24th September 2011 - Okay, so on the 21st I attended an event called "Ubinights", which we were kindly invited to attend by our friends at Ubisoft. There were many things on offer. There was food, drink, music, people and a dance floor. Oh yeah, and there were some games, too! So to cut straight to the chase, I'll give a short summary and first impressions of the games I had a chance to play at the event, starting with PowerUp Heroes for Kinect!
I hadn't actually heard much about this before I played it, but the learning curve was very small. I was surprised by how easy it was to do the super moves, although there doesn't seem to be all that much you can do besides these. I found myself and the other player constantly firing all our super moves, then throwing little balls of energy for a while as we waited for them to recharge.
The biggest problems I encountered were that, as you stand next to the other player, it's easy for you to be trying to activate a move, only to realize that your arm has gone behind the other player (or the other player's arm is in front of yours), and your move doesn't get activated, causing you to take a hit because of Kinect. The other big problem, as with seemingly all Kinect titles (due to the nature of the hardware of course), is that everything has a delay - you'll see a move coming at you, you'll curl to the right, and the system won't pick up your reaction till just as the move hits you.
These get very frustrating, and really gave me a newfound appreciation for the common controller, but despite this I actually had a fun time with PowerUp Heroes, when it wasn't bugging out.
Once again I hadn't really heard about this one before now (as is the way with Kinect titles, no-one actually cares, except for Microsoft and a bunch of hard-headed Publishers and Developers. I didn't get too much time with this one, and only had a chance to play the Sky-Diving/Wing suit minigame.
The first thing that hit me watching this one is that the graphics are actually really impressive! There is a great sense of speed, and the detail on a lot of the cliffs, trees and water is fantastic. It really was a pleasure to watch, but to play, that's a different kettle o' kittens altogether.
It was strange when I got to play it, because the first thing that hit me was that you seem to have absolutely no control at all over what your character/avatar does in the same century! The delay is actually that bad. The second thing that hit both me and the lovely Player 2 was each other. There wasn't really room to play this game with two people, since you have to stand with your arms out, and there just wasn't room for this. We tried moving apart, but the Kinect sensor stopped picking us up properly when we did that.
So altogether I was quite let down by my time with this one, since I couldn't control my avatar, and got some new bruises as a souvenir. I did also get to see some of the Kitesurf minigame, but not much. The people playing at that time were completely incapable of grabbing onto the “bar” the game was talking about, no matter how they tried or followed the game's commands.
Just Dance 3 & Black Eyed Peas Experience
There really isn't much to be said about these two, as they're both dancing games – although the graphics in Black Eyed Peas Experience really were stunning! I don't imagine many people visiting a gaming website are all that interested in either, and I didn't have a chance to play Black Eyed Peas Experience (and, honestly, didn't want to play Just Dance 3 – my dignity wasn't worth it). More people were interested in Black Eyed Peas Experience, though, and even I was interested in watching people play it – people seemed to have more fun with it, and the visual style & flare made it one of the better games to watch being played.
Just Dance 3 had a lot of fluorescent colours moving around, but most of the people playing it had the same problems everyone always has with Kinect – a delay in movement detection.
Overall, the crowd seemed a lot more interested in Black Eyed Peas Experience than Just Dance 3, and I think with good reason - Black Eyed Peas Experience was more fun to watch, better to look at, seemed to have better music (the final straw with Just Dance 3 was the techno remix of Kiss's “I Was Made For Loving You”), and definitely had more of a party focus.
The first thing that hit me with Rayman: Origins was the visual style, in contrast to many of the other games. Lots of colour, lots of detail, nice environments, and the art style was definitely distinctive and interesting. Unfortunately, things went a bit downhill when I actually got a chance to play.
The movement is a lot like you'd find in LittleBigPlanet, but just slightly harder to do fluidly and swiftly. Often I'd find myself trying to jump onto a ledge, only to wall-jump just below it and have to try again. This was only made harder by the co-op mode, where I could barely even keep track of the character I was controlling in the clusterf**k that was our characters.
Despite this, I did actually have a little bit of fun with Rayman: Origins, especially when you hit a spiky fish and turn into a bubble (I'm not joking, that's just what happened), and fly around at your leisure. I asked one of the Ubisoft reps/game explainers about it, and said I didn't understand anything that was going on in the game. He said that's how it's supposed to be. I've never been a Rayman player before, but I think I actually might pick this one up when it hits XBLA and PSN on November the 24th but I don't see why it has to come out NINE DAYS after it does in North America.
