THQ had a show. We went. These are our thoughts. The end.
Tue, 27 September 2005
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Special K and I recently attended THQ's LOADED 05 Press Event in Sydney (we live in Melbourne, for those keeping score). We had a great time. Special K's words are in italics and mine are in regular font, just so you know who is saying what. Dig in. And feel free to come back and indulge in more than one helping, for no extra cost.
5am! Beer o'clock, or at least a new record, as Sammy downs his first beer of the day.
Well, yeah, that's true. It isn't something I do normally, I just found it too funny to resist cracking one open at such a ludicrous hour.
Arriving at the airport we were both excited about going to THQ Loaded in Sydney. But like all things, Murphy's Law asserted itself. We were booked on an international flight from Melbourne to Sydney and were running a bit late. You need to be there at least one hour before the flight and we were there 45 mins before the flight. What they didn't tell you was that the flight CLOSES with 45 minutes till departure. OK so we were a little late. The attendant rushed us to the head of the queue and asked us for ID to board. I produced my driver's license and Sam his Keypass card. We were then informed that you need passport or driver's license to board the plane…there goes our trip. We must have looked a little pathetic so they had sympathy on us and transferred us to another flight. Disaster averted. Sydney here we come.
Yep, if you don't drive a car, you don't legally exist. I guess that means cab drivers are the only real citizens of New York City. At this stage I began to wish I had brought more than one beer with me, but it worked out okay in the end!
Upon arrival at the ghost town that was the Entertainment Quarter (near the Hordern Pavillion, SCG and Stadium Australia) where they don't serve beer till 11am, we waited patiently for the doors to open.
It was a really nice, sunny day, so that made it reasonably pleasant to sit around and wait. Perhaps fittingly we sat, quite literally, in the gutter outside the building.
We were in for a treat…a photo opportunity with the guy from Australian Idol! Yeah like many of you, I can't remember his name either... James Matheson, that's it! He started doing poses with SpongeBob and Patrick, Sonic and Shadow the Hedgehog. And Tac!! Wow the excitement was overwhelming!
|Those wacky funsters |
In my sleep deprived state, this was quite surreal for me. All these giant game characters and the doofus from Channel V parading about the place. But it was a good laugh and the mascots really played it up with their humorous poses and mock fighting. I got a glimpse of some of the ladies when they were out of their costumes and, damn, if they had been posing for the pictures like that I'd have been much more into it. Who knew that Sonic the Hedgehog was really a sexy chick in disguise?
Then we were treated to the comic stylings of James Matheson, the closet gamer, lamenting about the wasted years with his Sega Master System 2.
I don't know if the other people laughing at James' jokes were just being polite, but I do know that I was, when I forced out a few courtesy fake chuckles for his poxy gags. I certainly didn't find anything he said even remotely amusing. He did seem like a nice enough guy, but I was unable to find any reason to give a flying fuck about a single word he had to say. My hat is off to the dude though; he's doing extremely well for himself, despite apparently having no real talent for anything. That is quite a feat.
Fortunately we were soon whisked away into the venue to preview the latest titles that THQ, Capcom and Sega had to offer.
Actually there was a bit more talking first. But it was from people who actually had some clue of what they were speaking about, so that was fine. Our main man Ben Pollock took the stage and he was about three times more interesting and funny than James and he did it in only a quarter of the time. On with the games!
I just wanted to mention something I found amusing. I asked the SEGA dude if there would be any more Panzer Dragoon games and he told me "Unfortunately not. We have to concerntrate on games that people buy." Curse you, idiotic general public! Curse you all!
This is what we came for Xbox 360 titles! Though I was taken by surprise to see two plasma screens hooked up to G5 Macintoshes with Xbox Controllers hanging out the back. Yes it would seem that Microsoft delivered the Alpha Hardware for Xbox 360 - the humble Mac! It should be noted that they also mentioned they had just received the Beta hardware which will see a 30 - 40 % improvement in performance. From what we saw of Condemned, I'm hanging to see the Xbox 360 in stores!
Anyway, Condemned is yet another first person shooter but this time you are chasing violent murderous psychopaths and looking for clues CSI style. Immediate parallels could be drawn with the ground-breaking graphics of Doom 3, but this baby has a little more under the hood.
