Square Had Games at E3 and I Played Them

I know, I know, another E3 post? Look, I saw a lot of games at E3 and I played a lot of games at E3 and when you’re gone for a week to cover E3, the last thing that your family finds acceptable upon your return is you slaving away over a computer to write about E3. I tried to write all of this up last week, I really did, but you know, things got in the way. Job things. Family things. Gravity Rush things.

Besides, isn’t this better? I mean, all of the other sites are done with their E3 coverage, but not us! We’re still cranking it out, still delivering, still making it happen! It’s like when your parents are divorced and you have Christmas with your mom and then, like a week later, you have Christmas with your dad and then, a few days later, you have Christmas with the extended family on his side. You get presents spread out over days! So, don’t consider this coverage as being late, think of it as spread out. It’s like divorced kid Christmas, only without drunken weeping and complaining about whatever parent you’re not with at the moment.

So yeah, Square. They had games. I played most of them.

Tomb Raider

I didn’t play Tomb Raider, much to my great disappointment. I thought I received an email prior to the show stating that Tomb Raider would be hands on, but alas, either plans changed or I didn’t pay attention to the email. I’m more inclined to believe the latter. Much has been written about Tomb Raider’s change in creative direction as well as the sexual assault present in the developer led session, so here’s my contribution to the chatter.

This is not the backflipping Lara Croft of old, gleefully running around and shooting T-Rexes in the face with her double deagles. This Lara is young, inexperienced and being put through the ringer. In many ways, this game looks like Uncharted. It has glowing lines that show you where to grab when ledge climbing, like in Uncharted. It gives Lara an OCD-ish “I can do this” verbal tic when she’s running around, much how Uncharted 3 made Nate touch everything as he ran about. Even the stealth sequences remind me of Uncharted. I have no idea if the shooting will be the soft, mushy shooting of Uncharted and Uncharted 3 or the confident trigger action of Uncharted 2. I do know that Lara slings arrows like Legolas, but I guess all of that time spent learning skills at the campfire made Lara a beast with a bow and arrow.

Yeah, the sexual assault part is creepy, made even creepier than the PR “she’s totally gonna be raped”, “she’s not at all raped” flip-flop that followed the show. I’m not going to get into a discussion of rape, but I can tell you that a man touches Lara in a way that would get you fired if you did it to a woman at work, beaten right the hell up if you did to woman you met at a bar and arrested in both cases. There seems to be an overwhelming need to put Lara through as much physical and mental abuse as possible in order to have her come out stronger on the other side, which I’m not sure I agree with. I’m all for moments that define a character but this seems excessive. Maybe I’m White Knighting here, but it seems a bit much.

I will say that there is a death in the presentation that is as impactful and harrowing as I have ever seen in a video game. How they follow it up will be very, very important, but the way it was handled was brilliant and was perfectly in line with what was happening in the game at the time. It’s rare to see such a moment in games, which is precisely why I think it will be made completely irrelevant as the game goes on. I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

Hitman: Absolution

No sexy nuns were harmed in the playing of this demo, although I did choke out a security guard, take his clothes, make my way up to an arms dealer’s apartment and then use the conveniently located sniper rifle to take out my target. I would have made it out undetected in the ensuing chaos had I not gone the wrong way and then been forced to return to the scene of the crime, now crawling with SWAT. When you’re the only guy not decked out in SWAT gear, you tend to stand out, even if disguised as a security guard. Me, I think the bald head tipped them off.

This was just one way to handle the mission at hand. I could have also gone in guns a ‘blazing (tried that, got killed), planted a bomb on the target’s car and set off the car alarm (couldn’t find the car) or poisoned the target’s drugs with blowfish poison (found the fish, grabbed a knife to cut it, got killed) as well as several other ways, all of which didn’t work out for me. Each demo station had all of the possible ways of eliminating the target conveniently displayed, a smart move given that the Hitman series has always been about multiple paths to eliminate your target and after the sexy nuns trailer, Square needed to make perfectly clear that this is a Hitman game. As far as I can tell, mission accomplished.

