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Event Hype: E3 2012 Livebloggin’

Coming Soon: 2012 E3 Media Briefings Every so often team ESH has the pleasure of attending events in person, and this year 4 members of the crew will be descending on LA next week to bring you all the video game news, previews, and hands-on recaps than you can shake a stick at. (Why you’d […]

Sega Welcomes You To Their “Nightmares”

When the Kinect was first announced a couple years ago players across the globe had high hopes regarding what can be accomplished with the peripheral. Sadly some of our gaming prayers have yet to be answered. Since its inception the Kinect has brought us party game after dance game after exercise title, and while they’re not bad per se it still is leaving the hardcore gamers craving for more. Fortunately SEGA has heard our woes, and at E3 this year gamers were given the chance to go body-on with Rise of Nightmares, the first-ever first-person free-roaming survival melee Kinect title.

Developed by Sega AM1 (the same folks behind the House of the Dead series) the story follows an American held captive by an evil doctor known as Viktor. His wife is missing, and after being rescued by another prisoner the American must find his lost beloved and escape from the deranged doctor’s lair. Throughout the creepy asylum players must battle with those of the undead, solve puzzles and find keys to unlock the doors that will lead them closer to freedom.

During the demo I was instructed by Sam Mullen and Rowan Taffler, who were running the booth, on how to maneuver my character throughout the levels. A front step with your right leg moves your character forwards and a back step moves him in reverse; twisting your upper torso left and right turns your character in the direction you want to go. To interact with an object you hold your right palm up and place it on the object, and pushing your palm out will push items or open doorways. Then came the time to learn how to battle it out with the undead. By raising your lowers arms up to your waist you enter melee mode, and by punching the air you can battle it out with these zombified nurses and experiments. In some cases you can even use weapons such as lead pipes, brass knuckles and rusty chainsaws to take out your enemies in very fun and gruesome manner.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how fluid the controls were in this game, as there seemed to be no lag between what I was doing in real life and from what was going on on the screen. With the exception of a couple titles I’ve always had issues with the Kinect reading my movements. Playing the Rise of Nightmares demo I found no problems whatsoever with it measuring all of my motions. Granted it will take time getting used to remembering how to walk properly, but that’s what trial-and-error is for.

Seeing what Sega AM1 did with the remastered HD version of House of the Dead: Overkill for the PS3 I was more than impressed with the graphical input they put into Rise of Nightmares. Most importantly this game just might be sporting the most freakiest and horrific undead creatures since Resident Evil 4. It’s no wonder they went with the title they chose: seeing these hollowed-out and occasionally mechanical zombies lunge at you will probably be one of the creepiest moments this year in gaming. The overall chill you’ll receive while playing Rise of Nightmares is also quite impressive, thanks in part to the combined elements of Kinect controls and first-person perspectives .

Because you’re in first-person mode it is you that is being attacked by these creatures, which will add more to the creepy level as the game progresses and the undead become tougher. (My advice: don’t play this game in the dark!) The game is expected to have a run-through time of eight hours, so there will be plenty of frights in store in Rise of Nightmares. As of this moment SEGA is keeping it quiet regarding if any multiplayer modes will be in the game, though with only a couple weeks until its release date it’s safe to say there won’t be.

With the ten minutes I was able to play Rise of Nightmares it’s clear that SEGA knows exactly what it’s doing in regards to motion control. What we were promised two years ago has finally come to pass, and the folks at Sega AM1 seem to know what the hardcore gamer wants by making a title like this. With a release date of September 6th Rise of Nightmares could potentially be one of the best Kinect titles of 2011, not to mention one of the scariest games on any current-gen console.

Latest "Metro" Shines Brightly Through The Darkness

Metro 2033 was one of last year’s scariest first-person shooters out there, but 4A Games and THQ are looking to up the ante with the sequel Metro: Last Light. At E3 I had the chance to view a video demonstration of the first few minutes of the game. When I left the subway-styled booth I was blown away by what I had seen.

Last Light is set after the events of the bad ending of Metro 2033, where Aryon allowed the missiles to fire on the Dark Ones. The city’s only power supply is the remaining D6 weapons, and you are forced to survive during the darkest hour in war-scarred Russia. The demo begins with you climbing down a sewer hole, and entering a well-lit room. After shooting the lights out you have to sneak up on the guards and kill them before they notice you’re there. A firefight will ensue, so Aryon will have to duck and cover in order to battle it out with the guards. Once cleared you’ll enter the guard station and grab a machine gun turret, which will help lay waste to any of the opposing forces that want to enter and take you down.

