Madeline Ricchiuto writes for Bleeding Cool
Square Enix trotted out some of their top games for demos at NYCC this year, with Hitman and Deus Ex taking top billing. Both games featured in-engine footage of the games, with Hitman being the more polished of the two. Life Is Strange and Rise of the Tomb Raider also made appearances.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the sequel to Human Revolution and takes place about two years after the Augmentation Incident at the end of Human Rev. Square Enix debuted two new videos of gameplay, however it was all done in developer mode with full augmentations, inventory, and invincibility. The game is currently post-Alpha and going into Beta build sometime in the near future, but is in something of a limbo state between the two as of this coverage. The game was still a bit unstable in places with wonky physics and uneven graphics, although it looked better than the E3 demo, which was run in the game's Alpha build.
Mankind Divided will chronicle the Mechanical Apartheid in which the augmented minority struggle to survive. The "golden age" of human augmentation has ended and the environment of the game has changed to reflect that. Deus Ex's signature gold color has been linked to the presence of augmented humans in this game, so in places with no augmented humans there is no gold, and where augmented humans can be found you will see that distinctive gold. There is a sandstorm at the end of the opening sequence, which takes place in a fallen Dubai (the city is highlighted with a lot of gold) is a metaphor for the world-state of Mankind Divided. It also helps that the augmented villains of the game wear the distinctive Deus Ex gold and black. So, nice job art direction team.
In terms of story, little more was added from previous demos. Jensen is working for a covert ops team called TF29 in this game. He is no longer a puppet, and the Eidos Montreal has tried to incorporate that change in Jensen's status into the gameplay. He is something of a free agent now, and so players are faced with more choices than ever. You can combine augmentations, you have gun arms, there's a variety of weapons and ammo at your disposal, and as always you have four major paths to play the game: stealth, combat, hacking, and social.
I have been assured that you do not need to have played previous titles in the series to enjoy Mankind Divided, but it is a Square Enix game, so you may want to at least Wikipedia the plot before jumping in.
The first demo of the day followed the opening of the game in Dubai. The rough cut gameplay took a mostly stealth path through – sneaking around enemies rather than engage them in combat, using that now all-too-common tactical vision to disable a helicopter and prevent the bad guys from escaping.
The second demo took place later in the game at the base of the Divali crime family, which just so happens to be an abandoned theater. There are "secret" pathways on all of the maps which make life a lot easier and more dramatic should you find them. This second demo took a more aggressive approach, while showing of the hacking mechanic: it's in 3D now, there are traps so be careful which nodes you hack into, and all the old tricks along with some new ones.
While the environment is still key to your success in Mankind Divided, you can trick NPCs using "alternative methods" like a can of beer. Also you can see your last known location, which can help with stealth play modes and allow you to sneak past enemy sentries without getting into combat. The cover takedowns do hide the bodies behind cover, usually, but its not a fool-proof system so do be careful of that.
One of the new things with Mankind Divided is the ability to combine Jensen's augmentations to create more powerful effects. Some of them are simple, like chaining the Icarus Dash with the Icarus Strike. There are a lot of non-lethal augmentations, for those who like to keep a low kill-count and you can now disrupt cameras and robotic sentries from a distance – not quite hacking, but similar.
For clarification, you do not get reset at the beginning of the game, like in the new Metroid. You can later go back and sort of "restat" yourself, but most of the new features build on what Jensen already had at his disposal, so you don't start from scratch with only basic augmentations.
There are a lot of gameplay choices, and these effect a lot of different aspects of the game. You have multiple choices for how to deal with boss fights and each of those has ramifications. The way you choose to tackle one kind of enemy will have drawbacks with others. New enemy types have been added, as have new ammo types, to keep things fresh. The end of the game is open-ended based on how you negotiate the game itself.
The biggest problem I can see with Mankind Divided is that the development team didn't really scrap anything from previous games. They took the unused and disliked elements of Human Revolution and tried to make them work, while still building on what worked well. Which could be fantastic if done well, but could very easily end up being a doubling-down of their mistakes.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will be released on February 23rd, 2016 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
The latest in the Hitman franchise promises to be a globe-trotting adventure and the fruit of 15 years of work on the franchise. However, none of the featured cities were mapped 1-to-1, but rather designed to give off the feel and essence of those cities. So you can't really go visit the places where Agent 47 takes out his marks, but thats also not the point of the game. You aren't exactly playing a tourist with a game like Hitman.
Color scripts were done for all locations to add to the flow of the gameplay and not repeat too much, so it won't be a mess of black-and-grey cities that all blend together, which is a nice change.
