MCM Expo 17 – Gaming Glimpses

So, the 17th MCM Expo has come and gone, and much like in my Eurogamer 2009 coverage, I’m going to talk about the games I played at the Expo. Obviously, I didn’t get to play some as long as others, and so this is another Games Glimpses article. The games aren’t in any set order, but include Blur, Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions, No More Heroes 2, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Transformers: War for Cybertron, Quantum Theory and Sin and Punishment 2. This wasn’t all that was at the Expo in terms of games, but these were the games I looked at, played, or had interest in.

Having missed out on the Beta and having never seen in action or played Blur before, this was probably going to be a weird experience for me. For those who are unaware of what Blur is, it’s a new racer by the makers of Project Gotham Racing which is essentially real cars meets Mario Kart. Throughout each course there are various weapons you can use to take out your opponents, and the racing itself is very solid. Sadly, I can’t give a proper in-depth look, seeing as the Plus XP team only did one race between us, but there were a couple of issues I found with it.

Firstly, it wasn’t this kind of Blur.

One problem was that it didn’t seem to have a very strong sense of speed. That’s fine for a lot of racing games, after all, I love Mario Kart and it never feels like the quickest game, but I feel that Blur is a game that could feel a lot more fun and hectic with a quicker sense of speed to it. Also, weapons felt a bit ineffective. When racing games use weapons, it’s normally to gain a better sense of urgency to your actions, to put you on edge, and to make the playing level a bit more equal so that you’re more efficiently able to keep up with others, but the weapons in Blur didn’t seem to do any of that. Though, they let you recover quickly, which is a plus and alleviates potential anger.
Blur is already out, and a lot of people are already enjoying it, so take what I’ve said here with a pinch of salt, especially since I’m not really much of a racing game person, unless it’s Mario Kart.

Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions:
I guess when they tell you a game’s going to have a presence at MCM, you shouldn’t automatically expect it to be playable. As such, there was only a trailer for the game, which didn’t really explain more than people would already know. Spiderman Shattered Dimensions is going to have a bunch of different Spiderman Universes within it (so Spiderman Noir and The Ultimate Spiderman), some villains and heroes within those universes taking part, and it looks like it’s going to be an amazing Spiderman game. Granted, people’s opinions on Web of Shadows may vary (I loved it, myself), but a new, possibly more linear Spiderman is no bad thing. I’ll be looking forward to it when it eventually comes out.

Spiderman: Back in Black.

Sin and Punishment 2:
Sin and Punishment 2 is an odd one for most. A sequel to a cult game for the hardcore N64 fans that never saw release in the UK (though was recently released for the Wii’s Virtual Console), it’s suprising that Nintendo were advertising and showing this off at the Expo.

Sin and Punishment 2 is a quirky on-rails shooter set many years after the original game, and from there on in, I know very little, and the cut scenes I’ve seen of the game do nothing more than confuse me, so the story will at least be interesting for those playing.

I will say now, Sin and Punishment 2 is hard. It took me a while to get into it, and even then, I had to get help from the guy running the stand to better learn the controls and what to do. There is a lot of action and shooting going on at any one time, and if you’re not expecting it, it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by what’s going on onscreen. At times, you’ll be swamped with enemies, with bullets and attacks flying all over the screen which you’ll have to avoid and counter by moving about the screen and either shooting your foes or slashing them with a sword. As you destroy your enemies, a score multiplier will come up too, meaning that on top of having to kill everything on-screen and trying to avoid all the attacks, there’s also the element of replaying each level to try to max out your high score and gain a bigger multiplier (which will go down if you don’t kill anything for a certain amount of time, or get hit by attacks).

This is one of the clearer, sensical images I could find. And even so, I still have no idea what’s going on.

My time on the game was slightly less enjoyable than it should have been, because the stand forced us to use the Wii Zapper. You remember the Wii Zapper, right? No? Well, the only thing you really need to know about the Wii Zapper is that any game that it’s ideally used for (ie, on rails shooters) is easier to play if you don’t use the Wii Zapper. So, as it stood, using the Wii Zapper was pretty difficult, but not completely useless, seeing as the only motion control was aiming at the screen. However, there are multiple control systems for the game, including Classic Controller and Gamecube controller, so you don’t have to use the Wii Zapper. Just don’t expect a barrel of fun if you do.

