I was lucky enough to get tickets to my first PAX Prime this year and attended the expo over the Labor Day long weekend. In the past, PAX Prime was a three day event, but this year at the Keynote Speech they informed us that next year it's expanding to four days. If that is the solution to addressing the massive ticket shortages to the event, I doubt it will have any significant impact on allowing more people to attend, people will just buy four day passes instead.
The event has really outgrown it's surroundings. So if you really want to go to PAX, you need to be on the ball, focused and determined. This year the three day passes sold out in one hour flat and single day tickets for all three days were gone in less than 24 hours so if you missed the tweet about tickets going on sale, you were probably unable to get tickets.
Do the Prep Work
I did my research beforehand on how to prepare for PAX and I'm glad that I did. I found out camping stools were allowed and man, being and older gamer I'm glad I brought it. I clipped it to my backpack when walking around and was sitting on it in every line. I must have had at least two dozen people ask where I got it from so if anyone is looking for a business idea, stand outside PAX and sell folding camping stools! Something to do while passing the time in line is also a requirement, a portable game device, tablet, book, cards or even a laptop. Also a small bottle of Purell is a requirement if you don’t want post show 'PAX Plague', you'll be touching stuff thousands of others touched, it's germ city at PAX. Lastly I was told to pick two key things and one optional thing as must sees per day and to get in line for major panels a minimum of an hour ahead of time and using this formula I got to see everything I wanted to and wasn't stressed or rushed. Last thing I would call essential is a water bottle and some meal replacement bars. I lived on Cliff Bars the entire show because taking an hour to eat lunch and an hour for dinner is time lost for getting to and seeing stuff. So I'd just eat while I was in line waiting for panels or games and it worked out really well since I was there alone.
So now onto things I saw...
This game was not on my buy list. It's been delayed so much and redone and it's also the tenth such game so I just had lost all interest in the game. However getting hands on with it changed my mind. The game controls really well and looks amazing. This is the start of Lara Crofts story so she's less of a super heroine and more of a real person in this game and it's easier to make a connection to the character on-screen. If you're a on again off again Tomb Raider fan, you owe it to yourself to look at this game in more detail before it's launch on March 5th 2013.
Resident Evil 6
I have been a huge fan of the Resident Evil movies since the first one but I've never been able to play the games. For me the games don't flow well and don't control well, bottom line is I can't play them. One of the biggest problems for me was the lack of character agility, you can't move and aim/shoot at the same time. Since that's fixed in Resident Evil 6 I had high hopes that finally there was going to be a game I could play but that sadly was not the case. The demo was 20 minutes long and I left after about 10 minutes, I just don't know what it is about how Capcom paces the games, sets the camera and controls the actions but this is really the end of the road for me hoping to ever get a playable Resident Evil game. I know the games sell well so I'm sure fans of the game will no doubt enjoy Resident Evil 6, it looks amazing, even better than Resident Evil 5 but I just can't play it.... still. Resident Evil 6 launches October 2nd, 2012.
Assassins Creed 3 Booth and Panel
I had no interest in buying another Assassins Creed game, I lost interest after the second one. I did play the third only because it was a gift and skipped the fourth altogether. I just felt like Ubisoft was pushing out $60 expansion packs and not putting any real effort into truly evolving the game. However, what I saw at PAX of Assassins Creed 3 has completely changed my mined and I will be playing it in the end of October. Ubisoft's 'A' team is working on Assassins Creed 3 and it's been in development for three years now. It's a little more modern than the past games, it takes place on US soil during the Revolutionary War and you take the Native American perspective of that war as someone trying to protect their village and not on either side. This game as been built from the ground up and it shows. The developers are aiming to portray historical events as they are recorded in history so it'll be a good interactive history lesson as well for those who fell asleep in history class. Assassins Creed 3 launches October 30th, 2012.
Gears of War Judgment / Epic Panel
As much of a gear head as I am, I'm not really amped for Judgment. I feel like this is going to be a $60 expansion pack coming out just 18 months after Gears 3 and I just really have very little interest. Epic had been showing off Onslaught mode which is an asymmetrical class based COG vs Locust VS mode, but just before PAX they announced Free For All and that's what they were showing. It's exactly what you would think, plays how you've played FFA in a thousand other shooters and it's just been done to death and totally uninspired. It felt exactly like Gears of War 3 to me, the lobby looks the same, picking your character looked the same, the only difference was you only had an option of Lancer or Hammerburst as your starting weapon. I feel like my lack of enthusiasm isn't unique either because while many booths had 2+ hour lines to sit down and play, Judgment was a very minimal 10-20 minute. Gears of War Judgment launches March 19th, 2013.
