Xbox Canada's annual preview event was held in a downtown Toronto club this week, where dozens of first- and third-party games slated for release on Microsoft's console were set up for journalists to check out.
My time at the showcase was unfortunately limited, so I skipped many upcoming games I'd reported on previously (including Halo: Reach and Fable III ) in favour of focusing on a quartet of titles I'd been interested in for a while but had yet to experience in person. Read on for my impressions of upcoming Japanese third-person shooter Vanquish, Electronic Arts' sequel to its survival horror hit Dead Space, Ubisoft Montreal's speedily-made Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and Fallout: New Vegas, the follow-up to my favourite game of 2008.
Vanquish (X360, PS3)
Published by Sega and developed by Platinum Games (the studio that brought us the decidedly mature actioners Bayonetta and MadWorld ), Vanquish is perhaps best described as what Gears of War might have been had it been dreamt up by minds schooled in Japanese game design.
It's a third-person sci-fi shooter with a strong focus on cover mechanics. In my brief time with it I moved my burly supersoldier from one barricade to another across a giant landing platform, breaking cover to fire only when solid shots presented themselves before ducking back down to reload.
One of the things that distinguish it from similar western games are its acrobatics. My hero lumbered around like one of Epic Games' famously meaty men most of the time, but he was also capable of performing slides, dashes, and flips that animated so quickly they were hard to follow.
There's also a decidedly eastern flavour to the visuals. The environment I explored was bright and relatively clean, and the mayhem, while spectacular, had a glossy rather than gritty quality; lots of shiny metal and splashy explosions, not a lot of grime or gore.
It's an odd mashup of seemingly conflicting sensibilities that won't appeal to everyone, but I liked what I saw. I'll definitely give it a whirl when it releases in North America a couple of months from now.
Dead Space 2 (X360, Windows, PS3)
I was blown away by the original Dead Space , a compelling and terrifying tale of both visceral and psychological horror set primarily on a derelict spaceship. Dead Space: Extraction , an on-rails shooter released for Wii last year, was a fun stopgap that provided a bit of back story prior to the next numbered entry in the series, but I've been itching to get back into some truly frightening high-def horror.
That itch only grew after spending 20 minutes with Dead Space 2.
I maneuvered returning protagonist Isaac Clarke-who was slightly more nimble than I remembered-through halls of body freezers on a massive space station called the Sprawl that was apparently experiencing the beginning stages of the infection that turned everyone into deadly mutated creatures in the last game.
The action began almost immediately. I had to fight off speedy, spindly necromorphs that fell from the ceiling, leaped out from behind corners, and spewed some sort of acidic vomit capable of causing some serious harm.
Luckily, Isaac still packs a pretty mean arsenal of tools that pull double duty as weapons. I enjoyed dicing enemies with the plasma cutter-remember, you have to strategically eviscerate enemies rather than just, say, shoot them in the head-and using a remote detonation mine to slow down the horde. I was also able to use Isaac's telekinetic abilities to grab and throw dead bodies to knock down attackers and hurl lighter severed body parts, like claws, with lethal results.