Ah! The joys of conventions! Seeing people that have the same interests as you in a very happy mood, it is always of joy! Last year was my first experience at a ComicCon, and I loved the experience so much that I decided to return this year. What makes it very interesting is the fact that added to movies, comics, collectibles, artists work, games are now an integral part of this world. Last year, in Montreal, a lot of panels were around the subject of game development, and we could try a lot of games from indie developers, so it was a very complete well-rounded experience. This year, for the 8th edition, it has been taken to another level.
Interactivity was the key. Some special rooms were designated to hold gaming experiences for all ages, from classic consoles (NES, to Sega consoles, to 1982’s Vectrex) to current generation, even tournaments (like Heartstone, Overwatch, Smash Bros., etc.).
I was present only one of the 3 days of the convention, so I had to be selective of what I wanted to take a look at. One of the spots I went to was a booth held by Eidos Montreal, in which I was able to briefly try 2 upcoming games : an alpha build of Deus Ex Go and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
Deus Ex Go will be the 3rd entry in the Go series, created by Eidos Montreal. After Hitman and Lara Croft, it is now the time for Adam Jensen to receive the treatment. Like its predecessors, this game will be on mobile (Android and iOS) and this time, the turn-based strategy/puzzle game will be based on this cyberpunk universe, where stealth, technology and hacking was implicated. In the level I tried, a lot of elements were present : a guard (that you need to kill using stealth), multiple possible paths, a turret that shoots you if you don’t disable it (with an electrical sign) and hacking, which allows to see the current panel on a different view, sometimes with different paths, allowing to draw a path between your location (the computer screen) and what you want to hack/disable (the red targets for example, which are barriers). 2 red sections need to be disabled, from the 2 screens, but the paths must not cross. I was unable to reach the exit with all those elements combined. It seems that this one will have a higher level of difficulties than the previous games. There was also an announcement that the game will feature a level editor, not at launch, but available for free afterwards. Only a “summer 2016” release window is announced, but I was told that there will be new development soon.
I was also able to briefly take a look at Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. There was a full mission playable, but I was only able to see its introduction. Again, a very detailed briefing happens with your squad (which is not unlike what we experienced during Deus Ex: Human Revolution) during which you can choose to be equipped with lethal or non-lethal weapons, and for long or close range. The graphics look stunning and the environment very detailed. I can’t wait to sink hours into this world again. Do not worry : it was mentioned during a Deus Ex related panel, hosted by Elias Toufexis (the voice actor behind Adam Jensen), that you don’t need to play the first game to understand what will happen in the second one. It was also mentioned that there will be 10+ minutes video summarizing the events of Human Revolution for those that are interested.
The main attraction though in the gaming section was a huge section dedicated to Sony, where multiple games could be experienced. There was a stand with 3 TVs where 3 upcoming games could be played : Abzû, Bound and Gravity Rush 2 (I was able to take a quick peek, but unable to play them). There were also big car stations where people could try the upcoming Gran Turismo Sports. The game looks like it will be an awesome new entry of this franchise (I was unable to try, but I took a look and heard people talking : the comments were very positive). What I tried though was one of the most talked about new upcoming technology : VR !
A section of the floor was reserved by stations where the PlayStation VR could be tried. Multiple games were on display. I saw TVs where we could see what the players were experiencing. We could see : Until Dawn – Rush of Blood, VR Worlds, Rigs, Rez Infinite and Wayward Skies. I couldn’t choose the game I wanted (it was a line first arrived/first served): Until Dawn or Rez. I was assigned : Rigs, an arena-based combat/sport game with robots. I was scared : this game, according to what I read in the past, is pretty heavy and demanding in terms of VR experience, with a lot of action and movement, so as my first VR experience, I thought it would be tough. I just went forward, with a deep breath, and jumped on the occasion.
The attendant set me up with the glasses. I was happily surprised to see that even though I have what is considered a big head and I wear glasses, the set up was fast, easy, and comfortable without removing my glasses! Following the shape of my head, with a little bar in the back helping to divide the weight of the glasses, I didn’t feel any uncomfortable pressure or pain. Very interesting indeed…
Rigs is played with the controller. The attendant gives it to me, then I press “X”, and the game starts. At this point, the experience is destabilizing : it is looking left or right that you choose which robot to play with, then you press “X” to confirm your choice. Afterwards, you are loaded inside your robot, then you are transported into the arena. When looking around, the feeling of really being inside the world is awesome: the menu interface is really in the middle of your field of view, but if you look at the floor, the ceiling, etc., you really are in the robot and could see all the details of the robot : the limits of the glasses, the arms, etc. Even when looking down, you could see hands on the robot’s controls: nice touch ! Then you appear in the arena and you can start playing.
It took me around 1.5-2 minutes to really feel comfortable with the movement. At first, my body felt weird because of the movement: you are moving with the left control stick, the right stick was to rotate. Also your head is really acting like your camera stick. It makes an experience that can really make you feel dizzy, and it almost did for me. I got used to it though really fast and then I was able to play correctly.
The game itself is a mix of robot combat and and basket-ball. There are 2 teams, and you have to take-down enemies first, with either your pulse gun/rocket or melee attacks. Once you successfully get it (after 3 if I remember correctly), you are able to go score in a huge ring that is at the top center of the arena by… jumping in it without being destroyed by other players. It is fast-paced, and after getting used to the controls, it was a lot of fun.
After the 15 minutes demo, I actually felt good, not sick at all, and it really made me appreciate VR, even though the tech inside this platform is not as high-end as its competitors. It feels very suited though for the PS4 console. (For those wondering, it was hooked to a regular console, not a NEO console.) The only thing was that I was really hot after just a few minutes, but I’m not sure if it is because of the convention air or the equipment itself. What I can say is that it didn’t make me want to wait for VR : I want it and I want it now !
It was a very full crazy day at Montreal ComicCon 2016 where gaming was a star! I will go back there for sure next year and I hope that gaming will still be important.