This year's event brought much excitement because of the large number of anticipated titles that are due out between now and the end of the year. The usual big names in the gaming industry were present including Ubisoft, Activision, EA, Konami, Eidos/Crystal Dynamics, Harmonix, Bethesda and Epic Games to name a few. The event was held at Circa nightclub in the heart of downtown Toronto...fitting considering that Circa used to be the Playdium entertainment centre years back.
With so many upcoming titles to preview and demo, here is my recap of some of the titles I was able to check out.
Oddly enough, I decided to first wander to the back of the main floor and somehow found myself chatting with a rep from Disney Entertainment. Immediately the rep started to demo their newest action/adventure game called Bolt. This is actually a game based off of Disney's upcoming animated movie by the the same name. Without going into too much detail, Bolt is about a movie dog that believes he has superpowers. At this point, I was thinking to myself 'great...what a first game to demo...'. But I have to admit that as the rep was going through the demo, I found this game to be charming. Let's put it into perspective, it is a game targeted at the 7 - 12 year old demographic and based on that I was quite impressed with what I saw. The game's graphics are quite clean and sharp and akin to watching a CG animated movie. The game play is well thought out and adds just enough complexity in that it provides a moderate level of challenge and not a simple button masher. This looks to be a potential hit with the kids for the holiday season as the game is set to launch on November 18th which will coincide with the movie's release in the theatres.
The next game I checked out was Naruto: The Broken Bond by Ubisoft. For any of you who are anime fans will know Naurto and most definitely will know or probably have played Ubisoft's first Naruto game called Naruto: Rise of a Ninja. Broken Bond is the much awaited sequel to the original game and more importantly continues the Naruto storyline as you play through it. Stephane Cardin who is the producer took the time to walk me through a demo of the game and point out some key features and improvements. The same great 3D cell animated graphics are back and look better than ever. In addition, the environments are vast and more explorable. Aside from being able to run around in the village of Konoha, you can now explore the forests outside of Konoha as well as another village. Another key change is that teamwork is now part of the game. You get to take control of 3 characters and can switch between them when playing. This is useful of course as certain characters have certain abilities that will come in handy when advancing through the game. In battles, you can pull of special moves that require assistance from a teammate for greater impact. Finally, a big new addition is that all the original voice acting and music from the anime have been incorporated into the game. A huge plus for Naruto and anime fans looking forward to this game. Naruto Broken Bond is scheduled for an October release.
Next up is Tomb Raider Underworld. The game's graphics seemed fairly similar to that of Legend. The demo took place in the Thailand level and immediately the richly detailed and vast environment brought back memories of the original Tomb Raider game. As soon as I was done reminiscing, Lara was being attacked by a couple of tigers that she had to eliminate. Oh...more flashbacks. While battling the tigers, Lara's new gun play mechanics were demonstrated. You can now use both guns to lock on and shoot separate targets. Very cool. While hanging off a cliff or ledge, Lara can shoot at enemies as well. Another key addition to Lara's repertoire of moves is the ability to perform wall jumps. Think Super Mario. Some new weapons such as the sticky grenade were shown off. Lara can also further interact with the environment around her with introduction of "portables". Portables are items that Lara can pick up and use as a weapon or as a means to solve a puzzle or to help her get to an out-of-reach spot. All in all, this latest iteration of the Tomb Raider franchise looks to be promising. Look for it in mid November.
Lastly, the big game everyone is waiting for...Gears of War 2. I was able to get some much important time in the multiplayer mode. The type of game that was going on was similar to capture the flag where the objective is to take control of the flag for as much time as possible. While playing, all of the basic game play from the original was easy to get used to and a few new features such as using an injured enemy as a shield or a chainsaw battle between lancers added so much more enjoyment. Graphics are stunning and audio is crisp and clear. And as before, taking out the enemy is spectacularly gruesome. With the first Gears of War having been executed so well, it is probably safe to say that the folks at Epic Games have another winner on their hands. I guess time will tell later this fall.
Other games I got to check out included NHL 09 from EA (great graphics and controls), Guitar Hero: World Tour from Activision/Neversoft (vast play list and studio mode 'rock' but drums are fairly noisy), Silent Hill Homecoming from Konami (still as creepy as ever), Wanted from Universal Pictures Digital (takes place after the events of the movie - game is like a cross between Gears of War and The Matix with its cover, bullet-time and bullet curving mechanics...the rep called it "cover and curve") and Call of Duty 5 from Activision (we're back to WWII with the same great game play and same great graphics from COD4).
There are much others that I haven't touched on, but doing so would have me take up more real estate on this page than I can afford. That said, NextGen Player is confident that the fall 08 line up of games for the Xbox 360 will be strong one. So save up your hard earned cash as you'll likely ante up for many of them when they come out.