April 1, 2010

PAX: Great Success or Epic Fail?

To sum up my experience at PAX in one word: disappointment. I entered with very high hopes. Spent all friday doing my work (and watching March Madness in-between) so that I could immerse myself into the PAX experience Saturday and Sunday. I bought my T ticket, slightly annoyed that PAX would send me a T (the T being the Boston Public Transit; think of a subway) ticket without any money, and boarded the train that would take me to game heaven.
Problem 1: directions. On the train, I open up my iPhone and double-check the directions. The train directions were fairly accurate, they said to get off at Government Center instead of Park Station which isn't too big a deal, just takes longer. The problem was that once arriving at the HCC Station to get to the Convention Center, the PAX site said "follow the signs to PAX" but THERE WERE NO SIGNS!!!! Thanks to my World of Warcraft navigating skills I was able to find the place.......a 15 minute's walk away from the Train Station. Oh, and there's an earlier stop that's literally right next to the convention center that PAX forgot to mention.

Well, no one wants to here me complain about directions, you are all reading this for the games! Why yes, of course; after all, PAX is for games galore. Wait, you want to hear about upcoming games? I can tell you all about games that have already come-out, from Bioshock 2 to HeartGold and Dante's Inferno. As for new games, PAX was very lacking. The lack of new games surprised me given the upcoming releases of Starcraft II and major nintendo titles. Here are some new games that I did have a chance to play and my impressions:

Splinter Cell: Conviction - I was a major fan of the Splinter Cell franchise. Loved the first one, still play the second one on occasion, liked the third...and then came Double Agent. Way to destroy a hero Ubisoft! I heard Conviction would redeem the franchise so I couldn't wait to get my hands on the new single-player! Too bad for me only the Co-Op was on a demo. The graphics are stunning but they are harder controls than Street Fighter IV and all the crazy Japanese games of all time combined. I go to behind-the-back neck-snap an enemy like in the old days, only it takes me 10 minutes to figure out how to move (yes, the controls are that bad). Then when I go in for the kill the controls are in no way intuitive and I try all the buttons and none initiate the kill. Eventually the guard notices me and I engage in a new "active combat" sequence. Like God of War, it tells me to press X. I press X, the guard knocks me with his gun, puts me in an armlock, and shoots me. End Demo. End Game.

Crackdown 2: So this demo had a long line because it was 1 of only 2 major titles there. Those pictures of PAX with people on the bean-bag looking silver chairs was for crackdown 2. I waited in line about 40 minutes and was actually very satisfied with the game. It was fun. Again, multiplayer demo only, but I liked running around blowing stuff up. The guy next to me told me it was just like the first game, which means sequel will be good.
Portal 2: Never played portal so I can't really compare it, but the sequel was fun. A more hardcore puzzle solver than the previous one. Another game that really impressed me although not my type. From what I played and inferred, it's basically a much much longer version of the first game.

Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands - Well, did you like Prince of Persia: Sands of Time? It's the same exact game only this one is BASED OFF OF THE MOVIE DESPITE WHAT UBISOFT SAYS. When you played the demo, Disney people gave out posters and iPhone covers for the movie. The opening level is exactly the same as the opening sequence. And the new prince looks just like the new prince from the movie, as do the villain and princess. The game itself is a hack-and-slash like before, but after playing Dante, Bayonetta, and Darksiders at PAX, this game is about 4 years outdated. Way to go Ubisoft! I only respect the division you guys have that made Assassin's Creed 2, otherwise, you guys have ruined every good game you made.

Split Second: Speaking of Disney, this game looks like a remake of Burnout. Basically, it's Burnout meets Need for Speed meets those racing games you play at arcades (like Initial D). I very much liked this game. Controls were intuitive, graphics were nice; this is a nice surprise from the folks over at Disney. If you like Racing Games, this one looks very promising.
Battleblock Theater: From Behemoth Games (Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers) this arcade game comes for Xbox Live. This game is mega-awesome. Imagine an old-school side-scroller, 4 player Alpha Fighter type. Only, the drawings are whacky and there is gore galore! A must download and, in my opinion, the best demo I played.

All Points Bulletin: what a frustrating game. They only let me play for 5 minutes and you were forced to watch the trailer before playing, but that aside the game is just frustrating because the game could be fantastic. Instead, it's awkward. Imagine a Borderlands style shooter but that takes place in a Grand Theft Auto style world. Sounds cool. Oh, and it adds in 3rd person aspects and cars. Only problem is that motions aren't fluid, controls don't make sense, and characters are lanky and, well, awkward. Everything about this game is awkward really. The combat itself isn't all that impressive either.
And now for the only big-big-big name on the floor: Red Dead Redemption. Red Dead Revolver blew my mind. It was F*$&ing AWESOME!!! I didn't mind waiting 1 hour to play this game. The exhibition was incredibly set-up with posters and trailers all over the place. I actually waited, they called my name. Yes, this was it! Wait, no it wasn't. I was put in a group with 4 strangers and got to watch a Rockstar Executive play the game for 10 minutes. Then I got EXACTLY 2 minutes to ride around on the horse. I wasn't allowed to shoot, run, or test out Dead Eye. I could only ride the horse. Oh, and the Rockstar guy wasted 1 of my 2 minutes by showing me how to call my horse and then how to mount and dismount him. From what I saw the game was damn good. The game looked better than the original. But after not being able to play I got pissed off and left PAX.

I'll be truthful in saying that I didn't go to any of the special events (conferences with game devs as I called them), but I did sit next to a Gameinformer writer on the train back. He said the Naughty Dog and 2k Games conferences were good, but the rest were a waste of his time. I won't steal the working title he gave me for his upcoming article on PAX, but let's just say it won't be pretty.
PAX was a bloody disaster. Not enough big names. In fact, the game I learned the most about was Bioshock 2, which has been out for at least a month now. At times PAX was too organized, at times not organized enough. Too crowded. Game demos were all either co-op, too limited game-play, or demos of games already out. After all, I love playing Lord of the Rings online and City of Heroes, games that have been out for years and flopped, especially when Super Mario Galaxy 2 and a new WoW expansion are just around the corner. I was hoping Red Dead would Redeem (pun intended) the PAX Expo, but it didn't. Even worse, next year it's being moved 1 hour away from Boston into a really bad neighborhood. So long PAX I say, and good riddance. There's a reason why E3 is the main Expo, and why it will stay that way.