The developers then jumped to another section of the game, where you infiltrate a military rally. You meet up with Khan, who tells Aryon his plan to blend in with the other soldiers in order to take down the leader. Slowly you maneuver through the crowd, making sure to not look ever-so suspicious. Suddenly two guards appear at the leader’s post, warning him that someone has snuck in. Quickly Khan pulls out his revolver and fires into the air, making the soldiers disperse and giving you and him enough room to escape through the underground town.

The graphics in Metro: Last Light so far look stellar, even in its pre-alpha stage, and the soundtrack used to create the aura of the title was standout. Even the tiniest crunch of soil beneath your feet could be heard as you walk through the darkness. However I am still curious to see how the game acts hands-on, as there needs to be a good control scheme to make the title deemed playable. Though an official release date has yet to be announced we know that it will be available sometime in 2012 on the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and PC. This will give gamers plenty of time to get used to the darkness, and prepare themselves to find the brightest moment of hope in Metro: Last Light.

Atlus Wants You To "Rock", Roll and Squash!

Fear not gamers, for this is not a video game based on the hair metal Broadway musical. Instead Atlus and ACE Team’s Rock of Ages is a game whose concept can be explained in its title alone. At E3 I had the chance to go hands-on with the title, leaving me with my funny bone tickled and a much heavier anticipation for the game’s release.

As the Greek character Sisyphus players will have to literally roll through the various time periods, bringing wanton destruction with your giant boulders and taking down every person you come face-to-face with. The opponent will be doing the exact same thing, so it’ll be up to you to defend your area from being destroyed. You’ll find yourself creating ruins in Ancient Greece, flattening out the Dark Ages in Medieval times and smooshing the hearts (and bodies) of the townspeople in the Romanticism era. Gamers will also be given the chance to go head-to-head in various multiplayer modes, including rock-to-rock combat, SkeeBoulder, Time Trial and many more to be announced soon. At the Atlus booth I was able to try out two of their tutorial modes, one main level and go head-to-head with one of the guys from Atlus in a multiplayer mode.

For the tutorial modes I was given the opportunity to figure out the ins and outs of Rock of Ages. Aram Jabbari, Atlus’s PR & Sales Manager, gave me a quick demonstration of how the game works before handing it off to me. You move the boulder around the town, destroying everything you can to build up points. You also must learn to swerve around objects during crucial moments, as at the end of the level is a door that needs to be smashed open to win. The level is completed when you squish the king behind the door.

Maneuvering the boulder in Rock of Ages is somewhat reminiscent of playing the game of labyrinth, in which you’ll find yourself trying to teeter on the thinest strips of land, trying hard not to fall off. Fortunately if you do fall off you’ll be picked up by the hand of God and dropped back into the game, though you might be penalized if this does happen. In regards to defense mode players will be able to build towers and place catapults in the way of the opponent’s rock, which will either slow it down or send it flying off-course. Gamers will also be able to insert balloons and other weird flying machines that will block the opponents from enter hidden paths, and command animals to keep the boulder from reaching its goal.

While playing Rock of Ages one key word kept ringing in my head: Pythonesque. The game pays heavy homage to the British comedy legends, especially to Terry Gilliam’s animation style. Characters and worlds seem to be pulled right out of those kooky, nonsensical cartoons that take classical art pieces and use them in such a way that their original creators were spinning in their graves. Even the soundtrack adds nod to Monty Python, with silly screams from the people and crunchy crashes from the buildings you destroy; and yes, the king at the end of the level gets flattened with a farty splat.

While I played the single-player mode at the Atlus booth I had to play the multiplayer section in the Microsoft section at E3. There I met with Atlus’s Assistant Editor Clayton Chan, who showed me the ropes of two of the multiplayer modes. First we both went head-to-head in a regular multiplayer battle. I made the quick mistake of spending too much on useless defense items instead of saving them for more powerful boulders, with the end result being Chan handing my ass to me on a silver platter in what was a very close battle. I quickly got my revenge, however, in SkeeBoulder, in which the more items I smashed the higher my points would accumulate when I reached the end of each level.

After hearing so much about it beforehand I was very happy with the results I’ve seen thus far in Rock of Ages. With a release date of August 31 on PSN, Xbox Live Arcade and PC gamers will not have to wait long to play a game that will not have them rolling through the times, but also all along the floor laughing their heads off.

E3 Lets The "Rage" Boil In Gamers’ Blood

Rage is one of this year’s most hotly anticipated titles, and after going hands-on with it at E3 there are plenty of reasons why.

