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Posts Tagged ‘Preview’

Dead Space 3 (Xbox 360 Hands on preview)

February 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Creepy ambient noises create a tense and scary atmosphere that keeps you on edge. Necromorphs pop out of no where and scare the bejesus out of you. These are the things to be expected in the upcoming Dead Space 3 demo that let you know it’s still very much a Dead Space game. But then there’s the co-op and the fact you are shooting humans in the middle of a brightly lit snowy environment. Do these new elements threaten to ruin the increasingly beloved action-horror franchise?

Dead Space 3

While it’s hard to say from the brief demo, co-op does change the game, quite literally. If you play alone as Isaac then you are alone, there’s no AI buddy alongside you, it’s just regular old Dead Space. If you choose to bring a buddy, then the game’s other protagonist John Carver will always be there, in cutscenes and all. But it doesn’t just change the fact there’s two of you to take on Necromorphs, there’s new dialogue and slight changes to scenarios too. I found myself quite surprised by how differently a scene played out with Carver there. He’s not just along for the ride; he has thoughts, feelings and he isn’t afraid to share them with Isaac. Carver is a much more brash and angry character, a nice contrast to the more reserved Isaac Clark we’re used to. Whether the story as a whole drastically changes remains to be seen, but the moment to moment stuff certainly changes and is made more interesting by Carver’s inclusion. Oh, and it still manages to be scary.

That said, co-op seems like it’ll be a second play-through option for most Dead Space fans. Making it quite a relief to see that playing solo with Isaac still feels as creepy as it always has. Even while trudging through a bright snowy environment, though I’m still unsure on the whole fighting humans thing. Though it was somewhat inevitable in terms of the story, but hopefully it’s not a huge part of the final game.

isaac-snow

Whether playing in co-op or alone, the demo kicks off with Isaac having crashed on the planet of Tau Volantis. The events in the demo aren’t given much context, however. Isaac yells for Ellie, and if playing in co-op he and Carver argue about whether she’s even alive. Other than that though, you’re just moving forward as a blizzard rises and lowers in intensity, making it hard to see more than a few feet in front of you. Which of course is a perfect opportunity for a Necromorph to lunge through the wall of white in front of you. A cheap jump scare tactic, perhaps, but that doesn’t make it any less scary in the moment.

The demo is fairly straight forward, as you wearily wander from encounter to encounter, afraid to turn every corner or walk too far into the snowstorm. These moments are punctuated by a couple of boss encounters, one involving a rather large Necromorph and the other an even larger malfunctioning drill. Both add the burst of action we’ve come to expect in a Dead Space game, as you have to use all your skill (and Isaac’s abilities) to take care of the situation. The end of the demo, as most demos do, teases an even larger boss encounter. EA and Visceral certainly want you to know the epic spectacle of Dead Space is still in tact, as much as the creepy atmosphere.

isaac-boss

In addition to co-op, the demo highlights another big new feature in Dead Space 3: crafting. Even before jumping into gameplay, you can access weapon crafting from the main menu. Doing so will insert you into a small room with a tool bench and a bunch of resources. After reading through a few tutorial tooltips you’re left to craft and upgrade any weapon you want, and you can even spawn some Necromorphs to test them out on. The combinations on offer, though,  are surprisingly diverse. Fancy a Chain Lightning Gun that also occasionally sets enemies on fire and gives you a powerful melee attack on top of that? Or how about modifying Isaac’s trademark plasma cutter, sacrificing its ability to rotate for a small submachine gun as it’s alt fire? In fact you can easily completely change the nature of the plasma cutter, so it’s not even the same weapon, it’s quite impressive. You’ll even be able to save the blueprints of your favorite new weapons and share them with your co-op buddy. It’s a surprisingly robust and enjoyable feature, allowing players to customize weapons, which have always been one of best parts of Dead Space is very smart.

