PAX East 2014: Unleashing My Inner Monster with Evolve

When I heard that Turtle Rock Studios (the talented guys and gals behind the excellent Left 4 Dead) were bringing their upcoming title, Evolve, to PAX East in Boston this year, I knew that would be my first stop on the show floor. Arriving earlier than normal to get a better position in line, the Evolve booth was larger than life complete with a 20 foot statue of the monster in the demo, the Goliath. Even though the wait to play was a bit longer than I anticipated, getting to go hands on with Evolve was well worth it.

evolve

For those of you wondering what Evolve is, the best way to describe it would be a human controlled boss fight. Four hunters, each representing a certain class (Assault, Trapper, Medic, Support) are sent out to hunt down and eliminate a monster who’s out to grow stronger and destroy the human characters. While the full game promises to feature more game modes, we only got to try out “Hunt” where the four human characters tried to hunt and kill the 1 monster character before it can level and destroy a generator.

For the sake of transparency, I played as the Goliath (Monster) during my demo time so what follows is perspective based around that. I can’t speak to how the four human characters play as I didn’t actually get any time with them. The full Evolve experience can be read after the jump…

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PAX East 2014: Hands On With Below and Super T.I.M.E. Force

Capybara Games (Critter Crunch, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP) has seemingly been plugging away at two of my most anticipated titles for what feels like an eternity. Can’t deny their past successes so while waiting is (really) hard, it’s definitely a benefit to the final product. I was pretty excited to see Capy once again going big at PAX East this year and quickly hustled my way over to both booths to go hands on with Below and Super T.I.M.E. Force. You’ll find my detailed thoughts waiting for you below on both titles.

Below
I’ve always been curious about this title since it was teased at last year’s Microsoft E3 conference. As the details have been slowly coming out since then, I found out that Capy was bringing it with them to PAX East this year. I knew I needed to try it. Located in the hybrid Capy/Double Fine booth, I sat down at a little station, put on the headphones and instantly became absorbed into this world.

Described as a creative take on roguelike games, Below presents a top-down and pulled back view of a tiny warrior navigating through a mysterious cave. Each room is randomly generated ensuring that it’s a unique experience each time through and will feature the traditional roguelike “tough but fair” difficulty. The animations on the little warrior really impressed me even with his tiny size on screen. Each sword swipe, jogging animation, and shield bash was so detailed, I couldn’t help but be in awe. it has this almost cute but menacing look to it. As I continued to play, I found myself more curious than anything as Below won’t hold your hand in an effort to tap into your explorer side urging you to discover things on your own in this atmospheric world. And discover I did as my curiosity lead me into some pretty devious traps and enemies.

Below-Cave

As my character died for the first time due to my own curiosity and stumbling into a spike trap, that’s when the game’s soundtrack kicked on for the first time softly playing and gradually getting louder. My God people, the music! Jim Guthrie has once again nailed it as the song began to play, it fit so well with what was going on screen, it was beautiful magic. For a taste, have a listen here. I could have played more and I wanted to, but I could feel the evil eyes of the growing crowd behind me, so reluctantly, I gave up my seat and controller to the next person in line to hopefully experience the same joy I had just felt.

Below isn’t for the faint of heart and proves to be a difficult game. That’s part of the fun in my opinion as even though you *will* die, Below encourages discovering and exploring. Combine that addictive gameplay with amazing visuals and what will be a stunning soundtrack, Below is definitely one to watch out for when it releases in a few months for Xbox One and Steam.

Super T.I.M.E. Force
This pixelated, side scrolling shooter has been in development for a while now, but this was my first real opportunity to get some hands on time with it. Located in the large Microsoft booth on a single machine, I finally got my chance to bend time and space to my will.

Essentially a trippy action shooter with gorgeous pixel art, STF is Capy’s take on old school side scrolling Contra style games. Super T.I.M.E. Force challenges players to quickly make their way from beginning to end of a level in 60 seconds, but also gives the player the ability to not only add additional seconds but to mess with it in some very interesting ways as well.

