Fan Expo is a convention that takes place in Toronto, featuring big name celebrities, overpriced merchandise, and an opportunity to see upcoming games and movies. In the previous installment I looked at a few of the Xbox One and PS4 launch titles being shown. This time I’m going to cover a number of games being released for the current generation of consoles by big name developers.
Ubisoft had a number of games to play on current gen consoles. The recently released Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Assassin’s Creed IV and Rayman Legends were playable, along with videos for Watch Dogs and South Park: The Stick of Truth. Watch Dogs didn’t show a lot that wasn’t already released, while South Park: The Stick of Truth showed a bit more about how the magic system can be used in the game world to solve puzzles. Other than that it looks like a standard, if not well balanced and extremely crude, RPG. Just Dance 2014 was also available to play, but that was set up with a full stage and took 4 people at a time. I was not going to stand up and dance to the Ghostbusters theme along with a person dressed as a troll from Homestuck, someone else dressed as their original Steampunk character and a man cosplaying as Chun Li just to come to the conclusion that the game was exactly like the last 18 Just Dance games. Aside from the Ghostbusters theme the demo only had Careless Whisper, and I got to hear those two songs on repeat 8 hours each day.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
This was only a multiplayer demo, but it was fun. It’s the classic spies vs. mercs mode but with more customization and content. It’s similar to CoD’s create a class system but with a larger focus on improving your stealth abilities instead of just your combat abilities; as a merc you can have a UAV, and as a spy you can go invisible and see enemies through walls. Melee is a little too easy as it is always a one hit kill. However, there are ways to counter anything in the game, and there is a classic mode with no create-a-class system that’s more similar to the mode in Chaos Theory.
The main problem is that there’s nothing to do but kill. You can’t take hostages and there’s no alarms to worry about, so it feels like Call of Duty: Stealth Edition. It’s not bad as a casual game, but long time Splinter Cell fans will probably be disappointed. I was only able to use the basic classes and only played a few times so I can’t tell if the game is unbalanced. I can’t say anything for the single player campaign, but the game was released recently so I’m certain that someone else can tell you if the campaign is filled with scripted events and QTEs.
Assassin’s Creed IV
This demo consisted of two parts: controlling a pirate ship while attacking other ships and a base, and then the on foot attack on the base. The pirate ship controls felt a little gimmicky and it wasn’t fun to play; ship battles consist of moving alongside the enemy ship and shooting them with all your cannons at once. The attack on the base is the standard Assassin’s Creed fare. There weren’t any new moves and the game plays just like the rest.
The problem with the last few AC games was terrible level design and a slew of useless features instead of focusing on a few good ones, and I can’t tell if the new game has fixed any of these issues. I’m going to be cautiously optimistic as the development team for IV is different from the team for 3 and I’m assuming they’ve learned from their past mistakes.
This was the best Ubisoft demo, and while there were only a few levels to play, they were all a blast. The time trial level was difficult and some levels let you move or rotate platforms so you needed to put a bit more thought into what you were doing. Otherwise, it looks like an upgrade from Rayman Origins and I’m really looking forward to it.
WB had a number of games to play, including Batman: Arkham Origins, Scribblenauts Unmasked and Lego: Marvel Superheroes.
Batman: Arkham Origins
This is the demo they showed off during previous press conferences, but playing it is a very different experience than seeing a guided playthrough of it. Combat is unchanged from Arkham City, but now there’s a bit more variety. Enemies will commit crimes that you can stop, and they can range from any variety of criminal activities; in the demo you could stop an arson in progress. The game also features a new detective mode. You can digitally reconstruct a scene and freeze at a certain point in time, which is necessary to find certain clues. It feels less like I’m being guided through an interactive sequence and more like a series of puzzles.
The predator section has a new weapon that allows a player to “hook” two things together. Select an enemy and a barrel of knockout gas and the barrel will fly into him and knock him out. Select an enemy and a high point, and he’ll be dragged upwards before going unconscious. While the gun had unlimited ammo for this demo, in the retail release it will be capped to two uses (barring any upgrades).
This is pretty much like any other Scribblenauts game except you now have the ability to call in any licensed character from the DC Universe. The developers have done their homework here since not only can you call in all the big name characters like Batman and Wonder Woman, and use many alternate costumes that they’ve worn in the comics, but you also have access to more obscure characters like The Question or Bloodwynd.
Lego: Marvel Superheroes
It follows the same basic formulas as the last dozen Lego games, but now with Marvel characters. The entire series is so formulaic that there’s really not much else to say. It’s still fun to play though.
Various Mainstream Games
A few big companies only had one game to demo, and I’ll be listing them all here.
This was the only game Bethesda demoed, and I think it’s my favorite demo at Fan Expo. It was the longest demo, clocking in at 30 minutes, and had a number of great features. No weapon limits, lots of fun weapons like the fast firing shotgun and the laser gun, collectibles, secrets, puzzles, alternate paths and a pretty high difficulty curve. My only gripe is that the game encourages cover shooting and hiding since all the enemies have hitscan weapons and even a single enemy can drain your health quite easily. This is especially odd since it also encourages fast movement; the only way to get health, armor and ammo is by picking it up off of dead enemies, there’s no regen health and you run out of ammo quickly. The host at the booth was able to show off by moving around quite a bit while still being efficient, so I think it’s just a matter of practice and skill which makes me extremely happy. There is a stealth system, but it’s somewhat useless since you can’t stealth kill robots (which were quite prominent in the demo), although there were a few points that let you play it stealthily.
The game doesn’t hold your hand at all. For example, there’s a puzzle to get a laser gun but it’s encased in glass. Pushing a nearby button turns it on and it cut a hole through a piece of metal which you can use to enter and take the gun. The only way out of the room is to cut through part of the wall, which just happens to be patterned the same way as the metal the gun cut through. The game could have just given you a set of objectives explaining how to get the gun and which part of the wall to shoot, but instead it does it in a more subtle, organic matter. The game isn’t afraid to let you fail, and for that I’m really looking forward to it.
Beyond: Two Souls
This game let you play as two characters: Jodie and Aiden. Jodie’s gameplay sections are nothing but QTEs, although the game is a little more creative with it. Instead of telling you what button to push, you need to move the thumbstick in the direction that Jodie is moving. So if she’s giving a punch to the left screen, move the stick to the left. Aiden is a bit more fun to play as; he’s a ghost or an otherwise supernatural being with the ability to walk through walls and overhear other people’s conversations, as well as move items without touching them.
However, the game was still a very guided experience. There would be one specific item you’d need to interact with so you can move forward in the game, and the demo would tell you exactly which item it is and where to find it. It was somewhat amusing to throw people’s coffee cups to the floor or make them drop their luggage, but the game was otherwise underwhelming. It’s promising to be a cinematic experience, and based on Quantic Dream’s previous games it looks like it’s not going to offer a lot in terms of gameplay or even player choice. The demo was random snippets from Jodie’s life; I couldn’t get a good understanding of the story or her motivations, so I’m really not invested in it just yet.
In the next and final installment I’ll review all the indie games that were demoed, most of which were PC exclusive.