By Eli Green
October 12, 2008 - 15:30
This past Tuesday I got a chance to take in my first ever Playstation event. Excited to check out the games, but not really sure what I'd see, I went in with rather mild expectations. It's not that I hadn't heard about some of the games that would be coming for Playstation 3 or PSP this holiday season – Resistance 2, Prince of Persia, Shaun White Snowboarding – it's just that I'm not really a Playstation gamer. I've never gotten used to the style of the DualShock controller, and I've always had other systems to entertain me.
Even now, I'm quite happy with my Wii and Xbox 360 and don't plan on spending the cash to purchase a Playstation 3. Most of the games I've been looking forward to are also going to be available on multiple platforms, so if this event was going to show me anything, I could only hope it would present me with a good reason to praise the Playstation platforms or, at the very least, get me interested in the multiplatform games and tell you, good readers, that you should pick them up on either Playstation 3 or whatever other system those games are being launched for. To my surprise, it managed to do both.
I started over at Ubisoft's booth and got a complete walk through of the control systems in Tom Clancy's Endwar , launching November 4 th . I certainly got a good feel for the game's Voice Command system and how the Combat Chain will affect your strategy while planning attacks. I also noted that the graphics in-game look far better than they do in those two linked videos. More intriguing than the way Voice Command and Combat Chain will change how you play is the very limited camera, which changes depending on what types of troops you're using at the time. Switching between your different troops or vehicles, you'll find very limited views of the battlefield when using infantry to long range views when using helicopters.
Ubisoft is certainly taking a different route when it comes to creating a real time strategy game for consoles, and I'm liking it. If you have an Xbox 360 (at least any model above the Arcade), you've got a headset already. If not, or if you have a Playstation 3, a bundle will be available with the headset included, and it really does change how you play. When using the headset, all you need to do is press one button, say your command and the game follows it. And the game's voice recognition is quite impressive. Even surrounded with all of the noise from the other games being played during the show, the game was still able to pick up commands quite clearly and quickly. If you want to play without a headset, that's fine too, as all of the commands have been mapped for quick access on the D-pad. If I was still into real time strategy games, Endwar would be on my to-get list.
Next, I took a step over to Shaun White Snowboarding , launching November 16 th . Having already seen this title at X'08 and Nintendo's E3 Review , I wasn't expecting to see much more than the same version I saw at X'08, and I didn't. The game looks just as great and the controls are just as unique. I'm a little concerned about having to use the R2 Trigger for jumping instead of the A button, but I do understand that Ubisoft mapped the controls that way because you've got to use both analog sticks to control the board and carving. I did get a confirmation about the maximum number of players that will be able to connect online simultaneously. That number has been capped at 16. I was told that the development team tried to pump it up to 32 players, but the gameplay was not up to standard and there were too many connection difficulties, including dropped connections and the inability to connect to a game in the first place.
I also got to try my hand at the recently announced PSP version for the first time. The PSP version takes the looks of the Wii version, maps in intuitive controls specifically for the PSP – every button is mapped to a movement or trick in its direction on the PSP – and throws in challenges for Speed, Carving, Air and Tricks on top of the regular race and trick events and challenges. All this is spread out across five different mountains in five countries across the globe. Based on what I've seen from all of the different versions, I'm ready to recommend any of the versions of Shaun White Snowboarding .
The last Ubisoft offering I checked out at the event was Prince of Persia , a title I couldn't wait to try, and now that I've played it, a title I can't wait to have on my shelf. Ubisoft started fresh with this new Prince of Persia , creating an all new prince, in a separate universe from the three previous titles, accompanied by a fresh, semi-cel shaded art style.
The new prince has a magical partner, Elika, who can help him fight, fly through portions of levels or save his life. The first thing I noted while playing through the demo Ubisoft was showing was that you can't actually die in the game. Elika saves you every time. Instead of the prince dying and you having to load from the last checkpoint or save point, Elika saves you and takes you back to the beginning of the puzzle or jump area you were attempting to complete. If you're in a fight, she will save you and your enemy's health bar will regenerate. Speaking of fights, the development team took a serious turn with this new title, eliminating massive fights with multiple enemies and flowing acrobatic moves, instead opting for one-on-one (or two-on-one if Elika is included) duels. There are plenty of combos you'll be able to pull off while fighting
Personally, I'm not sure that the duels only route was such a great choice though. It eliminates the issue of “the only way to make things more challenging is by adding more enemies”, but it also means that the only fights you'll end up having are duels. It's cool and challenging, sure, but why not have both? At the very least, it would mix things up and give players the chance to pull off some cool acrobatic kills.
Ubisoft has also updated the prince's move set for wall climbs, wall runs and other non-combat actions. You'll now find rings and a number of other objects that the prince will be able to grab onto or swing off of and make his way from point to point. He can even crawl on ceilings for short periods. There are also power pads in some areas, which Elika can use to transport you further through levels. This part is almost a minigame, where you don't have control over the overall course, but dodging and pressing the launch button at pads in the middle of a route.
Though I only got a taste of what the full Prince of Persia is, especially because I couldn't hear the dialogue since the room was so loud, I can't wait to get my hands on the final version once it's available this December. Ubisoft's holiday lineup is looking quite impressive. Far Cry 2 is also launching in a couple of weeks, and that is looking great as well. Of course, I only touched on the Ubisoft portion of the event so far, but I'll have more later this week, after the next set of holidays, including Mirror's Edge, Killzone 2 and Golden Axe: Beast Rider .