E3 2011 – Day 2 Reactions
I am now certain that there were more people in the hall this year than last year. When we walked into the south hall today, the place was packed in a way that was debilitating. There were so many people that instead of perform our coverage there, we returned to the west hall to finish out the items we couldn’t get to prior.
Puddle is a downloadable game that features a small collection of water, or puddle you might say, that the player needs to navigate through the environment by rotating the screen. This can be done via the shoulder buttons or with the Move controller. The game looks pretty basic, you rotate the screen and try to get as much of the water from one end of the level to the other. I was surprised that the game didn’t feel deeper, especially since Fluidity, a WiiWare game that came out last year, has nearly the same premise and greater variety in gameplay. The difficulty of the game comes from trying to balance how far to the left or right to rotate the world in order to continue to the water’s momentum.
What I will say for puddle is that the variety in levels is impressive. The level I played had me navigating the water through a series of pipes in an industrial setting, trying to avoid fire pits. At this point I left the game thinking it was a smaller version of Fluidity until I walked around the corner and saw someone else on a different level. An x-ray of a person was drinking a glass of water on the screen. The player then navigated the water through the body. The game looks aesthetically pleasing too. The x-ray image looked really interesting and the water effects were reminiscent of Pixel Junk’s Shooter, but with more detail.
It’s a simple game that seems interesting enough. The enviroments are beautiful, but if I were going to buy a game of this type, by the impressions I got at E3 today I’d probably choose Fluidity. It will be interesting to see how this modest game does.
Binary Domain (Sega)
When I first saw the trailer for Binary Domain, I was blown away. The game looked like it has such a great sense of scale, giant boss battles and various gameplay styles during contextual moments in the storyline. Now that I’ve gotten to play it, I can say it seems to do its encounters pretty well.
Conventions are difficult to give a game a fair assessment. In playing Binary Domain, I never really had a context for what I was doing. I saw a number of robots trying to kill me, so I in turn killed them, but I don’t actually have any concept of story or relationship between the squad mates. I didn’t get the sense that these characters really had any emotional involvement in the scenario at hand and were just going through the motions of battle. This assessment could easily be because I myself do not have a frame of reference as to what the game is about. Judging from the gameplay, if the story is deep and engaging enough, this can easily be a terrific game.
It plays very much in the style of a Gears of War type game. The player’s camera is fixed viewing over the player’s shoulder. There is a cover system that allows the player to slide, round corners and vault, and basic shooting controls. I saw a few different types of machine guns and a rocket launcher. At the other end of the barrel were iRobot-esque enemies dedicated to killing me. After dispatching these enemies I was introduced to the Arachnid, a giant 5-story tall eight legged mech.
Each of its legs were covered by armor, so I would need to destroy the armor before I could take it down. Fortunately I had a rocket launcher and for whatever reason, the street was littered with rocket ammo. What made the mech especially intimidating is that it would naturally traverse the environment looking for me and my teammates. No where was I really safe. I had to keep moving through cover, collecting rockets and taking out its legs.
It was a that time that Rob came by to distract me and I lost, but I noticed that the mobility of the Arachnid I fought as well as another 3 story enemy I saw other people fighting in a different level was really good. Frequently games restrict a giant’s movements to a limited space and it feels like it’s scripted only to perform certain actions. This game really makes the giants feel like any other intelligent mech trying to find and kill you.
For now the game, while beautiful and with amazing potential for unparallel action sequences, the game feels a bit hollow, like the heartless robots I need to fight within the game. I’m hoping this is just because I lack context, but for that we’ll have to wait and see.
I was surprised to see this game at THQ’s booth because it was an FPS shooter I had never heard of, and it’s apparently slated to release in the next few months. Because of this, I needed to try it. I picked up the controller and was immediately confused and bored. The level was taking place in a underground futuristic Tron meets modern glass walled office building and I was walking through it. There was literally no context or reason to any of my actions. I simply walked through and shot at robots that were shooting me.
The interesting mechanic this game offers, and I have to admit I was more of a fan than I thought I would be, is the leaning aim. Most games, when you go into an iron sight mode, provides no difference in controls other than moving slower than normal. In Bodycount, the player has the option to do one of two things, hold the shoulder trigger down half way and do this typical iron sight method, or hold the trigger down completely, locking the player’s standing position and making their aim more precise. If the player locks their position, the left stick will allow the player to lean in any direction. This is great when the player is crouching behind cover. At anytime I could pop my view over the top of an obstacle, then immediately transition to leaning out of the side. The system really did work and made me want to use it. Being able to smoothly lean in any direction was certainly a welcome addition to the FPS genre.
