Hands-On at PAX Prime 2015

Image captured by Hatmonster

This year I had the tremendous good fortune of being able to attend PAX Prime, and thus was able to get some hands-on time with some of the exciting games due out in the next several months! The actual demos ranged from kinda long to kinda short, but all were enough to form a reasonable impression of each game. I can’t say for certain whether any of these will actually be good in the end, but I can say that what I’ve seen so far has me excited for them! Well…most of them anyway.

Halo 5: Guardians

First up is Halo 5: Guardians, more specifically its “Warzone” gametype. While playing “warzone”, I couldn’t help feeling like it was both something familiar and something new. Its basic setup is kind of like a combination of Halo 4’s “Dominion” and the classic “Territories” game-types, with a little bit of “Team Slayer” thrown in for good measure. The objective is simple: capture areas on a map and hold them until your team is able to either out-kill the other team or destroy their base’s core. Points are earned by capturing control points, scoring kills against the enemy team, and by successfully engaging the computer controlled NPC faction that will regularly spawn somewhere on the map. Capturing control points is vitally important to winning the game. Not only do they award points, but they also provide additional spawn areas for your team and, depending on what was captured, they can unlock better weapons and vehicles for your team to use against their opponents. Finally, personal loadouts worked differently too. Throughout the game, your character earns energy. Once you’ve gained enough, you gain the option to spawn with more powerful weapons. Choosing a better consumes a portion your energy reserve; meaning that you’ll need to wait until it’s been built up again before you can select better armaments.

I sensed a faint echo of Destiny in some of the moves available to my Spartan as well as in that energy meter. That energy meter fills slowly throughout the match and gives access to powerful weapons, much like the super meter in Destiny grants access to powerful abilities. Also, like the Titans in Destiny, each Spartan is able to perform a one-hit-kill shoulder charge and ground pound. Other than that though, it still felt like Halo. The shooting mechanics felt nice and familiar, and the map I played on was quite large, supporting close quarters encounters, distant targeting, and vehicle encounters. I didn’t like that my team got stomped on by our competition, but this demo left me hopeful that the next installment of Halo will build upon the solid foundation Halo 4 left for it!

Just Cause 3

Having never played either of the two previous Just Cause games, I can’t tell you how much of an improvement the newest game will be over the last one. What I can tell you is that I witnessed several delightfully creative ways to blow up a bridge (including one method that involved standing upside-down on the bottom of a helicopter and shooting the supports with a rocket launcher), the ability to make a giant statue facepalm itself using grapple wires, and that I played at least one wing-suit minigame. If the full game is anything like this when it’s released this December, then I seriously recommend picking up this wonderful sandbox of action-movie style destruction!

Rise of the Tomb Raider

I had the opportunity to spend about 15 minutes with the PAX demo for Rise of the Tomb Raider, and I have to say that it left me a really good first impression. Now, mechanically the game is more or less the same as its predecessor. Lara controls just about the same as she did in the last game, and during the demo I found myself guiding her through plenty of familiar territory. There were walls to climb, ledges to shimmy across, traps to break out of, and so on. Failing a QTE or guiding Lara the wrong way also follows the lead of the previous game (i.e. the results are fairly gruesome). Nasty death sequences aside though, these are all good things. The controls are nice and responsive like they were before, and traversing the tomb was actually rather fun. A major addition to the control scheme is the ability to have Lara push herself up to grab hold of a ledge if you miscalculated a jump. It’s something that feels right at home in the game and goes a long way towards cutting down on the cheap deaths that weighed down its predecessor.

Story-wise, Lara appears to have developed a taste for adventure, and doesn’t even seem to mind entering a war-zone if it means getting another step closer to finding what she’s looking for. There wasn’t enough context to say whether or not this would actually be in-character for this iteration of Lara, but it looks like they’ll have some opportunity to provide some. Hopefully they’ll take advantage of it. Finally, if the demo is a reliable reflection of the full game then we can expect more proper puzzle-solving throughout the game. The small section I played had more than a couple little teasers to keep the mind engaged. The demo did not include the main puzzle of the tomb, so I can’t yet say whether or not we’ll be seeing anything more complex than the tombs in the last game. So far so good though.

Rainbow Six: Siege

Another game I had the chance to get some time with. I’ve never played a Rainbow Six game before, so like Just Cause 3 I can’t say whether or not it was better than other games in the series. What I can say is that what I played was interesting to say the least. What I played was a 5v5 match of “TerroHunt”, which pitted my team of SWAT personnel against a wave of AI-controlled terrorists. Admittedly it was all a bit much for me to process at the time, but here’s the gist of it. Each player on the team had a defined role: shield, intel, demolitions, guy who cleared obstructions and traps, and support. We were able to vote to choose our insertion point and decided to enter from a skylight on the roof of the building we were sent in to liberate. Entering from there involved grappling up the wall and repelling upside-down through the skylight to the second floor. From there I’d call the game something similar to horde mode with capture points, the major difference being that the enemy could enter from almost anywhere by breaking through walls and ceilings. It was confusing, but fun. I’m sure current Rainbow Six fans will love it, but I’m not sure if it’ll be able to win over many new players.


This was the last game I got to try, and I honestly didn’t think I would have as much fun with it as I did. Developed by Good Mood Creators, MechaZoo is a throwback to 2D platforming with a twist. The character you play as is a robot animal, and well actually that’s about as specific as I can get about the player character in this game. You see, your robot animal has the ability to transform into several different animals, so its true form is kind of a mystery at this point. The demo I played included one level, and allowed me to use two robot animal forms: a frog and an armadillo. Succeeding in the level depended on achieving mastery over each form’s abilities and knowing when to switch between them. The frog was good for eating enemies and attaching to grapple points, while the armadillo’s pupose was to roll up hills and through loops Sonic the Hedghog-style. There were some awkward points at I tried to hop up hills and tried in vain to grapple on to things just out of reach, but soon I was zipping along, zooming through half-pipes and tongue-swinging with the best of them! It was a game that really felt good once I got some momentum going and learned how transform on the fly. The game is currently on Steam Greenlight, but if you’d like to learn more, you can follow this link:

And that was my hands-on time at PAX in a nutshell. There were plenty of other games to try, but alas I was not able to try everything. If you’d like to know more about the games at this year’s PAX Prime, just let me know. I didn’t get to try everything, but I did get to watch a bit and learned a bit more about some other games at developer panels.

5 thoughts on “Hands-On at PAX Prime 2015”

    1. It helped that the lines for Just Cause and MekaZoo were short. Otherwise it would have just been one game per day.

      Do you usually check out the panels? They’re a lot of fun!

      1. Just Cause 3 didn’t have a long line? That’s both a surprise and shame!

        Yeah, panels are a big draw for me especially if there’s one I care about when I’m at the show. I’ll make sure to line up in advance.

      2. Actually, there were always plenty of people waiting for Just Cause 3, I should have clarified that the line was short because it was very well-managed. They had 6 stations for the game, and the actual demo was just a slice of gameplay you chose to play, and no matter which one you chose, you were only at the station for maybe 5 minutes. I watched people mess around with tanks and rocket launchers while I was waiting and chose to try the wingsuit minigame because it looked new. (It was also a lot of fun btw!)

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