Comic-Con 2012 is over and I got to play a surprising amount of games while I was there so here are my impressions in no particular order:
Halo 4 Multiplayer
Man I’m rusty at this. I’m not a big enough Halo player to know if there was anything intricate changed like weapon balance but what I do know is that it SOUNDS amazing. I’ve always thought that the Halo series had sound that was lacking in weight and punch. I’ve never felt like Master Chief because my weapons sound like pea shooters and I have no footsteps. The melee attack sound was pretty good though. A lot of other sounds just felt inadequate or flat out missing. Halo 4 finally fixes this!
Right off the bat I noticed that there are indeed metallic sounding footsteps which instantly make the soldiers feel less floaty. All of the weapons I used (assault rifle, DMR) are from previous Halo games but the sound effects on them sound completely redone. The assault rifle especially has traditionally sounded pretty weak, but now you really hear every bullet coming out and they all have a real PUNCH. DMR used to sound like a pistol in a canyon but now has a more solid feel to it.
The sound of instant melee kills, getting hit by a warthog or hijacking someone off a ghost all have really hard hitting crunches. It’s like they made real armor and rammed a car into it. In fact, the audio was so good I barely minded that I was playing terribly. Make no mistake, the sound effects still sound like Halo. The plasma grenade still has the same elements, but more sound effects have been layered over it. Even if the experience was amplified by playing with their super gamer headphones I think the sound effects will still hold up when I hear them on my TV.
Graphically it’s shiiiiiny. I think I caught moments of that effect when the framerate speeds up because you’re looking at a corner of the world without much geometry in it. I’m sure there’s a technical term for that. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. I usually find it distracting and prefer when the framerate is capped instead.
So far Halo 4 is shaping up to be what I was hoping for which is a set of fresh eyes looking to improve on the series which I’ve always felt never made serious leaps and bounds with its sequels. Hopefully they can do the same for Halo’s storytelling which has been rather flat except for ODST which was a step in the right direction but a little insubstantial by the end.
It’s still Okami but the MOST important thing is that the Playstation Move controls feel better than the Wii AND you can use buttons to attack! I’m not even sure waggle was an option for attack which is a great thing. Playing this very long game won’t cause permanent damage to your wrist and the digging minigame will be actually playable. I was playing very close to the screen but the brush usage was fast and responsive during combat. The large “Move” button on the wand was mapped to painting and attacking. I was surprised by how small the square, triangle, circle, and X buttons were. The only slightly awkward control is using the d-pad to tilt the camera up and down on the left nunchuk.
The graphics looked absolutely beautiful. The paper texture that covers the screen was sharper and the 2D and 3D graphics looked very clear. I was worried the 2D elements wouldn’t scale up since the original was SD but it looks like it all works in higher resolution. According to the Capcom rep the ORIGINAL END CREDITS are in the game!!! This is shaping up to be the definitive release!
This game used to be “True Crime: Hong Kong” before it was jettisoned by Activision and then bought up by Square Enix. The section I played was mostly a chase scene and hand to hand combat. The cutscenes are in English but they mix in some Chinese similar to how Assassin’s Creed II uses its Italian. The Chinese pronunciation worked to varying degrees of success. It seems between missions there’s some walking around you can do to soak in the ambience of the streets of Hong Kong. There’s a lot of animation for the NPCs that you walk by and if the rest of the game is as well populated with unique then it’ll be an impressive looking open world (I’m not actually sure if the game is open world or not)
I bought from all the food vendors I found. A nice detail was when he bought fried rice he’d eat it quickly and discard the bowl on the street. There was a brief chase scene which involved pressing X to jump over some obstacles but wasn’t terribly difficult. I never felt for a moment that I might fail like in an Assassin’s Creed game and it didn’t get as cinematic as in an Uncharted, but it felt fun enough.
The hand to hand combat was what made up most of the demo. There’s some basic attacks, grapples and throws. There are also environmental objects which glow red to indicate there’s a special attack associated with it. These were things like knocking a guy into an air vent, closing shutters on a guy, or grinding a guy’s face into a fan on a rooftop. This game clearly wants to be gritty and visceral in its presentation. The combat wasn’t terribly difficult but I had fun playing it and trying out all the environmental attacks. If you learn new kung fu attacks in the game then it could be a lot of fun. I wouldn’t say I’m banging the doors down to play Sleeping Dogs but I’d consider getting it on sale. Then again, I wait for most games to go on sale.
