a fancy cutscene of you coming to an unduly end. You can't lose! Of course if they do commit the grievous sin I'll I would have no problem bitch-smacking Clair right across her face.
In news that can only be described as late for the living, the curators of PAX 2009 have FINALLY released some information regarding the event that happening less than a month away. Now I love spending 50 dollars, with no knowledge at all as to what I'm getting, as the next guy but I'm pretty excited that we are finally getting some information.
And what information it is. The sleeping giant of PAX 2009 has awoken and the list is expansive to say the least. Some of the local villagers are leaping with joy since rumor is that PAX 2008 was something to be desired. Unfortunately I didn't attend last year, instead sitting outside the main doors with GIGANTIC puppy eyes and smelling the faint and sweet smell of connectors and motherboards bristling with vibrant video game energy.
A couple of big ticket items? Playable Dragon Age Origins and the new Star Wars MMO being "shown" with moving pictures which are much like pictures except they are moving and making noises. Whether they are making the same sex crazed and blood spewing noises that Dragon Age Origins proports to make is yet to be seen.
I intend on doing a lot of posts around this time which you won't read since Destructoids main writers will also be doing the same thing. In order to combat this I intend to employ a variety of NINJA Skills (tm) to disrupt and disway any and ALL destructoid posting about PAX.
Well, maybe not.
The most important thing here is that I didn't buy enough Sake and Stranglehold is getting boring.
Some sources I have deep within the confines of various MS compounds in the NW are telling me that Microsoft is beginning to move a lot more resources out of their normal departments and into areas releated to Project NATAL. It seems MS is looking to make a big push with this hardware and it goes against my previously thinking that NATAL existed somewhere between the PowerGlove and that big Number Mat Nintendo put out a long ass time ago.
Seems MS's eyes have been glazed over by the vision of Wii Fit and Wii Sports at the top of the NPD's since, like forever, and are making a SERIOUS push into the casual market. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm not a casual gamer. The most "casual" I get it Peggle and I play it HARDCORE! Cause thats how I roll.
Of course we all know that hardware doesn't mean squat unless there is good software to run on it so its up to MS to prove to developers that there is a viable market there. And in some ways there is. But in many other ways the only thing keeping the Wii alive is Wii Fit and Wii Sports. Mature or serious games have had abysmal sales on the Wii. Madworld hardly made a dent in anything. No More Hero's? More like "No More Profits".
Microsofts job right now is to make viable hardware seem viable to good developers. Xbox360 owners aren't going to put up with poorly made casual games, and those who would already own the Wii. I'm seeing a sink or swim moment for Microsoft here and it would be a shame for resources to be taken away from the XBOX 720 (?) in order to try to make this particular sinking ship sail.