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X'11 hints at big things to come

Aug 19, 2011

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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A lot of Microsoft's focus for the last year or so has been on its new Kinect motion-control system. It's clearly an attempt to take a piece of the casual market that so many other companies covet so dearly.

The holiday season for 2011 is no different, with plenty of Kinect-only titles, or Kinect integration being included in upcoming games.

A person couldn't be blamed for thinking Microsoft's annual holiday game preview, X'11, would be a neverending display of motion-controlled games, but that wasn't the case in Toronto where the event was recently held.

The number of AAA titles on-hand was dizzying, with names like "Rage", "Assassin's Creed: Revelations" and "Mass Effect 3"  giving only a small taste of what will be in store for salivating gamers in the coming months.

G4 Canada gives a look into some of our favourite games from X'11.

Gears of War 3Gears of War 3 - Epic Games had a large presence at X'11 as it showed off the Gears of War 3's co-op Beast Mode at X'11, which takes everything you loved about Horde Mode from Gears 2, and completely flips it. In Beast Mode, you take control of different types of Locust in an attempt to execute COG members.

It's certainly a unique take on the horde-style gameplay that Epic itself made popular in Gears 2, though I didn't instantly warm up to Beast Mode like I did when I first played Horde Mode.

Gamers earn virtual money as they play, whether its by downing enemies, assisting teammates, or destroying environmental obstructions such as barbed wire fences or lasers. After getting killed by a COG, the player can then choose to respawn as whatever Locust they choose using the money they've earned, provided they actually have enough cash.

In terms of choice, players have several options, including the Ticker, the giant knife-wielding Butcher, and the Beast Rider. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, the biggest strength for the larger characters being that they have a ton of power and don't go down easily at all.

I played several rounds and never really felt any of the exhilaration I did in Horde Mode. For a co-op mode, it didn't feel like co-operation was a big part of the gameplay. It doesn't really make sense, for instance, to wait around for a Butcher if you're a Ticker. But as you scurry off, your tiny character is easily killed off. The Butcher, meanwhile, is still slowly making his way to where the action is.

I'm sure that an experienced group of players will be able to do some damage and have fun with this, but until I see more, I remain unconvinced that Beast Mode will be able to beat out Horde Mode for best co-op experience this generation.

NHL 12NHL 12 - Electronic Arts was onhand to show off the latest entry in its hockey series, which is a perennial favourite among critics. The core gameplay remains similar to past years, including the dual-stick controls, but for the true hockey enthusiasts out there, some really neat additions are sure to stand out.

One of the big ones is the addition of legends that will be playable in the game. There are nine of them, and they're without a doubt some of the biggest ones to ever shoot or block a puck in the NHL. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Patrick Roy and Steve Yzerman are a few of the greats that will be featured.

Other notable additions to the game include live goalies, which means you can run 'em over, though of course, you'll have to beware of interference penalties. Netminders can now even fight, though we weren't able to witness this firsthand during our time with the game. We'll surely be attempting this incessantly once we have the full game though.

Anticipation AI is also new, and this is just another way to add realism to the game. This will allow controller-controlled players to anticipate actions before the happen. A perfect example is the quick winger who dashes to the opposing team's blue line, waiting for a breakaway pass because he sees his centre steal the puck off someone.

The full contact physics engine, meanwhile, will take into account players' size when someone is getting hit. So if you're controlling a smaller player like Daniel Sedin, and you try to level a giant defenceman like Zdeno Chara, it's unlikely to happen. Switch the hitter and hittee around, though, and you may have an injury waiting to happen.

I actually see several examples of these new features throughout my game playing as the Canucks, and it does add a lot, without changing the core gameplay too much. And there are few things more fun than to watch a player get dumped over the boards and into his team's bench.

One other extremely neat addition to NHL 12 is the Winter Classic. Philadelphia will be the home team for the annual game in the upcoming game, and EA built a full replica of a rink at Heinz Field, where the Pittsburgh Steelers play. It's amazing to see the attention to detail, with players' breath visibly rising from their mouths, members of each team standing near heat sources to warm themselves up, and ramps leading from the field itself to the rink.

Batman: Arkham CityBatman: Arkham City - Batman: Arkham Asylum came out of nowhere in 2009 to quietly become one of the most critically acclaimed games of this generation. The pressure was on for Rocksteady to make a worthy followup, and the love they've put into the sequel is clear from the get-go.

As the title suggests, the game has been opened way up, as it takes place in a sprawling city - that just happens to look like the dictionary definition of urban decay. Groups of thugs are all around, uncollected garbage sits all over the place, and cars are parked haphazardly, as if the people in them left in a hurry.

Though the city itself is much larger than the asylum Batman fought his way through two years ago, the two environments share something very much in common - they're both, in essence, prisons. As such, Batman likely shouldn't expect a friendly welcome from any of the seedy inhabitants on the street.

Sure enough, I get in a few fights during my play time, and I get my butt handed to me by the large groups of thugs who surround me. Granted, I'm a little rusty after having not played Arkham Asylum for a long time, but it's clear this isn't simply a button-masher.

Of course, this is Batman, so he has plenty of tricks at his disposable, including the bat cable, grappling hook, and of course his trusty cape, which allows him to silently glide down from above onto unsuspecting enemies.

Gliding actually plays an important role in Arkham City, as it's one of the quickest ways to traverse the environment that's about five times larger than the previous game. It has a definitely learning curve and I don't quite get the hang of it during my playtime, but it is a forgiving system.

Climbing up high is as easy as pointing in the general direction of a section of a building and pressing a button that activates the grappling hook. A few quick presses of the A-button allows Batman to begin gliding. Again, it wasn't dead simple, but after a short time controlling the dark knight, I'm confident it'll become second nature.

 
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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.