Upon hearing about Play.Com Live the gamer and budding video game journalist inside me worked itself up into crazed frenzy, after all, an open to the public event featuring playable versions of upcoming unreleased video games is something that every European gamer yearns for every time E3, TGS, Leipzig or any other acronymically named video gaming event kicks off.
Play.com Live was ĎAn Entertainment Extravaganza For The Whole Family!í featuring high profile video games such as Lego Indiana Jones, Star Wars: Force Unleashed, Resident Evil 5, Rockband, Ninja Gaiden 2, Bourne Conspiracy, GhostBusters, Prototype and many more. I travelled down to the newly rebuilt Wembley Arena with hopes of checking out some upcoming games, possibly getting some hands on time with a few triple A titles and writing about them for you, the dedicated readers.
Disappointingly the event turned out to be a gathering of trailers and gameplay footage all of which are readily accessible on the all-powerful internet.
While the aforementioned list of games is impressive the playable titles at the event were largely comprised of games that have been available for purchase for a while now, games such as Unreal 3, Gears of War, Guitar Hero 3, Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 were featured prominently at the event, theyíre all great games but at this point - not exactly worthy of coverage.
There were a few exceptions though; I did get some hands on time with Rock Band, The Bourne Conspiracy and Soul Calibur IV.
Although Rock Band has been out for a while now the game still hasnít been given an official release date for Europe, I canít figure out why itís taking so long but If I had to hazard a guess Iíd say either downloadable content issues or retail distribution procedures are holding it back.
When the original Guitar Hero game came out I was new to the rhythm game genre, I didnít play Guitar Freaks, Amplitude or Frequency despite being recommended them by a number of friends, what can I say Ė my tastes were restrictively simple back then.
So when Guitar Hero came out the appeal of being able to play a Guitar without actually learning to play hooked me in and I made the leap into rhythmic waters. I loved Guitar Hero, it defeated my pessimism and did exactly what it claimed to do, made me feel like a rock star in the comfort of my own living room, but when Guitar Hero 2 came out I decided to give it a miss, the main change to the game was a new song list and since I wasnít particularly enamored with the set-list It just didnít appeal to me, the same goes for every other marginally different Guitar Hero release since the first one.
When Harmonix revealed that their latest rhythm game would let players play drums my ears perked up and I started to pay more attention, the most appealing aspects of Rock Band are the drums and the delivery method of songs. The gameplay of Guitar Hero is great but the novelty of guitar playing element wore of pretty quickly for me, but applying the gameplay style to the drums is something Iím definitely interested in.
I got the chance to play the drums at the event and it is pure unadulterated fun, it is extremely hard however, playing on medium right off the bat it not something Iíd recommend. From what Iíve seen so far the content delivery method that has been implemented in the US release is also something to look forwards to, Itís good to see that Harmonix is taking the consumer friendly approach by treating Rock Band as a platform which they can update through downloadable content instead of the money hungry Guitar Hero approach.
Iím a big fan of the fighting game genre and have been disappointed by the consistent decline in fighting games over the last few years. Thankfully 2008 looks to be a good year for the genre, titles such as Street Fighter IV, Blaze Blue, King of Fighters XII and Soul Calibur VI are leading the charge in the fighting game renaissance. Everyone has Ďa gameí, a fighting game which they claim to be a master of, mine happen to be Street Fighter and to some extent Soul Calibur, while I probably wonít be much competition in a professional capacity I can still hold my own in both of these games, so when I got the chance to play Soul Calibur IV I was more than excited Ė I was ecstatic.
Although the demo was clearly an early build it was still developed enough to be evident of how the final product will turn out.
The Soul Calibur games are known for being on the upper tier in terms of visuals and this game is no different, the character models are extremely detailed and features such as clothing and hair all animate realistically, a disturbing amount of attention has also been paid to the animation of what can only be described as the encumbering aspects of the female anatomy, seriously itís a bit redundant at this point.
The gameplay of Soul Calibur is completely intact but it felt a little slower than the previous games, the movements felt sluggish which meant that battles didnít flow as well as they did in the previous games and it was difficult to get combos going, this was also in large part due to the significant lag between the game and the Xbox 360 controller, the response times between a button press and the character execution were far too long, this is something which I have no doubt will be addressed before the release. The demo was restricted to Taki, Sophitia and Mitsurugi, although I donít have much experience with Taki she did feel a bit overpowered, but again this is probably something theyíll fix during the balancing portion of the development. Iím still just as excited to play Soul Calibur 4 but itís a shame they still havenít fixed the seriesí biggest flaw Ė thereís still no way to counter ringouts.
Lastly is The Bourne Conspiracy, I didnít get the chance to play this for too long but the little I did play was pretty decent, Iím a little reluctant to give any sort of definitive opinion because this is a book/movie based game and we all know how those turn out (yes I know Riddick was awesome). The combat although not very deep was oddly satisfying; the little ĎBourneí moments appear in the form of God of War style quick time events and pack the same punch, watching Bourne beat someone over the head with a fire extinguisher in the game was just as entertaining as watching him lay the smackdown with a phone book in the movie.
Anyway, overall the event was a giant disappointment and I feel like a complete chump for buying VIP tickets, honestly, the only thing I got was the option to get in a different line.
How hard would it have been to get demos for Smash Bros, Little Big Planet or Metal Gear, theyíve all been playable at various events throughout last year so itís just a matter of getting permission to use them. I guess the show just isnít important enough Ė why does the industry hate us so....
Update: To cheer you up here's a video of a recent Mass Effect play session i had, Wrex got bored...