E3: 2011 Hands On Speedrun — Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Super Stardust Delta, Ninja Gaiden 3

After the Sony press conference had concluded, I made my way down into their arcade pit and played as many games as I could, as fast as I could.

Here is the fruit of the that endeavor: three quick game previews, in snapshot format.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss
I’ll be honest: I didn’t really expect this to play very comfortably, even though it looks amazing. The controls in the demonstration we saw looked complicated, maybe even a little awkward. Using two sticks, a touch screen, buttons, all together?

It’s not complicated. Here’s how it works (I’m not going to describe the demo level itself, because it was a pretty standard Uncharted-temple level. But who cares).

You use the dual sticks to steer Drake around. The left stick moves Drake, the right stick controls the camera. When you creep up behind an enemy and get within striking distance, tap him on the actual screen with your thumb. Bam! You pushed that jackass off a cliff. With your actual thumb.

Climbing is also fluid and natural. Push up on the left stick to get Drake started on the first ledge, then sort of “trace” the route to each subsequent ledge with one of your thumbs (I used my right thumb). It just works, and it’s not something you have to teach yourself. I was doing it subconsciously–alternating hands, even–after trying it once. When Drake reaches the topmost ledge, simply “flick” up on Drake’s body with a thumb, and he’ll get all the way up on the landing.

So yeah, the touch-screen is cool, but what about tilt-mechanics?

Grab a sniper rifle. Aim with L1. While in aim mode, title the Vita around. You’re moving the rifle up and down, by tilting the vita. Carefully line up your shot, and pull R1 to fire. Simple, satisfying.

Stay tuned for more Uncharted: Golden Abyss coverage at E3! We’ll be touring the Sony booth a little later this week.

Ninja Gaiden 3
By the way, I love Ninja Gaiden. It’s brutal and challenging and absurd, all words I like in the context of my games. And so I played through a pretty long 20-minute demo at the Sony presser, and came away both excited and a little concerned. First of all, Ryu’s sword is the only weapon in the single-player game, period. No more nunchucks. No more tonfas. Nothing like that. Ninja Gaiden 3 will zero in on sword play, on what Tecmo Koei Localization Project Manager Peter Garza called “steel on bone”–the combat experience of taking an enemy down, fully, with a sword.

This philosophy translates to one new mechanic in particular. While Ryu is slashing dudes up, you’ll see a button prompt appear. Press the correct button, and Ryu will start to hack into enemy, but stop in mid-torso. To complete the animation, a second button-press is needed, in which Ryu fully slices the enemy into one or more pieces. It’s a systematic takedown mechanic, which seems to build on the “execution” moves from Ninja Gaiden 2. Interesting, but that’s sacrificing a lot of variety that existed in NG1 and 2, isn’t it? I liked what I played so far, but I have questions.

Stay tuned for more Ninja Gaiden 3 coverage later this week! We’ve got an appointment with Tecmo and will go way deeper.

Super Stardust Delta HD
I’m a sucker for beautiful shooters, so I had to check this out. Super Stardust Delta HD is a sequel to the 2007 PS3 game Super Stardust HD. It looks and handles beautifully on the Vita, and packs a few new features over the original. Steer your ship with the left stick, and control your bullet stream with the right stick. Tilt the Vita to alter your perspective as you travel across the sphere. Use your flame beam to destroy fire-based enemies, and your ice beam to destroy ice-based enemies. You can also control your beam’s length with an adjustable meter on the right. Slide your thumb up and down to select the exact level. Shorter beams back more punch, while longer beams keep enemies further at bay.

Each weapon (fire beam, ice beam) has an “alternate weapon.” Activate it my swiping the back of the Vita. The fire beam’s alternate weapon is a black hole that pulls enemies into its center, making them easy targets. The ice beam’s alternate fires off a volley of little heat seeking rockets. These weapons are in limited supply, of course, so use them wisely. Finally, shake the vita to activate a force bomb, which shatters all enemies in your area that are too close for comfort.

It can turn into a challenging, frantic shooter, especially when you’re greatly overwhelmed. You’re constantly switching between fire and ice, adjusting your beam length, dropping bombs, etc. It’s good fun.

And now, bed time, fellow gamers. We’ve got a whole lot more E3 to see this week (it’s only just begun). These are just rapid-fire impressions, so stay tuned for more from the GameFront team this week. Over and out.

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