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    Entries in pax east 2011 (11)


    Swag Giveaway: Win Free Stuff from PAX East 2011!

    I've got a massive cache of swag from PAX East that I have unsuccessfully tried to sell on the black market. Unfortunately, the demand for swag is low, but I was able to finance another year of OBG by selling a kidney. Having two is redundant anyway, isn't it?

    I've got two or three for you to win, with included items such as posters, tee shirts, keychains, masks, postcards, stickers, you name it! If you want to get in on some swag loving, leave a comment below letting us know which game or device you're looking most forward to this year. Or, just say I want free shit. I won't hold it against you because honestly, who doesn't want free shit, right?

    Winners will be chosen next Monday, April 4. Please remember to leave your email address as well, because what good is a winner without a way to contact them?

    Good luck, snitches!

    UPDATE: I got love for my international readers. Fair is fair, if you win, even if you're located on Planet Zebes, I will ship!


    Brink Secret Event at PAX East 2011

    On the first day of PAX East 2011, iam8bit said "Let there be a not-so-secret Brink secret event!" And there was Brink. And it was good. Convention goers may have been greeted sometime during their Friday romp around the Boston waterfront with a poster similar to the one shown above. Those lucky enough to find the location were greeted by over 40 stations running the sweet looking team-based shooter, as well as free pizza and drinks. 

    This was actually my first hands-on time with the game that might be tops on my list of can't-wait-to-play 2011 titles, and I was not disappointed. We were seated in groups and allotted around 30 minutes to go absolutely wild against our opposing team, which consisted of both human players and bots. Customization -- a huge part of Brink's allure -- was in full effect, however in my impatient eagerness to get on the battlefield, I completely missed customizing my avatar at all. I blame this on the fact that the group which played before mine didn't quit out to the menu after their game ended, the bastards. This may have been for the best though, as the options are so plentiful, I could have spent the entirety of my time allowed tweaking my characters appearance. 

    Thankfully, it was only my appearance that was a residual of the player before me. Once the match started up, I was able to freely switch between any of the game's four classes -- medic, operative, engineer, and soldier -- as well as change my two-weapon loadout. I'm sure what was available to us wasn't even all of Brink's unique weapons, yet the options were still staggering. I'd say close to 30 choices of primary and secondary firearms. At the outset, my modus operandi was to frag, efficiently and viciously. This worked well, I racked up the highest kill total of anyone in my game, however taking this route caused me to miss out on what Brink is really about; teamwork.

    A quick selection wheel with a layout of all objectives is available at all times during play, allowing you to keep track of tasks, as well as marking one of them for a waypoint. Classes come into play for teamwork as well, with each providing a unique set of skills necessary for a squad to emerge victorious. The medic can heal and revive teammates, operatives can interrogate downed enemies to reveal the opposition on radar, engineers can buff weapons and create turrets, and soldiers can dispense ammo. Of the above, I spent the most time with the soldier because ammo seems to go fast unless you have a steady and controlled trigger finger, which I did not. Spray and pray, baby! The ability to replenish my own ammo, as well as my teammates' was invaluable. For any action which benefitted my group, be it a frag, a class-specific assist, or helping to complete a map objective, the team was awarded points, and I was awarded experience, used to further pimp out my avatar's clothing and weapons.

    Look, you can listen to me talk about Brink all day and not be swayed, but let me share a story with you. My producer (responsible for the fine video you will find at the end of this post) hasn't been about a first person shooter since Halo 2. That's a long time ago, and it was the last time I saw him emotionally invested in the genre. He sat down alongside me to play some Brink, because why not, right? Well ten minutes later, he was screaming enemy locations into his headset and ranting about protecting our VIP escort from an accosting squad of opposing players. Brink awoke a beast I thought I'd never see again. How's that for results?

    Have a look at some of what we saw at the secret event below. When you're done, you may want to preorder Brink before it's too late. May 17 is right around the corner, and when you're navigating with S.M.A.R.T., that corner comes quickly.

    Produced and Edited by Mario Gonzalez


    Hands on with FireFall: Falling Never Felt So Good

    I made a bit of a shameful admission to Scott Youngblood, lead designer of FireFall, and I'll make the same admission to you; I had never heard of FireFall before PAX East. Granted, the free-to-download, free-to-play, almost-MMO action shooter was only announced a few months ago at PAX Prime, though it has been in secret development for close to five years by Red 5 Studios.