For those worried that Dead Space 3 would be a huge departure from what the series is known for, this demo should go some way to quelling their panic. While the co-op does change the dynamic quite a bit, it still manages to be creepy and scary. It’s also very much optional, and leaves the core Dead Space experience relatively untouched. If you haven’t nabbed early access, you’ll be able to try the demo out for yourself, but rest assured it looks like EA and Visceral are doing right by the series.

Originally published on StickSkills.com

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Categories: Games, My writing Tags: ,

Catherine (Xbox 360 Hands on preview)

December 23, 2012 Leave a comment

CatherineThe recent entries in the Persona series have gained a rather large cult following on Playstation 2 and PSP. Their blend of quirky high school relationship sim and traditional Japanese RPG managed to find more success than one might expect. Of course anyone who has played the games can see the appeal. Charming characters, an intriguing, if uniquely Japanese, story and solid RPG mechanics. Many are waiting in eager anticipation for the inevitable announcement of Persona 5 for current gen consoles. However while they wait the Persona team has been hard at work on a very different game.

Catherine is essentially a puzzle game but to present it as nothing more than that would be a disservice. In the game you play as Vincent, a 32 year old guy who has been dating his girlfriend Katherine for many years (he can’t quite remember how many though). Katherine thinks it’s about time they thought about marriage and settling down. Vincent isn’t so sure he’s ready to take that step. If that wasn’t enough for Vincent to think about, he soon meets Catherine. He wakes up in bed with her the next morning with no memory of what happened.

It’s a subject matter you rarely find in video games, often relationships are side stories which you can all but ignore. In Catherine however Vincent’s relationship crisis is set to be the main drive of the narrative. There are some hints at a more sinister subplot but it remains to be seen how much of an impact that has. The main thrust of the story definitely looks to focus on the love triangle of Vincent, Katherine and Catherine.

The other unique aspect of Catherine is that the bulk of the gameplay comes in the form of block puzzles. Presented as Vincents nightmares, you must guide him (in nothing but his boxer shorts) from the bottom of a tower of blocks to the top. In order to do so you will have to pull and push individual blocks to create steps for Vincent to climb. All the while a grotesque monster-like version of Katherine climbs up from below and if she catches you it’s game over. The preview levels were only available on Easy difficulty, which didn’t provide too large a challenge. These also appeared to be from very early in the game, later puzzles promise more variety and different block types to increase the puzzles complexity.

You will be able to interact with Vincent’s world while he’s awake too, mostly The Stray sheep, the bar where he hangs out. No block puzzles here though, well aside from an arcade game found there. You can also chat to people in said bar, both friends and just fellow customers. While there you’ll also receive text messages, which you can reply to. There are a few different lines to choose from, each with their own implications. Whichever response you select will have an affect on both Vincent and the person you’re replying to.

The only big barrier to entry Catherine has is that it’s wrapped in a Persona-esque anime aesthetic. This isn’t for everyone, so while some may be interested by the games themes and story the distinctly Japanese wrapper could put them off.

While the puzzle game element being the bulk of the gameplay is somewhat baffling, it’s the themes and subject matter that make Catherine so interesting. The promise of a game where the conflict is a mans struggle with an emotional relationship crisis is unique to say the least. Whether the full version of Catherine ends up as compelling as the demo suggests, it’s certainly commendable to see a developer put out something so mature and different.

Originally published on Square-Go.com

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Prey 2 (Preview)

December 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Prey 2In a packed conference hall at Eurogamer Expo 2011, Prey 2 Project Lead, Chris Reinhart begins his presentation by talking about Prey 2‘s connection to the original game. He asks how many in the crowd have played the first game, the number of raised hands is more than one might expect. He reminds everyone of a moment during Prey where players could see a plane being raided by alien slavers. Killian Samuels, Prey 2‘s main character, was on that plane.That’s not the only thing that connects the two games, Chris assured everyone that Tommy (the first game’s protagonist) will be an important part of the story in Prey 2.

