Managed to score an invite to Toronto’s X’08, this year’s Microsoft sponsored video game event showcasing upcoming Xbox 360 titles. Here’s my impressions of some of the video games that will most likely be making a dent in your wallet this Fall and Winter.
Gears Of War 2
Making my way past the initial press check-in desk I was informed that the first presentation of Gears of War 2 by none other than Cliffy B was about to begin. So I decided to bypass the main gaming floor and head upstairs to get a look at what will most likely be the hottest selling Xbox 360 title this year.
Bigger, better, and more bad-ass. That’s the easiest way to describe the sequel to the original Gears of War, yet that wouldn’t do the game justice. It’s not a 1.5, not merely a slightly enhanced version of what you’ve already played, GoW 2 takes the series firmly to the next level. What can you expect? More weapons, more finishing moves (both with weapon in hand and without), chainsaw duels, the ability to use an opponent as a meat shield, portable shields that can be anchored to provide cover wherever needed, larger more immersive environments, more intense action on screen at one time, and the list goes on. For those of you who aren’t merely satisfied with an increased level of carnage will be interested to know that GoW 2 features a deeper storyline primarily centered around the character Dominic who is searching the city ruins for his missing wife.
Multiplayer-wise you’ll be able to enjoy 10 player 5 vs 5 Team Deathmatch, a new CTF mode called “Meatflag” as well as other new multiplayer modes like “Wingman” where you and a buddy team up, in a five teams of two gameplay mode. There will be a dozen multiplayer maps in total to play on upon game release. Of course all the new weapons, and finishing moves found in single player are present in multiplayer including the new sticky grenade that can be used as a proximity mine. An interesting addition to the game includes the ability to crawl away when knocked down (subsequently leaving a bloody trail behind you) so that you may reach a party member to revive you as oppose to just lying there in one spot screaming “Revive me! Revive me!” Note that an opponent can easily follow your blood trail, pick you up and use you as a meat shield. Which sets up some potentially interesting stand-offs depending upon who gets to the injured player first. Finally there’s a new Co-Op mode called “Horde” that has up to 5 players fighting off wave after wave of Locusts. If you enjoyed Gears of War there is no reason not to buy Gears of War 2. Nuff said.
Honestly this game failed to impress me to the considerable degree it perhaps should have. Which is not to say that it wouldn’t greatly impress 80% of FPS/RPG fans out there, just not my cup of tea I suppose. A rep from Bethesda Game Studios gave me a brief demo of when the main character first steps out of the bomb shelter in search of his father. Graphically the game looked impressive though not as detailed or as crisp as games like Gears of War 2 or Project Origin which was being demoed nearby. The main outdoor post-apoc environment is staggeringly huge, more than enough room to wonder around aimlessly amongst the rubble if that’s your thing. NPCs in-game were your typical Mad Max variety and not exactly bursting with polygons, nor for that matter did you have to travel very far to run across the same exact character model being used for someone else. On the RPG side the upgrade options for your character, weapons, and armor is as robust as your ever likely to see in any RPG. Fallout 3 is to Action /RPGs what Forza is to race car games, just a mind numbing level of attributes to play with. Along with that there is the common good or evil path you can take which effects how well you do with various NPCs throughout the game. Passive aggressive types will be interested to know that one of the game devs had apparently gone through the entire game having only fired one bullet. I doubt however you’ll find many gamers playing through Fallout 3 as an influential conversationalist.
What really turned me off was the emphasis on the Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System, or VATS. Essentially in a combat encounter you freeze the game and are then able to highlight exactly the body part of your opponent you would like to fire upon be it leg, torso, head, etc. Each body part has a percentage bar telling you the possibility of a successfully takedown. Make your target choice, then go back to real time and your character automatically begins firing at your opponent’s body as instructed. What I found odd, as the game was demoed to me, is that you can apparently shoot your opponent point blank in the face 3 times and your opponent will appear no worse for wear. The Bethesda rep then repeated the VATS process a second time eventually showing the opponent being suddenly decapitated in a cinematically gory animation much to the glee of my fellow onlookers. All in all this combat system, in my eyes, looked kinda cheesy and rather broke up the pace of the game. I’ve seen plenty enough gory deaths in video games that the dismemberment featured heavily (“oh the kids will love it!”) in Fallout 3 didn’t turn my crank, YMMV.
