PAX Prime 2012 in Seattle ended last week, though it was more than both Josh Totman and I could handle. Waiting in lines, walking all around the convention center and rushing to scheduled meetings could take a lot out of you, especially when you have to do it three days in-a-row.
In between those three days, the two of us played a long list of games thanks to some cool guys and gals from SEGA, Konami, and Capcom. Inside are previews for some sick-ass games we played, including Phantasy Star Online 2, Resident Evil 6, and Metal Gear Rising.
Along with some short videos and a huge gallery, be prepared for our impressions of the games Japanator readers can look forward to coming out soon!
Metal Gear Rising
While most of the early, first-day people of the press packed up behind displays of Assassin's Creed 3 and Borderlands 2 in PAX's main Expo Hall, a rather modest gathering was checking out Konami's upcoming spinoff to perhaps its most popular franchise: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The power of being able to feel like a badass who can cut literally anything with a sword is held up well enough in the demo we played, sure... but what I didn't expect were all the small things we didn't know about this game that made it one of my favorites of the show.
Controls for Rising are standard fare for a hack-n-slash: Square for a weak sword attack, Triangle for a stronger, slower strike, Circle for command prompts and quick-time-events and R1 for dodging and parry. What most people who play the game right away would notice, though, is that L2 brings the camera close to Raiden and enter Blade Mode (you'll come to love the names Konami uses in this game for stuff), and using the left thumbstick to aim and the right thumbstick to slash, players can use precise cuts to cut off limbs, guns, armor and weak parts of enemies, usually accompanied by gallons of gore and pus when going a little overboard after a dozen swings.
Similar to this years Max Payne 3, however, is that Blade Mode works best when enough of your energy meter has been filled up, allowing you to slow down time and aim your swings perfectly. Something else that this game has more in common with Max Payne 3 is that using your brain to plan attacks often pays off much better than rushing the enemy with Blade Mode. Instead of wasting a single baddie by cutting him into sausage, cutting down a power line might take care of the entire area around you. Instead of running around a Metal Gear and waiting for it to reload, deflect the missile it launches at you right back at it. There are plenty of ways to play smart and reserve that last ounce of energy, just in case some suckas rush at you en masse.
Like I said, small touches really make the game. Cutting up enemies a certain way (which is typically the most brutal way) will bring up a prompt for the player to reach into their bodies, mid-slow-mo, and take some precious energy for yourself, all while maintaining the same combo. There's a free-run system akin to Assassin's Creed called Ninja Dash where Raiden will jump over obstacles automatically. Useful to get to enemies quick, sure... though it's a bit clunky to use when trying to scale anything compared to just pressing X. It may play nothing like Metal Gear Solid, but it sure as hell acts just the same, complete with its twisted sense of humor, long cutscenes, and a lot of talk about secret government operations and abbreviations so long it'll make you dizzy. Raiden never even went as far as uttering a word of dialogue as far as I could tell in the demo I played, so as a main character I'm not sure if he's more similar to his badass MGS 4 counterpart or his awkward-ass MGS 2 self.
I have a lot of hope for any game Kojima Productions puts out, and despite the controversy surrounding Rising, I have no doubt that Metal Gear fans and action game fans alike will love cutting the crap out of watermelons and torsos come early next year.
Phantasy Star Online 2
Phantasy Star Online no doubt has its devoted fans, but I think it's safe to say that none of them could have been excited as I was when I was testing out Phantasy Star Online 2's create-a-character mode this weekend. SEGA had a couple different demos set up at their booth showing off actual gameplay from the already-released Japan version, but I was more than content with spending 20 minutes tinkering with creating a hero from scratch to even bother with playing the game.
Face morphing, limb stretching and thickness, age, hair length, lip color, skin texture and so much more are fully customizable and adjustable. I was even able to make even the most cliché of anime protagonists without much trouble. To test this thing out, I made a young 14-year-old boy (with the correct proportions) straight out of a Gundam series, a tall Amazonian woman decked out in the correct garbs and clothing, and an old midget part-mecha, part-human, part-cat bastard hero that I lovingly named "Neko-chan 42069 noscope".