Gameplay

With that out of the way we get straight into gameplay, Chris has started up the beginning of the game. The flaming wreckage of the plane is strewn around, he makes his way toward the cockpit to check for survivors. On the way he explains that Killian is an Air Marshall and as such he was allowed a gun on the plane. It’s here we see one of the more unique aspects of Prey 2, your gun is holstered by default. Chris explains that they original had the gun out by default but it seemed strange to be sticking a weapon in people’s faces and not have them react. So they decided they would make taking out your gun a conscious decision and one which has consequences.

Killian quickly encounters some bad guys, we get a brief glimpse of the games basic combat but Chris wants to move the demo along so he runs past the majority of the enemies. Once he finds the cockpit Killian is ambushed by the slavers and swiftly knocked out. As we wait for the next part of the demo to load, Chris explains that after these events Killian wakes up on an alien world called Exodus. It’s a couple of years later and he has no idea how he got there or what he has been doing in the interim. Well, he does remember he became a bounty hunter, as you do. He decides to continue his bounty hunter duties while trying to discover what happened in that lost time.

Exodus

The next section of the demo loaded, we are now about 25% into the game and on Exodus. It’s a beautiful world, bringing to mind a Blade Runner influenced Coruscant. Bright neon signs contrast with the dark and grimy streets. Various species of alien go about their business, nefarious or otherwise. Even at this early stage Prey 2 is very visually impressive, the world has a very lived in look.

Chris wastes no time in showing off the games new traversal system, those familiar with Mirrors Edge should have a fair idea of what to expect here. Killian can slide (right into cover even), vault over obstacles, hang from ledges and climb various parts of the enviroment. All of these things can be done in the middle of combat too, so you can hang from a ledge and pop your head up to take a few shots at persuing enemies. Or like a moment we see in the demo, you can vault from cover, quickly take out one enemy then immediately slide across the floor and take out his buddy. It makes for some exciting and fast paced combat, you can certainly see why the team at Human Head are calling it “agile combat”.

Bounty

Chris pulls up a menu which lists some of the bounty missions available. He takes a mission to track down an alien called Dra’gar, but first he needs to talk to an informant to find out where Dra’gar might be. To get to this informant, Krux, Killian has to do some climbing. But first, some hovering! If all his climbing abilities aren’t quite enough Killian has hover boots which can help with some of those bigger jumps one is likely to attempt in a futuristic alien city.

When we reach Crux he has some muscle around to protect him, in the form of a burly alien, he says he’ll give Killian the info in exchange for some cash. Chris decides he doesn’t want to pay Krux so he shoots his bodyguard and then points the gun at Krux’s head. Krux reluctantly gives up the info but says Killian will now owe him one down the line.

As Chris heads toward the nightclub where Dra’Gar is apparently hanging out he takes the chance to show off Killian’s visor. It has several different modes, the most useful of which is its scan. Scan acts very similarly to detective mode in Arkham Asylum, it will highlight people in different colours depending on their threat level. Green for neutral, yellow for those who could become hostile and red for the most assuredly hostile. Blue is also used to highlight your target, making them easier to pick out amongst the crowd. We also get a glimpse of a couple more visor modes, lumisight (night vision) and DNA tracking which can be used in some missions to track suspects.

Gadgets

When he finally reaches the nightclub and gets eyes on Dra’Gar, Chris decides to sneak up on him and hopefully talk to him. Unforunately Dra’Gar isn’t in a talk mood and heads straight for the door, at which point we see he has the ability to teleport. This makes it very easy for him to put a bunch of henchmen between himself and Killian. It’s also a great excuse to show off more of Killian’s gadgets, such as the super powerful shoulder-mounted rockets. They make short work of the henchmen, and the chase continues. Chris catches up to Kra’Gar and tries to catch him with Killian’s bandolier, a device that snares enemies in energy bands, Kra’Gar quickly teleports out of it though.

Eventually Kra’Gar runs out of places to run, so he offers Killian money to let him go. Despite it being more than the bounty on Kra’Gar’s head Chris decides to turn him in. Here we see how bounties are dealt with, before being transported (teleported) to the client Killian can interoggate the prisoner. This could lead to more information about other missions, but push to hard and it could also lead to a dead bounty.