Sleeping Dogs

The trailer that plays at the end of the Sleeping Dogs demo showed a sprawling, open world gangster epic, filled with gun battles, car chases and one man’s mission to infiltrate the Triads in a huge digital representation of Hong Kong. I really wanted to play that game. The game I played had me running through Hong Kong, chasing a bald guy. Along the way I jumped over crates and mantled up ledges. Then I got in a fist fight with five random dudes. Then I ran some more more and jumped some more. Then I fought five more random dudes. Then I beat up the bald guy. Then the demo ended.

I was so surprised at how the demo I played was so completely different from the trailer, minus the setting and the ethnicity of those involved, that I had to ask the nearby Square booth lady if that was the entire demo. “Did you fight the bald guy?” she asked. “Yes”, I said. “Then you’re done,” she replied. Hrm. That’s not to say that the running and fighting wasn’t enjoyable, it was, but that’s not the game I wanted to play. I wanted to play the game in the trailer. Hopefully, when it comes out, I still will.

Quantum Conundrum

I ended my time at Square playing Quantum Conundrum, Kim Swift’s delightful new physics-puzzler. Kim Swift has a thing for physics-puzzlers. She was one of the designers of Narbacular Drop, the game that inspired Portal. Then, once snapped up by Valve, she was the project lead on Portal. Clearly, she knows a thing or two about physics and puzzles.

Quantum Conundrum follows the same formula as Portal in that it’s played from a first person perspective, puzzles revolve around getting through rooms and manipulating the physics of said room via a strange technological device. In this case, the device is an Interdimensional Shift Device, a glove thingy that allows you to change the dimension of the current room. The fluffy dimension makes everything light and fluffy. The heavy dimension makes everything heavy. The slow-mo dimension slows everything down. There’s a fourth dimension, the super gravity dimension, but it wasn’t in the demo.

As this was the trial level of the game (so designated by the missing Professor Quadwrangle), the puzzles were pretty basic. Make things light and fluffy so that you can bring that safe there to be a ledge over here. Make another safe fluffy so that you can pick it up, then throw it and make it heavy in mid air so that you can break a window and get out. Make things slow so that you can jump on flying pieces of furniture.

The rooms have the same “why would they build this” feeling of the various test chambers in Portal, but it’s all so wacky that you don’t really care. Prof. Quadwrangle isn’t malicious, like GLaDOS, but he’s not meant to be. GLaDOS was secretly trying to kill you. Prof Quadwrangle is looking for someone to help him. Maybe he’ll try and kill you in the end, but seeing how you play a 12 year old, I kind of doubt it. It’s all very well implemented and colorful and I can’t wait to play it. My only concern is that the game is going for the same comedic feel of Portal, but without Wolpaw and Faliszek at the writing helm, it falls flat. Maybe the jokes get better as you proceed, but from the little I saw, the humor didn’t work. Again, I don’t care, the game is wonderful, I just hope that people don’t get hung up on the Portal comparisons and judge the game harshly in the areas where it doesn’t measure up.

Square had a pretty strong line-up at E3. I definitely want to play two of the games they showed (Tomb Raider and Quantum Conundrum) and will keep my eye on the other two (Hitman and Sleeping Dogs). Also, this was my last booth appointment of the show, typically a dead zone of bad games for me, so in that regard, it was definitely a resounding success.

3 Responses to “Square Had Games at E3 and I Played Them”

  1. Drunken Pandaren June 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    I really think they shouldn’t have said anything about the whole rape thing for Tomb Raider. It just seems to be a big spoiler about her character besides the whole raiding thing.

  2. Bill Abner June 21, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    You know, drama aside, I have not been this intrigued/excited to play a Croft game in YEARS.

  3. Doug June 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    You say it would get you fired/arrested if you did it at work, but would it get a TSA agent fired or arrested?

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