The weekend saw Eurogamer come to London, and with it came a barrage of titles playable only in other countries. I personally got my hands on a number of titles, and had some great discussions with the people making them. So let’s get into it, as I’ll reveal my thoughts on some of the biggest titles coming this and next year.
Mass Effect 2 (360)
It was the same demo that was shown at E3, but this time I got to play it. While the demo was short, and the EA reps had turned the sound down (Making it impossible for me to understand what was going on), a few things were gleaned from the experience. Mass Effect 2’s combat mechanics have been tweaked just a little. Players will now have to keep an eye on their clip count – which is handily placed below the cross hair. While ammo is still unlimited (for the most part) your clip is not, and the X button now acts as your reload. This is harder to get used to than you might think. I recently played the second expansion to Mass Effect, and the sudden switch to a reloadable weapon takes time to sink in. Close combat is no longer tied to your fire button. Y is now your melee key, and tapping it releases a pistol whip, while holding the button lets loose a haymaker that sends your opponent flying to the floor. The practicality of this new configuration is still up in the air, with close combat being less than useful in the original game. Infinite ammo does tend to make you reluctant to leave your comfort zone.
In the demo, Sheppard was a solider class and his weapon layout and abilities had changed from the original. While there seemed to be space for a fifth weapon on the load out, the pistol is now missing and in its place is the underwhelming rocket launcher. The explosions are not that large (this may depend on your mastery of the weapon) and is the only weapon in the arsenal that has an ammo count. The Soldiers abilities are more suitable this time, with most of them being different ammo types. If these ammo types are time limited, or are loaded into your weapon until you change is still unknown to me, as the demo ended after a very brief combat scenario and I didn’t get around to using them.
While the demo may have been underwhelming and the graphical tweaks nice but nothing huge, we all know that Mass Effect 2’s lure comes in the form of the content. If the game delivers more than the original in terms of options and quests, then Mass Effect 2 is on course to be greater than the first – the changes so far are insignificant.
Heavy Rain (PS3)
The first thing I played and the one game that sticks in my head more than any other. Again the E3 demo was the version present, but actually getting your hands on it is something else. I feel sorry for all those who didn’t get the chance to try it due to the PS3’s being kept in theft proof sealed boxes, which understandably caused them to overheat!
Entering Hassan’s shop with a quick flip of the right analog stick, the unique controls become apparent. The right stick acts as your actions, if you want to pick up, look at or interact with anything, all your actions are assigned to the right analog. Your thoughts and conversation options can be brought up by holding L2, and L1 changes the camera. The face buttons are used when presented with options; these options tend to float around your head in a pattern that relates to your characters situation. Now comes the weird bit, R2 is held to make your character walk forward! While walking the left stick turns you, while forward does absolutely nothing. This is the weirdest choice I have experienced in years of gaming, while it works and (I suppose) is meant to represent real life by putting momentum into your movements, it does sometimes become frustrating. In Hassan’s shop I was forced back down an isle while trying to turn right simply due to an invisible wall, this made the game recognize my attempt at movement as a choice to turn around. It’s worth remembering it’s an unfinished build and I didn’t have a chance to check the options to see if it was reconfigurable.
Unlike the shown demonstration at E3 I was able to detain the robber and avoid injury to myself; I may have looked very smug as my new reporter friend Dom got shot seconds after he rounded the corner. The section in the junk yard was also available and once again I managed to overcome my predicament, but this time without any clues and only after a 10 minute fight which ended pretty brutally with no chance of me asking anymore questions. The junk yard was very QTE heavy, but unlike most games the QTE is matched by the control scheme. While tied up in my car, leaning to the right was done with my movement button and kicking out with my leg was on the right stick. It’s like learning how to use a body with a controller. The combat sections are very similar with actions corresponding to the controls you think the action should. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to look smug at Dom this time as his PS3 overheated in its box and started the most psychotropic glitch session I have ever seen. Heavy Rain is as good as I thought it would be from the trailers, if this game has got you even slightly looking forward to it start getting more excited, it’s what you wanted.
Not only did I get to play the fantastic demo on 360, I was treated to a presentation of a new course exclusively played live at the event and even got to chat to one of the developers. Now I’m going to be honest, I suck at racing games and the only one I will play with any dignity is the arcady Burnout series, Split/Second is a must buy for me and as I’ve explained I’m not a racer. While the game is arcade-like it also rewards the more skilled players with its power bar system.
Spilt/Second is based in a fictional world where a TV show involves racing through ridiculously dangerous courses and the drivers have the ability to set off traps and explosives to alter the race. Now by alter I mean blow up your opponent when they are in the right position (this costs one of three sections of power) or alter the course itself bringing buildings crashing down and planes colliding with the runaway (costing all three). Your power bar can also be used to momentarily open up short cuts which soon close catching any sneaky git trying to follow you. Planning these explosions and course changing elements should be difficult and based on a learning curve as you play a course on paper, but due to handy icons appearing on screen you those with quick reactions will be just as competent as experienced racers.
