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The Brian J's PAX 2012 Roundup!

The Brian J

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So I just attended Penny Arcade Expo 2012, the largest convention celebrating people stopping very suddenly in front of you and blocking your pathway. I'm not much one for going to panels, so I spent the time wandering the floor, just immersed in the culture of Video Games, cosplay, and swag.

Here's a list of games, in no particular order, that stood out to me.

Hitman Absolution

Never played the Hitman series before, so I thought I might as well demo this one. The first mission was to find and kill a man in a busy Chinese market. I found him in the middle of a gazebo, but surrounded by guards whenever I tried to come close. So I thought "Hmmm, I bet I can use my cleverness to solve this problem!" Then I thought "I wonder what Square does." And apparently, Square is the "grab the nearest old lady and pulp her face into a steaming red mess" button, whereupon I was immediately shot and killed. Although I didn't play it much, it seemed well put together, and the little bit I played of it certainly got me interested in checking out the full game.

New Super Mario Bros 2

It's classic Mario platforming, exactly what you'd expect from a handheld Mario game. When you put the 3D mode on, the backgrounds actually do look pretty good, although it doesn't effect the gameplay in any way, shape, or form. There are new power ups like the Tanooki suit returning, and a golden fire flower that turns enemies into coins. In fact, the coin collecting is kinda a big deal in this game, as there are coin attack modes, and there are more coin blocks than ever. Fairly standard Mario stuff.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Didn't play this one, but watched it. Now, I don't know much about the Metal Gear series, but I know that the franchise is known for stealthy gameplay mixed with gun combat, the kind of game where you are rewarded for sneaking around a guard, silently taking him out and hiding him, then making your way forward with almost no evidence you were ever there. So seriously, can someone explain to me why in this game, you play as a robotic cyber-ninja with a laser sword who slices terrorists and GIANT WATERMELONS in half? And the title of this game… Revengeance? Being 100% honest here, after watching this game be played, I have become convinced it has to be a parody of some sort. I'm really hoping this is meant to be a parody of action games and isn't supposed to be "canon" to the rest of the Metal Gear series, because if not… hooooo boy.


This is one of those games that sticks in your mind from the moment you play it. An insane First Person Puzzle game where the laws of physics and reality bend and snap as you continue playing, the kind of game where thinking outside the box isn't just recommended, it's 100% required if you want to progress. Also has a really, really awesome art style that is simple, yet quite stunning at the same time. Playing it gave me that wonderful feeling of accomplishment when you discover the solution to a particularly hard puzzle and can smugly look around at everyone watching and feel a brief sense of intellectual superiority over them. I cannot recommend this game highly enough if you like puzzle games, whenever it releases (the creator of it, a loud Australian man in a bright purple suit, said it will be released before the end of the year).

Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Superheroes

Just a re-release for XBLA of the classic fighting game that started the franchise. All I have to say here is that as soon as I picked it up, I highlighted the character in the upper-right corner (Zangief) and pressed Left-Left-Down-Down-Right-Right-Down-Down-Left-Left-Up-Right-Up-Up-Right-Right… and sure enough, it unlocked Roll. Nice to see that some things never change. Thank you, random Gamepro issue from 1998!

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

I LOVE the Professor Layton series, a wonderful combination of point-and-clickemup gameplay and fun logic puzzles that have oftentimes have no connection to the story (a fact the game doesn't hide… in fact, it points it out quite often). The new one is the first to implement the 3D features of the 3DS, and I was actually pretty impressed with how they look. The hand-drawn cutscenes still look as great as ever, while the dialogue scenes previously with static images have been replaced with 3D models, which actually look pretty good. The puzzles continue to be a mix of classic logic puzzles and more complex stuff (the one featured was a big grid of ropes, you had to keep tapping squares to untangle them). Definitely a good pickup for the 3DS, although if you haven't played the ones before it, I recommend picking them up first because they really are fantastic games.


No playable demo here, but the director of Twisted Pixel demoed it for the crowd. The only way I can describe this game is as a cross between a racing game, a shooting game, and a melee brawler game, and then that mix is thrown into a blender with Knight Rider and a variety of hallucinogenic drugs. You play as IRIS, a smart motorcycle that is fighting crime while racing down long streets, while dragging her "driver" behind her by the pant leg because he's caught in the spokes. Most of the game is driving and shooting with witty dialogue, but occasionally flying robots show up and it transforms into a wild melee fight where you mash buttons and rack up massive combos. This game looks completely insane, although there really isn't a lot of info on the game… we don't even know if it's getting a console release or if it's just gonna be a download game. Either way, I'd love to see what else comes from this game, it certainly seems like a fun concept.

