Finally, it’s here: my X’08 wrap-up, after multiple delays, infinite interruptions, and lots of hard work!
Where to start? The great time I had with some amazing friends? Or all the awesome games that were shown? Or some of my personal mishaps from the event? Well, I think I’ll give you it all.Â First, a short introduction to the event with a small outline and then the games, along with some gameplay videos of some, pictures of others, pictures of the swag and other stuff. Finally, for the end, a minor wrap-up and an announcement!
The X0 Events (also known as Xbox Show) started back in 2001 when Microsoft started the events as showcases for the original Xbox.Â Fast forward to X06, which saw the show hit Barcelona, Spain. This was the last time the tour was seen outside of Canada.Â Last year, X07 hit Toronto, and was stormed by the community.Â So much so that they even managed to kill the power to the whole city block, and consequently, their air conditioning.Â Just kidding, it was all Toronto Hydro’s fault.Â Jade did a whole recap of the event on Xbox.ca if you want to read more.
Next up was X’08, which was just recently announced.Â Held at the wonderful CiRCA, one of Toronto’s newest and hottest nightclubs, the press portion started at 10am and went until about 4:30pm on the 21st of August, at which point just about everyone was kicked out to give the developers and PR people a time to take a dinner break. At 5pm, the doors opened to an invite-only community portion which lasted until 8pm.Â After that, the Microsoft MVPs and other community members went out for a bite to eat and a good time was had by all. Overall, the event was a blast, and we’re sure you’ll see why.
Okay, now on to the juicy stuff: the games.Â There were a ton of games shown, and the vast majority of them were playable.Â The main floor had third party titles from EA, Activision, Bethesda, Disney, Square Enix, THQ, 2K, LucasArts Warner Bros., Konami and more. The middle level played host to first party titles, of course, published by Microsoft Games Studios.Â The top level had 11 360s: 10 were hooked up playing multiplayer on Gears of War 2, while 1, in a specific booth was reserved for Cliff Bleszinski, who was doing playthroughs of one of the single player levels.Â Walking around to the other side of the top level, was an area with Wi-Fi for blogging, and the food/drinks area.Â Overall, there was a wide variety of games for just about every audience: sports, rhythm, shooters, racing, RPGs, and platformers. In the media time, I got to see or sample just about every game there, but for people who only were invited to the community portion, they probably only got to see their favorites. Without further adieu, let’s begin.
Call of Duty: World at War – Activision
This was the first game I saw, as it was the first thing you see when you walk in.Â At first, I thought someone was playing a joke and had brought in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.Â Then looking closer at the weapons, I realised this was World at War as it had the WWII-style weapons.Â Visually, the games look near identical with World at War sporting some minor visual improvements.Â However, the environments still feel the same.Â Since World at War is using the Modern Warfare engine, this was somewhat expected.Â The HUD for the game is a bit different than COD4, but the similarities are still noticeable.Â The game was being played by two developers in co-op, so it was not really playable.Â I did get some pictures, but they weren’t very good as we were asked not to take pictures of the screen directly, so the screens themselves are a bit blurry. Check out the gallery embedded below.
Cliff Bleszinski did comment on World at War claiming, “Their flamethrower shoots futher.”
Guitar Hero: World Tour – Activision
I didn’t play this at all, because I’m not very good at rhythm games.Â I did however get to see people playing the drums, and the usual guitar together and it looked like it worked well.Â Quite frankly though, it looked like it was just GH3, with more instrument support.
Spyro’s Lair – Activision
This game wasn’t playable to my knowledge, but Kamshaft and I were given a demo by Kyle Walker of Activision. The game overall looks quite nice, and we were told that it had a simplified control scheme for youngerÂ audiences to be able to grasp.Â There were also elements that would appeal to a more mature audience like combos and some nice moves, and especially appealing to those who played Spyro games on previous generation consoles.Â Of course, you can blowfire out of your mouth, Â All in all, this seems like a solid game obviously aimed at a core young audience ranging from about 7 to 13.
