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PAX East: Mafia 2 Demo

Posted by deckard47 on March 27, 2010

It was short, especially since there was no developer interaction: it was just a booth staffer (pointedly attractive young woman who the vaguely young gatekeeper guy handed us off to) telling us how to play and awkwardly congratulating us the whole time.

The game looked pretty damn good. They’ve obviously spent an incredible amount of effort to get everything looking good and period-appropriate (to my untrained eyes). The animations and combat look pretty good  to me (deaths seem like a mix between canned Rogue Spear stuff and PhysX… It looks pretty excellent), though I never held the controller. A few of the old open world 3rd person bugbears are back to cause some trouble, unsurprisingly: opening doors still looks like some kind of force power (just gesture wildly and they open!), while enemy AI can be a bit slow on the uptake (they’re easy to flank, they make the NOLF enemies look like super-spies).

Really, I wanted to listen to the voice work, the sound effects, and the music. The shooting and environmental stuff looks good to adequate, but the world looks brilliant. I wish we’d had the time to just listen to radio stations and talk to people. I’ll probably forgive this game all of its little inconsistencies if moving through the world feels and sounds as delicious as it looks.

One caveat: during the presentation, Ron pressed “A” (pick up) on what he thought to be a gun of some sort. It was in fact, a Playboy Magazine, which are apparently scattered throughout the world in some kind of “historically accurate” deal with Playboy. The woman who started our demo (who had been trying to talk to me the whole time about what a great player Ron was) excitedly informed me that Ron had skillfully found the demo’s hidden Playboy. Thankfully, Ron was not treated to an entire period-appropriate issue of the magazine. Instead, a humongous image (big, wide screen) of a naked woman appeared on the screen. This image is what sparked our host’s enthusiasm

So, Mafia 2: looks amazing, plays good (according to Ron), hopefully sounds good. Message to 2K Czech: it’s obvious that you care about historical authenticity, or at least the appearance off historical authenticity. It’s also just as obvious that this Playboy shit is you taking a (no doubt) lucrative marketing/crossover deal with Playboy and selling it as enhanced historical depth/authenticity. You’re selling silly, obvious T&A as your way of being authentic. You sure as hell aren’t reproducing other books, journals, or mags, or any other sort of historically appropriate knickknacks. It looks silly. It’s the kind of thing that makes me take your talk of historical authenticity (in whatever capacity) much less seriously, and it just kind of annoys me. I better not have to listen to an era-appropriate speech concerning the benifits of “Teeties!” Please. Do not do that.

Oh, and thanks for making the always-peculiar/problematic booth girl/male journalists relationship 10 times more damn uncomfortable for those 10 seconds than it would have been otherwise. That was really great. Everyone present really appreciated that bullshit, in their different ways.

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PAX East: APB

Posted by deckard47 on March 26, 2010

It’s the game from the people (mostly) who made Crackdown, and a lot of people are really, really excited about it. I’m not sure why. We watched a bunmch of people demoing it while a totally excited guy talked about how exciting the game they were playing was.

What they were playingg looked like a high-res version of The Matrix Online or Fallen Earth, but in a modern, drab city. We watched as people activated timed meters and (while  a bar/circle filled) beat up a passerby. We watched as they crashed cars into each other. We listened as the excited guy explained the APB/bounty system (which admittedly sounds interesting).

Why is this so exciting? The world and characters look incredibly boring. The overarching mechanics and ingame rewards/impetus to play system might be interesting (no way to tell from this demonstration), but the world and the characters themselves look like less exciting, more gray and brown versions of Saints Row 2.

Let me remind you: Saints Row 2 was not a visually exciting game, beyond really bright cars and hair. I can’t see being interested in this game for the world its characters inhabit. It looks as static and unappealing as any other “real city” MMO (like City of  Heroes or the aforementioned games).

What’s exciting about this? To beat up an NPC, you start a timed meter. You don’t just punch them a bunch. How do you go from the ludicrous punching of Crackdown to this? And how does this barren wasteland of a an MMO grab the press’ attention in this way? They must be seeing stuff I haven’t (easy to do, I should point out). It’s an open world where the only attraction would appear to be the mechanic by which players are matched up with each other.

It’s a giant, faceless city full of carefully designed thugs wearing (I’m sure) sweet tattoos and customizable bodies. Shouldn’t the world be  somewhat interesting? Is a neat matchmaking (’cause that’s what it is) mechanic enough to sell bloodless Saints Row 2 squad play? Apparently it is.

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