RPS At E3: Sweeping Up

By John Walker on June 22nd, 2009 at 11:35 pm.

Just admiring the view.

There are a few bits and pieces from E3 that I’ve yet to write about. I’ve also thoughts on the remarkable-looking Love to come, and details on a few of Paradox’s forthcoming games via Mr Stone. But here’s a few that were left over. Below there’s a few brief comments on Alpha Protocol, Alien Vs Predator and Rogue Warrior.

Yes.

Alpha Protocol

This would be the non-stealth approach.

This was perhaps the most surprisingly mediocre presentation of the week. I’m still very much looking forward to the game – I look forward to anyObsidian game based on their superb track record – but it put in a peculiarly lacklustre showing at E3. What we saw was two versions of the same scene, designed to show off the differences between two styles of play. On one screen someone was playing using stealth, on the other all-guns-out fireplay. The demonstration was designed to show how differently a scenario in the spy-based action RPG could be tackled. How in one instance you could slip your way through, those you killed never knowing you were coming, the rest never realising you’d been. And how in the other you could play it as a third-person shooter. The trouble was, the scene was a remarkably unenigmatic grey industrial area, which was hard to remember to even watch.

The theory explained to us was far more interesting than what we were watching. Your decisions, while never attempting to orientate you on a moral spectrum, have both short and long-term consequences. At the beginning of the level there’s a conversation with a Germanic mercenary woman called Z. The conversation options are time-limited, forcing you to pick your approach in just a couple of seconds. Talk aggressively to her and she’ll take a shine to you. Demonstrate a lack of balls and you’ll lose favour. However, the key decision comes when she offers her support. Accept it and she’ll fight alongside you for the mission, clearly to your advantage. Refuse it and she’ll be furious with you, and storm off. So there’s your short-term. Long-term consequences shape the future of your game. If you sided with her, we’re told there’s opportunities for romance further down the line. Refuse her and she’s a boss-fight-to-come.

It’s an intriguing idea for Obsidian to be developing a game with no dice rolling anywhere, either in front of or behind the camera. The action focus is hefty, with piles of weapons to choose from, stealth tactics like briefly cloaking for sneak attacks, decoys, martial arts, and so on. The RPG kicks in as you modify your abilities and making your chat-based choices. At around 20 to 30 hours, it’s also a strikingly short game from the team. Still plenty of promise, but hopefully not too much of the game will be so unrelentingly grey.

Alien Vs Predator

Yummy tummy.

Built by British-based Rebellion (who unfortunately get a harsher entry below) it was hard to see anything in this to get worked up about. We were shown footage from the perspective of a Predator (I heard rumours that Marine footage was being shown in a secret room somewhere), which was an oddly barren affair. Operating in the trees, as you’d assume, movement could be done independently, but seemed to be primarily about leaping to pre-defined points acres across the map. It was certainly a cool leap, but it didn’t seem to be one with which the player was particularly involved. There were different ways to see the world, with heat vision, night vision, etc, a cloak that doesn’t have a draining energy bar (hurrah), and all sorts of brutal ways to dispatch the enemy. Aiming for an R rating (18 in the UK, or whatever PEGI comes up with), it’s quite astonishingly brutal. We saw a Marine’s head get ripped out of his neck, the spinal chord coming with, in some stomach-turning visceral detail. I think we need to see an awful lot more of this one, and most of all have a play of it, before we can figure out if it’s going to do justice to one of Alec’s favourite series.

Rogue Warrior

Just soak those background details in.

If there was an “oh dear” moment at E3, it was this one. Certainly Dragon Age’s unfortunate presentation didn’t win favour, but there was still faith of a good game beneath it all. But Rogue Warrior… oh dear.

Now, I went into this under the misapprehension that it was something to do with the horribly overlooked Rogue Trooper, since it was coming from the same developers, Rebellion. Rogue Trooper was an FPS so barking mad that it featured a talking hat, gun and bag. And it was a great big dollop of fun. So let’s be clear: Rogue Warrior has nothing to do with it. Let’s put that aside. It is in fact loosely based on the books of Richard Marcinko, an ex-Navy Seal who has, we’re told, killed many men with his black ops training. The game is aiming to reproduce his memories of his experiences fighting the Soviets in the 1980s.

