Sega NYC Press Event Impressions

Sega rolled into NYC yesterday with a varied lineup of 2009 and 2010 games guaranteed to appeal to pretty much every type of gamer. From family friendly (in original IP and licensed flavors), a bit of fitness, more than a few mighty Mature-rated games that will blow hardcore players away and more RPG surprises than you could shake a stylus at, it was impossible to not be floored by everything shown. I’ll be running lengthier coverage on a few of the games shown in the coming days and weeks, but here’s a quick alphabetical rundown on what was on display:

Aliens vs. Predator (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) – Forget about those last two AVP movies, folks. Rebellion rips the franchise back to its roots in this gorgeously gory first-person experience that’s just may be the go-to game for genre fans once it finally ships next year. The demo shown was the same from E3, but it still rocks in terms of bringing the look and feel of the second film to the living room. A tense Colonial Marine stage complete with scripted moments galore made it feel a very interactive movie, while the Predator section was a thrillingly violent series of trophy kills and sneakiness against an unfortunate pack of Marines. The game looks incredible so far, and while news on multiplayer modes and the overall story arc was absent, this is certainly worth waiting for if it’s even close to what was shown.

Alpha Protocol (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) – Workhorse developer Obsidian Entertainment’s first original IP is going to blow you away in more ways than one. The Action/RPG/shooter hybrid combines killer gunplay with a mind-boggling amount of character customization and a truly open storyline where your actions can change the plot in hundreds of ways (or more). Let’s just say that online FAQ writers will be pulling their hair out, as the choices you make can change up the game in either a few seconds or a few dozen hours. There’s no simple “good” or “evil” path here – you’re a completely free agent who can double-cross (or be double-crossed) at nearly any moment. Very, very awesome and yup, I can’t wait to play this.

Bayonetta (PS3/Xbox 360) – Seeing screen shots and movies of Bayonetta and actually playing the demo build are two very, very different things, folks. Nope, it’s not “Dante with a sex change” for you wags out there thinking that. In fact, Capcom’s former bad-ass looks and moves like a tired old geezer compared to Sega’s sleeker, sexier bullet (and blade-bearing) witch. Platinum Games follows up its stylish MadWorld with another completely wild game and truly knocks it out of the park in every way. From the ability to practice moves on the loading screen to the blazing fast, mercury smooth animation and eyeball-searing visuals, the game just rocks and it knows it. The lady in black will be getting a lot of attention on the way to retail and beyond. As long as the film rights aren’t even put on the table, I’ll be one of those eagerly awaiting the launch and looking forward to more games in the future. Hmmm… I wonder what Platinum can do with the PSP?

Iron Man II (PS3/Xbox 360) – Super early and a little rough ’round the edges, it was still great to see Iron Man II at the event thanks to the new gameplay additions and improved engine that’s showing both subtle and superb new lighting effects along with completely destructible elements in huge environments. Controls have been tweaked to include an easier flight model plus the welcome ability to hover at any height. Other new stuff: you can now enter structures on foot to seek out items, unlock coded doors in a fun mini-game or take on plenty of tough enemies. Speaking of enemies, the new bosses I saw were looking mighty metallic and very, very mean. Rocksteady’s upcoming Batman game may have the sneaking around in the darkness parts well covered, but if developer Secret Level can bring their final code to the next level, Marvel’s red and gold armor-clad millionaire of the skies just may become king of the of the all-round event in his next installment.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games (Wii) – This one was a blast to play in demo form, although I totally stank on the downhill skiing front (thanks to too many hours up writing previews plus playing a few games). However, I was one of the only editor-types who tried the awesome bobsled event, which required sitting down on the Wii Balance Board and shifting from side to side as if on a real sled run. It was exhilarating, amusing and fun simultaneously and the Sega rep running the demo said players will be able to get four chairs back to back (or have four players on the floor in a similar layout) to simulate the experience even more.

Phantasy Star ZERO (Nintendo DS/DSi) – As a dedicated fan of the PS series since the Master System days as well as a big Phantasy Star Online freak, seeing Sega’s seminal RPG series finally get an installment created especially for the DS was quite a thrill. The portable PS features amazingly detailed 3D graphics, fast-paced action/RPG mechanics that hearken back to the first two PSO games and plenty of quests, side quests and customization options. There’s no controllable game camera, but if you logged countless hours playing PSO, you really won’t notice this much because you’ll be too busy grooving on all the cool stuff.

