demo Archive

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The Syndicate Demo

Tycho, for Penny Arcade:

Syndicate doesn’t tell you something very important:  it may walk like a shooter, and talk like one, but the ebb and flow has more in common with MMO endgame Raiding than some latter-day inheritor of the action mantle.  I had to fight the “final boss” at least twelve times before defeating him, with three different “pub” groups, and when it finally happened it was because we ported over broadly defined RPG roles like grabbing adds, tanking, and main heals.

Playing the Syndicate demo was a bit like being thrown to the wolves in the future. You’re matched up with four random people and have to fumble your way through the cyberpunk-infused environment. There’s no tutorial or explanation on how to play the game or what makes it different from other shooters. It looks great because it uses the same Frostbite 2 engine that Battlefield 3 does, but also has a pretty low framerate which feels like it’s in the low to mid 20′s. Be prepared to squint, too, as the font sizes for everything are about 6 point. Woe betide you if you don’t have an HD TV at this point. Fortunately, the game does let you fumble your way through if you’ve played other shooters before, as many of the basic maneuverability controls are the same. Beyond shooting bad guys, I basically followed the waypoint markers on screen and hit the context sensitive buttons when prompted.

That being said, I ended up with the same conclusions that Tycho did after making it through. There’s a lot of parallels with MMO Raiding, as the enemies aren’t your run of the mill fodder waiting to be killed. They’re essentially military squads in a sort of bizarro version of Rainbow Six Vegas. There’s often “boss” enemies that have an insane amount of health and it’s up to one guy on your team to grab his attention while staying alive. “Adds” will spawn and teammates will have to heal and revive each other. Playing the game like a typical shooter won’t get you really far unless you’re pretty damn good at them and even then, I too had to deal with several “pub” groups before I took down the final boss of the demo. (and that was a miraculous win too, after being revived in the middle of combat several times)

I’m a little unsure as to how I feel about the game. On the one hand, the coop mechanics are really deep and interesting. If you’ve ever raided in an MMO before, you know how positively gratifying downing a boss is. Unfortunately, you need to know and trust the people you’re playing with first. I imagine that trying to pub your way through Syndicate may lead to your fair share of quitters and “bad players,” leading to a frustrating time. However, if you’ve got a good group of four to play shooters with, this could end up being one of the sleeper gaming experiences of the year.

via Penny Arcade – The Creative Spark.

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Crysis 2 Demo Available For Xbox 360

I’ll give this a shot, but Crysis to me has always been about the unbelievable visuals more than anything. The fairly open world gameplay of the single player campaign is what’s made the series stand out.

That being said, Nanosuit deathmatch could be interesting…

Aliens are decimating New York City, with a full invasion force bent on the annihilation of mankind. Neither paramilitary law enforcement nor the might of the US military can stand against the invaders. Only you have the technology to survive: with the unique Nanosuit 2, tackle the alien menace in ways a regular soldier could only dream of. • Nanosuit 2: Customize your Nanosuit and weapons then adapt your combat tactics in real time using Stealth, Armor and Power abilities. • New York, New York: Crysis® 2 is set to redefine the visual benchmark for console and PC platforms in the urban jungle of New York City. • Amazing Aliens and AI: Lethal enemies employ best-in-class AI with unique group coordination and behavior for realistic, challenging responses to your actions. • Multiplayer: The next big leap in multiplayer gives you nearly unlimited ways to approach the dynamic combat environment

Add the free demo to your Xbox 360 download queue

Demo: Crysis 2 – Xbox Live’s Major Nelson.

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Vanquish Demo Out On Xbox 360, Playstation 3

One of my favorite games from E3 2010 was Vanquish. I won’t rehash my E3 preview, but offer you this reminder:  Think Gears of War but with blazing fast Japanese robot suits, mechs, and explosions everywhere.

The demo is basically the same demo I played at E3 with an additional tutorial component. You’ll get the beginning of a mission plus an incredibly epic boss fight. Seriously, if your heart doesn’t pump while facing it, you’re not alive. My only complaint with the game so far is that it’s really hard to tell how close you are to death at any given time. I do like to play fairly recklessly, though, so if you’re the conservative type, maybe this wont be a problem for you.

You can grab the demo from the Xbox Live Marketplace or Playstation Network and I implore you to check it out if you are a fan of action games or shooters. It’s a fun, original title that’s definitely on my list of anticipated games this holiday season.

Unless of course, you don’t like fun.