At Epic's panel they were only talking about Fortnite so even Epic doesn't seem enthusiastic about Judgment. So Fortnite is Epic returning to their PC roots, this game will be their first utilizing Unreal Engine 4 and is heavily stylized (ie, colorful and cartoonish). The game has a day and night cycle and what you do is gather resources to build with and build your fort and then during night monsters come out and attack and you're trying to survive. There are also trolls who can climb, dig and basically get into your base and harass you and steal your stuff, they will also open doors so the monsters can get in past your defenses. If you just want to gather and build you can do that and turn off the monster survival mode, you will also be able to play coop with your friends. I'm not a Mindcraft player but from what I know of Mindcraft, this sounds like a pretty similar game minus the crappy 8 bit graphics. Epic also said that this game will be constantly evolving, they're going to release something playable, see what people want more off, less of and changed and they'll release more for the game. It almost sounds like it'll be episodic in a way, but then I think back to E3 when they first announced Fortnite and said they were shopping around for a publisher and now it seems like it's self published. So maybe no one wants to bet on Epics Fortnite idea. There is still no release date set for Fortnite but they will be doing a beta next year.
Major Nelson PAX Meetup
I spent the first part of the morning getting a free breakfast and meeting Major Nelson, E, Laura and Dan Amrich (OneOfSwords). I've been listening to the Major Nelson podcast since it was just him doing a solo show from his dining room table. It was good to finally meet those guys and have breakfast on Microsofts dime. Major Nelson is taller than I expected, E is smaller than I expected and Laura was exactly what I expected. All great people, down to earth and welcoming to fans. Everyone who attended also got a Ninja Outfit avatar download code. The meetup was at Kells which is an Irish Pub down near Pike Place Market so we had some Irish breakfast items, I honestly don't know what I ate but it was all good.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Sega and Gearbox were on hand showing off their newly announced Escape multiplayer mode for Aliens: Colonial Marines. This game is the official Fox sanctioned sequel to the Alien and Aliens 2 movies. In multiplayer they have some of the original actors doing voice over work, they have all the original sound effects from the movie including the pulse rifle firing and the motion tracker beeps.... it's creepy. Escape mode is a team of four humans playing the Marines VS a team of four humans playing the Aliens. If you've every played Left 4 Dead's multiplayer, you know exactly what to expect here. The marines need to get to check points where they can re-supply and move on to the next section of the map. The Aliens on the other hand need to stop them any way they can. There are a few different varieties of Aliens to choose from but on the Marines side you just play as a Marine. If one of the Marines goes down, he can be revived for a short time period until he bleeds out. Escape full of tension, suspense, excitement, panic and it's a real adrenaline rush, I absolutely can't wait to play this next year. This game is on my must buy list when it drops February 12, 2013.
Epic had a small table there from noon to 1pm with some of the people involved with Fortnite and Cliff Bleszinski. They were signing Fortnite burger joint hats for fans and I was kind of surprised at how short the line was. I guess this goes along with the apparent lack of enthusiasm for Judgment and since Fortnite has some distant release date, fans just had bigger, better things to see. I on the other hand an a Gears of War mega-fan so I brought the bayonet and magazine off of my NECA replica retro and saw Lancers and got those signed. It was also a blast to meet Cliff and Lauren was there too in the background. They're newlyweds now so they're in that honeymoon phase I guess where they need to be together all the time . All the best to them.
Major Nelson Podcast
Major has done a live podcast from PAX for at least the past three years so this was one of the must see things for me. Besides the crew I met earlier at the meet-up, Stepto was there talking about his new position at GEAMS, Randy Pitchford from Gearbox was there on the panel and also Jeff Norris from NASA. Jeff talked about the Mars mission, the prep work, the rover's capabilities and the next steps in the mission. He noted that the power source for the rover is nuclear, there's plutonium in the rear of the rover that provides the power source. One question Jeff got from someone watching the live stream was asking if there is any concern of Marvin stealing the plutonium for his death ray referencing the character that appears in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons, I got a chuckle out of that. StepTo was there talking about his new position at GEAMS, the guys who make a suitcase for your Xbox 360 that includes a built in screen and speakers to make it portable. They announced a Halo 4 special edition coming with a larger screen and better speakers, Randy Pitchford commented that he'd love to work with him on doing a Borderlands themed one in the future. Randy was there talking about Borderlands 2 and Aliens Colonial Marines but didn't reveal any new information during this panel.
