As I said before, I felt like the demo was really short and might not have given a good sense of gameplay. Maybe PCF/Epic felt that the gameplay was so strong it would stand on its own in its barest form, or that they did not want to give anything away, but it had the opposite of the intended effect on me. I feel like RPS got to play a completely different game than I had in the demo, one with incredible set-pieces and varied gameplay. Then I think back on the dry repetition in the demo and then I reach for the Advil because I can't reconcile the two things in my head. I really want to play the game described in the article, but yet that does not seem to be the game I actually got to play.
So I have a few question to toss out there. Feel free to answer more generally too, especially about what impact demos and previews have on your opinions of games.
Did you play the demo and did it change your impressions of the game for better or for worse?
Does the hands-on I posted above improve your opinion of the game, especially if the demo it changed it for the worse?
Given my feelings and the feelings of a lot of the people who have posted here and elsewhere, do you think releasing the demo as it was designed was a mistake? Would PCF/Epic been better off revealing a more juicy slice of gameplay or would that have been too much of a "spoiler"?
And finally, would you trust a preview enough to revise your opinion in the face of what might have been a disappointing first-hand experience based on the demo?
The Skill Shot system seems like a branch of what I see a growing popularity of score-attack and leaderboard based gaming, and it informs the game design in many ways. These innovative design choices will be a polarizing force when it comes to opinion. The popularity of the Call of Duty-type shooter has informed our expectations as to what a modern FPS looks like, and regardless of the outcome I do commend Epic and People Can Fly for taking a chance with a game that defies those expectations. What we have here is a mutation of the First Person Shooter, and like any mutation, time will tell whether it has the evolutionary chops needed to bear fruit down the line.
Even the competitive Echo mode is simply a score attack challenge. This is a refreshing change, but only for those who are looking for something new. For those comfortable with the style of multiplayer in the mainline shooters and who are simply looking for more of that will find themselves disappointed. I myself am not really that excited about the score attack nature of the game, but that is because I am not, in general, a competitive gamer. For many years I've been a "one and done" player, never going back for "New Game +" or achievement points. Left 4 Dead and its sequel kept me coming back, but that was more on the strength of the social bonds I developed through that game rather than any drive to improve my score. There is an exception, though, and it is recent enough for me to think that I may find some value in that mode of play. Pac-Man CE DX has been one of the few score attack games that hooked me enough for me to care about my score, and has revitalized my interest in iterating the same levels over and over again to improve. The co-operative anarchy mode has potential to hook me though, assuming I can find the same kind of enjoyment in that as I have found in Left 4 Dead for the past two years.
With these points in mind I am very cautiously optimistic about the game. In order for a game based so heavily on leaderboards to have the legs I expect out of a 60 dollar title, it must have both variety and consistency. The variety allows the player to keep finding new ways to score such that the basic mechanics don't feel repetitive. While Pac-Man kept me interested for a little while, eventually the small number of levels and my own limitations in skill caused my interest to wane. For the cost of the game that was acceptable, but I expect a game costing 4 times as much to have far more potential to keep me involved. In terms of consistency, there must be some ability for the player to predict the outcome of an event so that trying the same thing multiple times yields a similar result. Otherwise there is a risk that the player ends up feeling the game is "random" which really can kill enthusiasm in terms of striving to improve. The big design challenge here is that consistency and variety are at odds and a balance needs to be struck.
The demo of the game did not sell me on either variety or consistency. The lack of variety could be attributed to the fact that you get such a tiny slice of play - a 6-8 minute slice of level and 3 weapons is not going to help in giving a player a good sense of scope. From the consistency standpoint I found that some of the physics and AI got in the way of understanding how and why certain skillshots triggered or did not trigger. There were times when I'd rack up big points without really understanding why and vice versa, which made repeating those events a bit tricky. Seeing a flurry of points pop up is only satisfying if I know how the heck I did that.
While I'm still cautiously optimistic, the demo did nothing to really help me decide if there was enough meat here to keep me going. What were your thoughts on the demo? Do you feel like there is enough game there to keep you coming back for more?