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PAX 2011 Thoughts: Days TWO and THREE

Day ONE here 
Looks like I've got a bunch of apologies to make. First, sorry this blog post is so late. Sunday and Monday saw me not unlike a ghost, simply floating around, lethargic, due to the energy drain of PAX, then was simply busy all of Tuesday. By the way: SOUNDERS GOING TO THE US OPEN CUP! F U Soccer HATERS!
Secondly, the Vita was only available to members of the press apparently, so no dice there.  On the one hand, it's understandable, because the show could hardly handle another 4-hr line. On the other, the Vita is a console that I don't plan on purchasing myself (haven't even picked up a 3DS yet, and I LOVE Nintendo handhelds
Thirdly, Uncharted 3 cut off its line 2 hrs before the show ended, despite the line not being particularly long.  The guy at the booth told me to hang around for a little while until they opened it up for a few more people at the end, but I still needed to get to Halo, so no dice there.  
So without further ado:

  • Mass Effect 3. It's what I got to the convention center at 7:30 on Saturday for. I'm not sure if it was because I've read every demo preview any outlet has done so far, but the demo felt very second-nature. Good to see our  SPOILER WARNING: Click here to reveal hidden content. back to lend a hand. Controls were nearly identical to those in Mass Effect 2. Visuals looked... better, but not so much so that you're going to be astounded at the Bioware team for their amazing work. 
    Dev teams on sequels always seem to talk about how much they've improved the AI in their game. You'll hear it every year from EA Sports. But in Mass Effect 3, enemy strategy was probably the thing that stood out the most. These mofos were relatively smart, even in this demo version. I had to really pick my spots coming out of cover, and was lucky to not have died throughout. 
    Speaking of cover, there were a few issues with that aspect. Getting behind boxes and the like didn't always work perfectly, leaving me standing around like an idiot as I was being shot at by certain enemies SPOILER WARNING: Click here to reveal hidden content.nearly tore me to shreds. It's still a demo though, and I expect those issues to be worked out.
    Note: Got a Normandy S2 for my Xbox Live Avatar, so waiting in line was just fine. Left the show for a few hours to see my Sounders play, then came back and played the next game, and more.
  • Marvel vs Capcom 3. First, I want to make it perfectly clear just how important this game is to me. On Friday, I went by the Udon booth. Udon is the company that does much of the art for Capcom, Street Fighter in particular. They did all the HD sprites in SSFIITHDR. They also did the art for Phoenix Wright, one of my favorite game series of all time. So at the Udon booth I picked up art books for both Phoenix Wright and Street Fighter Tribute, books that I have meant to buy each of the last three years at the convention but haven't for various reasons. UMvC3 is, as far as I'm concerned, a perfect marriage of my love of Phoenix and Street Fighter (and indeed Resident Evil). 
    You can imagine my disappointment in finding out that he wasn't in the demo. 
    It's understandable of course. No one was supposed to know about him yet. But if I was going to play the demo of Ultimate, I would have just downloaded the demo of the first game and used my imagination. Hawkeye controlled interestingly, as did Tyrant, but the game was missing its major draw to me. To sum it up... NEEDS MOAR PHOENIX. 
  • Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Perhaps my biggest disappointment of the show. Not to say it was bad, mind you. I'll say something similar about Batman in the next section, but a lot of work has been put into this game. Zombies seem to come out of every possible nook and cranny, creating a great claustrophobic vibe during gameplay. But melee attacks are greatly overpowered, not having to worry once about being bitten as I slashed my knife around. And I did that a bunch, because in true Resident Evil fashion, I ran out of ammo. Green herbs were also in short supply, and if a teammate grabbed it first while you were clinging onto life, then you were boned. Unlike other games at the show, this is one I would have preferred to see the versus multiplayer instead of the story co-op, so see more of the infection dynamic (bleeding causes zombies to come at you ferociously). 