Halo 4 Panel
The last panel of the day for me was for Halo 4, a game I really have no interest in and still don't but I thought I'd attend to see if my mind could be changed. The story is going to be about putting Master Chief in situations out of his comfort zone and also about Cortanas' own mortality and the relationship between Chief and Cortana. They showed some changes they had done to multiplayer that fans had been asking for. First with Capture the Flag, the flag carrier automatically pulls out a pistol and carries the flag in just one hand. The flag can also now be a melee weapon and they showed off an execution that involved meleeing a guy to the ground and shoving the flag pole thru his helmet which the crowd immediately applauded. The next change they showed was in Oddball, you'll be able to throw the ball now to a teammate if you come under fire. This translates well into a new mode they announced for Grifball. Halo 4 will have an official Grifball arena with a new Gravity Hammer that can be used to move the ball long distances quickly or you can also pass the ball now by throwing it to a teammate. For fans of Grifball, it's great to see it now an officially supported mode. They also had Jen Taylor on stage who is the voice of Cortana and Bruse Thomas who is the motion capture actor for Master Chief. They along with some of the 343 Studio devs were on-hand after the panel to sign posters for fans.
Splinter Cell Blacklist
I'm not much of a Splinter Cell fan due to the slow nature of the game but I was really impressed with the demo they were showing. The game looks absolutely amazing but I can't be certain if I was watching a console version or a PC version of the game. The demo person was using a controller but there was also a keyboard under the monitor an a shelf. They've really crafted Blacklist to let the player decide how they want to tackle the mission. You can go thru the front door guns blazing or take a more elegant solution. When you did get into the action the camera cut to a slow motion mode and the player took out multiple targets that looked like an action movie, it was pretty cool to see. You can also now call in support forces if you run into a particularly large group of enemies or guys that are dug in. Splinter Cell Blacklist has an unofficial launch date of April 1st, 2013, depending on the actual date I'm now somewhat interested in picking this up.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I didn't play the original XCOM game from back in the 1990's so I was interested in seeing what this game is about. Fans of that earlier game seem to be saying a lot of positive things so I was eager to get hands on with it. The gameplay was the tutorial mission to get you used to the mechanics of playing. This is a turn based strategy game that has a 3rd person perspective in certain situations and also has some base building mechanics. You basically move your guys from cover to cover, some cover can be destroyed some gives you full protection some only half so you need to pick the right cover for the situation. Using elevation gives you an advantage on the battlefield so the game shows the player how to get up on structures. Each unit is a different class so they have different gear and abilities, for example one class gets a special ability to fire as soon as an enemy enters line of site, he doesn't need to wait for his turn. So basically you cycle through your squad of 4-6 soldiers tasking them each one at a time. The enemies are patrolling the map and they also move one at a time, but you can't see them in advance they just pop out of the fog of war which I kind of don't like. You level up and develop your characters but if they die, they're done there's no respawns. So you could have a high level character engaged on visible enemies on the right and then some other guys you didn't know were there could come out of the left and smoke your high level guy. I don't really like this particular aspect of the game. As you're engaging the enemy if you pull the RT to go into combat mode, you go into a third person perspective where you can select what type of weapon to attack with and where to shoot then you hit A and the character executes the command. The pace of the game is pretty slow relative to a real-time strategy game but the controls work really well with a controller due to this slower pace. While I enjoyed the game and would be interested in playing it, it's not the type of game I want to play on my console. I think I'd rather have this on my tablet.
