Pax East went down this past weekend in Boston, and Hip-Hop Wired was on the ground.
The biggest gaming convention on the east coast returned to Boston, kicking off Thursday, March 23, until Sunday, March 26. This year, it was at full capacity for the first time since the pandemic pulled the plug on everything globally.
Of course, it was done safely, and we are happy to report a strict masking rule was enforced, and you had to be searching to see if anyone wasn’t wearing a mask.
Anyway, the minute you walk onto the floor, it’s sensory overload due to all the video games from indie developers to titles from well-known video game studios on the convention floor.
Hip-Hop Wired got hands-on with several promising titles coming to multiple consoles this year. Let’s get it into it below.
Undisputed Is Shaping Up To Be A Serious Contender
It’s been a long time since we had a boxing video game, Fight Night: Champion had enthusiasts of the sport in a headlock in 2011.
Developers Steel City Interactive and Ten24 Media were hard at work during the pandemic to fill in the years-long void with their boxing game Undisputed, published by Plaion Games.
Immediately what stands out with the game is the presentation. Undisputed, hands down, kills it by giving players a true feel of a professional boxing match down to the boxer’s walkout with their team, the arenas, and stats before and after fights.
But what’s important is the action that takes place in the ring, and that’s where Steel City Interactive puts all of its focus. The game’s expansive roster of male and female boxers is welcoming. All the models look good in and out of the ring. During our demo, the developer noted that Roy Jones Jr. did some mocap work because he did not like the virtual version of himself. You can tell the studio went to great detail to capture his unique but flashy fighting style, from how he blocks with his shoulder to how he throws up his hands.
Digging even deeper into boxing action is very expansive, allowing players to change how the boxers navigate around the ring, guarding and button pressing to throw a wide variety of punches, whether regular or power shots.
Impressive Camera Work, But We Have One Complaint
Camera work is also impressive in the game. Typically, we are used to a tighter camera in boxing games, but this one pans out a bit more and quickly follows the action. What we wished was present is the camera zooming in when sh*t gets real, and a boxer is on the ropes and about to see stars from a devasting haymaker.
Another disappointing thing is that when the punches land, you don’t feel their impact in the game, like when you hit someone in Fight Night, for example. The punches in Fight Night feel more devasting, but make no mistake, despite that issus, it’s still cool to see knockouts happen in Unidisputed.
We scored a stunning body knockout with Canelo Álvarez, who specializes in delivering vicious body blows to his opponents. It was an incredible moment to witness and rewarding to land, so the developer praised us for catching him with it.
Overall, our experience with Undisputed was a positive one; we can see it giving boxing fans their video game fix and possibly getting one particular studio motivated to revive its boxing video game franchise.
Undisputed is currently available in early access on Steam, so be aware if you purchase it now, you’re not getting the full experience. You are also helping it become the great game it can become.
No word when a console version is coming, but devs say it’s in the cards, and they want to make sure it’s perfect.
Dead Island 2 Is Mindless Zombie Killing Fun
Dead Island 2 is an interesting game. One reason it has been the victim of numerous delays and has been development hell, with many wondering if the game was coming out at all.
Well, that question was answered, and Dead Island 2 has a firm release date of April 21, 2023, and is playable. Dambuster Studios’ follow-up to its looter zombie shooter was high on the list of games to try out while we were at Pax East, and we left cautiously optimistic.
Our demo had us playing on the game’s boardwalk/amusement park level, armed to the teeth with two guns, a katana sword, and two other upgraded weapons.
Dead Island 2 recaptures the energy of the first game but refines it just a bit. Hacking up zombies looks really good, and in our 30 minutes, we had fun with what we got to experience. There were tense moments when trying to complete an objective where the action would pick up, and hordes of different kinds of undead will try to impede your progress.
Dead Island 2 is a ridiculous, fun game, as it always has been, and that’s where it will win.
We are still intrigued to pick up the sticks for Dead Island 2 when it finally arrives on all consoles and PC via Steam.
WrestleQuest A Body Slamming Role Playing Adventure
Have you ever wanted to play a traditional RPG that revolves around wrestling? Well, Mega Cat Studios is here to make your dreams come true with WrestleQuest.
In our 30 minutes with the game, we took on the role of Randy Santos, who is clearly modeling his wrestling career after the late superstar Macho Man Randy Savage.