Resonance of Fate (PS3/Xbox 360) – Tri-Ace breaks away from the Star Ocean mold with this unique RPG that features gunplay-based combat and an innovative way to travel its massive game world. The combination of firearms, past and future tech environments and turn-based elements may make some gamers think of the Wild Arms series upon first glance. However, there’s a dynamic to the firefights that’s more Mass Effect meets John Woo that’s quite thrilling. Moving around the hex grid map requires playing a mini-game of sorts where you drop tiles down while trying to match the road that needs traveling. From what we saw of the floating overworld, the game looks to take quite some time to complete. With gorgeously detailed graphics featuring pre-rendered environments your party blazes through (running speed ftw!) and tons of guns based on real-world firearms, this one looks to impress western as well as JRPG fans when it ships.

Sands of Destruction (Nintendo DS/DSi) – Sega keeps the RPG love coming with yet another amazing looking game. A truly lovely bit of DS programming, the 2D graphics are excellent and the amount of voice acting here rivals some console RPGs. A sweeping score and very cinematic presentation really pull you in from the start as the game introduces a few of its memorable characters. Combat and a few other elements are being tweaked for the US version, so those of you who snapped up the import should keep an eye out for the localized version when it ships. I’ll have a longer preview of this one soon.

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (PS3/Xbox 360/Nintendo DS/DSi) – Anyone remember the excellent Sonic Drift import or Sonic Drift 2 on the Game Gear? Sega finally takes Sonic back to the tracks with this fast-paced kart racer. Sumo Digital is pumping out an awesome looking game with pick up and play controls, power ups galore and track designs that recall a number of classic Sega titles. Although the demo version at the event only had two tracks, you can bet I played both a few times to check out every nook and cranny of the tracks. My verdict: So far, so good and the Mach 5-inspired Sonic car? Awesomeness cubed. All the game needs is the right amount of fan service, a bit more speed and plenty of downloadable content featuring tracks and cars from Sega’s long history of arcade racers and it’s going to be a smash hit.

Super Monkey Ball Step & Roll (Wii) – Super early, yet fun Wii exclusive looks to capitalize on the Balance Board exercise craze with a bit of a Sega twist and it’s coming along nicely indeed. Cute, colorful visuals, easy to grasp mechanics and plenty of content are all expected in the final build. *Ahem* … I’m still waiting for an actual life-size Monkey Ball peripheral, Sega. I promise won’t sue after I crush all the furniture in my living room after rolling around like a nut for a few hours.

Vancouver 2010 (PS3/Xbox 360) – Although the only playable event here was the ski jump demo, the fact that it was presented in a stunning first-person perspective made for a truly compelling and absolutely exciting ride. Like EA’s amazing first-person game Mirror’s Edge, the immersion factor here is flawless (and painful looking in traditional third person view should you wipe out as many times as I did before nailing a jump). Now let’s see if developer Eurocom can keep or better this level of interaction with the remaining events. They’re certainly off to a darn good start.

Wacky World of Sports (Wii) – Holy cats, this game is hilarious. Once you see it in action, and pick your jaw up off the floor a second later, it all clicks. WWoS is crude and twisted fun for almost all ages and the bright colors plus pick up ‘n play controls scream “PARTY GAME!” in flashy neon lights. The most amusing thing here is the fact that all of the events in the game are based on real world craziness. I’m hoping Sega is thinking of targeting the folks who attend these events with some sort of promotion, especially given some of the cringe-inducing videos I’ve seen of some of these events when things go awry. Some of these guys and gals would be better off at home twirling a Wii Remote instead of tumbling head over heels down a hill trying to out pace a rolling wheel of cheese!

Overall, I walked away quite pleased with everything above and really can’t wait to dig into each one in full reviews. Sega certainly isn’t going anywhere soon and thanks to the wealth of quality upcoming games I saw and played, it looks as if they’ll be getting a bunch of new fans while keeping older ones more than satisfied.

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