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

AKA Super Sony Bros. Seen a lot of gameplay footage of it, but at PAX they had a ton of stations to actually demo it. I played a bunch of times, and… well, I don't know. On one hand, it is functional and easy to pick up and play, and the way you beat your opponents and gain points is different enough from Smash Bros (you have to build up a super move which auto-KO's people, more depending on what level super move you have). But on the other hand, in Smash Bros there always felt like a method to the madness, that even in the absolute throes of chaos that overtook the game you could figure things out and implement some strategy. But with PASBR, it just seems like any semblance of strategy is completely gone… you just mash buttons until your meter is high enough, then mash R2 to do your super move. It was fun, I'll admit, but the game absolutely needs more polish. And I hate to say this because everyone has, but it really is very clearly leaning over the shoulder of Nintendo and copying it's notes, as there are so many similarities between this and Smash Bros that it sticks out in the back of your mind.

That being said, interrupting a battle with Parapa the Rapper suddenly jumping into a cutscene to sing "I Gotta Believe" and insta-kill everyone on screen is pretty awesome.

Crash Course 2

For those of you who haven't played the first one, Dorito's Crash Course was a 2D Platforming game released for XBLA for the low low price of Free. Just 15 levels, you run and jump and climb and avoid obstacles, Wipeout-style. It was just a silly little game they released with a tie in with Doritos, but because it was so fun and well made, it ended up getting a lot of hype and love. So now we have the sequel, which (at this point at least) is standing up on its own without Dorito's there. The new game features over 70 levels at this point, with new wall-running and wall-jumping implemented, as well as removing a touch of linearity and allowing you to move forward through the level with a few different paths. In addition, rather than just "beat this level to move to the next one", you can collect stars to unlock even more levels. The gameplay is ultra-simple and the graphics are cartoony and exaggerated (which works with the avatar you play as), the ultimate definition of a pick-up-and-play game. The two levels available were a jungle level and a snow level, the latter of which demonstrates the ice physics they implemented (which works well, although running up walls of ice is very awkward, something which the rep admitted they were still working on fixing). Overall, I loved this one. The representative admitted they hadn't decided if they want to make it free again or if they were going to charge money for it, although if they do end up charging, I'll gladly pay for it. And if you have an X-Box and don't have the first one, go get it now. It's free, you have no excuse.


Currently in beta, this is a 3rd person TF2-style game with missions such as "which team can kill the most" and "cap the points first". The big difference is that classes are interchangeable and have no difference… this game is all about weapon customization. You design your own weapon with tons of different attributes, and styles… how it fires, what it fires, what the spread is, automatic or semi-automatic or manual, knock back, etc etc etc. By an early count, you can design well over 40,000 completely different weapons, then name them. It's an awesome game mechanic that leads to a frantic, chaotic game and was really fun to play, especially the rush of pride you get when you kill an opponent with a weapon you designed. I ended up making a circle-spread electrical shotgun that shot giant balls of energy that also stun the enemy, although the drawback was it couldn't fire as fast as other weapons. Armed with the newly-dubbed "Iron Shriek", me and two other guys faced off against three members of the media who were covering the game, and the three of us ended up winning. It really was a fun game that honestly has potential to be a nice rival to Team Fortress 2, as long as it does enough to differentiate itself. No idea when this is getting released, but the sooner, the better.

The Wii-U

Ah yes, the new Nintendo console named after the beginning of Jeff Jarrett's TNA theme. The line to play this wasn't nearly as long as I expected, so I got a chance to finally try out the Wii-U first hand. And honestly? I'm not that sold on the idea. The controller itself is much more lightweight than I expected, which is nice, but the thing is just so bulky it feels awkward to handle. Not to mention…two control sticks, a D-Pad, four action buttons, four shoulder buttons, an infrared camera, a microphone, AND a massive touchscreen? It just feels like such overkill. Playing the game was plenty to do, but having to reach over with your thumb to draw shapes on the touch screen right in the middle of combat just felt awkward. I don't know, the Wii-U seems to be a step in the direction of making controllers and gameplay mechanics far more complicated, when it should be going the opposite way. So while I only played for about 10 minutes, I just wasn't that sold on the Wii-U. Really doubt this is going to set things on fire for Nintendo, it just seems so needlessly complex. It might have had a little to do with the game I played, though…

Project P-100 (working title)

I don't even. In this game you play as a large group of superheroes who all run in tandem and swarm enemies, Pikmin-style. You swarm enemies to build up battery power, then use battery power to form the heroes into things like swords, fists, guns, giant Jello molds (no really). To form into those, you reach over with your thumb and draw a shape on the Wii-U touch screen. But sometimes, you DON'T, instead you hold one of the left shoulder buttons and move the right directional stick to draw a different shape such as a triangle to form a hang glider. You run through a city and then also sometimes draw on the touch screen in order to capture civilians and turn THEM into superheroes as well, and rather than enemies it was just 5 or so boss battles. Then you run into a room and suddenly the actual touchscreen becomes what you watch instead of the main screen, where you're suddenly in a 3rd person perspective, until you exit the building and the game switches back to the television. Then you fight a giant robot, then suddenly the entire road explodes and you're ON TOP of a giant robot, and you have to destroy pods on the arms of the robot while avoiding giant drills, laser canons, and the robot punching you, and also while ignoring the helicopters and jets that fly by… the whole thing was just so insane and chaotic, and my brain never really made the click between the Wii-U controls and the gameplay. It was just very, very frantic, and I can't help but feel it would work better without the touch screen issues. In the end, while I did have some fun playing it, there was just so much going on that the actual gameplay now feels like a blur, a confusing jumble of touch screen pressing and button holding.