STF_future1

The aspect that really impressed me was the “Time Out” mechanic which is at the core of this title. Time Out records previous playthroughs and when activated, will play them out with your current character giving you the appearance of having more than one character playing at once. Think of it as single player co-op.  Initially, I thought it was only to be used when your character died (one hit kills naturally), but after watching and understanding how to use it effectively, the possibilities that it adds to the game cannot be understated. You can essentially use Time Out anytime you want (even though you do have a finite amount) giving you as many copies of your previous runs as you want to help out your current “live” character.

At one point in the game, I had to save a character trapped behind a steel barrier. I could shoot at the beam and eventually it would break, but alone, the chracter would be killed by an enemy in the room with him. by using Time Out three times, I created three copies of my previous characters all shooting at the beam. With this much firepower helping me, the beam was destroyed very quickly and the enemy beaten before it could kill that character. The copies then disappear when during their run, the Time Out feature was called for them so it’s not like you can have a huge army following you through the whole level.

I actually surprised the Xbox employee when I beat the demo level so quickly and he asked me if I wanted to sample the next level. Of course, the only correct answer was a resounding yes! Being third in line and watching the mistakes of the people in front of me certainly helped. Capy’s sense of humor is on full display, the playable characters are all diverse and interesting, and the game is just downright fun. While we don’t have a solid release date quite yet, it does sound like the game will be gracing us sooner rather than later, first on Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program.

Side Note! I got a chance to quickly meet Nathan Vella (co-founder/President of Capybara Games) quickly when he stopped by the Super T.I.M.E. Force booth. Awesome guy, and someone who’s very easy to root for and support.

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PAX East 2014: Breaking (More) Bones With Trials Fusion

Happy Trials Fusion week everyone. With the new title now available across the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, I figured what better time to tell you all about my time with the hard as nails dirt bike game? The entire game was open to me this past weekend at the Penny Arcade Expo and here are some thoughts based on that experience.

Honestly, if you’ve ever played this series before, there’s not much new to report on in terms of gameplay. Fusion is like putting on a great fitting outfit, it’s comfortable and familiar. Don’t get me wrong here, that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s still that physics based time trial racer and it’ll still prove to be hard as nails as the difficulty creeps up on you. You’re still going to be hitting checkpoints, nailing difficult jumps, and trying to set the fastest time on a course with as few faults as possible.

This time around though, Trials does have a few new things to show you however.

trialsfusion_deepfreeze

The biggest change is the look. Since it’s hitting “next-gen” systems these days, it’s easily the best looking Trials game to date. The colors are vivid and pop off the screen and the clarity on display is impressive. The game is also set in this futuristic and high tech world which allows RedLynx to introduce new ideas as well. For example, one level I played was being built as I was riding through it which was thrilling and scary as sometimes it looked as though you’re not going to land on anything. The new theme works really well in the scope of the game.

The other big addition this time around is a trick system which RedLynx refers to as “FMX” or Freestyle Motocross. These moves can be performed at anytime with the right stick or during special FMX events where the goal is to make it to the end of the level and accumulate points for doing stunts. In retrospect, I should have probably run through the tutorial but headstrong and full of pride, I decided to start with a medium FMX track. Unlike most traditional BMX style games, when using the right stick to perform a trick, the rider kind of ragdolls almost, so you’re not going to see some perfect looking “can-cans” or “cliffhanger” style moves. It’s almost comical and maybe a bit clunky in how it performs but overall I did enjoy this new aspect to the game. I’d highly recommend starting off with the FMX tutorial however to full understand how the system works. Don’t follow my lead here.

Quad bikes/ATVs are another new addition to the game and while I was not able to try them out, I did watch someone else use one and it looks to be another strong addition if not a little odd looking considering it takes up way more of the screen than a dirt bike.

In the end, if you’re a fan of the franchise already, I see no reason why you should avoid Trials Fusion. It looks to have another great campaign taking you through each difficulty level with heaps of tracks and things to do along with staying true to the addictive gameplay from past games. With more multiplayer and a more robust track creator shipping as well, Fusion looks to be one of, if not the strongest entry in the series yet.

