This week’s Sunday Sidebar is brought to you by the letter T. A couple of noteworthy demo versions saw light this week, and it seems prudent to give them some due care and attention. So boot up your Xbox 360, and let’s download ourselves some trials, huh?
First-off, if you have an Xbox, and you haven’t checked yet out the Trapdoor/EA joint Warp, it’s worth a look-in. Available in trial form from the Xbox Live Marketplace right now, it will be coming to PC and PS3 around March 16. I remember playing it and chatting with one of the developers briefly at PAX East last year, and quite enjoying the cartoony visuals and laboratory atmosphere. As a puzzle game taking place in a scientific locale, the comparisons to Portal are quick in jumping to mind, although the feel of the game is much less cerebral than Valve’s much-loved release. Of course, it is likely that Warp may develop into something more significant or complicated than the demo suggests, though, so perhaps I’m too quick to de-cerebralize it before it’s had a fair chance.
Warp is also the opening gambit for Microsoft’s House Party promotion, with Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, Nexuiz, and I Am Alive to follow in the weeks to come. Of those three, I Am Live is perhaps the most anticipated, and yet another survival horror game releasing this year! Hopefully our Jen Bosier will get a chance to enjoy a survival horror game this year after all? For what it’s worth, Ubisoft had previously scrapped development on the project, which at least gives hope that their is some variety of quality control in place, unlike a certain other release from this year. I’m quite looking forward to the next instalment of Alan Wake, given the pulpy look and feel of what’s been shown of it so far. The black sheep of the House Party is definitely Nexuiz, though. Starting out life as a Quake mod really doesn’t seem to give it much relevance or inherent value. The Xbox 360 is, as ever, still not particularly suffering from a lack of first-person shooters. You can check out some clips of the three here.
I suspect that I am not alone in having returned to the Mass Effect franchise this week. If not only for the brand-new demo (with multiplayer?!), then to get saved games and desired outcomes arranged and in place for the early March release of the closing chapter in a (so far) wonderful trilogy and excellent science fiction universe. So, the demo then. Opinions on it are suitably varied, which doesn’t generate a whole lot of confidence, but then, you know what they say about opinions. Mine? If you insist. What we are shown of the campaign feels lacking somehow, and having spent the last week re-completing the noir-y dreamboat that is Mass Effect 2, I was surprised to note how much more similar the demo felt to Mass Effect the First than its far-superior sequel.
The multiplayer is, so far as I can tell, Gears of War’s Horde Mode with some rudimentary effecting of masses. At the moment, I’m not convinced. I hope I can eat these words at a later date, but first impressions left me feeling that it is tacked-on, insignificant and not a huge draw. I was hoping for a much better outcome, I must say. All of the hype surrounding it, and my love for the first two games, have had me proverbially foaming at the mouth for the third and final entry, but after this week I feel just a tad cooled in that regard. Fingers crossed for a swift crossing-out of this mindset in under a month’s time.
Speaking of interesting multiplayer, I would direct any of those on the fence about Syndicate to try out its multiplayer demo offering. It’s not perfect, by a long way, but it’s a very intriguing, and it wasn’t until Jerry Holkins pointed it out that I realised that it replicates the playstyle of an MMO in a very interesting way. Also, it’s a super cyberpunk, tech-noir, corporate paranoia overdose. If you like that sort of thing, which I most certainly do.
Some other news is that, as a brief addendum to last week’s in-praise-of article on Double Fine, their Kickstarter campaign for Double Fine Adventure has led to a number of developers, particularly in the realms of nostalgia titles, to consider launching their own campaigns. If the whole thing kicks off, we could be in a very interesting world of business in the near future. Perhaps big corporations will fall, as gamers fund their own titles directly. This cannot happen. We need those big corporations so that we can fear them, folks. Please consult Syndicate for further information.
That about rounds it up for this week. If you’ve tried any of those games out, please let us know what you thought in the comments!