Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Demo Round-Up

As is probably obvious from the relative silence that has featured on the blog lately, August has been a busy month for me. As a result I haven't been able to dedicate any time to the things I want to do, including, unfortunately, playing videogames. The bulk of my August play-time has been with digital offerings: downloadable titles and previews that are quick and easy to jump in and out of, and don't require hours upon hours of time to enjoy. I have managed to play Tomb Raider: Legend and make a return to Fallout 3, but generally speaking my game time has been with games of the digital variety. Trials HD, Peggle, WipEout HD, and Super Stardust HD have all been on the menu lately and you can expect some posts on them over the next week or so.

I've also played quite a few recently released demos, here's some brief impressions of them.

Shadow Complex -- I'd own this game if I could afford it but as my wallet is empty (the reason for which you will find out very soon) I had to settle for the trial version. I'm glad I did because it answered a question I already knew the answer to: would my incredible bias towards all things Metroid mean that I'd love Shadow Complex? You bet it would. Favourable reviews, unexpected controversy and my bias aside, what Chair Entertainment and Epic have done with this game is impressive if the trial is anything to go by. It looks great, makes a particular type of game rarely seen these days relevant again and directly appeals to the type of player I am: a completionist and explorer. Definitely looking forward to buying this as soon as my wallet allows it.

Wet -- I decided to download this demo on whim and well, what a pleasant surprise. It's not going to be a classic but then, it doesn't need to be either. The B-movie, grainy aesthetic was done well and while it does look rough, it works for the highly stylised experience it's trying to convey. Really, it's all about the combat and versing the game's enemies was surprisingly enjoyable despite the sometimes floaty-like feeling the controls would deliver. Its use of quick-time events concerns me a little, and the demo's transitioning between the different gameplay elements Wet will provide was blunt, but this latter point is probably irrelevant to the final experience and as such, is nothing worth discussing further. There isn't much else to say as I still don't know too much about it. It was a pleasant surprise and while I won't be buying it on release, I wouldn't say no to it sometime in the future either. Make of that what you will.

Section 8 -- Another game I knew nothing about. It started off well enough, appealing directly to my sci-fi interests with ships up in space, technologically enhanced suits and a very interesting way to drop into battle, but then when I landed on my feet I realised that the demo was playing out like a multiplayer game. In fact, the main portion of the demo seemed to be multiplayer based, with the option to search for matches over Xbox Live being very prevalent in the menu screens. I chose the other option provided, Instant Action, and entered a game against bots instead. For what it was, it was enjoyable with some nifty features like a hover jump included to spice things up a bit, but I can't deny that it wasn't what I expected either. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't a multiplayer-type game. I'm not sure if it has a single player campaign that plays out differently so I will reserve judgement for now, but if it does then it strikes me as a little odd that they didn't include some portion of it for the demo, because at the moment it seems like a Shadowrun or Unreal Tournament type of game -- in other words, not really my thing.

Mini Ninjas -- My interest in this game piqued after reading an EDGE article about it recently, as well as seeing the gorgeous art direction in the article's pictures. Finally seeing it in motion was nice, but playing the demo was better. I can't quite pin-point why, but the game gave a Zelda or Okami vibe to me while playing it, something totally welcome in my book. The combat was satisfying and seems to have enough depth, especially if you include the other playable characters. That said, it was only a small portion of the game so it remains to be seen if the combat will become repetitive or not. The little bits of included humour seems like a welcome touch and yeah, I'm quite keen on playing this now. It comes across as a title that should be distributed digitally and it's unclear if it will be worth the full retail price, but regardless of that I suspect I will be buying Mini Ninjas at some point in the near future.

Batman: Arkham Asylum -- I have a confession to make, I don't really know much about the Dark Knight other than the basics and as such, have no real interest in the Batman universe. Horrible, I know, but for whatever reason Batman (and most comic book/superheroes) has never really been on my radar. That said, the mild hype surrounding the newly released (as of today) title was enough to sway my decision when it came to checking the demo out and, like Wet above, I was pleasantly surprised. The game does a fantastic job of empowering you as Batman and it feels great to control and play as the character. Combat was accessible yet enjoyable, as was sneaking around and making silent kills. Performing glide kills, using the Batarang and grappling to various objects feels as you would expect a game about Batman would, and by the end of the demo I actually had an interest in chasing the Joker throughout Arkham Asylum. Not a bad impression for someone who isn't invested in that world like many others are. Potential purchase in the future, absolutely.

