PAX Roundup Three: LEGO LOTR, GOD OF WAR, More

Lego Lord of the Rings

Arguments that the Lego game formula is running out of steam do not get much support from even the small amount of this game that was playable at the Penny Arcade Expo 2012 in Seattle. The fantasy franchise's film version provides depth of characters and settings make a good fit for a Lego game, as the demo which is set admits the Battle of Helm's Deep. Drop-in, drop-out multiplayer allows for Aragon, (the aptly named) Legolas and Gimli to use their character specific skills to accomplish the typical array of Lego game tasks like shooting distant targets with arrows or break stone walls with drawven strength. Being kid-friendly, the violence in the major set-piece battle is toned down, breaking the initial part of the siege mainly requires you to push back siege ladders in a number of ways including assembling a crank that simply turns one latter ninety degrees to the wall where it falls away. The typical Lego game comical take on cut-scenes is enhanced with the actual audio from the movies, which instead of jarring is actually kind of funny, letting gamers imagine the 'real' movie playing out like an E rated video game. Finally, having all three movies in one game should go along way to not only getting fans back to the series, but attracting new ones as well.

Project P-100 (Working Title)

The WiiU and how it's handheld tablet/controller can be integrated into gaming is slowly being revealed and the in progress Project P-100 from Nintendo is one such title developed with the gizmo in mind. Set in a cheery comic book world under attack by giant enemy robots, you play the part of dozens of tiny superheros who you lead into battle en-mass Pikmen-style. Basic controls and a basic melee attack is handed with the thumb sticks and face buttons, but you are unlikely to meet with success unless you draw shapes on the WiiU touch screen with your finger which active special attacks. For instance a straight line will summon a giant sword, Green Lantern-style, draw a corner and you'll summon a gun, a circle transforms your mass of heroes (about 20 at a time in the demo) in a protective blob. In play the combat, typically avoiding enemy attacks until a weak spot is revealed, is simplistic the real challenge coming in when you need to focus on drawing shapes accurately enough to register. For those short of thumb (the desire to draw or interact in anyway with the WiiU screen with your right thumb so you don't lose your grip on the controller portion is strong and might prove to be a real problem with the device) you can use the right thumb stick to draw as well. Overall a diverting launch title/tech demo level game at best.

Hawken

Multiplayer FPS titles are growing like weeds these days, but Hawken's spin on the concept, namely insanely detailed giant mechs, looks to make its own mark. A post-industrial desert wasteland was the setting for the demo which set eight players against each other in a free-for-all match in their choice from about ten different mechs each armed with primary weapons ranging from giant SMGs, Vulcan cannons and grenade launchers, secondary weapons like missile launchers and special abilities like an energy shields. Though it is all an illusion, piloting a mech 'felt' like a different experience then just running and gunning on foot, they moved with deliberation but without feeling slow and were scaled appropriately to the environment. Free-to-play and set to release for PC in December, Hawken will be perfect for FPS gamers looking for a change of pace.

ZombiU

Ubisoft's WiiU entry is a call back to the early days of zombie-based gaming, namely strict Survival Horror. Set in the UK, the demo was a special treat for anglophiles, as you were charged with escaping from a darkened, locked down and zombie infested Buckingham Palace. Nominally an FPS, your WiiU-mote plays triple duty as a way to scan the immediate area for clues (it should be noted that on the WiiU Screen the game world extends around you and outside the boundaries of your TV screen, that is looking down with it and you'll see the virtual floor) as your inventory system and even as the scope for sniper-class weapons. It should be noticed that while you are looking around, the game isn't paused, so you have to keep your head on a swivel to keep it form being bitten off. On that combat front, ammo is scarce and the zombies tough (including a class of view-blocking spitters) but a designated 'push-off'' button helps is crowd control while you line up a strike with your trusty cricket bat. Fail to survive and you don't start back a a checkpoint, instead a new survivor is 'activated' to continue your mission, the newest goal of which is to kill the now zombie version of you that has all of your stuff. Mature and challenging, ZombiU is a surprising but welcome early title for a Nintendo console.

God Of War: Ascension (Multiplayer)

The hotly debated God Of War: Ascension Multiplayer mode was on display at the Penny Arcade Expo 2012 in Seattle and it went a long way to assuage suspicions as to how such a thing could even exist in the brutal world of God of War. In the demo two teams of four, the Spartans and the Trojans did battle with each other for the honor of killing the giant cyclops Polyphemus who, in his own enlightened self interest, tried to squash anyone who came near him. This could not be avoided, as the two teams could spend their time whaling at each other with an attack/combo system that recalled the hack and slash style of the core franchise, the true goal of the match was to seize and control three altars arrayed around the arena. Once a certain amount of points was raised the fight wasn't automatically over, instead Zeus would throw down the Spear of Olympus for the leading team to try and grab and use slay Polyphemus to end the match. This mode, called  "Favor of the Gods" is the game's signature multiplayer setup and is fast and furious enough to engage gamers long after the core experience is through. If there are more stages like this once in the offing, it could end up being what God Of War: Ascension is remembered for.

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