The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
Over the past few years, San Diego Comic-Con has seen an increase in the emphasis of games on the show floor and at the surrounding venues. This year was no different, and with the new generation of consoles on the horizon, there was no shortage of great games to play. Both current and next generation systems had some amazing looking games, and luckily I had the chance to demo some of these titles. Since there is so much to experience at Comic-Con, I didn't have the chance to play every game that I wanted to, but I tried to get an even mix of both current and next-gen software. Some demoes I came away very impressed and even surprised, while others I was deeply disappointed with. Let's start off with the positives then shall we?
At the Sony booth, I waited in perhaps some of the longest lines at the show to play Driveclub and Knack, both of which are slated to be Playstation 4 launch titles. Luckily, the wait was worth it. Driveclub was an awful joy to play, with a nice balance of arcade/simulation style racing. Challenges against other players included beating a top speed or drifting a certain amount of yards, which should give some replay value to the game. On top of that, the game looks stunning, with the power of the PS4 being utilized to deliver realistic environments and cars. Knack was also a surprisingly addictive and entertaining action/platformer, and I was completely caught off guard at how polished and refined it's combat was. It controls very well, and the cartoony art style fits the mood of the game well. The only problem could be the camera angle which has a mind of it's own at times, but that can all be tweaked before release.
Much shorter lines awaited me for the upcoming Playstation 3 games that were playable at the show. One of the titles I was most eager to play at the show was Beyond: Two Souls, and after playing a lengthy demo, things aren't looking so great for the next Quantic Dream title. The control scheme has to be one of the most absurd layouts I have ever played using a DualShock 3 controller. Combat is clunky with triggers being held down while trying to push in both thumbsticks at the same time, and many quick time events aren't displayed properly with the player guessing which button to press. It all makes for a cumbersome experience that doesn't seem to be saved by the storytelling, at least in the demo I played.
While Beyond was a disappointment, another game at the Sony booth made me go from cautiously optimistic to enthusiastic and reassured. This game is Batman: Arkham Origins, which both played and looked fantastic at the convention. Any doubts I had before the show were erased when I got my hands on the game, and while it still may resemble the previous Arkham games, WB Montreal seems to be shaking up the formula enough to keep it a fresh experience. The small tweaks to the combat only made the game more addictive to play, and the art style seems to have the same quality and detail of previous Arkham games.
I also got to play Diablo 3 on the Playstation 3, which was not bad by any means, but certainly not great. Anyone who has played the game on PC can definitely tell that the graphics have taken a hit during the transition to current consoles. And while the combat system works on a gamepad, I still prefer the mouse and keyboard layout better, as it is more responsive and is easier to map attacks.
Switching console manufacturers, my next stop was the Microsoft lounge which housed a wide variety of first and third party titles. I initially went for the first party software, all of which seemed to be for the upcoming Xbox One. I tried out Ryse: Son of Rome first, which seems like a mediocre action game at best. The combat at present is dull and uninspired, and the game's reliance on QTE's didn't make things any better. However, the awesome setting of the game (seriously, we need more games set in ancient Rome) and the breathtaking graphics make the game visually appealing, at least. I'm not sure those two factors can redeem the gameplay, though, so hopefully Crytek can refine the combat before release. I also demoed Fantasia: Music Evolved which is a neat utilization of the new Kinect, and also a step forward in the music genre. The way in which different arm gestures can dictate the flow of a song in intriguing to say the least, and I had a blast remixing Fun's "Some Nights" with different drum and guitar beats. The game is also visually mesmerizing, with psychedelic graphics that change according to the flow of the music.
I then proceeded to play the plethora of third party games that were also in the Microsoft lounge. My favorite was definitely Splinter Cell: Blacklist, as my friend and I dabbled in the co-op campaign that is as strategic and as satisfying as Splinter Cell: Conviction's co-op. I also played the Spies vs. Mercs multiplayer, which was an interesting take on competitive multiplayer. I thoroughly enjoyed the Mercs more, but it may have been due to my lack of experience as a Spy ( some convention demoes can be unforgiving for new players; this was one of them). I also gave Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 a shot, which is looking to be a successful follow-up to it's predecessor. Again, the demo started without much in the way of a tutorial, but I got the hang of things (mostly), and the combat was very rewarding. The art style also looks gorgeous, and MercurySteam seems to be pushing current-gen consoles to the limit with the games highly detailed interiors. The camera was able to be moved by the player as well, which for me, is a relief as that was one of my only faults with the original Lords of Shadow.
And then finally, there is my personal game of the show. Saints Row 4 caught me completely off guard when I saw it had a playable demo at the Konami booth (since they aren't even publishing the game). Just looking at other players engaged in it's open world mayhem convinced me that I had to play it, and boy when I got my hands on it, it was an absolute blast. Previews of the game online had me thinking it was more of an expansion to Saints Row 4 than a full-fledged sequel, which was fine for me. While that still may be true, there is no denying that Saints Row 4 is completely bonkers, and is also improving all the features from Saints Row The Third. My hands on time with the game let me do literally whatever I wanted, leaving me free to cause chaos with the new arsenal in Saints Row 4. All the guns are totally unique, with some having hilarious and awesome powers, like the Black Hole launcher. The different superpowers were also a blast to play with, and seem to only enhance the combat. All in all, I walked away enthused at what Saints Row 4 has become, and surprised at how many innovations were being made, making it my clear choice for my game of the show.
While there were plenty of other titles that I didn't get the chance to play, I was satisfied with the amount of games I did have the chance to demo. There were games that are on track to be critical darlings, and there are others that need some major polish before release. Demoing both types of games made the show only more interesting, and I can't wait to attend next year and check out the new titles that I'll be able to play.