Demo Impressions of Late

Afro Samurai? Beaten. Tom Clancy’s HAWX? Old news. Halo Wars? Soooo last week. Yup, I play a lot of games and… oh fie, you caught me! Ok, I play just about any demo that floats across the Marketplace, be it on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and there’ve been quite a few lately so I thought I’d chime in with some quick impressions.

Afro Samurai
I hope the anime is stupendous because knowing the rich backstory and compelling plight of the characters is the only way I can imagine making it through this game. The art style looks fantastic from the titular afro on Afro’s head to the cartoon meat slices you get a glimpse of as you cleave enemies into pieces. The gameplay, on the other hand, is like Ninja Gaiden stuck in a barrel of molasses in a tar pit. You’ve got the typical weak/heavy attacks to mix up combos with and a slow-mo focus mode but it just never feels very fast, tight, or entertaining. You don’t even get a good view of the gore. I also hear there are topless ninja girls later in the game and even some platforming. There’s only one platform to jump on in the demo and the rigid camera caused me to fall promptly to the ground before I was even sure of where I was. Sorry Surge, or Namco, or Bandai Namco, I think a bit too much time and money was spent on Sam Jackson and not on making this the slick action experience it could’ve been.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX
You can argue that Namco has done absolutely nothing to innovate the arcade flight shooter genre since they perfected it with Ace Combat 2 back in ’97. What you can’t argue is that Ubisoft has done equally little for the genre other than to slap a fresh coat of HD paint on it. The “Assistance Mode” — the game’s only unique hook — is completely useless and utterly disorienting. Whoever thought piloting a plane by squinting at it from several thousand feet away with almost no point of reference to track enemies would be fun should be subjected to a Clockwork Orange style Iron Eagles marathon. Yes, it looks pretty and the controls work well (thanks to Ace Combat’s legendary setup) but like all hopeful heirs to the throne, Project Aces yet again waves the crown just out of reach.

Halo Wars
Playing as Master Chief is still better than being the commander of the entire human resistance. Halo was never a series I’d hoped to play as an RTS, especially not one designed just for a console. The gameplay works well for the skirmish you get in the demo but there’s no way to assign groups of soldiers for fine tuning your strategy. I’d imagine most scenarios are going to play out the same way time and again which was always the fun part about RTS games, going back to try new and stupid strategies. The game does looks great, though, and captures the feel of the Halo-verse with slippery Warthogs plowing over grunts and poetically titled battleships but it’s just not a game I ever needed to play.  Halo fans and RTS advocates shouldn’t take my word for it on this one, though, just grab the demo yourselves.

Resident Evil 5
I think plenty has been said about this one so I’ll keep it short. The ridiculous inventory system and the inability to run-and-gun had me waiting for non-zombies to walk into my wild knife swings while my co-survivor begged for me to spray her in the face with green antiseptic. I was not impressed but word has it that this is a really old demo and that the full game is way better. I’ll reserve my playtime for a day when I’ve finally played Resident Evil 4 first.

Wipeout HD
This is totally the Wipeout I grew up with! Unfortunately, my skills are as rusty as the original model Feiser hoversled because even in the simplest demo race I couldn’t finish above 4th place. It looks fantastic all around and I giggled with geeky glee just looking at the ship models and the Designers Republic-inspired logos but the furious pace of Wipeout may be beyond my aging abilities. Hopefully Sony will put it on sale this Summer. I’d grab that for a few bucks cheaper.

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