My E3: Borderlands 2, Tomb Raider & Resident Evil 6 - shootist2600 Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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My E3: Borderlands 2, Tomb Raider & Resident Evil 6

If the Electronic Entertainment Expo teaches anything it's patience. The kind of patience we learn from the Magic Kingdom. Indeed, E3 is a kind of magic kingdom where attendees wait in lines for more lines all in hopes of experiencing something wondrous. While I spent the majority of my first day on Tuesday in slow processionals, it did pay off from time to time.

My day had an inauspicious beginning when I left home two hours early only to find that the L.A. Convention Center had closed the left turn lane into the West Hall parking structure despite directing visitors that way as an alternate. I had to drive a couple blocks to get in line for the right turn into the structure, but by the time I got to the entrance it was closed. Cue nascent road rage till I found an L.A. Live lot still open.

My second mistake was waiting to get in line to enter either hall. The line above was for the South Hall and had already traveled maybe a third of the way to the entrance. The wait I think was roughly a half hour to 45 minutes.

Electronic Arts was one of the first booths and had several large screens greeting visitors with its lineup. I remember to the left of this display was long lines waiting to try the Need for Speed: Most Wanted demo.

Ubisoft's large booth included demos for games like Far Cry 3 and Assassin's Creed 3.

Square Enix had a demo for Hitman: Absolution among other titles. Later this day I did watch Crystal Dynamics demo Tomb Raider (I think it was senior art director Brian Horton, but don't quote me on that). It definitely impressed.

The demo took place in a coastal forest. The production values are top notch, whether the beautiful art direction, realistic lens flares or raindrops on the camera perspective, though the latter became common to the point of distraction at times. Draw distance was far and textures nicely detailed.

There were several scripted sequences and it was hard not to be reminded of Uncharted 2 or 3 at times, but rather than being derivative it felt inspired due in no small measure to the fluid action and dynamic camera, which could prove jarring with multiple angles in short order but still managed to keep the action in proper perspective.

Abetting the fluid action was context sensitive movements such as crouch. Nice touches like how Lara shivered from the cold were realistically implemented and contributed to this exploration of her earlier, less assured exploits.

Soon a new camp was found and the need to find food to maintain her strength was emphasized. Visual cues with camera direction help identify objects or areas of interest helpful for forward progress. In this case, Lara finds a bow, which becomes her signature weapon in the game, helpful for finding food among other useful applications.

Exploration stages allow gamers more latitude to navigate their surroundings and get the lay of the land. A pulse feature showcases landmarks in the environment. Also, natural elements such as streams can prove helpful for navigation.

Base camps serve as a hub to upgrade your character. Skills such as arrow retrieval can be augmented to assist in gameplay. Fire also becomes a useful tool.

All in all the demo showed off the fantastic production values, myriad gameplay elements such as controls for exploration and hunting, and the overall quality and care that thus far has gone into making the latest entry in the Lara Croft saga. So far it looks like a very worthy entry that will be do the franchise proud.

Sonic the hedgehog was ubiquitous in several forms at the SEGA booth.

Aliens: Colonial Marines had a huge and impressive display. To judge by the demos, which I believe were of the multiplayer mode, the promotion is well worth the effort. The fast and bloody action, whether from the perspective of xenomorphs or Marines, is intense, seat of your pants combat.

The demo for Spec Ops: The Line varied from the public demo currently available, however, it did appear to utilize the same cover based combat mechanic that gamers have seen in practice. Still, it managed to pwn me and at least some others, which I blame on comrades who apparently are in earshot but not close enough to actually help, plus objects that did not always serve as cover despite appearances. Still my experience was too brief to form any definitive judgement and, of course, it is only a demo.

Plenty of other games were promoted that I did not have time to observe, though most definitely had their share of attendees sampling their content.

I decided of all the demos I saw to give Borderlands 2 a try despite the line. I was familiar with its controls and enjoyed its predecessor so there would be little time wasted in familiarizing myself with the controls. Plus there was a nifty shirt and button for participants (see swag pic below). Unfortunately, the wait actually lasted about a half hour longer than the hour we were told. Still, we supposedly would be allowed a good 20 minutes to play.

I chose to play as the siren Maya and began with a kind of assault rifle. It was decent enough for dispatching the large crawling and flying insects that swarmed your character. For the life of me, I couldn't really figure out melee so was forced to blast away. Aiming felt a little too loose but I attribute that to just being rusty with the game's controls.

