[Archive] EBX Hands On: Sunset Overdrive

This article was originally posted by me on Hittin Crits, which has since been taken offline. The content in this article was either taken from a web archive of the original, or from the most recent copy on my hard drive. As archives do not always contain images it’s probably that the images contained within the original article are not present here.

 

Increasingly often lately in regard to games, I feel a lot like Tom Hanks’ character in Big. Everyone’s gathered around assuming that something’s great, and I’m just there with my hand up, saying ‘I don’t get it’. My hands-on time with Sunset Overdrive is the latest gaming experience to make me think this. I’d heard good things about it, and everyone playing with me was having a ball, but I found it surprisingly dull. I normally love Insomniac’s games, and what I’d seen of the game looked interesting, and yet all I found when I played it was just another shooter.

On show at the expo was Overdrive’s Chaos Squad multiplayer mode, which is a mix between a shooter and tower defence. Your team has to protect your ‘Overdrive Vats’ from increasingly difficult waves of enemies using your weapons, and placed traps. The game’s enemies are humans mutated by a toxic energy drink, into monstrous forms (with robots and other humans also being present in the full game). They’re nothing special, just your typical videogame enemies- fast ones that rush in, big boss ones that take a lot to kill, that sort of thing. You take them out with ridiculous weapons, the likes of which Insomniac are known for. You’ll have guns that shoot flying vinyl records, firework launchers and teddy bears with explosives tied to them (aptly named T.N.Teddy), which have Insomniac’s signature flair. You’ll also be able to place down traps after some rounds, which include things like spinning blades that damage enemies if they come too close.

The game also has some different traversal mechanics. To get to higher ground you can jump on trampolines, and to get around the map faster you can grind on rails, or hang on underneath them while you slide around. Jumping on trampolines always brings out a sense of child-like glee as you bounce into the air, and grinding around with a bunch of other players looks really cool in action. But the thing is… I just didn’t get what the point of it all was. The PR rep kept going on and on about how we shouldn’t run around because grinding was way faster and it would give us Style points, which would in turn make our weapons better. I never bothered to, grinding made it too hard to aim and shoot compared to going on foot, so most of my shots were missing, and I was moving around just fine on the ground. I obviously didn’t need weapon upgrades, because I came first in my group by a ridiculous margin- I had 15 thousand odd points while the person in second place had about 6000. I wasn’t even doing anything special, just running around shooting enemies and making sure our vats were safe.

So in the end what I played was a perfectly ok game, but one that didn’t interest me in the slightest. It has the personality you’d expect from an Insomniac game, but it feels like it could be so many other games when you’re actually playing it. The traversal mechanics didn’t add anything at all because of how much less efficient they were than just running around on the ground shooting, which meant I was just playing a standard third-person shooter with some cool weapon designs. This might change in the bigger world of the singleplayer, but the demo I played really didn’t give a flattering impression of the game’s systems.

Sunset Overdrive bounces into stores October 28th on Xbox One.

[Archive] EBX Hands On: Battlefield Hardline

This article was originally posted by me on Hittin Crits, which has since been taken offline. The content in this article was either taken from a web archive of the original, or from the most recent copy on my hard drive. As archives do not always contain images it’s probably that the images contained within the original article are not present here.

 

There have been concerns that Battlefield: Hardline would fail to differentiate itself from past Battlefield games- people have said it’s coming too soon after Battlefield 4 to be different enough, others saying it just looks like DLC for BF4. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but after playing the Heist Mode from the beta, I did share the concerns of the game not offering much that BF4 already did. I then got to try out the game’s Rescue Mode, and found an interesting (if slightly derivative) use of Battlefield mechanics which had me interested to see what else the game had to offer. Now, at EB Expo, I got to try out the game’s Hotwire Mode, which takes the core draws of Battlefield games, and applies them to something new that fits within the cops and robbers theme, which has reignited my interest in the game.shootout

Hotwire Mode is a neat reimagining of the Battlefield series’ Conquest Mode, in which teams compete over vehicles instead of control points. You gain points for grabbing the marked cars scattered around the map, and driving them around at high speeds (staying stationary or barely moving will stop you from earning points). It’s like Conquest, except the control points are always on the move, and could be anywhere in the map. In theory that sounds like a bad thing because the rigidness and design of the points are gone, and the map isn’t designed around strategic attacking and defending of these points- but the map is designed around the altered flow of this game mode, with elements like jumps and car parks scattered around to make car chases exciting, and to enable the possibility of ambushing enemy drivers on-foot. The bigger map (we played on High Tension, the city map from the beta) is made much better use of here than in the Heist Mode from the beta, as you need the room to race around in your cars. Every part of the map is important, and a potential site for key action.

