PAX East Report – Day 1 Impressions
Posted by Tonks on April 6, 2012 (Updated: 23-Jun-2015)
First and foremost, I want to start off by everyone for allowing me to have a much more interactive experience today. Ikarop was kind enough to tell Sega that I would be on-hand and Gearbox knew I’d be there through the forums. I was treated amazingly well, and I really appreciate all the time that everyone took with me! Chris, the community manager of Gearbox was insanely generous with his time. He answered as many questions as he could. I really appreciated it.
A few notes: the build of the single player was still being worked on and it may not represent the final product. The MP build was a slightly more recent build. You could tell some differences between the two. Some things – like sounds and animations are still being worked on and are in no way meant to represent a final product.
That being said, on to the good stuff… A:CM had a pretty big footprint on the show floor. A replica Hadley’s Hope with two rooms in it – one a single player presentation and the other was a multiplayer room. Outside was a great photo op – a full sized (!) powerloader with a xeno attacking it. You could get in and take pictures. Also, there were Colonial Marines wandering around with a smartgun and pulse rifle. Comments from everyone around me were really positive. Lots of good feedback and the booth was one of the more popular ones on the show floor.
Single player mission was the exact one that surfaced a couple of days ago. Starts off as you have just woken from Cryosleep and are being told to secure the Sulaco and bring the men back safely. One thing I should mention is that the game looks MUCH better in person than the videos I saw online. The details are impressive and the lighting was excellent! Acid burned holes in the floor and walls.
The Sulaco was well represented from the movie. Little touches like seeing the lockers of the LV-426 squad really gave you some immersion. There were some things not shown in the online-portions of the video. Certain things like “Quarantine” tape (think police tape) was up over a door hinting at something more sinister (?). Once inside the hive, you see the detail of the resin. Very well crafted. Goo dripped from the ceiling and it had a hazy vibe to it. You come across bursted marines all contorted and blown outward.
You come across one that isn’t dead yet. As you rush to his side, a “lurker” (xeno from the first alien) crawls out of the wall. There is a struggle as the xeno jumps on you and you manage to kick yourself free. It didn’t look cheesy and you could tell that the xeno models had been worked on. The lurker did a good job of scrambling to hide and trying to ambush you (funny side note, Chris actually died during this encounter while showing the demo to another group – so there wasn’t a god mode enabled).
After dispatching the xeno you free the marine and he joins you as you try and locate the event log of the Sulaco. A few skirmishes ensue along the way as you are attacked by warriors. They showed a variety of path finding avenues and seemed to navigate the areas well.
Eventually you hole up and your rescued companion marine welds the door shut. You see the welder twice – once it is used by your rescued buddy and another you use it on a door. It is a context button push when you use it (ie- push square to weld door). It was not clear if this is how all door welding would occur during the game.
You grab the log and head to the umbilical between the Sephora and Sulaco. More skirmishes ensue and the smartgun scene in the hanger was pretty great. The smartgun is powerful, but slow to move around with.
The demo ended with you racing to the umbilical only to see your rescued marine on his knees. He screams and detonates a grenade as the burster pushes through. This is where the “uncharted” bit comes in and you navigate to the Sulaco while avoiding debris.
The demo was a good showcase and really looked the part. Details were clear and the sound was great. The experience was a mix of action and storytelling with good pacing and it impressed me. The assets looked great in the game and it all felt like it belonged in the universe – because, as Chris pointed out with Fox treating it as canon – it has to.
Multiplayer was a cool treat. There were about 6 or so GBX employees playing as xenos against the same number of PAX goers who controlled marines. The load out screen showed some details about what you would unlock with the xp that you earned. More on that in a second.
The xenos are controlled in 3rd person. Standard control layout had one of the triggers being held for wall climbs. The xenos would enter first person view when traversing through tight tunnels. They had a pheromone augmented view of the MP map – meaning that they could see through walls and see where other xenos and enemies were at any time. They could swipe with claws, pounce or whip with tails.
It’s important to note that there aren’t any instant kills. The marines had a (very) limited amount of time to shoot the xeno off of their teammate.
