PAX 2011: Hands-on X-MEN, MASS EFFECT, Much More


At Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, Washington, we got hands-on time with several games. Rather than split them into several pieces and make you jump all around the site, we put them together for you right here!


Though the high-profile mercenary company has since changed its name, Blackwater is still in the marketplace and has been licensed to this FPS designed with the Xbox 360’s Kinect peripheral in mind, though it is not required. Best likened to fellow on-rails shooter Time Crisis, in Blackwater taking cover requires you to find cover using your body, literally ducking out of the line of fire. To fire back, instead of using a jerky movement to fire your weapon, you have to center your targeting reticle with an outstretched hand for a little less than one second. The process takes a little while to get used to, but is less wearing physically on the player than the attack motions in games like Child of Eden. Grenades, used by pulling back with your non-dominant hand, and a fun reloading process, slapping your ‘gun arm’ in the elbow, round out the basic motions. The around sixteen missions, surrounding a Blackwater operation in a fictional middle east/African nation, each have branching paths to a single goal, dependent on choices made in game or pass/fail gates in QTE jumping/ducking prompts. Blackwater will also feature time trial based offline multiplayer and an XP/leveling system that unlocks upgrades for the player character.


X-Men Destiny

This mutant-packed brawler starts with two crucial choices. The first is of your player character, each representing a different backstory that will affect how the dialog and the experience of the core game story will play out. You can play as the Japanese refugee orphan, the young football star with a promising future or the anti-mutant rights activist. Shortly afterward, you are given the second choice, how your powers will manifest and this choice decides how you will play the game. The powers that will develop down branching paths as you gain levels are density control for melee brawlers, energy projection for ranged attacks and a shadow control-like power for the speed/agility attack set. In the demo, once you make these choices you almost immediately start the game’s 3rd person brawling, with the standard system of light/heavy attacks and combos and meet/interact with a bunch of mutants including Emma Frost, Ice Man, Toad (who challenges you to a climbing race), Quicksliver and Cyclops. Each character tempts you to follow either the X-Men or the Brotherhood, with a light/dark meter on the sub-screen showing how far you are tilting to one side. Notable features including in-world text notifying of you combat prowess (like the floating words on the TV show Fringe) that shatter when you hit them, and “X-Genes” that let you mix and match the powers of the comic’s cast. For example, you can equip Emma’s diamond skin with the strength of Juggernaut, or use only the powers of one mutant and essentially play as him or her.


Batman: Arkham City

Branching off from the main plot of the game and finding two of his trophies can lead players of the Batman: Arkham City demo to the first Riddler Challenge. Unlike the camera-based puzzles of the first game, the Ridder’s new game involves him taking innocent people hostage and forcing Batman to figure out his puzzle rooms to save them and himself, all while Riddler mocks him via projections on the walls. The first room, where a fireman was suspended over an electrified floor that was routinely swept by rotating blades, weighed heavily on the use of gadgets. First Batman had to hack a terminal to shut off sections of the floor temporarily to get an angle on the fuse box powering the entire floor. Once up a level and after blowing up a fake wall, Batman has to use a new feature of his line launcher to stop in mid-air and change directions ninety degrees. With timers counting down, blades spinning, and gears grinding all while you are trying to solve puzzles, this part of Batman: Arkham City will work great to break up the brawling and stealth of the core game, but definitely not be any kind of mental rest.


Spider-Man: Edge of Time

The newest Spider-Man game is all-in on its central time-travel conceit. The game starts with an extremely cool playable credits sequence of Spider-Man 2099, Miguel O’Hara, infiltrating his workplace in disguise to uncover a plot to alter the timeline for financial gain. Turns out there's an evil scientist responsible for the time travel experiment that changes the timeline of the ‘classic’ Spider-Man, Peter Parker, and turns 2099 into an even greater dystopia.