Messing around with the sliders and creating abominations of man brought a fair amount of laughs from the other attendees walking by, but fine-tuning and working hard towards creating a cool looking badass has not only been really rewarding, but also pretty easy thanks to the user-friendly GUI and how organized the standard and advanced customization options were when selecting parts of my character to change.
Included in the Character Creation demo was an option to watch a (surprisingly long) cutscene where your created hero would run about with some allies, complete with swooping crane shots and dramatic set pieces from different camera angles so you can see your work in action. The cutscene itself wasn't anything special, but man... seeing a HuMechaCat, complete with cat ears and a skirt, running around in a doomed city straight out of District 9 really made me want to buy this game...
NiGHTS into Dreams HD
I’m sorry to report that NiGHTS Into Dreams HD is not "the bee’s knees". Back when it first debuted with its fancy saucer controller, it seemed so awesome that you could fly around in a 3D environment. Boy, were we wrong.
This update does boast better graphics, but the controls are way too funky for modern times. You are in a 3D environment but you are also on a 2D rail system. It made for a grand illusion back in the day, but now it’s just odd. This game could make a great remake if redone completely: a free open-world where you can do acrobatic moves in the air for style points through the rings and really pump up the spectacle when cashing in your blue orbs. Obstacles that can bump the orbs out of you or knock you straight to the ground could add an interesting twist. These are just some of the ideas bouncing around in my head.
Josh and I just can't agree on this one.
Poor controls for a game are something of a non-factor for me, personally, so long as I'm not kept from enjoying the game because of them. NiGHTS is a straight HD port from the original Sega Saturn game from 1996, so naturally I can't expect the controls to hold up nearly 15 years later.
It's funny to watch someone play NiGHTS for the first time: right away, you (and maybe even your senses) are overwhelmed with the wealth of stuff you have to keep track of: hope points, intelligence orbs, purity, linking, courage bars, eggs... the list goes on. In essence though, the goal is just to blast through each level doing loops n' shit, collecting items and defeating enemies before running out of time.
The problem for most people in 2012 (or for me, the fun) of the game is that controlling Night is tough because how clunky his spins are and how fast his flight is. It's definitely something newbies need to get used to, but for old fans of the series like me, it was as if nothing changed. I was still having fun going through the same hidden paths in the Chase level, doing the same combos and hitting the same times I used to get when I would try to speedrun as a kid. Working against the controller is actually part of the fun, because even if you don't know what the hell you are doing, hitting those missing blue orbs and just barely reaching the end of the stage as you fly around in circles is just as fun.
Jet Set Radio HD
There's no real need to go into too much detail about Jet Set Radio. Most of you already know or have played it before, and if you haven’t, shame on you and you need to buy this the day it comes out.
Here is a short list of what most of us want to know about it: The entire soundtrack is intact except for one song and the graphics look great in HD. Controls feel a little off but you can easily get right back into it quickly. Tagging is the same as the original with the motions to make the graffiti.
All in all I am thrilled that this is coming to the current consoles in HD. It’s something I have hoped for but never thought it would happen.
As good as this awesome game will ever get. What else needs to be said?
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
The Cart Racing genre is honestly one of my guilty pleasures. I'm always down for a game of Mario Kart 7 at a party and I have very fond memories of playing Diddy Kong Racing on the N64 as a young'un... not to mention I enjoyed myself playing the original Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing at demo kiosks' a couple years back. So long as I'm playing any game where I can play as obscure, badass characters like B.D. Joe from Crazy Taxi, I could care less what place I come in so long as I can give hell all the way to the finish.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed may not have blown me out of the water, but I hadn't had that much fun flying around, wave racing, and screwing over poor little 8-year-old kids by shooting snowballs at them and stealing their items since 1997. Similar to Diddy Kong Racing, the terrain in All-Stars Racing Transformed changes, though now each racer transforms dynamically into a flying, ground, or wave vehicle depending on what's happening in the course and what lap you're on. Along with the vehicle, controls and gameplay change drastically, too: not restricted to a linear path, flying provides the most freedom available with multiple shortcuts. Wave racing also means you have to accommodate for the occasional tidal wave and adjust with the flow of the undulating water.
