E3 2009 Day One – Brandon plays DARK VOID, RESIDENT EVIL: DARKSIDE CHRONICLES, LOST PLANET 2, MURAMASA, BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM, and LEFT 4 DEAD 2

     June 2, 2009

e3-logo-headline.jpgE3 is too much for one man.

Today marks my second-ever year at E3, and let’s just say that this show rocks you.  It rocks you something good.  Even last year’s convention – which everyone told me was ridiculously tame compared to previous years – was overwhelming.  This year’s, which has been heralded as a near ‘return to form,’ is one day gone, and it was bonkers.  There are simply oodles and oodles of content.  So, let’s jump right into what we were able to focus our attention on for more than sixty seconds!

After the jump, you can read what I thought about Dark Void, Resident Evil: Darkside Chrinicles, Lost Plant 2, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Lost Planet 2:

DARK VOID

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Our first stop of the day was the cozy booth of Capcom.  If you read my E3 comments last year or the E3 preview coverage from a few weeks ago, you’ll know that DARK VOID has been on our radar for some time now. (Previous coverage here:  and here)  With run-and-gun action set in an alternate dimension, evil robots, and super-slick jetpack mechanics, this game is going to rocket straight into your heart.  Capcom and dev Airtight had a very generous demo on display this afternoon, with three separate segments to play.  The first, a tutorial segment, comes right off a cutscene where the main character Will straps on his jetpack for the first time.  The segment introduces the flying mechanics, and leads the player through its shooting, hovering, and evasive maneuvers.  The second segment focuses much more on the game’s GEARS OF WAR-inspired shoot-and-cover mechanics, leading the player through a gamut of fierce firefights versus some nasty robot meanies.  The third segment of the demo was the same one we played at the preview event last month, combining all of the action, as well as the opportunity to hijack some flying saucers.  Again, this game is really impressive.  We can’t wait to get our hands on the full version and see how big the game can get.  Capcom seems to sense its winner status as well, as shown by the deluge of DARK VOID-related materials at their booth.  Just one thing – we’ve said it before – we hope that the guns get a little more oomph when the game finally ships.  This will be a true action heavyweight when it launches later this year.

RESIDENT EVIL: DARKSIDE CHRONICLES

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One nice surprise for us at the show was a game that we started off playing to just have a look at, when suddenly we found ourselves taken in by it.  Yeah, RESIDENT EVIL: DARKSIDE CHRONICLES did it.  We’re slightly embarrassed to admit this, of course, because it’s an on-rails shooter.  Me personally, I checked-out of this sub-genre years ago, giving it up for dead, especially when it looked to just cash-in on the series.  What you’ll find, though, is a well-crafted thrill ride that is a great mid-way point between casual and hardcore gaming.  What you get is a fast-paced game that supports shooting, zombies, same-screen co-op, and even an assortment of weapons and pick-ups.  See, we missed RE: UMBRELLA CHRONICLES, the prequel of this game, so we didn’t realize that you could provide pure, old-fashioned “light gun” fun in today’s high-tech game market.  What you get here is just that.  RE: DC looks to be the perfect title that you and a buddy could blow through in an afternoon, and get some real chuckles from.  It’s shooty fun that’s easy to pick up and play.  Watch for it!

LOST PLANET 2

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What to make of LOST PLANET 2?  What you have here is an intense action game that looks incredible.  Monsters, mech-suits, rocket launchers….  LP2 has plenty going for it.  It’s the sequel, of course, to LOST PLANET, one of this generation’s earliest action games.  All of the elements that made it popular are back – mechs, great creature design, the grappling hook… Only this time, the same planet that was once covered completely in snow has thawed, as it were.  Visually, the game has changed a great deal.  Don’t worry, though; you’ll still be battling nasty pirates with their own mechs, and huge, huge alien creatures – there’s just vegetation this time – actual greenery.

Lost Planet 2 video game image (1).jpgAside from the look of the game, the biggest change is the addition of co-operative battles.  Now, players can join a squad of four online, or via network play to take on the game’s challenges.  The story, as we understand, is somewhat simpler, then, as the options for character customization are large, and you and your buddies can fashion your characters as you see fit.  The game retains its style of play, which in our opinion, is somewhat sluggish.  It eschews speed for the presence of heavy firepower, be it in your hand or in your giant mech suit.  We had fun blasting away at the massive boss present in the demo today, but the learning curve was slightly steep.  After fifteen or so minutes, we were still trying to figure out exactly what did what.  There are many components to the game’s basic action, and it was difficult to keep them in order.  Perhaps it was the developers’ intentions to give us small tastes of all of the different weapons that the game will contain, but there were almost too many things to be aware of.  You have two primary weapons to switch between, four types of grenades you can pick up, a couple of mech suits (with their own weapon choices), thermal energy assistance power, nav points, multiple enemy weak points, a healing mechanism called the Harmonizer, not to mention the Battle Gauge, which tracks the team’s performance…  It was a lot, and it looks like LOST PLANET 2 is certainly going to appeal to hardcore action game fans who aren’t afraid of a challenge.  It just seemed to us to almost have too many things going on.  The thrill of battle was swallowed a bit by all of the ways to wage it…  Hmmm…

