Fun Demos to Try

November 3, 2008

At the end of last week I took the opportunity to download the demos on XBL for Mirror's Edge and the new Tomb Raider Underworld games which are soon to be released. I took notice of Mirror's Edge when E3 hit and it really appealed to me as a genre-changing type of game. I really like the idea of taking the first person shooter type of game play and re-tooling it into something similar and yet new at the same time. As for Tomb Raider, I wasn't originally too interested "oh gee look, another Tomb Raider game..." but then I saw it with a little demo time on Xplay and it looked worth a try.

 Mirror's Edge

I'm going to really have to give this game a solid play through, it will be worth a rent for sure, possibly a buy. There are a couple of things that irked me about the demo, but let's talk about the positives first: the graphics are very well done and while the environments which are mainly the tops of buildings and once and a while indoors a bit while atop those buildings, the feelings of scale in the city really sell the visual quality. You really get immersed in seeing a building ledge off in the distance and knowing that you can make some amazing jumps to get there. The story is interesting enough to carry the game and at least give you a reason for all the death-defying leaps from building top to building top. The combat or really fleeing from combat except for those few in your way is fun in a frantic feeling that adds pace to the game play. What I'm not really to happy about is the controls. The default buttons seem odd and uncommonly used for a first person game. Moving yourself and the camera are controlled with the left and right thumb sticks as you would expect, but then the similarities sort of disappear. LB and RB will be your main button presses in the game instead of a more normal A or X to jump, roll, etc. I found this a little awkward, especially using LB to jump and I really hope I can map that to a better button that I'm more likely to press. Instead they have a bullet-time mode mapped to the X button but I don't think I will ever use it except in combat which is how they choose to teach you about what X does.

I really had fun with the demo, I think the way they have presented the 1st-person shooter is really more of a new 1st person action game. Now the best thought I had about using this game play model while running around building tops was to use this method of presentation to make a Batman or Spiderman game, that would really be something.

Tomb Raider: Underworld

I was a fan of the very first Tomb Raider game from way back when. The puzzles were fun to solve and the environments were really well done and that to me was what "made" the game stand out on it's own. The series sort of lost that a bit as it had various sequels try to improve upon the original game and as a result I lost interest long ago. I thought this latest version would also pretty much suck but I happened to catch a 5 minute hands-on demo on Xplay and it looked good enough to pay attention to it. Once the demo became available on XBL I snatched it up and I have to say it's very much reminiscent of the original. The demo gives you a look at the Thailand level which you approach via boat with a quick swim and then climb and Croft-ian jumps and flips up a few ledges. While going through this exercise, I became familiar with the controls which were fairly well done. You have to do battle with the camera once in a while but that is pretty much standard in any 3rd person action game (when will a camera ever just work?). Graphics in the game definitely have a good level of polish. I found myself pulling out the binoculars to have a good look around whenever I got up high and had a great view or just wanted to check out some of the areas better. I'm looking forward to this one now as well having played the demo, it really gave me the old feeling I had when playing the original game.

So now of course, I have to add these to my list of games to get this season. I'm going to go broke with all the great stuff that's out there.