Surely, there's plenty of video games to get for your children or younger cousins or nieces and nephews, and given that the first installment in this series did rather well for itself back in 2010, I have a feeling that this will be one of those go-to titles that'll catch a lot of eyes come Christmas time for the tykes.
Resident Evil 6
There's more to fear than being restricted. Personally, the argument of "being limited with movement in Resident Evil games = scarier" doesn't really apply to me. I get that Resident Evil 5 took a very heavy approach to action and sharing excitement and anxiety with a friend rather than scares, and some people didn't really dig it. I personally remember more about the flaws of the last Resident Evil than I do the exciting ones, like getting Sheva to revive me or that stupid final boss in the volcano... but maybe that's because I'm jaded as hell.
It's hard to change someones opinion of the approach to Resident Evil 6, especially if it's a negative one. Yes, it's true that you can move as you aim and that you can shoot and crawl while on the floor, as well as some other things you may not have heard about, like a melee button and the ability to shoot while waiting for your co-op partner to revive you. The odd thing about these improvements is that they ramp the franchise formula into something more exciting, more involved and puts the player in complete control of their fate. There's something special that Capcom has tapped into for this installment, so I'll need to break this down to give you the full scoop:
Leon / Helena Campaign
Right away, I knew which of the three campaigns to tackle first. Resident Evil 4 holds a special place in my heart not only because I've played it so many times, but because a lot of my close friends still play it to this day. Literally hundreds of hours have been wasted because I played and watch Resident Evil 4 so damn much. If the rumors and info that trinkled down from Capcom about this campaign being even remotely similar to Resident Evil 4, then I had to get my hands on it right away.
Simply put, this campaign has the aesthetics of Resident Evil 4 combined with key elements of Resident Evil 5 that I'm still a little mixed about. For the majority of the demo, I wasn't dealing with anything. There are huge pockets of nothing going on to increase the tension, and early on, the classic "sloooww" zombies that you deal with are even easier to fend off than the Ganados in RE 4. The tension of something bigger looming around the corner was certainly there in the demo, but I was always underwhelmed when all it would be was even more zombies. The reason I feel fast enemies in RE 4 and even faster enemies in RE 5 worked out was because of how differently the player handled it than in the previous game. Here, you can still shoot a zombie in the leg and deliver a huge uppercut Chris Redfield-style, but devolving the enemy in this campaign didn't bring any urgency or a need to conserve ammo. It's easier to do that special one-hit KO in this game, and while I'm not doubting Capcom's decision to include more hand-to-hand stuff (more on why it's a good thing in Chris's demo below), for Leon its a bit of an overkill. I told myself to back away from overpowering moves to keep things fair as I sweep room to room in abandoned campus buildings and littered courtyards.
That line of thinking certainly changed in the final five minutes, though. Trapped in tight hallway with no escape, I finally get what play-style Leon's campaign is going for: overwhelming you with hundreds of zombies. This is where the new additions to Resident Evil 6 come in handy: after seeing the barricade Helena and I blocked off start to bust open real-time, the two of us cover the windows where those damn zombies are pouring in. I shake off a few with the left stick, a la Resident Evil 4, and fall straight to the ground. The ability to scramble and crawl backwards on the ground might sound like a bummer to those looking for more traditional fun, but I don't think I'll forget the image of me screaming like a girl and unloading the last of my pistol ammo into 20 zombies as I just crawl away from their reach any time soon. Intense doesn't even begin to describe it. Fear on a scale of Ninety-Nine Nights and excitement on par with Left 4 Dead is the best I can come up with.
Switching between weapons is quick, and to heal you'll have to find a safe spot and sit out for a few seconds as opposed to instantaneous health from past Resident Evil's. Surviving is all on you now; never again can you complain that the controls of a Resident Evil game has killed you. Fast reflexes and teamwork help pave roads in between a sea of zombies, and keeping up with the person in front of you is crucial in making sure you don't get swallowed up while crossing. Leon's campaign proved a great combination of the last three main Resident Evils and perhaps the best improvement to the franchises' formula since 4.
