Pre-Game Show: No Honor in Top Hats

Pre-Game Show: No Honor in Top Hats

This time on the Pre-Game Show, we take a look at a supernatural steampunk assassin and a cartoonish, gem-hungry prisoner.

Dishonored (360, PS3, PC)

Despite having a title worthy of a Steven Seagal movie, ‘Dishonored’ looks very interesting. With its steampunk setting, complete with ‘Stratego’-garbed soldiers, this first person assassin game tries to recreate some of the best elements of stealthy, atmospheric titles like ‘Thief’, ‘Bioshock’ and ‘Deus Ex’. Naturally, missions will revolve around finding and eliminating targets using a variety of supernatural powers. As the players earn runes, they can choose which powers to unlock – powers such as blink (teleportation), possession (both animals and people), and dark vision (seeing enemies through walls). The game also has a time freezing ability, which when coupled with the variety of weapons like crossbows, pistols, knifes and traps, gives players plenty of ways to eliminate a target.

Where ‘Dishonored’ becomes more dynamic is the player freedom in the design. Missions are meant to be completed in a manner that endorses freedom – freedom to be stealthy, freedom to be Rambo-esque, or freedom to be clever. The game uses Unreal 3. The setting is heavily influenced by 19th Century whaling towns, and the fictional setting is ripe with an ongoing plague. The developers at Arkane Studios have talked about how they’ve enjoyed seeing players combine powers in unanticipated ways that subsequently have been incorporated into the game. Players can do things like summon a horde of plague rats to attack soldiers, and then as the rats engage the soldiers, the player possesses a single rat and scurries away towards the objective. Another player favorite involved a guard taking a shot at the player. The player froze time, stopping the shot in mid-air, then possessed the guard and moved into the path of the bullet, before unpossessing the guard and unfreezing time.

Player freedom is a wonderful thing, and it will be interesting to see how the ending of the game is shaped by a given play style.

BattleBlock Theater (XBLA)

“The Behemoth,” the studio responsible for the near-flawless ‘Castle Crashers’, has been whetting appetites for its next project for some time. First known as ‘Game #3’, ‘BattleBlock Theater’ promises to pit players against each other in a 2D theater arena filled with Behemoth’s wonderfully drawn weapons, obstacles, power-ups, hazards and cartoonish killing creatures. Up to four players can grab customized prisoners and a default weapon, and dive into stages that are filled with dynamic platforming action.

I expect that the game will have competitive modes, such as the Soul mode where players fight to posses each other’s souls through combat. Less obvious is the nature the cooperative modes. It looks almost as though Behemoth is tapping into the natural tendency for co-op players to want to mess with each other. Just think along the lines of helping your friend to climb up, only to push him or her down again. Since players share their score and need each other to finish scenes, cooperation is ensured. Yet horseplay also fits into the sometimes-chaotic level design. Behemoth has shown with ‘Castle Crashers’ how to keep up a game’s tempo and how to make the controlled chaos of the action humorous and fun. I expect ‘BattleBlock Theater’ to be even more frenetic. Plus, it’s going to have murderous cat wardens and avarice-inducing top hats. That’s just the right spice for a downloadable classic.

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