Originally the project was being developed by another team, using the Unreal 3 engine, with a multiplayer focus. All that’s been ditched in favour of a single-player game, a smaller multiplayer mode, and all built on a proprietary engine. And what an odd choice that was. I promise that I checked twice to see if it was being played on a PS2, only to see a 360 controller in the developer’s hands. Bland, smeared textures lay across a grey/blue world of metal walkways depicted in edges so jagged you could use them as staircases. But give this the benefit of the doubt, maybe? It’s not finished code, not optimised, certainly not in HD, and not at a PC resolution.

However, what we saw of the game itself offered nothing inspirational. Obsessed with a collection of 25 death moves, the idea is you sneak about slaughtering your foes in a variety of brutal ways. But this was something done in its entirity by the awful Punisher tie-in game (developed by Volition, who thankfully went on to create the utterly fantastic Saints Row 2), and certainly not a hook anyone’s been clamouring for since.

Smile-inducingly, Mickey Rourke takes the honour of grunting Marcinko’s lines, which apparently include his favourite phrase, “goatfuck”. Um. Look, who knows, it’s not out until the other end of the year, and this was ten minutes. But boy, it wasn’t a good ten minutes.

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23 Comments »

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  1. Alex says:

    I *LOVE* that Punisher game.
    Not since the first Max Payne have I had so much license to walk around with noir narration in my head as I send people to untimely and often gruesome deaths…

  2. Ging says:

    I’m so not sure about Alpha Protocol yet, it sounds good when talked about, but all the gameplay stuff I’ve seen so far have been a bit “meh”. I also keep thinking if we’ll hear anything more about The Outsider from Frontier, which seems to be built along the same rails.

    Bit concerned by the AvP news, I fear the uproar if they screw it up, especially as the other aliens games aren’t due out for a while yet!

    Rogue Warrior originally sounded pretty promising, they were going for a fairly realistic approach with it all, it sounds like the publishers have been influenced by the likes of Army of Two and have converted it into a poor mans shooter instead!

  3. Sajmn says:

    Cheers for unlimited invisibility and boo for lack of player involvment (I’m looking at you prince of persia!). Hopefully, atleast the predator gameplay will be semi-sandbox-like so that you’ll have multiple options in tackling the situation and moving around the map.

  4. Wurzel says:

    re: Ging:

    Actually I have a friend who just recently signed up with Frontier in Cambridge a few months back. They’re still working on that game, but they’re apparently having some difficulty with quite how much of the city they realistically render. It’s not quite at Molyneux levels of pointless levels of interaction, but they’re having to spend quite a bit of effort keeping focussed on the game. On the other hand the game is apparently awesome to play :)

  5. Him says:

    Another round of praise for the Punisher game from me; Max Payne-light that didn’t feel repetitive until the later stages at Stark Tower.
    I’m with you on Alpha Protocol tho’ – that’s at the top of my “Do Want” list, regardless of critical opinion, regardless of peer review, regardless even *gulp* of DRM.

  6. Rune says:

    Operating in the trees, as you’d assume, movement could be done independently, but seemed to be primarily about leaping to pre-defined points acres across the map.

    From what I’ve seen in the trailer, it doesn’t seem like you’re jumping to pre-defined points. There is a marker, but that’s just to give you more control over where you will land. I think you can jump to anywhere you can stand. I really enjoyed the previous games, so I have high hopes for this one. Especially since it’s made by the same company that made AvP 1. Some of my best video game scares come from that game :)

  7. Feintlocke says:

    I doubt Alpha Protocol will win any awards but if it turns out to be only 20-30 hours long as you say then I’ll happily pick it up and give it a whirl. I’m interested to see how it handles the usual RPG character advancement trappings when compared to Mass Effect.

    Dragon Age is rating much higher on my “meh” meter and I don’t particularly feel like romping through epic+ hours of mediocrity.

