CES may have been a bore for anyone not interested in the latest computer gadgetry, but for those of us who attended, it was all business. That doesn't mean it wasn't fun and exciting, seeing cutting edge technology, but walking around a giant set of halls with thousands of exhibitors, especially when you've got appointments at one end and the other back to back...a day's worth of work is more walking than us humble journalists, writers and bloggers care to do.
That's why Capcom was on-site (outside the convention a few blocks [Las Vegas blocks are like small cities]) at the Planet Hollywood hotel. They said we should come by and relax after checking out the booths for some downtime with a few games they were showing off. Let's just say they had one of the best suite's of anyone at the show. Here's what they showed off.
The best description of Dark Void is that it's Gears of War with less gore, versatility, a plot, flying, and multiple forms of cover. So it's actually very different from Gears, but the 3rd person over-the-shoulder camera angle and cover system makes it seem similar. Beyond that, they couldn't be farther apart.
Dark Void takes place in an alternate universe, which our protagonist reached while flying a cargo plane over the Bermuda triangle. He arrives only to find some robotic species known as the Watchers, who are actually organic creatures wearing mechanical suits. He, with some help of Nikola Tesla (it's not clear how Tesla plays a role), is able to repurpose Watcher technology to use their weapons, make a jetpack for himself, etc.
While our knowledge of the story is limited, we do know that the protagonist (named Will, according to IGN) must help rescue humans who've crossed over, that Will is not just a random person who picks up a gun and knows how to use it (classified information for now), and that this all takes place around the 40's. Don't worry, the Watcher technology is fairly advanced, so the only scraggly looking character will be you, and the few humans you may run across.
Gameplay for Dark Void is fairly unique. It allows for players to do essentially whatever they want. I played a level where the mission was to destroy several systems to free a ship (why isn't clear) on a floating building several hundred meters off the ground. Because players fly onto the scene, there are immediately a few options: land and use crates for cover while slowly eliminating the Watchers defending the floating fortress, fly above and slowly hover down while shooting, or fly full speed, past the guards.
That's the beauty of Dark Void, Senior and Associate Producers Morgan Gray and Shana Bryant of Capcom told me. "You can play it any way you want," Bryant said as she attempted to fly through the treacherous entrance to the fortress at top speed. She hit the wall three times before, and did again. "We made the system pretty forgiving," Gray pointed out as Bryant spawned back in the sky. "We want players to experiment and to have fun with it, not to feel trapped to play a certain way so they can actually get through the game."
In my time with Dark Void, I found this motto an excellent one. Load times were quick, though it was running on a fully stocked Dell XPS at 720p. That was the only machine running Dark Void, so I can't say how well it will run on consoles, but on that machine it ran brilliantly. I was unable to play it with a keyboard however since it hadn't been programmed for it yet, though the 360 controls were simple, yet not intuitive. They are different from Gears' cover system, so those used to the bloodier title will have to adjust.
Dark Void's main headline at E3 last year was vertical cover, which isn't as glamorous as it sounds, but still remarkable nevertheless. Like standard (or now, thanks to Dark Void, horizontal) cover, vertical cover is all about either going up or down and using the ledge you're standing on for cover. The difference between it and horizontal cover is mostly the perspective because all the principles of the cover system still applies, so vertical cover is really more like an instant scenery change. A good one that'll keep players on their toes and changes gameplay a bit. And like horizontal cover, you can completely fly past and avoid ever using vertical cover if you so please.
The final minutes of my demo featured a boss, which appears small but is in fact incredibly large. Distance plays a large role in Dark Void, so this tiny boss turned out to be a giant tank-like vehicle that could wipe out a city. And they get only larger, Bryant said, noting that some of the later battles have bosses of epic proportion. This boss was a scorpion-shaped tank that was getting ready to cut a full-sized spaceship to pieces, and it was up to me to destroy it's reactors and, ultimately, the Watcher controlling it. How to accomplish this is also completely up to the player, but time is of the essence. No clock is shown, but visual cues are visible, mainly the tank getting closer to the ship and preparing to fire.
My final thoughts of Dark Void for now are this: it's a standard game with unique features, but the fact that you can play it any way you like makes it worth keeping an eye on. Expected to hit alpha stages later Q1, we should see Dark Void hitting shelves this holiday season on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC simultaneously.
Flock is an Xbox Live Arcade/PlayStation Network game with a cute idea: players are an alien who must collect a certain number of different barnyard animals for every level to return to their home planet. Simple enough, but how to accomplish this seemingly idle task is more difficult than it appears.
As the alien, players must use different methods to move the animals from one part of the level into their "barn", some sort of transport. From the demo I saw and played briefly, players can pick up and move different objects, such as fences and the tops of trees, and use them as they see fit. There's no special method to placing these objects, so dropping them the right way is key. They can be used to make a bridge or a barrier so the brainless animals don't go the wrong way. And they will go the wrong way.
The puzzle is to get all the animals from point A to point B without killing them by leading them off a hill, scaring them to death or other means. Using the light from your UFO scares them away from your ship, so maneuvering it properly is important but also very difficult. Which is why the ship can pick up different items and move them.
Each animal also has different traits. Chickens can fly over obstacles, cows can knock down fences, and more. The four animals, the prior two, pigs and sheep, must be taken in varying numbers by any means necessary. One such puzzle I witnessed required acquiring ten sheep. One sheep on the map was a female, and all the males followed her with cute hearts hovering over their heads. The female, however, ran from the UFO, so it ended up being an easy level.
Another required ten chickens and five sheep over a large stretch of land, and a Wolf was in the vicinity. It was stealing chickens and sheep slowly, but it was too fast for me to catch, so time was of the essence. Suffice to say, this later level was much more difficult and proved that while Flock is a simple game, the gameplay elements are fairly robust and require practice to fully utilize.
Flock is expected to be released sometime in March or April, depending on the XBLA schedule. It's set for release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
Street Fighter 4
For all intents and purposes, Street Fighter 4 is officially done. Were it not for the fact that I don't have a Debug 360 or PS3, I'd probably have the review for it ready today...disregarding any embargo that there would most definitely be. What I can say about Street Fighter 4 can be summed up in our.
The only difference is now it's in English and the new Madcatz controllers are available to play on it. Otherwise, we'll be looking forward to reviewing the game and reporting our findings to you in the coming weeks.
Resident Evil 5
The final game in Capcom's suite, Resident Evil 5 didn't give us much more to look at. I got to play co-op with Capcom's PR intern, Gerald, and played through a small segment where our goal was to guide a boat through a closed dock, open the path and get back. All, of course, going through a horde of zombified enemies.
What we've seen is similar to our playtest at E3, except now it's essentially done. With the game shipping in just two months (March 13th everywhere but Japan), Resident Evil 5 looks ready to hit store shelves today. Stable framerate, excellent graphics and nothing but good things in my short playtest. Unfortunately, there's little more I can say about it except that it'll be releasing, like all of Capcom's upcoming titles, simultaneously on both consoles.
Capcom has always been known as a strong 3rd party publisher. Not large like EA or Activision or Ubisoft, but they've released more high scoring titles than anyone can hope for. This year's outlook on Capcom is a very high one: one completely new IP, a complete overhaul on a longtime classic, and the sequel to one of the best games of the previous generation. Let's just say that if there's anything to look forward to in 2009 for gaming, the box will likely have Capcom's logo on it.