Download the Xbox 360 demo

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Epic Citadel Brings Unreal Engine To The iPhone/iPad

Hot off the announcement of their first iOS game (Project Sword – check out the clip at the end of this post!) this morning at Apple’s iPod event, Epic Games (Gears of War, Unreal Tournament) sends word that a playable tech demo of Unreal Engine working on the iPhone is now live on the iTunes store.

Entitled Epic Citadel, the demo gives you a sneak peek as to what kind of graphics you can expect from Project Sword when it releases later this year. As you can see from the screenshots below, the graphics are jaw-droppingly good. It reminded me a little bit of the wonder I experienced when I saw the first Unreal engine fly through way back in the 90′s before the first Unreal game came out.

Now, don’t expect much of a game with Epic Citadel, it’s basically a really pretty graphics tech demo. You can move around using virtual dual analog sticks or you can let the software take over and provide a “Guided Tour”, which is basically an autopilot demo. You can also navigate by tapping anywhere on the screen and the character will automatically walk there.

I gave it a short test drive and the frame rate was locked in at about 30fps for the most part, but dipped below during a flyby or when a lot of the environment was in view. Nevertheless, it’s a real impressive piece of software and might be worth keeping on your iPhone/iPad just to show off to your friends. Plus, at “free”, its the right price.

We’ve already got a cool gyroscope control proof of concept with ngmoco’s Gun Range. Epic’s Epic Citadel shows us what the graphics capability of the iPhone/iPad is. Come on devs, enough with the demos. Let’s get a real game out now, eh?

Download Epic Citadel for free on iTunes

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E3 2010 Preview: Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

Sonic the Hedgehog’s gone through a rough time since the glory days of the Sega Genesis. We’ve been given so many unfulfilled promises of “This is the return to the Sonic you know and love!” each year that the announcement of a new Sonic game is akin to an announcement that there’ll be a new Madden game out in the fall.

Well, after having checked out Sonic 4: Ep 1 at E3 this year, I’m gonna go ahead and say this is the return of the Sonic you know and love!

All joking aside, if there were a game for that cliche to actually hold, it would be Sonic 4. The developer I sat down with reiterated that they tried to keep the feel of the old Genesis-era Sonic titles and that if you were to put this game in the timeline, it would fit in right after Sonic and Knuckles. (yes, the one with the crazy add-on cartridge) Since that’s the last time I remember having actual fun with a Sonic title, I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s a good start.

The game certainly plays as such and is a fairly delightful (if not entirely familiar) romp down memory line. I can say the game looks sharp on the iPhone and will probably look better on the iPhone 4. It’d probably be my platform of choice as it’s a great game to play on the go in bursts. The tilt controls were pretty awkward and difficult, though. You can check out the video walkthrough further down for a better idea on how the game looks.

An interesting thing you may notice about the game is the ominous “Episode 1″ subtitle attached. Sega promises 16 levels in EP1 with more episodes to follow after. Now, I’m not so sure why a platform game that’s light on story needs the episodic title treatment. One reason might be to release new level packs soon after, but my efforts to narrow down the timeframe for new episodes were unsuccessful. The best I got was tentative agreement that they would come out faster than Half-Life 2 Episodes. I think we can all agree that’s not saying much.

Regardless, if you’re in the mood for a nostalgic 2D platformer, this game should excite you. Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 will be released on the iPhone, XBLA, PSN, and WiiWare “later this year and priced competitively.”

Developer Gameplay Walkthrough:

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Impressions: Blur Multiplayer Beta

I’ll admit to apathy in having a Blur Multiplayer Beta code rotting away in my inbox since February.  I just thought the game didn’t bring anything new to the already crowded racing game genre.  Shame on me, though, because it turns out the game is actually pretty fun.  It’s too bad I only had the last week to enjoy it.

Blur plays like Mario Kart with real cars, Wipeout’s powerups, and Call of Duty’s perks and leveling system.  Granted, the game doesn’t sound earth shattering, but this amalgamation of gameplay mechanics actually works fairly well.  The controls are as simple as Mario Kart: Gas, Brake, Fire Powerup (point the stick backwards to fire backwards).  There’s an added complexity in that you can hold up to three power ups at once so you’ll have to do some inventory juggling if you want to hoard them.  Other than that, the most complex part of the game is learning the different icons for power ups.  They’re pretty standard kart racing fare: nitro, shield, homing missile, dumb missile, mine.  Unfortunately, there’s a blue shell-like first place hoser, but I’ve been lucky enough to not be cheesed by it too badly.