  8. Dracko says:

    The Punisher game was a brilliant third-person shooter, you tasteless chodes.

  9. malkav11 says:

    Punisher was quite fun. You weren’t actually encouraged to perform the gruesome executions, though – that meant you’d fucked up the interrogation. I always thought that was a bit anti-Punisherish.

  10. Johnny Go-Time says:

    I have come to add my voice to the chorus of others singing the praise of the Punisher.
    I’m a squeamish loser, but (similar to Manhunt) the desensitization is pretty rapid and the graphic finishing moves become just another mechanic.
    Having said all that, the plotting is awesome, and the cameos by other Marvel characters are deftly-handled.

  11. SwiftRanger says:

    You didn’t see SupCom 2 then? Blast.

  12. Subject 706 says:

    Hm. The very mediocrity of most titles shown, makes yearn for a new video game crash.

  13. MrBejeebus says:

    I was quite excited by the look of Alpha Protocal, however it seems to just look like Mass Effect: Not In Space Though, sure they’re trying to make the story development different, but the end of the day, it’ll most likely have uninteractive environments and poor shooting gameplay. Prove me wrong though, I want it to work.

    AvP looks good, Rogue Warrior I’m extremely secptical about, as i seem to remember reading an article in OPS2M in 2005/6 about it, I think thats when it was using UT3 though.

    Oh and Rebellion should have just done a Rogue Trooper 2, I want to finish the story, that game was brilliant, if a little short lived, I bought it when RPS did the retrospective for it, I did that with a few games too.

    Wow I’ve written alot…

  14. MrBejeebus says:

    And bring back the bloody edit function!

  15. psyk says:

    They have already said the edit function vanishing is a bug with what ever there using for the site, think it was in the comments for a story awhile back though.

  16. MrBejeebus says:

    oh ok, mustve missed it, also, ARMA 2 HAS ARRIVED! :D

  17. Captain Bland says:

    ‘It is in fact loosely based on the books of Richard Marcinko, an ex-Navy Seal who has, we’re told, killed many men with his black ops training.’

    I always find it disturbing when developers pick these projects. This man killed some real people and now we get to pretend we’re him, hurrah! I don’t think that games are incapable of handling wars or other conflicts in a tasteful manner, (And I’m aware that the film and publishing industry have been cashing in on this stuff for decades) but it’s still fairly distasteful to me. Does the extra revenue from fans of his books really outweigh the association with real-world violence? Instead of ‘loosely basing’ the game on his life, couldn’t they just make up a fictional character?

  18. Jetsetlemming says:

    Gonna go with the crowd and call you a twat for besmirching The Punisher. That game was great, I loved the combo system that, for once, encouraged you to play WELL instead of play FAST. It didn’t reset on time, but rather on you taking damage, so it shaped your play as a series of sneaky moves across the map, getting jumps on everyone you can, and torturing every guy left alone for a moment as you go. It certainly wasn’t the best thing ever, but for what it was, it was oh so damn good.

  19. Flappybat says:

    Awful Punisher game?!

    It was like a sadistic Max Payne. Not quite as good but rather amusing.

  20. Ging says:

    @Wurzel: totally late to replay, but yeah – I know a few guys down there now (even went for a job there meself!) which is why it sits at the back of my mind whenever I look at alpha protocol.

  21. JSK says:

    If Alpha Protocol can manage Mass-Effect level “dull but passable” action elements, but add in 1) decent stealth options to avoid said action elements, 2) actual reactivity to in-game decisions beyond moving a few bars on your character sheet and a lame promise to show the results of your decisions only after you spend $60 on the sequel, and 3) writing that doesn’t make me LOL at all the supposedly serious parts, it’ll be a day-one purchase for me, grey-ness notwithstanding.

  22. PHeMoX says:

    Am I allowed to say it out loud here??

    Ow well, fuck yeah! This game I have waited for aaaages. Great stuff.

  23. George says:

    The lead designer on Rogue Trooper is lead on AvP. It’ll work out well. Also, I think you are wrong about the predefined jump points.