The Adventure Begins… Coldly.
I am not sure if you know this, but it’s COLD in Boston. My PAX East 2015 adventure began at 7:00 AM in the blistering cold. After grabbing some Dunkin’ Donuts my fantastic girlfriend and I braved the cold and stood in line to wait for the doors of the convention center to open at 8:00 so we could… stand in another line.
My noobism struck again on the first day as my girlfriend and I marched through the convention center entrance and were ushered down the halls. Without realizing it we soon found ourselves in the “Queue Room” waiting in line for the Expo Hall.
This would have been fine, but the plan all along was to proceed to the Blizzard panel that was taking place at 10:30 AM and this line started on the second floor, two levels above where we currently were waiting. Since it was early in the morning and I am a stubborn, lazy individual I decided we weren’t moving. So instead of the Blizzard panel our first stop on Day 1 would be the “Expo Hall”.
For those of you with little knowledge of PAX, the “Expo Hall” can be thought of as essentially a video game amusement park. Booths on booths of games ranging from triple A titles to indie games fill the floor and just like amusement parks you wait hours in line in order to play for 5-10 minutes. So, after careful consideration our first stop on our three-day PAX adventure was the Oculus Rift booth.
My first step into virtual reality:
It took us 3 hours of waiting in line to finally experience the wonder that is the Oculus Rift. In fact my girlfriend managed to finish reading an entire book required by the time we made it to the front of the line. Once we had made it to the front of the line we were ushered into a room where the Oculus Rift waited eagerly for us.
Having never experienced the Oculus Rift and having seen those underwhelming 2D images of demos all over the internet I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by virtual reality. How immersive could it actually be? The short answer is extremely.
It’s hard to put into words or images what it’s like to strap on an Oculus Rift and enter into a virtual world. I was given an eight-minute experience filled with multiple non-interactive demos. Think PIXAR digital shorts, but instead of watching them on a movie screen or T.V. I was smack dab in the middle.
One of the demos that managed to convey the power of the Oculus Rift best was a demo that put me standing on top of a skyscraper. As soon as the demo started and I realized where I was my brain went automatically into defensive mode as if I was actually on a small three foot by three-foot platform hundreds of feet in the air.
All of a sudden my movements were slow and precise, my heartbeat began to race and when I finally worked up the courage to look over the edge to the ground below, I made sure that my feet were as far back from the ledge as possible as I leaned over to sneak a peak.
The only way I can think of describing the experience is I was no longer in a booth at PAX anymore; I was actually on top of a skyscraper. It’s an experience that not just gamers, but everyone should…experience if they are lucky enough to get the chance.
I walked away in awe and hoping that Facebook and Oculus will succeed in making virtual reality a common thing in the future.
Hey, another Halo… Halo 5
After spending the first three hours of PAX standing in a line I was more than ready to experience some games and to actually walk around. So after grabbing our PAX goody bags my girlfriend and I decided to head over to a line that seemed to be moving rather quickly, Halo 5.
Maybe it’s because the multiplayer beta had already taken place earlier in the year or maybe it’s because the allure of Halo is beginning to wear off, but for whatever reason there wasn’t a huge rush to play Halo 5. After playing a quick team death match, I can sort of see why.
Of all the games I was lucky enough to play this past weekend I walked away the least impressed with Halo 5. The game felt sluggish, heavy, and old. No longer was I jumping 10 feet in the air or sprinting forever, everything felt slow and very unHalo like.
I continuously tried to make jumps to the second level and not be able to actually make the jump and my character refused to run at a speed I felt was appropriate. To top things off halfway through the match my screen went black and I stood watching my girlfriend play for about 2 min before the game decided to let me play again, and I wasn’t the only one that had this issue. A guy behind me was actually given another turn because the demo wouldn’t allow him to play at all.
It wasn’t a good look for one of the biggest powerhouse franchises in gaming. Instead of enjoying my time playing I found myself counting down the points until we were done. That is never a good sign for any game.
Of course I only played one match and the controls didn’t reset at the beginning of each match so my controller was mapped differently then the default, which added about a minute of confusion at the beginning.
It’s beyond crazy to write off Halo 5 after a 5-minute demo, but my excitement and expectations for this iteration in the series was brought down due to the experience. In fact I turned to my girlfriend after we had exited the demo and uttered the phrase: “I think Halo needs a reinvention”… Yikes!
Here’s a game you might not know about: Gigantic
This MOBA thing is huge right now. It’s arguably the most popular genre in gaming right now and Gigantic is looking to push it even further. The premise of the game is very similar to a classic MOBA but with some added twists.
You summon creatures that you defend and as you kill opponents the “experience” of your creature grows. Once he reaches maturity he begins to move forward to attack the opposing team, which forces a free for all melee in the center of the map. To be honest it was a lot to grasp in one match and the game ended up being me trying to kill as many people as possible and completely forgetting about the objectives.
The art style was gorgeous and the gameplay was a lot fun. Just like any other MOBA as I killed enemies I leveled an was able to choose different perks and talents, which allowed for the customization people have come to love in the MOBA genre.
As someone that isn’t a huge MOBA player, it was a lot to take in and to try and understand in a short period of time. It also didn’t feel like Gigantic was bringing anything earth shattering to the MOBA scene.
The game was very polished and overall well done; I just fear it will be lost in the sea of the many MOBA titles being released over the last few years. In fact as I moved through the line and talked to some of the team manning the booth I got the feel the developers and company fears the same thing. Everyone I talked to tried hard to push the idea the game was very different from a MOBA, but everything seemed to scream MOBA.
Gigantic is one of the prettiest and most polished games I have seen in quite some time, but it doesn’t seem to bring anything new to the genre. Instead of protecting a tower that doesn’t move you are protecting a creature that moves. The change isn’t earth shattering, which means Gigantic will sink or swim based on its list of characters and gameplay and they just don’t feel revolutionary and unique enough to gather a large following.
Thanks to having one of the best PAX partners in the world, my girlfriend, I accomplished more in the first day of PAX East 2015 than I did in two days at PAX East 2014. Stay tuned for my rundown of a busy, busy Saturday and my finale of Sunday.