The Walking Dead
Traveler Tales had a booth there with kiosks showing off each of the three episodes of their Walking Dead adventure game. I haven't played any of them so I took the opportunity to check them out. Essentially this is a new take on the old point and click adventure games of the early 90's. The graphic style is cell shaded, it looks like an animated graphic novel which since this is a long running comic series is very appropriate. While I did have fun playing the game I felt like I was waiting for the game too much. It's very cut scene heavy and when you do have an opportunity to move around the movement is kind of slow. I guess it's the style they were going for but it didn't immediately appeal to me. To do actions in the game you move a cursor around the screen and if there's something you can interact with different icons will show to tell you which buttons to press for what actions, such as an eyeball will appear to tell you if you press Y , you can view and get more info on this object. There are also timed events in the game that add some moments of frantic action where you must take some action or press some keys before an invisible timer runs out and you get eaten. I respect these guys trying to bring new life into an old gaming style and do it with such a huge franchise, I'm just not sure I'm this type of gamer anymore. I didn't love it nor did I hate it.
The Gearbox panel was capped pretty quickly, they only let people start lining up 90 minutes before hand and they hit 1000 attendees in about 45 minutes. I knew given the lines at Borderlands an Aliens and Gearbox's reputation for giving away stuff (last year everyone at the panel got a copy of Borderlands 2) that the line was going to max out. So I got there 2 hours early and waited in line until we were allowed to go up to the floor of the panel room and wait in line for 90 minutes for the panel. Gearbox also provided us with pizza as well which was probably the most substantial thing I ate over the three days I was there. They didn't talk about anything new with Aliens that I haven't already mentioned, most the time was spent talking about Borderlands 2. They showed off some of the character customizations available for each class. You'll get some stock skins to begin with, if you get one of the more expensive versions you'll get another skin, you'll get another one if you have a Borderlands 1 save and they showed off a special Gearbox skin which only staff will have. Other skins will be unlockable or found in chest or from beating specific creatures. They talked about the Mechromancer DLC character, she is much farther along than they anticipated so they are setting a target of October 16th for releasing her. The Mechromancer got a lot of press during the 'girlfriend mode' media storm but what wasn't talked about is that the Mechromancer has three different skill trees. The one that created all the media attention is the 'Best Friends Forever' tree which makes a totally non skilled gamer be able to jump in and play with a skilled one and still have fun. There's a normal tree and then there's an advanced tree. The advanced skill tree is designed for expert Borderlands players, in this mode the Mechromancer can create damage stacks by killing monsters and mini-bosses then take those maxed out stacks into a boss fight and do more DPS than any other character is capable of. However if you die trying to max out your stacks, it resets and you need to build it up again. The Mechromancer is free with pre-order or you can buy her through Marketplace. They also said they are committed to releasing four substantial campaign expansions of the same or better quality than the General Knox DLC from Borderlands 1. Each will introduce new areas, new weapons, new characters, new story, new enemies and new missions. Each expansion will be 800 Microsoft points or you can buy the Season Pass and get all four for the price of three. When the panel concluded Randy announced that everyone who attended was going to get a download code on the way out for the Season Pass so that was really the cherry on top.
Other Things of Interest I Saw
* The Far Cry 3 booth of course had the game there to play but if you got your head shaved into a Mohawk with FC3 painted on your melon, you could get the game free on launch day.
* Torchlight 2 looks amazing, they really stepped up the game from Torchlight 1
* The line to play Borderlands 2 was 3 1/2 hours long, Halo and Dishonored 2 ½ hours long
* There is a huge board game presence at PAX, way more than I thought. Basically there was an entire floor for people to play board games and some games had a small booth with a rep from that company there to show you how to play. When did board games become a thing again? I must not have been paying attention.
I picked up two Xbox 360 DLC codes, one for an Aliens Colonial Marines avatar T-Shirt that says “Game Over Man Game Over” and one for a Doom 'Pinkey' creature avatar pet.
Contest closes Friday Sept 7th @ 8pm PST (11pm ET). At which time I'll randomly pick two people and PM you one of the download codes.
How to enter:
Go make a PUBLIC forum post on 2old2play (this does not include a clan forum), something substantial, get involved in a conversation. Come back here to the comments section and post the link to your forum thread you posted in or created to enter the giveaway.
About the author
TANK aka TANK 2old2play on Live hails from the west coast, splitting his time between the mountains of Eastern Washington and Northern California. He has been a staple here on 2old2play since July 2005 and over those years has contributed heavily in the forums with 20,000+ posts, maintained a top 10 blog, written for the former 2old2play eMagazine and has contributed news articles for the front page. He is a dedicated Xbox 360 gamer, Achievement Whore and an all around technophile.