Features & News

The Gathering: THQ Press Event 2010

July 12, 2010, Author: Andy Knight

When asked if I wanted to attend my first press event for This Is My Joystick, my response was immediate “Hell yeah!”. So, this past Friday with a little trepidation and a lot of excitement, I jumped on a train to the good old London town to attend THQ’s The Gathering event, which was being hosted by PR company Mischief. Arriving in the sweltering heat of the capital and making my way across the city wasn’t much fun, but knowing I’d soon be getting my hands on some of THQ’s major 2010/11 titles made it a little more bearable. Finally, found myself at the event’s venue, the Black & White room at the very posh and swanky the Soho hotel. With my travelling perils over I was ready to play some games. Good thing I was, because no sooner had I entered the room I was sat down and getting my first look at one of “the Gathering’s” featured titles.

The Last Airbender
The Last Airbender is a tie-in game for this summer’s M Night Shyamalan blockbuster film of the same name, with the fiction being based upon the animated cartoon known as Avatar (Avatar was dropped from the title because, well, James Cameron beat them to it last year with his big blue people film, and they don’t want any mix ups). This is an adventure game for both the Wii and DS and follows on from events that take place in the film, and you get to play from one of the three main characters as you wander the world learning and mastering your air and fire bending skills.

What a bender!

I didn’t get any hands-on time with the game myself, as the gameplay was guided by one of the PR team. However, I watched the basic combat system where my initial thoughts were that it reminded me a little of The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. The way you can manipulate the environment with your abilities was what drew those comparisons, however sadly, it was not the graphics. I’ll be honest, The Last Airbender looks rough. We all know that the limited graphical powers of the Wii is never going to make a game look stunning, but still this game does not look good at all.

Blocky characters, dodgy textures and some obvious glitches did nothing to impress me. You have to ponder if it is sloppiness, or that it’s the old story of the film company pressurising the developers into getting the game done in time for the films release date. That brings me onto the release date for the game, the 6th of August. A week before the film comes out in cinemas in the U.K, which makes you wonder why the game which is set after the films events is out before the film itself? Spoilers!

After my time with The Last Airbender, I bumped into friend of the site and wedotech.net editor, James Joell-Ireland. Turns out James and I are from the same city (Portsmouth). They say the world is now a small place these days, which obviously makes the gaming world even smaller. Anyway, James and I got on great and we paired up to take on the rest of the games together.

The next game I got to experience was actually yet another film tie-in game, Megamind. The game on show was the Xbox 360 version, and that’s worth noting as the game is different depending on which platform you play it on. The 360 and PS3 version will essentially be the same, the Wii will be different and is a four player co-op game that we are told is in the style to that of Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance titles. Then even on the PSP and DS there will be a different format to the game. So basically there are three different versions to this one title.

In the 360 version I sampled you are playing the lead character of the film, he being Megamind. A big brained, blue coloured super villain turned good. That reason for being good is he destroyed his old nemesis, got bored so created a new one to battle, but that super hero actually preferred to be bad, so everything flipped and now Megamind is your super hero. Confused? Well, the film will sort that out hopefully. As for the game itself though, it’s a platform adventure game with a few puzzle elements thrown in to… or is it?

Megamind and companion Brainbot. 360 and PS3 offers co-op

For the most part, yes, this is a platformer, you move through the levels as Megamind who is out to take down The Doom Syndicate. These goons have stolen Megaminds super inventions, and he wants them back. So you battle through each area collecting orbs that are called blinkys (these are used for upgrades to weapons and such at the end of each level, they also help guide you if you get a bit confused to where you are supposed to be headed), battle the baddies at either close or ranged combat (depending on what weapon you are equipped with and how close you are standing to them), and solving a few basic puzzles so you can progress to the boss battle at the end of the level.

The wii version will be different and offers four player action

However, completing the level also unlocks mini-games. These, we were told, are varied party type games. The one I got to see was a kart style racing game and did look a lot of fun. For me the platform element to the game wasn’t that appealing as the level I played seemed to drag on a tad. Then again, I’m not exactly in the age demographic this game is aimed at. It wasn’t bad in any technical way, it looks great as the character models are straight from Dreamworks themselves, and I can definitely see this being entertaining to the younger generation, but for me it was the mini-games that looked the coolest thing. The game is out cross-platform on November 26th. Oddly enough, that again is a week before the actual film is released. We were assured playing the game first wont ruin the the film experience.

Another interesting thing I learnt during my time playing Megamind is that THQ have just signed an exclusive deal with Dreamworks which lets them have access to all the company’s animated franchises and characters, such as Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda etc. So I proposed we could very well see future games that feature crossovers from these franchises, such as a mario kart-esque game featuring all the dreamworks characters, or a Street Fighter based beat-um up with the Shrek characters versus the Kung Fu Panda Characters. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a firm yes or no answer, but with the this licensing deal such games could be possible if they choose to do so.

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011
Moving on, I got to play this year’s new release of a franchise that is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve been a mad keen wrestling nerd since my early teens, so when I was asked if I wanted to go to a THQ event featuring new upcoming games, there was only one on the list I was hoping to see; WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2011. The game is THQ’s flagship franchise for their fighting games genre, selling over 50 million copies of the previous games over the last decade. It has to be bigger, brighter, and better every year, and it seems the 2011 edition will deliver just that.

Details about what will be in the final game are still being kept under lock and key, I was told that WWE want to wait until their pay-per-view event Summerslam (August 15th) before they reveal anything about game modes, new systems and unveil the 70+ roster of wrestlers that will accompany the game. They have promised a brand new, deeper and more detailed creation system. Also, last year’s game saw the introduction of community creation tools, such as player created moves, storylines, and wrestlers. All which could be uploaded and shared with those who had access to Xbox live and the Playstation Network. It was a great addition to the experience, and in 2011 THQ and Yukes have simplified the search and sharing system to make it easier to be part of the community.

"I'm tired of you laying down, sit on a chair!"

What I got to play was the E3 build of the game and it featured the TLC match. That’s a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match to you layman types. There was the choice of four wrestlers, Undertaker, The Miz, Randy Orton, and Chris Jericho. The rules of the match are simple, batter your opponent with any of the three weapon types, then when they are down climb the ladder and grab the suit case that’s hanging fifteen foot above the ring. Looking at the game at a glance you can’t really see any difference between the new game and last years version, but look closer at the little details and you will find the improvements.

The character models for the wrestlers are different to 2009, this year they have something called muscle flex which gives the textures of their model a more realistic look as they move about. Also gone are the six pack textures that were bulk standard in years gone past. From now if they’re a bit flabby, you’ll notice. So steroid addiction will be required from now on if they want to keep that chiselled look. Also new in 2011 is object physics; meaning ladders, chairs and tables will all react more realistically when used. Chairs will crumble and fold whilst laying waste to some poor guys torso or skull, and a more authentic table break will take place when shoving a 270 Ibs man through it. They’re slight details, but to a Smackdown Versus Raw die hard they are sooooooo sweet!

"Just quickly take a look. Did I step in dog pooh?"

The controls and mechanics are very much like last year’s game, and its simulation style isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea so, so I always wonder how a version will be more appealing to non wrestling fans. Fear not, keep reading on and you will learn more about a new WWE game that could be change that. As for SdvR11 as I call it, it’s more of the same but better. U.K release for WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2011is October 26th 2010, and will be multi-platform.

Just time to stop and grab one of the available free drinks and cakes, have a quick chat about what we’ve learnt, played and experienced before we move on to yet another new up and coming title.

"Cake anyone?"

Pages: 1 2