I had plenty of exciting moments play out just in a single match, so I’m excited to see what happens in the final game. Speeding out from a garage in a cop car with your sirens blazing is an awesome way to start the game off, and that’s just the beginning. It’s an exhilarating feeling even being the passenger in the car, speeding around the map. It’ll be your job to keep the driver, and the vehicle, safe from attackers so you have to take shots at cars and bikes coming at you from all sides. Seeing bikes and cars crash and blow up as you make a daring escape is an awesome sight. Then the tension builds as smoke and fire begins to spew from your own vehicle, and you have to bail out. Once when I did this I had a speeding car coming right at me, and took out the driver with a lucky shotgun blast, before getting squashed on the still-moving car’s windshield. The emergent scenarios you expect from Battlefield games were at full force here.bridge

The mode is a great fit into the Battlefield series due to its focus on vehicles and its use of a large map, but it’ll probably take a bit of getting used to. While vehicles are a big part of Battlefield games, this time using them is totally integral to the core objective of the mode, meaning that you’ll need to get good at handling fast cars if you want to be able to assist your team. You’ll need to know the best routes around the map so that you’re always moving, and also know where the out of bounds areas are. If you’re going to fast it can be difficult to get back into the game area before you’re automatically killed. Normally you can get by without vehicles in Battlefield games, but in this mode the objectives are moving fast, so you have no hope of catching up to them on foot. You might be able to plan an ambush, but then it’s mostly up to luck whether enemies come past or not.

Hotwire Mode looks to be an interesting new addition to the series that provides a familiar, but fresh, take on Battlefield gameplay, shaped by the new theme/setting of Hardline.

Battlefield: Hardline races into stores ‘early 2015′ on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.

[Archive] EBX Hands On: Splatoon

This article was originally posted by me on Hittin Crits, which has since been taken offline. The content in this article was either taken from a web archive of the original, or from the most recent copy on my hard drive. As archives do not always contain images it’s probably that the images contained within the original article are not present here.

 

Splatoon is such a Nintendo game. It’s exactly what you’d expect a Nintendo-developed competitive shooter to look like- the aim of the game is to shoot everything but the other players. In Splatoon, two teams of squid people compete to (at least in the mode I played) cover more of the battle arena in paint than their opponents. It was an absolute blast to play, and was simple enough for kids and their parents to play, while involved enough for someone like me to strategise and have some fun with it too.

The tools with which you’ll paint the town red (or pink, or blue, or whatever your team’s colour with) are an ink gun, an ink bomb, and a tornado power-up you can earn from covering enough land (and enemies!) in paint. You aim your ink gun using the GamePad’s gyro sensors, while moving the camera with the right analogue stick. It sounds unwieldy, but you get used to it quickly. You can also throw an ink bomb which covers a larger area in one go, but this uses much more ink than shooting normally. In order to recharge your ink you need to transform into your squid form. In this form you barely move on land, but if you’re in your own team’s ink then you move much faster than you would on foot, and can move along any surface as you see fit. You’ll also be able to slip through bars and gates, to allow for sneaky escapes from enemy players.

The ink and the squid form make for a really interesting dynamic in matches. Not only is splatting ink all over the arena the goal of the match, but it enables you to traverse it much easier as well. The map we played on was almost like a skate park, with jumps and ramps scattered around that you could fly off in squid form. There’s also sections of the map that can’t be painted, like certain floors, which means that if your team ‘controls’ the walls of that area, you’ll be able to move through much faster than your enemies. So you could have one teammate, lure enemies in there, and have another trap them with an ink bomb when they’re in, and can’t escape.

Because while the focus isn’t on killing, you can ‘splat’ your enemies with ink, and if they’re hit enough they’ll fall apart into pieces, and have to wait to respawn. Splats don’t directly contribute to your score, which is good because it doesn’t make the objective redundant, but they do help by keeping your opponents out of the fight for a short bit of time, and by filling up your special metre. This metre will allow you to fire ink tornados for a short while when it’s full, which cover more ground than your average ink pellet.