Another game touting the destructible environments, the sweetest aspect of this game was the ability to pick up items off the floor, ie a piece of water pipe or a locker door and start swinging! I could have sat there all day clubbing dudes with my pipe - satisfied with that "Doonk" sound and blood splatters as you lay into another hapless victim.
Hard to tell much from a brief hands-on with the game but as with all the early Xbox 360 titles, they look great.
I watched K and some other cats play Condemned and it has a great atmosphere to it. It is very gritty and dark and violent. It did indeed look impressive, especially since the final version is going to be much better graphically. I hope the gameplay of the final product has some more twists to it to match the cool looks.
Football Manager 2006
One of the few games that was geared up for the PSP. From what the press release tells me "One of the many fan-inspired features to make it into FM 2006 will be that, for the first time, managers will be able to negotiate with their board of directors". Forgive me but managing a football team doesn't really fill me with a burning desire to play this game.
All the Footy Manager fans (yes, there are many of them) will be well chuffed (why not go with some pommy lingo when talking about soccer?) to know that there's a PSP version on the way. This one should work well as a portable game that you can play in stops and starts. Special K won't be reviewing it for us by the sounds of things.
We were in Xbox 360 territory again and saw another incarnation of the destructible environments.
Yeah, this is a 360 exclusive (at this stage) and it looks like plenty of fun. I suspect I wasn't alone in immediately thinking about Burnout when I saw Full Auto. But that's cool, the game looks amazing and I'm all for more crazy vehicle destroying action if it is done right. So far Full Auto looks as though it will be done right. It has weapons and stuff too, so along with Burnout it seems to share some elements with Destruction Derby and Twisted Metal.
Rome Total War: The Barbarian Invasions
Sega probably publish games for more platforms than any other company. Here's one they have for PC. The thing about Rome Total War: TBI that stands out immediately is how many characters the game can render onscreen at once, whilst still maintaining plenty of detail and a steady frame rate. It is hard to get a good feel for a tactical game such as this in a few minutes of playing time (actually that's just a conveniant excuse, it sounds better than saying I can't be bothered writing more). If the graphics are anything to go by though, this should be another good game.
Shadow the Hedgehog
|The second tallest hedgehog I have ever met. |
I'm a big fan of Sonic. Shadow the Hedgehog for the Xbox is looking great. I had quite a good play of the game and it was enough to make me even more keen to get a copy. It looks much like the Sonic Adventure titles only with even better graphics and a somewhat darker tone. There's plenty of zooming about the joint and you can also pick up a variety of guns and blast suckas.
But then, as I played more I suddenly knew why nobody else was showing any interest - the gameplay sucks, basically. I mean, I went from mad keen, to losing nearly all interest, in about 10 minutes worth of playing it. A shame really.
Sonic Rush - DS
Ah, another one I am most excited about. Funnily enough, I seemed to be about the only one because I never saw anyone playing this one. I already covered this in myE3 DS article. However, now that I have played it I am looking forward to it even more. Excellent graphics and the gameplay was cool, with the two screens at once thing adding a great twist to a proven formula.
Sonic Riders - Racing game on PC, Xbox and GameCube
I don't think they showed this. They just announced that the game existed (or will exist).
Sonic on XBOX 360 & PlayStation 3
Same deal as the one above.
Spartan: Total Warrior
This game is for PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. Spartan is the first console game from The Creative Assembly, the makers of the Total War series on PC. You probably know what to expect from this one; basically there are a shitload of characters on screen at once and you indulge in some slicing and dicing of epic proportions.
Definitely the top title of the day. Nothing better than a good old shopping simulator! We did get a little lost and couldn't find a suitable dress for the party! This game was so good, it didn't need an introduction, or promotion. Just the cardboard cut-outs were enough to say that this was the greatest title in the THQ stable!
Obviously they weren't trying to push this one because they knew full well that nobody at the show was going to be interested. As someone there told me (I won't name them, in case it gets them into trouble), "we have to show the shit games too". To the best of my knowledge, we were the only people that actually looked at it. Bratz is based on the line of big headed dolls and targeted at young girls. If you have seen the Paris Hilton episode of South Park called Stupid Spoiled Whore; well, this is a videogame proud parents can give their daughters that will train them how to be just like that.
