Xbox360 demo impressions

Continuation of my Xbox360 impressions. Here I comment on demos of full-price titles, in no particular order.

I’m pretty unprepared for “today’s core games” because I tended to ignore anything “next gen” (how do you properly and concisely address Xbox360 and PS3 ONLY, without the Wii I mean?) when I lacked the hardware to play.

Test Drive Unlimited. Was preloaded on the HDD. One word: ugly. Gran Turismo 4 seemed to have better car models on PS2. The supposedly sexy girl in the lobby is ugly as well. I’m not a driving games guy so the actual gameplay didn’t do it for me either. Deleted.

Disney’s Cars. Preloaded as well. Not convincing. Deleted.

Pina Vinata. Preloaded. Not playable, but interactive video. What’s that anyway? Deleted.

There was another preloaded thing I deleted, already forgotten what that is. Accoding to the label, console is manufactured February 2nd. Why don’t they preload more up-to-date, attractive imminent releases?

I’m missing many AAA titles as well, but that’s hardly Microsoft’s fault. For instance, I’d like to try the new Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed, Halo 3, Fallout 3, SF4, Ninja Gaiden 2, off the top of my head.

Ace Combat. I kinda liked the TGS trailer. Too bad the demo makes less appetite. No introduction at all and the only effective thing I figured out was using the homing missiles – no effort required therefore boring. The whole mission felt pointless. The missus asked: “what are you doing actually?” I replied: “I don’t know”, and returned to the dashboard.

Prey. I guess this was a pretty big title, I remember a fellow student raving about it. The demo was relatively long, and one of the few which I deemed to have fulfilled the purposs of a demo. The setting (Cherokee in space) is awkwardly funny. Using the beginning/ tutorial portion of the game makes sense, I wonder why Dead Space doesn’t seem to do it. Suboptimal character models though. Considering the player is supposed to save the protagonist’s girlfriend, she’s not very well-made.

Dead Space. Wanted to see what the fuzz is about the HUD-less thing. Health, ammo and item interaction are nicely integrated, but the inventory is still very menu-ish. After the World Builder, or What’s in the Box, the augmented reality interface in Dead Space seems so much less ambitious. Stopped playing after three deaths in the first room with enemies. I guess I’ve gone soft now. Note to self: make sure the most stupid demo player can succeed, otherwise the demo fails. I guess it’s always hard to balance the difficulty, especially with a matured genre such as FPS, but still.

Mirror’s Edge. Introduction solid, first-person parcour works better than I thought (but millions of reviewer’s cannot err anyway, right?). But I’m not sure the perspective is worth the so-called innovation. I do like to look at a decent character model, especially if properly animated. In the case of parcour, why strip away the fun and amazement of watching those incredible stunts? Just to be different than Prince of Persia? Even my girlfriend immediately said “looks like Jackie Chan”, and we all know his environmental feats are a big part of the charm.

Also there’re evidence that a visible avatar heightens the self-projection more than the first-person perspective. Better overview, less motion sickness as well – [sarcasm]just think about all the poor Japanese players![/sarcasm].

Fighting sucks, at least when people shoot at you from a far. I like the color palette, especially the nice outdoor lighting on the girl who trains (with) me. Faith’s hands look a bit masculine but I guess anything less would be unfitting such a hyper-fit runner, huh?

Tomb Raider Underworld. To be honest I wanted to gawk at Lara Croft, but really don’t like that face. The environment isn’t that bad though (I know it’s nothing compared to what Crytek does on the PC), the huge statues feel like straight out of the concept arts, as in “vision realized”.

Gameplay is OK, could use more positive feedback (at one point I hummed Zelda’s solution jingle to make up for it), movement fluiditiy inferior to Sands of Time. Oh and I hear Ubisoft improved on that in some year-old title… Assassin’s Creed or something. Shame on you Crystal Dynamics. Still, the exploration has potential. Hopefully the upcoming Indiana Jones will live up to the expectation, but doubtful.

Beautiful Katamari. I might be biased here because I think Keita Takahashi is no longer involved. When entering the stage, the camera pan was not 60fps – WTF? We’re talking about a game originated on the PS2 without significant visual upgrade (to the player) for the new consoles, for crying out loud. That one music track wasn’t memorable either.

Resident Evil 5. Almost forgot this one, how could I? Graphically very nice even on my SDTV, the character models are well-done, and the outdoor lighting works out very nicely, conveying the hot, dry climate quite effectively.

The control feels clumsy after RE4 on Wii. Subsequently, I died a lot in the Public Assembly level, starting at Krystian’s place in co-op, but alone as well. I know it’s a “survival horror”, but it’s a demo dammit! Considering this is the left one of two selectable levels in the menu, it’s highly likely that the player will pick it first. Why throw the player, who’s potentially touching the franchise for the first time, into such a demanding challenge without any chance to practise?

The control scheme can be set to match the original RE4 on the GameCube, thoughtful. I might give the new scheme another try, but I’ll wait for the game to get cheaper, SF4 will have to do in the short term. Got a contract game to finish, after all.

Yu-Chung Chen

Yu-Chung Chen is a designer working primarily on video games. He studied at Köln International School of Design and has contributed to a number of published games. Currently he works as a freelance UI designer at Keen Games.

One response to “Xbox360 demo impressions”

  1. Krystian Majewski

    I agree with you on most opinions.

    My impressions with the Dead Space demo were exactly the same as yours. Got into the first room, died, deleted the demo. Almost did the same with Resident Evil but RE at least looks great.

    Test Drive was just a big disappointment.

    As for Ace Combat: try Hawx. It’s the better Ace Combat, at least as far as the demo goes.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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