Just a few more games to talk about from the show floor.
Mafia 2 – Sebastien played this one while I watched and took some notes. The controls are very similar to Grand Theft Auto 4, but the setting is a little more flavorful and immersive. One major improvement over GTA4 is the fact that people react more realistically to the main character’s action. When Sebastien pulled a gun out, checking the controls, a passing police car stopped and police officers got out of the car and pointed their guns at him. As soon as he fired the gun, passersby began to run and scream away from the scene. It looks interesting, and if you’re in the market for a gangster game, it might hold lasting interest, but it looked far too similar to GTA4 in both setting and style to hold my interest. It’s set in the 40s and 50s, sure, but the city still looks a lot like New York City. I am experiencing an acute case of apathy regarding any more causing of mayhem in New York City.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands – I wasn’t even paying attention to this game, assuming that it was a quick movie tie-in for the upcoming Jerry Bruckheimer production starring shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal. The gameplay actually looks pretty amazing, though: on top of the rewinding time mechanic from the gamecube-era Prince of Persia games, they’ve added elemental combat and magic. The section I watched had the Prince freezing time and using spigots of water as poles to vault between. Some combat was shown as well, and it looked chaotic and impressive, with large numbers of enemies on screen and devastating elemental attacks being used to destroy them, along with the Prince’s impressive acrobatic attacks. This looks far more promising than I expected, and like a return to form for the Prince.
Battlefield Bad Company in 3D – When I saw that there were 3D gaming computers at PAX East, I knew I had to see what this new technology can do for gaming. I settled into my chair and put on my 3D glasses and immediately felt my eyes strain to deal with the blurred vision effects they use to achieve 3D. On top of that, the 3D effects were very clearly layered. Close items (like my weapon) were on one layer, medium-distance items on a second, and far-off items on a third. The 3D effect, as a result, had very little in the way of realistic depth, instead making it even more difficult to become immersed in the game world. Suffice to say that I was not impressed. Those considering early adoption of this technology: don’t. They clearly need to do a lot of work before 3D gaming will be viable and appealing. Between the technology we’ve already seen in Avatar and the rumor that 3D without glasses will be coming soon, current 3D games seem antiquated already.
Splinter Cell: Conviction – This is a game that I never thought I would like, until I played a co-operative stealth kill mission on the show floor. We worked together to take down our enemies one by one, he saved my life once or twice, and we both pulled off some very cool maneuvers. I’m reserving judgment until the final product, but I’m in the mood for a really well-delivered stealth game. Here’s hoping.
Starcraft 2 – Matthew Bamberg-Johnson has the following to say about his time with Starcraft 2:
While I was certainly a bit rusty at PAX, I can see how the improvements in Starcraft 2 will make this a very rewarding game to play. The ability to scroll down to a squad level and see the action close up is a definite plus, as the characters are animated beautifully and the combat is fairly detailed. I only had the opportunity to play one game on Battle.net, but my criticisms of the multiplayer mode persists, as the game basically devolves into a resource race and moves so quickly that unless all the hotkeys are second nature to you, you will quickly be overrun.
I'm most excited for the campaign mode of this game, but after thoroughly enjoying the "Dawn of War" series over the past few years, I question whether SC2's innovations and updates will live up to the tremendous anticipation surrounding this game. I hope that the level of character customization has improved so that it plays more like a RTS/RPG hybrid, but I suppose that I will have to wait and see.
I watched Bam play his round, and all I have to add is this: It looks like Starcraft, only much prettier-looking. It doesn’t look like they’ve done much to make the game more accessible, which is good news for Starcraft junkies and bad news for me. I predict that it will sell a billion copies. Two or more of those copies will be bought by C.T. Hutt.