E3 Wrap Up: Metroid, Mortal Kombat, and More

And so at last, E3 comes to an end. I have to admit, I’d always assumed it would be something of a disappointment in the flesh, and I was incredibly wrong. E3 is not only as good as it looks, it’s better. Yes, it’s an absolute circus, but what a circus it is! I guess some people like to complain about almost anything, but if you go in there with an open mind, I defy you not to enjoy yourself. It’s extremely difficult. I plan to attend every year I am physically capable from now until I die.

So, it’s with a heavy heart, Dear Reader, that I must finally commend the remains of E3 to their final resting place, and take full stock of my experiences. Here are three games I stumbled upon during my travels today. There were plenty more, I assure you, but these just stuck out as interesting ones to discuss.

Let’s do this!

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Metroid: Other M. You know…not as great as I was expecting. I admit, anything less than the Second Coming probably wouldn’t have completely satisfied me, but they didn’t pick very dynamic stuff for this demo. You spend a lot of time running around hallways, and the enemies you fight are all wimpy and unimpressive. Even the boss at the end is just a big, purple Gumbie thing with a laughably obvious sensitive spot. The combat also didn’t click with me, probably because it was so auto-aim heavy that I never felt satisfaction in victory. I also had a lot of problems switching between 3rd and 1st person perspective. The Nintendo reps assured me this was because I was standing up, but frankly, I wasn’t convinced. First of all, you have to turn the controller in your hands to get into FPS mode, and in the heat of the moment that’s a surprisingly arduous task. The game needs to recognize you’re pointing the remote at the sensor, and that doesn’t have a tactile, satisfying feel to it. The aiming was jumpy as all hell, targeting was a pain, and I couldn’t help but wish Team Ninja had just left the first person thing to Retro Studios. And, because it’s Team Ninja, the dialog was so bad it hurt.

 

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On the other hand, controlling Samus herself felt great. They found an amazing mix between true 3D environments and throwback 2D sections that give you deja vu from the Super Nintendo. There are no loud “transitions” from the sidescroller references to the spaced out stuff, it just blends perfectly. It’s definitely a distinctly Metroid feel. And Samus moves with a purpose, the chick really shifts it down those halls, so that’s cool. I suspect, or perhaps I hope, that this game needs to get into some more challenging material before it can show off its moves. I’m going to remain optimistic until then. I’ve never seen Team Ninja let me down, but there is a first time for everything.

Mortal Kombat. I got a pretty lengthy demonstration of this one, and I’m reasonably pleased with what they’re doing. This new MK returns to 2D fighting, thank God, and comes off much more like a remake than a sequel. The classic characters are all back in very canonical outfits, Fatalities and intense gore have been reintroduced, and the graphics have really been pushed up a notch. Midw…er…excuse me, NetherRealm Studios was very upfront about the fact that 2D gaming allowed them to go easy on environmental renders and slam the polygon count on the characters through the roof. It definitely showed, even at this stage–the game is very pretty. I love it when studios do things like this: focus their scope and really hone to perfection every little detail.

 

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They’ve incorporated two new dynamics already tried and tested in other video games. The first is a tag-team system which, cleverly enough, allows for the implementation of your back-up character’s moves without actually bringing them onto the field. Or you can just do a standard switch out, either one is good. The second new feature is a power-up meter that fills in increments throughout the fight. Cash it in early and you can do bigger versions of your standard moves, and (gasp!) even initiate Combo Breakers. This is quite a thing coming from these guys, they’re finally trying to remedy the inherently unbalanced nature of the MK series. But wait! If you hold out and let the meter fill all the way up, you can dish out “X-Ray” moves. These were described by the presenters as “the most devastating offensive attacks in ‘Mortal Kombat’s’ history.” Bold words, but not at all untrue. The game slows down, your character delivers several crushing blows, and an X-ray camera shows you exactly which bones are breaking. As usual, way more than is necessary, but I guess that’s how “Mortal Kombat” has always done things.

Crysis 2. I also got to see a demo of “Crysis 2,” but that one didn’t particularly blow me away. It’s certainly competently made, and I imagine it will present a very satisfactory experience, but the reps struggled to find anything really unique abour what they were doing. You have some input into how your character develops, but it only vacillates between two pretty polarized options: stealth and balls-out. Now that being said, the graphics were very pretty, the presentation was sufficiently cinematic, and the end of the level featured a gut-wrenching in-game cinematic where a helpless couple begs you for help before being crushed by a falling building. There’s certainly good stuff here, and Crytek have made enough shooters to know what the hell they’re doing.

My main problem right now is the A.I. The rep playing the game would more or less march up to each target and unload in their face, and the fights never struck me as dynamic or interesting. As a devotee of “F.E.A.R,” I feel strongly that really great modern shooters must have competent A.I. But in the age of everything being multiplayer focused, I notice that single player campaigns play up scripted events and neglect enemies with any real sense of cunning. I guess this makes sense, but I have a deep affinity for squaring off against a brilliant, machine-made army of opponents, and I’m sad to see everything get funneled into Xbox Live. I like campaigns in shooters, because they’re precision-engineered experiences that balance entertainment with just the right amount of challenge. They’re less satisfying, I suppose, but they’re more relaxing, and their more linear nature lets developers show off and wow you. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to get tired of “SMKSWEEDXX287″ humping your corpse for three hours.

 

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Anyway, “Crysis 2″ is a promising entry because it’s made by professionals, and I always love seeing a PC franchise make the console leap. Maybe playing it will really click with me. But for now, the video isn’t showing me anything that calls this thing a dead lock. They have work to do.