Friday, June 18, 2010

E3 2010: Third-party Games

Wednesday and Thursday of E3 are almost always devoted to second and third party developers, more notably the latter, as second party games are usually tied in with the big three companies’ showings. The systems the third party games are being released for appears to be rather balanced, and the genres more broad than last years’ FPS-dominant showing.

Valve gave us a taste of the much anticipated Portal 2 with a quick teaser, and it seems GLaDOS isn’t as ‘dead’ as gamers previously thought. Some time has passed since the first game, as Aperture Science is overgrown with plant life. The trailer was more focused around hyping up the game than giving gamers a good idea as of what new gameplay features would be implemented, but there is an obvious improvement in the level of detail of Portal 2’s graphics. Valve has stated that Portal 2 will be much more story-driven than its predecessor, but it is unclear as of yet whether players will once again be in control of Chell or a new test subject.

Fallout: New Vegas showed off quite a bit of gameplay, while still catering to its target audience with zany and twisted humor dominating the trailer. From what has been shown thus far, it seems Bethesda is sticking with the same engine they used for Fallout 3, so much of the gameplay will likely be very similar. Based on the events of Fallout 3 and its related downloadable content, it will be very interesting to see where Bethesda goes with the story of Fallout: New Vegas.

Although the series has hit more than a few bumps in the past as to who owns distribution and title rights, F.E.A.R. is returning with its third chapter from Day 1 Studios. This time around, Paxton Fettel and the Point Man are teaming up as the events of the second game come to a head. I was a bit uncertain if the third game could live up to what Monolith provided in F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, but it seems that Day 1 Studios wants to try and improve on the pre-existing story and mechanics as much as possible without sacrificing the elements of gameplay that already work well for the franchise.

Capcom is delivering more zombie-slaying goodness in both Dead Rising 2 and Resident Evil: Revelations. The former takes place in Las Vegas and utilizes the do-it-however-you-want-to style of the first Dead Rising, while the latter promises to close some more of the gaps in the Resident Evil story while utilizing the capabilities of Nintendo’s 3DS. Capcom has also promised a third entry into their Capcom vs. Marvel arcade fighter series.

Konami appears to be changing up the gameplay significantly in Metal Gear Solid: Rising, which may very well be built off a completely different engine than that of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The story is meant to bridge the gap between the second and fourth games in the franchise and explore how Raiden changed so drastically in that time frame. What little gameplay was shown had Rained slicing and dicing people, buildings, cars, and even watermelon with pinpoint precision and sometimes pulling a Matrix-style slow-mo sequence for better aiming. I don’t imaging Kojima would release a Metal Gear Solid title without including some stealth elements, but Rising seems to be taking a cue from Guns of the Patriots in allowing gamers more freedom in how they wish to tackle a mission. Also, there is a distinct possibility that Metal Gear Solid: Rising could be used with Sony’s Move controller as well as Microsoft’s Kinect, as the game is slated for release on both the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow showed off plenty of gameplay, though a lot of this was already showcased at E3 2009. The voice acting cast was highlighted and the trailer put a large focus on the story of Lords of Shadow. There were some gameplay elements that distinctly resembled God of War and Dante’s Inferno, as well as Shadow of the Colossus as Gabriel scaled a gigantic foe. With all that in mind, Lords of Shadow is drastically different style of game than its platform prequels and is building up to be a strong title for late 2010.

EA’s Dead Space 2 seems to be taking more than a few cues from other horror genre games, most notably Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Developers have stated that the sequel is much more story-driven and from what the trailer shows, it seems that returning hero Issac is suffering from some sort of dementia following the events of the original Dead Space. A few new enemies were shown off, but the most notable change in the trailer is the broad range of lighting and environments in Dead Space 2, as opposed to the largely drab half-lit grey hallways of the first game.

Civilization V, a response in no small part to the upcoming Shogun Total War 2 and the recent Napoleon Total War, is being built from a completely new game engine, while including many strong elements of Civilization IV. The game will follow the same story pattern as all previous games in series as players begin in the old world and progress to the space age. There has been a significant graphical jump since Civilization IV, but it isn’t nearly as impressive as some of the other strategy games currently available for either consoles or PC. That said, the game has yet to be released, so improvements in this department are not out of the question. The developers are catering more to community mods and putting a greater emphasis on online play.

Square Enix showed off some footage of Final Fantasy XIV, which is an online title, leaving the story largely up to the player in contrast to the very much story-driven Final Fantasy XIII released earlier this year. The game appears to have a much more old-world style to it, harkening back to Final Fantasy I, II, and III. While not much of the gameplay was covered, the trailer makes a point of showcasing many different character builds and classes. Square Enix also announced a new title for Nintendo’s DS, separate from both the traditional Final Fantasy storyline and the Crystal Chronicles storyline. The Four Heroes of Light, as the game is currently titled, is focused around the DS’ multiplayer capabilities, though not much of the story has been revealed as of yet. Both showings could have been better - XIV highlighting more gameplay elements and The Four Heroes of Light showing off more than a few battle sequences - but it is nice to see that Square Enix is spreading themselves out across multiple systems and catering to different tastes.

Disney only showed off a little bit of both trailer footage and actual gameplay with Epic Mickey. The story centers around Mickey entering the world of all the rejected and forgotten Disney ideas, and the characters that inhabit that world have been fighting on the side of either Lucky the Rabbit or the Blot. Mickey uses a brush to paint in elements, such as platforms or items, to help him along his journey, while having the ability to delete things as well. In conjunction with Square Enix, Disney has another Kingdom Hearts title on the way, this time for Sony’s PSP. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep appears to deal in large part with the keyblade wars, and can hopefully build up and provide some explanation for the eventual Kingdom Hearts III. Neither of these games was shown for very long, nor did they highlight any hugely impressive game mechanics, so hopefully Disney will have more footage and information a short while after E3.

Eidos is bringing back the Deus Ex series, much to the surprise to many gamers. Deus Ex: Human Revolution will act as a prequel to the the original Deus Ex and carries the same cyberpunk style of the other games. Though the last release was in 2003 with Deus Ex: Invisible War, it looks like Eidos is putting plenty of effort into keeping the old fanbase while trying to aim at newcomers. The cutscenes for Deus Ex: Human Revolution are being handled by Square Enix and show off some very impressive stylized visuals. The footage shown thus far focused mainly on the game's cutscenes, so gamers will have to wait to see gameplay footage.

There were many other third party games showcased and to put them all in this entry would take up a huge amount of space. I specifically chose to cover the titles above as these were titles that had little to information or footage revealed pre-E3 2010. Unlike E3 2009 wherein many game engines were directly recycled to create sequel titles with a few tweaks or improvements here and there, the games of E3 2010 are much more original and building up to be far more impressive. Though there’s really no way to tell how successful these games will be until their actual release dates, I’m personally very excited to see the finished products and it just goes to show how the third party developers are pushing the envelope in order to compete with one another.

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