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E3 2011 – Day 1 Reactions

Day one of E3 is over and I’m happy to say I got my hands on a modest amount of games.  After the Nintendo Press conference, Rob, myself and the fellows from PSnation made our way to the west hall, primary residence of Sony, Nintendo, Capcom, Bethesda and others.

Bethesda easily had the best to show, and I won’t be surprised if I feel the same way after the last day of the conference.  Their titles completely won me over.  It was almost unfortunate, because nothing else I saw on day one could reasonably compare.  Then again, I was so impressed that once mixed with the ok, lack luster or awful games I saw later, it generally balanced out my day.

Towards the end of the day I got to get my hands on the Wii U controller, though it wasn’t actually playing anything.  The controller is much lighter and smaller than I thought it would be in my hands.  It still a large controller, but not unreasonable.

 

Rage (Bethesda):

I’ve been excited about Rage since I first heard about it.  The game takes place in a wasted world where the apocalypse has already taken place.  Everyone on the surface is either a mutant, or a scavenger trying to get by.

Firstly, Rage hits its environment precisely on the head.  Every time I see the world, I see a setting as well constructed as any Star Wars planet.  It has a beautiful blend of familiar, yet foreign locations, desert canyons and deserted cities that all look spectacular.

The gameplay is solid.  It is a first person shooter by ID Software, the same developer who made Doom.  In the same vein, they seem to enjoy allowing the player to pass through an environment un-inhibited only to have them backtrack through to find it covered with monsters.

Honestly, this is one of those games that I am generally staying away from new overloads because I want to experience it fresh.  One detail I do know about the game is that there’s an emphasis in engineering.  The player is able to collect parts to build anything from a grenade to a dune buggy.

The player can actually race with the dune buggy in what I can only describe as ModNation Races meets Twisted Metal meets Motorstorm.  It does a great job at presenting a solid kart racer within the world of a survivor’s civilization.  I don’t know yet how it all ties together, but I’m really excited with the variety I believe this game will present.

Prey 2 (Bethesda):

I had no pre-conceptions on this game.  I saw one live action trailer a long time ago depicting a strange abduction / plane crash.  I haven’t played the first one, but after seeing the guided playthrough demo, I am a believer.

Prey 2 is the story of an Air Marshal who finds himself crash landed on an alien tidally locked planet.  This means that the planet doesn’t spin placing one side in perpetual darkness and one side in constant bombardment of the sun’s rays.

The section of the game we saw took place in the dark side in a high rising slum with a visual style that can only be described as Alien Noir.  While it is a first person shooter, the player has the ability the jump, grab ledges, climb slide into or vault over cover and a number of other moves designed to increase the player’s agility and mobility.  The player can fire their weapon through any of these moves.

The city looks amazing.  It’s very dark with primary colors used in very specific and deliberate ways.  What’s especially fun is the fact that the city is so vertical that the player has a great big playground with which to jump and climb their way through.  While they move around, they will find prostitutes, muggers and bounties to seek and capture.

The player seems to be constantly in control of their moral actions.  Generally he doesn’t walk around with his weapon drawn.  The player can choose to draw their weapon in non-combat situations to intimidate or scare someone.  They can also choose to kill or capture their bounty, and in some cases will find a bounty who attempts to bribe them.  Choices have consequences though, so choose wisely what path to take.

The demo didn’t reveal any big specifics about the storyline, but it looks like it could be a very intriguing story.  The main thing that seems to be confusing is the connection to the original Prey.  This game seems to be so full of unique style and gameplay that it could very well be a new property.  I haven’t played Prey so I can’t comment on how the sequel relates to the original, but seeing this demo makes me want to give it a try to see for myself.

El Shaddai (UTV Ignition):

I knew nothing about El Shaddai until Rob told me I had to try it.  The game was developed by the same mind that created Okami with a storyline that is based off the mythology of the Book of Enoch and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The basic idea is that Angels have been promiscuous with humans on earth causing the creation of Nephilim, shadow creatures that walk the earth.  God decided to send a flood and reset the world, but instead sent Enoch to bring justice to these Angels.

The game, like Okami, has a very distinct look, a blend of cell shading, minimal color pallets and high contrast images.  Each level is based off each Angel individually, constructed from their loves and desires.  Because of this, no two levels look the same or share art between them.

The level I played had large arena like sections connected by small simple platforming sections.  The combat was interesting, easy to play, but complicated enough that I never really quite figured out how it all worked.  The problem trying the game at the booth is that I didn’t know what other possibilities there were for the move set.  The moves are generally performed with the same button combinations in different contexts.  Guard and attack while in the air will cause the player to come crashing down on the enemy, whereas the same buttons when on the ground will send the player into the air.