There are multiple ways to meet every challenge since you get a detailed briefing before each mission and can customize your weapons beforehand. There are a bunch of weapons pre-loaded in 47's arsenal, but you can unlock more depending on your playstyle (including a socket wrench). You can also use the environment to your advantage as we saw in the demo today. It is worth noting that you can drop a light rig on one the targets, fashion designer Novikov to kill him in a staged 'accident', but you certainly don't have to.
The demo we saw today was of the hit on Viktor Novikov while at a fashion show in Paris – the fashion show was a cover for Novikov's real business of blackmarket auctions, which you can sneak into. One of the fantastic things about this game is that every room on the map has been built, so you can go literally everywhere in the building and along its grounds.
The NPCs will respond to your actions, for example; if you walk in front of a news camera, the crew will get mad at you for interrupting their shot. You can push the NPCs over the edge to earn rewards and see "easter egg" moments put in by the development team. Pushing the button on a diorama will get you berated by a very angry curator, but it also covers the depiction of a Napoleonic battle with fake snow.
You can pick up information about your hits from NPC conversations, so it is worthwhile to hang back and eavesdrop on conversations. Disguises can definitely help with that, and also get you into restricted areas. Disguises are a very powerful tool in Hitman, but are not a cheat code – certain NPCs can see through disguises and you can still be given a security pat-down even while in disguise, so watch your concealed weapons.
It is possible that you may be able to hide weapons in food trays, but the dev team is undecided about this as of writing.
Paris is a rather massive level, but not the biggest in the game. Sapiensa, Italy is the next location, so expect a trailer of that sometime soon.
This is an "all new Hitman game" in which the IO-Interactive "want to take you on a grand journey and give you a pure assassin fantasy." Which is rather vague but thats what demo walkthroughs are for, right?
Hitman is slated for release on March 11th, 2016 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise Of The Tomb Raider is the follow up to the 2013 reboot of the series, but you really don't need to have played that game in order to jump into the second. All you really need to know going in is that Lara Croft found evidence of an immortal prophet and is on the trail of said prophet at the start of Rise. The game takes place 1 year after the 2013 reboot, so Lara has more skills than before, making her a little more experienced at this tomb diving business.
One of the biggest additions to Rise was the number of optional tombs, as one of the main complaints about the reboot was the lack of enough ancient tombs and puzzles to slog through, so you can now opt in to run optional tomb raids. It's noted that they aren't required to progress the story. Might be good to sharpen your critical thinking skills though.
One of the main focuses of Rise was on combat, giving you more options, more control of the environment, and customizable weapons which was seen in the Gamescom demo, but mostly glanced over in this one, so I cannot speak too much to how that all handles.
The NYCC demo debuted the Syria tomb which you get to at about 30 minutes into the game.
E3's Siberia demo is the opening of the game, the Syria level is the pseudo-tutorial so you start in Siberia, flash back to Syria, and then flash forward to back to Siberia. I got to play through about half of the Syria level, in which you get through a few puzzles and jump scares and learn to navigate an ancient ruin like only Lara Croft can.
It was a small level, but it's a good tutorial for the rest of the game as it shows you traps to expect and has you puzzle through some basic obstacles and water-leveling problems. There was minimal combat, I shot maybe two NPCs total, but I can tell you that the obstacles and traps are decently well thought-out, although there is something of an over-reliance on water as a way to get you to higher ground.
Although you don't see that much in games, and it probably isn't as heavily relied upon during the Siberia levels. So, here's hoping.
Rise of the Tomb Raider will release on November 10th of this year for Xbox 360 and Xbox One, coming to PC in early 2016,and PS4 a little later than that. .
Life is Strange
I got to sit down and chat with some of the Life Is Strange team: Luc Baghadoust, a producer at DONTNOD Entertainment and Raoul Barbet, the Game Director of Life Is Strange. Life is Strange is the episodic game developed by DONTNOD Entertainment. Episode 5, the last in the series, will be a total wrap-up of the story and all the loose ends left by previous episodes.
Both seemed very fond of the episodic format as a way to tell stories, as it requires very tight writing and allows the developers to know when players will be putting down their controllers since most play straight through an episode. However, the episodic format does have its drawbacks and unique challenges as all of the motion capture, art design, and game mechanics had to be set for the first episode and not change. Interestingly, the same had to be done with the ratings system, which I'm sure was a treat for the ESRB to deal with.
Specifically, the idea going in to Life Is Strange was a desire to play with the mechanic of being able to change the past from Remember Me. If you go back to change the past, should you make sure you get the best outcome in the future? How do you determine that?
As of now, there are no concrete plans for a sequel, but they are thinking about it. It would probably not be a direct continuation of Life Is Strange, as Episode 5 is supposed to be the final word on that story, but it may be in the same world and will likely be in an episodic format.
Life Is Strange Episode 5 will be available October 20th for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.