Friday, April 2, 2010

PAX East Report, Part 2

by Sebastien Bolea, Guest Writer

Here are a few thoughts on Red Dead Redemption and The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, both games which Sebastien played on the show floor of PAX East.

Red Dead Redemption

It took about an hour and a half of waiting to get my hands on Red Dead Redemption, and the demo was only about 15 minutes, but I was happy to do it.  I've been dreaming about an open world western ever since playing Outlaws by Lucasarts back in the day, and Red Dead did not disappoint.  The demo was a quick ride through the desert to pick up a mission from a demented grave robber.  The job had me shooting my way into a mansion to get my dirty mitts on a chest full o' gold.  From start to finish, the game feels like GTA4.  Riding your horse isn't really that different from driving a car, although you can summon your ride with a whistle a la Ocarina of Time, and if you wear out the horse's stamina the proud cut stallion will buck you off.  The shooting mechanics will also feel familiar, from aiming to taking cover, only slightly more polished.  Weapons are selected on a wheel instead of cycled through a list, and your health regenerates in the style of many modern shooters.

The only other difference is Dead-Eye mode, which returns from Red Dead Revolver.  You click the right stick to slow down time while selecting up to 6 specific points on multiple enemies.  It reminded me a little of VATS in Fallout 3, as one could easily line up head-shots or shoot the guns out of enemies' hands.  The game generally has a greater attention to detail than previous Rockstar games, from the way bandits react when you shoot them in the leg, to the fact that all your gear is visible on your character's back and hip.  The world looks great and is well populated by animals; I almost ran over a couple armadillos and prairie dogs while galloping through the brush, and I passed a few bandits holding up a traveler on the road. 

The Rockstar employee at my side assured me these were all randomly generated events, and then directed me to try shooting down one of the birds overhead.  I was then able to run up and collect feathers, and he explained that every animal in the game can be skinned and carved up for meat. This sent shivers of joy running down my spine, but then I was a huge fan of the Oblivion alchemy system, too.  If you didn't already know, Red Dead will feature both a morality and fame point system a little like Fable, which I discovered when some jerk tried to pass me on his horse and I shot his impetuous ass right out of the saddle.  Apparently this was considered “bad” because the game awarded me with minus five honor points. The bottom line is that I had an absolute blast playing this game, and if you enjoyed GTA4 and have any kind of interest in exploring and fighting your way through the old west as a rootin' tootin' gunslinger, then you will too.

The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile

I should probably just put this out there now: I loved the original Dishwasher: Dead Samurai.  Partly I was just impressed by the fact that it was made by one dude on XNA in a year and a half, but I also loved the fast-paced action and the incredible mobility and control the game offered.  The second weapon in the game, after the dual cleavers, was a katana that gave you the power to teleport in any direction with a tap of the right stick.  This meant that if you were fast enough with your fingers, you were untouchable.  This let the game send some absolutely psychotic action your way, both in difficulty and art style.  The levels threw a bizarre array of zombies, cyborgs, vikings, and zombie cyborg ninjas at you, which you then carved up with an appropriately brutal arsenal and some finishing moves that might make Kratos whimper. 

I stumbled onto Vampire Smile by accident on the exhibition floor, and just had to take it for a spin.  My first impression held that it was the same game only much shinier, which was already all I wanted.  Apparently there are now two characters, the titular dishwasher turned zombie samurai has been joined by... some girl?  I guess she's a vampire?  I skipped her and went straight for what I knew, because he was now sporting one of those slick samurai-style straw hats and the guy showing the game off said his demo was harder and I'm stubborn that way.  There are also new weapons, and the weapon selection is a little easier to flip through on the fly.  Someone had the bright idea to bind the guns to a button instead of making you select them, and bouncing around the levels teleporting and spraying lead is even more intuitive as a result. 

Just like you'd hope from a sequel, the levels seem a lot more dynamic, which is good because the first game tended to just have the same model of having a room with a couple platforms where baddies spawn in droves.  In the demo, I found myself in the now familiar elevator-where-bad-guys-jump-out-at-you when I was accosted by the head of a giant zombie-robot that burst through the window.  It's not the peak of creative design, but if you're the kind of guy who gets the giggles when he rips the legs off a cyborg and beats him to death with it, then this should do the trick.  And if you played and liked the fist Dishwasher, then you'll be glad to know this one is shaping up to be even better.  Ska Studios, which is still one guy, has the release date set as “when it's done” so we may have to wait a bit before getting our hands on toys like the guillotine, one of the new weapons which is essentially a giant pair of scissors.  Keep your eye on it though, if for no other reason than that it's pretty cool to see this kind of work being done by a single designer.

Editor’s note: I never played the first Dishwasher, but the art style for this game is quite slick. It looks like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac in the video game form.

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