We check out the latest games and what's coming up.
There's a huge Christmas coming - this videogame release season is the biggest in the history of the business, with more AAA titles and more hype than ever before. With that in mind, publishers and their publicity companies are keen to get noticed, keen to get mindshare prior to your trips to the shops the holiday.
So, it should come as no surprise then that publicists are courting the media - tradeshows, events, dinners and all sorts of opportunities to wave their particular brand of gaming nirvana in front of our faces are seized without hesitation.
The latest of these was an opportunity too good to miss - Monacocorp, local distributors of Sega, THQ and Ozisoft offered to fly us over to participate in a Ubisoft press event and perform interviews with THQ developers in Sydney. A bunch of games that spread quite nicely over the upcoming weeks and even a couple that slip into next year were exposed to us and we were given full access to key people on the development teams for each title to question as we saw fit. A brief synopsis of each is given here, with full articles based on our impressions to come over the next week or so.
So, without further ado, here's a quick look at the titles we got to oggle at during out fleeting visit to the big smoke...
Sequel to the system-killer PC original, this time around players will be able to partake in the open world first person shooter on PS3 and Xbox 360 as well. Set in Africa, Far Cry 2 leaves more than the original location in the past. The lead character is also gone, with Ubisoft keen to place the concept of "Open World dynamic first person shooter gameplay in a beautiful environment" to the forefront of your impressions when you think of the Far Cry brand, rather than any individual character or scenario. Oh and they checked with previous players and found the original character rather forgettable, so why push it?
The game is looking incredible and is out this week in NZ - if you've any interest in first person shooters, around 100 hours of gameplay and gorgeous visuals, then you owe it to yourself to check it out. The fact that it's more accessible this time around and comes (on all platforms) with an incredibly intuitive and powerful level editor is just gravy on the already well adorned, tasty and remarkably large cake. This one impressed the living crap out of us, as did the motivated and energetic creative director, Clint Hocking.
The Tom Clancy brand has been a huge success for Ubisoft, ever since the original Rainbow Six (1998). That, combined with the fact that Ubisoft paid an undisclosed sum (estimated at around 50 million kiwi dollars), should help eliminate any confusion as to why there are so many Tom Clancy games on the horizon. Of those, EndWar is the the one that's coming out soonest and it's the one that Ubisoft were most keen to show us.
The concept is pretty straight forward - it's an RTS on consoles. The concept hasn't been super successful so far, but Ubisoft aren't hiding from that. It's how they've decided to address what people believe is the core reason for that lack of success, the controls, which most defines what Endwar is all about. You see, Endwar is voice controlled. Sure, you can use your controller to tell your troops what to do but Endwar gets around the limitations of a console controller by allowing you to simply tell your little warmongers what to do using your voice.
It's a bold thing to do, attempting to succeed in a space which has had only limited success in the past by using a control method which has no history at all in the videogame sector, let alone one of success. Our experiences with this one didn't lead us to a conclusion one way or another, however they weren't without their own revelations. It's an interesting title and it will be interesting indeed to see how it's received in the market.
This one is both a little further away from release (Q1 2009 is all we know) and also a fair while after the last release in the series, Red Faction II in 2002/2003. Widely known for its environmental destruction, this time around Red Faction is about destroying the man-made constructions rather than the land surrounding them.
A third person shooter this time around (the earlier games were both first-person), Red Faction pits the player up against the establishment, tasking the player with damaging the enemy morale and (optionally) increasing the morale of the oppressed populace, encouraging a citizen reprizal against he oppressive regime. The way the player does it is to exercise a whole series of crazy weapons and vehicles against the badguys, leveraging the advanced physics system to completely destroy and obliterate anything at all in the map.
The destruction system is by far the most advanced we've ever seen, completely obliterating anything seen in games like Mercenaries 2 where the effects, though entertaining, are entirely pre-canned and exactly the same every time. Here, the objects are defined and built from simulated real-world components (i.e. I-beams, planks of wood, concrete blocks, etc) and will react to the physics forces you apply exactly as if this was happening in reality. Whilst this can be a difficult thing to explain via a text medium, such as this, the effect when observed in real life is one of the most visceral and satisfying videogame experiences imaginable. If you like destruction, Red Faction is looking to serve up way more than you ever thought you wanted. It looks hot.
The prince has undergone something of a visual reboot for his umpteenth platform adventure, kicking off the "tending towards realism" slippers he was comfortably wearing and grasping a pair of "oh wow, cool toons bro" jandals. Prince of Persia (there's no subtitle) has seized the day and a solid black outline and moved to a slightly cartoony, visually extravagant and very next-gen toon shaded look.
It's not just the visuals that have changed this time around, with the prince ditching the sands of time (it's actually a different prince) and opting instead to grasp a powerglove (despite this time around not appearing on the Wii) which allows him to slide down walls and do other, powerglove-y tasks as he makes his way around the world. The world, which this time around, is relatively open to the prince to explore as he sees fit, in an open-world-esque departure from the series.
It's an interesting game in more ways than one and a close-up look raised more questions than answers. The full story on this one is going to be very interesting indeed, particularly for vertans of the series.
Last but oh so very far from least, Dawn of War II is the last "RTS" (more on that in a sec) from developers Relic Entertainment (no, I didn't manage to trick them into revealing Homeworld 3 - I tried, however).
That "RTS" is in quotes for a good reason - Dawn of War II is more of a "Tactical Squad Based Action RPG meets RTS" than a pure RTS, with significant amounts of RPG-related behaviour sneaking in to the game. There's loot (yep, its rarity is even signified by green, blue, purple etc text) which you'll need to equip on your characters which will visually distinguish one character from another.
It's still a while away but Dawn of War II is looking very interesting indeed - we'll break down exactly where and what it's doing which will interest you in the full article.