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Game On, Bitches: PAX East, Day Two

03.30.2010

Day Two of PAX East started off with a bang. In my hands was RED DEAD REDEMPTION. This is Rockstar Gamesí newest title and their first full sandbox game since GRAND THEFT AUTO IV and a follow-up to RED DEAD REVOLVER. The game is a sandbox action game and brings a Western grit to the well- traveled genre. If youíve ever played the original RED DEAD, GUN, or CALL OF JUAREZ, youíll have a good idea of what Iím talking about.


The uber-stylish opening image for RED DEAD REDEMPTION.

I enjoyed most of my time with RED DEAD REDEMPTION. Most of the gameplay that I cherished was galloping in the dessert, shooting farmhands, blasting wild animals, and flipping my horse. Reminiscent of just roaming around in Liberty City from GRAND THEFT AUTO IV, I explored the dessert running into a nice variety of animals to murder. Bunny rabbits, rams, birds, armadillos, bears, and more, are there for the epic slaughter. When carving the fur off of a beast thereís a wonderful blood splatter that made me feel like a man.

Also central to RED DEAD REDEMPTION is combat, whether it be on foot or on horseback. The game utilizes a slow-motion mode, called dead eye, that allows for very targeted attacks without relying on auto-aim. This definitely came in handy when dealing with a large group of enemies.

Overall, my experience with this game was a good one. I loved the setting and the character was charmingly dark enough to make his story worth following. While RED DEAD REDEMPTION wasnít my favorite game of the show, it has enough potential to deserve your attention.


The Family of MAFIA II.

Following my time with RED DEAD REDEMPTION, I had hands on time with MAFIA II, PRISON BREAK, SHANK, PRINCE OF PERSIA, SKATE 3, LIMBO, HYDRO THUNDER, and HYDROPHOBIA. Of this group, MAFIA II was easily the best mainstream game and SHANK and LIMBO tie for the best indie games. MAFIA II feels like the version of THE GODFATHER game that I wish was made. Itís a mob game in the 1950s full of classic cars, crazy gangsters, and expansive storytelling. If youíre interested in trying out a GTA-style game in the mid 20th Century, MAFIA II has got the goods.


A gorgeous sunset in SHANK.

In the indie world, two games stood out at PAX East: SHANK and LIMBO. SHANK is a 2D side-scrolling action game with a fantastic art style and glorious over-the-top violence. If youíve ever played the old DOUBLE DRAGON or NINJA TURLE games and wish that someone updated the gameplay and graphics, SHANK is it. You play as Shak, a dude battling an endless barrage of baddies and bosses with your shanks, grenades, two-fisted pistols, and a chainsaw. The creative director mentioned that the look is meant to reflect the action and feel of SIN CITY. Every character is hand drawn and their animations really make this game stand-out from the crowd.


The blurriness of this picture is not the cameraís fault. Thatís how this game looks!

On the opposite side of the 2D side-scrolling spectrum, LIMBO is a dark and emo puzzle game that has a similar feel to the mega-indie hit BRAID but with more blood and angst. You play as a tiny lilt shadow dude trying to make his way through a forest covered with endless obstacles and puzzles. The foggy stark art design makes the game instantly unique and fascinating to look at. The puzzles will require a bit of brain power and clever problem solving skills. Like SHANK, LIMBO is not only one of the best indie games at PAX EAST, it is also one of the best overall games.

The other games that I had the opportunity to check out were a bit less impressive. PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE FORGOTTEN SANDS was probably the most disappointing with slow combat controls and a mixed message about the protagonist. One on hand the prince is dressed like Jake Gyllenhaal from the new PRINCE OF PERSIA movie. On the other hand, the prince doesnít look like Gyllenhaal and derives most of his looks from heavy metal prince seen in PRINCE OF PERSIA: WARRIOR WITHIN. On the upside, the level that I played was very reminiscent of the movie KINGDOM OF HEAVEN which would be a fantastic setting for a game. Overall, I was not impressed by the PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE FORGOTTEN SANDS and I hope that UbiSoft is able to pull this thing off when the game hits shelves in May.

I had a nice walk through of the game PRISON BREAK. As most of you already know, movie and TV games get a pretty poor reputation and, unfortunately, this is not the game to change this. PRISON BREAK looks to be a pretty simple stealth game set during the first season of the [now canceled?] show. The main protagonist is the storyís bad guy as you work to undermine the efforts of the showís heroes. I wasnít too impressed by the graphics, originality, or gameplay of this game. However, I do think that fans of the series PRISON BREAK should at least give the game a shot because the storytelling might surprise. If you keep your expectations pretty low you just might be surprised.


A look at the SKATE 3 Booth at PAX East.

I wonít waste too much of your time on SKATE 3 because the time I spent with the game was incredibly limited. The simple fact is, SKATE 3 appears no different, on the surface, from the rest of the games in the series. Fans of SKATE or SKATE 2 might have a reason to get excited. Unfortunately, I was never sucked into the series and didnít see enough new here to be convinced otherwise.

Last, but not least, I had the opportunity to try out two other indie games, HYDRO THUNDER and HYDROPHOBIA. The first game is a remake/redo of the arcade classic of the same name. The game appears to be a faithful adaptation of the original and, according to the PR rep, has all new levels and competition types. The game was interesting and will intrigue fans of the original but nothing convinced me that I would be purchasing this game. Meanwhile, HYDROPHOBIA has an interesting concept (a big boat is sinking and the main character is afraid of the water) but just wasnít polished enough to warrant a complete review at this time.

Overall, there was a lot to play and see at PAX East. While I spent my two days playing games, talking to developers, grabbing swag, and socializing, there was also hours of panel discussions, gaming tournaments, Wil Wheaton, and endless pathetic cosplay. This was truly a convention designed for gamers of all stripes.

After considering all of the games that I had the opportunity to try out, picking my favorite game of the show is a bit of a challenge. Even though this game is a small indie and might not deliver as much long term value as titles like CRACKDOWN 2 or RED DEAD: REDEMPTION, SHANK won me over as the best game of the show. This titleís devilishly playful style is catchy and fun, sick and exaggerated, and destined to make you laugh and frustrated for hours to come. So, when the game comes out this summer on the XBOX Marketplace, please save some space.

BEST OF SHOW: SHANK!



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Source: Cool Columns

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