E3 2012: SEGA hands-on

I concluded my tour of the SEGA booth with a demo of Aliens: Colonial Marines multiplayer. I assumed my role as a space marine while my enemies donned their xenomorph guises. It was aliens vs. humans with me and a handful of E3 attendees holding out for humanity. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the demo. Friends told me Aliens looked surprisingly good, but I remained skeptical that people were just forgetting to add “for a licensed game” at the end of their praise. After getting my hands on the demo, though, I must eat my words. Aliens is a great multiplayer experience.

Despite teaming up with a group of people I never met before, there was a surprising amount of teamwork and planning. No one ran off in a vain attempt to be the hero, we watched each other’s backs, and we all tread lightly into the unknown. Fighting against a horde of aliens out for blood is a scary experience, and no sensible person wants to face that alone. The few times I found myself separated from my squad mates due to spawn points or poor spatial skills, I got a bit nervous. As a single marine, there’s little you can do against one xenomorph, and they don’t normally attack alone. That tension is crucial to the multiplayer and it makes meeting up with teammates again much more rewarding.

Aliens was a fun cooperative way to finish my tour of the SEGA booth. Despite not knowing what made each game unique ahead of time, I walked away excited. Hell Yeah! shocked me and I hated leaving that demo before finishing the whole trial. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed stays true to the formula started by the previous Sonic kart racer, but adds just enough to feel fresh and unique. Finally, Aliens created a multiplayer experience that manages to maintain tension in an environment that’s totally player controlled. SEGA’s lineup is surprisingly stronger than I had anticipated.

Switching gears in perhaps the most dramatic way possible, I got a look at Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed next. I didn’t play much of the original All-Stars Racing, but I played enough to know that it was a well-made, fun kart racer. Transformed continues that tradition and adds some new features such as the addition of water (or lava) and air vehicles. As the name would imply, your kart transforms into the necessary vehicle when it reaches new terrain, much like Mario Kart 7. It may not be wholly original, but it works well and all the vehicles control as one might expect from a kart racer.

Transformed keeps the racing fresh, however, by triggering events each lap that change the track in some way. By the third lap of my initial race, a volcano had destroyed the track so much we had to fly over areas we previously drove over. My second race, themed after Super Monkey Ball, was a downhill race that teleported you back to the starting area once you reached the bottom in addition to adding new obstacles each lap. The strongest area of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed is its track design.

While wandering the show floor of E3 before my SEGA appointment, I realized something. I had no idea what to expect from this tour. I saw the Sonic kart racing game and Aliens booths, but I wasn’t sure what they were bringing to the table that was new. I had a lot to learn about SEGA’s lineup at E3, and I’m glad I got to see it. The games I saw packed more than a few surprises.

I began my SEGA tour with an XBLA title, Hell Yeah!, an action-adventure in the vein of Metroid or later Castlevanias. Hell Yeah!, much like it’s genre peers, is all about exploration, gaining abilities, and cartography. It’s also about violence – crude, brutal violence. Modeled after TV shows like Ren & Stimpy and Itchy & Scratchy, the game figuratively seeps blood out of TV screen within minutes of touching the controller. Only time will tell if the ultra-violence makes the game more interesting or just more controversial, but first impressions are positive. It’s just enough gore to elicit cheers but not enough to be repulsive.

To justify such a wild art style, Hell Yeah! has to pack an equally wild story. The player takes control of a skeletal bunny, son of the king of Hell, amidst a paparazzi scandal. The prince of Hell was photographed in his bathroom gleefully playing with his rubbery ducky. The heir to Hell’s throne should never have fun in a positive way while surrounded by the punished masses. The paparazzi images leak to the Hellternet, and the prince decides the best solution to this problem is to hunt and kill all 100 monsters who saw the pictures. Luckily for him, the photos didn’t go viral.