16th November 2009 - Last Wednesday (November 11th), the Sydney Leg of the 'XBOX Insider' tour hit home and All Age Gaming went along to see what all the fuss was about. Tucked inside a small Sydney night club, it was more a case of 'too much' of a good thing and not enough room, with a mix of games consoles, Windows 7 on top of a catwalk stage and DJ Set. Despite it being crowded, the cast of Good Game from the ABC were there as well as a number of website alumni not to mention MC Hammer. What follows is a rough breakdown of what we remember happening...
Assassin's Creed 2 First Look
Xbox branded popcorn in hand, the first and most obvious station was Assassin's creed 2. A seemingly complete playable build of the game was available for hands on demonstration. And by hands on I mean letting the hands of the rep doing all the walking. Don't get me wrong but the reps who man these stations really bug me, because they have obviously been given a script to reherse and they always treat the customer like an idiot; stop talking, and let me play the game- I know what I'm doing. Always engage them in small talk and ask them questions they couldn't possibly understand.
So the game: Basicly, it's more of the same. Watching the fighting was like a combination of Batman and Fable; one button with counters to perform many differant context senssitive moves. Batman, though didn't have a sword but he did have a cape, he also had better martial arts training. Ezio moves somewhat slowly, the animation sluggish likes hes moving though trecal just to lift his arm. Realistic but no so fluid.
One of the biggest new features is the water and the ability to swim. What was most apprent was that surprise, suprise, no one else ever jumps in after you. Excellent for quick evades. The climbing and jumping from the first is most present and falls into the Nathan Drake excellence of climbing. Ezio will literally scale anything from window ledges to brick walls and the animation and movments; top notch. From the roof also you can see the differance from the first one. The draw distance is seamless and you can see from one side of a map to the other over all the rooftops of Venice.
Graphically, it actually doesn't look as good as the movies make out. Venice itself is beutiful and water lighting ect are all done well, but the game is only up there with the likes of GTA or Batman. No more and no less.
Unlike Hitman, or Splinter Cell or even Batman, what was most notable is that Ubisoft insists on listing everything possible on the HUD. The screen has more information and indicators than was neccessary and the map was packed with symbols and icons of what to do. All a bit hard to follow and could have used a tone down. Once I know X is attack and Y is counter I don't need to keep seeing it for the duration of the game.
The game is everything we were expecting. Hard to say about the story at this point, gameplay is fun and intuitive. With a better enviroment than Batmans and Splinter Cell still a few months off, Assassins Creed looks like it should deliver.
Tony Hawk's: RIDE wireless skateboard
Lets just say this thing works alot better than expected. I'm no pro skateboarder but for all intent and puposes it does exactly what you would expect. The response time is excellent and the feed-back fast. Microsoft was running comps to win a signed Tony Hawk XBOX for the longest 'balance' on the board. The biggest flaw was not in the feet but the lack of any '3D'; it was hard to judge the distance forward away from you as a screen is flat and more than a few times jumps were failed.
Graphically the game is nothing to write home about. In fact apart from a new wireless interface it is decidedly old-skool. The board was also on a matt making me wonder just how well it would go on soft carpet.
Again from the looks, more of the same. Not a big fan of DJ scratching, music ect, but everyone at the console with their headphones on were doing their best DJ impressions. I suppose once you get the rhythem down it starts to flow but it looks like a lesson in concentration than really fluidly moving a turn table.
Also as hard as strumming a plastic guitar is, this one looks even harder in that I have no idea what the symbols and directions on screen mean. Definatley one for the co-ordianted and patient. I'm sure someone will buy it but it also seems less user friendly and open to large parties. Only one person can play at a time, unless you have a guitar and then its just wierd.
The MC on stage was doing his best to get people excited by this stage and definatley having a professional DJ mixing music with the streaming graphics of DJ Hero on screen made it look better than it was.
Avatar and Sonys 3D TV
Forget Mordern Warfare 2, this game was a surprise hit. Not least because the 3D glasses and Tv really are seamless. Not really 3D as in 'pop out' of the Tv virtual reality; these new 3D Tvs render procedually backwards into the screen on layers.
It can actually look pretty distracting because you can really see the layers. I mean it looks like X creature is now behind Y model in the forground but no matter where you run the character in 3rd person is always right at the front and everything else comes in behind him. Vehicles and plants were better becuase it blurs the line between forground and background but still...
Also for a new Tv it had very obvious black lines running across the resolution of it. Guessing it may have to be at a low screen res to work well...
The game itself was cool. Looked like a mix between Halo and Tribes...alot of big planet action with even bigger monsters running orund with grunts and vehicles trying to pick them off. The chick from Good Game on the ABC was there and acted like she had never seen it before. A Sony 3D TV like these ones will set you back almost $15,000.00. Microsoft has already come out and said they won't launch Natal until 3D Tvs are mainstream; so only time will tell. Shooting in 3D is a little hard only because there is now a sense of distance between 'layers' so your reticle drifts off into the background and you keep trying to shoot 'forward'. Makes you relise how flat games really are and how our eyes trick us because we move the sight left and right but it 'looks' like it's moving further away. Still, 3D has come a long way.
Splinter Cell Conviction
Honestly, with this one I wouldn't be surprised on another delay. They are predicting Feb 25th 2010, but so far no demo or actual gameplay for hands on. Video was breif but showed among other things that the trademark nightvision goggles are back!
So all those Modern Warefare fans now have something to do with theirs. Sam Fisher also seems to be channeling more aggro this time around; the highlight really was the torture, watching him slam a knife through some guys hand into a tree and leave him there, the melee counter attack system seems varly brutal. Personally I want to hear more about the new Max Payne. Ubisoft seemed to be dominating the proceedings. Tomy Clancy games are cool though.
There were a few other games in the Montage of releases but it was too noisy and too crowded to see any good.
Bikinis, Babes and Beer
Then the catwalk started. MC Hammer is currently ½ hour late. People want to leave. Babes in bikinis are hot, but if they start selling avatar underwear im leaving. They were in all good intentions supposed to be modelling the brand name avitar fashions. Great. Can we give them Microsoft points to take them off...
There were a bunch of hip-hop artists jumping around on stage but it's not like your going get excited and yell out "My Avatar is wearing his clothes OMG". The MC was really having a hard time getting people excited about Facebook and Twitter. They actually asked the audiance if they used it and would you like to follow MC Hammer online? I rekon he was in the back crying.
MC 'Hammer Time' Hammer LIPS
So based on the stretched mini Ts all the promo girls were wearing, all the while trying to shovel more pizza and Crispy Cream at us, MC Hammer was in the house to promote his LIPS music tracks or songs or something. He also appeared on a morning show earlier that day. The same one that said that games are bad, mkay.
For all the time waiting, he was on stage for all of 15 odd minuets. Sung three songs then left. There just wasn't much to it. He didn't really demo the game or even sing for us; just busted out 3 of his best with a bunch of random dancers who were both catwalk models and ex-Australian idols.
Still, bit of fun. Once Hammer Time had ended people just left. The whole thing took about 3 ½ hours. Some one won a signed Tony Hawk console and the raffle was a bust because no one had the ticket. About a grand of free games went back to Microsoft.
So thats it folks, Everything that went down. Wish you were there; we missed you too. Assassin's Creed 2 was definitively a highlight but nothing that hadn't been shown at recent Ubi or Black-Beta nights. For a night out in the middle of the week with your local EB and JBHIFI staff, it could have been worse.
Article Written By Ian Crane