Prey 2 is a huge departure from the first game, were it not for the inclusion of Tommy it could quite easily be a completely new franchise. While I didn’t get hands on, the new mechanics all looked very impressive, fluid and fun. If the final games missions and world can be suitably filled out then Prey 2 could easily be one of the stand out games when it releases next year.

Originally published on Square-Go.com

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Xbox 360 hands on preview)

December 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Call of DutyIt is somewhat expected at this point that any first person shooter worth its salt won’t just have story based campaign and competitive multiplayer modes to keep us entertained. No, they now also need some kind of co-operative mode. One which involves getting together with some friends to hunker down and take on wave afer wave of increasingly difficult enemies. It may not have been the first but Gears of War particularly popularised the idea with its extremely fun and engaging Horde mode.

Past Call of Duty games have had slightly similar modes. Of course there’s the ever popular zombie mode, which is the most directly comparable to Horde. The Modern Warfare sub-series did things a little differently though, they had Spec Ops. These were small co-op missions each with their own objectives and unique environments, although some were similar to missions from the games campaign modes. This mode will return in Modern Warfare 3 but it will also be joined by a new Survival Mode, which is what I recently had a chance to play.

Survival Mode, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, sees one or two players face off against wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies. While a straight copy of Horde mode with Call of Duty’s shooting system could be fun, there are a few differences to make this system a little more interesting. As you progress and kill enemies you and your partner will earn cash, each having your own pool. This can be used to purchase weapons, equipment and upgrades at several terminals scattered around the map.

I only had access to the weapons station at first, but as the game progressed the other ones unlocked and appeared on the map. One for equipment and a final for special killstreak-esque unlocks. The weapon station allows you to purchase different guns and also upgrade them with the usual red dot sights and all the add-ons you’ve grown to expect in Call of Duty games. The equipment station is much the same but for things like claymores and grenades, you are also free to keep what you already have and just use the stations to restock ammo. This will conserve your money for the final, and I’d argue, most fun station.

When I played the Survival Mode, I was lucky enough to be paired with a player who was of broadly equal skill to myself; which meant we managed to last a little longer than most. This allowed me to use that last upgrade station a few times. At the station you can purchase what are essentially killstreak rewards, like those you find in competitive multiplayer. So you can get an airstrike or a helicopter to come in and clean up the enemies for you. My personal favourite was the ability to call in Delta squad, a group of marines who drop down from an attack helicopter and fight alongside you. It made the whole thing feel more like a mission from the campaign, with a large scale firefight breaking out in place of the tense back to the wall encounters we’d been having up till then.

The ability to purchase upgrades so readily made the mode feel like an accelerated version of the multiplayer. Within a few waves I’d already ditched my starting weapons for superior replacements and decked them out with a red dot sight and grenade launcher. It gave a much greater feeling of progression than just seeing the wave number increase.

Much like Spec Ops the Survival Mode is limited to two players, which is unfortunate as half the fun of these types of modes is the atmosphere created by having a group of friends playing together. That said, it is a great addition to the usual Call of Duty package and it should definitely be a lot of fun.

Originally Published on Square-Go.com

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Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360 hands on preview)

December 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Mass Effect 3The original Mass Effect was a great game with some significant but easy to overlook flaws. Mass Effect 2, most agree, was a vast improvement over the first game. It improved the combat system considerably making ME2 feel more like an action game than ME1′s less refined systems. Whichever class you played, you were guaranteed a far more fun experience in ME2, especially if you employed the use of Biotics.

There wasn’t too much that needed to be improved in ME2, so it’s not surprising that Mass Effect 3 plays a lot like its predecessor. The few changes I did notice weren’t as major as the transition from ME1 to ME2, some don’t even bear mentioning. The melee system has been slightly improved, with some classes now able to use the Omni-tool as a blade for a take-down manoeuvre. Other than that the changes are things most people won’t even notice, like on-screen indicators showing when you can move between cover. Or slightly tighter aiming on the guns, it felt much easier to be accurate than before. Were I not being intentionally mindful of any changes I might not have noticed them at all.

