At a recent Capcom press event at the Le Merigot Hotel in Santa Monica, California, reporters were treated to a showcase of several of the company's flagship franchises. Playable demos of "Lost Planet 3," the PS Vita version of "Street Fighter X Tekken" and "DmC Devil May Cry" took center stage as we were invited to test them out prior to their debut at the gaming industry's annual Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Set to arrive on consoles in 2013, "Lost Planet 3" is a prequel, taking place before the events of the first game, "Lost Planet: Extreme Condition." Gamers familiar with the series will recognize the game's location, E.D.N. III, which is still suffering through the ice-age players battled in game one. Running on Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3, this installment of the franchise contains many familiar elements, but unlike its predecessors, which were for the most part developed and published by Capcom, "Lost Planet 3" is being developed by outside developer, Spark Unlimited ("Call of Duty: Finest Hour").
The game's protagonist is Jim Peyton, a working-class colonist contracted by the Neo-Venus Construction Company (NEVEC) to survey precious minerals that will be sent back to Earth, where his wife and young son await his return. As a miner battling the frigid elements, Jim is outfitted with a mining utility rig that also doubles as a pretty handy weapon against the hostile indigenous life forms on E.D.N. III, known collectively as the Akrid.
In the demo version playable at the event, when Jim was on foot and outside of the utility rig, the controls were responsive and the third-person shooter action was fun. Unfortunately, the work that must be accomplished while inside the rig is much slower and clunkier in comparison. Hopefully the upgrades available to the rig as Jim progresses through the game will alleviate this issue when the game is finally released next year.
Several different varieties of Akrid made an appearance in the demo, from the mildly annoying all the way up to a boss-level creature that appears to be a some sort of giant arctic snow crab. When Jim's health is low, a "struggle mode" automatically kicks in, slowing down the action and requiring steady aim and quick reflexes to put down attackers. To further ramp up the tension, movements and actions have been cleverly designed to vary according to environment. For instance, upon entering a creepy abandoned facility infested with Akrid, Jim's movements become markedly slower and more methodical.
In a clever bid to keep players engaged during loading screens, non-chronological video correspondence passes between Jim and his family. Aided by excellent voice acting, the video logs and cut scenes are moody and atmospheric. The script is also noteworthy for its wry sense of humor. Gale, the quirky mechanic tasked with keeping Jim's utility rig in fighting shape, sounds and feels like someone on the writing staff took a page or three out of the Joss Whedon playbook.
Though "Street Fighter X Tekken" was released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles in March, reporters were given a sneak preview of the new PS Vita version, due out this fall. The "Cross-Platform Play" functionality, which allows Vita owners to compete against owners of the PS3 console version via a Wi-Fi or a 3G connection, is extremely well-integrated. The infectious and lightning quick combos typical of both franchises suffer no slowdown across platforms and the Vita's touch screen technology adds another layer of difficulty for fighting game veterans looking to pull off flashy combos. The Vita version will also include 12 additional new fighters, which will be available to Playstation 3 owners as downloadable content.
Dante, the demon hunting anti-hero from the "Devil May Cry" franchise returns for "DmC Devil May Cry," the fifth game in the series, scheduled to be released in January 2013. Developed by Ninja Theory ("Heavenly Sword") as a reboot to the franchise, the game features a teenaged version of Dante, who is tasked with fighting his way through a city populated by demons.
The level showcased features the explosive hack and slash action typical of previous DmC games. Fight mechanics are incredibly fun and intuitive, and newcomers should have no problem pulling off beautifully destructive combos within minutes of picking up a controller. However, all of the other lever and pulley actions Dante is capable of performing might prove frustrating to some before they are fully mastered.
A taste of Dante's "Angel" and "Demon" states, are also showcased in the demo level. Similar in concept to the Renegade and Paragon choices in "Mass Effect 3," these states will alter the effects of weapons and actions as Dante links his attacks.
Playable demos of all three games are available at the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, which officially opens June 5.