So, PAX 2010 has come and gone, and I’m glad that I finally took this year to go down and experience it. I saw a lot of games before their release and some cosplay that I could have gone without. Of course, such a big event deserves a bigger write up, so steel yourselves and jump into my PAX 2010 Round-Up Spectacular! In this post I’m going to be covering the games that I saw with the pictures going up in a separate post once I sort out and re-size the photos.
I arrived at the main hall about an hour before the show floor opened, which meant that I was about halfway in the giant human snake that constituted the PAX line up. Once inside, I made a beeline for the Halo: Reach booth where I had the opportunity to try both Slayer and Firefight. This is the gold build of the game, so I got to try out all the stuff that was missing from the Beta and see a few of the things that had been hinted at since. My Slayer match consisted of a remake of the Halo 2 map Sanctuary as Elite character models, and I was pleased to see that the second playable species got access to the other armor abilities like Armor Lock and Hologram. Hologram was a little tricky to use, but I was fooled by it a couple of times. Armor Lock remains my favorite ability, but it was tuned down a little bit from the version that appeared back in the Beta.
For my Firefight trial, I got to play on the recently announced Corvette map, which takes place inside a Covenant Carrier. The main battlefield is a large circular platform with stairways ramping off of it, which made for some interesting situations when I was chased by Elites with Fuel Rod Guns. While it was really fun to play, the short ten minute demo didn’t delve into the wealth of options that are going to be available to us in less than two weeks. I was sold on the game anyways, so this was just an opportunity to get a little taste test.
Next I headed over to the Star Wars booth where both The Force Unleashed and The Old Republic were on display. As far as I’m aware, this is the first time that TOR has been available for public play-testing, so I was eager to try it out. After fifteen minutes, I came away more than a little disappointed. The demos had all the classes available for play except for one of the Jedi builds which had just undergone some major tweaking according to one of the BioWare employees staffing the booth. I grabbed the Sith Inquisitor station and launched myself into the adventure. I started by talking to the primary quest giver, and I was a little put off by the watered-down Mass Effect presentation of the conversation system. BioWare has said that one of the essential pillars of The Old Republic is story, but talking to the NPC seemed very cheesy and forced, especially given the MMO setting.
Combat is comprised of the typical MMO dance where you stand in-front of your enemy and swing your weapon while using a different power every time your cool-down is done. I glanced around at the ranged-weapon based classes like the Trooper and Smuggler, and they seemed to be mostly the same as my Sith Inquisitor except for the range at which we engaged our foes. One thing that stood out to me was the imprecise nature of the combat, even though the entire thing was running on a local network. The different powers I used didn’t really correspond to the actions on screen. Often times I would be interrupted mid action for no reason at all, and the whole thing seemed very buggy. Small things such as the dance command was missing from the build, making me a little nervous about the full product. The launch is more than half a year away, true enough, but The Old Republic is feeling very rough at this point in time.
The other Star Wars game on display, The Force Unleashed, was looking quite favorable compared to The Old Republic. One thing I have to remark upon is how smooth the game looked. I don’t know if it was the increased frame rate or an augmentation to the game engine itself, but the whole demo was running as smooth as butter. It was great fun to tear through Stormtroopers and ravage them with Force lightning. This had me eagerly awaiting the full product in October, the very opposite impression that I got from The Old Republic.
This game was the surprise of the show for me. There was a very short line to get into the Medal of Honor booth to try out the multiplayer, so my buddy (GamerSushi user The Nage) and I decided to give it a shot. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t have an opportunity to try the Beta for MoH that came out a few weeks ago, but I had heard that the game was very deliberate in its pacing and that the guns were difficult to use. I don’t know if it’s my almost a week playtime on Bad Company 2, but my friend and I absolutley owned at the trial. He was on the Taliban team and I was on the American side, but we both come out on top for our respective teams. The game itself was a lot of fun, and the map was a very interesting mountainside ruin, so it made for some fantastic choke-point action. At the end of the demo, we were taken aside by one of the developers staffing the booth and told that we had won some sort of contest, so we picked up some custom bullet-proof Oakley sunglasses and a wicked set of headphones. Prizes aside, my time with the game turned my opinion around and this is now on my must-buy list.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is another one of those games that I was doubting because of the addition of multiplayer. BioShock 2 turned out pretty well, but that was mostly because of its shooter roots. Ubisoft had a huge presence at PAX this year, and they kindly decided to bring Brotherhood along to show it to the masses. The basic premise of Brotherhood’s setup is that you and seven other players are dropped into a section of Rome and are given contracts to hunt each other down. There are eight skins to choose from, and the NPCs in the town are modeled after the same characters available to you. The trick is that you have to decide which model is the one you’re searching for and which is a computer-controlled civilian. Killing an NPC will reveal you to your target, allowing them to run away. If you manage to sneak up on your prey undetected (you are pointed towards them by a compass at the bottom of the screen) you can execute them with a flourished finishing move.
