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NY Comic Con 2011 Roundup – Rockstar Shines, Star Wars Stumbles – The Nick Blog
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NY Comic Con 2011 Roundup – Rockstar Shines, Star Wars Stumbles

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Every year, NY Comic Con showcases the industry’s best upcoming games and demos for the public to enjoy. Here’s what I found interesting this year while I roamed around the exhibition floor.

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Max Payne 3

Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: March 2012
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Grab your painkillers and load up your pistols because everyone’s favorite bullet-time vigilante is back – – and this time, he’s getting a massive next-gen overhaul.

Max Payne 3, the third chapter in the critically acclaimed series, hit NY Comic Con with both barrels and left its mark on the festivities. Fans of the third-person shooter game have nothing to worry about by the looks of things: Rockstar, not only has everything well under control, but has reinvigorated the series altogether with its beautifully rendered graphics and cool new fighting features like Final kill-camera, Last Man Standing (which gives Max the chance to advert death by killing his executioner at the cost of a banked painkiller) and the Red Dead Redemption-esque weapon wheel.

From the first moments of the developer-led demo, you are treated to a cutscene structure familiar to any video gamer, one which explains the destructive depths of Max’s current state of affairs: he’s boozing, taking pills and living alone in a tenement filled with whacked out neighbors. Basically, he’s given up and he doesn’t care about anything or anyone.

Then, a knock comes at his door: an old friend pays him a visit with a possible job opportunity and all hell breaks loose. The following action throws Max into a gun battle that will take him through the streets of New York City and San Paolo, Brazil.

Graphically speaking, Rockstar teleported the Max Payne franchise to the next level (pun intended). Using an amalgam of their ever popular RAGE engine, motion capture physical acting and Natural Motion’s Euphoria game system, Rockstar developers infused Max Payne’s 3-D character models with a digital breath of life. Gone are the occasional ice skating-like sliding across levels instead of walking or rubber-like bouncing off walls coming out of a bullet-time frenzy. Now, Max will walk, run and fight might like a real world over-stressed detective-turned-vigilante-gunman would if put in a similar situation.

The game’s signature feature, the well-known bullet-time aim for gun fights, also takes advantage of the new mo-cap tech. After finishing a sepia-hued mid-air assault on Max’s enemies, players will notice that his character model takes a natural and realistic station wherever he lands, giving the player a 360 degree range of motion to aim at any remaining bad guys. Fallen combatants are used by Max as makeshift cover/leaning posts if nearby, while jumping into walls no longer causes Payne to float to the ground or slide down its face.

Rather, the obstruction re-averts his motion though a pushing off animation, which re-positions Max towards safety or into oncoming danger depending on the circumstances. And with these technical motion capture improvements now in place, Rescue Me star James McCaffrey will have a chance to not only voice Max but also physically act him out as well – – from a simple grimace while nursing his post-battle wounds to a flat out runner’s sprint through back alleyways and streets reminiscent of Usain Bolt.

Though most of the gameplay footage displayed at NY Comic Con took place during the day, Rockstar developers on hand assured the viewing public that the series’ classic noir themes will be deeply entrenched within Max Payne 3’s main storyline. And the rumors of the game having multiplayer features may be true, though they didn’t confirm or deny any questions regarding the subject shot their way.

Slated for release in March of 2012, Max Payne 3 looks ready for public consumption right now, though the wait for the highly-anticipated release feels as if we’re caught in the middle of Max’s time-bending antics.

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Grand Theft Auto 3 – 10th Anniversary Edition

Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: Fall 2011
Platform: Apple iOS Devices (iPad 2, iPhone 4S), Android Phones (Droid X2, HTC Evo 2, LG Optimus 2X, Motorola Atrix, Samsung Galaxy S2), Android Tablets (Acer Iconia, Asus Eee Pad, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1)

On October 22nd, 2001, Rockstar Games released what many in the video game industry called “magnificent,” “epic” and “brilliant”: the PlayStation 2’s Grand Theft Auto 3. The first 3-D effort in the underground series, GTA 3 became a mainstream attraction for hardcore shooter enthusiasts and anti-violence advocates alike. Many say it fueled Rockstar’s rise to developer super-stardom and laid the groundwork for future hits like Midnight Club, Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire.

10 years and reportedly tens of millions of units sold later, Rockstar recently announced their intentions of celebrating the ten anniversary of GTA 3 by re-releasing the game for many iOS and Android mobile platforms. And NY Comic Con was the first major exhibition where gamers and the press alike could test out the soon to be released game in all its nostalgic glory on the iPad 2.

The first noticeable features of the re-release is its graphical sharpness. With many classic games re-purposed for newer platforms, models and environments can really show their age. This isn’t the case with this edition of GTA 3. While it’s not nearly as layered or complex as the aforementioned Max Payne 3, the 10th anniversary edition looks as if it could be released as a modern day mobile title and genuinely compete on the market with other games in its genre.

Also, with some sprawling games created for mobile devices, freezing due to a small memory cache comes into play. This wasn’t the case with the demo version, for Claude’s movements and interactions with his environment activated and reacted seamlessly.