Resident Evil 6 Leon Demo
Resident Evil continues to look very shiny and it was nice to see Leon all HD-ified. This demo was sort of flat because it was extremely easy. I know that demos are made to be easier so that players can beat them and get a good impression but so many parts of the demo had only one zombie who never attacked. Only one time did they pile enough on to increase the difficulty but even then it wasn’t very hard. Maybe having played RE games, I don’t find them as tense as when I first played RE4.
The other reason is that Leon has more melee attacks in his arsenal. Before, your last resort was the knife which was best used on downed opponents. Leon can now take an axe from a zombie and use it on them which is pretty cool. He also has kick melee attacks which can be used on zombies or double teaming stubborn doors with his partner. Yes, when you need a partner to open a door with they both do turning side kicks to open them :P
The other new thing is model dismemberment. If you shoot the center of the chest you’re going to make a hole which is all you’re going to be shooting through if you don’t shoot a different part of the body. If you shoot a head off it’ll either explode or fall backwards while still attached to the body. Other parts of the body damage like you’d expect them to.
Parts of the game weren’t working like whenever your partner helps you up the animations skipped around and all of a sudden I’d be standing up. Same went for if I was on the ground and a zombie attacked me. Either animations are flat out missing at this point in development or some code needs fixing up. Also I think your partner sprinkles herbs in your mouth when you’re dying. Not sure if the “herbal spray” from RE5 has been replaced (heh, sounds like a cosmetic).
There were some quicktime events too of course which were functionally the same. So it seems like Resident Evil 6 is more Resident Evil. I’m curious what the multiple storylines will be like.
Tomb Raider Hunting Demo
Despite the negative press and the ridiculous moans and groans coming from this new Lara Croft I’ve still been interested because I’m a fan of the Uncharted 3rd person adventure (like the excellent Enslaved). This demo was rather limited in scope so there wasn’t much to go off of. It covered Lara finding a bow and hunting for food. The graphics I think looked nice and the character animates well whether running, crawling, jumping etc. Like Uncharted it looks like there will be a lot of context sensitive motion captured or keyframe animated movements.
This demo showed the “hub” which is your base camp on a rather large world map. There are menus upon menus of skills that you can level up as you play. It turns out, it takes experience points to pick up arrows off the ground because “arrow retrieval” is a skill. There are other skills such as “toughness” and various melee kills or bow and arrow skills. You’ll get xp as you play, for example when I did my first climbing section I got 100 xp. While hunting I saw deer, rabbits and birds. I have a feeling that despite Lara’s reluctance to kill animals, she’ll be killing a lot of them if you want to get the experience or achievement points. Gameplay will probably be somewhat at odds with the character like how Drake is a nice guy but kills hundreds of people.
My biggest question about this game is if/how the character’s presentation will change as you level up and the story progresses. When the demo started, the nearly every jump she made or stunt performed was accompanied by screams and groans. This could easily get grating after a while, so my question is if by the end she’ll be more confident in her jumps and the panicked cries will turn into Nathan Drake-like grunts. If the sound designer is reading this, please add more breathing sound effects. Every inhale and exhale in the demo sounded exactly the same to me which is even more distracting than the unnatural breathing the children in Heavy Rain made.
I’m still interested in Tomb Raider because it has a lot of elements that I like. Story, Uncharted set piece moments and character skill leveling. If they can evolve the character in cinematic and also in-game then it could be a lot of fun.
Dust: An Elysian Tail
This is an XBLA Summer of Arcade title that I’ve been looking forward to. It’s a combo based action game and it has Metroidvania style map exploration and GORGEOUS art and animation. The other big story about it is that the entire game was made by one guy Dean Dodrill (except the music). He’s an artist by trade but short version of the story is that he wanted to learn to program so he decided to make a game. The hard work definitely shows because how many people can do something so successfully when it’s a field of work totally foreign to what we’re used to doing everyday?
