Day two. Yesterday was sort of a walk in the park, thanks to spacing out my two appointments in a way that allowed time to wander, get lost, form an internal map, and stop myself from noticing how many assholes are wearing fedoras. Today, however, is jam packed, from 10am till 5, then another bonus event happening outside the convention, which might be the one I’m most excited for, and I can’t wait to report on. It’ll likely take me well past midnight, though. There’s a Starbucks near West Hall. I might ask them for an IV. But first things first….
That picture up at the top of all the people filing in is one thing. To actually get in there, then wait another 20 minutes is hell on the feet. And there’s only so many times you can watch the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD trailer without wanting to throw a monitor at Tidus’ pre-pubescent face.
Rebooted by the Deus Ex: Human Revolution folks. It’s next gen, but doesn’t look terrible dissimilar from the Tomb Raider reboot. Meaning, pretty, but not HOLY SHIT NEXT GEN pretty.
Either way, I want there to be something to report here that isn’t “Yeah, but, Dishonored did it better.” There kinda isn’t, though. There’s some skulking around a mansion looking for a diamond while the proles rise up against the mansion’s owner down the road. The guards are distracted, Garret’s going to work, as he tells us, sounding quite a bit like Jax Teller, but I could be wrong. The usual stealthing around occurs, distracting using stray bottles, being given away by animals in cages, etc. There’s tons of ways in and out of the mansion, but it all just feels “been there, done that”, certainly not with any of the wit and smirking glee I’ve always been led to understand is the series’ bread and butter. It’s all just dour and grim, and, well, AAA. After the diamond’s been stolen, usual AAA gaming business commences, with a bridge being destroyed, climbing around buildings to escape. If Dishonored hadn’t happened, and introduced so much fun to the mix, I’d likely feel stronger. Marginally.
11:30–Murdered: Soul Suspect
Another long wait for the theater to clear out, but finally sitting down for this. Last two days, I’ve been leasantly surprised by how much time is left over when these presentations are done. Square’s is the first that may very well end on time.
At the very least, this one’s for a way more interesting game.
The trailer we saw a few days ago ends where the demo begins. The cops have arrived after private dick Ryan O’Connor gets Comedian’d out of a 5th story window in . A cop is looking over O’Connor’s body, telling him he should’ve never been a cop. Another cop, obviously higher up, obviously related, is behind him, and slaps the taste out of his mouth for talking bullshit. It’s O’Connor’s brother. He kneels down, tells Ryan that this is his case. It’s his case today, tomorrow, the next day.
After this, you’re set loose, and the easiest pun in the world to make here is to call the game Hell A Noire. You have multiple options to investigate your own murder: You can possess two cops having a conversation about O’Connor not being a real cop, and why this might’ve happened. You can see through another cops eyes to look at his notes. You can possess a witness just enough to influence her thoughts, get her thinking about what she saw. You can have a general look around to collect evidence. You can gather clues, but the game doesn’t just activate a cutscene when you’ve examined the right thing; you still have to put the whole story together, using a branching word tree. It’s pretty simple, but it works, and feels like God’s honest detective work.
Where the LA Noire connection ends is when you head back up the building to look at the room where you were pushed. You can’t just enter a building in Murdered: Soul Suspect, and in a neat bit of working a gameplay limitation into plot, the game takes place in Salem. According to the game’s mythology, all the buildings were consecrated when built. You need someone else to open a door. Thankfully, a fellow cop has the same idea as you, and goes up. From there, things get more fascinating.
You’re a ghost, so, yes, you can walk through walls and whatnot. You can also see other ghosts. Some innocuously floating throughout. Some that just need a helping hand–like the woman who’s wandering around just trying to find her body, requiring you to investigate the old couple next door, hear their fucked up thoughts about how they killed her, and dumped the body 5 miles away, and how his wife wishes her husband would just shut the hell up about it–and some that, well, are just creepy as shit.
Demons do exist here, and while they can definitely be killed by possessing them from behind, or stealthing around them, as yourself, just by skulking, or using your very limited teleport abilities, or by possessing the living, the fact is, they’re still wandering around in your way, and getting caught by them results in getting yourself thoroughly dead by having them suck the soul right out of you. It’s a less gentle version of the Dementor’s Kiss.
Anyway, you finally make your way back to the 5th floor. Another crime scene to investigate, where the full scene that led to your murder plays out. The hooded killer is looking for something in the room, tossed O’Connor aside like a ragdoll looking for it, not even bothering to cover his tracks. But this time, you see something the cops never will: the residue of a traumatic memory. There was a witness: a young girl, who watched the whole thing, and snuck out the window when the hooded killer left. The next step is to find her. But that’s for the rest of the game. There’s a lot of promise that may potentially be squandered here–again, just like LA Noire–but the game definitely has my attention.
Next one is short, in one of the private meeting rooms, for the new Tekken and Ridge Racer. The new Tekken was, apparently, announced last night, and released last night. Of course, with most of the gaming press far the hell away from home, this benefits virtually no one in the room. Although one other dude with us actually tried it, and was happy with the way it’s being done. With both games, you have a full game and set of options to start, and playing means constantly loading up on coins and in-game money which can be used to upgrade character stats, unlock new ones (at random, which means, you’re just using one character once just to unlock another and moving on). For Ridge Racer, coins determine how many times you can repair your vehicle, and in the one ballsy move I haven’t seen happen since Midnight Club LA, if you wreck your vehicle, with no repair kits, that thing is gone. Drive carefully. Both games take after their previous iterations, with Ridge Racer especially modeled 95% off Unbounded, which was seriously underrated. These are both the first big console titles to try out a free-to-play. I don’t know how much it’s going to be able to sustain itself, but both have rabid fan communities who will both eat this up.
