New York Comic Con 2009 saw a huge leap in the amount of video games that were present compared to last year’s show, with several major publishers brought playable builds of their upcoming games to the con. While CBR News didn't get a chance to spend time with all of them, we did get to visit some of the publisher's booths and spend a little time with several of this year's most anticipated releases. We were even lucky enough to speak with some of the developers and publishers about the games.
Most of the games don’t have firm release dates yet, but we’ve included the dates that looked solid (although they may change). Here's a breakdown of the games we checked out, arranged by publisher:
Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (PC / PS3 / Xbox 360)--Tigon Studios/Starbreeze Studios: April 7 (website)
We played a bit of the Xbox 360 version of the game, which began with Riddick washed up on a shore outside of a large facility that he has to find a way into. While moving through the facility and encountering guards and drones, we were able to engage in both melee and shooter combat. Melee combat uses the triggers and each smash to the face feels heavy and brutal. After taking out a drone, we were able to use its body as a shield as we fired its weapon. This makes for great cover. However, movement is limited. Our gameplay session ended up with a shootout in an open area with several guards. Even in the brief time we spent with it, it's clear that stealth is emphasized over run and gun style combat. The game looks sharp, and with Diesel returning to voice the title character, it sounds great, too.
Tigon Studios' Ian Stevens explained that the story in “Assault on Dark Athena” takes place directly after the events of the last game, “Escape from Butcher Bay.” He also told CBR there will be multiplayer featured in the game, complete with a “Pitch Black” mode. “That's basically Riddick versus six other players in a map that's completely dark,” said Stevens. “As Riddick, you can see in the dark, you can run faster, you have more health, and you are using your Ulaks (curved blades), and everybody else is a bunch of mercs with guns and flashlights.”
Ghostbusters (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii/PS2/DS)--Terminal Reality/Red Fly Studio: June 16 (website)
While we didn't get to go hands-on, we took a look at the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii versions of the game. On the 360 and PS3, the Ghostbusters were making their way through an office building while the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was circling the outside. As pieces of marshmallow fell off of him, they animated and attacked the Ghostbusters, splattering all over the characters if they got too close. As the Ghostbusters made their way to the roof of the building, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man started to climb up over the side. The game looked fantastic. Proton streams cause damage to the environment, and as damage adds up, the game keeps track of the dollar amount of property damage caused, which will show up on a bill later.
The Wii version of the game will follow the same storyline as the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, but features more stylized graphics and some different gameplay elements. In terms of the character design, Red Fly Studio's James Clarendon said, “They're a little cartoony, but we tried to get more of the emotions of the characters out. If you read Scott McCloud, he always talks about the 'iconic realism' of the characters, and that's sort of what we aimed at.”
Clarendon assured us that the world in the Wii version is just as interactive as other versions of the game, and he demonstrated that by destroying just about everything in one of the library's rooms. He also demonstrated some of the Wii-specific controls, which included using a bowling motion to throw out traps, and using a slam technique to weaken ghosts.
Jumpgate Evolution (PC)--Net Devil (website)
This gorgeous space shooter MMO takes place in a galaxy that's “balancing on the brink of peace and war.” Players are pilots for one of three playable factions. The game looks beautiful, but what we found most surprising is how accessible the controls are. Basic flight and shooting can be accomplished by using the mouse, with the keyboard buttons augmenting the basic controls (strafing, barrel rolls, etc.). Each separate location in the game has its own color scheme, and the scale of the game in general is huge. We had a ton of fun flying around and getting into dogfights with enemy ships.
When we talked to Net Devil's Scott Brown, he described the gameplay as “massive space combat online.” “What we wanted to do is capture the fun and the joy of playing all of these old space games, like 'Wing Commander,' 'X-Wing' and 'Freelancer.' We wanted [a game] that was easy to learn and difficult to master. So, most people can just sit down and start flying. But, for the people who are the hardcore sim guys, we still support joysticks, gamepads, head tracking devices, so it's all still there, but if you want to just get in and play, you can.”
Damnation (PC/PS3/XBox 360)--Blue Omega Entertainment: April 21 (website)
“Damnation” is an action game with a steampunk style presentation. The level we played had our character and two allies trying to escape a mine. There was a lot of platforming as we moved up ledges, slid across ropes and scaled makeshift buildings, all while being shot at by various enemies. All of the weapons we used had a steampunk twist, like a gun that shoots railroad spikes. The structure of the level meant that enemies could be attacking from both above and below simultaneously, and there were a few times we were killed while trying to figure out where we were taking fire from.
In talking about the game, Brad Schlacter of Codemasters said, “it's the shooter gone vertical. It really evolves the shooter genre by adding in thousands of feet of verticality, and allowing players to experience shooting elements as well as platforming elements throughout all of the different levels.”
Overlord II (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)--Triumph Studios (website)
This sequel will have players taking on the role of the original Overlord's son, fighting against an empire that is bent on ridding the world of magic. In the portion of the Xbox 360 game we played, the Overlord has shipwrecked on a beach and is trying to free his minions from giant spiders that have cocooned them around the island. The controls are easy to manage, as the left stick controls the Overlord, and the right controls him minions. The minions have been upgraded this time around, as they are smarter, more individualized, and have the ability to ride mounts.
