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My next major booth visit was to 2K Games, whose area was so large that they offered a seating area with food and beverages, a most welcome addition that should be a part of all of these enormous booths. Covering this show is tiring, and the convention center robs you blind at the concessions stands. Anyway, my first 2K demo was for the highly anticipated XCOM, a reworking of a classic PC game that fans have been demanding for years. XCOM made an appearance at last year’s show, but the game has been seriously revised since then. Whereas last year’s version was focused on shooting, emphasis has now been shifted to the characters. Set in 1962 before the Cuban Missile Crisis, the game has you play the role of a team leader for a secret US government agency tasked with obtaining and adapting alien technology to use in an anticipated extraterrestrial invasion. Alien tech, once captured, can either be taken back to base to be examined or used against the enemy in the field, and you have direct control over your squad during action sequences. And action isn’t limited to the Earth, as shown by our demo, which ended with a team member being transported to an alien ship. XCOM hits the stores in March 2012.
Also on my menu at 2K was Darkness II. In the original game, lead character Jacky inherits the powers of The Darkness, which he uses to rain vengeance upon the people responsible for murdering his family. Since then he has managed to keep these powers in check in an effort to lead a normal life, but they surge to the surface after he is attacked by agents of The Brotherhood, a shadowy group that knows how to fight The Darkness and is dedicated to defeating it. Darkness II features quad-wielding combat; you control two demon appendages as well as your own two arms, although the demon powers don’t work while you stand in lighted environments. The game’s graphic style is based on that of graphic novels; very colorful and explicit, with some intense combat sequences.
Next was a trip to the Kalypso booth to see a new strategy game and a new version of an old favorite. In Air Combat: Secret War, you play a female fighter pilot in World War I and II (WWI action is in black-and-white flashbacks). You fly combat missions in seven locations in North Africa and the Mediterranean in realistically modeled aircraft, although their flight characteristics are not as authentic as their looks. Players who don’t have previous experience in flight-combat games can take advantage of Adrenaline Mode, which slows the action so that you can more effectively zero in on your target. Also included in the PSN and XBLA versions of the game is 3D support. The game was demoed in 3D on the PS3, and it looks amazing, even sitting eight feet from the screen (3D mode is not available for the PC version). There’s even support for Playstation Move, but not for Kinect, at least not at launch, which is scheduled for August 2011. Also from Kalypso, Jagged Alliance is back in an all-new, top-down version that’s reminiscent of Rainbow Six. You’re hired to create a team of mercenaries to retake an island that has been conquered by an evil dictator. You have a pool of 60 mercs whom you can hire, each of whom has their own unique backstory. Your job is to form teams that will work successfully together, with each team consisting of two to six members. A new wrinkle in the game is the Plan and Go mode, a tactical system that allows you to set waypoints and issue orders to all of your squad members instead of controlling them individually during each action. The action pauses at each waypoint to allow you to alter your plans if necessary. Jagged Alliance: Back in Action debuts for the PC in October 2011.
Atari, a long-time leader in arcade gaming, has taken two classic coin-op games and reworked them for home consoles. In Centipede: Infestation, the action has been changed from the arcade version, in which centipedes attacked from the top of the screen and worked their way down to you at the bottom, to a quasi-tower defense idea. You battle the bugs in a top-down environment. Occasionally you get help from turret plants, which shoot at the bugs unless you don’t stop the bugs from eating them. Which you should be sure to stop, since those turrets are vital to your survival when the boss centipede arrives. Infestation will be available for the Wii and the DS. Also from Atari is Warlords, a single-player arena fighter with multiplayer elements and four MP modes. Warlords arrives this summer on XBLA and the PSN.
Last year, City Interactive showed Sniper: Ghost Warrior, a shooter that put you in the shoes of a sniper as he pursued a dictator through an island jungle. This year brings Sniper 2, a return to the formula that made the first game an enjoyable, if flawed, shooter experience, but with the addition of thermal-vision goggles and vehicles to drive. The 10-hour campaign and multiplayer modes will be available for the PC, Xbox 360 and the PS3 in early 2012. City also showed Combat Wings: Great Battles of World War II, a slick-looking aerial shooter that has you fighting combat missions over Great Britain, Africa, Russia and the Pacific Ocean. The game includes 30 missions and 60 aircraft; you fly 20 of them in the campaign, with the rest reserved for multiplayer. Combat Wings is coming in September 2011 for the PC, Xbox 360, the Wii and the PS3 (which also includes Move support).
I finished my day in the very cushy upstairs lounge of the OnLive booth to discuss the company’s plans for the future. The streaming service is adding a Facebook page on which you can export your brag clips (short videos of your in-game triumphs) and notifications of what games you’re playing. You can now invite all of the folks on your Gmail contact list to become OnLive friends, and an expansion to Blu-Ray players is coming that will allow you to join the service without obtaining the company’s connection hardware. Also, the service is expanding to the UK and Europe sometime in the near future.
And that’s it for Day 2. Tomorrow I concentrate on the smaller developers, including GamersFirst for a look at the revamped APB: Reloaded, Topware, CD Projekt Red, CCP and Gameforge, plus some hands-on time with Battlefield 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
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