The MP map was a Hadley’s Hope – influenced level but on a small scale. Strictly deathmatch – no other modes shown or talked about. Two xenos were available to the GBXers – the lurker and the warrior. It was hard to tell what the differences between the two were, but both looked like they played smoothly. The action was pretty fast and furious with xenos pouncing on marines and there were some nice death animations.
You got XP for kills and avenging, much like your typical COD deathmatch. The animations were much smoother than the build shown in the videos released earlier this week. It looked good and felt balanced.
The marine side had 3 playable load outs – shotgun, pulse rifle and what appeared to be an SMG variant. Each played a little differently and felt pretty balanced. Pulse rifle’s trigger could be held down as auto and the SMG variant (that’s what I’m calling it – not sure if that’s truly what it is) was a semi-auto fire. Shotgun was your typical FPS shotty. The controls were typical of the FPS genre. The exception being that you could press the left bumper at any time to bring up the motion tracker. If it was out, you could not shoot.
Yes, the Motion tracker did have dots for friendly and enemy players. Yes, the enemy players were in red. Yes, there were arrows pointing behind you if the enemy movement was out of the 180 degree view of the Motion tracker. No, that’s not true to the movies, but for MP, it would have been impossible to distinguish between friendly and enemy. Single player had red dot too.
The smartgun was available to anyone who could get to it and equip it. The ocular overlay was pretty sweet and the gun felt heavier when playing. You couldn’t move around as easily. As I mentioned, the match was fast and furious, both sides seemed to be pretty evenly balanced. The crusher did appear every few minutes or so, but it didn’t seem overly cheap to fight against. It had a devastating pounce/bash move!
It really felt like you were against a swarm of xenos. Playing as the Colonial Marines, we actually beat the GBXers, which was fun. Everyone was all smiles. MP didn’t feel “tacked on” and it didn’t feel as stiff as AvP3.
The match end screen was telling as to upgrades. Much like other FPS MP games, there was a leader board showing kills, deaths, etc. You earned XP and were ranked by performance. A tally of ‘achievements’ scrolled on this screen earning you more xp, I believe, and showing any unlocks you earned. I unlocked one new weapon item during the MP – a flame attachment for the pulse rifle. Unfortunately, I only had a chance to play one round.
Overall, the game felt good. The controls were smooth and the game was already looking great. There were some issues with the early build – some of the kill animations skipped a bit, but I’m sure it’s only due to the unfinished nature of the game. Chris assured me that Gearbox was very aware of everything that was touched on and mentioned in the forums.
I’ll have more impressions tomorrow as I go back for a second round of the game and will also I will say that, while the game is still in an earlier build, it does look, sound and play great. I feel very confident in the work that GBX is putting into the game and you can honestly tell that they are passionate about it. That’s not just interview lip-service.
Some really quick notes I jotted down:
- Bishop – in one form or another is in A:CM – Lance told GBX that “they nailed Bishop”
- Xenos actually showed good pathfinding ability
- Can’t use Motion tracker with Smartgun
- MP map was called “Last Hope”
- Xenos went down in a few bursts, marines with a few swipes/tail impales
- Gory, but not over the top. Just the right amount of blood
- Sentries CAN be placed anywhere no prompts
- Definitely will be times when there is a more corridor shooter feel with a set path, but also times when there are no onscreen prompts and you need to figure out how to defend yourself best (make a stand, etc)
- There was an on-screen reticle and a small hit detection mark when your bullets connected.
- Weapons had appropriate weight and kick to them. It felt more realistic than AvP – movement wasn’t as heavy for marines, either
- Xenos wriggled a bit when they died – a la the xeno Vasquez shoots in the air duct how it sort of falls away and wriggles.
- Crusher is a tank, but we did manage to take it down with a group effort.
- Team work really played a role in MP – for both aliens and marines.
That’s all for now… will have more tomorrow! Thanks again to AvP Galaxy, Sega and Gearbox. What a great experience so far!
Continue here to read Tonks’ Day 2 Impressions.