Chris / Piers Campaign
If I had to pick which part of the game fans of the series might polarize at, then it has to be the Chris / Piers gameplay. Taking it a step further from Resident Evil 5, these segments seem to be full-blown action scenes that'll try and amaze you rather than frighten you. The ability to snap into cover is back for Chris, this time against any surface and can be combined with a roll or dive. Chris and his pal can carry heavier weapons than most of the other playable characters and his melee moves are more brutal.
Enemies are faster and bigger than ever, equipped with hard, fleshy shields and even guns to shoot back at you with. Immediately when I started the demo in the middle of a battlefield, I knew what I was up against. What I didn't prepare for, though, was the need to conserve ammo. Even though guns are going off in all directions around and at you, Capcom made the smart decision to keep ammo less plentiful and to force you and your partner to pick your shots wisely and back each other up. This is where using and selecting the right Skill will come in handy, new perks for your character that can increase a guns clip size, improve accuracy, reload faster, higher defense and more.
Another thing I noticed a bit too late into the game was the removal of a pause feature. It's one thing to prevent stopping the action while switching weapons or changing Skills to keep things tense for players, but never knowing if you're safe enough to change something in the Controller Options menu or to rearrange your inventory makes for even more moments of checking over your shoulder.
Other little quirks about Chris's campaign I liked were the subtle changes to the HUD compared to Leon's (and even Jake's later on in the preview) and the crosshairs that helped with the more heavy moments of the demo. Chris still isn't afraid to trigger more ridiculous quick-time-events this time around, and he's more than capable of handling huge crowds of baddies with that giant, meat-head body of his. The huge boss I fought in the middle of my play-through seemed dumb enough to avoid taking any damage from, until I noticed that environments are much more destructible this time around, leading to a lot of surprising "I didn't think he could do that!" moments during the demo. I had an AI partner this time around, and, at least for this portion of the game, I had no issues trying to get Piers somewhere or to shoot anything. For the most part, he's at least not in the way, though there were moments where he saved my ass as I was downed by sniping some fools before they dealt the final blow. I didn't even know that dude found a sniper rifle. The AI partners will now do their own thing as you do yours, and usually come back with the right gun for the situation, or a new toy you can trade for with them.
This campaign may be the one that'll be criticized most when the game comes out, but I personally think this is the one closest to Capcom's ultimate goal for this installment: bringing exciting co-op for you and a friend to scream at.
Jake / Sherry Campaign
A lot of fans love the horror aspect of this twisted franchise. Even more fans are dying about finally getting more of the story. Resident Evil has one of the wonkiest, darkest, and most daring universes to be explored in video gaming, and to finally get not only more of that, but three extra separate perspectives with this newest one must be exciting.
Jake Muller is another new character brought into the mix, along with Raccoon City survivor and supporting Resident Evil 2 character Sherry Burkin. How these two opposites first meet up and work together I'm not exactly sure, though in the demo I played the two communicated as a team pretty well and didn't make snide remarks at each other like Leon and Ashley first did in RE 4. Getting to know the history between these two (or even at the least how they met) is my number one curiosity about this game, and given that Jake is the son of Albert Wesker is sketchy stuff... just the way I like mysterious characters from Resident Evil.
Funny enough, this campaign plays exactly like a combination of the previous two: Jake starts out with a bit more firepower than Leon did, complete with a sniper rifle, a sub-machine gun, and the most powerful fucking revolver I've ever shot in a video game. Different from the Chris campaign, however, are the tighter corridors and the moody, darker atmosphere. If the Leon / Helena segments are supposedly a nostalgic trip for hardcore fans, and that the Chris / Piers portions are for gathering in a wider audience, then this campaign is sure to be where all the new stuff Capcom is planning on taking this franchise will be tested, like new enemy types and large 4-player co-op bouts against massive, ugly bosses... as well as where most of the major plot development happens.
