PART ONE l TWO
After spending a good long while watching Russians die, Russians kill Germans, Russians experience the apocalypse and Russians shoot mutants, I was keen to get into some gaming action myself. So after a quick refreshment break, which may or may not have involved Russian vodka, I wandered over to the nearest available Xbox 360 and grabbed the controller.
The Darksiders II logo flashed before my eyes and before I could say “let’s kill some demons” I was doing just that. Gone was the stoic, beefy and downright cranky protagonist of the first game, War, and in his place was the nimble, creepy and sometimes disturbing DEATH. When referring to the entity rather than the state of being, DEATH must always be spelt in capital letters. (This is in line with the world according to Terry Pratchett.) The first difference I noticed was how DEATH moved. War always felt like a tank, sort of a combination of the Hulk and Kratos, a lumbering behemoth of destruction. DEATH however felt more like the Prince of Persia. Agility was his forte and quick movements, dashing attacks and lightning evades made up his repertoire. Wall running, jumping on poles, climbing up cliffs and leaping over crevices also featured heavily. The movement all worked really well and it wasn’t long before I was making my way through a grey, arctic inspired world with ease.
I was also able to play around with the new loot system something that didn’t exist in the first game. It all felt very similar to Diablo or Torchlight. Enemies, once vanquished would drop new weapons, armour and upgrades allowing a constant evolution of the character of DEATH. The menu system was easy to use and swapping in these new items was a breeze. I did, however, notice a lot of repetition of weapons and armour with stats well below what I started with. This may have just been for the demo but if there isn’t a strong buy/sell mechanic in the game, having all this loot seems like a waste, especially as so much of it cannot be practically used.
The demo finished with a fight against War from the original Darksiders. It was a hectic battle and I was forced to use all I had learned in my short playtime to take him down. There was almost a Rock Paper Scissors feel to the battle. When War attacked me, I always had an appropriate response. A heavy attack needed a dodge, a light attack could be stopped with a jump attack, a block could be beaten with a special attack and so on. It gave a real sense of flow to the battle, a see-saw like feeling which never let me feel confident of the outcome. With this battle complete, my time with the game had also finished. I feel confident that Darksiders II will be a quality entry into the series. If a few little niggles such as the loot and some frame rate issues can be ironed out prior to release then it could well be one of the better games of the year.
My night then took a slight turn for the worse. No, the beer didn’t run out, I got my hands on Lost Planet 3. I will be honest. I’m not a fan of the series. I have always felt that for every exciting battle against a giant alien creature, I had to plough through hours of subpar shooting and fiddly platforming. The payoff was never worth the grind and to be frank Lost Planet 3 is looking like more of the same.
The game returns to the icy setting of the original and once again you play as a soldier fighting off hordes of insectoid baddies to salvage precious heat (which for some reason unknown to modern science exists in a collectable floaty globe form). Anyone familiar with the first two games will feel right at home with the third. Shoot glowing enemy weak points, dodge incoming fire, reload and repeat. That is about the extent of the gameplay on offer. There was the potential for a cool mech section but it was ruined by a freezing mechanic. Just as I was starting to enjoy blasting enemies in a giant bug crushing robot, said robot froze up, meaning I had to get out and shoot the ice off before I could continue. This system was obviously put in to add some tension but all it did was make me want to turn the game off. It was just too slow and ponderous to be any kind of fun.
Granted I was not playing final code, but in its current state the follow up to 2010’s Lost Planet 2 is looking like a game I will do my best to avoid (pay attention Erin). If you were a fan of the first two this may be exactly what you are after, more of the same. As for the rest of us, we may be better off looking for our insect crushing fix elsewhere because a career as an exterminator sounds like it would be more enjoyable than this game.
Thus concluded my evening of THQ inspired gaming treats. Despite its well documented perilous financial position, the publisher has some wonderfully entertaining games coming our way. Hopefully this batch of titles will help bring these talented studios both the recognition and financial rewards that they seem to deserve.
PART ONE l TWO