The Wii Zapper. Slightly less useful than playing blindfolded with the controller behind your back, but way more cumbersome.

Thanks to the intense and score attack nature of the game, it looks to have a much bigger sense of replayability than you’d think of at first, and it’s allegedly short nature would be compromised by its high replay value and online leaderboards, meaning if you’re into that sort of thing, you could be here a long time, and so Sin and Punishment 2 seems to be a title that’ll truly appeal to the hardcore gamer.

Sin and Punishment 2 was released 7th May in Europe. Sadly, it looks like it’s going to languish and not sell very well over here, despite the high amount of positive reviews the game has gotten. Hopefully, it’ll sell well enough for Nintendo to be able to justify its creation and the future creation of other more hardcore games.

Plus, this is the cover art. How could you not want to pick up a game with a cover that awesome? Seriously.

Quantum Theory:
Tecmo Koei’s attempt at Gears of War. The twist on the Gears of War formula in this game is that most of the action takes place in a “Living Tower”, so cover will be constantly added, taken away or destroyed, forcing you to think a lot more. Like Gears of War, you also have a partner who can hold their own to a degree, but the twist on that part of Gears of War is that you’re able to launch your partner at people. Like, literally throw them like a missile at your foes. Your partner is also a woman. I’ll let you insert your own potentially sexist comments here, thanks. The story is set in a post apocalyptic world containing few human survivors when a new threat could potentially bring an end to mankind appears and must be destroyed. Kind of sounds like another third person action-shooter…

Without wanting to seem too forward or blunt, Quantum Theory looks and plays pretty much like Gears of War. If you were feeling particularly vindictive, you could say that it is potentially just a copy of Gears of War but with different looking characters, art and scenery, different monsters and a different story. However, seeing as it’s taking a lot from Gears of War, that means that there is potentially a lot of things that it can improve on. It also looks promising, and it probably shouldn’t be dismissed as a Gears clone just yet. It has a lot to build on, and it could craft a much more interesting and compelling story than Gears of War (which admittedly wouldn’t be difficult) while building on and improving the already fantastic gameplay. Tecmo Koei, the ball is in your court.
Speaking of Gears of War like games…

Our game doesn’t have a stereotypical grizzled manly man/anti-hero at all, what are you talking about?

Transformers: War for Cybertron:
Despite Activision’s recent actions which have caused many gamers to be angry at them for one reason or another, at least they’re trying hard to look at quality of games rather than quantity, now. One of the ways they’re doing this is through Transformers: War for Cybertron. Acting as a prequel for most of the Transformers series, this game looks to be bringing back Transformers in a big way, and acts as official canon, so what happens in this game is for the most part, officially part of the Transformers story. But, how does it play?

5 words: Gears of War with Robots.

The action is your typical Third Person Action/Shooter that takes a lot of influence from Gears of War, albeit minus the cover system. The game also looks very pretty and seeing Cybertron in a way most people will have never seen before should be a delight for most Transformers fans. The Campaign mode seems to be split into two parts: The Autobots and Decepticons will have separate campaigns and obviously story. However, as good as the game looks to be, and trust me, it looks like it’s going to be a very good game when it’s released, there were a bunch of niggling problems I had with the game during my hands on.

The game of Transformer Football reached a sour end when Megatron yet again kicked the ball out of the park and refused to go get it.

Firstly, there didn’t really seem to be any discernible difference between the Autobots and the Decepticons save what vehicles they could transform into. They both controlled and felt the same, and I’m not sure if that’s the intention or not, but it just gives me the feeling that it’s going to then descend into playing two campaigns that are wholly similar to each other. My hope is that this isn’t the case at all, and that there’s enough of a difference between the campaigns, and the level I played was at an early stage in the game and obviously development, but we can hope it’ll end up alright in the end. Secondly, the AI felt a bit pants. Namely, it just seemed like the standard “Hey guys, lets stand behind this piece of cover, but move out enough so that it’s really easy to get hit! And then we’ll just stand there and shoot at the enemy! This plan will get me that promotion for sur-waitI’mdeadnow” AI. It may have just been the early stages of the game, the fact it’s an early build, or easy difficulty, but the AI could look to improve drastically if it’s going to be entertaining.