There was another level available which took place on the surface in what looked to be an abandoned mine type setting. Instead of the robot enemies now though, I was fighting guys in clown makeup. I asked a representative what the game was about and all I could get out of him was that Codemasters wanted to make a very arcade like shooter that people can just pick up and play. I don’t actually know what the context of the game is, or if there really is one. All I know is that there’s this deep underground base that has some sort of significance to a story. I’m certainly not sold on this game. It had a weird look to it that the graphics weren’t particularly details, and it sounds like the story isn’t particularly detailed. Without those, you’ve basically lost me.
Gravity (Sony Japan – PS Vita)
This is the first title I’ve ever tried on the PS Vita, and I have to say it’s a promising start. The console really has a nice fit in the hand, the analogue sticks feel right and there are a lot of possible applications for the embedded cameras, motion sensor, back side touch panel, and touch screen. The person who showed me the game had to be intentionally vague with the game’s story, but basically a young woman finds one day she has gained the ability to change gravity at her will. She also sees others capable of the same and she must dig deeper to uncover the truth.
The game looks great. It has a cell shaded type of style with a sepia pallet and very specific use of colors. On the Vita, the colors pop in a wonderful way and the resolution is spectacular.
The player has the ability to change gravity by first disengaging gravity from the player all together. When she is in this floating state, pointing the crosshair at a surface and re-engaging will send the player barreling towards that surface. The crosshair can either be controlled by the analogue stick or the motion sensor according to player preference. I chose analogue for ease of use. Even if I owned the game, I can’t imagine myself really using the motion sensor for crosshair functions.
The player can also use the floating state to start a flying kick and dealing additional damage. On solid ground the player still has the ability to perform basic attack functions and combos, though it seems that the fighting system may not be very complex. I can’t really assess what the game will have to offer as it progresses, but I imagine this can will deliver some spectacular sequences.
The game is very early on, but it’s already looking great. I really hope that it continues on this path and is a force to be reckoned with on the Vita. Only time will tell.
Rise of Nightmare (Sega)
This is the first M rated survival horror game on the Kinect. I’ve always said that the Kinect feels like it has a delay between the player action and the game action. This is definitely felt when the player is trying to run from a pack of monsters. From a player stand point though, the game itself does what it’s supposed to do, put the player’s body in control of fighting off the enemies.
The main character wakes up in a mad doctor’s lair where he has been experimenting on humans. It is the player’s task to survive and uncover the secrets of the doctor’s plans. The controls, while all physical, are basic. In order to walk the player places a foot in front of them. To walk backwards, the player places their foot behind them. Turning is done by pivoting the shoulders and all interactions as done by hand. If there’s an enemy to attack, hold up the fists and strike, or swipe with one of the many weapons the player has at their disposal ranging from knives to chainsaws.
The game feels like it wanted to be a game on rails, but is attempting to give the player full range of movement. I’m sorry to say that the technology limitations of the Kinect seem to be weighing down the game a bit. It’s difficult to quickly move around terrified and still adjust for the slight delay. It didn’t stop me from enjoying my time with the game, but it definitely wasn’t helping.
When a lot of the doctor’s creations were present at once, I began to trip over myself a bit. I’m obviously new to the game and haven’t had the time to really get used to playing a full body controlled survival horror game, but I’d say they did the best they could with making the movement work. There are a few sections that allow the player to go on rails so they don’t have to walk making it a bit easier for the novice to get around and allowing these sections a cleaner look to the camera movements.
The combat felt a bit limited however. I didn’t really feel like my punches or swipes with knives were one to one, but rather looking for lateral versus horizontal movements. The chainsaw however is a hell of a lot of fun. The chainsaw moves exactly the way the player expects it should. It will move up and down, into and out of the screen all following the player, and it is satisfying. There was one particular enemy I had to perform a very different action than just cutting them up with a chainsaw. There’s a banchee enemy that forces the player to physically cover their ears or risk getting killed. It’s touches like this that make this type of game really engaging and I hope there are more details like it in the full game.
From a visual standpoint, this game certainly isn’t trying to push any boundaries. It’s dark and bloody, but doesn’t really have a distinct enough look from a game like Silent Hill. When I first approached the booth, I was half convinced the game was in the Silent Hill universe. Overall though, if I was looking for a narrative Kinect game to play, this would certainly be the one.