MadWorld (Wii)--Platinum Games: March 10 (website)
Mayhem. That's the best word to describe the time we spent playing through “MadWorld,” a hyper-violent brawler. The black and white stylized graphics and the television show presentation give the game a great look. We jumped right into the action and began bashing and slashing enemies all over the place. Holding down the trigger (B button) readies Jack's chainsaw, and simple slashing motions result in guys being cut in half and blood splattering everywhere. Halfway through the level we played, there was a “Bloodbath Challenge,” where we threw enemies into a giant meat press and watched as they were pulped. The controls were easy to master, and the game was a blast to play.
House of the Dead Overkill (Wii)--Headstrong Games: February 10 (website)
The grindhouse style of “Overkill” fits the “HOTD” series so perfectly, you may wonder why it hasn't always been done this way. In this prequel to the rest of the series, Agent G and Detective Washington are sent to investigate some disappearances in a small town. We played through a carnival level filled with killer clowns, exploding funhouses, foul language and lots and lots of gore. The controls were tight (trigger to shoot, point off-screen to reload), and the game looks great, a big leap over previous installments.
The Conduit (Wii)--High Voltage: June 9 (website)
This game's been getting a lot of hype, and so far it seems well deserved. We played through a level of High Voltage's upcoming sci-fi shooter, and there's no doubt they are pushing the Wii to its limits. As we were battling aliens on the streets of DC, the game looked and felt very solid. Controls were simple to pick up, as the trigger is used to shoot, pushing up on the d-pad zooms, and flicking the nunchuck throws grenades. Melee attacks are done by jabbing the Wiimote forward.
Everyone talks about the graphics when it comes to “The Conduit,” and the game does look very good. What's more impressive however, is the amount of effects and activity that are taking place at one time on screen. Lots of enemies, explosions, particle effects all make the environment feel alive.
As far as the game's story, High Voltage's Eric Nofsinger told us that players will take on the role of secret service agent Michael Ford, who has been recruited into a secret organization called “The Trust.” “You're sent in to take down what appears to be a terrorist and retrieve this mysterious artifact,” explained Nofsinger. “Quickly, you discover that it's something a lot larger, that there's a full scale alien invasion.”
Sony Online Entertainment
DC Universe Online (PC/PS3)--Sony Online (website)
As you can imagine, there were a ton of people waiting to play this game, so our time with it was brief. We played the character of Talis, a villain with earth-based powers. Our goal was to get inside of a S.T.A.R. Labs facility. Powers were all mapped to the four face buttons, and we were able to toggle different powers by holding down either the left or right trigger on the PS3 controller. Guards were easy enough to take down, but we eventually ran into a speed-based hero and got our clocks cleaned. The speedster played smart, never stopping long enough for us to target him, and between the ranged attacks he was lobbing and the constant fire from the guards, Talis was defeated. The cool thing is that we were able to recover and get back into the fight, at which point we teamed up with a couple of other villains to assault the S.T.A.R. labs building. Even in our short time with it, “DCUO” feels like it’s in really good shape already.
South Peak Interactive
X-Blades (PC/PS3/XBox 360)—Gaijin: February 10 (website)
“X-Blades” is a fast paced hack-and-slash action game with an anime style. The main character, Ayumi, is a scantily clad warrior with two gun-swords and an array of spells. The level of the Xbox 360 game we played through was a giant courtyard, and we got to fight a giant turtle-like creature that spat fireballs at us. As we ran around the level, enemies spawned and tried to slow us down, making us prime fireball targets. The game looks good and the controls are simple. Between the boss creature and his minions, we were forced to juggle all of our attacks, and we died a few times before taking the boss down.
Velvet Assassin (PC/Xbox 360)—Replay Studios: April 14 (website)
South Peak’s Aubrey Norris chatted with us while we played the Xbox 360 demo, and gave us some details on the story. “Velvet Assassin is based on the story of a real French female assassin during World War II named Violette Szabo,” Norris explained. “We kind of altered her story to make her into a British spy named Violette Summer, but really we wanted to throw back to the real Violette’s story and really kind of tell the tale of what it might be like to be a female assassin during World War II.”
Our playthrough involved Violette sneaking around a German bunker, stealthily trying to take out the guards. Whenever she was hidden in shadows, she would be outlined in purple, letting us know she could not be detected unless someone was standing right near her. As we snuck up behind enemies, a timed button push resulted in stealth kills, such as Violette slashing the throat of an enemy, or grabbing them from behind and stabbing them in the heart. Along the way through the bunker, we picked up some morphine, which when used, causes everything around Violette to slow down, giving her a tactical advantage on her enemies. We were seen at one point, and the German soldier blew a whistle, alerting every guard in the vicinity and led to a pretty quick death, which reinforced the need to use stealth when approaching enemies.
Well, that’s about it for this special edition of the roundup. There were so many games to see at NYCC 2009 that we couldn't get to them all, but stay tuned to CBR for some upcoming interviews with the developers and creators of some of this year's most anticipated games.