The Heavy Hitters at PAX West 2016
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
This year I decided to split up my coverage of PAX West. This piece is going to focus on the major players and what I found to be some of the most impressive showings at PAX West. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Bethesda, Ubisoft… these were where most of the major Triple A games were showcased.
While platforms like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are already in the consumer gaming market, PlayStation VR showed a considerably impressive lineup of future titles. While I couldn’t demo much, mostly because lines and scheduling made it tough, I did manage to get some time with Batman Arkham VR. The demo itself wasn’t really super meaty, you play out a scene where you suit up as Batman and test out some of his gadgets. No real gameplay, which was a bit of a let down, but suiting up as my favorite superhero was pretty damn cool.
As for our friends over at Microsoft, I got the chance to play the released ReCore, Gears of War 4, and Battlefield 1. Part and par for the course at PAX West, Microsoft takes up a quite a large space… showcasing much of what we are expecting to see in the coming months. While I won’t talk much about ReCore since I am currently in the process of reviewing it as we speak, I do want to mention how much of a blast it was to power through the new Gears of War 4 horde mode! The series that created the mode turns it up a notch with some new mechanics that further innovate and diversify the co-op game mode.
The introduction of classes and base building give horde mode a meatier experience. Support based classes like the engineer complement the damage dealign classes, stressing the importance of a balance team composition. It felt fresh, and after a few games that felt more of the same since the first entry… it’s nice to jump back in with a fresh pair of boots. Battlefield 1 was interesting, the World War 1 setting feels both fresh and archaic at the same time. Weaponry sounds and feels primitive when compared to the future-tech weaponry of the last COD and BF game. The map I played felt surprisingly exciting despite being based on the slow moving trench warfare of World War 1. While I have never been that in to the COD/BF etc shooter genre, this looked promising.
The fine folks over at Nintendo pulled out all the stops at their display, focusing heavily on the forthcoming Pokemon Sun/Moon games. In previous years, Nintendo found their home at side hallways as well as the main show floor… this year though it seems they pooled everything together to give the show-goers an even more impressive display. If you are a Pokemon fan, this was the display for you.
Square-Enix took over two huge areas! One area was exclusively Final Fantasy XV that unfortunately I was unable to actually play. Apparently they were handing out tickets to demo the game early and the availability was very limited… even for me as a member of the press. Reportedly the demo was an hour long so I understand the need to do the ticket system. I did manage to play a bit in their Square-Enix corner, playing games like World of Final Fantasy and the HD remaster of Final Fantasy XII. All look promising and definite pre-order worthy titles.
Similar to the whole FFXV thing, Capcom and Resident Evil 7 also pulled the “get tickets” tactic for their showing. From reports from friends, I heard it was mostly a video and not really and interactive demo. Not that big of a deal since the demo was released on consoles.
Over at Bethesda, the big player at their booth was Dishonored 2. Unfortunately it lacked a demo but instead the fans were treated to a museum of sorts. Fun but honestly I come to PAX to play the games not walk through intricately designed displays. Ubisoft was a booth I unfortunately didn’t spend much time with, they were showcasing the new Southpark title but I was a bit let down there was no demo for WATCH_DOGS2.
My personal favorite comes from the Gung Ho booth. I was torn with how to categorize this game, while Gung Ho is known for Puzzles & Dragons, a widely popular mobile game… the game featured here will be released to PS4. Grasshopper Manufacturers, known for games such as No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw, will be releasing Let it Die later this year. From my time with the demo, the game felt like a mix between the mechanics of Dead Rising with the distinct Suda51 brand humor of other Grasshopper titles. Personally, I haven’t played a Grasshopper game since Lollipop Chainsaw but this looks to be the title that draws me into their games again. While demoing the title, I mused about how the overall feel of the game felt reminiscent of their previous titles and that I hoped they would consider including a Beam-Katana (from No More Heroes) as one of the weapons in the game.
Overall though, the AAA/big guns felt fairly light this year. While they did tout some big displays, the indie devs offered displays just as big despite not being backed by the AAA publishers. It did temper my expectations a bit, surprisingly there was nothing from the Call of Duty camp. While I have been an unapologetic fan of Overwatch as of the past few months, Blizzard was heavily focused on the World of Warcraft expansion… something I was not that in to, personally.