PAX 2010 - Preview Roundup: EPIC MICKEY, DRAGON AGE 2, More

Disney Epic Mickey Opening Video

PAX 2010 was a huge success. We couldn't spend the same amount of time with every game there, but we went around trying to see as much as possible. Here we have short previews of nine more games, after our long weekend of coverage!

Hydrophobia

Three and a half years in development the ambitious action-adventure title Hydrophobia will finally see release to XBLA (1,200 points) this holiday. It brings a lot to the table, with a proprietary water-effect engine that creates the most realistic version of in-game water ever seen. Rooms flood with water from the source as it rolls in, not just raising up in a level fashion that has become the norm. The game starts as a Die Hard on a Boat scenario, with your agile, but not combat trained, player character Kate, a systems engineer trying to save the massive ship the Queen of the World that has come ‘under siege’ by eco-terrorists. However, despite the fact that there are gun-toting goons around, the true antagonist of the game is the water that is flooding the ship. Kate’s titular hydrophobia has to be overcome, adding a psychological horror element. She has to turn the water into an ally by strategically flooding areas to drown, shooting out electrical panels to electrocute, setting oil-laded water aflame and even in a potentially SPOILER-rific twist, control the water itself using nano-technology.

Dragon Age 2

EA was honest and forthright within the walls of their PAX show floor mini theater when it came to their Dragon Age franchise and what has changed now that its time for Dragon Age 2. Among their goals are graphical improvements from the previous game, a new more unified overall visual design to create better continuity between areas, and ways for the player to take a more active participation in the game’s combat system. However, the most obvious difference in this new title is the shift in how the game’ story breaks out, in particular the new protagonist named Hawke. Gone are the various fantasy races and origin stories, all games star a male or female Hawke, whether he/she is a warrior, rogue, or mage, as the single Champion player character in the vein of Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard. The game’s story, which will at first run parallel to the story in Dragon Age: Origins (no word if there is an import feature to handle significant decisions) and then extend on from the end of that title, will show the ‘highlights’ of Hawke's adventures as they are told in a narrator style at a crisis point in the future. In play, the combat is a shade less technical and adds a bit more of hack and slash, and the under interface has been reduced including the removal of the ‘ground ring’ which had shown character orientation. In addition, conversation wheel responses will now clearly show intent with icons, again closer to Mass Effect's style. Dragon Age 2 for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 will be out in March of 2011.

Splatterhouse

The classic action-horror franchise gets it’s long-in-the-making reboot in Splatterhouse for the Xbox 360 and PS3. The developers bragged that the criteria (all the criteria) needed to get an “M” rating from the ESRB was used as a checklist during production, and even from just the brief portion of the final build available for play, they had met their goal. In this largely 3D brawler (some stages play out in 2.5D side-scrolling fashion as an homage to the original titles) gore is a constant thematic element. The tearing of limb from limb is not just limited to your foes, as a particularly brutal attack with leave you sans arm (and possibly leg). Luckily it quickly grows back, and in the meantime you can use your own severed appendage to beat your enemies to death. This ability, along with massive strength and a host of as yet unrevealed ‘necro-powers’ come courtesy of the Terror Mask, a haunted piece of headgear that the hero is forced to don to save himself and his girlfriend. The spirit inside the mask will be both your guide and most vocal critic thought a plot involving demonic forces from another dimension. It was also announced that the original three Splatterhouse games will be unlockable on disk when it is released in late November 2010.

Nail’d

From the developers of Call of Juarez comes this arcade style off-road racer for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Each of the fourteen tracks are built with multiple branching path and an emphasis on verticality, with massive jumps that take players over the tops of blimps, windmill farms and helicopters. The vehicles and their upgrades are all based on a ‘give and take’ system, primarily, the motorcycles are fast yet unstable, with the ATVs the opposite, and each of the upgrade parts adds to some attribute to the determent of another. Nail’d will feature 12 player online multiplayer racing, and what is said to be deep tracking of individual player statistics.

