Earlier this week I wrote about a few upcoming PlayStation 3 exclusives that I saw at an event hosted by Sony in New York City last Tuesday. In this post I'll cover some of the third-party titles I saw that will be appearing on multiple platforms.
First up is BioShock 2 (PS3/360/PC). Regular readers know that I think very highly of this game's predecessor. Its Ayn Rand-inspired story and strangely sinister art deco-styled underwater city were milestones in game narrative and art design.
I wasn't provided too much information on the sequel's story, save that the submerged metropolis of Rapture is now under the control of a new genius gone mad in the form of woman named Sophia Lamb, who, like the first game's arch villain Andrew Ryan, takes ideological concepts-some sort of socialism in this case-to their logical extremes with horrifying results (one of the levels I saw featured an amusement park ride designed to show children the evils of government, complete with scenes depicting citizens being repressed by soldiers).
Instead, most of the demo focused on what players can do in the game.
For example, we can now don a Big Daddy suit and-to my delight-use the contraption's powerful drill arm, which was the cause of much consternation for me in the first game.
The extra firepower is handy since we'll be going up against a crop of more powerful enemies, including a particularly nasty one called a Big Sister, who moves acrobatically and with lightning speed. She actually managed to kill the 2K developer who was showing me the game a couple of times before he was able to put her down.
And remember those creepy/cute Little Sisters you could either save or (if you were truly heartless) "harvest" in the first game? Now you can enlist their aid by adopting them. They'll clamber up onto your back and lead you to ADAM, the mutagen used to purchase plasmid enhancements.
Speaking of which, plasmids-which give players the ability to do things like shoot flames from their hands or telekinetically lift objects-have been enhanced so that rather than just growing in strength with each new level they'll actually function a bit differently, forcing players to adjust tactics to make the most of their new powers.
Oh, and did I mention you'll be able to "dual-wield" two different plasmids at once? It's an ability that looks and feels as awesome as it sounds.
Expect BioShock 2 February 9th.
When I walked up to the Final Fantasy XIII (PS3/360) test pod, no one was around and a controller was sitting in front of the screen, which happened to be showing one of the game's heroes standing still in a large plaza. I picked up the controller and used it to approach an enemy lurking nearby. However, just when the battle was about to begin a Square Enix employee appeared, reached for the controller, and said, "No, no, no. Thank you."
Still, it was probably for the best, given that this employee was one of the game's developers and able to provide me with information I wouldn't have gleaned from just a few minutes of play time. He played through several battles, showcasing some of the game's new mechanics, and I was excited both by what I saw and what he said.
He didn't talk much about the story (save that it will last a minimum of 40 hours, not including side quests), but instead simply described the game's battle system, which looks to be an appealing cross between the real time battles of Final Fantasy XII and the active-time battle systems of previous entries in the franchise.
Basically, players will be transported to a battle screen whenever they encounter an enemy, and given the ability to input chains of commands (a mixture of physical attacks, spells, and other abilities), which can result in combos. Up to three characters can enter battles, but we can control only one of them. The others' actions can be governed by setting their disposition, choosing from selections such as "overwhelm" and "valiant." We can change their temperament at any time-useful if the tide of battle turns.
But the most exciting thing I was shown was a summoning; the conjuration of a titanic creature meant to deal enormous damage to enemies. The one I was shown was Shiva, a classic godlike creature that has become a staple of the franchise. In her Final Fantasy XIII incarnation she is presented as beautiful, terrifying twin beings.
I was informed that, unlike previous games in the series, summoned creatures will be linked to specific characters, meaning others won't have access to them. Also, each summoned creature will have a super powerful "gestalt" mode, in which they transform into a mechanical entity-in Shiva's case it was a motorcycle. You can see her in mid-transformation in the image above.
Not much more to report here, but that should be enough to whet the appetites of franchise fans. I know I'm eagerly anticipating the game's March 9th release.
One of my favourite first-person shooters in recent years was Battlefield: Bad Company . I loved the over-the-top destruction we could wreak on our environments, not to mention the game's cheeky story about a group of soldiers tempted by the spoils of war.
The demonstration I was given of its successor-dubbed simply Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (PS3/360/PC)-focused on multiplayer, so I was unable to learn much about its narrative, save that it would be a bit more serious than that of its predecessor.
However, I did see some pretty spectacular damage effects. My guide, one of the game's developers, began by picking off the boards of a fence one by one with his rifle-handy for creating a peephole, a new path, or just shooting an enemy who happens to be using it for cover. He then showed me how a system he referred to as "destruction 2.0" allows players to spectacularly raze entire buildings. Fun stuff.
He also spent time describing some of the game's technical achievements, most notably that each bullet in the game is a virtual entity worked upon by the game's physics engine, resulting in, among other things, more realistic recoils. This is in contrast to most shooters, which fake bullet movement with ray traces.
Interestingly, near the end of our conversation he revealed that with the sequel his team wants to "please PC players the most," and that they're attempting to make it feel a bit more like a classic Battlefield game than the original-which, it's worth noting, didn't even appear on the PC.
To that end, he discussed how the maps will be more open, how vehicles will play a larger role, and how the multiplayer action will have a more co-operative feel. One multiplayer mode actually involves four competing squads composed of four players each, a feature he believes to be unique to this game.
This ought to come as good news for PC players, who are still smarting from the sting of several recent PC gaming disappointments, not the least of which were the multiplayer limitations in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the latest release of another military-themed shooter franchise with roots on the PC platform.
Look for it March 2nd.