Also, the weapons that the Transformers use seem to be about as effective as killing enemies as fuzzy dice are in improving your ability to drive. The guns empty out too quickly and take way too long to kill anything, and I and members of PlusXP soon found ourselves very quickly out of ammo for both weapons our robots carried. However, forsaking the weapons looks to be a pretty smart idea, seeing as in typical shooter game fashion, the melee weapon is the instant-kill button. It honestly makes me wonder why they bother putting guns in a game if you’re able to kill everything in one hit with a melee weapon. Not that you should be worried about losing much health from your health bar (finally, a game that goes back to a regular health bar!) if you decide to go melee-bonkers on everything, thanks to that previously mentioned silly AI. As well as this, the controls seem to be a bit inconsistent and over the place in terms of button placement of what does what. It seems a bit pointless to have the melee button relegated to the right analogue stick press when the right stick also controls the camera.

A Transformer, holding the only weapon you need in the game.

Despite the negative attention I’ve given it, I have some faith that the game won’t be bad, as long as they find the problems early and solve them quickly. Otherwise, it’s going to look to be another game with more than a few vital influences from the Gears of War games, and with Gears of War 3 out next year, what’d be the point of buying a Gears-esque game when you could buy the real thing shortly after? However, best of luck to Activision in delivering a solid product for Transformers: War for Cybertron.

No More Heroes 2:
The first No More Heroes was a Nintendo Wii game I fell in love with. The protagonist was funny, awkward and weirdly relatable in a tale to defeat the greatest assassins in Santa Destroy in the hopes of getting laid with his beam katana that could only be charged by shaking it in a manner reminiscent of a teenager’s favourite pastime.

Yeah, something like that.

One of the great things about the first game was the wild personalities of all those you have to kill in order to succeed and your friends. Granted, the open world layout was a waste of time for many, but the wacky side jobs, plethora of things to do in the game, and the sheer personality and fun the game oozed out at every orifice was more than worth the entry price. However, the game didn’t sell amazingly, as is the case for many hardcore games on the Wii. Luckily, Suda51 was awesome enough to decide to create a sequel to No More Heroes, again on the Wii.

So, what’s No More Heroes 2 like, from what I played of it and what I saw? Well, it’s like Suda51 crafted a long love letter for fans of the first No More Heroes, telling them everything they wanted to hear. Not a fan of the open world? No More Heroes 2 has gotten rid of the open world, and instead there’s the ability to select a variety of locations to travel to once you exit the location you’re currently in, making travel a lot easier. Though, oddly, the format seems to have been swapped over, so locations are explorable, but the world is menu driven, whereas in the first game, some locations would be straight menu driven (such as Travis’s apartment). Liked the side jobs, but thought they could be more stylistic or reminiscent of the game’s style? Bam! The side jobs are now retro 8-bit affairs. They retain their ballistic quirkiness, but are now distinct from the rest of the game, and look awesomely retro. They’re more fun to play than the original side jobs as well, and you could easily lose yourself in the side jobs this time around, which was less possible in the first game. More stuff to do in Travis’s apartment? Travis can now spend his time in his apartment exercising his cat and playing videogames. Better looks? You got it! No More Heroes 2 refines the graphical style of the first game to create an even sleeker looking game that looks as great as the fun is to play. Which is a lot.

What about the combat? Well, okay, the combat isn’t too far removed from the first game, which is brilliant, but there are a couple of changes to the formula. For one, the hi/lo strikes of the first game (Travis would attack the enemy depending on how the wiimote was positioned… hi or lo), a mostly superfluous thing that only seemed to break up combat a bit, is gone. Kicks and unarmed strikes now do damage, and so they’re a more viable option to stun and hold back your opponents, whereas in the original, kicks wouldn’t do any damage, but only help to set up the wrestling moves. Wrestling moves? Still there. So, the fighting seems to be much the same, but more streamlined and easy to use, which is only a good thing for all concerned.

Once again, saving is done by evacuating your bowels, something other games, and even life should think about adopting.

