After arriving to the usual drunkenness at the Prince of Wales on the Thursday night, I resigned myself to getting on the show floor and playing everything I possibly could in the three days I had remaining.
Once again Eurogamer has brought us a little slice of gaming heaven to our shores, and allowed us to get hands on with some of the fantastic titles making their way to our homes and consoles over the coming months.
So, to try to cover as much of them off as I can, and the fact that choosing a game of the show was proving to be so difficult, I’ve decided to take a different tack this year. So, I will cover off the games I had the pleasure to enjoy, and pick one “Game of the Day” for a focused look at what to expect.
Hitman Absolution : So good I played it thrice…
The series return for Agent 47 has been a point of consternation for a lot of fans, following the release of the “Nuns with Guns” video earlier this year, making them feel that IO Interactive may have lost their way making the game more Action Adventure than the previous incarnations.
IO had to confirm that the video gave the wrong impression, and that contrary to what is shown, they have stayed true to the hitman structure but they have also made it more accessible to those players more interested in a “run and gun” experience.
Any reservations I had were quickly put to rest.
The team at IO, utilising their new Glacier 2 engine, have created a world that appears in all senses to live and breathe. Although nothing we haven’t seen before, to actually take Agent 47 through the crowded Chinatown streets is far more impressive to behold than watching a video of someone else playing. Vendors are crowded by the throng purchasing their wares, people are constantly milling about the stalls in their own little world, and a haze forms overhead of the numerous small stalls selling freshly prepared and cooked items.
Wandering the area yourself, you quickly discover items that you may be able to use to complete your mission, whether it be as neanderthal and clumsy as simply picking up a bottle and crowning your target (not the smartest way by any means), or by finding C4 and an opportune disguise to allow you to set an elaborate trap, thereby allowing you to easily slip away in the chaos, the choice in the end is entirely up to you. The new hint system appears both after death and when you approach key items or people, and gives you quick clues to help you clear your mission in the most productive way. Used in conjunction with the new Instinct mode which allows you to predict the path of the AI allows everyone to enjoy some of the more manipulative and complex methods of assassination available in the level.
Scoring is based on how well you infiltrate without detection and also ensuring that only the target is killed. To this end, run and gun will get you through, but there is obviously greater reward for finding the less obvious methods of despatch.
As I stated at the start I returned to this stand twice more after my first attempt, and although dying a few times trying to familiarise myself with the controls and the extent of NPC awareness at first, I found that I quickly stepped back into the role of the silent assassin. It’s been said that there are eight ways to complete the Chinatown level, and I myself found three (although one of which was the bottling approach that was ultimately detrimental to 47′s health), and I found I would be more than happy to go back and try to find more elaborate methods of removing my target.
Both fans of the Hitman series, and third person action games can find something to look forward to in this game. Lets hope the demo does the whole game justice.
Tomb Raider – Reboot or Rebirth? The phoenix approaches
Rebooting a series is always a dangerous proposition, and few games manage to emerge with wide acceptance in its new found glory. Although Lara herself may not, I think the franchise as a whole will remain unscathed from this reinvention.
I think this is mainly down to the fact that at its core, Tomb Raider still has the fantastic combination of puzzling, platforming and combat that made the fans love it in the first place. That is not to say they haven’t learned a few lessons since Underwold.
Firstly, the modified Crystal engine looks fantastic, with lush and verdant scenery contrasting brilliantly with the orange, browns and greys of the detritus found on the island.
The demo kicks off following the cave escape seen during the opening moments of the E3 crossroads demo, and features a playable section following your emergence. Still injured following your fall, Lara’s character model stumbles through the environment looking for your shipmates, somewhere safe or even a way off this tropical graveyard.
With distinct nods to some of the action climbing sequences seen in Uncharted, Lara looks right at home climbing the rusting shell of a World War 2 bomber as much as she does traversing a fallen tree, or climbing a rock face. Here things are a bit ropy, with the camera panning off after every few minutes to show something new in the environment, but hopefully since this is still effectively the tutorial, this will gradually reduce when the game is in full swing.
Skill progression ideas from Metal Gears Snake Eater, are interwoven to the fabric of Lara’s character development with you resting at a camp-fire to increase your survival skills for the local environment. Sadly, the demo finishes shortly after this is made available, but additional skill trees although locked, are still visible in the demo’s menu.
Cut scenes hammer home the point that this is not the Lara Croft we know and love, but a scared and vulnerable teenager learning to survive and understand the meaning of being a part of a family such as her own. With Rhianna Pratchett helming the story, I think we can fully expect a character development that will sit well with the fans.
There is still some time to go before release, Crystal Dynamics can still do some tweaking before the end, and with a history such as theirs, I believe Lara is in more than capable hands.
