Yesterday the Heaven Media team was invited along to a Namco Bandai event in London to have a look at a handful of their latest titles that are currently still in production. Located at the Bargehouse situated on the Thames in London, Namco Bandai took over the whole building with a large free play area on the top floor and then 5 separate rooms throughout the building each displaying a new title. For the most part a lot of these games are still only a short way through production so what we saw at the event may only be an indication of what the final products will be like.
The first room we visited we were shown ‘Inversion’, a gears of war style 3rd person shooter with a slight twist, the basis of the story is an alien invasion that ends up completely messing up earth’s gravity, the main characters wife has been killed by the aliens and his daughter kidnapped. The gameplay itself looked pretty interesting with both standard weapons and gravity type weapons that can lift enemies up on the air or crush them to the ground with the bubble of different gravity levels that you fire. The levels that we were shown appear to be quite large and well detailed, along your journey you will find areas of the levels that change the gravitational direction so that you will be walking along either the wall or ceiling and some areas have zero gravity. An interesting concept but hard to tell from the demo’s and brief gameplay if this title will have long term playability.
Onto the next title and we were taken into the ‘Ridge Racer Unbounded’ room. I think most of us are familiar with the Ridge Racer franchise and many of us will still have fond memories of the PS1 version that took up many hours of our lives. The game has only evolved ever so slightly over the years and has always retained its basic racing/drifting style of gameplay, with Ridge Racer Unbounded this has changed, Namco have expanded on the standard gameplay by fusing in elements of more destructive games like Burnout. The demo played was a city area within Shatter Bay, the cars are still the fictional as they have been throughout the series although they all do resemble various real supercars. One of the main differences is within the race building up a power bar by drifting around the track, this power can then be utilized to either nitro, boost into other cars to destroy them or to utilise various shortcuts that are hidden around each map giving you the edge to go out in front. Your car can be destroyed if another car rams you hard enough or nudges you off into a solid object but should you decide to drive through a large brick pillar yourself then the car will drive through it destroying the pillar and only slowing you down slightly which although quite a strange concept it does mean that when you overstep that corner when you just about to cross the finish line and hit something like a small wall rather than going from 150mph down to 0 in an instant you will just loose a little speed. All in all the graphics are ok, nothing spectacular, a good soundtrack as you would expect and another title added to the franchise that Ridge Racer fans will enjoy.
The third room on our tour contained the game Dark Souls. A dark fantasy 3rd person PRG/Action game set in dungeons, castles and other fantasy realm style locations. Equipped with a sword and magic potions you hack a slash your way through the various levels. If there is one thing Namco definitely know how to do that is to produce some of the largest end of stage bosses and this game is no exception, at the end of the level during the demo our character faced 2 different bosses close to twenty times as tall as yourself. Background music was good adding an air of suspense to the game throughout. HM will no doubt be having a look at this title when released for a more in-depth look.
Behind door number 4 is Soul Calibur 5, now as a massive Soul Blade fan, probably the game that ended the life of my PS1 controller I was really looking forward to this one. Now Namco have tried to do something a little different with most of the titles above and I was a little concerned that they had messed with Soul Calibur’s genetics however the tweaks they have made I think will only improve the gameplay, following the path of a lot of the fighters that have been released over the last couple of years in respect of the power bar allowing certain moves to be pulled off once full, personally I think this is a good feature and should add something to the game. Now I am not saying that this is clearly going to be a massive title but if you have played the previous titles or like a good fighting game with the added bonus of weapons I is worth considering.
And finally the fifth game that we were shown is ‘Ace Combat: Assault Horizon’ again with a lot of Namco Bandai titles this has been born from the continuation of their Franchise/bread and butter series, Ace Combat originally was known as Air Combat released back in 1992 in the arcade and has developed into what we looked at yesterday. The game follows a pilot who has a dream that he is shot down in a dogfight and the level demonstrated to us was a dogfight over Miami. Personally I haven’t really got into flying air combat style games since playing blue lightning back on the old Atari Lynx, for most games of this ilk you would see a small dot in the distance wait for a small box to turn red and then fire a missile and wait for the puff of smoke in the distance to know you have successfully killed the enemy. During the development of this new version I think that they have seen this as being one of the downfalls of games of this type and have angled to give the game a more up close feel. When the demo started I thought I was looking at a cut scene as the place was flying over the city of Miami but as soon as we were shown the various controls I sat back particularly impressed with the quality of the graphics used, map data from Google was imported into the game to make the cities that you are flying over very realistic and these aren’t just flat cities, all of the buildings at ground level are 3d objects with a good amount of detail. Down on the motorways there are cars and even flying past at high speed that detail adds a very nice element to the gameplay. The game itself is played in two ways, firstly the standard ‘small plane in the distance to try and lock onto’ but when you get close enough the game can be transferred into a close combat situation instigated by pressing the shoulder buttons when in range, this then brings you directly in line behind the enemy aircraft which you still need to follow using the analogue stick, this then gives you the ability to pepper it with your machine guns or send in a torrent of missiles. Some nice effects in the game include some destructible scenery and up close views of the aircraft breaking up once shot down.
All in all an interesting event, well put together with each room decked out in the style of the game that was being demo’ed and with some titles that show promise. Most of them not being available till 2012 means they have a little way to go to be finished but from what we saw yesterday the winner for us was Ace Combat, check out the trailers and keep your eye’s peeled for a release date as it looks to be a cracking title.