Saturday , June 15 2024

PAX East 2023 – Day 1

The first day of any PAX East is always overwhelming. Developers are just getting settled in, fans are clamoring to see what is on the show floor and the energy is high.

I always try to line up a good variety of games to check out and even though I attempt to make my schedule manageable there is always so much to see. Add to that the fact that when I have spare time, I try to wander some more and check out games I had not scheduled looking for more hidden gems.

Some of these games I will focus on in more in-depth previews, but I had a chance to check out a good number of really fun games and had a chance to do my first exploration of the Expo Hall as well.

I split my time between games and checking out the merch areas and the Wild Bills station to get my four-day refill pass for tasty beverages. The official PAX East merchandise has become iconic and typically sells out of key items so I grabbed the items I wanted first thing in the morning before I even checked out any games. It’s important to game the system in order to try and score the best gaming wear from the show.

Last before heading to my playthroughs I dropped by the Pinny Arcade trading station to see if I could win the rare golden cassette pins they were offering at this show. I typically use them as jacket lapel decoration and these cassettes were only available via trading. Luck was on my side and I rolled a golden pin my second try; my collecting was already done the first hour of PAX East.

Wandering over and done, it was time to get to the games, and I was lucky enough to have quite varied experiences, from toxic powered brawlers to arcade-style racing.

Toxic Crusaders

With the success of the latest beat-’em-ups like TMNT Shredder’s Revenge and River City Girls 2 it’s really great to see a resurgence of classic games in this genre. Toxic Crusaders is another gem I was able to play at PAX East that gives us even more over-the-top brawler action with colorful characters.

Toxic Crusaders is a continuation of the series from 1991 which centered around a group of toxic mutated characters labelled Earth’s last, greatest and ugliest hope for survival. Seven playable characters, each more zany (and in some cases grossly mutated) than the last, fight the hordes of Dr. Killemoff across seven wild stages.

The game itself follows the trends established by the latest Streets of Rage and TMNT games, but with bright colorful characters that all have varied and unique abilities. The game was a ton of fun, with the few characters I tried all playing differently and the levels packed with manipulatable items and fun enemies to beat up in creative ways.

The booth and game caused a lot of excitement with characters from the title available for a photo shoot and a ton of stations for fans to try out the action for themselves. There is nothing truly groundbreaking in Toxic Crusaders, but it delivered a solid and fun beat-em-up experience which I will always take more of! It releases in late 2023 on Steam as well as Switch, PlayStation and Xbox platforms.

System Shock

The System Shock series is a bona fide classic. While the sequel gets the most praise the original was groundbreaking when released in 1994. Now nearly three decades later Nightdive Studios is almost ready to release the reboot after a successful Kickstarter campaign a few years ago.

The story of System Shock revolves around a space station that goes insane after an AI called Shodan is cut loose of its safety protocols. The player is in the role of a hacker trapped on the station as they try to survive the terrors unleashed by the now seemingly insane AI.

Full disclosure: I am a Kickstarter backer, but after getting burned out on some other projects playing alpha build after alpha build I decided to not touch the game till it was ready or nearly ready. At PAX East they had a near-final build of one slice of the experience and I am thrilled to say it has far exceeded my expectations.

The game visually looks outstanding; with a pixelized look at a very high fidelity it is a truly unique looking game and I was wowed over and over by the visuals. The game proper feels like the System Shock we remember with some tweaks learned from the sequel and decades of game evolution.

The result is an experience that was creepy, thought-provoking, intelligently designed and frankly fun to play. With reworked controls, mechanics and sound and audio I cannot wait to play the full release when it arrives May 30 of this year for PC via Steam, GOG and Epic Games Store.

Outcast 2 – A New Beginning

Well this one was a shock for me at the THQ Nordic booth. Nearly 20 years after the original well-received game was launched a sequel is in development and it already looks amazing. The sequel shows a resurrected Cutter Slade returning to the alien world of Adelpha.

The game looks great and while the dialog was corny (Slade is REALLY eager to be a hero to the people) the gameplay was fast and fun. With various guns and blades at his disposal combat was speedy and satisfying, but movement is where the game shines.

With a pseudo jetpack and glider wings as well as a rocket-assisted boost jump I was having a blast exploring the world. There is even a Rocketeer-style boost mechanic that has Slade gliding overland at a fast clip.

While I didn’t see much of the story, I was able to explore sprawling villages that feel occupied and lived in, with nearly everyone able to be talked to. Quest givers are easy to spot and the navigation system made getting to quick encounters and objectives easy.

I had a blast playing Outcast 2 and as I had no idea it existed it became a game definitely on my radar as development continues. Labelled only as “coming soon” (they are hoping 2023) it will release across PC via Steam as well as PS5 and Xbox Series S/X (no last-gen) ensuring a high-end experience for the game.

Wreckreation

In the vein of Burnout Paradise, Wreckreation is an Open World arcade racing game featuring high-speed driving, racing, crashing, stunts and exploration. I gave it a spin because of the extravagant scenes I saw on the displays but unfortunately found it to be an uninspired knockoff of a great game.

The core mechanic, aside from racing and destroying other vehicles, is the mix functions. The ability to mix car details like paint colors, finishes, wheels, boost flames, and engine sounds and the world itself by placing jumps, loops, stunt ramps, and pipes anywhere in your MixWorld is interesting but only if driving feels great.

I felt the physics were off and the driving was too floaty in my demo. I raced against a number of AI opponents and did a bunch of takedowns but the magic effect Burnout somehow conveyed felt flat here.

Hopefully as the game nears release it will refine and they will tighten the mechanics, but ultimately I was not blown away by the experience. Labelled only as “coming soon” it will release across PC via Steam as well as PS5 and Xbox Series S/X

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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