a portfolio of videogame writings
This Thursday I popped on down to Ye Olde London town to check out Eurogamer Expo 2012 on behalf of the fine videogames journalism establishment that is Thunderboltgames. So far It’s been a whirlwind of developer conferences, interviews and failing miserably at the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo in front of Hideo Kojima.
Inbetween all the madness I’ve managed to find a few scant minutes to sit down and write about some forthcoming titles that I’ve played, and as the weekend goes on I’ll have more and more previews and articles popping up which I’ll be linking to here. Enjoy!
I’ve been a fish, a rat and a house maid. I’ve seen through walls, teleported up buildings and thrown men over balconies with whirlwinds. I’ve stalked in the shadows, sniped with a crossbow and dueled with blades. I’ve played Dishonored.
Arkane Studio’s steampunk adventure is a first-person shooter/brawler/stealth/whatever you want it to be really, because Dishonored contains that rarest of ingredients in the highly linear, set-piece driven action adventure genre these days – choice.
Quite frankly, I have no idea if the Far Cry 3 demo I’ve just played had any kind of narrative objective. The truth is that I sprinted out of the opening shanty-town after a short chat with an elderly female shopkeeper, jumped into the first jeep I saw and sped off into the sunset. What I do have an idea of is the level of ambition Ubisoft Montreal has for the latest installment in its open-world shooter series.
The tropical island setting, reminiscent of Crytek’s original game, feels ridiculously expansive, whilst remaining eventfully populous: More than 3 times did I travel to something that caught my eye miles away on the horizon, and each of those journeys was peppered with interesting encounters, many of which were based around Far Cry 3’s detailed and varied animal population.
It’s rare that a game challenges the fundamental way that you approach playing these days; it’s even rarer for that game to be a beautifully engrossing, polished experience on top of that. Giant Sparrow’s minimalistic First Person Adventure Painter feels exactly like one of those rarest of gaming experiences: an experimental title made by people who think outside of gaming’s often hermetically sealed creative box that just immediately works as a combination of gameplay, aesthetics and narrative.
The showcased demo started at the opening of the game, which began with a simple, heartfelt storybook cutscene about a young orphaned boy being drawn into one of his late mother’s many unfinished paintings by a swan. From here on you assume the viewpoint of that boy and travel through the painting in search of the enticing bird.
There was a palpable buzz of excitement around Crytek’s Warface booth at Eurogamer Expo 2012; one I gathered was for two reasons after chatting to some of the attendee’s: Firstly, this was one of Warface’s first playable showings in the west, which made it stand out against many of the re-hashed demo’s that have already been playable elsewhere at earlier expo’s this year. And secondly, people were extremely interested to see exactly what a free to play shooter from the house of graphically bleeding edge FPS’s looks, plays and feels like. As one particularly excitable attendee rhetorically put it – “It’s free Crytek braw, what could be bad about that?”
My time with the demo was a simple short 8v8 team deathmatch, but it’s illuminating just how much I gleamed about the game during that short play session. Warface is a near future class based online military shooter, allowing you to take on the role of a rifleman, a medic, an engineer or a sniper. It’s also, clearly, a little more of a graphically subdued affair than Crytek’s nanosuit powered franchise.
“So the tech line that we have is Crytek quality for everyone, which sounds really marketing claimy, but it’s really something that we feel strongly about because the idea is that we remove every potential barrier that we have, starting with the hardware requirements.” Warface west producer Peter Holzapfel told me about Crytek’s philosophy as we chatted behind the main exhibition hall of Eurogamer Expo 2012. Holzapfel nonchalantly puffed on a cigarette as he replied, clearly composed and used to talking about the game by now.
If many a relationship was broken last year by backstabbing co-op shenanigans in Rayman Origins, then the frequency of unfriends on Facebook might just see another spike come November 30th. Rayman’s back, and this time the introduction of the Wii U Gamepad allows for an extra level of creativity to your platforming betrayals: Slice a rope whilst Rayman dangles over some lava, slam a wall of spikes into the ground as he passes underneath or move a platform slightly out of reach after he’s already committed to a fateful leap across a chasm. It’s pretty safe to say that Rayman Legends retains all the goofy, slapstick, good-humoured spirit that characterises Michel Ancel’s little limbless hero.
My time with the Rayman Legends Wii U demo at Eurogamer Expo was a short but sweet slice of what promises to be one of the most creative uses of the Wii U Gamepad’s touchscreen at launch. I played co-operatively using the Gamepad whilst a tall dark-bearded stranger took control of Globox with the Wii U Pro Controller, and I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t about to send me a friend request afterwards.
Our demo began in a simple forested area, one filled with skinny goblin goons and cages of lums. Gameplay with the Wii U Pro Controller is classic Rayman platforming, and its fluid responsiveness will feel instantly familiar and comfortable to anyone who’s played Origins. Playing on the Wii U Gamepad however is a whole different kettle of Electoons.
To give you a flavour of The Cave’s tone, I need only tell you that when my stupidly floppy, straw stalk chewin’ Hillbilly character died from a nasty fall into a spike pit, the self-narrating sultry-voiced Cave – that’s right, it talks – brought him back to life in a puff of smoke, complaining of how his insurance rates would sky rocket if any more tourists died in him, and how his business, the cave gift shop, isn’t doing well enough to pay for itself in these tough economic times.
For anyone who’s ever played a classic Ron Gilbert adventure title,The Cave is a trip down memory lane, one plastered with the kind of off-kilter humor that defined The Secret of Monkey Island and Manic Mansion. It’s also something of a diversification from the classic point ‘n’ click adventures that Gilbert made his name with, taking a foray into 2D platforming territory. Make no mistake though; this is no Super Meat Boy when it comes to reflex challenges, more a light MetroidVania with a heavy focus on adventure game puzzle elements.