Company of Heroes
The mighty Havoc engine, or (as they're calling the updated version) Essence. Whatever they call it, it is awesome. Company of Heroes was one of the most impressive titles at the show. Real Time Strategy fans will love this game, but so will people who don't usually care for RTS. I talked about it back in my E3 PC article, so just read that again. It has come along even further since then and looks all the more amazing. I can't wait for this one. Probably my favourite game from the show.
I have to agree this was an exciting demo. It would appear to be the first serious attempt to modify the concept that was executed to near perfection with Dune 2: The Building of a Dynasty. We were taken through this release of the code by David Cheong from Relic Entertainment. In keeping with the theme of the day, we were shown more destructable environments, where a seemingly sturdy building could be quickly condemned with a well-placed air strike.
As with Ten Hammers, there are different types of troops with different abilities. The funniest part was trying to demonstrate some of the squad-based gameplay. David made several attempts to flank the enemy that were holed up in the second floor of a building. With each attempt, we saw a brilliant demo of the AI which expertly dispatched most of his squad!
Possibly the most exciting development with this game is that you are not restricted to the grid-based map made popular by Dune and Warcraft. You have the ability to zoom in and out on troops, tanks, buildings etc while the action takes place around you. It gave a great sense of freedom to the game and a more personal touch as the fine detail of the troops and vehicles was on display.
I really can't wait for this one to hit the shelves. I might even fire up Dune now.
Disney's Chicken Little
Possibly another movie tie in? Don't know because we didn't get a chance to find anything about it either...
There are some screenshots and stuff on the assets disc THQ gave us. It looks like a platformer directed at kids. They likely didn't show it because we are not the intended audience for the game and it would really just be a waste of everyone's time. The screens make it look nice enough for what it is though.
Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers
I reviewed the PS2 version of the last Full Spectrum Warrior. This follow up was being shown on Xbox, which again will be the first version to be released. It looked very good graphically, a noticeable improvement over the already nice looking first game. The gameplay looks to involve some extremely complex strategy and puzzle solving elements. The action has been increased too though, which should give a bit more balance and perhaps a more immediately satisfying feel than the last one.
I thought the first Full Spectrum Warrior had some good ideas and showed plenty of potential and it seems they are doing everything they can to meet that with the follow up. I'm interested in playing the finished product.
Saint's Row - Xbox 360
This game is unashamedly an enhanced version of GTA.
So, now we get to some more of the juicy stuff, with another game for a next generation platform. For now Saint's Row is an Xbox 360 exclusive. I asked if there'd be a PlayStation 3 version and got a reply that caused us all to laugh: "At this stage, the game will be for the Xbox 360. How's that for an answer?" I think we can all read between the lines for that one! It sounds most likely that the PS3 will get a version of Saint's Row eventually, but Microsoft doesn't want Volition (the developers) talking about that yet.
They didn't deny that Saint's Row was inspired by GTA San Andreas and there's really no way they could, because the resemblance is uncanny. Even the text fonts used in the game are almost identical! Obviously the graphics are going to be taken up several notches with this vastly more powerful hardware. They're incorporating detailed damage models for all the vehicles and other parts of the environments, real time dynamic lighting, as well as "rag doll" physics and all of that caper. The feature I was happiest with though is the fact that the game will have no load times. You go from place to place and it all streams seamlessly with no break in the play. This is something that I believe will help make the game's world feel even more realistic and immersive.
Interestingly, Saint's Row will be about the same size as GTA: Vice City and smaller than San Andreas. Apparently they decided to pack more into what they believe is a less overwhelmingly sized area, instead of making the game's world huge just for the sake of it. Sounds fair enough to me, but we'll have to see how it ends up.
Whereas gaining control of different parts of the city for your gang was possible in San Andreas as a side mission, in Saint's Row it is more of a focal point. Another difference is that you'll be unable to pilot planes or any type of flying vehicles in this game as you could in San Andreas. They will still be in the game, just not in a controllable form. So they are clearly not just going for a case of "ours is bigger than yours" and instead are sticking to the parts they think work best and attempting to elaborate on those elements.