Crash: Mind Over Mutant – Activision
Right beside Spyro was Crash: Mind Over Mutant, and like Spyro, it wasn’t playable by us, but Kyle did show us the ropes.Â Crash: Mind Over Mutant to me was a fair bit more interesting as I pesonally played quite a lot of Crash Bandicoot games on the PS2.Â Crash’s silly and wacky antics are obviously aimed at a more mature crowd than Spyro, but do not exclude them. We were shown an Ice level and a Desert level, each with their own creatures and monsters.Â The interesting thing about this game is that each level has it’s own monster, and once you defeat that monster, you can “pocket” them.Â Once a monster is pocketed, you can pull it out again whenever it’s in your inventory again.Â Most monsters help you get through levels and to get some items in other levels you have to bring another monster with you. (You can pocket up to two monsters at a time.)Â It’s a really interesting game dynamic.Â Overall, I was quite impressed with Crash: Mind Over Mutant, and it holds true to the traditional Crash Bandicoot style and feel.
Saints Row 2 – THQ
THQ brought their next iteration of Saints Row to X’08. We were allowed to play the introductory mission without much of the story being given away. (Minor spoiler ahead) You are started in a hospital and you have to escape via the rooftop.Â This mission essentially shows you the ropes of Saints Row if you’ve never played. I have played around with the original but not enough to be familiar to the controls, so this was very welcomed.Â You get to sample up to about 4 or 5 different weapons throughout the mission, as well as the checkpoint system.Â Once you reach the end of the mission, you can actually finish it, but you do not get a cutscene to further the game or anything like that, as I’m assuming it would spoil part of the story. Â Included in the demo was also a character creation tool, but I was not made aware of this until I was just about to leave the game, so unfortunately I was not able to sample that. Â Saints Row 2 was a fun game and to me the game seemed very similar to the original, not to say that this is a bad thing. Overall, a very positive experience with the game.
The correct way of storing drinks on your 360.
Fallout 3 – Bethesda – Best Looking Game at X’08
Now I understand why this game is such a big deal.Â Visually, this game is stunning. After I got out of the first part of the development version that was I was allowed to play (to avoid spoiling part of the game), I looked out over the rocky landscape from a ledge and was able to see quite far.Â The draw distance almost rivals that of Crackdown, but the game uses realistic graphics instead of cell-shading, meaning it requires more processing power.Â The frame rate seems to be stuck at a solid 60 FPS, although I could be wrong on this, and it never locked up.
The combat can work as a regular first-person shooter or you can use the VATS which essentially pauses the game and allows you to pick targets and choose where you want to shoot one of the various targets you can see. When in this view, every body part shows a percentage, the likeliness that you will hit them in that body part with that bullet. Depending on how much energy you have for your VATS you can queue up certain moves or shots to body parts, and after you exit the VATS your character will proceed to take those shots. This system works quite well, and the animation for blowing someoneâ€™s head clean off is particularly pleasing. I did get a fair bit of play time with the game (easily 20 minutes+), but as I was unfamiliar with the game and the whole Fallout world, I spent most of it wandering around, exploring and chatting to the developer about mostly the back-story and some of the gameâ€™s features. You can strip down just about any character to their undergarments, taking whatever you want. By the end my part of the play session, I had the character looking like some crazy barbarian with a head â€œdrapeâ€ and an awesome Mohawk.
In summary, even though I was a complete newbie at the game, I was able to pick it up and understand it (with some help) with relative ease. The game left quite a lasting impression on me, as you can see it being my pick for the best looking game at Xâ€™08. Unfortunately, we were kindly asked not to take any pictures of the game as it was still in development, one of only 2 games at Xâ€™08 that were specifically not to be filmed.
Also, if youâ€™re interested, we just recently received the achievements for Fallout 3.