Dishonored – Bringing a new vision to Steampunk
The latest offering from Arkane Studios has been sending waves of trepidation through the gaming world following their impressive E3 demonstration.
Stepping into this Victorian-esque steam punk world, it is clear from the outset that there are two main influences behind the graphical and combat style. The first being Ion Storm’s Thief series, which effectively pioneered first person stealth and had a similar techno-Victorian feel, and the second being 2K’s Bioshock series. It will come as no surprise to you when seeing the game in action, that the staff at Arkane studios actively worked on the design, tone and style of Bioshock 2 back in 2009 as its influence comes through in spades.
Stepping into the role of Corvo Attana, a disgraced Imperial Guard turned assassin, you have to turn your hand at attaining revenge on those who framed you for the murder of the Empress of Dunwall.
Starting the game with a full compliment of weapons and powers at my disposal, you feel like a god as you possess guards, teleport about the map or even summon rats to consume those in your path. It is worth saying that the playable demo had all abilities unlocked, where the actual level in the full game will have to be more strategically attacked. Initially you are given a waypoint, and told to find a Doctor named Solokov, and capture him. From here, things became truly interesting.
In my own playthrough, I approached with a heavy helping of stealth but I was not afraid to get my hands dirty. Possessing one of two guards blocking my path, I quickly moved around behind the second guard and released my captive. Two quick and bloody stealth kills later, and I was on my way again. This particular approach served me well, and up to the point I captured Solokov, I had taken out a mere 5 guards, with many more left unaware of my presence. Once Solokov was in my clutches, I quickly changed tack, and teleported out to the meeting point to get away and finish the level.
Watching other peoples approach showed me how much love and attention has been poured into this game. One player was happy to stop time, and use his crossbow and pistol to deadly effect. Another played the entire level teleporting from rooftop to rooftop, avoiding all contact with the guards.
Arkane have done a fantastic job creating the open world in which Corvo lives, and allowing you to approach it in any which way you please. It wont be long now until this game is out, and this is something that should have a lot of people very excited.
DMC – Dante’s Inferno is running hot and cold
Another booth and another reboot. Devil May Cry’s latest outing is the first where Capcom have taken a hands off approach to the development, instead passing the baton to Ninja Theory, the team behind the underwhelming PS3 exclusive Heavenly Sword and the extremely under-rated Enslaved : Odyssey to the West.
True to the series style, combat is fluid and responsive, and juggling multiple enemies is managed with the greatest of ease and at first it appears Ninja Theory have done a fantastic job with recreating Dante.
The floor demo was set in the Limbo world shortly after the game opening, with Dante being guided by Kat, a medium in the real world, who can see and communicate with Dante in Limbo.
The focus on the ranking system remains, and has been further refined. Every move shows you how it affects your score with a visual representation, allowing you to see how close you are to the B,A or S rank.
Sadly, technical issues detract from the overall experience. Frame rate lag, artifacting and crashes seemed to be a constant occurrence on the show floor, which ultimately spoiled the experience.
DMC is due out in January next year, and could be a very welcome reboot of the franchise, but only if the technical issues are more related to the equipment running it on the show floor, than the actual game code itself.
Game of the Day
The Unfinished Swan – The Joy of Painting, now with less Bob Ross
Its hard for me to not sound like a douche when I say this, but I feel it is the only way to sum up a game such as this one. It is first and foremost, an experience.
The PS3 seems to be making a name for itself for hosting ground-breaking games, and The Unfinished Swan feels like a welcome addition to the likes of flow, flower and Journey from ThatGameCompany.
Sony are making a reputation for themselves for helping these budding game companies, and it appears they have penned the same deal for the developer Game Sparrow as they did for ThatGameCompany, providing them with funding, office space, equipment and access to Sony Studios Santa Monica for help and advice.
Playing as a young boy, chasing after a swan who has wandered into a surreal world, you have to navigate by throwing paint to highlight items and the path you must take.
With a beautiful sweeping score, this game is set to be a breathtaking addition to the Playstation line up.
That said, I feel it best to let the game speak for itself, and let you judge its potential, so feel free to watch the teaser below.
I’ll be back with Day 2 of my diary, where I’m taking a look at Aliens Colonial Marines, Natural Selection 2, Tokyo Jungle, Need For Speed Most Wanted and Forza Horizon.
Tags: Arkane Studios, Bethesda Softworks, Capcom, Crystal Dynamics, Diary, Dishonored, DMC, Giant Sparrow, Hitman Absolution, Io Interactive, Ninja Theory, Sony, Square Enix, The Unfinished Swan, Tomb Raider