Scooby Doo Unmasked
Another title that didn't need fanfare, promotion or acknowledgement for that matter.
This is on the assets disc too and again is aimed mainly at kids. The cell shaded graphics look pretty nice and are perfectly suitable for the game's subject. I don't think it will be able to interest older Scooby fans for long, but you never know. Since I haven't played it, I can't say for sure.
Spongebob Sqarepants: Lights, Camera, Pants!
This was pleasing to see, a game developed right here - well Brisbane at least. In essence this game owes its existence to Mario Party. Spongebob, Patrick and the gang and their home at Bikini Bottom is the setting for this game and the developers have captured the essence of the cartoon with a suitably quirky game.
The most entertaining sequence was the Rocking Out stage where the user has to press buttons in time with the music. The better they go, the sooner they will be Rockin Out and break into a solo on their instrument of choice.
The verdict, a fun game that is sure to please the kids and fans of the series too.
I find Patrick to be disturbingly phallic in appearance.
|Pimpin' ain't easy (that caption was for Aussie Ninja) |
WWE Smackdown! vs. Raw 2006
Most wrestling fans I have ever known, or met, also happen to be gamers. But it doesn't work the other way around; most gamers I know are not also into wrestling. You could tell that here. Not too many of the press at LOADED seemed all that interested in Smackdown vs. Raw 06. But I certainly was and I can tell all you fellow gaming wrasslin' lovers that it looks excellent.
Graphically it looks even better than last year's game (which was already a great looking effort). More importantly they are adding some depth and tactics to the gameplay.
Fatige is now going to be a major factor, meaning that you have to pace yourself during a match and time your moves carefully. Targeting and wearing down of the opponents body parts will be given more attention too.
The roster of wrestlers will be vast and there'll be more of the unlockable 'legends' that has been so popular with fans in previous wrestling titles.
Bring this one to planet Buttonhole THQ, Sammy will be waiting! At least you know that there is one place that will give this game the attention it deserves.
Tak: The Great Juju Challenge
For some reason we didn't get to look at this one either. We did meet Tak earlier in the day with his pants round his knees. No I'm not talking about Sammy, just Tak.
Yeah, the Tak mascot was easily the ugliest and stupidest looking of them all. He looked as though he'd crapped his pants, they were hanging so low. Anyway, there are some screens of this one on the assets disc as well and it looks to me like a Jak and Daxter rip-off. If it is as fun as those games I'd be happy to play it, but the lack of attention they gave it at the show leads me to believe it is probably not going to set the world on fire.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
After the Lord of the Rings Juggernaught rolled through the cinemas, it was bound to spawn the inevitable tide of fantasy books being made into movies. From the promotional video on display…the grandson of the author of the book would have you believe that it wasn't possible to create such a movie or game for that matter. He spends quite some time praising the movie and the game (neither of which we have seen) and frankly bored us to tears.
There's a trend of late for games that feature multiple controllable characters at once, where the player has to combine their abilities to progress and this is going to be another of those. I'm not sure what K means about not seeing it, as we watched the footage of the game. It looks fairly promising, but didn't really get me too excited.
The Incredibles - Rise of the Underminer
Probably benefiting from some great characters, this game continues on from the conclusion of the Incredibles movie with The Underminer.
There's a trend of late for games that feature multiple controllable characters at once, where the player has to combine their abilities to progress and this is going to be another...shit, I just said that didn't I? Well, this time you control both Frozone and Mr. Incredible. Every time you switch between the two, the computer takes control of the other. Basically it looks like a less crappy version of the Fantastic Four game. The team thing looks as though it will work well and they've constructed the whole game around this dual character dynamic, so it should be more than just a gimmick. As K said, the story follows straight on from the events of the movie and the presentation looks fairly faithful to the film. Being a huge Incredibles fan will probably help me enjoy this game all the more.
I'm looking forward to this Xbox 360 game from Relic, which goes to show how impressive it looks because it takes lot to get me interested in yet another World War II game. This is a 3rd Person action game and another one where you switch between different controllable characters. It also has the other big fashionable feature (as K already mentioned); destructible environments.
The main things that stood out about The Outfit for me; it has fantastic graphics and a humorously over the top vibe.
