Saturday, September 24, 2011

EE11 Hands Ons

Attendance at the Expo today is at least quadruple that of yesterday's, making yesterday feel like off-season in Disneyland, considering the amount of queuing that had to be endured to get near a gamepad. If only I had known!

Anyhow, here are the highlights from my day is the full extent of what I'm willing to type up before passing the hell out. I'll proofread and add photos later.

Battlefield 3 PC Multiplayer Demo
A 16 player team deathmatch that featured no vehicles whatsoever is not what I associate with Battlefield, and the presentation aspects of the demo continued to disappoint from there. The audio coming from the provided headsets was barely on (and believe me, I had it cranked), so I missed out on what DICE VP & General manager Karl-Magnus Troedsson described as "50 - 60% of the experience" at yesterday's panel. The combat played out in an urban environment, with many combat bottlenecks in the doorframes, and the players sniping out the windows lining the street made the outdoors a no-man's land. Over the course of the ten minutes, nothing surprised or excited me, and it felt more like a sequel to Battlefield Bad Company 2 than Battlefield 2, but hopefully I can try and get into a battle on the scale that Battlefield is known for.

Battlefield 3 PS3 Campaign Demo
Again, a less than ideal setting - playing on a TV with janky brightness and contrast (despite the rep trying to fix it while I was playing), barely any volume and a dualshock controller isn't how I like my shooters, but it still made for an enjoyable time. Nothing in the demo was new or special: the level opens with a sprint down a hill under mortar fire, then a battle along a canal under heavy machinegun fire, then a brief few encounters indoors. I was pleased to note that there were no Call of Duty-style infinite monster closets, where enemies spam the player until he presses forward. In fact, quite the opposite is true; I felt like I had to keep pace with my team, who were pulling off the kind of spectacular heroics normally reserved for the player character in other FPSs, even if it disappointed me to see the same scripted grenade throw playing out across all demo units. The level was mostly linear, but allowed some player choice when approaching the set piece indoors, which was encouraging. I'm hopeful that DICE have more combat-bowls than corridor shooting, as the interior battles had little significance when considering the generosity of the recharging health and the amount of damage the player can take. There are signs of Hollywood influences creeping in - one set piece involves the player character being knocked to his back in slow motion by an enemy charing into a room. If these flourishes can resist the Michael Bay style theatrics of recent Call of Duty titles, and the story manages to tell a worthwhile tale I'll consider playing the campaign, but from what I saw it's very easy to dismiss this as just another modern-military shooter with tight mechanics and high production values.

Mario Kart 7 3DS
The preamble: I don't own a 3DS, and my unsuccessful attempts to see the 3D effect on demo kiosks convinced me that my slight astigmatism prevented me from availing of its delights. Mario Kart 7 made me want a 3DS after about fifteen seconds of playing. The game is gorgeous, certainly more of a delight than the Wii version, and the added depth certainly added to the immersion. Mario Kart 7 seems to further reflect the notion that Nintendo might be listening to its fanbase for once, importing popular game mechanics into the title wholesale. With the 3D on, and everything whizzing by at a hefty clip, controls were tight and responsive, and the blue and gold sparks spilling out during the Mario Kart 64 style drifting was such a spectacle that the speed boost seemed a less important reward. Collecting coins for the SNES-style overall speed increase seemed easier with the 3D on, and once full, I enjoyed narrowly missing them so they flew towards me. New features have been introduced that also take advantage of the 3D effects - large jumps cause the carts to deploy gliders (leading to a speed/distance trade-off reminiscent of F-Zero X, or San Francisco Rush 2049) and the cars can now sprout propellors and drive underwater. Each of these effects is accompanied by a deluge of particle effects that tickle the eyes.

I spent most of the races out in front, so the only items I saw were the staples of the series: bananas, and green and red shells, available in single and in threes, as ever. Happily, I was not subjected to the same bullshit frustratingly unfair items that made taking first place follysome in previous titles.

Considering how quickly I picked this game up, and how reluctant I was to put it down, I think Nintendo are on to a winner with Mario Kart 7. In less than ten minutes, my skepticism about the game and its host console's worth have dissolved - this is the game Nintendo needs to get into the shops to turn the tides for the 3DS.

Uncharted 3 Multiplayer Demo on Active-Shutter 3DTV
After the joy of Mario Kart 7's 3D, I decided it would be prudent to try a more seemingly sophisticated alternative. Having to wear 3D glasses over my spectacles was decidedly uncomfortable, and the results weren't worth the hassle; at the very most, I thought that the (limited) HUD and text was floating a bit over the game world, but mostly I noticed the way that the particle effects were broken - the player characters had a 'glow' area around them where no particles would appear, which was quite unsightly when the dust-storms kicked up.

 Fin's insistence that the 3D was 'excellent' (Disclaimer: His pay cheques come from Sony) has convinced me to try the demo again when I'm wearing contacts so I'm not distracted by discomfort, but I doubt I'll warm up to the expense of a 3DTV.

As for the game itself, I saw little to differentiate it from the Uncharted 2 Multiplayer mode; frenzied running and gunning, interesting level designs, but ultimately unsatisfying gunplay.

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