  • Batman: Arkham City. All I have to say is this; if you at all enjoyed the first one, you'll love Arkham City. Every facet is better, most notably the combat (including environment-specific attacks and counters. Playing as Catwoman, pressing X near a table would cause her to roll across it, using her legs to dispatch her attackers). This game has had a very evident amount of care paid to it, and will be a game-of-the-year candidate in a very, very crowded year. 
  • Halo: Anniversary. Okay, it wasn't REALLY Halo: Anniversary. it was Halo: Reach on the Anniversary engine with Anniversary maps. Not being a big Halo aficionado, I still felt like there was a difference, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. The map was fun; that's all I can really say without hurting my gamer cred. But man, the WETA Warthog they had there was sick. I have a picture or two if someone would like to see it. 
  • Spider Man: Edge of Time. Another Spider-man brawler. Confusing goal objectives were made a bit more forgiving by a surprisingly deep attack system. Flow was easy to keep, making dispatching the numerous enemies enjoyable. Getting to high places was a pain though, which should never be the case in a spidey game. If Batman gets swinging around more correct than Peter Parker, than something is wrong.
    The dialogue was great though. Banter between the current and future Spider-men felt genuine and sometimes pretty darn funny. This game may force me to rent it when it comes out, despite the flaws. 
  • Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.  It's what I got to the convention center at 7:30 on Sunday for. Worth it? I'm still not sure. Elder Scrolls has never really been my cup of tea. First person melee combat performed by wildly swinging a sword around? I'm not asking for precision, but such combat simply frustrates me. That said: OMG THIS GAME LOOKS BEAUTIFUL. I remember when Oblivion came out it looked quite nice, but Skyrim makes Oblivion look like Dead Rising Wii. The trees, the water, etc everything looks fantastic. 
    Of course, I didn't get to look at it all that long. The demo booth that I was assigned to froze up before I even started, leaving me with less than half the time with the game as anyone else. Also, I was looking forward to the much-hyped dragon fights, only to learn they weren't available where I was. Makes me regret that I never went to the Capcom booth to play "Dragons Dogma" which actually looked pretty cool. 
  • Lollipop Chainsaw. Suda 51 is alive and well. Long live Suda 51. 
    Lollipop Chainsaw will be second-nature to anyone that enjoyed No More Heroes. the controls are similar, mapped to a normal gamepad instead of the Wii-mote, and sees players flipping around and making special attacks within a minute. All of the visual flairs you'd expect from Grasshopper are present, and the cheerleader lead is unsurprisingly sexualized the way many of the females in NMH were. Of the brawlers I played at the show, this one has by far the most interest on my end, though maybe that's because of the foam chainsaws they were giving everyone that played the game. 
    Final note; this is Suda's second consecutive game in which he supplies players with a body-less head to help you get through the game. I've gotta think that is a record. 
  • Super Mario 3D Land. Like an idiot, I didn't realize there was a sprint button for this new Mario game until AFTER I played it, making my main opinion (that it was too slow) moot. The 3D really does help to gauge relation to things like power-up boxes well, making it perhaps the game with the best practical USE for 3D yet. The puzzles in the demo were simple and didn't show the creativity of Galaxy or Galaxy 2, but it was early in the game. Frankly, didn't see enough of the package to know whether it's worth anything.
  • Rayman Origins. Hot damn this game is pretty. Hand-drawn sprites on a hand-drawn background make this one a feast for the eyes. And, from what I saw in the demo, it's also brutally difficult. Playing co-op as Rayman's big blue friend, I found myself dying frequently (I wonder if the hit box for my character was bigger than Rayman's because of the size of the sprite. In which case, NO FAIR!). The game takes the Mario mechanic of having dead friends float around in bubbles until you can free them, simultaneously helping the flow of the game and assisting players stuck on a certain part (assuming one of them can pass safely). I could see myself picking up the 3DS version of this title (which wasn't on the show floor).
BTW ESREVER. I was unable to get another CS: GO code for you, but don't lose hope yet; I've got a buddy that works at Valve, and he might be able to procure you one in the coming days. 
To the games I missed...
Uncharted 3 
The Old Republic