E3 2014: On the Show Floor — Part 2

Sonic Boom, Alien: Isolation, The Evil Within, Battle Cry, Dying Light, Disney Infinity 2.0, and Destiny!

The last two days on the E3 2014 show floor were eventful. I got my hands on a lot of games I’d been looking forward to for a long time, and played some that surprised me. Few games disappointed this year, which is a good thing. Even those that weren’t as hot as others still have a lot of hope behind them since these demos are just betas of the final versions we’ll be playing in 2015. By the way, have you noticed just how many of these games are coming in 2015? So many announcements got us excited, but so few will be delivered to our consoles this year. Maybe that’s a symptom of the new technology, brand new consoles that demand much more graphically and mechanically. Every company wants to release a home run. A lot of the games I played on the last two days already look like grand slams.

Sonic Boom is a new series I’m very excited about. With Wii U and 3DS games, along with a brand new animated series, SEGA have created a wonderful conclusion to their exclusive deal with Nintendo. Sonic’s newest adventure is breathtaking, as the iconic blue hedgehog and friends must team up to stop evil villain Lyric from unleashing his robot army on the world. Both games are prequels to the upcoming TV series, and shed some light on how Sonic, who is more of a loner, finds himself teamed up with Tails, Knuckles, and the brand new Sticks. This game is quickly addicting, as you switch between the four heroes to get through the different worlds in the games. SEGA have created levels that involve seamless switching between characters in order to complete objective, access different areas on the map, and defeat skill-specific enemies. Sonic Boom could easily be the best platformer of 2014. And you don’t have to wait much longer. The games and TV series arrive in November.

After I was done with the family friendly fun, I walked across the SEGA exhibit, and into the world of Alien: Isolation, The Creative Assembly’s take on the scifi horror universe created by Ridley Scott so many years ago. After a couple of taciturn games and one big letdown (Alien: Colonial Marines), SEGA have finally nailed an Alien game. Alien: Isolation is absolutely terrifying, as you creep from one corner to the next, hoping that the xenomorph isn’t waiting around the corner. As you sit down to play the game for the first time, the first thing of note is the environment. The hallways, the scanner, and the entire interior of the ship could have been cut right out of Scott’s original film. Alien: Isolation is as much a survival horror game as it is a scifi atmospheric experience. You just stepped into the scifi world of the 80s. The next thing you’ll notice about this game is just how difficult it is to get past the monster. In the demo, I had two choices: go left or go right. As soon as I stepped into the room with the forking paths, I pulled out my scanner and the manic beeping began. The monster was headed my way! Already…Ten seconds into the demo. Of course, this might have just been the demo, but the fact that I was already hiding in a locker 30 seconds into the game is something special. The xenomorph NEVER stops haunting you. Using a flamethrower, I was finally able to gain a little breathing room at a checkpoint. But the faint beeping of the scanner continued to haunt me as a reminder that the creature was still out there. The alien is ALWAYS out there. You’ll die a crapload of times trying to sneak past it.

And just when I thought the scares were over, I stepped into the private Dying Light booth for some zombie-killing parkour fun. Dying Light is not really scary, except when super zombies are chasing you at night — the horror-focused section of the game. Otherwise, your main objective is to dynamically move around the map, to find creative ways to get from point A to point B without being mauled by zombies. Of note are the zombies, which are not your average bumbling idiots hungry for some brains. You can’t really start fist fighting with a whole mess of them. You’ll never be able to go into hero mode and fight 30 zombies in a row. Players will be overrun so quickly that it’s best to keep to the rooftops. With ziplines, climbing tools, and very impressive jumping skills, you’re able to move atop almost any surface on the map. And your parkour skills only improve as you progress in the game. I was very surprised to see the tone change in Techland’s new zombie game. Gone is the slapstick of Dead Island in favor of a much more serious plot — one that at times will put you into some seriously scary situations.

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Disney Infinity 2.0 is upon us, and a whole roster of Marvel characters are here to join the fun. I got a look at the new toy boxes and super heroes. Disney Infinity is more addictive than ever. I spent most of my time flying around with Iron Man through a procedurally created city or web-slinging my way up skyscrapers with Spider-Man. You can do either for hours and not get tired of it. The coolest thing about the toy boxes are the templates you can use to build Marvel versions of games such as Super Smash Bros. The world creator is seriously so intuitive that after a few hours, you’ll be building levels from your favorite games. There is a lot of fun to be had!

I paid a visit to the Bethesda showcase and was welcomed with two highly anticipated games: The Evil Within, the survival horror game from the creator of Resident Evil, and Battle Cry, a new free-to-play competitive multiplayer game that ditches the gunpowder for swords. LOTS OF SHARP SWORDS. Blood and guts flying everywhere in both of these games.

First, Battle Cry, which was the surprise announcement a few weeks before E3, all to the tune of an Ennio Morricone soundtrack. Using cartoonish characters and over-the-top combat, the obvious comparison is inescapable, but Battle Cry doesn’t as much copy Team Fortress as it does take the best thing from that game and turn them into something fresh. Playing a third-person competitive shooter with swords, bows and arrows, and daggers becomes so much fun — even if you didn’t know you needed to play a game like this. This is definitely a multiplayer game to spend some time on.

I was a bit less impressed with The Evil Within. At its most basic level a haunted house game (like Resident Evil), I’m just not sure what this game is supposed to be about…Is it a zombie game? A demon hunting game? Are you fighting supernatural forces? Does your character have the ability to react to the horrors around him at all? The stone faced Sheriff takes away from the experience almost immediately. Instead of trying to make us believe the horror around us, he barely reacts at all. When walking down a hallways and suddenly engulfed by rivers of blood that shoot out of a door, his only remark is something along the lines of “That was weird.” The mission in the demo was to find a skeavy doctor’s manic patient, who is being hunted by a supernatural (?) entitity in a hoodie. The doctor, who joins you on the mission, is probably the only scary part of the game. He mutters to himself and giggles as you walk down the dark hallways WHERE NO MONSTERS ATTACK YOU AT ALL (all the monsters are outside by a campfire where you can see them…). The good doctor follows you around for a while and you fear that he might get a little gropey as you climb a set of stairs. No, seriously, what is the horror in this game? The fact that the purpose of the game is completely unknown?

But to end on a high note, I finally got to play Destiny, Bungie’s new MMOFPS. I can’t speak for the quest mode since I only played two PvP Control (territories) matches. Yes, this game does feel a bit like Halo. Bungie shouldn’t feel ashamed by that comparison. The gameplay style suits them well — it’s their baby. The three pillars of Destiny are shooting, grenades, melee. Easy to remember. Familiar. I got the hang of the game quickly, as I rushed to capture territories and lead my team to victory. Just some shameless boasting: I had the most points at the end of both matches, which means that I’ll be sick at Destiny and I’m already sick at Halo. If you run into Doctor Suave, hide.

Part 1

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