Ghost_deus was obviously not alone at E3 and he was given a hand by Seth, who did his best to bring back a few impressions of his own. We'll start with his report on the 2K Games line-up, which includes The Darkness II, BioShock Infinite and XCOM. A very good read by our helpful friend.
Los Angeles, June 2011, Seth's Diary
We're not out of the darkness
While almost everything at 2K was being shown behind closed doors and not for public consumption, we were there to check it out for you. The first game being demoed to us was The Darkness II. In this sequel (which takes place 2 years after the events of the first game) the player is faced with a new enemy, The Brotherhood. This secret clan has been aware of the Darkness for millennia and knows how to use it; however, they have also become consumed by it. The leader of the organization is Victor Vilante and he will be the primary enemy throughout the game.
The development team has worked hard to create a unique look which they are calling comic noir. Each texture is hand painted to give it the appearance of a comic book. It’s a cool effect and works well for this game. They also showed off some cool parts of the battle system, like independent quad-wielding (two firearms, two Darkness arms) and some very gruesome combat maneuvers. The two that stood out were the black hole attack and the spinal tap execution. I’m sure you can use your imagination until you see them for yourself, but suffice to say they didn’t cut any corners when it comes to gore. The Darkness II is in development by Digital Extremes and is set for release this October in the United States and Europe.
To infinity and beyond
Next up from 2K was something everyone is waiting for, BioShock: Infinite. While the previous games in the series took us to an underwater city, Infinite has us looking skyward instead. The entire city is built in the sky and designed around turn of the century United States idealism. Expect to see lots of patriotic posters and Abraham Lincoln dolls. It was a more lighthearted time than were the roots for the previous BioShock games, and that shows. More important however are the new gameplay options that open up with the change in scenery. Rather than being largely confined to tight quarters and surprise ambushes, this game plays out in vast open spaces. The world is connected by a fast rail system which was shown off to great effect during the demo. You have a grappling attachment which can connect to the rails and allows you to hang from them and quickly ride from one floating landmass to another. Enemies can do the same, which results in mid-air combat and acrobatics as you leap from one rail to another. It is quite dynamic and should entirely change the way combat plays out.
The other big change in this third BioShock installment is your new sidekick. While the specifics are still not known (and I suspect won’t be until the end of the game) she has the ability to open time-space rifts to alter the world you’re in. This was shown off in the demo when she found a dying horse and wanted to fix things by opening a rift to a reality where the horse was healthy. At first it seemed her efforts were going to be successful as not just the horse was alive, but the entire area was repaired from what had clearly been a battle. Then the rift collapsed and re-opened with the player dumped in a completely different place. While strange looking for the characters in game, it drew cheers from the audience – she opened a rift to the United States circa 1983, with Star Wars: Return of the Jedi on the theater marquee. If the game has more moments like these it will serve to keep things interesting and unpredictable. BioShock: Infinite is being developed by Irrational Games and you can expect it sometime in the first half of 2012.
”X” never ever marks the spot, or does it?
The third game in 2K’s lineup for E3 2011 was XCOM. It may not be the game everyone else is talking about but when it releases March 6, 2012 it will almost certainly be a huge hit. Developed by 2K’s Marin studio it is a re-imagining of the classic XCOM universe, this time with first-person shooter gameplay and role playing elements. You take the role of William Carter, an FBI operative, as he tries to investigate and uncover the mystery of an unknown alien threat. As a throwback to the original tactical strategy games, the story will not play out in a linear or straight-forward manner. You have a base of operation to work from and the freedom to choose which missions to take and in which order. Additionally, you have access to several other field operatives from which to build your team, all of which can earn upgrades and be customized by the player. In each mission you take two of them with you and it is in your benefit to build a balanced team. During the mission you can enter tactical mode to issue commands to your teammates.
Another aspect of the gameplay that stands out is the ability to capture alien technology. You are investigating the aliens, after all, not just combating them. Often when an enemy is defeated they will leave bits of their advanced technology behind. One such example was shown during the E3 demo, as an advanced gun turret was left behind. The player then has the option to either bring it back to base (which results in weapon upgrades being discovered) or redeploying it as a weapon in the current mission. The latter option results in devastating damage and immediate results while the former provides a long lasting benefit. If you redeploy it you cannot bring it back with you for research which means the game can be played in multiple ways depending on what each player prefers.
Perhaps more than for its gameplay XCOM stands out for its style and art direction, much like the original BioShock did when it released. Set in the United States in 1962, the game takes place between the carefree 1950s and the upcoming social tensions of the 1960s. The entire game is designed to look like an old detective film. The setting isn’t cleaned up and politically correct for modern audiences. Characters have bravado and arrogance, and it is a time when people still smoked in their offices and sipped whiskey during the afternoon. Combined with the storyline centered on an unknown (and secret to the general public) alien threat, the best way to describe it is X-Files meets Mad Men. XCOM stands out as one of my favorite games at the show this year.