FIFA 09 â€“ EA Sports
I had quite odd start with this game.Â When I picked up the controller, there was no representative there.Â I set-up a â€˜Be A Proâ€™ game between Argentina and Brazil, while playing as Ronaldhino on Brazil. (Yes, he does happen to be my favourite player.) However, in the arena and throughout about half the game, the development menu was open all the time, controlled by the right stick. I found this quite annoying at first but learned to live with a somewhat minimized version of it.Â When the rep came back about halfway through my first half, he instantly commented on it, and asked if I would mind if he closed it.Â He did so with one swift press of the Back button. So now I could play normally.
The last retail version of FIFA that I played was FIFA 06, only playing the demos of the releases since then.Â Iâ€™ve noticed a steady progression and change to the style of play, including the complete overhaul for FIFA 07.Â FIFA 09 is another big improvement.Â The gameplay is very smooth as are the animations.Â In this iteration of FIFA, the ball is no longer attached to the playersâ€™ feet via animation; instead it is a free moving object that can be moved by the players.Â Players within FIFA 09 also look more realistic and the celebration animations are more fluid than they were before.Â Overall, this game is again and improvement over its older 08 cousin.
PURE â€“ Disney Interactive Studios
Iâ€™ve been following PURE along as new information is revealed about it, and I was getting pretty interested in it.Â Finally, at Xâ€™08, I had a chance to play it.Â The rep showed me some cool features including how to make your own at from scratch and how the quick build function works.Â The game allows you to either quick build for Race mode or quick build for Tricks, where either quick build takes the best parts you currently have unlocked for the application you want.Â However, I was itching to play this game, and he could tell, so he just gave me a quick summary of it all and proceeded to let me just jump in.
After building the best racing ATV in the game (this development build had every single part unlocked), I proceeded to go race on the Mount Garda track in Italy.Â Once the game loads and you get to play, youâ€™ll realise how near-realistic the game looks, and how the environment is perfectly suited to the geography of that region (at least for this tack anyway).Â Once you start jumping however, the trick system comes into play, which is quite straightforward to learn, understand and use.Â In fact, the only difficulty I had with pulling tricks was that I was not pushing a direction on the left analogue stick while pressing a trick button, however once I figured this out, I had no more problems with the tricks. On that note actually, the controls for this game are very simplified and are easy for anyone to pick up and play.Â Some of the other pleasing points of this game were the ragdoll effects when you land while still doing a trick or landing on top of someone and watching them topple off of their ATV.
Overall, I had quite a blast playing this game.Â Visually, it looks great and the controls are so easy that picking up the game can be done in the first 1-2 laps of any mode.
If youâ€™re interested in trying out PURE, thereâ€™s a demo up on the Marketplace.
Fable 2 â€“ Lionhead Studios and Microsoft Game Studios
Other than Gears of War 2, this was probably one of the busiest games there, or at least it seemed that way to me.Â Throughout the whole day I kept coming back to see if I could play Fable 2 on either of the two consoles they had set up, but there were always people playing it.Â Finally, close to the end of the community portion I got a turn to take on Fable 2.Â Iâ€™m more interested in the story than the gameplay, so I proceeded to play out the beginning of the game, just to get some story.
The game starts you out as a child with an older sister who pretty much leads you through the first bits of the game.Â (Spoiler incoming) Within the first about 5-10 minutes you meet and save your dog, who happens to be standing right outside your doorway the first night you come home.Â After that you are invited to the kingâ€™s palace for a dinner.Â I would tell you more, but I was asked if someone could get their hands on the demo, so I graciously passed the controller along.
Overall, the game is pretty impressive, especially when as a child you are walking through city streets and you see monstrous 2-3 story houses towering over you.Â As for the combat gameplay, itâ€™s pretty simple, save for the fact that I only really got to try melee attacks.Â Visually, the game is very well done.Â The only complaint I would have is that some of the cutscenes just take too long; when someone starts a game, theyâ€™re usually itching to play it, so keeping them away from that can get them a little frustrated.Â Then again, such is the world of RPGâ€™s and story-telling, so I guess itâ€™s normal.
Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts â€“ Rare and Microsoft Game Studios â€“ Biggest Surprise at Xâ€™08
Honestly, I had never played anything within the Banjo Kazooie universe before Xâ€™08; at Xâ€™08, besides Gears of War, this was the only game I came back to multiple times.Â I was expecting this to be an overly goofy game, with a very â€œkiddishâ€ and simple feel.Â To some extent, it is exactly that, except that my expected target age was roughly around 7-12 years old while the realistic target age is anywhere 10+.Â Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts is a sandbox type game that allows you to complete challenges within various arenas with any configuration of vehicle.Â The first time you go to play a challenge, you really should use the vehicle provided.Â After, if you think you have a better idea for or a faster way of completing the challenge, you can re-do the challenge your way.Â The rep that was there was great and she explained everything about the game and even showed me how easy it was to add on parts to your vehicle.Â Special thanks go out to her for making my experience so much more enjoyable.
Out of the three separate times I played the game, I played two different challenges.Â The first time around, I was just fooling around in the demo world and seeing how the game works.Â The controls are immediately intuitive and very easy to understand.Â By driving different types of vehicles, you get a sense of how they work.Â I found the cars and the aircraft really easy to pilot, but no so much for the boats, or at least the one I drove.Â The boat itself was sliding around and not turning enough for my feel, but Iâ€™m sure that could be corrected with slapping on some parts.Â Other than that, the game was nothing short of amazing.
Now for the challenges: the first one was driving a car through multiple checkpoints that were in the air and the second was playing a game of â€œsoccerâ€ with a car that had â€œbasketâ€ in which you could store the balls.Â The checkpoint challenge I won on my first try as I do like driving games.Â I found it to be tons of fun and it really didnâ€™t matter much how you landed the jump, as long as you went through the air checkpoint.
At a later point when I came back for the third time, I played the â€œsoccerâ€ challenge.Â I also caught someone later playing this exact challenge so I have that in a video embedded right after this paragraph.Â Here, you could stand on a button (or place something on it like I was recommended to do), and the dispenser would spit out soccer balls, up to a maximum of 10.Â Then, you had to get the soccer balls into the goal a fair distance away.Â There were a couple ways of getting those soccer balls into the car.Â The two shown in the video are either lifting the car onto the balls or lifting the soccer balls into the car.Â The final method, which I failed to master, was setting up the car so that the soccer balls fell into the car.Â I completed my challenge in style, doubling the minimum requirement of challenge.
Overall, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts completely blindsided me.Â I was not expecting it to be a very good game, but it turned out to be nothing short of amazing!Â I will be preordering it!
Gears of War 2 â€“ Epic Games and Microsoft Game Studios â€“ Best Game at Xâ€™08
Of course, I saved the juiciest and best for last. I think I spent the most time at the show with Gears of War 2. I had a blast playing with Knuckles Dawson, Kamshaft, ChurchesWife and others, which was tied with another experience for being the best at the show. If youâ€™ve read other coverage of Xâ€™08, youâ€™ll see that the Cliff was at the show. Kamshaft and I had a chance to sit down with him, and he walked us through the same playthrough that was shown at E3. We asked questions, chatted with him and found out heâ€™s quite a cool guy. But enough about that, let move on to Gears of War 2.
So what to say about the game? Really, it does live up to what Cliff Bleszinski was saying about it: itâ€™s bigger, better and more badass than the original. It really is. The animations are more fluid, the running/cover system is much improved, and the game modes are quite awesome.
I had the opportunity of trying all 3 new maps and seeing 1: River, Avalanche and Security were the new ones, and Gridlock was â€œcarried overâ€ from the original. The 3 new maps were quite amazing, and all had a really cool feel to them, however, Gridlock was essentially the same. I only saw Gridlock, didnâ€™t play it, and frankly, it seemed like there was just more vegetation with nothing else.