The level was fun to run around, with interesting gimmicks, like the ramps and inkproof areas I mentioned before. There’s also a few fences that only squids can get through, which can be handy when you need to make a quick exit. There was also a water tower that you seemed to be able to climb if you inked it, which would make a nice vantage point for hitting enemies below. Overall the map lacked a bit in verticality though. First thing I tried to do was ink the walls and climb up them to get a better view, but the Nintendo rep supervising pointed out that there’s inkproof bars at a certain point to stop you from going higher. The map was still varied and made use of levels, but I like being able to get to high points.

Splatoon grabbed my attention from the second it was revealed- it was such a fresh take on the shooter genre, and something that’s quite a bit out of Nintendo’s comfort zone. It totally delivered on expectations when I got to try it out, and I can’t wait to see what the finished product will bring.

[Archive] EBX Hands On: LittleBigPlanet 3

This article was originally posted by me on Hittin Crits, which has since been taken offline. The content in this article was either taken from a web archive of the original, or from the most recent copy on my hard drive. As archives do not always contain images it’s probably that the images contained within the original article are not present here.

 

LittleBigPlanet is one of the series that capture what the PlayStation ‘feel’ is for me. A lot of people associate PlayStation with the big names- the Uncharteds, the Last Of Uses, the inFamouses, but for me it’s always been the quirky fun stuff, like the EyeToy and Buzz! games I played with friends and family as a kid. LittleBigPlanet just has so much charm, it makes you feel good playing it. So I was excited to try out LBP3, to see if it continued the series’ tradition of quality, and I’m happy to say that it most definitely does.

The LBP games are platformers, with a focus on building your own levels. It has a makeshift, homemade feel to it, with characters and levels made from crafting materials and odd bits of junk. In the past games you played as Sackboy, a small person made of wool who you could customise with a variety of different outfits and decorations. In this game, in addition to Sackboy, you have three new characters to play with, each with their own abilities. Toggle is the one that looks like Grimace, and he has the ability to grow and shrink as the situation requires. Oddsock is a dog, who can walljump and run faster than the others. And finally, Swoop is (as you can probably guess) a bird, who can flap their wings, acting like an infinite number of jumps.

The EBX demo had one level available for four players to play through, with each player using a different character. I was playing as Swoop, with a little kid and two other guys manning the other characters. Each character is introduced one by one, with a little segment that makes use of their abilities, before the group moves on to a couple of puzzles that require players to work together, using their unique talents to get to the spaceship at the end of the level, and fly off into space. For example, one puzzle required Toggle’s weight to push down a switch, but it was too high for him to jump onto it. Swoop had to then pick him up and carry him onto it in order for the other characters to progress. The puzzles were simple enough for kids to understand them, but interesting enough for me to appreciate the ways the characters’ talents complemented each other.

The game gets real fun when you have to have each character doing different things in order to progress past a part of the level, because half the time people won’t know what they’re doing and it devolves into a frantic mess. The people who know what they’re doing try to explain to the others what to do, while they stumble about cluelessly, often with hilarious consequences. There’s a section where Sackboy has to use his airgun to blow a spiky panel upwards so the other characters can walk past, but the guy controlling Sackboy in our group couldn’t aim the gun properly to blow the panel, and then when he finally pushed it, he ended up on the other side of it and blew the spiky side right into the rest of us, killing us all. It might have impeded our progress, but it was hilarious nonetheless.

And that’s why LBP games really come into their own in multiplayer. You can work together, of course, and in this game the ways that powers combine make that much more rewarding. But when you’re playing with friends, you’re naturally going to want to annoy them. The demo had plenty of opportunities to do so, but I didn’t want to anger my group so I decided to save it for whoever’s unlucky enough to play the final game with me. In addition to the spiky death I mentioned above, there was an area where Swoop had to lift some panels so the other players could run underneath them- but the bottoms of the panels were covered with spikes, so if Swoop were to ‘accidentally’ let go too early, their friends would get crushed underneath. Swoop would be fantastic for griefing with his ability to fly off with other players. But you guys wouldn’t do that, right?

LBP3 was one of the stand-out games of the expo for me, it was a heck of a lot of fun and showed off the game’s biggest new feature in a concise and entertaining way. While I’m not sure how the same level would work when playing by yourself, what I saw shows that you’ll be in for a treat if you’re looking for a fun new co-operative game.