Looking good Frankie!!! ;)
Now, I know not many readers will be all that interested in the games I've written about so far, so I'll go straight to the big one we want to hear about...
Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Yes, I did have a chance to play Assassin's Creed: Revelations, but sadly it wasn't the full retail build. It was just a demo version. I didn't play the Beta, so I don't know if it was the same or a different demo altogether. Nevertheless, I did notice some key differences that stood out, so I'll just list some of them with a bit of detail.
We'll start with the Graphics. As expected for a game coming along so late in a console generation's lifespan, there's little to no graphic improvement over Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. In fact, I played Brotherhood on the X360 and Revelations on the PS3, and still barely saw a difference at all – I suppose that's about as sweet as Ubisoft can make it.
I don't know if this irritates anyone else, but this has always irritated me – Ubisoft put so much detail and effort into the crowd and walking animations, but don't even have a separate animation for walking up stairs. So whenever you walk up stairs, you do it by swinging your legs flatly back and forth and hovering upwards. Nearly all games these days have a way for characters to look right walking up stairs and inclines, but Ass Creed still doesn't.
Anyways, we'll move on to the Multiplayer (no singleplayer news or impressions for you yet, sorry!). The first thing that hits you is the movement is improved, feeling a bit less sluggish and a bit easier to control fluidly, making it a lot easier to blend into crowds. And speaking of crowds, their movement throughout the play area seems less scripted, more organic, making hiding in them, waiting to pounce on an unaware victim even easier!
One of the big things for me, but also bittersweet, is the stun system. When a pursuer is near, you can use the new lock-on system to... Erm... Lock on, and then hit Circle/B to stun them and make a lightning fast escape while your pursuer is left coughing and spluttering in a cloud of dust, opening them up in turn to their pursuers. But this system seems a little flawed. Yes, it's an improvement over the Ass Creed Bro system of “NO STUN FOR YOU, YOU DIE ALWAYS LOL”, but the pursuer seems to be stunned for too long, and they're stuck for a very long time in the animation for it.
This may not sound like a big deal, but I played 6 or 7 full games and saw one chase, in the whole time. The problem here, then, is it makes the chase breakers redundant, and takes a lot of the adrenaline rush and frantic action less frequent, bringing the game down to a mere simmer of “Red hood bloke, stabby, L1, stun, find woman in green, stabby”, which wasn't as exciting for me as was Ass Creed Bro's multiplayer, flawed as it was. And even with this new stun system, you often can't seem to do it in time – and this was on a LAN! The game sometimes chooses to ignore your stun command, just making you watch your digital self being stabbed. This took a bit of fun out of it for me.
With the new system, though, it seems everyone was getting more kills than usual. I asked a few people how they did in comparison to a typical game of Brotherhood's standard deathmatch mode, and, like me, they all said they did seem to get a lot more kills and points and die less, which did give a greater sense of accomplishment. So the fun taken out by the stun system and lack of chases has been replaced with this feeling of greater success.
This was when we were able to start a multiplayer session, with the Ubisoft staff always having to intervene just to get the lobby system to detect the other players. Of course, this is the problem with console games these days – all devs are obsessed with matchmaking systems, and just don't even consider a good old server browser anymore, despite the latter really helping when a game's population is dwindling or the matchmaking just bugs out. Which is just what matchmaking systems do. Aside from that, there seems to be a lot more variety in the abilities, although their usefulness seems to have been reduced when you're in a tight spot, with the disguise ability just serving as a big flashing sign saying 'HERE I AM, KILL ME”.
And finally, on a small note, the kill animations were very aggressive and satisfying, with blood splatter and shaky-cam a plenty, often causing you to make that sound you make when you chainsaw someone in Gears of War. So that's Ass Creed Revelations, shaping up reasonably well but, on a multiplayer front at least, not really blowing any of the people there away.
Other stuff, closing thoughts
Overall, the Melbourne Ubinights was a lot of fun (although, since I drove there I couldn't enjoy the bar – you better appreciate this article being as clear as it is! I doubt any of the others out there will be so easily remembered!) with some great games on display – Assassin's Creed: Revelations cancelled out some hype for me, a dancing game caught my eye, and Kinect further alienated me (may as well just move me to another galaxy with how much it's alienating actual gamers). There was a chance for me to play Driver: San Fran, which I had a blast in (and did very well in, if I do say so myself), and I became Ezio Auditore (pictured above). So, to keep this article from becoming even more ridiculously long, this would be what we, in show business, call “a wrap”!
Article By Frankie Main