The trick of the multiplayer is that, while you’re hunting your own contract, other players are given assignments to exterminate you. This adds to the tension as you are not only trying to avoid drawing the attention of your quarry, but you’re also attempting to prevent a surprise attack. Imagine it as an eight-way cat and mouse game and you’ve pretty much got it. As it is with all other multiplayer games these days, there are different builds and abilities to choose from, and you can level up and gain even more. Considering that I originally thought of Brotherhood’s multiplayer as a flimsy excuse to pad the game to get a full release, this coupled with the single-player we’ve been seeing recently has me believing that this might be more than your average spin off.
Both of these demos were kind of short, so I’m going to throw them together. The InFAMOUS 2 demo is the same one that they showed off during E3 with Cole fighting swamp monsters and chasing a limo down a city street. The close combat is just as cinematic as I remember from the earlier videos, with the new hand-held weapon swatting foes around. The hand-to-hand reminded me a great deal of Arkham Aslyum, so that’s a definite plus for the game. Overall, InFAMOUS 2 seemed like more of the original, just tuned and refined to deliver a better super-hero (or super-villain) experience. It did seem to be fairly buggy, but I can only guess that this was because Sucker Punch brought a similar build to the one they used at E3. The only difference is the new design for Cole which bares more of a resemblance to his original design than the one from July. For me, his voice was the problem, but this might make some people happier.
Killzone 3 was also on display, so I checked out the multiplayer at the behest of Anthony. The game looks really good, with a lot of environmental effects on display with very little slowdown. The mode available to the crowds was War Zone, which switches between the various gameplay options like Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Territory Control. While the game did look really good, I found it to be kind of confusing when it came to actually finding other players to kill and using my classes’ powers. As is my wont, I played the Medic and spent most of the time looking for teammates to heal. More often than not, though, I ended up reviving members of the opposing faction which kind of defeats the purpose in my opinion. Ten minutes is not nearly enough time to explore the game, but the limited time I had left me more confused than anything else.
This game was the hardest to get into besides Duke Nukem but this was the one I really wanted to see, the exhibit walled off from the rest of the show floor by large pictures of the game’s two co-op robot buddies. On Friday and Saturday, the line was closed off by the PAX Enforcers every time I tried to get into it. Finally, on Sunday, I was able to snag myself a spot in line. The inside of the Portal 2 booth was simply two screens and a small theater like set-up. A Valve employee and a girl in some sort of cat suit (an audience volunteer) walked through a couple of simple puzzles to show off the basic mechanics of the game’s co-op mode. First off, both of the players have their own set of portals, as opposed to the one each that I assumed it would be. The Solid Light Bridge also made an appearance, and it is exactly as described. Another neat thing that came up during the demonstration was the way that the robots interacted with each other. You can wave, high-five and hug, all the sorts of things that you could do in Army of Two, but way more adorable. You can also use a Ping tool to point out where you want your friend to place their portals because, as the Valve emcee described it, instructions such as “that wall over there” are kind of vague. All this made Portal 2 look even more like a must-play, and February 2011 can’t come fast enough.
That was it for the majority of big titles on display at PAX. There was a smattering of Wii games (who owns that?) as well as a few in-development MMOs. Dragon Age 2 was also on display, but between the three games with giant lines, Portal 2, Duke Nukem and Dragon Age, I picked the one I was most interested in. For one guy (well two, but he doesn’t work for us) I covered a lot of ground in three days. I also got to go see the Penny-Arcade guys, Wil Weaton and Scott Kurtz do a live Dungeons and Dragons playthrough, and that was nothing short of side-splittingly hilarious. I checked out New Vegas for a few moments, and that was Fallout 3 with a few new gun models and a new area. Games like that are tough to demo, though.
So, that was my PAX 2010 experience in a nutshell. I’ll put up pictures of the show floor and the cosplay when I get done traveling home tomorrow. I know there was a few people heading to PAX this year, so what did you think of the experience. Anyone wish the could have gone?