This game doesn't take itself too seriously at all and it is quite refreshing (next to all those earnest war based titles) thanks to that. The Outfit is a squad-based shooter, but it is an extremely action packed one. It is all about blowing shit up and having fun doing it. I am all for that. The detail of the environments is fantastic too, so all up this is one of my most eagerly anticipated 360 titles.
"From the co-creator of Age of Empires, Brian Sullivan, comes an all-new action role-playing game set in the mythical worlds of ancient Greece and Egypt. Amazing visuals and fast-action gameplay deliver a true cinematic gaming experience. Lush ancient world settings crafted in near-photo realistic detail provide the player with an extraordinary canvas on which to set forth on an epic quest of the ultimate good versus evil."
That's from the press release for this PC game. The reason I used their words is because, I have to be honest, I don't remember this game at all. If I saw it, I've forgotten. Sorry about that. It should be a beauty though...ahem...probably. What a professional I am.
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War - Winter Assault
Another game they glossed over. It sat quietly in the corner with little to no fanfare or promotion. Having no interest at all in Warhammer and/or collecting and painting figurines I'm just going by the write up and screen shots from the press kit.
It would appear that this may have been the precursor to Company of Heroes with highly detailed units and vehicles.
Anyway not having played or really seen this game in action there's not a lot more to add other than the fact that the game is set for release in September 2005.
A PC title from Relic. Winter Assault is an expansion pack for RTS 'game of the year' Dawn of War and it is available now. I'd put the lack of promotion down to the fact it isn't a full stand alone game. And the fact that it is not really an upcoming game, since I believe it is now available for purchase. I haven't played it myself, but it looks pretty cool.
Capcom Classics Collection
This brought back memories of the old days. Not so much of the arcade but the heyday of the Commodore 64.
Obviously these are arcade perfect emulations of several classic titles. Since Capcom were one of the best producers of arcade games ever this is some pretty awesome stuff. There are some SNES games on the disc too. I asked THQ to send us a copy, so you'll be able to read our review of Capcom Classics before too long.
|Hyper Fighting. Hey Cam, how do you make your hand go see through like that? |
Just for fun, we got a pic of Cam Shea (current Editor) and Eliot Fish (former Editor) from Hyper magazine playing Street Fighter II at the show. I've included that shot, as you can see, on the left.
Devil Kings/Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams
I have never been, and probably never will be a fan of fighting/combat games. When it comes to these sort of things I'm a button masher.
I dig these kinds of games, but these two just seemed a bit too samey to really garner an abundance of enthusiasm from me. They look just fine, but it seems like more of the same stuff I've already done to death by now. Maybe they'll shock me and be much more interesting than I gave them credit for. I think I'll have to reserve my judgement until I've played them more.
Resident Evil 4
The word on this game was that "it couldn't be done on the PS2". From what we saw that was definitely not the case. Not having seen the GameCube version I couldn't really comment but what I saw coming out of the PS2 did blow me away.
My only memory of the Resident Evil series - apart from the two very average movies it spawned - was pre-rendered backgrounds and a very linear gameplay. Not so with this version. We were fortunate enough to have a demo with a few cheats enabled which turned out to be a highlight of the day. We were introduced to timed grenades. Sure not a new concept but when you can take your grenade, jam it into a zombie, watch the little red light quicken it's pace, then blow that zombie into smithereens! This probably got a way bigger laugh than the whole of Mr Australian Idol, damn I still can't remember his name's speech to launch the show.
Cool. We didn't get to review the Gamecube version, so hopefully we can make some amends when they send us the PS2 port. I don't know how they got a PS2 game to look this incredible, but they've gone and done it. They have even added a bunch of extra content! An amazing conversion of a great game.
I'd forgotten about Without Warning for PS2 and Xbox. I shouldn't have, because it seems set to be a top game. You can play as six different characters, there's plenty of variety to the gameplay, a substantial storyline and superb presentation. This is one to look out for from developers CiRCLE Studio (that's how they write it, don't blame me) who, according to the press release, were founded by the creators of the Tomb Raider series.
Okay boys and girls, that will do it for Buttonhole's LOADED 05 report. Our thanks go to the fine folks at THQ, we had a blast.
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