Yet, the most outstanding and amazing aspect of this game is the game itself and its ability to grab you. Once you get the touch screen’s control scheme down, a system where on screen icons show you how to walk, run, shoot and drive while cycling through your weapon rack is as easy as a flick of the finger, the game feels as if you are re-watching one of your favorite film or re-reading a great mystery novel you completed ages ago. Yes, you know how each one ends, but the experience is so engaging and the creative elements are so well-constructed that you just can’t stop until you’ve finished it straight through.

Simply put, Rockstar’s near perfect recreation of the 2001 hit successfully recaptured a shining moment in many gamers’ recent history without tarnishing the original memory. Not an easy task to accomplish in this day and age.

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Star Wars – The Old Republic

Publisher: Bioware/LucasArts
Release Date: December 12th, 2011
Platform: PC

Simply put, I am a huge Star Wars fan. So, when I saw that LucasArts and Bioware were planning to release an MMORPG based on the epic Old Republic series of RPG games for the X-Box, I was excited and eager to see what the final product would be.

Then I played the near final product at NY Comic Con. Final verdict: Consider me underwhelmed.

Yes, the creative possibilities are endless for this game. And the graphics were amazing, but that’s not surprising at all since its so close to the games December 10th, 2011 release date.

But, three glaring problems loomed over me like an angry Wookie after having his dinner stolen. First, the game features no controller support whatsoever, an idiotic move considering TOR’s direct market competition is Sony’s DC Universe Online. True, classic MMORPG fans will be pleased. But, such a huge mechanical void immediately turns off platform-based gamers looking to jump from DCUO to TOR and stumbles these potential subscribers from committing right off the bat.

Second, the rinse/repeat fighting mechanics found in the demo, especially while a meager level 1 character, bored me to tears. What should have been a fun romp through one portion of the rich and vast universe George Lucas created so many years ago felt like the beginning of life-long prison sentence. Realizing that MMORPG’s are more marathons than sprints, this demo should have featured the very best of what each class had to offer. Instead, we were forced to take on the role of Level 1 characters, not able to see just how amazing and strong our toons could become when fully enveloped in the main storyline.

The aforementioned DCUO encompassed and nailed the action-packed nature of DC Comics through their controller-based power button layout and fighting mechanics. So, while many of the mission dynamics scattered around Gotham and Metropolis are re-tooled clones of one another, they seem different and inviting to the knowledgeable gamer.

The only entertainment I gained from the TOR session came from those who were playing with on the PvE network, who like me were more interested in giving each other rude gestures via emotes than actually sampling the game.

Hopefully, Star Wars: TOR’s storyline and other mission elements have something amazing hidden up its sleeve. Otherwise, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s famous words serve as good advice for the casual gamer deciding whether or not to try this one out – – these are not the droids you are looking for.

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Transformers Universe

Publisher: Jagex
Release Date: Fall 2012
Platform: Yet to be determined Flash-compatible web browsers

Keep an eye on this browser-based MMO featuring the Transformers franchise from Jagex Studios, the makers of Runescape and War of Legends.

Titled Transformers: Universe, the title will feature faction-based and specific combat set in the middle of the ongoing Autobot/Decepticon conflict, creatable character robots with various roles similar to those found in your typical MMORPG (Tank, Healer etc.) and cameos from fan favorites Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron and Starscream.

Though it is very early in its development, the footage screened at NY Comic Con and that’s currently circulating on the web looks very promising. Check it out:

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Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary Edition

Publisher: 343 Industries
Release Date: November 15th, 2011
Platform: Xbox 360

For many first person shooter fanatics and gaming historians, 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved stands as the franchise that propelled Microsoft into viable console competition for market giants Nintendo and Sony while catapulting the genre into the pop culture mainstream.

On November 15th, 2011, 10 years after its initial release, Halo: CE returns to the Xbox with its 10th anniversary edition, a total re-tooling of the original. 343 Industries, the lead developer of the title, took the entire build of H:CE and upgraded graphics, lighting and gameplay features so the release would be on par with the previous installment of the series Halo: Reach. In fact, developers included an option to jump between a mode displaying the classic graphics and the modern rendition, so players can see the difference 10 years can make for themselves. The effort takes Combat Evolved and morphs it into a hyper version of its former self with the best elements of the entire franchise.

343 also included re-modeled editions of classic Halo maps like Prisoner, Beaver Creek and Damnation, adding modern day renderings to nostalgic settings. The combo works wonders and will leave many fans salivating at the reworked creations.

Having a chance to sample Halo:CE, I took on the role of a Reach-esque Spartan and perched myself in the narrow hallways of Prisoner. I fragged opponents with the 2x scoped Magnum (which makes its triumphant return here) until someone finally caught me with a well-placed plasma grenade. Stuck to my armor, I tried to take the thrower with me to no avail. 3 seconds later, I was back, pistol in hand, ready to reek havoc once more.

Ah, it’s was like 2001 all over again and loved every minute of it. Roll on November 15th.

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