E3 2011: SQUARE ENIX Raids Tombs, Puts Out a Hit, Man

E3 2011: Square Enix Booth Showcase

 [See all our E3 2011 coverage at our index page!]

The two-headed giant of Japanese gaming came to the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles with new games for three legendary western game franchises plus one of their behemoth eastern properties, and Newsarama got a behind-the-scenes look at them all.


Tomb Raider

This highly anticipated reboot of the almost twenty year old franchise takes Lara Croft back to her origins and will reveal the situation that turned her from an eager young student into the adventure hero she's known as today. As a young woman, Lara joins an expedition to find the lost fleet of Kubla Khan off the coast of Japan, but a fierce storm wreaks her ship on the coast of a mysterious island. The action picks up right away in the demo, with a visibly terrified Lara captured by the island's inhabitants coming to hanging upside down in an underground ritual chamber.

Freeing herself by swinging into a torch and lighting her bindings on fire, the first demonstration of a dynamic fire system that, like in the latest Alone in the Dark will catch, burn and spread over any flammable surface, Lara plummets to the cave floor, landing hard. The first of the game's frequent QTEs begins with Lara pulling out a splinter of wood from her torso. Throughout this entire sequence, and as told by the developers on hand, the early part of the game Lara will be fearful and will frequently have to psych herself up with encouraging comments to try and not give into her fear at the situation. Though this fear will not interfere with gameplay, even in a brief preview hearing Lara trying not to lose her mind by reassuring herself that she'll “be okay” adds a lot of tension.

Escaping the cave by solving a environmental puzzle (with the aid of a 'survival sense' while will highlight interactive objects), scrambling away from a hostile native and outrunning a cave-in, the scene jumps ahead to Lara rescuing the badly injured captain of the wreaked ship. It's raining hard in this exterior area and Lara must platform her way up to a wolf den to recover the ship's emergency radio. Here it's revealed that Lara has retained her customary agility, able to move fluidly off the roofs of abandoned buildings, branches and cliff ledges. Path-finding is open to some degree to the player's discretion with choke-points that need QTE style resolution.  Once back at the shelter, the injured Captain reveals that Lara must now scale the mountains on the island to reach a radio antenna in an attempt to summon help. She is given a climbing ax to aid her, but in the early game Lara is still visibly frighted and it is impossible not to empathize, though it was revealed that she will gain confidence as her adventure continues, giving her character an arc. Finally it is revealed that 'base camps' like this will exist across the island to allow for speed travel, upgrading Lara skills and to craft new items like the make-shift bow seen in preview art.


Hitman: Absolution

Agent 47's return will find him in some unfamiliar situations, which is about the limit of what could be revealed during the brief gameplay demonstration of his new adventure in homicide. In the sequence shown, 47 is being hunted by the Chicago Police Department in an abandoned library. As will all Hitman games, the way the situation can be resolved is up to the player, though a blend of stealth and sudden brutality seemed to work well in the demo.

Cautiously creeping along as the cops fan out to look for him, 47 can now use a new 'instinct vision' that will show his pursuer’s outlines through objects and even trace on the ground their patrol paths. After stealth killing a few cops with found items like an extension cord and a small stone bust, 47 takes one as a meat-shield and backs off his foes until he reaches the roof. Donning a police disguise, he evades a search helicopter (after ducking its fire while moving from cover to cover in a rooftop pigeon coop), makes his way through a secret marijuana farm filled with paranoid hippies in mid-freakout, and slips past some cops who come close to blowing his cover. An on-screen disguise detection meter is augmented by a very cool effect of being able to hear a suspicious person's thoughts as they try to come up with a reason to suspect this unfamiliar person moving in their midst.

The tension hits it peak as 47 pretends to eat a doughnut as a SWAT team moves past him and another cop strats to talk to him, mistaking him at a distance for an old partner. Once clear, 47 just walks right out the front door and into a crowd on the street, completely anonymous. Under questioning the developers at hand offer that the 'instinct vision' will be optional for hardcore Hitman fans, and the game will at its core retain the level/contract setup and the ability to play the missions to your level of discretion that is the franchise's hallmark.  Hitman: Absolution will be released in 2012 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.


Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Human Revolution is not only a prequel to the first Deus Ex, but a return to the form that made that original game one of the all-time greats. New protagonist corporate security specialist Adam Jensen is living in a 2027 world where corporate control and bionic augmentation is driving class strife to new levels, and barely survives a brutal attack on his company. He is rebuilt almost completely with mechanical parts, and eagerly accepts the mission to discover who was behind the attack.

In the demo, Jensen is looking to infiltrate a rival companies top secret labs, housed in an office tower that bridges both levels of a massive two-tiered city. In classic Deus Ex style, you can progress through the game using completely different styles that only rarely have to mix. Players can go for full combat, running and gunning to your objective, they can use stealth to get in and out silently, they can hack terminals using a mini-game to uncover information, or talk (or bribe, or intimidate) their way past foes. Crafty players can even complete the entire game without killing anybody, save for boss characters. In the demo, the problem of a locked and guarded door could have been resolved by shooting your way through or completing missing key card side quest, but was instead bypassed by moving a vending machine into position to allow you to climb up to a balcony and past the checkpoint.

As you gain experience from completing missions you can upgrade your augmentations to do things like let you survive long falls, turn invisible, punch though weakened walls, fire off flechettes from you body like a claymore mine, increase your strength to move/carry more objects (inventory is managed using a proportional size gird system like Diablo) and get x-ray vision. Visually the game is stunning, abandoning the blacks and greens of typical cyberpunk for shades of gold/yellow, giving everything a warm feel that belies the frequent life or death situations, exploration is also invited as they world is filled with interactive objects and story items that can be uncovered though diligent searching. Human Revolution will be released on August 23rd for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.


Final Fantasy XIII-2, Previewed by Lucas Siegel, Newsarama Editor

After the rousing success of their first-ever true sequel to one of their not-so Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy X-2, Square Enix clearly saw the potential in expanding other game worlds. While Final Fantasy XIII was not quite the critical success they hoped for with their first current-generation console game, they felt the world was one worth revisiting.

In the sequel to the RPG, main character Lightning will be back, but she'll let her younger sister Serah take the spotlight. In this we see the flaw to the footage was shown at E3. Lightning's sister was impetuous, relatively weak, and frankly pretty annoying. Check that, she was extremely annoying. Her sequences showed a similar battle system to that of the first game, and a few other secondary characters around, though representatives were mum on the story of the sequel.

Lightning, however, was incredible. In an amazing sequence where she rode the horse form of summon Odin, she was being chased by a behemoth, a massive dragon-like creature ready and willing to destroy her with a mere breath. Lightning rides as she attacks with incredibly impressive blasts of, well, lightning while also committing other attacks. It was wild, chaotic, and exciting, and it made the rest of the demo look like an outright snooze-fest. We'll see how it all plays out, and how much of Lightning strikes in Q1 2012 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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