Mass Effect 3 marks the final chapter in the trilogy. Shepard has spent the last two games trying to stop the Reapers, a race of sentient machines. He’s managed to slow them down but they’re still coming and now they have their sights set on Earth. After all humanity has proven to be quite the pest. Sadly the level I played didn’t give much indication of this wider story.

I was dropped right into the middle of a mission for the demo; tasked with protecting a female Krogan (something not seen in the other games), it’s not explained who she is or where we are. With Liara and Garrus in tow the sequence consisted of fighting my way through some bad guys to access a control panel. I repeated that a couple of times before being confronted by a human controlled mech. Much like in the previous games taking down this tougher enemy required using the right combinations of weapons and abilities. Machine guns for shield, the Warp biotic power for armour and that sort of thing. It all played very much like Mass Effect 2, it was a fairly standard combat situation. That’s not a bad thing though, the refined combat of Mass Effect 2 was incredibly fun and allowed for a ton of experimentation and variation.

The main improvement I noticed while playing was the level design, which is something that’s rarely noticed unless it’s especially bad. Level design in the previous games wasn’t bad per se but it was somewhat uninspired. You could always tell when you had entered a combat environment, the room would be laid out in a way which showed it was clearly designed to allow players to take cover. That in itself would be fine but when you’re running through lots of different environments and they are all laid out almost identically, save for an aesthetic change, it makes the world feel very artificial.

In the Mass Effect 3 demo I played however, the cover around the environment felt a lot more natural. Everything was a lot less symmetrical and made sense in the world, of course Shepard would use the side of a staircase as cover! The design felt far more cohesive and grounded in some kind of reality. It’s a seemingly small change but in practice is does a lot to keep you immersed in the game world. Whether this was just a fluke in the section I played or it’s a change that we’ll see through all the games environments remains to be seen.

At this point in the series I don’t think anyone is really expecting a huge change up in how Mass Effect plays. The second game gave us that and the extremely positive response almost guarantees we will get more of the same, which is what we appear to be getting. But when more of the same means more of one of the best games of 2010 you won’t see me complaining.

Originally published on Square-Go.com

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Mass Effect 3 (Preview)

December 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Mass Effect 3 MPIt’s easy to get upset when it’s announced that a primarily singleplayer game like Mass Effect is getting a multiplayer mode: The Mass Effect games are epic singleplayer RPGs, why would you need or even want multiplayer?

Perhaps to convince those who would ask that question, EA and Bioware have released a portion of the multiplayer to all. Multiplayer in Mass Effect 3, or at least in the demo, is basically a combination of Gears of Wars’ Horde Mode and the progression system from Call of Duty. Added on top of that is a somewhat random loot drop aspect and of course all the combat tropes you expect from Mass Effect.

Class types carry over from singleplayer, so you’re free to stick to whichever you’ve become comfortable with. Species however are locked, these are randomly unlocked via reinforcement packs which are purchased via the in-game store (using in-game credit too). In addition to random character unlocks these packs also replenish supplies such as medi-gel while occasionally providing weapon mods and upgrades too.

Each species has only three powers from their specific class branch, meaning playing as a badass Drell isn’t the only reason you’ll want to unlock the new species. You may find his specific set of abilities perfectly fit your play style. While it is a shame the unlocks are random, it does encourage experimentation with classes you may not have tried before. Upon unlocking a Female Quarian Engineer with a bonus XP boost (allowing you to level up her abilities right away), why wouldn’t you try her out? Or if you just got a super powerful Sniper rifle that doesn’t quite fit your current character, why not change to an Infiltrator for a bit?

This is probably the most enticing part of the Mass Effect multiplayer experience. While the random element may seem tedious to some, I found it incredibly compelling. After only a short time with the demo I found myself staying online till the wee hours trying to get a few more credits for another pack. If the contents of that pack ended up being disappointing it didn’t discourage me, it just made me want to try again. For all I know the next pack could have that Krogan Sentinel I’ve been waiting for!