Developed by id Software (the same folks that brought us Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake) and published by Bethesda Rage will have players take the role of a survivor in 2038, where a meteorite impact has caused the world to let all hell break loose. Hostels and mutants reek havoc on what’s left of Earth, and it’s up to you to restore order in your area. With your trusty dune buggy you must travel throughout the land to blow away the freaks and creatures that aim to strike fear into the hearts of the remaining survivors.

At E3 I was able to go hands-on with the Mutant Bash TV level. In it your character participates in a game show where you’ll have to kill mutants in the quickest time possible to earn cash. You enter a certain section of the TV studio, and the mutants enter through the floor, doors and Futurama-styled pipe entries. As soon as I walked onto the game show floor the mutants came charging at me, with my initial response being to shoot until everything in the room is dead. Easier said than done, for the AI in Rage is ridiculously hard. I found it took roughly twenty shots to kill the weakest of characters. However when it came to take on the final boss of the level (a Kraken-inspired freak of nature) I wound up destroying him in under a minute, which was quicker than dealing with a regular mutant.

I had a bittersweet experience with the controls. The good news is it’s easy to switch weapons and use the secondary ones, sometimes while in the toughest parts of battle. Meleeing is also far easy than in most games, coming in as second-nature to what you do in the game. However because of the speed of the AI it was almost impossible for me to aim properly at the mutants, leaving me to waste more of my ammo than actually use. Trust me when I said that easy melee maneuver will come in handy when six of those creatures are slicing at you all at once. One big side of Rage features some of the most gorgeous graphics I’ve seen in a game at E3. Everything from the scratches on your dune buggy to the facial expressions on the mutants was heavily detailed, and with the game running at sixty frames per second and no lag it is clear that not a second of the four years it has taken to create the game have not been wasted.

What I saw at E3 was just a fraction of what to expect when Rage is released, a title that will also include two multiplayer modes, weapon and buggy customization and even Burnout-styled racing. With a release date of October 4th on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC id Software is gearing up to show once again why they’re the true kings of heart-stopping first-person shooters, and with Bethesda on their side Rage is looking to blow people away with its stellar graphics and apocalyptic gameplay. Just prepare to use your melee skills to the fullest potential, and savor the bullets for when the right moments come.

"Skullgirls" Puts The Hurt On E3

At PAX East this past year Autumn Games was hosting a preview of Skullgirls, a 2D anime-influenced fighter in the same vein as Street Fighter. There you were able to try out as two of the characters: Filia and Cerebella, Going hands-on with it back then I was drawn in to its visual and fighting style, but I felt that the women lacked a sort of variety, leaving me a bit cautious of this title. At E3 this year Reverge Labs and Autumn Games showcased a third character to the Skullgirls realm, and it was here where I started to find the strong variety this game can showcase.

The new character, Peacock, is a big nod to the classic cartoons of the 1930s and 40s, what with her Victorian-styled attire and slapstick-influenced fighting techniques. While the way she punches and kicks is unique it is the types of combos she can do that really make the character standout. Out of nowhere Peacock will pull out shark-toothed knives, cannons and mallets that she can use to stab, fire and smash her opponents. (She can even throw pies.) Also she has the ability to call out remote control bombs and planes to do her evil bidding, not to mention shoot a massive laser that’s been cleverly hidden in her hat. One of her combo attacks also has her beating up her opponent in a cloud of smoke and appendages, quite possibly the biggest of the classic cartoon nods Peacock showcases.

Like PAX East the Skullgirls booth at E3 had a joystick setup for its controls, giving the experience a more classic arcade feel to it. Button-mashing, for some reason, feels more natural in regards to playing the game this way; in fact I feel more comfortable playing a fighting game like this than with my regular controller. I am still curious to see how Skullgirls plays with a regular controller, so hopefully Autumn Games will be able to showcase the playing experience from a true console-playing point-of-view. The animation continues to be stellar, with even the tiniest of details on Peacock eyeballed arms drawn to near-perfection.

With at least five more characters to be showcased in the Skullgirls world I am still wondering what kind of tricks the other characters will be able to pull. With a release for later sometime this year on the Xbox Live Arcade and PSN Skullgirls is looking to kick lots of ass in the fighting genre world, and if we continue to see more unique characters like Peacock then Reverge Labs and Autumn Games will have no problem doing just that.