LittleBigPlanet 3 swoops into stores on November 26th, 2014 on PS3 and PS4

[Archive] EBX Hands On: Far Cry 4

This article was originally posted by me on Hittin Crits, which has since been taken offline. The content in this article was either taken from a web archive of the original, or from the most recent copy on my hard drive. As archives do not always contain images it’s probably that the images contained within the original article are not present here.

 

My mission is to take over an enemy fortress. I sneak up to the front entrance without alerting any of the lookouts, but the door is barred shut. Breaking through would be noisy, so I look for another way in. I sneak around the back, and notice the back door is slightly ajar. I wedge myself inside and scout out the area, marking out a few enemies. I start dispatching them with my silent bow, but I miss a shot, and the noise makes them suspicious, so I retreat. I notice an area on the outer wall that I can climb, and so I head up there for a better vantage point to take out the enemies who were now looking for me down below. I switch between this position and the door, taking out enemies as I go, hoping for an opportunity to sneak in and disable the alarms so that they can’t call for reinforcements. I’m spotted, and that opportunity doesn’t arrive.

The enemy calls in reinforcements, and some jeeps speed in. I’m hidden from them at the moment, but as soon as they spot me all hell will break loose. I look down from my hiding spot and see one of the jeeps. I realise I have some C4 on me, and chuck some down on the jeep. BOOM! A heap of enemies get caught in the explosions, but then I find myself under heavy fire… from the sky!? An enemy helicopter was coming to defend the fortress. I pull out my sniper rifle and look down the scope. I fire a single shot, and by some miracle I manage to take out the pilot. I let out a cheer as the chopper came crashing down. I sneak back to the doors of the fortress, behind the enemies who were walking around looking for me. One of them remains on the mounted gun of a second jeep, but not for long as I take him out with an arrow from my bow. I take over the gun and start mowing down my opposition. Things are looking good, and I think I might succeed my mission, but then the second wave of reinforcements comes after me. More jeeps, and another helicopter! I defend myself alright for a short while, but before too long I collapse, my mission a failure.

The Far Cry series has been popularised by its emergent gameplay within its open worlds, encouraging experimentation with different weapons, tools and strategies. As you can probably tell from the above two paragraphs, this trend is being continued in Far Cry 4. The EBX demo presented you with three choices at the beginning, which would dictate what options you had available to you when attacking the fortress: Sneak, Ride, and Fly. Sneak was the one I tried first, which gives you silenced weapons to take a stealthy approach through the fortress. Ride was the other one I tried, which has you riding an elephant to barge through the front entrance, taking a loud approach. And finally, there was a Fly option I saw other people take but didn’t get time to try myself, which gives you a gyrocopter to fly into the fortress, and take out enemies from the sky. Each option played radically differently, which is a good sign of how open the full game will be in regards to gameplay choices.

The demo was enjoyable, but the game really does feel like Far Cry 3 with more stuff. The graphics are nicer as you’d expect from the improved hardware, but presentation wise you could’ve fooled me if you said it was Far Cry 3. UI is the same, weapons are the same, controls are the same… It feels like the work has been put into adding things more than reworking the base. Although, the fortress did feel more varied than most outposts from FC3, with its use of buildings, alleyways and multiple entrances. I could see more variation occuring in playthroughs than there would be in a single FC3 outpost. In addition to this, the reinforcement system has changed so that you can’t disable all alarms at once, each disabled alarm prevents a wave of reinforcements from being called, with reinforcements not being able to be called at all if all the alarms are taken out.

That’s not to say the additions aren’t cool though- the enemy helicopters are a tough challenge to overcome, and the gyrocopter looked like a lot of fun to pilot. And of course, charging in on an elephant as your steed is great. Splinters of the fortress doors fly as the elephant bashes its way through, and you feel invincible rampaging around ontop of a giant beast wielding a shotgun. Annoyingly though, the button to get off the elephant is the same button used to reload, so if you hold down the button a fraction too long your character will hop off the elephant in the middle of a firefight, incredibly vulnerable.

So while Far Cry 4 appears to be a game that most will enjoy, I’m just not sure if it’s different enough from FC3 and Blood Dragon. If you loved those games then chances are you’ll love this one, but I’m just not convinced I should pay full price for more of what I’ve already played through.

Far Cry 4 charges into stores November 18th 2014 on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.