[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.

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[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.