E3 & Ubisoft Leave Their Clutch In "San Francisco"

The Ubisoft booth at E3 was filled with games of many shapes and sizes, but only one title had my keenest eye glimmer with much anticipation. As a fan of the Driver series since it first appeared in 1999 I was ecstatic to hear that the game was set to return on all three home consoles. First getting wind of it back in 2005 I waited patiently for more news of it to be released as the years progressed. Fortunately the wait was nearing the end, and after going hands-on with Driver: San Francisco I left the booth with more excitement.

Taking place after the events in Driv3r the game will focus mainly on Tanner, who is in a coma after a mission gone bad and is stuck in a dream world version of the Golden Gate City. Being in a coma has its perks in the game, however, as it gives Tanner the ability to take over any vehicle he likes with a mere push of a button. For the demo of Driver: San Francisco I was able to try out a portion of the free-roaming mode and race mode.

In free-roaming mode players will be able to drive around freely though the city of cable cars and Rice-A-Roni, all 208 miles of road that is confined into the town. As players complete objectives throughout the town new missions and goals will be made available for you to tackle throughout the rest of the game. While you are given the ability to switch to any vehicle (known as Shift in the game), the power is limited, and in order to power up more Shift power you must perform certain stunts like power slides and big jumps to fill the meter.

Playing in free-roaming mode gave me a good look at how both graphically and audibly Driver: San Francisco is going to be. Crashes are heavily detailed, with even the tiniest of dents appearing on the vehicle after a run-in. The sounds of the vehicles also gave off the proper authentic feel of driving fast within a crowded city. Also on key was its control scheme, where making quick turns and swerves was fairly easier to do than most other racing titles. While this sort of control scheme doesn’t reflect on a realistic standpoint it does well with creating a sort of arcade aspect to the Driver experience. (As the game does take place in someone’s coma I expect there to be some sort of off-the-wall mission that defies much logic.)

The other mode I was able to go hands-on with was Race Mode, in which you control two racers via Shift and need to finish in both first and second place. While it sounds simple enough the A.I. in the other vehicles you’re racing against makes the task a lot more difficult. There were times where one of the opponents seemed to want to take out one of my vehicles in an attempt to sacrifice their place and help their fellow racer reach the front of the line. The Shift has its perks, though, especially if the car you’re in is about to veer off-course. I was able to get into first place, but lost the second place position by a mere half-second.

So far Driver: San Francisco is gearing up to be a fine follow-up to the popular series. With these modes, not to mention the split-screen/online multiplayer, the usage of over 120 vehicles and the return of the director mode players can expect much gameplay to go back to. Come August 30th driving enthusiasts will have much to look forward to on the PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac and Wii (the latter of which will be a completely separate game from the other ones).

"Anarchy" In The E3

2009’s MadWorld was my favorite game of 2009 (and what first made me buy a Wii in the first place), so when word got out that Jack and the rest of the best characters from that title were to return to the console world in Anarchy Reigns my heart began to pound ecstatically. At E3 I was able to go hands-on with the online brawler, the end results of which left a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

Anarchy Reigns has so far announced eight characters to play as in the main game, including MadWorld characters Jack, Blacker Baron, Big Bull and Leo. In the game players will battle it out with or against one another, with the most death kills deciding the winner. For the demo four of us had to go head-on against one another in a Deathmatch multiplayer setup. Unfortunately having three out of the four players choosing Blacker Baron made the battle a tad confusing.

While the game was still in its beta phase I couldn’t help but notice the hinderance of the camera system in Anarchy Reigns. I had a lot of issue regarding the centering of my character, and by the time I had the angle set up properly I had already been beaten to death. What also made it tough was the fact that all the Blacker Barons looked too similar, and while there was the option to change the color of his suit it didn’t help much that everyone chose the purple suit. In laymen’s terms: Platinum Games needs to find a way around the color-coding aspect of the characters in order to avoid players having exact clone characters, which in turn will lead towards less confusion on the battlefield.

Combat, on the other hand, was simple to grasp once the confusion ceased. Meleeing against your opponents was a blast, as Blacker Baron super-punched, suplexed and pulled out the Super Sexy Fists of Fire on any opponent that came within a hairline’s distance from them. The blood and shattered bones rained all over the concrete ground, as the players were getting annihilated left and right on the screen. While the graphics looked bright and gorgeous I couldn’t help but miss the Sin City look that made MadWorld such an awe to watch. Still one can’t deny a great-looking game when it’s staring right in front of you.

