Oh hello, Dear Reader, didn’t see you there for a second. What’s that you say? What have I been up to? Oh, not much, just hanging around. I was at some event today, but the name of it escapes me. What was it called? I want to say it was like “D3,” or “D2,” or maybe “R2D2.” Something with letters and numbers, that I do recall. Well, whatever, you’ve probably never heard of it. Say again? Did I see anything good? Well yes, I suppose I did. Would you like me to tell you about it? No? Okay, never mind then. Talk to you later. I guess I’ll go rant to someone else about the new “Assassin’s Creed.”
You’ve changed your mind, haven’t you? Good. Then shut-up and listen while I break this E3 Day One business down old-school! (after the break)
-Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Wow! There is a reason I’m putting this game up front and center on my list: I’m blown away by it! I played the hell out of the multiplayer demo in the Playstation section, then watched some single player over at Microsoft. The set-up is like this: you and seven other assassins get dropped into an Xbox Live match. You choose from any one of eight costumes, select some load-outs (yes, you heard me, load outs!!), then drop into a free-roam Italian Renaissance city populated by dozens of NPCs. You’re assigned a target, who is always one of the other players, and you’ve got to take them out. There are two catches: one, the NPCs all have the same character models as the players, so finding them in the crowd is quite tricky. Two, all the while, someone is also hunting you. I’ve got to say, I had a blast playing this game mode. When you sneak up on someone and drop them like a bad habit, it’s satisfying as hell. If they catch you coming at them, more often than not the result is a breathless, free-running footchase over the rooftops of Italy. These are also a riot and a half, especially when your target turns around and taunts you for bonus points to their score.
At first, I was getting knocked off a lot, and I whined to the Ubisoft rep watching over me that there was no way to defend myself against the player assigned to kill me. He conceded that it was true, but also reminded me to pay more attention and “watch their behavior.” He was right. “Brotherhood” requires a heightened awareness not usually called upon in video games, you have to have your head on a swivel all of the time. If you just focus on getting your guy, you are cat food. They had to pry me off of the controllers for this one, I can’t wait for the finished product!
-Vanquish. I said hot damn “Vanquish” is sexy. That’s really the best word for it: sexy. I played this one to death as well. If you picture “Bayonetta” crossed with “Mech Assault,” you’re pretty close to the look and feel. The graphics were stunning, the engine ran pretty smooth, and the gameplay was simple but satisfying. The only question for the final release will be longevity: as slick and savvy as “Vanquish” is, I’m wondering what will keep us coming back once the story mode is over. I really feel like some RPG-style leveling would benefit this game tremendously, but I didn’t see much of that in what I played. It’s highly polished and incredibly fun, and I’m sure the single player experience will be a ride, but I’d hate to see this thing pile up in the used section at Gamestop two weeks after release.
-Kinect. I got a chance to mess with the Kinect for quite some time, and my impression is cautiously optimistic. I played a football game where you dodge incoming blitzes from Xbox Avatars while trying to throw a football at moving targets. The Kinect seemed able to read my movements pretty well, and I was impressed that every time I made a throwing motion with my arm, the Xbox picked it right up. The “leaning to dodge” mechanic was a little bit glitchier, but I think that was more the software than the motion control itself. There was some minor delay occasionally, but in fairness, the Xbox people didn’t calibrate the Kinect for me at all. I just jumped right onto it. When I tried the Playstation Move, my gigantic height forced them to re-rig the whole thing for me before I could play, but Kinect didn’t break a sweat. With some quick calibration, it seems likely that this hardware will perform on a very high level. It definitely makes Sony’s lollipops look dumb.
-Fear 3. I didn’t actually get to play this one, but I was invited in for a lengthy demonstration and Q and A session. Day 1 Studios seem like nice guys, and they have a real passion for the project. Now we all know that “FEAR 2″ was no good. Day 1 never outright said this, but they made a lot of comments about “taking the series back to its roots” and such things. Wink wink, nudge nudge, we’ll clean up Monolith’s mess. From what I saw, I’m cautiously optimistic. The graphics still retain the overblown style that “FEAR 2″ regrettably adopted, and I’m no more fond of it now than I was then. Also, all that consulting with John Carpenter and Steve Niles (if it actually happened) isn’t doing much good, because it’s still nowhere near as scary as the original. I was also disappointed to see a lot of fighting against zombie-like drones, instead of the tactical combat that made the original such a gem. There were some squad fights later on, but they didn’t look like the dances of death that kept me sweating bullets all the way through the first entry.
