Archive for the 'news' Category

Worst demo ever?

February 5, 2010

The Aliens vs Predator demo is out now, and almost entirely broken. It’s a multiplayer-only demo, offering only 8-player deathmatch quick play games – meaning no way to play any kind of local game. No way of setting up and testing the graphics and controls without joining a multiplayer match and sitting there idle whilst you navigate menus is an inconvenience, not least because the game doesn’t save your key configuration. However, what really kills the demo is that the matchmaking simply does not work! Without matchmaking there is no way to join a game at all, all your 1.2 gigabyte download has gained you are some animated menus and a “searching for games” message. After four 15 minute sessions spent with the world’s most ironic “quick play” button spread over the course of a day I was only able to play on two occasions, managing to get a few 10 minute games in, which mostly ended when the host disconnected. The games were rather laggy: there are no dedicated servers and what seemed like significant host advantage, but I haven’t managed to host a game to confirm. There’s also no way to display your ping.

With all this out of the way the actual game experience underwhelmed. The framework is a basic FPS deathmatch between the three races, the most unusual feature being that non-marine players have no ranged weapons (the predator can pick up a disk or shoulder mounted cannon, but given the short life expectancy in an 8-player game you’ll typically be without). This means that games tend to short, deadly and chaotic point-blank brawls – there are light and heavy close attacks (which can stun), blocks and instant kills via quick time events. Unfortunately these stuns and instant kills, particularly coupled with lagging around each other make the basic combat of the game random and confusing – especially since in the time it takes to execute an instant kill animation someone else will likely have turned up to spray you with pulse rifle fire or instant kill you when it’s over. Bigger melees turn into a conga line of spine ripping.

It’s not all bad: playing as a marine with the motion detector is atmospheric, wall-walking as an alien is good fun (although the pounce feels anaemic), and the look and particularly sounds are pure Aliens. The combat might improve with practice and playing a more sparsely populated round (which only seems to be possible if the host keeps playing and some of the 8 drop out) can give a far more tactical experience where predator cloaks and standing still to defeat motion detectors can actually help you pick up points, and you’re likely to survive long enough to pick up a plasma caster or some grenades for your pulse rifle. However, given the technical problems this suffers from the overall experience can only be called terrible. The sole reason this is saved from a 0/3 review is that playing it long enough to give it a fair shot would require wasting hours on end waiting at a “searching for games” prompt.

It’s really hard to understand what SEGA are trying to achieve with this demo: it doesn’t represent the gameplay, since the single player campaign and team multiplayer are likely to be the most popular modes; it doesn’t represent the graphics and performance, since DirectX 11 support isn’t included; it doesn’t educate people on how to play, since there’s no tutorial or instructions; and it certainly doesn’t show off highlights to impress and sell us the full game. This is the only demo I’ve ever played where random people on my Steam friends list messaged me out of the blue to complain about it. Fixing the matchmaking would help a lot, but really we can only hope a single player and/or horde mode demo will come out ASAP.

Demos available on WiiWare

November 19, 2009

Famously demo-averse Nintendo is now serving up demos for three third-party games on its WiiWare service. Available free from the Wii Shop channel are demos of NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits, Bit.Trip: Beat, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord. Warning screens indicate that you can’t save any progress, and that the demos may “not support every feature of the full version.” The demos are supposed to only be available for a limited time, but we’ll take advantage of the opportunity to bring you our first demo review of a Wii game!

Nintendo’s US website claims five trials should be available, the additions being demos for Pokemon Rumble (not yet out in Europe) and World of Goo (we reviewed the PC demo here).

Left 4 Dead 2 demo 4 a short time?

November 3, 2009

The demo for Valve’s upcoming Left 4 Dead 2 is now available to everyone on Steam, after a while spent restricted to pre-order customers only. After the original Left 4 Dead demo’s limited run of availability it seems likely that the demo will go down when the game launches on November 18th, although Valve haven’t yet made an official statement. Shutting off the Left 4 Dead 1 demo didn’t seem to negatively affect the popularity of the multi-million-selling shooter, positive word of mouth recommendations apparently counting for more than a chance to sample the game and make sure it runs well.

In an unprecedented case of actual journalism, GDR have contacted Valve for comment. The Left 4 Dead 2 demo can be downloaded from Steam.

Left 4 Dead demo – for a limited time only

November 7, 2008

Valve have released the demo for their upcoming co-operative zombie survival FPS Left 4 Dead to pre-order customers, and according to 1UP will be opening it to everyone from the 11th November. Unusually, the demo’s multiplayer mode will be shut off when the game releases on the 18th, giving most players just one week to try it out. We’ll see if this experiment to prevent people sticking with the demo indefinitely causes grief or goes by without complaint; the reaction to the absence of multiplayer in the Multiwinia demo recently caused developers Introversion to relent and release a new online-enabled edition. It’s worth remembering that Valve typically have occasional free weekends for their multiplayer shooters, so other opportunities to evaluate the game should come up.

The Left 4 Dead demo is available on Steam, and the new Multiwinia demo can be downloaded from Introversion. We reviewed the original demo earlier, and found it interesting if not very deep.

Sins of a Solar Empire UK demo: any differences?

June 15, 2008

Aside from a new publisher splash video, no. Same three maps, same race, same tech and time limitations. It doesn’t appear to be based on the latest patch either. Evidently the UK demo release is purely so the UK publisher could put their fingerprints on it, and there’s no absolutely no reason for anyone who has the previous version to get it. Of course, if you haven’t played the demo before, we found that it’s well worth a look.

New site for demo downloads

May 10, 2008

Demo fans! There’s a new site for downloads allowing fast, free, no sign-up direct http downloads of demos (so you can easily use a download accelerator). A trial 600 MB download averaged at 700 kB/s for me. This probably won’t last past them getting their first monthly bandwidth bill, but for now bigdownload.com is worth a look next time you want to grab a new demo.