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October 18, 2011

NYCC: Video Games at New York Comic Con

Posted by on Oct 18, 2011

New York Comic Con featured a ton of video games this year (including Max Payne 3). It seems to me that some of the booths are even approaching E3-before-the-fall proportions. Admittedly, I’ve never been to E3, so I’m largely making that up as a way of telling you these booths were huge. Square-Enix in particular knows what’s what: they’ve got Deus Ex, Deux Ex: The Missing Link, Dead Island, and a couple of other games all set up to play demos on beautiful 56″ HD displays. Capcom was also running major tournaments of Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs Capcom.

I spent several hours trying to hit up as many of the games as I could. Most of the demos were multiplayer, but there were a couple single player as well. Some of the games were viscerally good, some of them were maddeningly bad, and some were potentially good but we’ll have to wait and see.

Uncharted 3

They had this set up as a multiplayer deathmatch demo, and damn was I impressed. I’ve heard alot about Uncharted, but due to not fixing my broken PS3 yet, I have never played it. Uncharted 3 looked really good, and the gameplay is awesome, mostly thanks to an incredible fluidity to the environment. There’s something exhilarating about jumping onto a balcony and using it as a launching point for a larger leap. Nearly all of the environment is climbable (almost like Assassin’s Creed). You can take cover behind obstacles and then vault over them like Gears of War. The gameplay is fast-paced and dynamic, which is a real boon to a deathmatch style.

In addition to the fluidity of the gameplay, Uncharted 3 has a small but well designed cadre of weapons to use. On spawning you can choose four different loadouts, all of which necessitate completely different gameplay. For example, the sniper rifle is powerful, but its zoomed scope makes close combat impossible, while there’s a high powered 3-round burst rifle, which does a ton of damage but necessitates a focus on accuracy. There aren’t massive numbers of guns like some games, but Uncharted gets a lot of mileage out of the ones it has.

Some of the better multiplayer I've played recently. If only my PS3 wasn't broken...

On a kind of random note, I played the 3D version of the game, complete with 3D glasses. I’m not the best candidate for this because I struggle with 3D movies (it’s an eye thing), but I can see how it might be good for single player campaign. I’m not sure it’s good for multiplayer, because even in a perfect world, it tends to create some artifacts on the screen which can be distracting and make it harder to focus.

Verdict: This game is almost good enough to make me go replace my PS3. If you’ve already got one, go buy it.

GoldenEye 007 Reloaded

I knew that Activision was remaking the N64 hit GoldenEye 007 somewhere in the back of my mind, but I’d largely forgotten about it until I saw it on the NYCC floor. I still think that Goldeneye N64 might be one of the most important games in gaming history, so I was really excited. It’s a beloved game with a hit following that would be awesome if remade well.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, remaking it well wasn’t high on the list for the developers. There were a couple of well done things, mostly revolving around staying true to the franchise. We played ‘the man with the golden gun’, and when you die you get the characteristic blood rolling down the screen.

Visually, it looks like a slightly upscaled versions of things from the N64 version, which could be indicative of a desire to adhere to the N64 version. Except it’s not, because right on top of that, there’s a brand new shiny HUD to display which guns and grenades (?!?) you have. It’s actually really incongruous.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the HUD. There’s no health display (at all), which of course has terrible effects on the gameplay. Players have no idea how much health they have, so there’s no sense of hanging back and being tactical because you could be about to die or you could have tons of health, so you may as well just run in and shoot people. Interestingly enough, that’s probably a good thing too, since the controls are so clunky that aiming at anything more than about 20 ft away is a complete waste of time anyway.

When I was playing, I got the impression that kills were based about 75% on luck and 25% on skill, which is completely the opposite ratio from what it should be. Or at least I thought so, because there were no kill messages so I was in the dark as to whether I had actually gotten any kills or not. It’s one of the only multiplayer games I’ve ever played where the winner at the end was a complete surprise; forget trying to catch the kill leader, you don’t know who he is or what his score is.

Verdict: You’re better off playing the N64 version again than spending any money on this. And that’s sad.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Ever since WoW blew up a couple of years ago, the standard for gameplay in MMOs has been set. Generally speaking, the general control scheme, layout and interface that WoW introduced has held on through a number of competitors. Old Republic is no different. Playing it feels alot like playing WoW but with guns and lightsabers instead of bows and axes. I suspect you’re not going to find anything too revolutionary about the gameplay itself, but that’s also not where Bioware is focusing.

Beware bounty hunters at night.

With Old Republic, Bioware has married that tried and tested gameplay to a really immersive character experience. The demo allowed us to select one of eight classes and play them at level 1. Four of the classes were Jedi of some type, and four were not. Each of the characters had a completely different starting area, which allows each of them to have a separate backstory. Thanks to the voice acting and cinematic quest sequences, those backstories are really well fleshed out; Bioware says they have fully voice acted every single quest interaction in the game, and from what I saw it brings a level of immersion that you expect from Red Dead Redemption or Mass Effect to an MMO. It’s unexpected but really refreshing.

Given the limited amount of time we had to play the demo, it was hard to gauge how well distinguished the characters were, but I trust Bioware will do a good job setting up the characters in ways that are distinct.

Verdict: If you’ve got the time to play MMOs (I do not), and you’re tired of WoW, this looks like the most serious and well done competitor yet.