DiRT 2 -- Day one purchase for me, but that doesn't surprise you does it, given my racing influence? I loved the original DiRT and this latest demo showed me that I will love this game, too. It still looks absolutely gorgeous and the presentation for the menus is impressive as well. Handling took a bit to get used to and felt a bit floaty at first, especially in the point-to-point event, but as I continued to play I realised that it felt very similar to the original game which is not a bad thing. I'm still not sure how I feel about the mix of events included in the main game and suspect that, like the original, the X-Games styled events won't really interest me all that much, but the overall experience should be great fun. I look forward to playing it next month, and I also look forward to seeing how they've offered their tribute to the late Colin McRae, may he rest in peace.

Killzone 2 -- Sony's big blockbuster FPS franchise was, well to be frank, uninteresting. It felt like just another shooter to me, which makes me feel slightly guilty given it's popularity and, of course, the insane hype that surrounded it before release. Don't get me wrong, it looks great, feels like a competant shooter and what I did play in the demo was fun, but yeah, I dunno, maybe I am just over so many shooters these days? I wouldn't say it was generic, but it was familiar and that, I have to say, was disappointing. Won't be buying it, sorry Sony.

There you have it, all the demos I have played recently. Aside from that last one, all were released within a few days and were perfect for the quick and easy gaming that seems to be the only thing I can manage lately. I'm glad I was able to check them out and in doing so, I now have some games on my radar that weren't previously. Can't go wrong with that.


Scott Juster said...

Man, does your ISP know you're downloading all this stuff? I hear that, in Australia, they send thugs to your house to beat you if you go over your cap. ;-)

Maybe this will be the impetus to get you into Batman? It's never too late...

I'll have to check "Wet" out. Any game with Malcolm McDowell is worth a shot.

Joseph Rositano said...

Steven's ISP doesn't count Xbox Live or PSN downloads towards his quota for the month. Lucky bastard. :P

Out of all those games mentioned, I'm interested in Batman and Mini-Ninjas the most. Batman because I have a soft spot for the Dark Knight and have always found the characters to be dark and kooky. I love Tim Burton's Batman films, and the newer ones are alright but can get a little boring between action scenes. The fact Arkham Asylum is getting rave reviews is very promising, it isn't every day a licensed game is praised for its fun gameplay.

As for Mini-Ninjas, it just looks like the type of game that would appeal to me. I don't know why exactly, but from the second it was announced I took an interest in it. It just looks different, doesn't take itself too seriously, and more importantly, looks like a lot of fun. I'll admit it sort of slipped under the radar for a second due to a certain assassin finding a place in my heart this year (god damn Ubisoft, I want AC2!!!), but Steven has reminded me of it and I'm keen to check it out.

I'm on the fence as to if I'll be purchasing either game, I've got a fair bit already stacked up which I haven't touched yet. By the time I get through them, Batman and Mini-Ninjas would likely be reduced in price, so I'm thinking of waiting.

Thanks for the impressions Steven, now time to go wasting my bandwidth on some demos! ;)

Steven O'Dell said...

Scott -- As Joseph mentioned, my ISP doesn't include Xbox Live downloads as part of the monthly quota so I can get away with massive download sprees. They do count PSN downloads though so I'm kinda glad that most of these demos came out on both services. You're right about them thugs though, not only do they beat us if we go over our cap, they slow our speed down to the pace of a snail, if not worse, then mock us with their bigger and more expensive plans until we either A) die of boredom thanks to the slow speeds or B) upgrade, only to then go over the cap for that plan too... Such is the life for those of us living 'down under'.

Impetus to finally get into Batman eh? I wouldn't rule it out, actually. I read somewhere that the game could be a great starting point for someone new to the universe, so combined with my enjoyment of the demo, I'm half-tempted to give it a go and see what happens. Watch this space, I guess. ;)

Joseph -- Yeah, Mini Ninjas does the same for me. I knew nothing about it, then all of a sudden I started seeing it everywhere and ever since I've been in love, so to speak, with what it seems to be trying to do. I'm fully expecting it to be the game I turn to for relaxation and to just have fun, despite the fact that it will probably be quite hard or challenging in some parts. Should be interesting to see what the final product is like.