The game is a traditional turn-based wrestling RPG with players doing everything their favorite wrestlers do in and out of the ring. Randy will embark on missions. For example, during our demo, we had to get some mask dye for a wrestler who needed help in picking his wrestling persona from a wrestling mask store that we learned upon arrival had been taken hostage by some goons.
Each enemy counter will see you land inside a wrestling ring where you can attack and taunt your enemies before beating them into a pin or a submission move to win the battle. WrestleQuest was announced about a year ago and is still smoothly coming along.
Speaking with the devs, they told us they went for a toy aesthetic when designing the characters featuring real wrestling superstars like Sgt Slaughter, Jake The Snake Roberts, Andre The Giant, The Legion of Doom, and Macho Man Randy Savage.
WrestleQuest arrives on all consoles, including Steam, in May 2023.
Strayed Lights Is A Beautiful Parrying Experience
Strayed Lights from France-based studio Embers immediately caught our attention when we saw the trailer, so it was high on our list of games to try at Pax East. There is no dialogue, with Grammy award-winning composer Austin Wintory’s (Journey, Abzû, and The Banner Saga Series) atmospheric soundtrack providing the vibes and the action and games’ stunning visual presentation plus cinematics to help tell the story.
In the demo Embers developers brought to Pax East, you start as a young light waking up in a beautiful, mysterious world, trying to figure out what is happening. You eventually mature or awaken after encountering your reflection, one of the mysterious shadow creatures you encounter throughout the demo.
Your character gets infused with dark shadow energy that will allow you to switch your lights during combat, which will help you parry their moves, build up power, and hit them with a devastating attack.
Speaking with developers on site, Strayed Lights draws heavy inspiration from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice as far as the combat system, which is not difficult to learn, but it does increase in difficulty as you encounter larger enemies. Strayed Lights also draws from Shadow of The Colossus in scale, having your character face off against giant foes.
Strayed Lights is very promising and left us wanting to play more after our time with the demo ended. We expect to see hear more people talking about this title.
Strayed Lights will be available on April 25, 2023, on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Teamwork Is Paramount In Blackout Protocol
Some games are good alone, but others are much more enjoyable when playing with friends. That is the case with Blackout Protocol, a co-op top-down twin-stick shooter from Ocean Drive Studio.
In the roguelike game, you play as a crew of agents who each have a particular set of skills and run headfirst into a research laboratory full of zombies and other “otherworldly horrors.”
Teamwork is paramount to ensure successful runs, or you will end up dying again, again and again. The demo we played was on PC, and we had to utilize a mouse and keyboard, which was foreign to us because we are very console spoiled. But the developer did ensure a console version is on the way, but the PC version is getting all the attention now.
The game was fun and insanely challenging, and it is for sure something we would love to grab two friends and boot up to see how far we can get.
You can peep the official reveal trailer for Blackout Protocol below.
Road 96: Mile 0 Is A Prequel To The Hit Narrative Adventure Game
Road 96: Mile 0 is a prequel to 2021’s Road 96, developer DigixArt’s hit narrative adventure game. In the prequel, players control Zoe, who appears in the first game and hails from the wealthy side of White Sands, with her father working for President Tyrak’s government as the Minister of Oil.
The game’s other character, Kaito, is also from DigixArt’s first game, Lost in Harmony. He had a rough upbringing and was born in the poor city of Colton City. Kaito and his family relocate to White Sands to escape the pollution and find new jobs.
Zoe finds Kaito’s dark demeanor intriguing and gets close to the skateboarder. Kaito exposes Zoe to the dark truths about her country and father, eventually leading to Zoe fleeing her home and other events from the first game.
The demo didn’t let us play the narrative-driven moments, but we did get to try out two separate Inner Worlds sections. The rhythm-based sections explore Kaito and Zoe’s inner thought processes. Players will skate through the sections while trippy rides and make narrative and emotional decisions that shape the two friends’ journey.
The two segments were different. One had Kaito riding his skateboard through a very dark apocalyptic setting while Zoe evades pursuers on rollerblades.
Both were fun and will have you going hard to achieve a high grade.
Road 96: Mile 0 is coming to Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PS5 & PS4 on April 4, 2023.
Photo: Getty Images