Previews: Darksiders II, WWE 13, Company of Heroes 2 and South Park: The Stick of Truth
Last week I was lucky enough to attend a THQ Darksiders II event in Sydney. There were stunts, balls of fire and of course, games! We had a hands on demo of WWE ’13 and the highly anticipated Darksiders II and saw demos for Company of Heroes 2 and South Park: The Stick of Truth. Below are my thoughts on each of these upcoming games.
Company of Heroes 2
If I had to sum up Company of Heroes 2 in one sentence I would say it’s a good looking game that isn’t resting on its laurels. In the demo we saw the main focus was the addition of Coldtech, a feature that replicated the sub-freezing weather conditions of Russia. With the aforementioned ‘ColdTech’ players will be faced with a new challenge – the harsh, bitter and freezing conditions of the Eastern Front of WW2. Snow can build up and impede travel, men can die from the sheer weather conditions even before the enemy has been sighted, and the player is left to work around this. It will affect the decisions you make and the outcome of these decisions. How do you get your men from Point A to Point B in sub-freezing conditions? Do you risk sending out a heavier tank out on the ice to get to the enemy’s encampment? Or do you a send a lighter one out with a little less fire power? There were a few nice touches: you can see the strain heavy tanks and vessels have on the ice – seeing it slowly cracking as they drive forward. The footprints and tracks will remain in the snow until it’s covered by a fresh fall of snow or melted; making tracking, on both sides, a very real threat.
It’s an interesting move to add an all-encompassing enemy force: winter; also known as, General Winter. One the player can never truly defeat.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Any fan of the series will already be excited for this one! And it’s looking like they’re not going to be disappointed. Matt Parker and Trey Stone are fronting the writing on The Stick of Truth and it shows. Whereas previous games may have just been reiterations of catch phrases, South Park: The Stick of Truth feels like a fully fleshed out South Park (mis)adventure. You’re the new kid in town, and your parents are eager for you to get out there and make some friends! Mostly so they can have…a few minutes alone. You walk along the street and encounter a group of kids who quickly send you on your way. And then you meet one of my favourite characters, Butters.
Butters is in full LARPing gear and asks you to join him to meet the rest of the gang. You talk to Cartmen, pick your class; including fighter, thief, magic, cleric, and Jew, and start your adventure by defending the shanty Kingdom in the backyard. Weapons and armour in this game consist largely of handmade or repurposed house hold items. Think ladles, cardboard swords, golf clubs and meat tenderisers as melee weapons. As for the enemies you encounter, in the demo we saw elves and vampiric goth kids but we’re told to expect a fair few more including hippies, crab people, ginger kids and underpants gnomes. Combat will be turn based and will incorporate spells as well as being able to call out for reinforcement Mr.Slave. Expect a lot of call backs from the show; from having to pick up some food from City Wok for Cartmen to Ro-Sham-Bo-ing your way through combat.
The full roster for WWE ’13 has not yet been announced but of the handful of ‘superstars’ we know that are playable characters in THQs latest offering set in the square ring, we see a bit of the old and the new. In my first match I played as The Undertaker. It should be noted that I have grown up watching WWE: I was watching it while it was still WWF even, so I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from it. Undertaker took his sweet time to get on down to the ring – and this is absolutely spot on, but thankfully you can skip it if you’re as impatient as I am. The way he moved felt pretty pitch perfect as a whole. The Undertaker isn’t one of those high-flying wrestlers so it’d be silly to have him shooting around the ring like one.
Combat was pretty easy to pick up. There’s really only one ‘attack’ button and you’re prompted when to press the appropriate button to counter a move – this is something that requires dead on timing. About 90% of the time I was either too fast or too slow but it did get easier after a while. Breaking out of pins is done by pressing the right button at exactly the right time. Similar to how you hacked bots in Bioshock 2 there’s a bar with a smaller coloured section in it. To break out of the pin you have to press the button and get right in that section. It’s pretty easy and they’re generally pretty generous with it. You’re not trying to hit a small slither in the bar. There was a little glitching. Sometimes when pinning or being pinned you’ll ‘slide’ down the mat a couple inches but there weren’t any real game-breaking problems.
I played two matches. One normal and the other in a cage, but there are other match types including Money in the Bank which makes for a nice little bit of variation. From the single player campaign we’re told to expect something a little different from what’s been done in the past. Focusing now on following your wrestler’s career ladder, you can make decisions such as who you align yourself with that will have an effect on the path your career takes. This, to me, felt like a game targeted towards wrestling fans, who might not have as much time to dedicate to learning combos or more complicated controls. It’s designed so that just about anyone can jump in and have a quick match with a friend.
I was also lucky enough to get a hands on demo of the Makers area in Darksiders II. If you’ve read my interview with Jeremy Greiner you’d know that the design of this area was meant to feel like a lush forested area that was being taken over and corrupted. The area fit that description to a T even right down to the design of the baddies I went up against. Filled with beautiful vistas it was nice just to take it all in.
There is a fairly substantial change in the ‘feel’ of gameplay. Death’s movement is so very different from War’s. Death feels a lot more agile and scaling the sides of structures felt more fluid. At times it wasn’t always clear where I was supposed to go, however I think I can put that down mostly to still being pretty ‘green’ to it.
This change translated into combat as well. Instead of blocking you now dive roll out of the way of enemies making it a bit harder to get surrounded if you’re up against multiple foes. I managed to find a few chests in the area to pick up some loot from. It was pretty standard gear – I picked up a pair of pants which I was not quite levelled up enough to wear yet.
During my time with Darksiders II I nabbed a skill point which I put into the Harbinger tree. The Harbinger tree is for melee attacks and it contrasts the Necromancer tree which is for spells. Traversing the landscape was relatively quick with Death’s loyal steed Despair who you can access close to the beginning of the game and with Dust flying overhead helping you navigate your way through dungeons and the landscape you don’t feel completely on your own. All in all, it was pretty easy to jump into and you can see what a lot of time and work has been put into making it. It’s almost worth playing just to explore these lovingly crafted realms alone and that’s not even including all the fun hack’n’slashing you get up to!
And there you have Rebecca’s thoughts on the games on display at THQ’s special ‘Death Lives’ event. We’d like to thank THQ Australia for the opportunity to have some hands on time with their upcoming titles. Each of their upcoming games offers something new and unique, and we’re especially looking forward to the release of Darksiders II – which will be launching August 14th for those of you in the US, and August 16th for us Aussies.
As always – keep checking the site for our coverage of the upcoming launch – we’ll have more as the release date draws closer.