Bayonetta, MadWorld, Infinite Space, Vanquish -- the four titles that Platinum Games had under an agreement with SEGA have all come and gone, complete with high praise from critics the world over. The question had to be “What next?” for the group initially formed from former Clover Studio staff that worked under the Capcom label. The answer was that the team is stepping up its game considerably, striking a deal with Konami to work on Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, as well as Nintendo for the Wii U exclusive, Project P-100, directed by Hideki Kamiya who previously worked on Bayonetta and produced by studio head, Atsushi Inaba. Cubed3 recently went hands-on with the early E3 build of the temporarily-named title.
Project P-100 was one of the biggest (and most pleasant) surprises to come out of Nintendo’s Wii U line-up at E3 -- not least because it wasn't shown during their conference. Why not? No idea! However, it definitely seems like a missed opportunity in retrospect. Platinum Games’ latest outing feels like a cross between the over-the-top combat from the company’s previous beat ‘em ups (such as Bayonetta) and the group mechanics of games such as Pikmin or Overlord. Also, it is all coated in some genuinely attractive Saturday morning cartoon aesthetics.
You control a group of characters working together as a single unit as they attempt to repel alien invaders. The group can perform basic attacks at any time, huddle together in a gelatinous blob to defend each other, or spiral off together in a giant slinky to dodge foes. The real fun starts when you initiate “Unite” attacks either by tracing simple shapes on the Wii U GamePad or by flicking the right analogue stick. These attacks bind the group together into Green Lantern-like powerhouses of destruction; a giant sword, a deadly laser gun, or a deadly fist, for example.
Combat feels smooth and intuitive. Blocking is very responsive, and dodging effortlessly maintains the flow and ferocity of combat. Even after just a few minutes of play everything starts to click. Enemies range from basic grunts through to long-range tanks and right up to massive mechanical robots. Unite attacks eat up “battery power,” so it’s important to balance them with other moves. Collectable goodies spew forth from downed foes, and swallowing those up with the help of dozens of characters feels great. Hidden goodies encourage extra exploration, too.
Unite attacks can also be used to solve puzzles; bypassing obstacles or unlocking doors, for example. There is even a short scene during which the action moves over to the Wii U Game Pad and demands touch-screen input to solve a more complicated puzzle. With that puzzle aside, however, Project P-100 could just as easily be played with a regular controller, so here’s hoping the final game will seamlessly integrate more Wii U-tailored content. For now it’s enough to say that Project P-100 is original, quirky, and -- if the E3 demo is anything to go by -- a whole lot of fun to boot.
- Karn Bianco, Special Guest Contributor.
MadWorld was hailed at the time of release for its intense, unique style, yet personally it felt as if the artistic approach of black and white, with plenty of bright red blood was used to cover up what was basically a flawed and repetitive button masher. It certainly had some critics split, as did Infinite Space, the strategic ‘space opera’ that struck a positive personal chord, but left others feeling like it was long-winded and did not fulfil its potential. Project P-100 looks to fall into the same category, likely causing a rift amongst followers of the company. Being on the pod almost opposite Pikmin 3 also did not help, given its similarities in concept, yet comparatively over complicated control mechanic. The poor woman trying to explain how to get to grips with what is being described as a ‘mass-hero action’ video game had to do so in record time before I saw the on-screen display. Why? Well, clearly she was concerned that the ridiculously in-depth control layout shown before the stage began would put the fear of God in me.
Project P-100 is definitely not one of those ‘pick-up-and-play’ types of game, and there was little surprise as to why it was one of the least busy pods on the show floor at the London post-E3 event. Anyone unwilling to take the time to figure out what every single button did, and what every on-screen prompt meant, whilst simultaneously somehow managing to fend off the onslaught of attacks from crazy robots and ensuring the right mix of team and solo attacks were used, would simply walk away in disgust, or even downright fear!
Control concerns aside, delving into the melee led to being thrown into a general cityscape under threat from an alien invasion, led by a very Viewtiful Joe-esque superhero chap that is shockingly stripped to his underwear upon defeat. However, there was the chance to change this during the frantic action, but 1.) it was not clear if having a different lead made a difference, 2.) women characters were not stripped to their underwear upon death (major point, obviously!). It took about three tries to really get to grips with Project P-100, and it was only after a few tries that the button-mashing technique died down slightly in favour of some applied tactical planning, using the large fist, giant sword and protective cover options accessible via the GamePad touch-screen in the most useful way, whilst keeping an eye out for energy-replenishing batteries around the local area.
After several minutes of frenzied attacking within a restricted zone, progress could eventually be made once all enemies had been despatched, moving onto the next confined area, until the scene changed to an indoor enclosure where the action transferred across to the GamePad for a close-up view and the chance to carry out some specific tasks to unlock the route to once more reach the outside world. Either this particular style should be used sparingly or it needs to be developed further into the journey since in its current brief state it merely broke the flow and seemed a rather pointless addition. It is understandable that Platinum Games wants to make use of the GamePad more, but the first showing of such an idea did not quite work as perhaps planned. As with the rest of the game, there are many aspects that look like they will take time to get used to, especially later into the demo tried where different button combinations and analogue stick twists were required. The question has to be whether or not anyone other than hardcore traditional gamers will bother to exert such effort.
- Adam Riley, Operations Director.