Assassins Creed: Revelations

Ubisoft had a multiplayer demo of the latest Assassins Creed on the floor, which was interesting because I don’t think of Assassins Creed as a multiplayer game. Yes I know that Brotherhood has multiplayer, but its single player is so long and immersive that I haven’t really spent much time on it. I guess I was a little surprised that they’d use multiplayer to draw people into an Assassins Creed game, but all in all it was well done.

I’m more likely to go get Revelations for the single player story, but I was actually kind of intrigued by the multiplayer. It’s a little bit like a cat and mouse game – you get assigned a target, and you yourself are assigned as a target; searching through crowds of NPCs, you have to assassinate your target while being ever watchful for your enemies. It’s slower paced than your typical deathmatch, and really quite hard, but when you do get it, there are all manner of ways you can kill your opponent as evidenced by this video:

Verdict: If you haven’t played Assassins Creed single player, you really should because you’re missing out. If you’re looking for run and gun multiplayer, this isn’t for you. If you’re looking for something a little different, give this a shot.

Prototype 2

I actually remember seeing the floor demo for the first Prototype the last time I was at NYCC three years ago. I found myself thinking that it was a really cool looking game, with some fancy and explosive combat. I also remember wondering what the point was. There didn’t seem to be any kind of story to it – just lots of excuses to use those fancy combat moves.

Well Prototype 2 looks exactly like its predecessor; I didn’t actually notice any distinguishing graphical features. However, this time I got to go to actually play the game in a two minute rampage mode. Unfortunately, this made me go from thinking that the game didn’t have any point except to come up with an excuse for a fun fight to realizing that even the fights weren’t fun. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they’re very pretty… they’re just boring to make happen.

It might look cool... but it's really not very interesting.

You have two attack buttons. Chaining them together in seemingly random ways based on your positioning will make you do things that look really cool, but it’s essentially an exercise in just mashing two buttons for a while. There’s very little challenge to it, which makes all the pretty graphics useless, since you’ll play it for about a half hour and then stop.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a button masher, go for this. But I wouldn’t advise it for anything more than that, and I think Super Smash Bros. is probably a better button masher anyways.

Dead Island

This might be one of the most realistic feeling and simultaneously the most arcade-feeling zombie game I’ve ever played. The game begins with you groggily awakening from a night of crazy partying to find yourself in a shed with a bunch of other refugees. The world outside has gone to hell in a handbasket, and zombies are everywhere. You grab an oar, and venture outside to do try and fight your way to safety.

They are not holding back on the violence in this game. When you kill zombies, you definitely kill them.

The random weapons (oars, cleavers, etc.) really make it feel like you’re actually fighting your way across a beach infested with zombies. It’s like you would imagine it would actually be if for some reason zombies infested a beach overnight (I’m sure part of the story explains why this happened). If the setting wasn’t convincing enough, when you get hit, you really get hit hard; there’s a stunned reaction and the screen kind of blurs. It makes fighting zombies a serious business: getting hit is not an option.

And then there’s the arcade style stuff. Your character levels up and gets skills – each of the weapons has a damage range on it, so you can tell which ones are better than others. When you crack a zombie in the skull (highly recommended), it splatters “Head crushed” or something like that across the screen. Hitting zombies cause damage numbers to float off of them like an MMO. You find yourself trying to throw cleavers at zombie heads because it’s fun AND more effective.

The visuals did seem a little jagged at times, with some pretty harsh contrast between lighting in places that didn’t look intentional, but it might just have been the TV the demo was running on. Or it might not, so just be aware; this game is probably not epilepsy friendly.

Verdict: There were some odd visual artifacts, but this game was seriously entertaining. If cracking zombies in the head while enjoying a good back story sounds fun to you, then this game is probably for you.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

This is going to be brief, since there isn’t a whole lot to talk about. Basically, for a company remaking the original of the game that essentially kept them afloat for the XBox era, Microsoft is doing a terrible job selling it.

According to the rep on the floor, Combat Evolved Anniversary does have the original Halo gameplay (Halo guns, shield systems, etc) if you pick the right mode, but that’s not what they were showing on the floor. We played a game of Halo: Reach multiplayer on a Halo: Combat Evolved map. It’s hard to convince me to buy a game that based on the floor demo appears to be a $40-$60 map pack for Reach. I’m not the only one either; everyone was really confused about what the anniversary edition was, because they were just playing Reach multiplayer.

Now, they have redone the entire campaign, and all of the stuff is apparently in there. People with the Anniversary pack will be able to play with people who just downloaded the map pack for Reach, so that’s good too.

Verdict: This will probably be what I want, but I’m going to have to wait and see, because Microsoft didn’t show me (or any of the thousands of other fans at NYCC) what we wanted to see.

Shoot Many Robots

Simple but fun. A recipe for an excellent arcade game.

I found this game by accident while walking around the back of where Assassins Creed was. It’s an arcade multiplayer shoot-em-up for the XBox 360 by Ubisoft. You and some friends play together in a 2D platformer as “P. Walter Tugnut” who is armed with jetpacks and guns and who… well… shoots many robots. It was a little hard to tell from the demo if there’s any kind of backstory, but if there is, it’s the lighthearted type typical for arcade games. This is a game that’s intended to be simple but fun, and it’s damn good at it.

Verdict: I can’t imagine this game is going to cost more than $20. If it does, it’s probably not worth it, but for $20, I’d buy it.