You play the titular character Dust who looks like a cat humanoid sort of thing accompanied by a cat/bat looking mascot character. Dust has a sword and can combo it with a flashy looking spinning move which can then amplify the projectile attacks from the companion character, and he can spin attack through the air. As you play you’ll unlock more moves to make better combos. There’s a LOT of animation in this game that flows and is super “juicy.” It reminds me of the smooth animation from Wayforward who made the new “Boy and his Blob” and “Bloodrayne Betrayal.” The color palette is well, colorful. This game has bright beautiful colors and the environments are lush and varied. Beyond the animation there are a lot of nice special effects like how the background distorts as Dust spins and swipes his sword around. It’s not stuff that hasn’t been seen before but it really spices up the look of the game.
The menus are replete with item slots, character stats and lots of food pickups like chicken and cakes used to restore health. The jumping feels a tad floaty but I can already see how once you could get a nice flow going juggling enemies around the screen. Also there are damage numbers which are always good in my book because of the sense of progression they elicit.
Did I mention the game is pretty? Because it really is. The animation is so juicy I want to eat it up with a spoon. Cannot wait for this one!
I’ve been interested in this since PAX East because I like the 2.5D Shadow Complex look. It’s a post apocalyptic zombie game set in the 80s. The demo focuses on traversal and puzzle solving. It’s clearly not a game where you’re meant to fight the zombies when you encounter them because for one thing you don’t even have weapons. You do get an axe later on in the demo but it’s not like you’re going to be swinging it around and messing zombies up. The look is a desaturated brown look with lots of rubble, old run down buildings etc. and the character animates well. Cutscenes are done in motion comic style with some good voice acting. I wonder how the 80s time period will influence the story.
Clearly the demo was the tutorial portion of the game, but it didn’t give me a good impression of what the rest of the game will be like. One of the developers was there and asked me what I thought of the game. I asked him what the rest of the game would be like in terms of gameplay. He emphasized that it wasn’t an action focused game and that it was mainly traversal and puzzle solving. He said that the puzzles would indeed get much more difficult later in the game. I forgot to ask him if there was a story reason that the main character couldn’t swim.
What I should’ve asked him was how the game challenged the player, because the demo was too easy to get a firm grasp of what to expect. I’ll definitely get it when it comes out since I like 2.5D games but I wish the demo had made me more confident about what to expect.
DMC (Devil May Cry)
I’ve wanted to try the new Devil May Cry ever since I heard that Ninja Theory (developers of Enslaved) were making it. I’ve only played the first and third Devil May Cry and the demo of the 4th. I’m really bad at combo based 3D action games. I’m a little better at the 2D ones because I can keep better track of the movement. The best players are the ones who can mix combos on the fly and make it look fluid and pretty. My litmus test for whether I’ll like a combo based action game is based on how well I can button mash or how confident I am that I could learn some decent combos.
The DMC demo starts you off with only a shoot button, double jump, a sword attack and a button to launch enemies into the air. I was almost worried it’d been dumbed down too much and get boring. Later they revealed the LT and RT as angel/devil modifier buttons for the combat and a grab move that can be used either to pull enemies to you or pull yourself to an enemy. This for me was the right mix of God of War button mashing that I do and the skill based Devil May Cry, Bayonetta and Ninja Gaiden games. I think I can work with this. I realized that any action game which has a grapple move is what makes me feel like I’m doing well so I think this will be a good fit.
The colorful Ninja Theory art style from Enslaved is just as evident here. There are moments where the environments impressively crumble and split apart in scripted events. The pacing of short dialogue cutscenes intercut with the action along with the dynamic environments make it feel more cinematic and modern. The technical side also looks much improved from previous games because as good as Enslaved was, there was a little bit of jank here and there that occasionally bogged the framerate down. The dialogue somehow maintains the series’ juvenile cockiness and cursing but is acted well enough that it’s not annoying. Devil May Cry has traditionally had really stupid dialogue but I think DMC looks like it’ll be stupid but self-aware enough to totally work. The performance capture in the game adds that extra layer of polish.
Long story short it looks like DMC will have all the heart of Devil May Cry but with enough modern twists to make it a worthy reboot to the series.