Perhaps if I had more time with the game I would have walked away with more favorable impressions, perhaps I was missing out on a well written epic storyline that would keep gamers riveted to their controllers. Overall Fallout 3 just didn’t feel like the chocolate/peanut butter sensation it was being touted as. I’m willing to keep an open mind about the game in the future but for now I think I’ll pass.
Saw this game only briefly but for what I saw the game looked to be one of the stronger FPS titles coming out this end year. Project Origin of course is the sequel to the original F.E.A.R. video game bypassing the expansion packs of Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate which many had felt was blandly more of the same. Project Origin runs on the enhanced Jupiter X engine which to me does well to hold it’s own against the Unreal 3 engine which is currently favored by many video game developers. Project Origin looked really crisp and immersive with some of the best particle effects of any video game on display at this event.
I can’t say much about the gameplay from my brief preview but it did appear like a full fledge sequel as oppose to just another expansion pack. The game rep on hand spoke of the enhanced AI but really I didn’t need selling on that point. F.E.A.R. had perhaps the best A.I. of any FPS I ever played and if Project Origin’s AI is even better well...I’m sold. One interesting thing I did see during my preview is the ability to interact with the environment to create cover. For example kicking over a desk, sweet. Of course there is the whole suspense/horror element as Alma wrecks havoc across the city, just enough to give the game a spooky atmosphere. At any rate I say the game is worth keeping an eye out for. Wanted
Based upon the recent movie and acting as a continuation of the story Wanted the video game has you playing assassin-in-blood Wesley blowing away bad guys in the stylistic super human manner shown in the movie. Graphically the game looked very impressive, even as I stood listening to a rep explain Project Origin to me I couldn’t help but glances over at Wanted every few minutes. Obviously a great amount of time was put into the game to make it look like as realistic as the movie proceeding it. The game level shown off was a gun fight on an airplane. You controlled Wesley taking out the baddies either by curved bullet strikes or by Sam Fisher like sneak and knife moves (though how you could sneak up on someone on a well lit plane I dunno).
Games based on movies usually suck as bad as movies based on video games so time will tell if this game is a hit or miss. It certainly has potential, but then again so did the Bourne Conspiracy. If Wanted the video game can be stylish without being cheesy, have a decent storyline, implement decent controls and fun gameplay without being bug ridden we may just have a winner on our hands.
Yet another game that didn’t impress me as much as I thought it would. Maybe I needed more time with the game but the terrain deformation, as cool as the feature was, didn’t feel like it would be enough for me to consider this game a must have. I mean...The game does come off like a quality production, the game looks good and plays well, I just had mixed feelings as to whether being able to transform the battle terrain to either hills or valleys would be enough for me to play yet another post-apoc red vs blue scenario video game. I’ll hold off final judgment till I get some more hands on.
Call Of Duty 5
As far as subject matter for video games goes WWII has been milked to death, dry humped, buried dead, then resurrected and milked and humped some more. But that aint gonna stop game developers Treyarch from returning to “the war to end all wars” for Call of Duty 5. All you really need to know is that Cod 5 is a lot like CoD 2 and 3 just a little more intense, better looking, aaannd you get a new Co-Op mode. But yeah, it’ still yet another WWII shooter.
Duke Nukem 3D
Those of you still trying to maintain an erection for Duke Nukem Forever (In Production) here’s some good news. Duke Nukem 3D is making it’s way to Xbox Live Arcade complete with Xbox Live achievements, on-line score boards, and a co-op mode. Play the game for the first time or replay it again on your Xbox 360 console and don’t forget to tip the strippers.
In Part 2 of my X’08 report I delve into a couple of comic book inspired video games, deliver the 411 on Infinite Undiscovery and Fable II, as well as the next-gen incarnation of the Silent Hill series.