WB Games Report at PAX Prime 2012

At PAX this year, I had the chance to experience some new offerings from WB Games. There were three titles in particular that caught my attention: Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, Injustice: Gods Among Us and Guardians of Middle-earth.

Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition

This port of the award winning game is nothing short of intriguing. This was actually the first game I got to play at PAX this year, and I kind of just stumbled onto it thinking it was a Wii U booth. I did not get to play a whole lot, so at this point I have to assume that much of the story is the same, if not all. I couldn’t imagine why they would, or even would want to change anything about the award winning story line. Graphically, it’s pretty on par with the current iterations of the game across the other three platforms. But the intent of this article is not to talk about any limitations the Wii U system might have. What makes this game refreshing is the new game mechanics introduced with the Wii U itself.
Surprisingly, the massive controller didn’t change the way the game felt to me. You would think it would, but I didn’t seem to notice any difference. What became really unique was the use of the screen on the controller.

If you’ve ever played the game before, you know that Batman has his little computer on his wrist that he looks at when he throws the radio-controlled Batarang or when he is in “detective mode” looking for clues.

Well, now you will be looking at your “bat-computer” too. The screen on the controller will often times serve as this computer. When you are looking for clues in detective mode, you will see survey the scene with the controller. You will need to hold it up with the back of the controller facing the TV screen, and move it around so that you see all areas. The view on the controller will shift as you move and allow you to focus on the clues. Meanwhile, on your TV screen, Batman is sitting and staring at his wrist.

When you throw the remote-controlled Batarang, on the platform ports, you follow the Batarang on the TV screen. In the Armored Edition, the Batarang is viewed from the screen on the controller. You can choose to control the Batarang with the analog controls, or you can use the motion sensors in the Wii U controller to guide the Batarang to its target. Again, on the TV screen, batman is seen staring intently at his wrist, just as you should be with your Wii U controller.

As I said, I didn’t get to experience too much of Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, but what I did was very fun. I am not sure how I feel about taking my eyes off of the TV screen to use the Wii U controller in situations such as this. It is an odd feeling, almost like you’re not paying attention to the game, aAt least for me any way. But, then again… I had the same sort of feelings the first time I had to swing around a Wii remote several years ago. I am sure it’s something to just get used to. Look for this game to be available upon launch of the Wii U system.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

I had no prior knowledge of this game before I got to experience it at PAX. I was blown away. While I am not a big fan of fighting games in general, I did used to play them a lot back in the early Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat days. Injustice is a game that has been inspired by Mortal Kombat in many ways. In fact, it comes from the same studios. WB Games is working with NetherRealm Studios to bring this gem to you.

Injustice is a fighting game set in the DC Comics Universe. While I didn’t get to see any of the story line campaign portion of the game, I am told that the studios worked collaboratively with some prominent writers from DC Comics in order to put together a story-line that would integrate well with the vast universe that is already there. The unique thing about this game, is that they are not only focusing on the main characters that we all know and love (such as Batman, Superman, the Flash, etc.). They will be including some of the… I don’t want to say lesser, but probably not as well know characters. Characters such as Nightwing, Solomon Grundy and Cyborg. The intricate story-line that has been devised will indicate why each character was chosen for this game, and why their respective worlds will collide. There will be lots of one-player content, and online content as well. This game will be packed.

The environments in this game are interactive on a level I have never seen before. For instance, we were fighting in the Bat Cave, and I was able to walk over and press a red button, which would then launch a barrage of missiles from the Batmobile at a fixed point on the screen, hopefully your opponent was fool enough to be there when you did it. As you battle through, you will affect the environment around you creating new opportunities to use it against your opponent. There are two areas to each environment and you transition between them by performing certain combinations in the transition areas, which largely seem to be at the edges of the environment. As you move back and forth between them, and the battle continues, you see that the damage you are causing is sustaining, and again, can be used against your opponent.

The game has very cinematic feel to it in everything from the character intros, to the transitions in the environment, to the finishing moves. The developers wanted to put a lot of focus into the game feeling more like a movie experience than a game. And they accomplished this well. During the 15 minutes I had to play it, it felt very natural with the controls, and the smoothness of the gameplay was amazing. All of this, despite the polishing that still needs to be done before its 2013 release.

I had fun with this game, the first fighting game I have really enjoyed in a while, but that may have more to do with 2 things in particular. One, the character base is one I am familiar with and it’s fun to wreak havoc with these awesome heroes and villains. Two, the developer I got to play against said I was a natural and did well in beating him. But I think he let me win. This is one game I am really looking forward to.

Guardians of Middle-earth.

Inspired by The Lord of the Rings, Guardians of Middle-earth brings up to 10 players together in a five-versus-five battle arena. The game style is often referred to as a DotA style game and can be played in online through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. I don’t have a lot of experience with DotAs. In fact, while I have installed others on my machine, I have never actually played one. Despite that, this is the game that I spent the most time with at WB Games. I was lucky enough to take part in a match.

Having no real basis of comparison, this might be taken with a grain of salt, but the game was really, really fun to play. Given that I have never played before, it was really easy to pick up and after a few moments I felt like I had been playing for years. As with any DotA style game, the prime goal is to capture towers on the map. There is a set time limit in which to do so, at least there was in our game. This may have been to keep the games going so more people can try, I am sure that the settings are adjustable here. If your team can capture all the towers within the time-limit (if set), then you win.

The game offers more than 20 memorable and iconic characters, or Guardians, from The Lord of The Rings. They include Gandalf, Sauron, Gollum, Thrain, Arathorn, Galadriel and many more. While we do not know the entire cast of characters, they will be revealed post launch, with several being released in conjunction with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey motion picture. This will give the game a deeper connection to Peter Jackson’s film. Each Guardian has unique strengths and abilities. You will be able to purchase items and buffs between matches using in-game currency that you have earned through combat.

Look for this game to be released before the end of 2012 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I know for sure that this one will be taking up much of my time this holiday season.