Once a year, the Penny Arcade Expo comes to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and invites gamers from all over to join the fun. If you don’t know what Penny Arcade is, first of all shame on you, and secondly it is a webcomic series that has grown to become versed in various forms of media. From merchandising, to getting its own video game for the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, to even a documentary-style video series on Gametrailers.com, Penny Arcade has grown into an idea that represents gamer culture.
Enter PAX East, a gaming party masquerading as a convention. (It’s referred to as PAX East because the “main” convention is located in Seattle, WA and is referred to as PAX Prime.) The social, party-esque atmosphere can be felt through almost every corridor: From the dedicated hallway filled with bean-bag chairs where gamers can play their mobile platforms and hang out, to the console and PC free-play areas where anyone can kick back and play video games in the company of a room filled with like-minded individuals. There’s even a “Classic Arcade” filled with retro cabinets for the weepy-eyed nostalgic types, or the youngsters who want to try their hand at some old-school titles. (Both groups are impatient, easily irritated and have a unique aroma so pick your poison.)
That’s not to say the exhibition hall is a waste of time, quite the contrary in fact. Showcasing some of the latest and greatest, PAX East was primed (see what I did there?) and ready to drop some jaws and stop a few hearts. Here’s a brief rundown of the most impressive items on display:
L.A. Noire- After being blindfolded, thrown into the back of a truck and brought to an undisclosed location that smelled like salt water and hopelessness, I was treated to a live demo of Rockstar Game’s latest open-world thriller. Okay besides the demo part, none of that actually happened, but either way L.A. Noire looks incredible. Set in the 1940’s players will assume the role of Detective Cole Phelps as he investigates a variety of unsolved cases by interrogating suspects, questioning leads and following hunches. “Gamescan” technology will bring realistic facial expressions to characters, adding a layer of depth to interrogations as Phelps tries to unravel a series of grisly murders.
Nintendo 3DS- After getting my hands on the 3DS and trying out a handful of titles ranging from Street Fighter and Dead or Alive: Dimensions to Kid Icarus and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I can safely say that the 3DS makes good on its claim for glasses-free 3-D. Interestingly enough, the most impressive display of the systems capabilities came in the form of “AR Cards,” which are physical cards players can place on a table and, using the 3DS’s camera, create an augmented reality mini-game based on the surroundings. Players must then physically move the system, which will be tracked by the internal gyroscope, and use their sense of depth to complete challenges while keeping the 3DS focused on the card.
Child of Eden- A new game for the Xbox 360 and PS3 that uses the motion sensing capabilities of Kinect and Move and a personal favorite. Child of Eden is the spiritual successor to Rez, meaning it’s an epilepsy-inducing, pulse-pounding, psychedelic on-rails shooter. It’s much easier, and enjoyable, to play than it is to try and explain. Publisher Ubisoft displayed the game at their booth, which is being developed by Q Entertainment. This is the first game that will actually make you want to brag about having a Kinect.
Some other notable titles on display were: Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bioware’s entry into the MMORPG space which promises to give players the rich, meaningful story we’ve come to expect of the team. The Mortal Kombat reboot, which is as bloody and satisfying as its ever been. Bastion, an action-RPG from Indie developer SuperGiant Games debuting on the PSN and XBLA. And finally, the long awaited, much anticipated FPS, Duke Nukem Forever.
PAX East is a trip worth taking. It’s an experience that reminds gamers why we do what we do. It’s also the most relaxed and socially-tuned convention you could attend. From the impromptu concerts to the tabletop board game tournaments, PAX is everything gamers are looking for, and even a few things they weren’t. (Why are you dressed as Wonder Woman, ma’am? You clearly don’t have the… anything for it.)