While we couldn't see everything on the floor of PAX East 2011 in Boston, MA, plus run our own panel, plus attend and cover others, we did make our way around the show floor to see some of the major buzzworthy games. We gave out hands-on impressions of Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Darkness II already, but here are the other games you should be keeping an eye on in 2011.
L.A. Noire (PS3, Xbox 360)
This one was a hands-off developer walkthrough in a private theater as Rockstar showed off their latest toy. While this is clearly Rockstar, with the polish, open world, and mix of gameplay you expect from the developer, this is definitely not "GTA in the 40s." The best description of this game is probably a playable version of the movie L.A. Confidential. And as someone who loves that movie, that is high praise. This is a full on late-40s Los Angeles detective story. The bulk of the gameplay is actually centered on finding clues as you progress through the four desks of the police department on your way through the ranks. The coolest bit of gameplay we saw was in the interrogation mode. You sit down with your suspect or person of interest, and as they speak to you, you have to read their face, voice, and body language, then decide whether it's Truth, you have some Doubt, or you think they're outright Lying. Depending on how you choose, you'll get different bits of information; and while there are right answers to these, nothing will outright stop the game. This is a beautiful game with some real innovative gameplay, though GTA fans may be a bit disappointed by the more methodical pace. Still, they should give it a shot this spring as it looks like it could well start a new revolution. And don't worry, there are still car chases and shootouts, they're just not the main focus.
Slam-Bolt Scrappers (PSN)
OK, I'm going to simply explain this the exact same way I did on the plane. In two on two battles, you and your partner beat up flying squid-pig things, each of different colors. When you kill one, it drops a tetris piece of the same color. You then place that on a platform and build up towers. Every time you get a square, it makes a weapon; bigger squares = bigger weapons. Each color has its own power, like a laser that attacks the opposing tower, missiles, shields, and more. You keep punching, collecting, and building until the other guys no longer have a tower. Basically, it's tower offense. This game delivers the fast and silly action of party beat-em-ups, the strategy of puzzle games, and with its goofy artwork and constantly shifting momentum it is just plain fun. We got hands-on time with the game's co-op campaign mode, getting to fight one of the huge bosses; the basic strategy is the same, though we had to take out the boss's shield so our tower weapons could go to work. This PSN title will be out tomorrow, March 15, and will be a sure-fire hit for game nights and roommates wanting to kill a few minutes - or accidentally kill a few hours.
Warp (PC, XBLA, PSN)
In Warp, you start out introduced to this cutesy little alien, who has been sadly kidnapped and experimented on by scientists and soldiers. You have the ability to teleport short distances though, and begin your escape. Jumping through walls to solve basic puzzles is great… then you find out you can jump into one of these people. With a shake of the left thumbstick… KABLOOEY, they are nothing but a pile of blood. The developers, releasing through the EA Partners program, promise other abilities, but even if this was all there was to the game it'd be dangerously addictive. And insanely cute… even when you're murdering people.
Snapshot (PC, at least one as-yet-unannounced-console)
One of the PAX East "Boston Indie Showcase" titles, this charming bit from Retroaffect is a photography/level manipulation platformer puzzle game. Doesn't sound like a real genre? Well Snapshot will make it one. There are objects in the world that are sometimes in places outside where you need them. So, you use your little magic camera to snap a pic of them, removing them from there, and placing them wherever you want. Drop a box to jump on so you can get to a higher ledge. With some rotation, pushing, lots of little collectables, secret areas, and more, this quirky and cutesy game has some truly new gameplay and a concept that's both easy to jump into and easy to kill a lot of time with. Not quite sure when this one will be around just yet, but it's worth waiting around for.