    Mr. Youngblood was good enough to chat with me about FireFall while I tried my hand at fragging some of the other folks in attendance at the Boston Convention Center. The game is played entirely online, across multiple game modes. There is a shared, open world that can be inhabited by hundreds of players at once, as well as instanced matches ranging from 5-on-5 to army against army. The armies are FireFall's equivalent of guilds, and unfortunately, Mr. Youngblood wouldn't let out how large army vs. army matches would be.

    Team deathmatch was the only mode playable at PAX East, which is good enough for me, as it was a blast. After you successfully deplete an enemy's health, you have the ability to finish them off from close range with an execution. It takes two or three seconds to pull off, but executing the downed opposition is a surefire way to score a point for your team. Sure they can bleed out as well, but in this period there's always the chance that a teammate revives them, denying your team the points for your hard earned kill.

    The map I played at PAX East was wide open; a large playground of powered suits making boost-jumps and frantically gunning each other down. We weren't told how many maps would be available in the final product, only that the developers plan on expanding on the world post-release, so we can expect updates with new maps well into release, free of charge. Maps will never cost the player any money. And the map, like the character artwork, just looked good. The thick outlines that go along with cel-shaded art made the entire game look like a smooth running comic book. My eyes were very pleased during our play session.

    Aside from competitive matches, there are also cooperative scenarios to keep like-minded players working toward a greater cause. Resource gathering is a large part of the game, but while doing so, the world will not slow down as you reap rewards. Thus gathering is probably best done in teams, as you'll have some help fending off the worlds hostile mobs. We didn't get too in depth into resources, but crystite is one of the resources that is extremely important, used in just about everything in the world. From what I've seen, 'mining' consists of an orbital drop of equipment called a Thumper, which mines for you and attracts mobs, allowing you to play defense. That's all good, especially compared to resource gathering in other games. However my fingers are crossed that it gets no more tedious than Thumping. 

    Now let's talk classes, which FireFall calls battleframes. The build we played featured three; the offensive minded assault frame, supporting medic, and fast moving, light hitting recon. Just a note here, the developers have made absolutely sure that the medic, while a support class, is not limited to that, with the ability to be a viable offensive force on its own. I can vouch for that, as I was able to register quite a few kills as a medic on my own. Each battleframe has its own special abilities and weapons. The primary weapons have alternate fire functions, which can be changed as new weapon modules are found in loot or from enemy drops. The battleframes also have secondary weapons, as well as unique skills, which each had three in this build. As in most team-focused games (the well designed ones, anyway) working together is encouraged and rewarded. Aside from basic assists, there are several classes that can execute abilities in unison to increase efficiency on the battlefield, further proving that teamwork pays off. Each frames abilities are all on cooldown timers, which can be foregone if you know your maps and find the proper power-up, one of which completely resets your timers.

    I'll say it again; FireFall is entirely free, so any type of customization we get is gravy. Fortunately. there is a modest amount of customizing you can do. You'll be able to buy or find better gear such as entire frames, modules, and different backpacks, which will only visually benefit you if you play in the very viable third-person perspective. By now you must be thinking, the true customization begins when you start shelling out the cash for this free game, right? Yes and no. Mr. Youngblood was very explicit in stating that you will NOT be able to purchase power. So the the broke guy playing in his school's computer lab can still be on even ground as the chick who spends her week's pay on Firefall. Buying will however, net you things like different colors for your frames, extra backpacks, and items to beneficially affect the resource gathering process.

    FireFall has incredibly promise, not only because it's free to play, but because it's fun to play. I'd advise you to head over to the FireFall homepage, where you can sign up for the beta, which if it's anything like what was playable at PAX East, is considerably polished for a beta build. FireFall hits retail -- maybe I should say freetail -- at the end of 2011 as a PC exclusive. And in the words of Scott Youngblood himself, "Hope to see you online.. In my crosshairs."


    Bastion Narrates its Way into the Spotlight

    Supergiant Bastion wallpaper, courtesy of the good folks at Supergiant Games

    Way back in September of last year, I saw a trailer for a humble game named Bastion that brought me back to my days of power gaming as a teenager. Any title capable of evoking such fond memories is one to keep an eye on, and Bastion is no different. Found on a whim at PAX East, the thought of this game came rushing back to the forefront of my mind. Oh yes, hands on baby.

    In classic RPG fashion, your character is awaken from sleep and ventures out of his home to seek his destiny, however instead of an annoying pet or underage girl as your companion, you are accompanied by the dulcet tones of the narrator. The vibrant and lively world pops up under your feet as you stride forth, introducing you to the simple combat mechanics when it's not busy wowing your eye sockets. Bold colors are bountiful in Bastion, something that is much too rare in this day of the browns and grays of post-apocalyptic modern warfare.