Still, there’s a lot to be excited about. The good news is, even if “FEAR 3″ doesn’t get the original’s magic back, they’ve wisely found some room to make a new mark on the series. Co-op has been heavily emphasized, and in a bold move, the two players control two very different characters. Point Man, our protagonist from the original, is the same great slo-mo machine we know and love. The second playable character is the ghost of Paxton Fettel, who has a wide assortment of deadly telekenetic powers; he can even possess his enemies’ bodies and use them as his own. The interplay between these two different styles really looks like a blast. And I’m really glad Day 1 Studios decided not to include Paxton Fettel in the single player game: “We’ve all played co-op games solo, and all the A.I. ever does is get in your way and steal your ammo. We decided not to do that. Single player is just Point Man.” I think they made the right call there. Classicists can boot up single player and get more of an old-school feel, and they won’t have some moronic A.I. teammate dragging them down. Day 1 also mentioned that the difficulty will scale up dramatically for two-player campaign, but they seemed unwilling to go into all of the details yet.
-Crackdown 2. Yeah, I mean it was fun, but it’s the same bloody thing. I enjoyed it, but the environments were pretty bland and the gameplay doesn’t seem to have changed all that much. I’m hoping there are a wide array of subtle tweaks I just wasn’t getting a feel for yet.
-Sony. Probably the weakest of the big three. No surprise there.
-Gabe Newell sells out. Well, well, well. It turns out all of those “wah wah Playstation sucks” rants were nothing more than Gabe Newell holding out for more money. Nicely played, sir, you even had me fooled. I will not make the mistake of trusting you again. In the meantime, though, I have no problem with “Portal 2″ heading to the PS3. “Portal” is too great a game to be stingy about. Unfortunately, though, Valve’s change of heart was the biggest moment Sony had, and “Now we get a game everyone else already had” doesn’t count for much.
-Playstation Move. It’s just the Wii, plus ridiculous glowing balls. I tried two different games on it and never felt anything that I hadn’t already experienced with Nintendo. Yes, you can lean to one side and the camera will notice, but you have to press some stupid activation button to do it, and it’s not particularly exciting. The reps claim it’s more precise than the Wii, but I encountered all the same problems you see everywhere else: sudden jumps, minor delay, etc. Yawn. It’s too late, Sony. You lost. Let it go.
-Stereoscopic Gaming. I tried out “Motorstorm: Apocalypse” in 3-D, and it’s actually kind of fun. Worth $1,000 to replace your TV? No, probably not. I’ve heard good things about the “Motorstorm” franchise, and I enjoyed the “end of the world” conceit, but it didn’t blow me away. Still, the game is relatively early in development, so I guess I should cut them a break.
-Killzone 3. A very pretty game, but the most exciting thing it could drum up for me was a jetpack. Certainly it was competently made and somewhat fun to play, but the A.I. was moronic beyond belief, and the level layout was uninspired and confusing. “Killzone” as a franchise fails to impress me because it has no identity. It’s still trying to be a “Halo” killer, and it’s still failing. I think Sony should rely on “Resistance” and drop this franchise entirely. It’s just not going anywhere.
-DC Universe Online. Okay, so this one was pretty good. The hit detection was wonky and the graphics were a little plain, but give it a break, it’s an MMO on a console! I played a fun, territories-style PvP game that made me cautiously optimistic for this one. They have a cool “mentor” game mechanic in the character creation: when you boot it up for the first time, you choose one of six DC heroes to mentor you, and this affects your look, your alignment with good or evil, and other various things. The six mentors are Batman, Superman, the Joker, Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman, and some chick I didn’t recognize. I think that’s a pretty clever idea, and I look forward to if and how they pull it off.
-Nintendo. Yet again, they killed the competition.
-Metroid: Other M. Looks every bit as hot as you imagined. And then more so. The gameplay is pure fury, exactly the kind of insanity you come to expect from Team Ninja. I’m a little worried about the jumping into first person thing, because it didn’t feel that smooth to me, but I don’t think there’s any reason not to be positively giddy about this game’s existence. Get freaking excited, people.
-3DS. Holy freaking crap! There’s nothing else to say really. I have no comment besides “AAGGLAGLAGLAGL” I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet, so I don’t want to get too far into things. In general, I committed myself to Sony/Microsoft today. Tomorrow will be all about Nintendo.
Stay tuned for more!