Once everyone has chosen their class and outfitted them with weapons and equipment it’s onto the battlefield. There are 11 waves to tackle, most of which simply ask you to survive while killing your attackers. Scattered throughout are a handful of objectives which will pop up in certain waves. Which objective is random, they range from downloading data from a terminal to simple elimination of an specific target within a time limit. They do a good job of forcing you to move around the map, as inevitably everyone will choose a spot to huddle up in and make a stand. They also require a little more team coordination as there are usually quite a few enemies between your team and the objective.

Considering the story orientated nature of the singleplayer it is a little disappointing that the multiplayer is so heavily action based. Especially with Biowares recent release of Old Republic, which proves they can tell a story in a multiplayer setting. That said when the multiplayer has turned out to be so engaging and fun its hard to stay disappointed for long.

Originally published on Square-Go.com

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MicroVolts (PC Hands on preview)

December 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Take a passing glance at Rock Hippo’s Mircovolts, now in open beta, and you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for Valve’s Team Fortress 2. While the art style does differ somewhat, the core gameplay of manic cartoon violence is very reminiscent of Valve’s excellent multiplayer shooter. MicroVolts does stand on its own however, not least because it’s entirely free to play. There will be micro-transactions down the line but as it stands right now, everything is free.

MicroVolts is a pretty basic multiplayer shooter, with the expected death match (both team and free for all) modes as well as a variant of capture the flag (with new ones still being added). The range of weapons is as you might expect: a melee weapon, a basic machine gun, a shotgun, rocket launcher and so on. You can buy better versions of these from the in game store but if you use the default versions well you can still hold your own in a fire fight.

A toy story

The loose premise of MicroVolts is that there is a war between toys for the control of the “Micro World”. All the characters you play are toys and the maps are generally real world environments to scale. This gives the game a great scale that you don’t see too much. There’s just something very cool about being overshadowed by a watering can.

But really, it’s all about the shooting and MicroVolts does a good job of replicating the feel of Team Fortress 2′s weapons (they even sound pretty similar). The difference here is that you have access to all weapons no matter which character you play. Most people seem to stick with certain weapons however, only changing when ammo is scarce or someone gets a little too close or far for their weapon of choice. Matches in MicroVolts are fast paced with fire fights often lasting no more than five or ten seconds. The turnaround is just as fast, with respawning only taking a few seconds. The matches as a whole do seem a tad long though.

This is a beta, so these things can and most likely will be tweaked. If the length of matches was brought down by a few minutes the game as a whole would have the same fast pace as the matches themselves. It would certainly make it easier to jump straight back into another game without hesitation. There is however, plenty to keep the dedicated playing. As you level up, you unlock the ability to purchase new weapons or customisation options as well as the points to buy them. It’s a formula that has worked well for many games before and uses the system well.

Free to play

Currently you don’t need to pay for anything in MicroVolts, but the hooks can be seen. The store has a “convenience” section which is currently empty. One can assume this will include items which will help accelerate progress, boosting the experience you get from playing a match and similar perks. MicroVolts has an in-game currency, “Micro Points,” which are what is actually used to purchase things from the store. These points are earned by playing matches. So, in addition to leveling up your character, you will be earning credits to help boost their arsenal.

There are a ton of customisation options for you to purchase in the games store. There are a small collection of guns you can buy as you level up but the majority of stuff you can buy is all about changing the look of your characters. Oddly, the different outfit pieces also have special stats attached to them. For example, that bitchin’ baseball cap you bought might give you 3% extra shotgun damage. It seems strange to tie these stat buffs to aesthetic changes as it means players will have to decide between what they think looks fun and what will help them during gameplay.

That being said, with the amount of modifiers gained from the different pieces of clothing and weapons, it’s not hard to imagine stat lovers creating that perfect build for their play style.

Those not looking to go quite that in-depth could probably get by with just making their characters look cool and buying better weapons and still have some fun. It’s a fine line, but MicroVolts does seem to straddle it well. When the game does officially launch and micro-transactions are added, it will be interesting to see how that effects the flow of things.

Originally published on Square-Go.com

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