The second wind gameplay element proved very helpful as myself and my comrade were able to recover from wounds on a few occasions by killing our opponents. A few weapons scattered about helped vary the gameplay; namely, shotguns were obviously effective on smaller foes and grenade launchers helped dispatch larger ones. 

Our handlers were quick to point out that a HUD icon indicated we could pause the action to upgrade our characters. I improved some skills though didn't notice any practical implications, but given the limited playtime I wasn't too focused on that aspect.

I did appreciate how Maya's ability to levitate foes exposed them to greater harm though their defenses offered them some protection. That said, it was frustrating at times in the midst of combat with multiple foes how instead of levitating larger enemies I would inadvertently lift smaller ones. Given the seeming cooldown period on such a power this was a costly mistake.

The further we progressed the nastier the foes. Intermediate beasts required immobilizing their legs in short order to defeat them. These and the accompanying insects were manageable compared with the endgame of creatures that spewed toxic irritants who nonetheless were dwarfed by burrowing beasts that appeared lavalike in appearance. They proved toughest for myself and others to eliminate.

The demo proved a lot of fun with its intense combat and proven gameplay. Newer elements such as Maya's levitation power were appreciated and helped vary its predecessor's successful formula. I can say I'm more looking forward to this title now, having played the solid and fun demo.

Planetside 2 is getting a major push during E3, as suggested in part by this armored character.

Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft were all in spitball range of each other and had the kinds of displays one would expect from such industry mainstays.

This lifesize Kratos was taking no prisoners.

The Xbox 360 was well represented by its Halo 4 and Gears of War: Judgment displays, which were very popular with attendees to judge by the long lines of eager fans.

Forza likewise had an interior display to match its exterior one (see yesterday's blog).

Banners for Resident Evil 6 adorned convention halls but only a peek inside an otherwise closed door setup alerted me to the fact that there was a playable demo on the showfloor. In fact I had to speak with a Capcom rep to get me inside their booth and an opportunity to play the game. The demo itself runs about an hour and offers a chance to play as three characters including Leon Kennedy and Chris Redfield.

The presentation is appropriately eerie and foreboding. I played first as Leon Kennedy, resuming where another attendee had left off, which appeared to be inside some kind of banquet hall or similar school facility. Few controls appeared to be utilized as I could only move about, open doors or switch between a rifle, pistol or knife. Unfortunately I couldn't even sprint as movement was necessarily slow going to begin with.

Certain controls like aiming appeared to be context sensitive as once danger was more imminent that option seemed to become available (that might have been so in previous installments; I just don't recall). Gameplay in this segment is more exploratory than combat oriented, and what is most impressive is the emphasis on survivors and the toll the outbreak has taken. The voice acting is solid, dialog believable and emotions raw.

It also turns into a kind of escort mission which can annoy as only they can, however, between an objective indicator and a feature that allows you to highlight your path, the only challenge is in waiting for your comrades to catch up.

Playing as Chris allows a completely different gameplay scenario as its more focused on platforming and combat. And this is where the new maneuverability is most pronounced, allowing for an intuitive approach to combat that has been missing in past titles. As if to take advantage of it, foes are well armed and attack in force. It's not uncommon to run out of ammo as I did a couple times and my neighbor likewise did.

However there is ammo to scavenge from fallen foes, the pistol is standard but helpful and the melee attack has its uses. Just beware of wounded foes mutating at times, and of the possibility for airborne enemies! All in all, combat proved fun and accessible, production values are solid, and the story appears to maintain an intimacy all the while allowing you to combat traditional Resident Evil horrors. 

I didn't play Ni No Kuni but it looks promising to judge by its demo.

Finally, I'd been asked by a few about swag, so here is my first day's takeaways. Reportedly less than years past but a nice bonus for attending the event. 

All in all it was a uniquely exhausting yet exciting opportunity. Tomorrow promises a somewhat different experience as I have several interviews scheduled throughout the day with only brief interludes for preparation or downtime. I'll be topping it off with a visit in the audience and backstage at Video Games Live, so will report on that, too, at my earliest opportunity (which might be postponed a day due to the late night).

(Here's hoping the L.A. Kings win the Stanley Cup! Though perhaps another night than tomorrow as I'd like to leave downtown unscathed.)

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