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PAX East 2014: Hands On With Murdered: Soul Suspect

Murdered: Souls Suspect is a game that shouldn’t appeal to me. It lacks fast paced action, doesn’t involve competitive multiplayer, and isn’t even another shooter. Even after all that there’s something really unique about it that pulled me in and I knew I had to give it a try on the show floor. I’m really glad I did.

Murdered1

You play as Ronan O’Connor, a detective who comes from a rough background including multiple run-ins with the law before joining their team. One night, he’s called in to investigate a reported disturbance of breaking and entering. After confronting the individual, the two get in a tussle and unfortunately for Ronan, he’s tossed out of a window at the top of the building. Not quite dead, Ronan has an out of body experience, looking down at his body laying in the street. Trying to figure out a way to wake himself up, the killer enters the picture again, grabs Ronan’s gun and fires multiple shots into the downed detective. The job here is done, but before Ronan can enter the afterlife, he’s locked into this spirit world until he can figure out his own murder.

The world of Murdered can be compared to L.A. Noire or Heavy Rain as it’s heavy on story and detective work. Where this game separates itself from others in this field is in the fact that you’re a spirit. This opens all kinds of doors in how you approach crime scene investigations. As you comb through for any clues, you can actually possess living people and perform any number of actions including eavesdropping on conversations, influencing witnesses to give up more details, and also reading notes. It was an interesting mechanic and I’m curious to see how Airtight expands upon these systems as the game progresses outside of the opening sequence.

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The aspect that excited me the most however is the setting for the game. Taking place in modern day Salem, Massachusetts, this sleepy town is rocked with the news of Ronan’s murder. Where the magic really takes place is in the spirit world. Walking around the town as Ronan, you’ll see constant reminders to the town’s controversial past with the Salem Witch Trials. It’s in this spirit world that Airtight can really go crazy with things from the past as I saw things like gallows, references to the Witch Trials, and even spoke with a little girl who was obviously alive during the age of pilgrims as she was dressed how they would have been back in the day. Interestingly enough, Airtight even managed to explain why Ronan, as a ghost, can’t walk through doors. The residents of Salem, during the days of the witch, placed spells on their doors preventing spirits from entering unless the door is open already. It’s a neat little explanation of something that’s pretty basic. From a historical standpoint, the setting is fascinating and works so well with the themes of the game.

I found the overall premise to be extremely interesting along with the hint that not all spirits are friendly. This was an aspect I didn’t get to see during my time with the game, but I’m curious to see how that will fit into the gameplay. Visually, the game looked great, but probably won’t rival games like inFAMOUS Second Son or even Ryse: Son of Rome and I became comfortable with the controls fairly quickly which allowed me to really get absorbed into this world.

Murdered: Soul Suspect launches on June 3, 2014 for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. I, for one, can’t wait to dive further into this interesting world.

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PAX East 2014: Watch_Dogs Hands Off Demo Impressions

In an effort to be completely transparent with you guys, Watch_Dogs still remains one of my most anticipated upcoming titles. It was the major reason why I made the jump to next generation consoles as well and even though it was delayed for a while from its original November date, I’m still very amped for it.watchdogs_screen

So when I heard Ubisoft was bringing the open world shooter to PAX East 2014, I was thrilled. Considering it’s a month away, I figured it would be a perfect time to let people go hands on with it to really get the hype train rolling again.

Then came the news that it was hands off and my excitement levels plummeted.

For those of you who attended the last couple of PAX East events, you’ll remember that Ubisoft likes to bring their AAA games with them, but instead of giving people access to them, they create these theaters for people to go in and watch. You may also remember that the gameplay is typically released a few weeks later for everyone to see, so realistically, you feel like you’ve wasted your time. It’s because of that, I had no intention of waiting in a line to see Watch_Dogs. A small concession to make sure I see the other things on my list, I thought.

As it turns out, that’s not at all what Ubisoft had planned. They pulled a Splinter Cell Blacklist and had the demo running on an open stage allowing everyone to huddle around and watch the gameplay. This was an excellent decision as it allowed everyone to watch without needing to wait a couple of hours in line. So unexpectedly, I found myself paying particular attention to the demo and I wasn’t disappointed.