    This is the old school at it's finest, renewed for the modern day, of course. Your character -- the Kid, as he's called -- does everything expected of the hero archetype in a three-quarter perspective role-playing game; swing his melee weapon -- in this case, a large hammer -- shoot arrows from a safe distance, block attacks with his shield, and roll-evade from danger's path. These actions can be beautifully mixed without missing a beat, and without a miscued moment from your narrator either. All these actions are introduced from the outset, leaving many more abilities and weapons to be unlocked as you progress, I'm sure.

    The Kid will probably play out as one of those silent protagonist types, which I ain't mad at. Some folk take exception with mute heroes, but in this case it gives the wise old narrator a chance to shine. The anonymous voice calls it as he sees it, dynamically narrating the Kid's actions in real time, as well as unraveling the story in a classy way that only a faceless, comforting, gravelly voice can. He's like the second grandfather many of us never knew we had.

    I didn't play for too long, but I don't think it matters. Bastion has shaped up to be pretty special, and has a chance of being one of the year's best indie titles if the cards fall into place before release. Expect it on Xbox LIVE Arcade, Summer 2011, with a PC release to follow.


    Fez Teaches Perception is Reality, and Reality is Subjective

    In one of the corners of the PAX East show floor lie Fez, a game I've been salivating over for some months now, and what could end up being one of 2011's best platformers. You who are not concerned with ingenuity and thoughtful gaming can stop reading right now. Though for those brave enough to explore the tenets of "reality is perception," and "perception is subjective," please read on.

    The lovely world of Fez is composed primarily of trixels; 3D pixels which lend a decidedly 8-bit feel to the old 3D model formula that has been the norm since the mid to late 90s. Fans of the PS3 exclusive 3D Dot Game Heroes will feel right at home in Fez's town of Villageville.

    The real beauty however, comes after the protagonist, Gomez, speaks to his village elder to discover this is a day of great importance. Gomez receives a Fez in a dream sequence of sorts, and when he wakes on what appears to the the same day, something is different. He can now traverse Villageville in a way which he can rotate the world on an Y-axis, allowing new platforming opportunities to be discovered in the most creative of ways. The mechanic is not the easiest for my non-trixel brain to put to words, but the included PAX East gameplay video should allow you a greater comprehension. The mechanic is quite brilliant.

    Once I got the hang of the perspective-altering power of the Fez I tried speed-running. That might not have been the best idea, as I missed a bunch of jumps and fell to my death on multiple occasions. Speed-running may require some experience -- AKA failed jumps -- but I'm sure once your mind is calibrated for world-turning and once you've learned the world itself, it can be done effectively. Perhaps speedruns in Fez are unnecessary, as the beauty of the trixels as well as the gravity of what exactly you're doing (twisting the freaking world) should be enough to keep you entertained for hours. The difficulty isn't as steep as something like Super Meat Boy, but Fez is still a joy to play.

    If you don't have your frequency set for Fez already, you should get on that. Polytron Corporation's mind-bending game-changer will release sometime this year, and honestly, I don't think that's soon enough.


    Some of the Sights of PAX East 2011

    By time you read this, PAX East 2011 will long be a thing of the past, sadly. Though the good time had by all will not be completely forgotten, because we got flicks, yo! Here are some of the fun and interesting things spotted on the show floor. Sorry, no photographs of Team OBG acting a drunken fool at the bars by night. Enjoy!

    Gallery: PAX East 2011


    Everything's Fine with El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

    I've said it before, I love games that have enough balls to twist and challenge the perception of religion. I'm not talking about the title that mixes bible mini-games such as herding animals into Noah's ark, or quick-time events to part the Red Sea. I'm talking Jesus throwing fireballs at Roman soldiers and performing a miracle that clears the screen of all incoming projectiles, or Pontius Pilate raining MIG 29 vulcan rounds onto the city of Jerusalem. Maybe not to that extent, but El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metratron seems to trail down the course of the latter, while still maintaining enough religious context to be loosely informative.

    The first thing you MUST notice about El Shaddai, is the incredible visual style it employs. In the time I spent raining holy hell down onto my enemies, I heard many a PAX Easter look at the game and make a positive remark about the visuals. If you're some sort of recreational drug-user, El Shaddai will probably bring you to a state of inebriated nirvana. Even if you're the straightest edge in the congregation, you're still going to love the detached, ethereal backgrounds. And though the actual graphics may be lacking -- the PS3 demo I play looked almost like it could be run on a Wii -- I didn't care, because the style was enough to simultaneously capture and blow me away.

