I’m back from four days of video games, panels and D&D down in Seattle, the home of PAX Prime. My shoulders are sore, my eyes are aching because of expose to dim lighting and bright neon and I can’t feel my feet, but I had an awesome time checking out some unreleased games.
Here’s a quick rundown of what I saw, I what I thought of it!
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag actually had a pretty short line, so I was able to get in to their first public showing (members of the media were apparently in before us) and I was pleasantly surprised.
Even though AC4 only had a video presentation (narrated ably by Ashraf Ismail) I was really taken in by what they showed. A naval assault on a fortress was showcased, along with deep-sea diving and exploration and a bit of the fishing mechanic (in this case the video showed Edward catching a bull shark). Assassin’s Creed 4 looks like it has a wide variety of things to see and do that actually make a difference, which was one of my main complaints with 3. We didn’t see anything especially new, but the seamless open-world of the Caribbean in the Golden Age of Piracy continues to look very nice.
Ubisoft’s other big game at PAX was Watch_Dogs where the multiplayer was being shown off. The set-up for that is fairly simple: one person is in-game playing while their opponent uses a tablet app to control the CtOS, the computer program that controls the city of Chicago in Watch_Dogs.
The console player tries to complete objectives in a certain time limit while the tablet player throws various obstacles in their way like police choppers, bollards and exploding steam pipes. The more chaos the console player causes, the easier it is for the tablet player to find them and deploy resources against them. The tablet player looked a little over-powered, but to be fair the console player was purposely causing as much mayhem as they could, at the behest of the audience. The multiplayer looks like a cool distraction, especially since both players can earn XP and cash for their actions, whether or not they win.
InFamous: Second Son
Sucker Punch’s newest super-hero outing unfortunately wasn’t hands on, but I did watch a developer play through about ten minutes of a mission where the new protagonist, Delsin Rowe, used his fire powers to wreck a paramilitary outpost.
Delsin moves and handles a lot like Cole from the first two InFamous games, right down to having a very similar power set, even if the flavor is different. The main difference is that Delsin can turn into columns of smoke and fire to quickly move himself through tight spaces like ventilation systems. The visuals for Delsin’s powers are very cool, with a lot of particle effects and lighting being thrown everywhere. There were a couple instances where the framerate dropped, but that’s to be expected from an early build.
The game’s representation of an alternate Seattle is also quite nice, and Delsin looks to be just as agile as Cole was. The mission even had the developer pause for a couple seconds to destroy chain-link fences, an obstacle that cause Cole no end of grief.
Speaking of destructibility, a lot of the environment in Second Son could be obliterated, leading to some cool tactical situations where a few troopers were firing on Delsin from a catwalk, prompting the developers playing the game to send the platform crashing down. It looks like players will have a lot of combat options when this game finally comes out.
Ryse: Son of Rome
Ryse: Son of Rome actually had a sizable hands-on demo, showing off about twenty or so minutes of the game’s co-op mode. The quick-time events that plagued the game during E3 are gone (for the most part) and what’s left is a very cool almost Batman: Arkham City-esque melee fighting game.
In the co-op mode you’re two gladiators tasked with keeping an arena full of bored Romans enthralled. This entails fighting a lot of barbarians and completing objectives through different environments. The fighting is managed by using X to swing your sword and Y to do a shield bash (holding the buttons will do heavier attacks and pressing A at the right time will raise your shield for a second, allowing you to counter). When you’ve damaged an enemy enough, a skull will appear above their head, allowing you to execute them through a brutal quick-time event (your enemy is highlighted with the color of the requisite button, making it less obtrusive than your normal “MASH X NOW” QTE).
The game itself was very pretty looking, with nary a slow-down. I was impressed that pretty much everything I saw was mapped with a high-res texture, something that continues to evade us this generation.
Ryse might not have struck a chord at E3, but this hands-on demo really impressed me. This might end up being a solid Xbox One exclusive.
This is it, the creme de la creme, the top of the heap, the game of the show. Titanfall was playable out on the floor showcasing a multiplayer match of 6 v 6. That might sound a little thin, but Titanfall pads out matches by adding in AI soldiers to each team (called “Grunts”). These AI troops can’t use Titans, only the real players, referred to as “Pilots”, can.
Titanfall has a cinematic multiplayer mode, so the round had a little narrative wrapper where one team invades a city trying to locate an important person in the other faction. What ensued after that was an absolute domination by my team as we ran roughshod over any Titan the opposing force managed to field.
Controlling a Pilot means that you’re a swift and agile infantryman, and you can run along walls and jump over roofs, allowing you to get a new angle on any opposing Pilots or Titans. Once a certain time limit has been reached, your Titan is available for deployment and as soon as it lands you can hop in and start killing.
The Pilots and Titans both have different load-outs depending on how you want to play and it caters to either anti-infantry, anti-Titan or a mix of both. There’s not a single point in Titanfall where you don’t feel empowered: a Pilot used well can be just as effective as a Titan, and Titans can be downed either by an enemy Titan or a coordinated infantry effort (indeed, my friend with me at PAX managed to disable two mechs by leaping on to their backs and shooting out the power core).
There’s no slow part to Titanfall: the action is fast and smooth and with the AI infantry running around there’s always action going on. The verticality of the Pilot combat is a nice counter-point to the Titans, who own the streets with their bulk and fire-power. When this game hits in 2014, you can be sure it will change the multiplayer landscape.
I had an opportunity to play Super Mario 3D Worlds and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Wii U and I have to say I was pretty impressed. The Wii U is looking a bit more tempting with the price drop for the version with bigger storage and Super Mario 3D Worlds will be a fun party game since it’s now a four-player deal.
Sonic: Lost World on the 3DS is also a good time with Sonic’s famous super-speed mapped to the shoulder buttons so you can engage that at will to control him with a bit more accuracy during platforming sections.
That was pretty much my PAX experience! I got a lot of hands on time with the One controller and it felt pretty good. The major game Sony was showing off for the PS4 was Killzone so I really didn’t feel like waiting in line for that, so sorry to everyone who was hoping I would get to touch a PS4 controller.
If anyone has any more questions, feel free to ask!