O’Hara, the only one who knows there’s been a change, recruits Parker via a ‘quantum connection’ and the pair strive to undo the damage by working in parallel across time. Both heroes play similarly, though Spider-Man 2099 has enhanced speed that allows him to appear in two places at once as a defense mechanism, while the classic Spider-Man has his spider-sense that makes him briefly invulnerable though his heightened agility. In the demo, the classic Spider-Man brawls rows of robots to unlock doors and banters with O’Hara about the scientific impossibility of their situation. When O’Hara is blocked by a force-field, Parker destroys the generator in the past, but when that defense is replaced by a giant robot, Parker has to destroy the giant robot prototype in a race against the clock to keep it from crushing O’Hara in the future. The game’s controls are like Spider-Man titles have been for years, with wall-crawling, web-swinging, targeted web-zips and a web-assisted jump. However, at least all of the demonstrated area takes place in closed corridors and along a linear story, so players are going to be limited in the feeling of freedom they might have had in the open-world movie-games.

Dance Central 2

Always a fun way to work up a sweat, Dance Central is back with a couple of new features to go along with the new songs and moves. The dance battle mode has been expanded to support dance crews, though only one can dance ‘registered’ on the Kinect. Another change to the battles are competitive segments mid-song where the dancers race to complete prompted moves first to earn points. Among the fun songs added to the playlist are Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and the tune best known on the internet as “Numa Numa Song.”

Lollipop Chainsaw

Suda51’s newest piece of interactive insanity is to put a Bayonetta spin on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then turn the crazy dial all the way up. As a zombie slaughtering cheerleader wielding a massive chainsaw, and puzzlingly, the severed head of a young man on your hip, you work to clear the halls of San Romero High School brawler-style using an array of combo attacks that if performed correctly emit rainbows. The over-the-top quotient is upped even further with the perky-yet-profane language coming out of out the heroine, rampant dismemberment, some promised huge boss battles and an overdrive mode that fills the screen with hearts, stars and even more rainbows. In game, the stock light/heavy attack buttons are supplemented by the cheer-attacks that let you set up finishing moves like cutting a zombie in half vertically.

Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One

Friends and foes team up for four-player Ratchet and Clank-style action in All 4 One. The titular heroes are joined by Captain Qwark and reluctant ally Doctor Nefarious for drop-in/drop-out co-op platforming and puzzle solving. Along with the franchises’ signature array of weapons and gameplay style, they are each equipped with a vacuum gun that they can use cooperatively to suck and fling each other over gaps.

Gamescom 2011: New MASS EFFECT 3 Screens
Gamescom 2011: New MASS EFFECT 3 Screens

Mass Effect 3

The first hands-on demo of the highly anticipated third Mass Effect title allows players to experience the “female Krogan rescue mission” first hand. After selecting a class for the demo between Soldier, Sentinel or Engineer, you are directed to spend a pool of squad points, revealing that the powers branch off into two after the first three upgrades and like in Mass Effect 2, increase in cost as they go along. Once you are in-mission, you are joined by Garrus and Liara, and the three of you rush the facility where the Krogan is being held at the behest of Dr. Solus. The controls are instantly familiar for players of the previous games, with the power/weapon wheels returning just as they were. The combat is fast and frantic with a new shield-carrying class of enemy that needs to be flanked or disarmed with your biotic abilities. Improvements have been made to the visuals as well, with no pop-up detected and a new system for smoke effects that obscure your vision. Halfway through the mission you find that the weapons lockers from Mass Effect 2 have been replaced with benches that allow you to not only switch out armaments, but assign each two custom upgrades in the style of the first game, but with a quicker interface. The demo ended with a battle with a mech with a human pilot armed with missile and melee attacks. It was offered, but not seen, that it will be possible to shoot the pilot and take over the mech for yourself.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim


