Today was the first official day of PAX Prime 2012.
Once again taking place in the Washington State Trade & Convention Center located in downtown Seattle, there was more to see and do than one humble writer could possibly cover. However, I did my very best, and here is what I saw...
Starting the day off was a quick chat with Harrison Pink, lead designer of The Walking Dead: Episode 3—Long Road Ahead. Harrison was a great guy, and very easy to talk to. His enthusiasm for the series was obvious, and with Episode 3 still fresh in my mind (I just finished it last night) I had plenty of questions. Here are some highlights from that chat:
- Telltale has been listening closely to player feedback from the previous two episodes, and they are tuning the content ahead conscientiously.
- Episode 4 is aimed to increase the level of stress and tension to an even higher degree than was seen in Episode 3, and if you haven't already played through 3, let me tell you... it is certainly no picnic.
- Lead developers left the infamous "batteries" puzzle in Episode 1 because they thought it was funny, but there are lines of dialogue in both Episode 2 and 3 that call back to how silly it was.
- Work is happening on the remaining episodes concurrently, and the goal is to have the entire series available and in player hands before the end of the year.
- Kenny's odd responses in Episode 2 was simply a bug, and not player misinterpretation, as some people have suggested.
- The muddled final scene in Episode 2 was simply intended to let the player know that they were not as safe as they assumed they were, and nothing more.
- Robert Kirkman plays the new episodes when everybody else does (his choice) and not before.
- Telltale's next major release will be based on the comic series Fables, but there is currently talk of a "second season" of The Walking Dead. This is not confirmed, however, and there were no details available.
Moving on, I hit the Capcom booth next. I've never been the biggest fan of Devil May Cry even though I thought the re-release of Devil May Cry 3 was quite good, but the revamp being led by Ninja Theory looks like it may be the best game of the series overall.
Main character Dante's younger, brunette-er design was appealing, and the way his weapon morphed into different forms to suit the occasion continued the legacy of fast action while lending a slightly different flavor, creatively. As he made his way down the streets of a demonically-twisted city, the graphics were nicely gritty and detailed, and he's now got grab/pull abilities that make a slight platforming element possible while leaping about the walls and roof tops. I need to see more, but the demo that I saw was quite convincing.
Before I left Capcom, I took a quick peek at Lost Planet 3. I enjoyed the first two games in the series, so I'm assuming that I would probably enjoy this third one, as well.
It seemed closer in terms of design to the first than the second (single-player focus, snowy environments, etc.) and the graphics were quite sharp. If nothing else, it looks great.
Although I did not have time to have a hands-on with the new Tomb Raider (hopefully I will manage that before the convention is over) I was quite impressed with the parts that I did see. For starters, it's visually amazing. In the section being demoed, Lara was hunting deer in an open-world forest environment. Seeing her move about looks quite natural, and there is no question that the overall tone of the game is quite different than anything that's ever been done in a Tomb Raider before.
After bagging her deer, she returned to a makeshift camp. Once there, a skill tree opened up with a variety of survival-based options that could be improved. This particular aspect is absolutely new to the series, and quite intriguing... with any luck, I will have more to say on this one later.
I don't have much interest in PC gaming, but watching Primal Carnage made me wish it was getting a console port. Basically, it's a multiplayer combat game with the teams being mercenaries versus dinosaurs.
The humans toting guns part didn't look super engaging, but adding the dinos really changed things up... speaking of which, why aren't there more games where players can control dinosaurs?
Next up was X-Com: Enemy Unknown. Sitting through the presentation, it was interesting to hear the person speaking comment on the fact that most of the people in the audience probably had no experience with the original games, and potentially no experience with turn-based strategy. As sad as that sounds to me, he was probably correct.
In any event, as someone who was a huge fan of the original from back in the day, I have to say that this game looked completely f****** awesome. It is essentially the exact same game that I knew and loved years ago, only given a massive graphical upgrade and a few other twists that bring it into the modern age, such as adding small incidental animations to increase the adrenaline factor of combat.
For example, moving a soldier into a cover point inside a building from an isometric perspective is all well and good, but seeing that same soldier charged ahead and burst through a door in a close-up action view made the game feel incredibly dynamic.
Management aspects of the game (alien research, weapons research, etc.) are still intact, and it's quite clear that the people behind this update had no intention of fixing the original formula, which was in no way broken. Slicker graphics and a few tweaks here and there was all that I thought was necessary, and it seems like the developers agreed. I'm so incredibly hyped for this right now, you don't even know.
You don't even know.
(P.S. The commander of the in-game demo squad was Sid Meier. How cool is that?)
If you read this blog, you know the sort of appreciation I have for the original Dead Island. I'm a big, big fan. Naturally, Dead Island: Riptide would be on my radar, so I made a point of seeing it as soon as possible. I did. And... well...
Frankly, although the game being shown was in a "pre-alpha" stage, I thought the section the developers chose to demo was quite boring and inappropriate. Apparently, the segment was taken from a few hours into the campaign where the players have to defend a structure from oncoming waves of zombies.I'm sure it would be fine to play through when taken in the context of the campaign, but all we got to see was the developers shooting zombies in the same small environment for too long.
I was itching to see some of the new weapons and new environments, and the developers stated that there will be a new character joining the original cast. Unfortunately, we were not shown any of this. I don't mean to sound negative because I'm certainly a fan, but it was deflating to be given such a small, uninspiring section of what we can look forward to.
In terms of facts, here's the scoop: at the end of Dead Island, the players escape in a helicopter and head (we assumed) to the mainland. Nope. I was told that at the beginning of Dead Island: Riptide, the players have a brief series of mishaps and end up on a neighboring island chain. The developers value the tropical setting, so we are getting that again.
Key differences? Apparently water plays a much bigger role, and the player is able to drive boats around in an open-world fashion. Zombies will also attack from underwater, so being afloat doesn't guarantee safety. In addition, new weapons and a fifth playable character who apparently has a skill set completely different from any of the previous four. There have also been some tweaks to make the multiplayer a better experience for those who group up, and the main campaign should deliver between 20 to 30 hours of gameplay that basically mirrors the original.
Later in the day, I made my way to Konami's offsite area and got my hands on Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The demo was fairly short, but it gave a good idea of what the larger game would be like.
Set in a VR training mission, the player learns how to use "sword mode" where time stands still and main character Raiden can alter the position of his sword to instantly slice through an object in any direction or any angle. However, this power is only available when Raiden has a sufficient amount of energy. When he's running low, the game reverts back to a more traditional form of combo-based swordplay.
Slicing through objects is great at first, but the appeal wore off slightly when I tried to slice through a small cell door and was completely stopped. So apparently, Raiden can crack the armored outer hall of a Gekko assault cyborg, but is defeated by third-world architecture.
The other power on display in the demo was his "ninja run" where he takes off at a reasonable clip (I expected faster, honestly) and will auto-parkour his way over anything in his path. Towards the end of the content, an assault helicopter launched a volley of missiles at him, and by holding the run button, he sprinted up into the air, hopping from missile to missile.
It sounds cool when I describe it here, but when I was playing, it felt very scripted and not at all like the kind of thing that could be performed at a player's discretion. I could be completely wrong, but that was what I took away from it. I'm definitely interested to see more of Revengeance, but Metal Gear has lost some of its cachet with me recently, and there were certain elements of the demo that gave me a little bit of a spider sense tingle. We'll see.
This brings an end to my report from PAX Prime 2012, day one. Check out Day Two for more impressions from the show floor!