Split/Second amazingly keeps everything unobtrusive on screen, Your power bar sits curved under your car and your position and lap is displayed on your break lights leaving the whole screen clear for you to handle the sheer speed you will have to contend with. Upon asking how many cars/types of car/ tracks would be shipping with the game, the developer smartly responded “we can’t answer that now, but as an exclusive I’ll tell you not as many cars as GT or Forza”. What we do know is there is a super car and a muscle car. The super was the playable type in the demo, while not the fastest it does react well during explosions and has superb handling, while the muscle car is much faster but is rocked more by the environmental effects which make up the games attraction; the dev called the muscle car “the death or glory approach”.
The new level shown was a dock yard, this levels environmental hazards tend to be the moving type rather than explosive, with cargo crates and cranes singing across the track at the touch of a button. Full cargo ships could be forced across the track making player’s drive up the capsized boat and round with the other route now in tatters. Both tracks looked amazing and look to complement 8 players online but also supporting 2 player split screen, something that is distinctly lacking in a number of games this generation.
I also managed to ask the developer about his time with Project Natal. While he specified that Blackpeak studios have no plans to do anything with the accessory at this time he did state his amazement at the product. He too expressed doubt in the lack of buttons, but like any good developer his mind had already wandered away from the obvious direction of the technology. Being based in Brighton the developer mentioned the dying arcade out on the pier. In fairness the arcade itself is in its decline worldwide, but he saw Project Natal as the technology to revive the arcade industry. With huge sections of space that simply aren’t possible at home, additions like bungie cords and ropes could be set up in arenas to make something that gaming has never seen. While I remain sceptical about the bungie cord comment my mind also started racing at the possibilities this technology could bring to the arcade.
Well I’ll admit it, I was surprised. Playing the 360 build I went into this one expecting it to confirm my low expectations and the game blew me away. Bayonetta may be poorly conceived in character creation and the world it’s set in, but the game plays more than makes up for it. Ladies and Gentlemen it’s so good to play it may give DMC3 a run for its money.
Unlike the DMC series you have 2 attack buttons which makes for a much larger combo list and I mean I couldn’t read the whole damn thing. Animation is smooth, combined with a solid 60 frames per second results in a combat system that flows like water. Any DMC veteran will pick up the games controls within seconds, but mastering them may take a little while longer. Dodges made at the last second enter you into ‘Witch time’, in laymen’s terms 3 seconds of slowing the world down. ‘Witch time’ essentially rewards your skills with a free combo, a nice little system but has the worrying tang of exploitation by the better players (i.e. anyone like me who has played the Ninja Gaiden series). Your guns can be fired off with a press of a button, but much like DMC they are combo extenders rather than damage dealers, unless you combine them in a free flow attack where strangely the fire button changes, sounds weird but it works.
The main character is still annoying, the moves still reek of forced sexuality and Dante is still cooler, but the game is shaping up well. For those who looked at Bayonetta with a curious yet worried glance, think again.
God of War III (PS3)
This is for everyone who has looked at the trailers and said ‘It’s just a slightly better looking version of the PS2 game’, ladies and gents prepare to be amazed. Once you are up close and personal with the game it takes on a whole new persona, the trailers have not done this game justice. Graphically yes it looks very similar from a distance, but the level of detail, facial expressions, particle effect and frame rate are all top notch. When you’re ripping a man’s head off and you see the skin and muscles stretch as Kratos looks on furiously you know you’re playing the new God of War.
The Controls remain defiantly to their predecessor’s setup, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The game plays like you expect, visceral combat and horrific finishers are all in there. QTE moments are now easier with the button appearing in its corresponding area (triangle is at the top, X at the bottom, etc) making it easier to get through the slog while keeping your eyes on the grim slaughter on screen.
Level exploration in-between fights remains slow and cumbersome with the control scheme better suited to combat, but as always the world around you is in motion providing you with entertainment as you go. One section takes you on a vertical climb through what only can be described as a ventilation shaft. Rather than scaling the walls, your Icaras wings lift you through the air, during this you have to dodge debris and find the holes in the scenery to escape. It feels a bit slothful but it does mix up the game play, something the series has been criticized for in the past.
With a high definition screens you can see the blood of his enemies roll across and stain Kratos body as you slaughter, this sums up how people perceive the God of War games and now it is visually represented. God of War III surprised me. I didn’t expect to be so entertained by what I assumed was more of the same, now I can’t wait to get more. It’s good being Lead Ps3 Writer!
Many other titles were present but with their release so soon on the calendar, I thought we could all wait for the reviews later in the month for the definitive answer. All those reviews can be found here at the new and improved Koku Gamer! If you have any questions about the games above please comment below and I’ll do my best to respond to you.