    The control scheme is so basic, I'm sure even the Pope could pick up the controller and start chaining combos. One button for attack, one for jump, one for block, one for purification. Different attacks are executed by keeping the button held or timing your button presses, for instance, tap tap tap performed a light hitting chain of attacks, whereas tap, pause, tap brought out a more devastating attack. The intuitive control scheme makes it easy enough while discouraging button mashing. Purification -- the act strengthening a weapon by ridding it of it's defiling essence -- can be performed on a downed enemy, treating you to a slick disarm animation. Each of the games 3 primary weapons has it's own disarm sequence, and different enemy types allow you to perform a different purification.

    I worried this game would be a little too much for devout Christians. Though Shane Bettenhausen, UTV Ignition Director of New Business Development, pleasant dude, and lover of all things El Shaddai, informed me that the hardcore religious who played it the demo at PAX East for the first time were not only cool with it, they enjoyed it. Total plot twist!

    El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron will be available in North America this summer, with the PAX demo available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 shortly before release. Until then, stay tuned.


    Impressions of a Fallen Frontier

    After hearing about Fallen Frontier just recently, I was stoked to spend some time with it on the PAX East show floor. While still an early build, I would be hard pressed to find many flaws with what I was able to play.

    Right off the bat, what caught my eye about Fallen Frontier is the awesome way it handles split-screen co-op. Players exist on the same screen until one ventures off too far, at which point the screen is bisected in whichever direction the wanderer has moved off to. For example, if the first player is at the right of the screen, and the second moves off screen to the left, a split-screen line will divide the screen vertically. As the players move around independently, the split screen adjusts to track them. When the players come back together, the screen is once again whole, without a beat missed. It's hard to describe, you can see what I mean in the trailer attached below, but wow, why has no one ever thought of this before? It's really brilliantly simple.

    Adding to the co-op experience is the fact that the second player is said to be more than just a throw in to accommodate a bored friend. Player one plays a human who sets out from Earth on a personal mission of revenge. Player two controls an augmented human, which looks kind of like a cyborg. The idea here is rather than terraforming planets to create suitable living conditions for humans, it was the people who are adjusted to inhabit to the conditions of their home world.

    Your character can hold any two weapons as well as grenades, in addition to using a couple of secondary abilities to spice things up. This build featured a grappling hook -- with no cooldown -- which allowed our slow moving heroes to zip around the environment with relative ease and increased speed. It has uses in battle as well, such as the pleasing combination of pulling an unsuspecting enemy into a cloud of fresh buckshot. The grappling hook makes the shotgun a viable long range weapon of sorts. There was also a forcefield pushback, which knocked back everything in your immediate area, be it enemies or grenades. Helpful in a pinch if you become swarmed or need to clear a grenade with a short fuse. More abilities will be available in the final release of the game, but these two were the only ones we were able to see.

    The developers stated much inspiration was drawn from Blade Runner, and it shows. Not only because of the mesh of organics and robotics, and no, your character doesn't look like Harrison Ford, but mostly due to the bright-yet-dreary beauty, in similar style to Blade Runner's futuristic world. The backdrops are startlingly lovely, akin to concept art used in production, and executed very well. The character models are crisp, animated well, and generally look great.

    Unfortunately, we're going to have to wait until 2012 for Fallen Frontier, which is shocking considering how tight the build I played was. A true testament to its development process and the pedigree of those working on it.


    Hands On with Nintendo 3DS, Advil Not Included

    Have I been critical with the Nintendo 3DS? Of course, how could I not be? While Nintendo is usually on the forefront of innovation (see: motion control) throwing their hat into the 3D suck-o-sphere caused me to rub my chin and wonder why. Why is facial hair so rough? Why can't I grow a full beard? Why is Nintendo jumping on the 3D bandwagon?

    Let me get this out of the way; 3D hurts my head. Though I am notorious for drawing headaches from simple things such as bright light (acute Vampirism doc tells me), this is different. Raise your hand if 3D screws with your head too.

    Of the 3DS games I played at Nintendo's PAX East booth, I took the lowest expectations over to Steel Diver. Surprisingly, the game itself was better than I expected. Shiggy Miyamoto has that type of effect on games, I guess. The primary actions of the mode we played included diving, surfacing, and adjusting the periscope by scanning the console. The controls were simple and felt natural. Unfortunately, 3D and sea motion don't play nice together. How does one play this game for more than 30 minutes without feeling utterly nauseus?

