Last year was the first ever PAX East in Boston Massachusetts. It was a huge success, so this year it was moved to a bigger convention center, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Did the move payoff and what was there? Let’s dig in.
First thing is the overall convention experience. The BCEC(Boston Convention and Exhibition Center) is HUGE. It had more than enough room to accommodate everything needed for the convention this includes the Expo Hall, 6 theatres for panels including a massive Main Hall, console tournament area, console freeplay, PC freeplay, classic console freeplay, classic arcade, a very large food court, an IGDA dev center, Jamspace, tabletop gaming section, as well as Dance Central and Rock Band setups. So, there was a lot to do and a lot of room around the convention center to just hang out. There are also hotels all around the BCEC so its not a long walk. My hotel was one block away so that was really nice. The same can’t be said about the rest of that area of Boston. There are some seafood restaurants, a Dunkin Donuts, and a 7 Eleven near the water, but other than that there is nothing as it is mostly an industrial area. It was quite a walk to an area where there was fast food of any sort. It also makes it difficult for events away from the convention, such as sponsored parties, because to get to any place that can host is a long walk or cab ride away. Its not terrible, but given that at this time of year Boston can have some nasty weather it could be a future problem. Speaking of the weather it was not bad at all. It was cold on all the days, but that is expected in the Northeast during March. My one real gripe with the convention as a whole is something that is really out of their control. To get into panels it has become necessary to lineup at least an hour early. With so much to see and a limited time frame to do it I hate waiting an hour to get into a panel. Its already an hour or more wait for some games on the show floor and then to have to wait almost as long to get to a panel is tough. Overall the convention was great I think it really befitted from the move to the BCEC and now that they have found a home for the convention they can work on refining it for that area. Now onto the games.
The Nintendo booth area was very busy and packed from the time the expo hall opened to when it closed. Yet I was able to walk right up and play Mario Sports Mix without a wait. Mario Sports Mix follows in the footsteps of other Mario sports titles. This one offers up basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, and hockey. All the modes control a little differently, but they all have the same underlying setup. Each character has certain stats in each sport and they have their own special abilities. Oddly enough despite the simple controls there can be a lot of strategy when playing. For instance in basketball the offense needs to try and get open for a shot while the defense needs to time their steals and blocks. Overall the game is really fun to play and is one you will want to play with friends.
Now you might be asking yourself what made the Nintendo booth so busy and the answer is short and sweet. 3DS. The Nintendo 3DS was there with a bunch of games to try out. In playable form was Steel Diver, Kid Icarus, Pilotwings, Lego Star Wars III : The Clone Wars, Dead or Alive Dimensions, Nintendogs + Cats, Super Street Fighter IV 3D, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, AR games, and a little known game called Ocarina of Time. I did not get to play all of them, but what I did play left me impressed. Before getting to the games I’d like to talk about the 3DS itself. It is well designed and the ability to turn the 3D on and off at will even mid game is a very welcome feature. The joystick on the 3DS took some getting used to because it does not move how most people are used to with joysticks. However after spending some time with it that foreign feeling went away.
First up is Steel Diver which is a game about submarines. The big feature of this game is who the submarine is steered. Basically moving around the 3DS in your hands is how you steer and it takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it the mechanic is really cool and it showcases the 3D really well. The rest of the game is about sinking enemy ships and avoiding obstacles. The game will be one of the launch titles for the 3DS so it will be one of the early proving grounds for the system.
Next up is Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D which I actually played at the Capcom booth and not the Nintendo one. This game is based on the Mercenaries game mode introduced in Resident Evil 4. In fact the demo level was in the village from Resident Evil 4. There were four playable characters Chris Redfield, Claire Redfield, Hunk, and Krauser each with their own weapon set. I played as Krauser whose main weapon is the bow and arrow. The graphics looked very impressive for a handheld as there were no jagged edges on models everything was very smooth. The game looks good regardless of whether the 3D is on or off, but the depth that the 3D brings is noticeable. I played a round of mercenaries and did well. Its easy to pick up and play. This game can be good for playing in quick bursts while waiting for something or playing it for hours trying to beat top scores. I’m going to tack my Super Street Fighter IV 3D onto this since they’re both from Capcom. This is all I have to say about the game. Its Super Street Fighter IV in 3D.
I got to play some of the AR games as well. These I thought very little of until I tried it and it was very cool. Basically there is a card on the table and you point the 3DS at the card and now it looks like the card has sunk down into a pit in the table. Then targets pop up around the pit and you need to physically move around the table to shoot them. Then after that a dragon pops out of the pit and you again need to move around the table to shoot his different weak points. After defeating the dragon I was treated to a small fireworks display. Words cannot do this justice as it is something you would need to see for yourself. The tech is very impressive.
Then there was this game for the 3DS called Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. Its only one of the most loved games of all time and now its back with some brand new polish. The game looks fantastic with the upgraded visuals and the 3D effects from what I saw are more subtle than in some of the other games. The controls feel natural and are responsive. I was able to jump right in and find my Kokiri sword so I could go see the Great Deku Tree. Inventory management comes from interacting with the touchscreen. This is a bit of an annoyance, but there really isn’t anytime in the game where you need to do quick inventory switching so its a minor issue. With the Master Quest being included and other changes and/or additions this is the game that would make me by the 3DS if I was on the fence. This will be a big seller by itself and will help sell systems.