MURAMASA: THE DEMON BLADE

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From Vanillaware, creators of critical darlings ODIN SPHERE and GRIM GRIMOIRE comes another beautiful 2D game rendered in amazing hand-drawn glory.  Even though I had not played their recent titles for PlayStation 2, I knew in one glance that the game must have come from this development company.  MURAMASA is a Nintendo Wii exclusive, and it should appeal to action lovers who appreciate a game a little off the beaten path.  The visuals are immediately enthralling, and the game’s great action only serves to make it that much more delicious.  Taking place in Ancient Japan, the story centers around two enigmatic ninjas who must use their trio of magical swords to fight off the evil overtaking their land.  Refreshingly, the game is entirely 2D.  The characters move from left to right, using sword combos and floaty acrobatics to dispatch large numbers of foes with style and ease.  After spending just a few minutes with this title, we know that it will be dripping with quality by the time it arrives on shelves this Fall.

BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM

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Batman is Batman.  No longer a side-scrolling jerk-o with punch-punch-kick combos, nor made of Lego blocks, it looks like there’s a Batman game coming down the pike that puts the detective back in Detictive Comics.  Much like the recent Wolverine game, it looks as if Eidos’s BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM is using today’s technology to give us a Batman that doesn’t just rush into a room cracking skulls.  No, it’s The Bats who can hang out in the shadows above his enemies, a guy who can use high-tech weapons to disable his opponents, and a guy who blends in seamlessly with the shadows.  If you’ve read about the game, the hype is true; it plays remarkably well.  You are Batman, and you’ve been forced to show up at the Joker’s old stomping ground to foil a plot to take over the darn place, and maybe Gotham City, as well.  The premise will be far from new for any even casual fan of Batman, but it lends itself very well to the sort of gameplay Batman fans have been denied of in the past.

Stealth is really the name of the game here, as you are encouraged to plan out your moves versus Joker’s many thugs who patrol the prison.  Start picking fights and you might find yourself quickly surrounded by half a dozen machine-gun toting foes.  But, developer Rocksteady has made it easy to get the drop on these fellows with a lot of different moves.  Glide around the high ceilings using your grappling hook, or smack someone with a batarang.  You can also pop from around dark corners and quickly subdue your foes.  If push does come to shove, Batman, of course, is no slouch – he can quickly and efficiently take-down a couple of foes with ease.  Best of all, stealthy or not, all of the game’s animations are buttery-smooth, leaving a very clean taste in the mouth of this gamer.  We only wish we could have some real hands-on time with this game away from the distractions of the show floor.  This is the kind of game that needs a bit of quiet to fully enjoy.  Rest assured that we’ll be doing just that in our living rooms very soon.  Sold!

LEFT 4 DEAD 2

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Finally, we’d like to briefly touch on this surprise announcement – the sequel to my personal Game of 2008.  LEFT 4 DEAD will be remembered years from now as the game that set up the framework for a new type of game – the first truly cooperative FPS on the scene.  Work together or die alone….  It’s a great game, and now we’ve got the sequel coming out this Fall!  We only had a few minutes this afternoon to get our mitts on this one before E3 closed its doors, but we’ll be back tomorrow for another huge helping.  First impressions: from the looks of things, Valve is not afraid to bring some sunlight to the proceedings.  It was a bit jarring to see my most recent favorite game bathed in the cold light of day, as opposed to the bleak nighttime scenarios of its predecessor, but that wore off once I was able to get my hands on the controller.

The game mechanics are even tighter than before, with less of some of the herky-jerky feeling of the first game.  Somehow, the feel of the game is more solid this time around, so that’s a huge plus.  Also, new weapons are present that seem to pack even more wallop.  Yay.  What else?  Melee weapons to choose from!  That’s great.  Uhm….New characters, and even NEW ZOMBIES!  Is it too much?  Can they add too much to the pure experience that is LEFT 4 DEAD?  Well, we can’t say quite yet, but rest assured we’ll be back with some more words tomorrow!  “Reloading!!”

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