At the time of this writing New York Comic Con ended two weeks ago and is a fading, bitchin memory. At the con many video game developers had their imminent and work-in-progress games on display several months before they come out , raising my anticipation for 2012 (and for that they have my thanks.) My intention was to get all that I saw written and distributed at least a week ago but I encountered some non-technical difficulties that caused an unfortunate delay. All of this info is already out, and probably more in depth, in other places but determination demands that I post anyway. Hopefully you’ll still like what you see.
From what I recall the original Darkness did okay for reviews and sales. I liked it for sure. I certainly got what they were going for but, don’t hate, it felt like an incomplete game. Like a long, full-build demo. Fun, interesting, lacking. I got about 10-20 minutes with Darkness 2 in what I’m almost sure is the first segment and this game blows the doors off of the first. It was cinematic, unique, intuitive, and friggin gorgeous. I was thoroughly impressed by the whole package I saw. Word of warning though: far gorier than the first. Disembowling comes pretty early.
Limited demo but I think a lot can be construed from it. There were two possible demos, both of them boss fights. From what I understand, the better part of the game will be quicktime driven boss fights. You might think that’s a limited concept (because it kind of is) but I found it quite satisfying. See, it always bothered me in games when you saw a character do things in quicktime and cinematics that you couldn’t physically do in-game with the controller. It was a tease, in my opinion. This one blends the two very well. The result is a little cheesy (voice acting was somewhat painful) but the action is unnecessarily extreme, and I’m very comfortable with that.
I like hack/slash games far more than my at home library would suggest so I was hoping for better than I got on this one. The scenes I played felt bland and half done, despite physically looking finished. The scenery and character/enemy designs were well rendered (if a little vanilla), the monsters were well put together, I can dig the story, but the combat (i.e. 95% of the demo) just fell flat. The mechanics were solid enough but somehow it was still confusing what you were actually supposed to DO. Hit detection was unsatisfying, especially on the bosses, the combat was pretty confused, and the special attacks either did little to nothing or just didn’t serve a real purpose than to do another keen fighting animation. Probably not the worst hack/slash out there but I expect far more in the finished product. This was serviceable but very weak.
Kirby: Return To Dreamland
Short backstory: Kirby is one of those games/franchises that I’ve played maybe twice and never even near to completion, but it’s always been special to me. This had every bit of fanservice I had hoped for. Endearing as hell with very solid gameplay. It’s so well put together that it wasn’t for an hour after that I realized that all the characters had about 2 attacks total. I think people have been clamoring for a multiplayer Kirby since Super Star (correct me if I’m wrong about Crystal Shards please), and this one is far more expansive in that regard. But there’s always a downside: the levels are quite cramped for 4 players. Possibly even cramped for 2. The players get in each others’ way just a hair more than is reasonable, unless they spread out on the screen, which doesn’t help as it’s pretty much always left-right/right-left progress. This is sure to irritate several people. The other thing (this is more of an annoyance, doesn’t affect the game really) is that Kirby is essentially the only character that matters. If Waddle Dee, Meta Knight, or Dedede die it does take from the life pool, natch, but what’s annoying is that they’re only support for Kirby. They don’t get any new powers or upgrades that I saw. They can’t even use doors. BUT, in the end it is a very satisfying team effort in a fantastically rendered game that is going to find a very well deserved place in the Kirby mythology.
I sort of knew what to expect going into this (download title, 2D cartoon art style fighter, small cast of all females, quirky, etc.) The critics liked the early views and such, so mostly just name recognition was all I had going in, but high expectations wouldn’t have hurt my opinion of this game one bit. The art style is funny and unique with the animations being tight and glitch free, combat was fun, fast paced, and well executed. It’s a technical fighter (i.e. reminiscent of MvC2 and Darkstalkers i.e. I got stomped) with the option of multiple fighters per side. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure you can choose to fight with a handicap at the character select screen (3v2, 1v3, etc.) One particular thing I thought was inspired was the sense of attitude imbued into the game and characters themselves (when a fight is over the game asks “What now, big shot?” I thought it was a cool touch.) The only complaint is that there were only 4 or 5 combatants in the demo and I’m pretty sure there are only going to be about 8 or so in the final version. Fingers crossed for downloadable characters later as I foresee this game having a lot of potential life in it.