While the controls are simple, the weapon I was using still needed good timing to use effectively.  My projectiles get grey over time and stop functioning as efficiently.  The player must purify the weapon when this happens, but they are left vulnerable for the time it takes to do so.  The player must carefully make sure they attack and retreat with enough time to purify and return to battle.

I honestly couldn’t get a good enough impression of what the game offers there on the show floor, and I have no idea if the game is for me.  I suspect there’s a great deal more to this game that I’m seeing at face value and I’d be willing to bet that if I put the time into it, I’d be singing its praises at the end.  For now though, I don’t feel excited to pursue it.  Maybe it’s just not for me.

Starhawk (Sony):

I played the hell out of Warhawk when it came out on the PSN.  The game actually started to take too much of my time if anything and I started to curb my playing of it.  Now I see that Starhawk is set to release and not only can you fly a jet, but it can transform mid-air into a walking Mech robot.  That is awesome.  Unfortunately I had the same problem with Starhawk as I do on many games in convention settings:  The game is too complex to really get a bead on what makes it great.

Starhawk is a third person shooter that unlike Warhawk has a full single-player campaign in addition to the multiplayer gameplay.  The player spawns by crashing onto the level in a drop pod and can then get to work collecting energy to build.  At any point the player can use the energy they’ve gained from killing, to completing objectives, to drop a garage, a sniper tower, a turret or many other things into the map wherever they want.  The can even crush other players by dropping these structures on them.

Warhawk took me ages to get really good that the flying, the driving and the shooting all individually of each other, so playing Starhawk which adds even more elements to the mix I was, needless to say, lost.  I couldn’t aim on the incredibly complex terrain, I had no idea where I was going and the best I did was drive around running people over.  I feel like this game would take me twice as long to master as Warhawk took me.

I haven’t seen any of the single player game yet, but I can say the multiplayer looks like it could be solid once the learning curve is passed, but expect that to take a long time.  The game fundamentally takes the things I liked best about Warhawk and improves the graphical details and spectacle.  Being able to drop buildings into the world also provides a completely different strategy than anything I’m used to playing.  The shooting always requires that the player be far more precise than they had to be in Warhawk because there is no more auto-aim.

I really can’t make a judgement of this game until I get more time with it, maybe 10 hours of time…

Resident Evil Revelations (Capcom):

If anyone has read my 3DS review, you’d have heard me talk about being excited about titles that use the 3D and the graphical capabilities of the console to do something really interesting.  When I heard that a new Resident Evil game was coming out in the style of Resident Evil 4, I thought it could be really awesome.

Now that I’ve played it I’m completely underwhelmed.  The game is a third person survival horror shooter starring Jill Valentine from the original title.  When I started playing the game, the first thing I noticed was a completely lack-luster use of the 3D screen.  It really does nothing to enhance the game because none of the proportions feel correct, ultimately causing the effect to look unnecessary.  Good 3D disappears into the experience, making the player unaware that anything is altered until it is turned off.  This game just pushes the image into the screen a bit and displays flat representations of the characters, enemies and setting.  So, how does the game measure up without 3D to aid the immersion?

I was overall uninspired by the game.  For one, I find myself drifting away from the Resident Evil storyline.  It is a very complex story that has taken so many turns that I have no idea where it lies anymore.  It seems the chronology is all over the place and characters from all games end up popping up all over.  Ultimately I feel like each new iteration of the series has to engage me as though it were a new title entirely.

From the little I saw of the game, I was lost as to the context.  This isn’t fair to the game because it was just a short demo, but at the same point, I find myself not intrigued enough to want to know more which is the biggest problem.  I see Jill, I see another mansion, I see gameplay I’ve already played out in Resident Evil 4.  The controls are solid, the game looks great.  It really is doing what it’s supposed to (aside from the sub-par 3D), I just don’t really have the love for it I originally did.  I hope down the line I see something that inspires me again to want to play the game.

If you’re one that continues to really like Resident Evil, Revelations looks like more of the same, no more, no less.

Captain America: Super Soldier (Sega):

The Marvel movie games don’t seem to be getting very good reviews lately, like Iron Man, Thor or The Incredible Hulk.  This is why I was so intrigued when I heard that Captain America was turning out to be a really fun game.  This I had to see.  Unfortunately I saw it in 3D.  This and Green Lanter have the worst 3D I’ve seen this generation.  It looks like horrible post processing, as though the TV itself was trying to create a 3D game out of a 2D one.  I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to find that they hooked up the TVs incorrectly.

