Namco Bandai Summer Shindig Impressions

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Namco Bandai have been readying their line-up for the rest of the year and beyond, and in a recent showcase were able to parade some new footage and give some hands-on time with five of their biggest titles. Naturally NGB were out to see what’s what, so without further ado let’s see what you can expect and why you should be excited about it.

Dark Souls

Spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls is not out to re-invent the wheel, rather just to finely tune it. Or perhaps more appropriately, make it poisonous to the touch and rig the surrounding area with pressure-sensitive traps. Given the original became synonymous with its unrelenting difficulty, it’s no surprise that the team are placing great emphasis on the return of the steep learning curve, telling us in no uncertain terms that death is part of the core experience, and displaying a trailer stating “Prepare to Die” in a rather matter-of-fact manner. We saw a section of the game where your character attempts to scale a keep, and even in a short space of time there were spike traps, narrow beams to cross, swinging axes suspended from the ceiling, and boulders being flung around – often at the same time. As rather poignantly noted, when things are quiet it’s almost certainly a sign that you are overdue a surprise of the rather nasty variety. The cunning approach to multiplayer remains, with a variety of mechanisms allowing players to interact between game worlds, be it helpful or hindering. Also, whilst graphically the game retains the same look and feel about it, the new locations for you to explore, and new loot to collect are what this is all about. There’s an estimated 60 hours of gameplay, and if you’re a fan of the original or dungeon crawlers in general – or are just a sucker for punishment – it’s well worth keeping an eye out for Dark Souls on its release in October.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPNv4Cglo0E[/youtube]

NGB ANTICIPATION RATING

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

Assault Horizon takes the well-established Ace Combat series, and does something quite different with it. Feeling distinctly inspired by the FPS genre, the combat is a lot more brutal, with lock-on-dogfights allowing you to tear enemy fighters apart bit by bit in gruesome fashion, complete with engine oil splattering over your HUD. The locations have become much more realistic too, with GPS maps being used to model real-world locations – the demo being shown having you fighting above Miami beach (sadly minus and sign of a destructible Will Smith). Then there’s the story – written by well-established military author Jim DeFelice, its focus on Russians wielding WMDs and one man’s quest to stop them is considerably more Michael Bay than Stanley Kubrick. Yet – if you put the pitchforks down for just a second – despite these deviations, it’s actually looking quite good for it. It may be a dangerous game to move away from what fans have come to expect, but in terms of a more universally appealing flight combat game, Assault Horizon is looking to lead the pack in quite some style. Whether or not it can tempt the baying masses of the FPS crowd across is another matter entirely, but do not be put off by any preconceptions – Flight Simulator 2011 this is not.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GYewO9zA78[/youtube]

Ridge Racer Unbounded

Another major deviation from what you might expect, Ridge Racer Unbounded is a spin-off of the much-loved arcade racer series. As revealed through trailers last year, nimble sports cars are out in favour of huge muscle cars, and for one key reason – devastation is key. Driving through the city has never been more literal, with ploughing into pillars, benches, lampposts and the like being a recommended course of action as opposed to a time-trial crushing error – and even better is if you can force a rival into doing these for you. Chaining collateral damage like this builds a meter that allows you to ramp the destruction up that little bit more by taking one of the many shortcuts, typically involving you driving through the wall of a building, before flying out the other side. The plot centres around the city of Shatter Bay and the ‘Unbounded’ street gang who you are desperate to prove yourselves to, and as you have likely established already, the bright and cheery nature is out of the window too, with the game looking tidy but considerably murkier. With the code on display still being pre-alpha it’s far too early to judge as its own game, but for better or worse it’s certainly not going to be like any Ridge Racer before it.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ofrczmkt9Tg[/youtube]

Soul Calibur V

Another that is still in very early stages, Soul Calibur V sees the reunion of the ‘Project Soul’ crew to try and clamour to the top of the fighting game pile. Centred around the story of Sophitia’s children – Patroklus and Pyrrha – the game is set 17 years after Soul Calibur IV, and whilst only a small number of characters have been revealed so far, it seems fairly safe to assume any returning characters are liking to be sporting the odd wrinkle or grey hair. In terms of additional new characters, there’s Z.W.E.I – sporting a ghoulish wolf behind his head, rather reminiscent of Tekken’s ‘Unknown’, and leaving us wondering what his initials might stand for – and Natsu, pupil of long-term series favourite Taki. Whilst we’re reliably told that new dodge and parry systems are coming, perhaps the biggest change to the gameplay shown off so far is in the introduction of the ‘Critical Guage’, which, you’ve guessed it, goes up as you fight, and grants access to powerful retaliation moves, with ‘Brave Edge’ moves using 60% of your gauge, and ‘Critical Edge’ moves using 120% – maths be damned! Whilst some would argue the genre is currently running the risk of overcrowding, Soul Calibur still looks fantastic if nothing else – even in these early stages. By adapting some borrowed ideas to its well-established weapon combat, it’s clear that the team are taking their competition very seriously and that this is one game to keep a serious eye on. Saying that, I’m sure we can still expect some ludicrous cameo characters to be announced soon.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSKNRmoRhvs[/youtube]

Inversion

Showing that the line-up is not just about existing IPs, Inversion is Saber Interactive’s take on the cover shooter. Why Inversion, you ask? As well as your standard ducking and shooting, thanks to some stolen technology from the alien invasion you are fighting, you gain the ability to manipulate gravity, leading to all sorts of perspective-boggling fight scenarios. With interactive and destructible scenery also featuring, there’s plenty of opportunities for throwing crates, pipes and the like at enemies, as well as the personal favourite of lifting them up in the air from behind the scenery whilst you pepper them with bullets. Whilst the latest trailer would have you believe this is ‘Inception’ the game, it plays predictably much more like Epic’s magnum opus Gears of War, with your standard duck and cover controls feeling very familiar. Your protagonist (a rather ordinarily named David Russel) was considerably under-dressed in comparison, running around in the demo on offer in just jeans and a t-shirt, but more relevantly, has a buddy with him (Leo Degaldo – that’s more like it), which means additional firepower, macho banter and, of course, the possibility of co-op. Sadly, however, there is currently no plan for local co-op, meaning if you want to play with your friends you need to send them home (via the local games shop) to do so. Whilst larger-scale competitive multiplayer is also expected, Namco Bandai are remaining tight-lipped about this for now, leading us to believe there’s probably something a little different up their sleeve rather than any old run-of-the-mill deathmatch. Due in February 2012, Inversion has got some way to go to prove itself as best in class, but it is certainly not one to ignore either.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zftOZ47_P0[/youtube]

NGB ANTICIPATION RATING

That’s how we roll!

Now whilst that’s it for the big five, some of us stayed around to play a bit more in the evening, in the vain hope the PR team might spill some secrets if plied with alcohol…sadly not. However, whilst that idea may not have come to fruition, I am pleased to report that yours truly walked away from the night as ‘King of the Iron Fist’, winning a Tekken 6 tournament being run by the team there. There’s a nice video of the final here courtesy of Joseph at Namco Bandai, which I had no idea was being filmed at the time. Well, that’s my excuse for the gormless expression. Proof though – don’t let anyone tell you that the team here at NGB don’t know what they’re doing!
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