One of the perks of this job is playing games ahead of time. One of the perks of reading Newsarama is getting to read about it! Obviously, that's not quite as much fun, but that's what we have for you today with hands-on previews of three big upcoming titles.
Gears of War 3
This Xbox 360 exclusive title didn't have to add a lot to be a big success. Let's be honest, most of the 6 million or so fans who bought the first two games are going to close out the trilogy. In the update of the popular Horde multiplayer mode, however, it's clear Epic didn't rest on their laurels.
Horde mode launched a succession of copycats (though most have found a unique spin), wherein a team of humans takes on wave after wave of enemies, each one more difficult to defeat than the last. In the new Horde mode, the maps have more entry points, more obstacles, and more various-heighted levels, but also have some new tricks. In-between waves, more ammo, new weapons, and obstacles like barbed wire barriers can be purchased to make things a little easier next round. It's a neat extra, and gives a little bit more strategy to the game that previously was "everyone get back to the balcony and throw your sticky grenades in the walls of the staircases, now!"
The actual gameplay was the same as Gears 2, with quick, fun action and lots of cover usage/change throughout. It's still satisfying as anything in games to cut an enemy in half or stomp on their head while they're down. Whether or not the campaign delivers a similarly expanded experience remains to be seen, but it looks like multiplayer addicts have a lot of fun in store with Gears of War 3 Horde.
Gears of War 3 ships September 20, 2011.
Batman: Arkham City - Catwoman
At E3 2011, we were amazed by the closed-door demo of Catwoman in action in Arkham City. Having now played with the femme fatale, she's even cooler in your hands.
Catwoman moves differently than Batman, something we noted even when we were only watching, but it really presents itself when you have the controller. She's faster, but that's not all; her leaps are different, her counterattacks use more flexibility and reach, and she's more vicious in where and how her attacks are focused.
In the brief single battle we got to try out, it was remarkable just how fast Catwoman took down a large group of enemies. Her combos seemed a bit easier to link together, as well, probably because of her ability to leap halfway across the screen to continue her beat down on another foe. Her use of legs in her attacks makes a big difference, as well, if only to make her a flashier fighter.
With Batman's gameplay being more fun than ever with the improved speed, use of gadgets, and more, plus Catwoman's exciting new fighting style, and the promise of Robin, who, according to developers, "has a totally unique gameplay experience built from the ground up," Batman: Arkham City looks to be a game that will take up a lot of Batman fans' time when it's released October 18, 2011.
Mass Effect 3
Another closed-door demo we saw at E3, it simply did not give the slightest idea of how much fun this game will be to play.
We started by customizing our character to this point, picking one of three classes and distributing points to various abilities. The point trees are quite different from both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, with a unique way of combining the two. You have your basic abilities, powers, and attribute-boosts, but the way they branch is brand-new. Instead of a simple 5 block, or even 20 block progression, when you're customizing how your powers work you choose between two options in each of the bigger improvements. So, you might choose whether Throw does more damage or increases area of effect. Then you'll get to make similar choices a second and third time. Once you've distributed points to Shepard and both companions, Liara and Garrus, it's time to rock and roll.
We dove right into the action, fighting off throngs of Cerberus soldiers. Powers acted a little differently, depending on how you customized them, which was neat to see right away. Co-ordination of the team was nice and easy, just as it had been in the last game, and the improved cover system was a natural fit. The biggest immediate change, though, was the use of the omniblade, which is incredibly addictive. The omniblade, the "hard melee" is just so fun to use, and to see in action. With a violent thrust, the modified "hard light" omnitool takes out most enemies with a single hit, provided you've lined it up right. It's visceral and satisfying, and should be especially fun for Vanguards and their charge attack. I can see a lot of Charge-Omniblade in certain fans' futures.
After playing through the demo, ending with the appearance (but not battle of) one of the big Atlas mechs. putting the controller down, I literally leaned back and said out loud "ohhhhh man!" One of the developers, who had worked on this particular level, laughed and said "That's what I like to hear!" With seven months until release, there is so much more goodness BioWare can cram into Mass Effect 3, and with this first hands-on demo, I have every faith they have a lot in store.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!