1:30pm–Deep Silver (Saint’s Row IV)
That painting is the first thing you see walking into Deep Silver’s meeting room. There’s a full on Oval Office set up with gaming stations for everyone in attendance. It’s probably the best set up I’ve seen so far, but there’s neither room or time to take pictures of it all. The game awaits.
You start out as, well, President Boss. You’re the male version in the demo, as we’ve seen in all the trailers so far, though I was assured by the Volition staff that yes, you will have the full range of customization, including female Bosses, as well as import your character from Saints Row The Third, though some of the wardrobe may have been altered. Either way, you’re on your way to a press conference. Keith David is in the game as, funny enough, Keith David. Because why the fuck not. Either way, he’s apparently an advisor, and gives President Boss a choice between curing cancer (on a memorandum stating “FUCK CANCER”) or feed all the world’s hungry (“LET THEM EAT CAKE”). Next choice is a senator, threatening filibuster. Your choice is to, I quote, “Punch a dickhead” or “Punch a dick in the head.” After some hemming and hawing, I chose to punch a dickhead. Choice three involves promising the NyteBlade douchebag to hang out later, and high five him. I left him hanging. Mutant Russian Oleg is back as Chief of Security, mega-decking a guy running up saying he’s the Boss’ biggest fan. 5 minutes, and I already want this game more than my next meal.
Either way, you finally take the podium, and your press conference is interrupted by the alien invasion. Kenzie surrenders immediately to avoid getting killed. “I’m smarter than the rest of them.” she tells the leader. Then you’re off to the races. The Oval Office is packed to the gills with weaponry, and you then wander the White House halls, smoking Goro looking aliens left and right. Gameplay feels the same as always, and it’s still just as satisfying. The White House lawn has a shelling artillery unit pulled up, painted every inch with American flags and eagles, with the Boss dancing with childish fucking glee with every alien gunship he takes down. Eventually, you find yourself face to face with the very British alien leader, who hands the Boss his ass. Cut to black, and the demo opens the world for you. A bunch of the powers were unlocked, fully upgraded health, and the city is yours. ‘
A few scant moments in all three series’ aside, this is the game I’ve always wanted Crackdown, Prototype, and Infamous to be. We didn’t get any thorough explanation on what each of the D-Pad powers do, outside of Telekinesis, which allowed easy pickup and throw of small objects, human sized objects, car sized objects, spaceship sized objects. The super running turns you into a 100mph battering ram. I’ll miss Bo Duking in and out of cars. But this is satisfying as hell, especially when leading to a full on Neo jump into gliding flight across the city. The aliens get a bit generic, though some new enemy types will definitely be in the full game. The weapons range from the usual assortment of pistols, shotguns, and assault rifles, to the infamous Dubstep Gun, a Super Soaker that shoots lasers, and, my new favorite shit ever, a Black Hole Gun. I spent 20 minutes causing super-powered chaos with the kind of grin usually reserved for getting your first puppy plastered across my face.
There’s a bit of a scheduling problem with this one, even though they had the fanciest tech actually getting folks signed up. Seriously, they had specialized, call of duty branded PR apps. Kinda insane. I’m scheduled to go till 5:30, but the next available shows aren’t until 5. I’m told, due to time constraints, I can either check out Destiny or Call of Du–
Essentially, this is the same demo that was played during the Sony conference, though there’s less of a rush to get where its going, giving us some time to check out the vast, seemingly never-ending landscape at the outset of Old Russia, where we begin. Also different: the demo this time is being played by all members of the Bungie dev team, half of whom are women. Would’ve been nice to have them represent on the bigger stage, but still.
Either way, demo plays out as it did. Eventually, you release Ghost to illuminate the way. It’s easier to hear his little sarcastic dialogue as he flies off, kinda like a less whiny Guilty Spark. One of the female dev remarks off the cuff “nothing like a cheeky blue ball.” The room tries to pretend they’re not twelve. They fail.
The aliens show up. Up close, it’s like fighting an army of General Grievouses. On the small screen, the fights felt kinda samey and non-descript. It feels like that was just the approach taken by the players. The firefights this time around are a bit more coordinated, varied. More magic is used this time around, and the interweaving between magic and guns seems a lot more effortless, instead of something shoehorned in. The same giant boss as before shows up, taken down by unloading every grenade imaginable into him. The loot is taken. The thunder gun gets created. One of the other female devs names her brand spanking new sniper rifle “Damsel In Distress Who?”
We continue on. We’re outside again. With a lot more detail in mind, when the bigger alien ship shows up, you can actually see just how giant of an area gets destroyed just by having it show up. Since this is a public event, and according to the dev, pretty much everything the light touches is populated/playable, one assumes you could actually get stuck in that area when the ship comes down, and watch that destruction up close, which is kinda awesome. The boss fight takes off, with 7 folks all plugging holes into the giant armored mech. Again, more magic used during this fight. It feels like a MMO fight, but way more dynamic. Still up in the air whether this will be how the majority of the game goes down or what, and aside from a sense of scale, much of the game is still the same level of mystery. And then the trailer. I wish there was more, different footage to look at here, but frankly, considering what happened just prior to the Destiny gameplay on Monday, getting another look when we’re not going “FUCK YEAH SONY USED GAMES” was probably a good choice.