One of the excellent perks of my job – check that, let’s not call it a “perk” it’s definitely part of the job – is getting to see not yet finished videogames. When I’m lucky I get to play them too, but there’s still something incredibly special about having someone run through a demo for you of a title that’s not due out until next year (if everything works perfectly on the development side).
I once read an article that tried to explain how special it is the first time you pick up a controller for a brand new console – it’s a little different and your fingers aren’t quite sure where each button is or how it feels. It is an exhilarating moment, you don’t know what the boot screen is going to look like and you’re not yet infinitely tired of watching it progress when all you really want to do is play a game. Seeing someone, even if it’s not you, running through a playable demo is kind of like that, especially when the game shows potential. Last week I got to sit down and watch four such demos for games by the folks over at Square Enix.
If you’re a gamer in the same mold as myself, you enjoy the immersive experience of the whole thing – it’s the getting lost in a new world that really thrills you about videogames. Well for my money, Square Enix puts out some of the best worlds you can possibly visit. No one really seems to do immersive in the way that Square Enix does immersive and some of that was definitely on display at this event.
The first title I saw was Gun Loco, a 360 exclusive, that is, as you may have guessed by the title, heavy on insane gunplay. Due out February 27 of next year, the game is based on some Hong Kong action figures and the demo that was run took place on a prison planet where a couple of guys (one with a rabbit head) were doing their best to get to a rocket… I think. As far as I could tell, the storyline was kind of less important in Gun Loco than was dropping you on a massive level and asking that you get from point A to point B destroying everything that moved – be it human or mechanical – that got in your way. The playable character we saw, Maddox, is able to do things lie slide under fences while firing his gun, drop kick bad guys, and generally wreak havoc.
For Gun Loco, that was the main takeaway – in this game you wreak havoc. You run around and wreak havoc. You have a foul mouth, shoot guys, and blood spurts everywhere. Even torsos can be sent flying and it’s all done with very comic book-style graphics.
Up next was Mindjack, a title that will be appearing on both the PS3 and 360. The game takes place in the near future, when Bluetooth-like headsets are ubiquitous… and evil. Because, you know, why not. You see, in the game there’s this big bad corporation which can control people via the headsets. Luckily for you, your character can too. As a police-type guy, you’re job is to right wrongs, something you accomplish by “mindslaving” enemies which means accessing their headset and turning them into your own personal drone. You can also “mindhack” them which sends your consciousness into their body for a while (so you can die in their body without hurting yourself).
It all sounds like the sort of futuristic story we know and love, but what may make Mindjack different is its persistent multiplayer. You will always be online with the title and at any time folks can just jump right in and try to kill you and then someone can, etc.
Perhaps purposefully, the third game I saw was Dungeon Siege III, the first Dungeon Siege title to make it to consoles. The game runs on a new, designed-for-the-title, Obsidian engine and, I was told, has been created with an eye to both to bringing in new folks and to not losing old ones. From what I saw that goal seems to have been accomplished (again, at least in the demo). For instance, should you get lost on a quest you can just bring up a handy-dandy lighty trail that tells you where to go, and in the demo dungeon there was a huge statue of one of the main characters from the original game. Aficionados will also be happy to know that Chris Taylor is involved in the title.
The graphics for Dungeon Siege III are very impressive, with rich colors and excellent detail. The game sports ragdoll physics which is always fun, and promises to have multiple outcomes available.
Now, while the Dungeon Siege multi-outcomes are all well and good, the last game I saw really seemed built around multiple paths and was certainly the most impressive of the four titles. That bad boy was Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
This latest Deus Ex title is a prequel to the previous ones and features large, fully explorable cities. From what I saw, you’re going to need to explore those cities if you want any idea of the best way to proceed on your missions. That’s because each mission can be tackled in four different ways – via combat, hacking, social, and stealth routes. Depending on which route you choose and how well you do in it, you get more or less XP which can be used to upgrade your character’s abilities.
It was this demo that took the longest time and it took so long because I got to see a single scenario played out in three different ways – combat, hacking/stealth, and social. Although the end result was the same each time – the character, Adam Jensen, left the police station having obtained what he came for – it was a radically different game each way it was presented. If you want the game to be a shooter, it’s a shooter; if you want the game to be a stealth title, it’s a stealth title; if you want it to be more talky, it’s more talky. And, beyond those different paths existing, it appeared as though they were all fully considered and realized (at least on the demo level).
All four of the titles we saw looked as though they could be great upon their final release. We can’t say for certain that they will be, we’re going to have to get our grubby little hands on the final versions first, but with what we saw we’re aching to do just that.