While I don't have a lot more to say about specifically the Jake / Sherry side of the story, I'm already in love with the dynamic these two have together. Jake is the kind of new cool character that the series benefits from (voiced by the sexy Troy Baker), as opposed to the overly-macho Chris and the surprisingly absent Sheva from 2009. While I'm really curious what prompted Sherry to work as a government agent, I'd love to know what happened to her after leaving Raccoon City and what secrets she may be hiding.
While Leon may seem to be the most popular and experienced character in this installment, I can't stress enough how amazing the cast for this game is: with the care to give each of them a separate story with its own feel and each character their own perks, a lot of love went into making sure this series is still alive after Resident Evil 4. Things like the differences in animations between characters, to the finer details like unique HUD's and better AI, are the small things that all add up in the end. I'm really eager to see another current-gen take on the series after a briefly disappointing fifth outing, an I'm even more excited to see where it will go after all bets are off and Umbrella rises again.
"I kicked ass. I was rad as fuck, and I felt like a god compared to all the other poseurs playing CTF with me. 'Waaahhhh, that guy stole my kill because he has that cheap-ass Scattershot! I thought I was the best at playing Halo!' PSSHHH, blow it out your ass, neckbeard! I just got off the MLG circuit and now you want to test me and my game?! Newsflash, scrub: I don't beat the best there is in Halo... I am the best. If I could, I would beat myself in a match... one-on-one... gun-to-gun. You're done, son!"
Said me, after playing a normal round of Halo 4.
Not playing much of the first one, I didn’t really have much of a clue on what is going on in the Borderlands world. After I stood with the game for ten minutes I am proud to say that I still have absolutely no clue what the hell is going on. It looks pretty, and the controls are on par with every other first person shooter I have ever played. Umm... let’s see, oh I totally left the other player I was with behind by getting myself killed and starting back at the beginning. Then I couldn’t use the elevator to go back down to help. Failed attempts were where I excelled in the game. I was on it! Not too many other people could have been more unhelpful then me.
Now I will be getting the game when it comes out. I already have my preorder for it and a group of friends ready to curse my name at the stupid mistakes I will be making. This is going to be one hell of a ride once I can figure out what is going on.
Ron Gilbert’s new baby is just what you would expect from the creator of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. It’s a puzzle game that takes three of seven unlucky adventurers on a quest into The Cave. Each character in the game has their own back story, personalities, and abilities. Depending on which three you chose the game will be need to be completed in different ways. Every puzzle can be completed with any combination of characters, so while you might have a really easy time with one puzzle, you are going to have a tougher time with others. I can see that the balance in this game is going to be from “I’m so smart” to “What the !$##@$ do I do now?!” as I totally was when I was playing the demo. There were a lot of times I ended up dying just because I was experimenting on what I needed to do next. If your character dies, time just rewinds back to that place where you died. No having to start it all over from scratch, thank goodness. That would just frustrate the hell out of me too much and I would rage quit pretty fast.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
This is a gem of a title. Completely absurd, violent, and funny. You take control of a dead bunny that was caught in the bathtub with his precious rubber ducky. Well, this won’t do and will ruin his reputation. So what do we need to do? Easy, kill everyone that has seen it. Thus begins your quest to eradicate everything in your path.
The premise is that you go through the level, unlock the doors, and go on to the next level. All in glorious 2D high definition. There was a bit of a learning curve for me with the rocketpack/rotating blade saw where it was kind of hard to judge on how to jump and for how long I could hold it. The other thing that was a little tough was the aiming and firing of the rocket launcher. This is done with the same hand with the right thumbstick aims and the right trigger fires. Again, this took a little getting used to. Nothing that would make the game any less enjoyable. Once you get the hang of that, you are off to tear your enemies a new one, or just tear it completely off depending on the special you might have. The amount of violence and gore in this game is pretty high but in all cartoony style, so it’s more fun to laugh at it than to get grossed out by it.
Overall I had a great time with the game and would recommend you check it out if you can. Actually, just go and buy it when you can. Hell yeah!
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