Ok. So I played all that stuff, that's what stood out. But there's one game that, for me, was the Main Event of PAX. A game I have waited 20 years for. A game that I waited an hour and a half in line to play, and was the absolute happiest half hour of PAX for me….

X-Com: Enemy Unknown

I grew up with X-Com. When I was eight, I would go over to my grandpa's house and play the original X-Com: UFO Defense on his MS DOS. The game really means a lot to me, and I picked it up on Steam a few years ago and have been revisiting the game quite often since then. When the FPS remake was announced I was pretty disappointed, but when THIS was announced…this legit remake of the game, while not afraid to make changes and implement new systems… well, it was glorious.

The line to play this game was at minimum an hour and a half, and at times got up to three hours. Standing in line to play, the people in line were all sharing old X-Com war stories of their heroic exploits and catastrophic failures in the original game, all of us swapping strategies and what not. It really was a wonderful feeling to be able to talk about the game in 2012 without sounding like I'm prattling on about the past.

The first thing they did was show us an 8 minute video wherein a 4-person squad (lead by Sid Meier) showed off some of the gameplay and aliens. In addition to power suits and flying suits, there are now invisi-suits that let you stealth and run right past the enemy. The video's main highlight was the alien types, which have gotten some changes. Sectoids are now more primal and scurry about on all fours. Floaters have been replaced with Heavy Floaters, massively armored creatures with guns and no legs that hover and have surprising speed. Mutons are now gigantic behemoths that absorb tons of damage and aren't afraid to run in and melee you if you're out of cover. Cyberdiscs are extremely dangerous, as their "normal" form can absorb tons of damage, while their "unfolded" form is like a giant terrifying spider with deadly weapons and fantastic accuracy, not to mention the Cyberdiscs are always accompanied by one or two drones that shoot anything that comes close. The dreaded Chryssalids are now quadruped, terrifying creatures that can run super fast, make massive leaps across the level, and travel in packs, although one big plus is that if they turn someone into a zombie, you now CAN kill the zombie before it turns into another Chryssalid. The video ended with the host saying "So, now you'll be peppered for anything the game throws at you… like a giant Sectopod", at which point in the video the nearest wall exploded and a two story tall, big-as-a-tank Sectopod stormed through. Those of you who haven't played the original X-Com don't know what this means. Those of you who did are probably very scared. No joke, when it appeared, the entire room GASPED.

And then, we got 25 minutes of play time. I'm trying to think about how to describe it, and I realize that the absolute #1 compliment I can give it, the absolute best thing anyone could say about it is…

It's X-Com. It's everything X-Com is meant to be.

There are new gameplay mechanics… soldiers, as they level up, can start becoming more comfortable with one weapon type, and focus on that. Cover now plays a major role in the game, as you can hide behind a lot of stuff and plan strategy. You can do suppressing fire for a turn, preventing the aliens from moving by shooting at them. Time Units are replaced with a new, very intuitive system where you get two blocks; you can move twice (up to, like, 6 squares at a time, although that probably gets upgraded) and fire in between and afterwords, or once (around 15 blocks) and fire. I was skeptical of replacing my beloved Time Units, but the new system actually works, simplifying things while still keeping the core strategy intact.

The gameplay ran through two simple missions where you ran into cover, scouted the level ,and killed some Sectoids. In between you went to the base which has been totally redesigned into an ant farm setup, and looks really cool. For the second mission, you had to pick between two terror missions, one in Beijing and one in San Francisco, the problem being that you can only send troops to one of them. Beijing would reward you with money, but San Fran would offer scientists to join your laboratory, not to mention that the place you don't pick will cut funding and their panic level will raise. It's an interesting strategic choice to implement.

This was X-Com. It was everything a remake should be - embracing the gameplay of the old game, but not afraid to try out new things and improving on the system for modern times. I don't think I can properly explain how excited I am for this game. Only a few months to go until this releases, and I will be picking it up the very second it's available. I highly recommend that anyone who hasn't played the original go get it from Steam (It's only $5), so you can experience Strategy Game Nirvana for yourself.

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My summary of Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale goes like this;

I picked Heihachi because why not, and someone in the previous round had already played Sir Daniel from Medi-Evil so why not. I basically spent the whole time trying to figure out what the fuck I was doing and how special moves work and why in the world would they make the X button mean jump instead of just pressing up like a normal person. At no point did I ever really figure out what I was doing beyond pressing buttons and hitting people and as far as I could tell I wasn't successfully affecting anything and I died a bunch of times.

I finished second.

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