Aside from the 3D, Captain America looks like it’s shaping up to be a really good game, though maybe not great.  Its combat takes a big design cue from Batman Arkham Asylum and Prince of Persia Warrior Within.  It has fluid combat that reacts well to the enemies around the player.  They can jump over an enemy, kick another and chain together some pretty cool looking combinations.  These combos aren’t tallied in the way Batman does, nor are the animation sets as plentiful, but it does the trick and provides some fun fighting.

In addition there is a counter attack system that starts with the enemy.  If the enemy sends out a yellow surge, their attack will be counter-able.  If it is red, then dodge as quickly as possible.  The player can also throw the shield with or without crosshairs, and use it as a shield (though I don’t believe I really needed to type that part).

To break up the combat, the demo offered some context based glowing objective cues for the player to interact with.  If the player could swing from pipe to pipe, then the player is allowed to, but it is done with a great deal of automation.  It isn’t like a Prince of Persia where the player really has to keep pressing all the right buttons to jump off a pipe and wall run to safety.  The Captain feels like he does a lot, though not all, of this on his own.  It’s still fun to watch though.

The main element that I think really could make this game awesome is the original story by Marvel authors rather than attempting to make a movie tie in.  The core gameplay systems seem to be fun and engaging, but the sole element that will make or break the game for me is the storyline.  Hopefully it will be something I can rave about later.

Green Lantern:  Rise of the Manhunters (Warner Brothers):

Again, here is a title with some of the worst 3D I’ve seen.  It looks even worse that Captain America’s 3D.  I’m not going to argue about the 3D anymore though.  Let’s just discuss the game.

I had the option to play either a flying segment or a ground fighting segment.  I wanted to see what the combat was like so I picked the ground.  Overall, the combat is fine.  The player has strong and light attack buttons that cause fist or swords to appear respectively to use against the enemies, or a grappling hook to pull enemies close.  On top of that the player has eight other abilities they can assign to the face buttons by pressing and holding L2 or R2 to change the context.

The strength of this game definitely falls into being able to use so many different powers quickly and easily in battle.  I genuinely had fun fighting for a little while, throwing out some giant morning star chains to follow up with a baseball bat that sent my enemy flying.  What wasn’t fun is that the game holds the player’s hand every step of the way and never provided a new experience past the first set of enemies.

The level in the demo would give me a section of street.  Once I cleared that area out, it allowed me to jump to another area that conceivably the character could have gotten to the whole time anyway.  Every new street presented me with the same set of enemies.  I only saw about 3 or 4 unique enemies the whole time I was playing.  I couldn’t even get through the demo without starting to wonder how much longer the game would go on.  After I cleared out a section, a Green Lantern icon would appear on the ground where I could move on from specifically.

Then a big ship came down in front of me.  Again, I had to wait for the game to allow me to progress before I could land on the ship.  Once I did I figured out its basic hit-these-two-points-quickly puzzle and immediately blew up the ship putting me back onto the repetitive path yet again.

This game, even if the demo was just a tutorial level, needs to be far more engaging and interesting.  From what I saw of the game, it didn’t have any of that.  Maybe if I get the chance in the next few days I’ll try to flying section.  Maybe there is a redeeming quality to the game.  Then again, maybe not.

2 Comments

  1. Posted by Disaparanoia on 17 June 11 at 3:49am

    This has nothing to do with the article itself, but i will like to ask something related to E3, do you think this year’s E3 suffered form FPS fatigue?

    Also, even you didnt quite digg “El Shaddai”, would you be able to tell me if it had a deep combat system or if it is a button masher? I didnt know this game, looked a bit around and now im interested.

    From what i udnerstand prey 1 and 2 have nothing in common at all… i agree with you, it could be just a new ip.
    Did it feel like a mass effect clone?

    thanks for the article, keep it up!

  2. Posted by Dave "Boris" Orosz on 17 June 11 at 12:51pm

    Well, honestly you should never take my word if you have the opportunity to try something yourself. The El Shaddia demo should be live on the PSN and Xbox Live, so try it and you tell me. I believe I didn’t have enough time with the game to really get a gauge of its depth of combat. I really think it has depth that I haven’t been exposed to yet. Honestly, I should download the demo and play it more to assess that.

    I actually haven’t played Mass Effect, but I can say that Prey 2 does not look like anything I’ve seen before. If anything I’d say it looks like the city from the Fifth element with the aesthetics of Bioshock’s Rapture.

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