Battle Vs. Chess

Though it is from some of the minds behind classic chess program Chessmaster, Battle Vs. Chess has licensed the Fritz 12 chess engine and built not just a chess game, but a variety of chess themed mini-games. A puzzle mode will challenge players to win a game in certain amount of moves, or use a chess pieces’ movement to clear a board of regenerating targets for a high score. The classic chess game can be ‘enhanced’ with Archon style piece-capture brawls, or a game can be randomly generated to start mid-match or to arrange all 32 pieces randomly on the board to start. Historical matches between masters can be simulated and taken over by players at key points. Finally there is even a pair of quest modes (for Order/White and Chaos/Black) that will tell a story using chess as a backdrop. Battle Vs. Chess will be “value priced” at $39.99 when it is released on September 28th.

Outland

In the corner of the Ubisoft booth was this atmospheric platformer that takes place in a fantasy/jungle environment based on meso-American mythology. The play centers around a color mechanic similar to the classic shooter Ikaruga where you can (after earning them) change your ‘color’ allowing you to pass harmlessly though enemy attacks or barriers if you match their hue. This unfortunately makes your attacks ineffective as well, so you have to open yourself up to attack if you want to defeat anyone. Outland will be out for XBLA (1,200 points) and PSN in 2011.

Vanquish

From Platinum Games (Bayonetta) and the creator of Resident Evil, Vanquish is a 3rd person sci-fi ‘cover to cover’ shooter that’s high on detail and action. Riding along in your prototype chemo/nano-tech enchased combat suit, you and a team of Special Forces solders combat legions of Russians and their giant mechas in deep space. Like Bayonetta, staying in motion is largely your best option for staying alive, and you are assisted with your suit’s numerous rockets that allow you to power slide from cover to cover quickly, and if needed the suit will ‘enhance’ your reflexes, putting you into ‘bullet-time.’ In combat, the variety of difficulty levels will help you if you are overwhelmed with keeping your team alive (though it is not required, they do draw fire well if they are upright) finding cover that hasn’t been blown up or taking down multi-stage boss robots. The demo for Xbox 360 and PS3 is out now.

Mortal Kombat

This latest entry into the MK franchise reboot takes the game back to its 2D fighting, M-rated roots, save that this time there are no palette swapped ninja. All the characters in Mortal Kombat have unique move sets and models, both for their exterior appearance, which features persistent and severe costume and character damage, and inside, with the placement of their internal organs. The latter effort was not wasted, as apart from the imaginative Fatalities, the game’s new ‘power meter’ allows, at its highest level, a combo finishing “X-Ray” attack so you can see your foes’ bones break and organs burst upon impact (level one is an enhanced special attack, and level two allows for a combo breaker). The game’s story is a condensed version of the first three MK games based on a mysterious event that takes place after MK3, and will support 1v1 and 2v2 online play. The character list has not been fully revealed, but move sets will feel familiar to long time players of the franchise. Mortal Kombat will be out for the PS3 (in 3D) and Xbox 360 in the spring of next year.

Epic Mickey

A hands-on demo of Warren Spector’s ambitious Epic Mickey revealed that the paint/thinner mechanic allows not just the ability to manipulate (very) specific parts of the game’s environment, but use them to make moral choices in what looks to be a more mature interpersonal relationship sub-plot of the game. While the main antagonist of the game is the Phantom Blot, the nearly forgotten Disney character of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit appears to play a wild card role. The Wasteland is Oswald’s world, one he created to sooth his hurt feelings over his half-brother’s (Mickey’s) success and his own plummet into oblivion, and while he may learn to accept Mickey’s help in saving it, when Oswald finds out that it was Mickey’s fault the Blot was released, it’ll be Mickey’s behavior that determines if they reconcile. Either way, from the opening scene of an evil doctor trying to suck Mickey’s heart out of his chest with a series of pointy objects, the nightmare inducing classic Disney style will be in place for this game’s Holiday 2010 release for the Wii.

What game in 2010/2011 are you most looking forward to?

 

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