Being an Activision published title, Blur’s familiar mods and “fans” (what the game calls xp) system didn’t surprise me.  You gain fans for using powerups well (e.g. boosting without hitting a wall or landing a missile on an enemy) and for completing/placing in races.  With these fans you can unlock new cars and upgrades for your racer.  There’s even a Modern Warfare “perk” like system where you can select from different mod loadouts that give you added attributes like increased ramming damage or gaining more fans for landing powerups.

My issue with this and other incentive-based multiplayer progression is that it can feel unfair for new players because everyone else seems to have better stuff than you.  My first few races I felt I had no chance of placing first because I simply didn’t have the tools to.  Granted, I still had fun and got rewarded with a bunch of fans.  As long as you’re not expecting to pop in the game and start placing first in every race, you’ll enjoy racing in Blur.  Plus, there’s that added goal of trying to beat better-equipped players with your crappy starter car.  Believe me, you will feel like the shit if you do this.

Blur’s definitely worth checking out if you’re into arcade/kart racers.  You can finish a couple of races in 5-10 minutes and still feel like you’re making the progress to greater things via the fans system.  It’s a great game to de-stress after work without having to commit hours of time.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments if you played the beta as well.

Blur will be released for Xbox 360, PC, PS3.  Developed by Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing, Geometry Wars).

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Split/Second Demo Impressions

Homeboy got exploded

Sometimes simplicity is good in a racing game. Getting into a Forza 3 or Gran Turismo or even memorizing what all the different power-ups do in Mario Kart can be a daunting experience. If it’s one thing Black Rock Studios (makers of PURE) got right with Split/Second, it’s the pick up and play aspect of an arcade game.  Toss in a shitton of explosions, pretty graphics, a breakneck sense of speed, and you might just have the perfect game to play in short bursts with gamers and non-gamers alike.  Think of it as Burnout 3, but with controlled explosions instead of boosting.

There’s essentially three buttons you use in Split/Second: “Gas”, “Brake”, and “Power Play”.  The first two are self explanatory.  The third one is what you use to get a leg up on the other racers.  Fill your power meter to level one and you can unleash a Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay-esque environmental movie explosion on cars in front of you.  These can come in such forms as a hovering helicopter dropping an explosive barrel or an exploding tunnel collapsing on top of your opponents.  You can also use a level one Power Play to take shortcuts along the course.  Fill your power meter all the way to level two and you can completely level the race course itself (preferably while your opponents are still on it), changing the path everyone has to follow.  There are three ways to fill the power meter: drafting behind opponents, drifting around corners, and by catching air time.  Personally, I found few opportunities to jump in the demo, but the other two maneuvers are plentiful.

I had a few concerns with the game though.  First, there don’t seem to be many opportunities to use the level two power play.  It can take out 3-4 opponents at once, but I often found myself missing good opportunities waiting for the game’s permission.  Second, I found myself constantly wishing for a nitro button or something to get me ahead of the competition when no cars are nearby me.  You need cars around you to be able to use even a level one power play.  Finally, the Split/Second demo is short. There’s only one track and you can’t choose your vehicle.  In fact, it’ll take you under 5 minutes to complete a three lap race.  Yes, one of the game’s strengths is the ease of which to pick up and have fun, but I hope there’s a bit more depth in the full version.

That being said, if you like racing, explosions, blowing shit up, or fun, go give the Split/Second demo a download.  You’ll probably like it.

(Oh, and for anyone worrying about the “reality show” premise being annoying, it’s not. There’s no cheesy announcer or anything to even remind you of reality TV once you’re playing.)

The game's title wasn't kidding. F.

Download the demo:

Xbox LIVE Marketplace | Split/Second.

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Echochrome Brings MC Escher To Your Sony Game Consoles

I saw over on PSP Fanboy the other day that Sony has made available a demo of the MC Escher influenced puzzle game, Echochrome, on the Japanese Playstation store for the PS3 and PSP. Being the intrepid game I am, I quickly signed into my Japanese PSN account and pulled down both demos and gave them a whirl.

Essentially the games are the same with the main exception being that the PS3 version has english voice narration for the tutorials. The game is very simple to play and very cool. You use one analog stick to rotate the “level” around to guide your human who has to run to other figures placed around different Escher-like constructs. The trick is to use the perspective to reach places that wouldn’t normally be possible. For example, if there’s a hole that’s impeding your progress, you can rotate the level such that a column covers up the hole. Your dude will walk straight through as if the hole weren’t there. As the old cliche goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” The demo has a few other neat things you can do with the perspective that I hope the full version expands upon.A US version hasn’t been announce yet, but let’s pray SCEA does us a solid and brings it over here.Check out a video trailer after the break

Download the PSP demo [pspfanboy.com]

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