So I was in Seattle at PAX Prime and I managed to get my hands on some of the latest upcoming games for this holiday season. Below is a summary of each of the games that I got some time with on the show floor.
The classic N64 shooter Goldeneye has received an updated treatment from its recent outing on the Wii with a HD version for the 360 and PS3. This game boasts additional gameplay elements like online multiplayer as well as expanded level designs to take (the updated Daniel Craig incarnation) of James Bond through the storyline. The version I played was on the PS3 in the single player campaign Jungle level. The game looks like any modern shooter does now with its slick graphics but this is where the good stuff ends as this no longer feels like the Goldeneye that many gamers grew up playing. The AI feels dumber than a bag of rocks, the controls feel“off,” and the whole game loses the feel that the original had of being in a James Bond movie. Really this is like someone took away my cool looking Star Wars toys and left me with some generic action space toy
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Link is back on the Wii in Skyward Sword – what is set to be the final game we get of Link before he makes the big jump to High Definition graphics on the Wii U. The demo offered three types of levels to play with a sky level, a dungeon, and a boss fight to allow the various types of gamers to have a go. I must confess that I haven’t played a Zelda game since Ocarina of Time but I did watch my younger brother play through Twilight Princess. This game appears to offer nothing new in the graphics department but offers plenty in the gameplay arena; and while the Wii-mote controls felt a little funny at first, they felt natural to play with after some handling – making the game easy to pick up and very enjoyable. If you own a Wii, then this is a game that should be in your collection.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Okay, so, this game clearly had a point to prove. I stood in line for an hour to get onto the show floor and went straight to this booth where I stood in line for 3 hours to play Skyrim for 15 minutes! This game, in its simplest form, is an updated version of the previous iteration, Oblivion, with a few updates and some dragons. The demo has no story background to it – just you in a cell with no explanation and a way out. From here on, you are in the VAST open world that Skyrim offers where you can walk about, interact with people, and – when you feel like it – go on quests (or murderous rampages if you feel like it.) The game offers the same detailed level of customisation as before with a key difference being that the menu system has been simplified to offer a much easier to navigate time for the user.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
The team at Bioware have been hard at work creating the next game in the Knights of the Old Republic series (set WAY before any of the movies) in a Massively Multiplayer Online version of the game. Many people see this as a worthy challenger to the now HUGE World of Warcraft game and, from what I’ve sampled of the game, it delivers. The game takes what Bioware is good at (storytelling and cut-scenes), adds some Star Wars to it, and then throws in the main MMO staples to create a game that is very easy to pick up and play online. The demo that I played offered a dueling mission where two teams (one Sith and one Republic) faced off against one another in a capture the flag game. While this seemed like a fun element to the game, what I would have liked more is the opportunity to explore some of this great story that they keep teasing in the excellent cut-scenes. However, I think we will have to wait until launch to see that.
Mass Effect 3
Yet another sequel was on show at PAX in the form of Mass Effect 3 which tells the story of returning hero Shepard seeking to create an alliance between the various species to battle the invading reapers. The demo takes place on the Salarian home world where Dr Mordin has come across a fertile female (yes, they do exist) Krogan who will mate with Wrex to repopulate the Krogan empire. The only thing that stands in your way is an indoctrinated Cerberus army. Gameplay-wise you now are able to customise your weapons with new parts as well as the chance to use your very own blade. The game feels like a much slicker and polished version of the second game – which, in this case, is not a bad thing. The demo was only a single level, but with the new vertical elements added to the gameplay there is going to be a lot on offer for a game that has high expectations to deliver.
Gears of War 3
So, the juggernaut of the Xbox 360 – Gears of War – is finally ready to hit the console again in its third outing. Much like The Old Republic, none of the single player campaign was playable in the demo that was available; however, the new Beast mode was available to play. Put simply, this mode offers gamers a chance to play the other side of Horde mode (while not playable has been massively upgraded also) playing as the Locust attacking the humans. Each turn has a time limit in which you must attack the humans (AI controlled) through their erected defences. Each kill awards you cash (I’ve no idea why as I can’t imagine the Locust would use money.) This mode offers a wide range of Locust to “buy” which you can then play as. This includes Locust from the small Tickers right up to the more brutal Butchers and Berserkers. The game plays smooth and has that Gears of War look, yet it continually surprises me with each new mode that it adds to gameplay to where this game shines out of the crowd of action games.
Turn 10 are ready to release their new version of this racing simulation game and this time to not, to be outdone by Gran Turismo, they too have teamed up with the UK presenters of Top Gear to provide the test track and commentary on the game’s choice of cars. The demo version that I got my hands on showed the new Alpine inspired track with a choice of three cars. From here, you can customise the settings of the race to make it as easy or as hard as you like. The game’s updated visual style really works in the draw distances as well as the close up and interior shots of the cars. The game is also very user-friendly to newcomers with lots of driving aids, as well as new challenges for seasoned Forza players like myself with the addition of turning simulation where a slightly heavy thumb can lead to disaster. Overall, if you like racers, then this is worth a buy; but if you’re into your cars then this is a must have.
Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary Edition
Remember 10 years ago? Gamers were introduced to the Xbox and a small unknown game known as Halo (which for a while was a Mac game) where you played as a Spartan who was exploring a newly discovered world. The original game now has been re-mastered for the High Definition age and is now using the Halo Reach engine for all of it’s in game features – such as Single Player, Co-Op, and Multiplayer (On and Offline). Inspired by games like Curse of Monkey Island on XBLA, the game comes with a feature to flip between the original and the new versions and the evolution of the game; and this is where the game really shows off. The original looks very flat and like a dead world, but with a flip of the switch the game looks alive with detail and ready to kill you. Now I couldn’t get a hands on with the Single-Player but I did with the Muli-Player. The Halo: CE AE used the Reach multi-player model (abilities for Spartans) but on some of the old classic maps, only now they have been upgraded. There isn’t really a way to describe how this feels. I can only say that you have to experience this for yourself when the game comes out just to feel the nostalgia and the awe from this HD remake of a classic game