Knuckles and I played a whole lot of Meat Flag, and because this was our 2nd or 3rd game on Security, we knew what we were doing, so, you could say we were â€œpwning teh n00bs.â€ We did the same on Avalanche as well. Good times were had by all, of course. One time, after I got â€œfragged,â€ (read: killed) I even got to see the avalanche come down on Avalanche. In fact, the video I have embedded a bit below shows the map as it is after the avalanche hits.
We also played the Wingman mode which is just a simple 2v2v2v2v2: 5 teams of two, all shooting at eachother. Unfortunately, the mode I was really excited about, Horde, was not available. Finally, on a side not, I did pull up the guide to see if I could get a sneak peek at the achievements, but they were all set to secret.
Overall, playing GOW2 at Xâ€™08 only got me more pumped about the full retail title. Seeing how fluid the game is already with so much time till the release date (as of today itâ€™s 44 days), only means that theyâ€™ll be putting even more effort on polishing up the game so itâ€™ll be more enjoyable for everyone. You will be able to catch me at a midnight launch event somewhere in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Below there are two videos embedded, one of gameplay of Wingman on Avalanche, and the other of the booth and the between game loading and setup screens.
Gears of War 2 Gameplay from X’08
Gears of War 2 Booth at X’08
There was a ton of cool swag at Xâ€™08. First, our swag came in a sort of environmental shopping bag with Xbox Live on the outside of it. Digging deeper, first there were two posters, a smaller one for the movie Wanted, and a bigger one for the upcoming Spiderman game. After that, there were a bunch of shirts, 3 from Eidos (one Tomb Raider Underworld, one for Monster Lab and one for Battlestations Pacific) and 1 from Xbox themselves, specifically, the exact same one the Microsoft employees were wearing at Xâ€™08). Next up were a bunch of small but pretty awesome things: A download card (with the code included) for Fable II Pub Games, a Pip-Boy sticker, and a Lego Robin on a keychain. Not included in the swag bag, but you could still get from the show were one of 150 limited edition prints of Marcus Fenix drawn by none other than 360Prophecyâ€™s Sinnix. Of course, just like the print I got last year, I got 37/150, with 37 being my favourite number. A huge thanks to Sinnix for making these prints, theyâ€™re awesome!
Best part for you guys about this section? Well, Iâ€™ll be giving away the 3 Eidos t-shirts (not that I donâ€™t like Eidos) here on 360Sync. Keep your eyes peeled because itâ€™ll be coming soon!
The last picture within the gallery, is a blank white faceplate I brought to Xâ€™08, and got various community members to sign: Kamshaft (Stephen Cameron from XboxAddict.com), Knuckles Dawson (David Dreger from RoosterTeeth.com), Jaken Bear (Jake Reardon from Xbox.ca), Snypz (Xav de Matos from X3F), Jeff Jenkins (Sinnix from 360Prophecyc.com) and none other than the Cliff himself. Of course, I signed it for good measure too.
If you care to see the Xâ€™07 swag (from last year obviously), I also have those posted.
Community Schmoozing and Closing
Hereâ€™s a gallery of myself â€œschmoozingâ€ with some important people of mostly the Xbox Canada community. And the last two pictures are a â€œglassedâ€ Master Chief. (For those that have read the Halo books, youâ€™ll get the double meaning.) The pictures are a tad distorted however.
In closing, Iâ€™d like to extend a huge shout out and thanks to all the developers and publishers that showed up. Weâ€™re sorry we only let you have a 30 minute dinner break. And finally, thanks a ton to Microsoft and the whole team for organizing this event, especially Jade and Jake! I can only imagine how much effort it took to put all this together, and I, and the whole community are very grateful! I look forward to attending Xâ€™09!