The first thing I noticed is how beautiful the game looked. I tried to look around to see someone playing or the origin point of the gameplay. I saw a beefy PC, but as it turns out, things were not as they seemed. What’s interesting is that the footage has been confirmed by Jonathan Morin (WD creative director) to be that of the PlayStation 4 version. After hearing this I was surprised because the game is visually impressive similar to that of a game like inFAMOUS Second Son. The light reflected and the sun glared off the road especially after it had rained, and I found myself drawn in by the character animations. If you remember the E3 2012 reveal gameplay, then you know what I’m getting at. It’s very slick and easy on the eyes.

In terms of gameplay, I never really got a sense on what was going on, but Ubisoft was showing off one of the missions in the game. Aiden was apparently hunting down a target (for reasons I must have missed) which ultimately culminated in the player causing a traffic accident and preventing the character from escaping in a vehicle. Using an IED and his phone to trigger the explosion, the target was eliminated. All of this chaos prompted people in the area to contact the police which kicked off the second part of the demo where Aiden works to escape the police. with little prompts in the world letting you know what can be interacted with, this player opted to use the “Blackout” in which the electrical grid of Chicago is powered down and everything goes dark. It’s a really impressive effect and performing that allowed the player to escape the police, park the car in an empty lot and turn off the car lights to lose his tail.

While I would have absolutely loved to have gone hands on with the title, I’m at least glad that Ubisoft didn’t hide the game behind a closed off theater. This way, at least people could get a good look at the game even if they couldn’t play it. Visually, it’s mighty impressive especially now that the PS4 version has been shown off. Here’s hoping that they release the gameplay footage in a couple of weeks so everyone can have a look.

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Saturday Video Round Up: April 6 – 12

Did you see my post yesterday? That’s right, I’m currently in Boston attending the annual Penny Arcade Expo, seeing all the sights and sounds. Even though I’m there, the Round Up must continue and since it’s Saturday, here’s a brand new edition. Lets find out what’s on tap, shall we?

Bethesda has unleashed another trailer for their upcoming shooter, Wolfenstein: The New Order which again shows off an alternative history where the Nazis were not actually defeated during World War II. While the game looks brutal and violent, it also looks like there will be a bit of dark humor to go along with it to helpfully level off all the seriousness. Gearbox and 2K Australia has made the rumored Borderlands Pre-Sequel game fact with a brand new trailer detailing some of the new aspects players will find when they help Handsome Jack rise to power later this year. Unable to attend PAX East? The Evil Within wants to help by giving you a look at the gameplay they’re showing off in a brand new trailer for the horror game.

I’ve also got new videos for The Last of Us Remastered, Below, Child of Light, and so much more after the break, so come check out this week’s batch of trailers!

The full list of videos await you after the jump…

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The Gamer Crash Roadshow – PAX East 2014 Edition!

Well folks, it’s that time of year again when the Penny Arcade Expo rolls into Boston. PAX East has been a yearly tradition for me since it began back in 2010 and like always, I’m going to do my best to bring you everything I can right from the expo. I’m on my way into Boston as we speak but here’s some more information on just what this all means for you, dear reader.

I’ll be at the show starting today (Friday) through the weekend so you may see a smaller Video Round Up than normal since I won’t have much time to update it right up to the start of tomorrow (Saturday). Still, I’ve collected a ton of great video content so make sure to stop by and see what’s up there. if you’ve been reading my site for a while, you’ll also know that I post impressions of games that I go hands on with at the show followed by a post-PAX show wrap up. The content will run as long as I have things to write about, so look for that to kick off on Monday.

As usual, you’ll want to be following me on Twitter as I like to update often from the show floor with impressions, thoughts, and pictures. I try to make it seem like you’re there as well. You can find me on Twitter @GamerCrash or simply click on the Twitter feed to the right of this post to be taken to my page.

Want to see something or know something at the show? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter and I’ll do my best.

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