    3DS gameplay cannot be captured over photo or video, so here is a picture of a kitten doing kung fu in its place

    The 3DS title that I most wanted to play was Kid Icarus: Uprising. A popular figure for Nintendo finally gets some much overdue love by way of a new title. After playing the game, I couldn't help but ponder if Nintendo secretly hates Kid Icarus, and has been plotting its failure since development on Uprising began. Why, you ask? Terrible controls. You have to work the joystick and trigger with your left hand, while maneuvering the stylus with your right. I hope your left-handed grip is immaculate, or you game over a mattress, because your new $250 investment could go plummeting to the floor if you're not careful.

    I walked away from Nintendo's booth most impressed with Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. Partially because I love score attack modes -- Mercenaries modes in previous Resident Evil titles have always brought me joy -- and partially because, well, they've taken the feel and look of Resident Evil 4 and 5, shrunk it down, and built upon it nicely nicely. Did you know you can enter first person mode when shooting, and also move while aiming? That's right, this is 2011! Maybe in 2020, we'll see something as crazy as shooting while you run. Also, Hunk. No story to be found here, just tons of score attacking, with two-player online co-op and a wide assortment of playable characters. Also, Jack Krauser.

    TL; DR: 3D still sucks. I'm convinced the 3DS is a gimmick. While the sturdy and attractive design of the hardware has somethings going for it, the faith it places in a (foolish) technological trend, as well as the lack of a true software standout caused me to leave Nintendo's booth feeling slightly underwhelmed.

    Though honestly, I said the same thing about the DS, and look how that turned out. If I end up eating crow, I'll be the first to admit it.


    Is the Average Gamer Ready For L.A. Noire?

    My opinion of L.A. Noire has been on an upswing lately. The more I see of it, the more I realize Team Bondi and Rockstar are genuinely trying something different. So for that, respect knuckles. Yet for some reason, there is a bit of worry in the back of my mind. Like Red Dead Redemption before, I thought L.A. Noire was going to slap on a coat of 1947 to Grand Theft Auto 4 and call it a day. After previewing a good chunk of gameplay, I am now assured that this is not the case, in fact it's almost the complete opposite. What appears to be a greatly detailed story is accompanied by investigation and interrogation gameplay, with action taking a back seat.

    Fans of the CSI will love this stuff. You arrive at the crime scene, and survey the area, doing everything from questioning beat cops and coroners, shooing off pesky journalists, and inspecting evidence for clues to cracking the case. Relevant information such as case notes are stored in your journal, which acts as a menu screen, where you can assign active objectives and keep log of all records to track back to in the event that you have any questions about any case you've undertaken, past or present.

    The journal is handy when interrogating suspects, whom you pepper with questions and must judge whether their responses are truth, lie, or if they're not giving it to you straight. Of course, the MotionScan technology allows characters to show truly honest emotion with incredibly detail, making it a joy to try to read your suspect's expressions and habits while trying to catch them in a lie. Of course, this is detective work. You can't just point your finger, call them a liar, and have them locked up and sent to Alcatraz. You need evidence! How do you know the man across from you hired someone to kill his wife? A quick look to you journal reminds you of the ominous sounding note written by the man, found in his apartment. Book 'em, Danno.

    I was told the game's action -- fist fighting, and shooting -- is a reward of sorts for good investigative work. I was shown a scene where after successfully accusing a man of the crimes committed, he jumped up and started throwing punches at our newly promoted homicide detective, Cole Phelps. The brawling was in typical GTA fashion it seemed, nothing really special to note. Which is one of the reasons why I hope it's held to a minimum. The demo didn't show any gunplay, which is said to be a "last resort" but I can't imagine it being done differently at all, or playing a prominent role in the game. Fingers crossed for a Private Eye mode, where time slows and you can paint your targets before unleashing a hail of hot lead. That's some Red Dead sarcasm, folks.

    With that said, will L.A. Noire appeal to the average gamer, or will it be a conflict of interest for generation kill? Heavy Rain tried to make a game feel more like a movie, and while it did well critically, it lacked commercial middle ground, with gamers either loving or hating it. While not nearly as dramatic a departure from typical gaming as Heavy Rain, L.A, Noire is putting the focus on something other than running, shooting, flying, slashing, jumping, or anything like that. Rockstar has faith that gamers are ready to explore the life of a homicide detective by questioning suspects, following leads, and inspecting evidence. While I was once skeptical of throwing $60 on another Grand Theft Auto clone, I'm actually convinced that it's different enough to warrant a buy. Now my eyebrow is arched toward you, gamers, and whether or not you're ready to accept a game like L.A. Noire.