And what about the enemies, the assassins that you have to fight? Well, from the looks of it, them and their battles seem to be just as hilarious and nutty as before, if not even nuttier in some cases. The battle I played was from Travis’s Number One fan, who decided the only way she could prove her love to him was to kill him, explained with a love letter written by her, read by Travis while she plays her flute in the background. A flute which turns into a double ended beam katana, and your pants from dry to wet. I may have spent more time on the floor in that battle than I’d have liked (Travis, on the other hand…) but it proved to be a fun, tough battle. Other Boss battles I saw included a fight between Gundam-alike robots fighting in the streets of Santa Destroy, and solidified how much I need this game. If you didn’t like the first game, there’s been enough improvements for you to justify exploration into the sequel. If you loved the first game, why don’t you already have this?

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is out now.

Finally, we move onto…

Super Mario Galaxy 2:
The first Super Mario Galaxy game stands as my all time favourite Wii game, and my second favourite game of all time. The game was beautiful and nearly perfect in every way. It controlled amazingly. It showed amazing creativity. It looked beautiful. It played beautifully. The story, while minimal, gave way to a much bigger understanding of everything and a touching ending if you cared to explore it and become invested in what happened. It was a well-balanced difficulty, with the game having a nearly perfect learning curve and ending in challenges that were difficult, but not unfair. Then there was the ability to replay the game as Luigi if you got all the stars, and so provided a different way to play what was one of the most incredible, fun games ever created. Anything that wasn’t perfect in Super Mario Galaxy was almost perfect. So, how do you improve on perfection? I don’t know, but Nintendo somehow found a way.

Pictured: Super Mario Galaxy 2. Not Pictured: My lack of pants.

Taking place in an alternative timeline or story where Mario never met up with the Lumas from the first game, Mario is forced to once again go and defeat Bowser and Bowser Jr repeatedly in order to go save the Princess. Surely, Mario’s done it enough times to get the free prize on the loyalty card, right? Instead of the open world hub of the last game, though, this time Mario has a spaceship/planet that looks like him. So I guess you could call it a faceship. (Note: I think someone actually makes this joke in the game) From here, you can explore, mess about with the scenery, ride Yoshi… Oh, didn’t I mention Yoshi? Yeah, you can use Yoshi in this one. And it’s awesome. In fact, everything in this game is awesome.

Space Jaaaaaaammmmmmm….

Super Mario Galaxy 2 feels like they took everything that they established and made work in the first Galaxy game and then improved on it, or stretched out different possible scenarios and ideas to the point where even from what little I got to play of the game, it felt like one of the most magical, inventive games imaginable. Levels look and play beautifully. The music is incredible. The game is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It even has 2D sections in the style of the Super Mario Bros games. New items like Cloud Mario give more ways to combat levels and give the player new levels of creativity with how to approach a level. Yoshi is simply awesome, and the sections I played with him felt intuitive and perfectly designed, and his inclusion was something that was clearly intended early on, rather than a last second conclusion. Luigi’s unlockable from 20 stars, meaning you can approach and do some levels as Luigi early on if you want a different style to play, or a slightly bigger challenge. The whole game is harder to boot, with the whole game designed for those who completed Super Mario Galaxy in mind. Trying a level as Luigi felt just as fun as attempting it with Mario, and the extra level of challenge is a welcome plus for those who want the game even harder. The Boss levels like the rest of the game are expertly crafted, and the battle I tried felt perfectly designed and challenging, and felt even more rewarding when I defeated Bowser Jr.

Anything else I say about the game, especially considering what little I’ve played of it may end up coming off as the rantings of a lovestruck fool. Simply put, even from what little I played of Super Mario Galaxy 2, I am in love. It may have been love at first sight, love at first play, or anything. But all I know is that I want Super Mario Galaxy 2. I am already in love with the game, and the time I’ve spent without this game feels like my heart is breaking. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is like Nintendo wrote me a declaration of love telling me everything I ever wanted to hear, and meant it. Super Mario Galaxy could be the best Wii game ever made. It could potentially be one of the greatest games ever made. It could potentially end up being my favourite game ever.

Super Mario Galaxy 2. I Love You. Be Mine. <3

So those are my Games Glimpses for the 17th MCM Expo!
The next entry will most likely be “Things I Learnt At The MCM Expo”. Stay tuned!

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