Saturday, 5 November 2011

MCM Winter Game Previews; Saints Row: The Third And More!

At the weekend I attended MCM Expo with my production company, Cheesemint Productions - which was AWESOME - mainly because I had a badge deeming me an 'Industry Professional',  but also because I was able to play a handful of unreleased games within the gaming arena.

While Assassin's Creed Revelations, Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Zelda: Skyward Sword were there in all their beautiful glory, those weren't the games I played - their queues never seemed to let up.

The games I managed to get at (through the hordes of cosplayers and fellow gamers) weren't titles I'd usually have opted to play, but I was rather surprised by them; Rayman Origins, Saints Row: The Third and The Darkness II were a lot of fun to play so I've decided share with you my first impressions.

Saints Row: The Third

The best way to describe the Saints Row series is in two simple words: guilty pleasure.

I must admit, I've never played the previous two titles but from what I can gather from friends who have, it's everything that GTA forbids. The storyline isn't too complex, you play the leader of the Third Street Saints, taking down rival gangs in various driving and action sequences. The game seems very open-world which suggests several hours of gameplay.

My impression of the game can be summed up with 'lots of fun.'

Not a game to be taken too seriously but with enough missions and entertainig game modes to satisfy. One of these in particular is hilarious but definitely not for the squeamish, entitled Insurance Fraud Mode.

You spend around 3 minutes trying to rack up as many damage points as you can by jumping in front of cars and throwing yourself against walls and roads, gaining extra special bonuses for intricate, imaginative injuries and pinballing off surfaces. I really enjoyed this feature, which felt partly similar to the new trend of arcade modes, specifically Left 4 Dead's Survival Mode and Gears of War's Horde Mode; fighting off endless streams of zombies or locust grubs. Sure, you might be causing more damage to yourself than those pesky zombies but somehow it's incredibly stress-relieving!

Either that or I'm a closet masochist!

Running around with a giant Japanese anime cat head or a zombie-voiced pirate is also hilarious and turning to look at some of the other lucky gamers playing on adjacent screens I noticed one of them was playing as a naked woman (with pixelated rude bits, of course!) - somehow, this didn't surprise me and only added to the novelty.

In fact, 'novelty' appears to be what the game developers have really focused on. I predict the third instalment of Saints Row might get a little tiresome after the hilarity wears off but it seems like a fun, pick-up-and-play game and probably worth your hard earned money if you like punching pedestrians in the face, throwing yourself in front of cars and hitting rival gang members with giant dildos (an ACTUAL weapon in the game!).

Rayman Origins

Rayman Origins was fun but in a very different way to Saints Row: The Third; simple, clean, honest fun...the kind all the family can enjoy. The very first thing you notice about the game is that it looks phenomenal. This is definite eye candy with stunning graphics and fluid, organic character movement while still retaining a lush cartoon aesthetic. There's plenty of humour in the game but from what I can gather it's still as non-sensical as the previous games in the series, while bringing back a few familiar faces. There's also the bonus of each character being able to drop in and out at any time; adding to the casual party element. This is something I always appreciate in a multiplayer game, it saves the mad panic of having to multi-task while continuing the game like answering the door or replacing your battery pack, it also means players can drop in-and-out without having to turn off controllers or go back to the main menu, keeping the free-flow uninterrupted.

We only played the game for around 15 minutes, sampling a few different levels and playing as...well, I'm not sure what we were playing as (or what a Ray-man actually is or does!).

The game did capture the feel of its earlier titles and of other early platformers. The levels are varied and challenging enough that the game isn't too easy but also not too hard for kids to pick up. I'd recommend this for families or if you live in a house with a shared console. I get the impression that the game won't be fully appreciated in single player mode as it will be in multiplayer, mostly because you'll be unable to share your laughter - no one likes to laugh out loud to themselves in a dark room on their own.

The Darkness II

The Darkness II is 2K's latest first person shoot-'em-up offering and the sequel to 2007's The Darkness. You play Jackie Estacado, the wielder of 'the darkness'. There are a few main differences from the original. The first is that Jackie can simultaneously utilise the darkness and firearms. This seems a logical step (much like the plasmid/weapon duel wield in BioShock 2) but for a first time player of the franchise, it felt a bit messy and crowded on screen; almost as if I had unlocked a special ability or weapon far too early on in the game.

Yet, having tentacles was useful and I quite enjoyed raising enemies into the air or disarming them from afar but there seemed to be little variety in the actions (as I only played a small sample, fingers crossed it gets more varied). The second big change in the game was that it has been cel-shaded to compliment the look and feel of the Marc Silvestri, Garth Ennis and David Wohl comic upon which the game was based.

The cel-shading was a nice touch but didn't seem to add much to the feel of the game - to be honest, I barely noticed it due to how dark the game was.

Whilst playing, I watched a cut-scene and being a demo version of the game, I had no clue as to what was going on but a lot of the dialogue seemed unnecessary, cliche and obvious.

Reading this back, I realise this all sounds negative but I genuinely enjoyed most of the game; really connecting with the overall atmosphere and tone. Had I played the previous game in the series, I might have been able to forgive its flaws but having produced the critically acclaimed BioShock series, I expected a great deal more from 2K.

It's always good to get a brief glimpse into games you may not usually go for and expo's and conventions are perfect for this - providing you're willing to queue up. It reminds me why sometimes it's important to take a risk and play something different, even if it's just a demo. You might end up discovering a new favourite game series...or the worst that could happen is that you'll hate it and trade it in for something better.

Win-(sort of)Win situation, right?

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