I’ve always been intrigued by the Hitman series from afar but the controls never felt good to me. I tried the demo of Hitman Blood Money but my experience felt really janky and that’s putting it nicely. I’ve been looking forward to Absolution because it looks like it’ll control better and be more polished all around. The demo was an assassination in Chinatown which incorporates an extremely impressive crowd scene. It’s very much like Assassin’s Creed but since it’s not an open world game there are a LOT more people in this crowd. It animated nicely and didn’t feel very glitchy at all. Very smooth looking presentation.
There are lot of things you can interact with in the game like petrol cans, bottles, knifes, dumpsters, fuse boxes etc. I didn’t feel bad hitting the hint prompts because I think this is the sort of game where there are so many ways to approach it that you have to know just how interactive the world is. Aside from just shooting the target or strangling him, the other options I saw were poisoning his food, poisoning his drugs, sabotaging his car or just sniping him. I opted for the approach to poison his drugs ( the staff person manning the station had to give me the hint after I royally messed up my first attempt).
I distracted a policeman by sabotaging a fuse box which let me sneak into the nearby drug dealer’s hangout. The dealer held me at gunpoint and after feigning defeat by raising my hands I followed button prompts to take him out and wear his clothes. To poison the drugs I needed fugu fish from the fish market. What I had assumed I’d end up doing was poisoning the drugs (wouldn’t he notice his cocaine was wet with fish poison?) and giving the drugs to the target. It turns out the target wanted to do the drugs at the dealer’s apartment. I realized too late that I left the body just lying around so he figured me out and pulled a gun on me. I feigned defeat again, broke his neck and walked out of Chinatown.
For me Hitman isn’t a great game to play at a show because I want to be slow and methodical but I don’t want to hold up the line too much. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on this once it comes out. What I played was a good enough taste that I feel confident the rest of the game will be fun in a more refined and varied Assassin’s Creed format.
Sidenote, the Microsoft employee was ALLOWING children under the age of 17 to play Hitman!!! I saw kids as young as 8 playing the game, and in fact the kid to my left playing it decided to kill EVERY single person in the massive crowd scene down to the last fish salesman. The woman at the demo station only scolded the children when they put their drink or snacks on the table in front of the TV “Come on, you know better” is what she said to them. Excuse me?? YOU should know better than to let children play M rated games! Unacceptable Microsoft, train your staff better. There was also a mother who should’ve known better than to watch as her young child played the game. People.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
I had heard that the “War for Cybertron” game was really good but “Fall of Cybertron” is looking to up the ante for Transformers games. These games are being made by fans of the original cartoon (Generation 1) and going from that instead of the spikey bug-like Transformers from the Michael Bay movies. I managed to catch the panel for this game which featured some devs along with Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), Gregg Berger (Grimlock) and Nolan North (Cliffjumper and Bruticus). The thing the devs emphasized was that the game would follow several different Transformers in the game and that each one would play differently from the other. So Cliffjumper would play differently than Grimlock, Optimus Prime or Bumblebee. Also they confirmed that there will indeed be a Stan Bush song in this game.
I played the demo for Bumblebee which had him defending the bridge of a ship then retrieving a fuse to re-activate the ship’s cannons. The action is 3rd person shooter with lots of scripted events going on around you like hapless Transformers getting destroyed as Decepticon robot tendrils tear the ship apart. It’s kind of cool that the hull can be breached but it doesn’t entirely matter because they don’t need air to breathe. All the while there was epic orchestral music going on in the background which really sets the mood. I’ve never though Bumblebee was very cool (I mean his name is Bumblebee) but after the demo he’s definitely looking a lot cooler. The combat feels good and sounds great. A lot of care has gone into the sound because those giant robots sound like you want them to.
Doing a boost forward into a melee attack knocked a Decepticon out the window and was super satisfying. It never hurts that you can hear Nolan North as various generic autobots screaming and yelling while this is going on. Was it ever a question that the voice acting from a cartoon show would be good? The presentation is really top notch here and got me amped up in all the right ways. The gameplay moments shown during the panel have the environments dynamically changing in the way you’d expect them to on a robot planet.
