PlayStation Experience 2015 was a showcase of both upcoming indie and AAA games, many of which are either releasing on the PS4 for the first time or, in the case of several indie titles, making the transition from PC. While there were plenty of games to check out at the show, I?ve selected some obvious?and not so obvious?standouts from what I saw. As tempting as it is to create a split list for indie and AAA, when it came down to brass tacks, my takeaways were in how fun or how eager I was to continue playing?and not delineated by how loud or large the booths were.
With its PC version already lauded on Steam, it was a treat to see this addicting twin-stick shooter play so well on the PS4 (even after delays). Just a few seconds of orienting, and the analog sticks became a glove, helping me mow down waves of robot hordes at blistering speed. I was also lucky enough to have a partner join me in my robot killing spree, and we coordinated our way through a few bosses, mastering the inventive, shape-shifting stages. With so many weapons, characters, and enemy variety, save some room on your PS4 for Assualt Android Cactus.
Among the colorful giant screens and enormous statues at PSX 2015 was a booth showing off a game whose sun-kissed visuals drew my attention more than any other. Firewatch?s amazing art direction is backed up by a story-driven mystery in the scenic Shoshone National Forest. Assisted by a friendly supervisor via walkie-talkie, you play as a fire lookout on what starts as a regular day in the wilderness?only to experience increasingly bizarre events as the day goes on. Firewatch takes a welcome approach to open-world gaming, where accessibility is measured in object interaction and how you decide to build a relationship with your supervisor, Delilah. My playthrough felt focused?even amongst the Wyoming expanse?not bombarding me with a series of trivial player options. Consider this suspenseful mystery game more as a Hitchcock film rather than a Carpenter one.
This 2D adventure game is the product of a successful Kickstarter campaign from August, and stands out because it manages to do so much with seemingly so little. Players help Jenny try and clear her mother?s name from a recent high-profile murder in her small town of Arthurton. You?ll have to rely on context-sensitive clues in the environment, fun exploration, and attractive storytelling. Jenny LeClue felt like a fresh take against the numerous point-and-click adventure games out there, though it certainly draws inspiration from them. I was able to soak in the foreboding atmosphere with the clever use of audio through headphones?I just hope this audio aspect of the game is not lost to those who will be playing through TV speakers.
The King of Fighters will always have a contingent of loyal followers regardless of its past missteps. SNK has been trying to solve an ongoing problem of capturing its longtime devotees and, at the same time, growing the KOF name among Capcom?s and Arc System Works? successful interpretations of 2D fighting for this generation. The ship hasn?t sailed yet, however, as the fighting found in the few rounds I played on gamepad and fightstick made up for the lackluster character design so far. The game’s trailers have received a negative knee-jerk response, but my brief time with KOFXIV has allayed many of my fears?marking the series’ showing at PSX 2015 a momentary, and noteworthy, sigh of relief.
I believe, stronger than any Chris Redfield boulder punch, that the Resident Evil HD remaster released earlier this year provided enough significant updates to give fans the best “older style” Resident Evil game ever made. Tucked away in the PlayStation Experience Capcom booth, flanked by the company’s much larger releases, was a demo for Resident Evil Zero‘s HD remaster. Like the true fan (or masochist) that I am, I picked up the old-school tank controls and revisited Billy Cohen and the living dead for a demo that ended all too soon. The version of Zero on PS4 that I played looked stellar, and it should be enough to satisfy older style RE fans while Capcom focuses on its other ventures such as multiplayer-based Umbrella Corps.
Once again making an appearance after being delayed earlier this year, Severed is a touch screen, first-person dungeon crawler coming to the Vita that is brimming with a beautiful, yet macabre, folklore-inspired presentation. Severed?s play is accomplished mostly with the use of a single finger, but the way in which combat is structured, stages are interlinked, and RPG elements are managed, was impressive. The cues for parrying attacks and obliterating enemies through a satisfying “Severing” technique were fun to handle, and reminded me of Bushido Blade (at a considerably faster pace).
Strike Vector EX has existed on PC since early 2014 as a mechanically sound throwback to the early days of Descent. The small team at Ragequit Corporation showed a glimpse of the PS4 version, a welcome aerial dogfighting shooter of the type sorely missing on consoles these days. This isn’t a simple port, however, as what was previously a multiplayer-only game will soon come packed with a dedicated story mode, enemy bots in Skirmish mode, and improved graphics and AI. While I wasn?t able to delve into the story offering, the high-speed, low-drag, combat kept me on my toes. Although I was not a very good shot, piloting the sleek mechs on the gamepad felt like it retained much of the old-school combat in an updated environment.
As soon as I fired off that first rocket to propel myself over a series of obstacles, I was hooked on Tinertia. Then I died. Then I jumped a little faster, a little quicker, and I died again as the stages grew tougher. I was dismayed, but I rocketed right back into it and swore I?d do it faster, better, and as flawless as I could. This hardcore action platformer has the making of a speed runner?s dream on PC, and its PlayStation 4 showing?now with a ghost mode to measure your speed?was no slouch. Shoot rockets to jump in dynamic fashion, dash to save your skin, and let the addictive stage design take over.
Not planned as a full game, and running only for a limited time, Sparrow racing is making the list because it?s so damn bizarre. While there will be Destiny fans clamoring that Bungie should instead be working to make the game ?perfect,? I?m more than okay with the team deciding to try something out of left field. According to Destiny senior designer Derek Carroll, the mode is the eventual product of an early concept first introduced at an internal hackathon, capitalizing on the in-game engine for the Sparrows.?We had a hackathon last year where teams internally put together stuff that they were interested in,? Carroll said. ?One team put together a prototype demo of something along these lines, people played it and loved it. It was a germ of an idea that we put time and money against down the road.?