Ascend: New Gods is an action game. The fact that players take control of gigantic warriors known as Caos that mow through hordes of beasts with magic and melee weapons while trampling the tiny, feeble humans under their feet as a man might a rodent, informs those who pick up the controller of as much. The fact that these towering, stout champions appear before the seemingly indomitable Titans of the game as not but rodents themselves, betrays that there may just be something more to Signal Studios' game than the repeated mashing of a face button that could effectively get one through the title's E3 demo.
Although Signal promises that more challenging enemies will turn up later in the game, the demo, while enjoyable, left one wanting to see what other tricks the studio has up its sleeve. Most of the encounters could be won by relying on basic attacks, the repeated swinging of a sword or war hammer until the foe(s) before the Caos were felled. Getting beyond the basic "press X to kill stuff" approach to battles is something that all developers of action games must work to overcome if they are to differentiate their work from that of the competition.
Signal has plans for that. A unique form of multiplayer (more on that shortly) and a slew of challenging beasts that may require a bit more cunning to overcome. "We have tons of different monsters in the game," Signal Studios Lead Game Designer Ian Scott explained to XBLA Fans at E3. "As you saw, the humans are really small in our game; they're kind of like rats. You can pick them up and eat them for health, but there's obviously things that are a lot bigger than you and more badass. Well, I don't know about necessarily more badass than you." Scott isn't sure whether or not the team wants individual non-Titan enemies to be tougher than a Caos, but he asserted that there are definitely enemies that can dole out a walloping.
Speed running has been around for as long as games with beginnings and endings have. There are some people out there determined to rush through everything in a game, especially platformers, as quickly as possible. Well Alien Spidy takes speed running, fleshes it out a bit, and presents platformer enthusiasts with a skill-based platformer designed to be played at mach speed.
In Alien Spidy, you play as Spidy (imagine that) as he rushes to find the remains of his ship on Earth. He ventured from his home planet to find a friend of his who didn't return, and ended up crashing on our humble planet. The story is really a mcguffin to get you crawling around this 2D Earth, dodging all manner of hostile flora and fauna. The world is a scary place when you're a spider.
It's natural to have questions when playing a game for the first time. Questions like, "So this is Gears of War with jetpacks, right?" for instance. Or perhaps, "Is that guy shooting at me from the ceiling?" Maybe even, "What's that sou — oh god, is that a cybernetic assassin?!" Gamers who partook in the beta for 5th Cell's Hybrid already know the answers to those questions. For the uninitiated: no, yes, a cybernetic assassin and see: previous answer.
When a studio that is known and loved for creating a specific type of game — those in the Drawn to Life and Scribblenauts vein, in this case — announces it's taking that brave leap of faith from the comforts of its nest to attempt a flight towards previously uncharted territory, there can be some trepidation among gamers, perhaps some skepticism, even. Take just one look at 5th Cell's Summer of Arcade third-person shooter and it's plain that it is one such departure. Five matches in a noisy convention hall (seriously, Activision, did Black Ops II have to be that loud?) is a sample size too small to categorically abandon all concerns over whether or not the studio has the chops to pull this thing off. However, it is large enough to glean that Hybrid has all the makings of the next XBLA shooter that will keep gamers up until the wee hours of the morning on many occasions. Now might be a good time to start banking up that sick leave at work.
When I told Pete Rosky, Assistant Product Manager at Majesco and curator of my Double Dragon Neon demo, that I had never played a Double Dragon game he said "Great! I'll tell you as little about the game as possible then." Confused and incredulous, I asked why. "I've never gotten to do this presentation with someone who hasn't played a Double Dragon game before, it's a whole new perspective." Knowing then what I know now, I would have understood that Double Dragon Neon is an "old soul" of a brawler, living a life in the present with a staunch respect for the past.
Apparently, Double Dragon is kind of a big deal amongst brawler fans, so excuse me for those of you that I've offended by having not played the game. If it makes you feel better, I played this one and liked it. Double Dragon Neon is slow paced (which isn't a bad thing, mind you) and all the character models are huge and for all the brawlers I've played this felt different. It's a brawler that feels old, but looks new. I marveled at the eye-popping visuals and smooth animations, but the gameplay was nothing like the brawlers of today (because apparently it's like the brawlers of yesteryear).
Just like Majesco did for my demo, prepare for a preview from a different perspective.
Have you ever had a friend that just doesn't seem to get it? No matter how many times he's informed that you're just not into a band, a sport or some other such thing he just keeps on dragging you out to experience it. He can only be denied so many times before you reach the end of your Seinfeldian Excuse Rolodex and bite the bullet. So it is with MMA and one of my closest friends. Despite maintaining a serious passion for a number of sports, MMA excites me about as much as the prospect of playing Superman 64.
It's of little surprise, then, that enthusiasm was low while trekking across the convention hall en route for an appointment to play 345 Games' Bellator: MMA Onslaught. The nice folks at 345 ran through a quick overview of their fighting game and demoed a match in the blissfully peaceful office off the show floor. John noted how much better the visuals were than the last time he had seen the game. Then Matt McEnerney, senior producer at 345, and company showed off the game's surprisingly deep RPG elements — character creation and progression. Once they were done tinkering, the fight was on. The more of the game that was shown, the more I suddenly found myself eager to give a try.
They're crowding the front of the room on the 54th floor of a Los Angeles hotel, cameras flashing in rapid succession. A small group of men are before them, footage of their last work playing on a large screen. It's difficult to get a good view of the promo vid that is running while all of the members of the Korean gaming press are nearly tripping over each other to secure the best possible angle from which to grab the perfect shot for their readers back home. The level of excitement among this crowd is palpable, if not completely understandable.
After all, what's being shown at this point is nothing new, the footage is of 2010's Dungeon Fighter Online (released in 2005 in Nexon's home country of Korea). The speakers have thus far provided a nice little history lesson for the uninitiated, but those in attendance have hardly been treated to breaking news or exclusive footage at this point. With more exciting photo ops and demos of this fall's hottest games vying for attention during E3 week than any one journalist can possibly tackle, why is the foreign press causing such a hullabaloo over a PC game that released seven years ago in their country?
Todd returns from E3 this week, so once we get the new releases out of the way it's pretty much all Todd all the time. He tells us about some of the games he saw last week, a list of which you can find below. So if you were interested by the XBLA games being shown off last week, odds are we talk about them this week.
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Normally I don't go for what I largely consider the 'sensationalist journalism' that gets big hits. You know the kind — things like the Activision vs Respawn Entertainment/Infinity Ward …
Once upon a time, the opportunity to play it was passed over in favor of speaking at length to the man behind it. A tough decision for sure, but one for which there are no regrets. But this is E3, with all its glitz and gaudiness, its bass and babes, its bombshells and busts — both on the babes and on the press conference stages. This is the show, and Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit might just be the game coming to Xbox Live Arcade. Abstaining from experiencing firsthand at The Big Show, one of the most promising upcoming games for XBLA, simply wouldn't do. Even waiting just a wink longer until XBLA Fans' scheduled time with the game later in the week arrived just wouldn't do.