Fall of Cybertron looks like the best kind of Transformers fan service that 80s kids could hope for now that they’re in their 30s. I’m looking forward to playing the first game before I pick this one up. Also in case you forgot, Stan Bush WILL have a song in this game.
Papo & Yo
I’ve been following this game for a while even though I had no inkling of what it was going to play like. The backstory of the game is that it’s inspired by the experience of the developer growing up with an alcoholic father who was a violent drunk. The father is represented by a monster in the game who is the main character’s friend but goes crazy whenever he eats frogs.
The demo seemed rather limited in scope and like Deadlight I was wondering if the whole game was like the demo or if there were more mechanics to be introduced later. The core of the demo was a village area which had several shacks with wind-up keys in their sides. The keys from afar look like they’re drawn in glowing chalk but are actually 3D. When you wind up the keys the buildings then float away and stacked up on a building in the center. When you go there you can pull a lever which causes the stacked buildings to articulate like a segmented worm. They could then be positioned so that you can walk on top of them to reach parts of the village you couldn’t before. Eventually you stack up enough of them to reach your goal on the other side of the village.
Meanwhile the monster would be running around looking for large lemons which you could bait him with to activate monster hotspots that would also manipulate the environment. It seems that Papo & Yo is a platforming puzzle game, I’m just wondering how devious the puzzles will get eventually and how the story will be told as it goes along.
Sly Cooper 4: Thieves in Time
I never played the original games so I can’t compare this. This demo wasn’t very good because it was very limited in scope. You have access to two different costumes, one is the normal Sly and the other is an archer. This level involved getting to a platform with a bucketful of arrows, shooting a rope arrow across to a target and walking there. Maybe breaking some barrels for coins along the way. There were some trampolines and the targets you had to shoot would get a bit more difficult to hit, but adjusting the arrow movement while in the air made it not very difficult.
The most curious thing to me was that the various surfaces that you jump on or climb have to be attached to by pressing the Circle button. That meant that whenever I jumped towards a rope I had to press circle to land on it, lest I fall to my death. I don’t understand why something you’ll be doing in a platform (you know, like jumping on platforms) would require an additional button press. It seemed like an unnecessary complication, but the guy manning the booth looked like hired help and not a dev so I didn’t push the question. Demo was extremely “meh.”
I had heard people who were very interested in this game but knew very little about it except that there was some dynamic music in it. I played the level by Superbrothers and Jim Guthrie. The character is an eyeball looking thing which can make itself sticky to cling to certain surfaces. Think about the spider ball in Metroid 2. Just about every surface you touch creates a musical note as you traverse the different screens. In order to move around I’d have to bump security guards to cause doors to open and bump women at desks which would cause elevators to move up and down. I could tell that there’s probably an ideal sort of way to play it to make the song sound really good, but even hitting objects randomly it manages to sound like odd music instead of a loud racket.
The game is stage based so I’m guessing there will be timing based trophies and DLC later on. Looking forward to seeing more!
This demo didn’t really show much that indicated how it would differ from the original Darksiders. You play as Death instead of War, complete with his huge torso and tiny little waist. Death has a horse of course (hehe) and he can do a little scramble up the wall to reach higher up ledges. There are also damage numbers when you’re doing attacks, but other than that it played like Darksiders. I enjoyed the original so I’ll pick this up at some point but also like the original won’t be rushing to get it on day 1.
Little Big Planet Karting
I’m terrible at kart racers so this seemed about on point. There were collectibles like those bubbles from LBP and also some powerups like a giant rocket boxing glove and some other things that I didn’t know how to use properly. There were obstacles like you’d see in LBP such as electrical pinball posts. Also there were long jumps where you had to use your grappling hook to cling to and swing to the other side. Also you can slap players on either side.
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale
It certainly looks and sounds just like Smash Bros. I played Nathan Drake (of course) who is a really slow character. His attacks were punches, drop kicks, a desert eagle and some power moves like throwing a propane tank or hilariously generating a large stone pillar and pushing it onto anyone in its path. I was confused about whether the bar on screen was my life or the super meter. I’m pretty sure now it was the life bar. When you’re killed you’re taken off screen for a few seconds and respawn. Maybe it’s because Drake is a slow character but the control felt sluggish.