In about as an unstructured a demo as humanly possible, after selecting your race (including several non-human species like the Argonians and a race of Dark Elves) and gender you are issued a selection of weapons, armor and magic spells and are deposited in Skyrim and left to your own devices in classic Elder Scrolls fashion. The first thing you can tell is how much better the game looks than the previous entry, which is hard to believe since Oblivion looked so good and that they both run on the same console. There is still the same style of basic combat, map exploration and picking wildflowers for alchemy, but the terrain is more varied and smoothly changes as you move both around the map and up the mountains. In towns, the conversation system has been clarified and feels more natural. You are also given the opportunity to craft and upgrade items yourself at forges and tanning racks. Conversations can also let you pick up temporary allies. Though the game is open-world, several missions direct you to the same dungeon, where the gray corridors broken up by loading screens of the previous game have been replaced by large sections of detailed caves and stone-lined tunnels. This featured dungeon was complete with a simple puzzle-trap to solve and scripted battle with a giant spider. The leveling system increases your abilities through experience points and the use of skills in the field (though jumping around all day no longer appears to increase your agility, it also no longer decreases your stamina), and leveling up means selecting a perk along the branching skill ‘constellation’ assigned to that ability.

Kirby's Return to Dream Land

Taking a page from New Super Mario Bros Wii, Kirby's Return to Dream Land

gives four players the ability to drop-in and drop-out of a world of trademark cuteness. While you and your fiends can play as four Kirbys, the core game has a The Kirby assisted by Meta-Knight, King Dedede and a spear wielding Waddle Dee platforming alongside. While only Kirby can use his power-stealing move, the other players have their own weapons and fly alongside if necessary (Waddle Dee can spin his spear like a helicopter blade, which is as funny as it sounds). In addition to four player mode, Kirby's Return to Dream Land introduces “monster” sized powers, each of which gives Kirby a giant sized version of one of his absorbed skills, for example Monster Fire summons a steam of fire dragons that burns down all the trees in their path.

Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City

The first Resident Evil game that “lets you play as the bad guys” takes place concurrent to the events of Resident Evil 2. This squad-based first person co-op shooter puts you in the boots of one of the Umbrella Corporation’s Special Forcers troopers on a mission to clean up the company’s mess in Raccoon City, i.e. kill all the survivors. The roles, each with their own ability set, you and your team can take are Medic, Assault, a Recon specialist who can cloak, Demolitions and a Field Scientist who can use chemicals to create lures or poisons for Zombies and Bio-Organic Weapons. Armed and better armored then your typical Resident Evil player character, your aggressive goal means you also have to deal with more enemies as well. In the demo a team of four has to fight though a ruined city in an attempt to kill rookie cop Leon Kennedy, staving off zombie hoards, lickers and even larger creatures sent by your bosses to ‘help’ you. On top of that the US Government has sent the military into investigate, and they become your targets as well, targets that shoot back. To up the tension beyond the rainy, darkened streets filled with monsters, the T-Virus is out there and if you are not careful, you can catch it and be turned into a zombie yourself. At the end of the demo a fight against Zombies and soldiers at the same time at a gas station turns into an inferno, then a Tyrant is dropped in the middle. Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City can be played in campaign mode solo, or on or off-line co-op multiplayer, or in verses both on or offline.

Asura's Wrath

The demo for this highly anticipated Asian-mythology influenced sci-fi brawler quickly shows you the scale to which this game is ready to go. Starting out with a quick boss fight that lets you get used to a light/heavy attack system that is supplemented by a ranged attack and a robust countering system, the demo shifts to a long cutscene where the boss transforms into a 100-foot stone version of himself that you then have a running/missile dodging battle with until you then have a QTE that launches him into space by punching him so hard you almost tear a hole though him. Fortunately, you are not done, since he comes back larger than the planet Earth itself, mocks your apparent foolishness and proceeds to try and crush you with his enormous index finger doing damage on the scale of a meteor impact. You can survive regardless via a QTE that lets you set your feet and push back with a dozen cyber-arms protruding from your back. Once you win this tug of war, you disintegrate the boss into a tingling shower of dust and pass out from the effort. This long, epic-scale fight was just the first of seven planned for the final game.

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