PAX Roundup One: ALIENS, XCOM, DEFIANCE, More

Aliens: Colonel Marines

Aliens: Colonel Marines debuted the hands-on demo opportunity for a new multiplayer mode at the Penny Arcade Expo 2012 in Seattle; a Left 4 Dead-style hybrid of competitive and co-op play where a team of Xenomorphs try and stop a team of Marines from accomplishing a series of goals along a set path. Another debut is a ranged ‘spitter’ Alien that supplements their hoard of the standard Xenomorph iteration. The four man marine team benefits from a selection of character classes that follows the standard shooter breakdown and handy mid-stage pickups like sentry turrets and flamethowers. This very early build of the mode needed some work but should prove to be a valuable addition to an overall strong title.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

This revival of the early nineties classic is finally ready for demonstration and from what was shown, those who might have been intimidated by either the game’s legacy or the challenge of turn based combat can relax. The demo, which can be inferred as being the first thirty minutes of the actual game, drops players right into battle, but eases them into concepts like movement ranges, the game’s cover mechanic, environmental manipulation and combat. Your squad of four troopers investigates the crash of an alien object, moving slowly while making disturbing revelations with each step before encountering the aliens behind it. Even though this initial battle is almost completely scripted, it’s made clear the consequences of every one of your decisions: moving an ally thoughtlessly can have quick and fatal consequences. After the mission you return to the base, a warren-like underground complex of rooms where you meet your staff of scientists who can take your resources and put them to use developing new weapons and armor, and your barracks where your troops can be customized with them. Your Lieutenant then puts the game into your hands, telling you that you have to choose the missions to balance fighting the aliens and appeasing your international sponsors. Enemy Unknown’s visual and gameplay improvements over its ancestor should go a long way to helping it surpass its success.

Lost Planet 3

Capcom made a sharp turn with the Lost Planet franchise with entry three that might go a long way to getting gamers back to it, a plot. A young father, eager for work to support his growing family takes a job as a miner on the titular frozen world and this story is used as a farming device as he talks about his experiences in a series of video messages to his wife. Rather then dig at the ground with a pickax, he drives a mechanized armor suit to drill through the ice and carries an assault rifle to protect himself from the native wildlife (and their glowing orange weak spots) that doubles as an ad-hoc de-icer when his suit gets caked in frozen water. At the start of the game and the demo, out new hero navigates a very Hoth-like mining base and makes his way outside in his rig, that features a grappling arm and a drill arm (which can be used in a combo that makes short work of the smaller, wolf-like creatures) but a freak super-storm forces him to continue to the excavation site on foot using third-person controls and a contextually useful grappling hook. After shooting (or stabbing in a QTE if you are too slow) some more of the wolves your targeted turns out to be protected by one of those Lost Planet giant enemy crabs. In the boss battle your only need to dodge his charges for as long as it takes you to shoot the ice off his back to expose the glowing weak spot. Finally at the end of the demo you deploy your thermal mining device, revealing an abandoned human base from under the ice.

Defiance

Produced to work in conjunction with the upcoming SyFy Channel television show of the same name, Defiance is a class-based third person FPS MMO that will feature both open-world PvE play and a variety of PvP game types. An onsite representative shared the fact that the storyline of the game will pare all that of the TV Show, featuring characters that will crossover between the two from week to week and show the activities of characters that were not featured in a particular episode were doing at that time. The tight connection between the lore (featuring a not too distant future Earth that has become the refuge of seven homeless alien races and how that crisis was not helped by a disastrous terraforming accident) was said to allow for the possibility for stellar player characters to be written into the show as well. The gameplay itself is not a standout element of the experience, feeling at least at this stage of development very simplistic, a trait shared by its visuals as well. Defiance will launch on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC (though the three versions will not have cross-over play) in April of next year.

Fortnite

It wasn’t hands on, but PAX goers got a sneak peek of Epic Game’s enigmatic upcoming title Fortnite thanks to CliffyB himself. Described as a co-op sandbox survival game, the heart of Fortnite was said to lie in its the ability to attract many different kinds of gamers, those who like to fight, those who like to explore and those who like to build, together in one game. The game’s conceit is that in a largely abandoned world bands of people come to together during the day to build defensive structures to protect themselves against a zombie-like hoard that comes for them at night.

After describing the concept, CliffyB and the team from Epic, took the crowd through some of the thoughts they had during development. One centered on how a typical weapon, the crossbow, could be modified to match a players game style, from a single shot for true marksmen, a triple shot for those who don’t mind foraging for more bolts, a version that fires an electrical net for support-center players and finally, for explorers, one that shoots a line that players can then walk up like a tightrope. They also featured a single enemy type, the Troll, who exhibits ‘trollish’ behavior. He’s not overwhelmingly physically threatening but he will use his powers to bypass your defenses or steal your stuff. After giving the crowd a flashback to his PC development roots, CliffyB announced that Fortnite will run the Unreal 4 engine, development will forces on the PC version and will run on any PC running today’s technology whenever it is released. Finally, the game’s building function was demonstrated, players will use basic 9x9 frames in which each individual element can be customized to create things like doors, windows, eves and stairs out of any materials you can scavenge, even if your have to take a sledgehammer to trees, swingsets or even the local bank.

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