It was clear that there are still a few things that need to be worked on before Anarchy Reigns is released next year, although the solutions to them seem to be a short distance from grasping. The game, due for PS3 and Xbox 360, will feature various multiplayer modes such as Battle Royale, Death Match, Survival Mode, as well as a single player campaign that will have Jack and Leo battling to the top of the fight kingdom. One can only hope that Anarchy Reigns will continue on with Platinum Games’s near-solid track record, and that it will bring another fun and memorable gaming experience in the long run.

"Engine" Runs Hot At E3

One of the biggest surprises at this past year’s PAX East was the under-the-radar title Jimmie Johnson’s Anything With An Engine, a kart racer whose style was like a blend of Mario Kart and Redneck Rampage. It was also my pick for Most Wanted Title during the Electric Sista Hood PAX East podcast episode, beating out the likes of Mortal Kombat, Duke Nukem Forever and Brink at the event. So it came as a wondrous shock that when I went to E3 I stumbled across this game at the Konami booth, who will be distributing the title in America.

Going hands-on with the title again I was excited to see all the new vehicles, tracks and modes that you could play, not to mention the arsenal of weapons you could use. Seeing that you can race with the dumpster, coffin, shopping cart and gold cart made me laugh, but after seeing the crazy college mascot riding a recliner I had to race as that. When racing with the recliner you were given the ability to throw pizzas at your opponent, which not only make them skid off-road but impair their vision with its gooey cheesiness. Controls were still on-key like they were on PAX East, and I even found fixing your vehicle at the Pit Stop to be fairly easier than I remembered.

One of the other modes in Anything With An Engine I finally got to give a try was the Matador one, which has racing going head-on against one another at opposite sides of the track. Here not only do you have to watch the other racers you’re going against but also the ones that are pummeling towards you from the other side. I got smashed up big time when the tractor racer collided with my rocket man, losing the race by over a minute. Still it was an exciting twist to a genre that hasn’t seen this much originality in a long time. Also on-hand was “Chicken Bomb,” a survival mode that turns the last-place racer into a vengeful chicken that lays waste to the opponents. If there was ever a moment that truly left me in stitches at E3 it was seeing that fowl raise its explosive anarchy on the other racers.

The full game will have eight-player online multiplayer, as well as the classic split-screen mode for four players to battle it out with in the same room. You’ll be able to race through thirteen tracks and unlock new racers through the title’s Career Mode, with possibly new vehicles to be released via DLC. One other bit of news had me do a double-take: instead of it being an XBLA/PSN release Jimmie Johnson’s Anything With An Engine will now be available as a physical title on all three current-gen consoles. A release date will be sometime late this summer/early fall, though an official date has yet to be announced.

Rayman Returns To Limelight With "Origins"

It’d be fair to say that Rayman has been standing in the shadows of those furry bastards known as the Rabbids since he invited them into his life. Since then little had been seen of the armless and legless protagonist who first won our hearts in the 1990s. Fortunately our hero from the Sea of Lums has prepared himself for a major comeback, in the form of the four-player co-op adventure Rayman Origins.

At E3 I had the chance to play a couple of the levels from this upcoming release, along with three other members of the press. In Rayman Origins players have the choice of playing as Rayman, Globox and two random teensies. Gamers will also be able to jump into the action whenever they want during gameplay, similar in vein to that of Super Mario Bros. Wii. (Also similar is how characters will float above the action until their teammates tag them in to play.) In the demo Rayman and his friends are zapped to the levels, having to work together in order to solve puzzles, collect items, avoid hazards and defeat any villains that try to get in your way.

The biggest draw to Rayman Origins is its overall appearance, coming off as bright and joyful as a Saturday morning cartoon. These characters move just as fluidly as a finely-drawn movie, as if someone pain-stakingly put to easel any sort of reaction this game can fathom. Also on key is its soundtrack, giving nods to the likes of Disney movies and video games of the past. (The Tetris nod in one of the levels is sure to give old-school gamers a giant smile.) Controls were easy to figure out, as were the abilities to perform team maneuvers with the other players.

One thing I am curious to find out about the Rayman Origins is how it works in single-player mode. While the game is guaranteeing a bag of fun when playing with friends I worry that this element won’t translate as well when a gamer plays the title by themselves. I shouldn’t count out the folks at Ubisoft, however, so I bet that they will find a way to keep the magic going in a one-player run-through in a similar way the multiplayer seems to.

When released Rayman Origins will sport over 60 levels throughout its 2D cel-shaded worlds, unlockable abilities and tons of slapstick humor that is sure to entertain gamers of all ages. The game is set for release on November 15 on the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and sometime in 2012 on the PlayStation Vita.