I’ve never played a Rayman game before so I had no prior experience going in. I’m kind of wanting to look for old copies now (kind of.) I’m not going to say it’s a revolution in platforming games but lord was it endearing. The party mechanics were extremely well thought out (how to revive when you mess up, getting to new places, slapping your comrades for kicks, etc), even if there was a slight learning curve to them. But it’s quite forgiving of the likely several mistakes players will make in navigating this game so the fun factor gets kicked up a couple of notches. It could still easily get frustrating, but a lot of that will be mitigated by the team system. The level design was straightforward yet clever. The art style unique and often hilarious. Hardcore gamers looking to increase their cred might not see this as more than a time killer but anyone looking to while away a happy night with friends should definitely give this title a shot.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
The only demo available at the show was an 8 person multiplayer free-for-all in the game’s new Deathmatch. (What’s cool about that in and of itself is that because Ubisoft has a new competitive multiplayer game coming out we’re going to see the Frag Dolls on the competitive gaming circuit again. Just a heads up.) It’s a very limited mode by design. You choose one of a variety of characters, all with a preset loadout (two slots for weapons/distraction tools and abilities; you can change this loadout while waiting to spawn) and (the fun part) their own different assassinations. I got the idea that they all have their own “powers” that apply to combat and assassination as well; While trying to knock off a target he turned the tables on me and I was told that that character always had the advantage if he was aware of an attempt. There was no tutorial or anything so that’s all I had to go on on that but it’s another element of play that could prove interesting, if sometimes cheap. The lesson: kill quickly. Obvious, right? Unfortunately that’s not always entirely possible as finding your target is frustratingly hard, especially while you’re learning. There is no map and no compass, and many different NPC copies of the different characters are walking around at all times. The only way to know that you’re even looking at a player character is if they run, climb, or hide (or, y’know, kill someone.) You’re given a target that you must then somehow track down and kill; when you’re looking at your target their picture in the corner lights up, but finding them at all is a trying endeavor. It’s made all the harder by the fact that your target may also be the target of other players, while you yourself are being hunted by an unknown player. I left the demo frustrated but strangely interested. I may very well find myself a fan of this mode (after extensive practice beforehand, natch.)
Shoot Many Robots
The premise: rednecks fighting robots in a 2D shooter. Can’t ask for more, right? Well you also get Penny Arcade’s Fruit F***er as a wardrobe choice/powerup, all on the Unreal Engine, so the art design and animation were top notch. The level I saw was very well built- open enough to allow for a decent amount of smaller enemies onscreen and room to maneuver/slaughter, and tight enough to keep the pressure high (think along the lines of Contra: Shattered Soldier with more of a swarm tactic from the enemy). Very high, actually. The settings on the demo at NYCC were set high for a challenge they were running so it was damn difficult playing alone, and, apparently, together as well: no teams made it through 5 levels of the swarm. Fantastic multiplayer opportunity though, with up to 4 players trying to cut a swath through the mayhem. Factoring in the leveling up, level replays, unlockable weapons, powerups, and just the sheer quality of the action and inherent comedy, I think this will be a very satisfying time waster.
Max Payne 3
That’s right, in-game footage of Max Payne 3. And it was everything I’d hoped for with just a bit more. This wasn’t a hands-on demo but a screening room where several people got to watch someone from Rockstar play through 2 segments of the game. MP3 (and the demo I saw) starts off right after MP2, with Max living in a hole in the wall and drinking his life away. A friend comes by to offer him work (“the type he’s good at.” Probably not a good sign) as some kind of private security in Brazil (the dirty part.) As Max tries to turn him down a mob boss and his thugs surround the apartment to try to kill Max as revenge for killing the boss’s son. The second part of the demo is in Brazil after Max has grown a beard and shaved his head (the images most associated with this game.) He has to protect his friend’s girlfriend from some private military group that is after her. That’s all I’ll say about the story and get to the good stuff. The first real gameplay is Max shooting his way out of his apartment. The shooting mechanics, graphics, bullet time and environment are all expertly crafted, precise, and more exciting than ever. Dual wielding pistols is back, and switching between one small gun, two small guns, and one large gun is now handled by a weapon wheel. In Brazil we were treated to some new mechanics and devices. Firstly, the animations are spot on. A step is a real human step. He reaches out to break his fall when diving. He realistically always turns his body to keep his eyes and gun always pointed toward the reticle. And now, when prone, he turns and rolls with his targeting without having to get up. As for something wholly new, a cover mechanic was added. The favela area was extremely well built for this mechanic with vehicle husks and debris galore. But that’s just to give you another option or time to breathe. Running in with guns blazing is still gloriously effective. And I saw at least one environmental move where Max grabbed a hook in a warehouse and swung down in bullet time to clear the room. The last significant change is that the internal monologue from Max is still present, but the graphic novel style exposition has been changed to be a gritty motion comic/film style a la Tony Scott’s “Domino” or “Man On Fire.” I’m as about as excited for this as I can be.
There were several more games to preview but whether through a lack of interest or a lack of time I didn’t get to experience them. But, for those interested I’ll list what else I saw was there in demo form just in case you didn’t know how imminent they are.
- Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
- Dead Rising 2: Off The Record
- Street Fighter x Tekken
- Ultimate MvC3
- Prototype 2
- FFXIII-2 extended trailer (some in-game, mostly cinematic; gorgeous though)
- HALO Anniversary
- The Adventures Of Tintin
- Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword
- Heroes Of Might & Magic 6.