Devolver’s E3 Games Preview: Serious Sam VR, Absolver, Strafe, Shadow Warrior 2
Four games, two guys.
After spending a couple of hours at Devolver’s booth at E3 2016, Dan and Mikey have various impressions on various games…
Dan: Serious Sam VR was a bit of a disappointment for me, with all the untold levels of hype that VR has been getting recently I was hoping that Serious Sam would be something a little bit more than just a wave shooter in which I couldn’t even move.
I was given an Oculus Rift to put on my head and motion controllers which acted as my guns in the game, and at first it was really cool. Seeing my guns point in the direction I was aiming in real life was a weird, yet exciting sensation and I felt like a badass when it worked – especially when I casually shot a projectile just as it was about to hit me. But it actually was very inconsistent. My left hand gun often froze and the aiming just seemed quite inaccurate, in particular when I had to shoot enemies that were quite a distance away. It left me quite frustrated because the potential was clearly there, just not quite the execution as of yet.
The foes that attacked me were varied and fairly well designed, with demon skeletons, boulder throwing lava blobs, ominous rocket launching ghouls and, by far the best, little spider crab things. When the spider-crabs attack they do so in large numbers and they swarmed around me feet, as they did so I instinctively lifted up my foot in real life just as I would if an actual heard of spiders came at me and I wanted them to not touch me. It is testament to VR that even though I wasn’t in a realistic environment art style wise, it still managed to trick my brain to recoil my leg.
It all just felt like an early 2000s expensive arcade game, the ones when you could use the plastic guns to shoot enemies. The ones that we all knew were really shit, but we played them anyway because of the gimmick of holding the gun. The gun here is just the VR headset and the controllers. I suppose it’s alright fun, but when VR is supposed to be the future of gaming I’m hoping for fresh and innovative experiences with it, not something that feels very dated.
Mikey: Speaking of shooters, in that genre this year sees the first time since the genre exploded that Call of Duty has gone one way (futuristic) and Battlefield another (World War 1). However there should be another name added to that list, and somehow they are going both back and forward in time.
Strafe starts out on a spaceship (the futuristic setting) and challenges you to find a way out and onto the planet you have crashed onto. Stopping your from doing this is a multitude of enemies, ranging from scutter-bugs to big brutes and even enemies that spray acid. Of course being a roguelike mean no two runs are the same, with random enemies, level layouts and other aspects. Oh and death, which seems to be quite common, will result in you having to restart the whole thing.
What I totally forgot to mention is that visually this looks like a shooter from the mid 90s (the going back in time part), so imagine if Doom had the FPS gameplay of a shooter from today, wait; that happened, okay just imagine the visuals of OG Doom… just go look at the screenshot above and you’ll get the idea.
Anyways, there is a ton of stuff packed into Strafe, with it apparently taking around an hour to complete, remember if you die you start again, so that’s an hour with no deaths. Apparently if you are really good at shooters then you could complete it on your first try, it’s just unlikely. But what really impressed me were the small little features, take explosive red barrels, you know how they work, but in Strafe you can pick them up and use them as makeshift grenades. On a similar note, all blood from enemies, of which there is a lot, is permanent, so if you find an area covered in blood you know you have been there before. You can also cover pools of acid, which will hurt you, with blood to make them safe to walk over. There is too many of these cool little things to mention, but discovering them yourselves will probably be much more fun.
So Strafe has the potential to be one of the most exciting shooters of next year. It takes a lot of standard gameplay elements, puts in a cracking art style and adds in some features that seem so simple but change so much.
Dan: I got a 30 minutes hands on demo with Shadow Warrior 2 and I’ve got to say, I came away very, very impressed with what I saw. I’ve been meaning to play the reboot for a while and never really got a chance to, so playing the sequel was interesting and it easily reached, if not surpassed, my expectations for the original. I’m not usually a fan of the shooters in which there isn’t really a point other than cutting about a place and smashing as many enemies as possible. However fun that can be I just usually look for something with a little bit more meaning, but Shadow Warrior 2 blows that out of the water as it’s just balls to the wall fun to play.
There was a massive range of weapons at my disposal: shotguns, dual wielding pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers, rifles, practically every gun you can think of, and all of them felt really satisfying to shoot as they had a real weighty feedback and sounded great. The guns are also customisable with different ammo types which can target an enemies weakness and also a thing called “gems”, which can make weapons look bad ass and give them different properties. I had a skull rifle that glowed green and shot acid bullets.
And that’s just with the guns, the melee weapons are just as fun to use and are probably even more gory. I started with a katana but eventually got my hands on a tasty chainsaw too, and being able to just chop through enemies as if they were my tea was great, sadistic fun. A great range of weapons and gruesome deaths are what is expected of Shadow Warrior though, so what’s new in 2? Well this time there’s full co-op in the game, up to six players, and you can play through the whole of the campaign with friends. The co-op didn’t have a massive effect while I was playing as I kind of went my own way from my team mates, but I can definitely see the potential for it being a great craic with pals.
Shadow Warrior 2 is also a lot more open than its predecessor. While the original was very much a corridor shooter, this time Shadow Warrior will have expansive areas that you can explore at your leisure. The story, however, remains a linear one and it isn’t an open world or anything, each mission area is just a lot bigger in order to give the player more freedom as to how they approach situations.
My actual favourite part of the demo was when I randomly killed a bunny for no other reason but morbid fascination to know whether I was allowed to kill it or not. The developer then told me that if I kept killing the rabbits at some point the Bunny Lord, which is apparently very hard to kill, would spawn and attack me. I killed every rabbit I found in order to bait it out of hiding, but sadly it never showed. I liked it so much because I felt like that perfectly summed up the random, nonsensical craziness that’s crammed into this game.
Mikey: I’m sure you have heard the buzz around Absolver, the weird martial arts combat game, already with many hailing it as the surprise game of E3, but I wasn’t quite as sold on it as others seemingly were. The demo I played was basically an extended, guided, tutorial teaching you the complex combat mechanics. It took half an hour and at the end I still didn’t understand everything.
I’m not going to try and explain every aspect of the mechanics here, but basically it somewhat resembles Street Fighter, with attacks and blocking except in a fully 3D environment and at times multiple enemies on screen. There is one button for a light attack, one for a heavy attack and blocking is done by pressing L2 and moving the left stick away for your character. However, you can effectively have a move deck, selecting up to three light moves and one heavy attack. Each move has one of four stances, and you can only select a move if the previous move ended in the stance the next move starts. See told you it was complex.
On the plus side the complexity should allow for a lot of variation, even with the few changes I made my combat encounters felt different and required different planning. There is also weapons such as swords to use, but they seem to be limited time only.
The actual gameplay was light on the ground, I have seen some people compare it to Journey in that you aren’t told what to do, you just go and beat people up. But I think that was probably more of a, it’s an early build and a proper story wasn’t implemented yet type deal. After beating up a load of AI, I battled against the dev guiding me through, and did surprisingly well, he even asked if I played fighting games, I don’t, because I learned the basics so quickly. It was fun, but I was certainly ready to put the controller down when the 30 minutes was up.
Absolver has a ton of potential, the combat system will surely be perfect for fans of Dark Souls and Street Fighter, and the art style was beautiful. What will make or break this is whether or not there is a proper story, and challenging single player combat, if not this could be nothing more than an online battle arena with great combat but little depth. I liked what I played, but I’m not sold yet.