Need For Speed World had a very cool setup with the pedal and wheels. The game is Free to Play on the PC and will be using micro transactions for new cars and upgrades. You can also earn new cars and upgrades from playing the game, but at a certain point there will be a disconnect between the free and paid content. To play racing game son the PC you really need a controller or the wheel setup as the keyboard is not adequate for this kind of game. The game ran very smooth and it is a game I think people should check out since its free. The game had already gone through a beta phase and it is now going full on live on the PC.
There was a bunch of games that were coming out on Xbox Live Arcade from EA and one of those was the game Warp. The premise of the game is you’re an alien who is being held in a lab to be experimented on. You can however teleport over short distances and you will need to use this to escape the underwater lab. You can warp through walls, into objects an people. Warping into a person you can then explode them from the inside. This is how you can dispatch the guards in the lab. You can warp into objects to hide or disable security systems. There will be more opportunities in the rest of the game to use the warp power in creative ways. The game should be out this summer on Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and PC(probably on Steam).
Another Xbox Live Arcade game I checked out was Beyond Good & Evil HD. I was a big fan of the original and now it looks really pretty to go along with its story and gameplay. The visuals have been upgraded and it shows in the demo I played. If you never played it the first time around I highly suggest picking this game up. As I talked with the woman at the booth we were discussing how this was probably a test to gauge interest. If it does well they might put Beyond Good & Evil 2 back on track. So, even if you already played it and even if you still have a copy buy this to show your support for the game. It goes for 800 Microsoft points or $10.
I was very surprised by Fire Fall which is a free to play online shooter for the PC. The game plays like Team Fortress 2 with jetpacks. It also has a very interesting death mechanic. When a players health is dropped to zero he falls to the ground and then it is on either their own team to revive them or the enemy to execute him. This leads to a game of baiting and diversions as a kill won’t count until the person is executed or dies from the passage of time. There is a time limit for the player’s team to revive them before they will just respawn. Currently there are three classes Assault, Medic, and Recon. Each classes has special shot types like skills that do different things. After using a shot type it has a cooldown time before it can be used again. The game will also have micro-transactions, but they will be cosmetic enhancements and not something that would unbalance the game. While not confirmed it seems that new armor types and skins for characters would be what can be purchased. Every class type has a jetpack allowing them to use the terrain to their advantage. Recon players will go for the high ground and fight to keep it while the Medics stick to ground and running from cover to cover while healing. The game is skill based in the fact that higher level players will have advantages, but it doesn’t mean they will win. They are dedicated to keeping the game balanced as much as possible. The game has a very interesting art style as well. It looks cel-shaded at first glance, but only parts of it actually are. There will be a beta starting soon and I think its definitely worth checking out.
Time to get to the big guns. Battlefield 3 had a booth that had entrance restricted to Gun Club members although when I went in they didn’t check at all. It was a live playthrough that went through the trailer out now and past that. This game looks amazing. It sets the bar high in all categories and looks like it will deliver. The audio is fantastic as everything sounds very realistic. The animation is phenomenal and the use of ANT really shines in all the soldier’s movements. Since they will be releasing the rest of the trailer in pieces I will not spoil what is coming, but just know it is exciting.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution has been coming for a long time and not a lot has been seen from the game. Well they did a live playthrough of part of the game followed by a Q&A session. Here is what I learned. This game looks really good in the visuals department with everything from particle effects to textures to character models. The on thing that seemed to be stressed in the playthrough is the options available to the player. Missions can be tackled in many different ways including what equipment is used, paths taken, and the lethal or non-lethal attacks. There will be many augmentations to use and combine for desired effects. The story also could be flexible as it is set in the future where corporations control almost everything and there is constant civil unrest. There are multiple sides and the main character Adam Jensen has no side, so you are the wild card. With a release date of August 23rd this game will be the start to the fall rush of big games coming out and it looks like it will be a major player.
That wraps up the stuff I played at PAX East. There was alot I couldn’t get to like The Darkness II and L.A. Noire, but its near impossible to see everything. I had a great time there and look forward to PAX Prime later this year. The next big game news event will be E3 where some big news rumors are already beginning to circulate. We will have to wait and see what will happen.
A - Top notch and stellar. This game accomplished everything that it set out to do and then some.
B - Great! A game worthy of a B means it is a requirement for any gamer to get. Only slight set backs seem to hit a game like this.
C - Games that get a C rating are good. They may not be great. They may not be fantastic. They are fun, interesting, and worthy of a play-through.
D - Average. Sometimes games play it too safe, sometimes they don't step out of their bubble, and sometimes they have too many problems. But they are playable and you may still find fun. Those games deserve a D.
F - Don't play this. The game failed in what it was trying to do. It's not fun and it's not compelling. The game may or may not be playable, regardless, if it has an F, it's probably safe to say you shouldn't play it.