Last weekend, I had the opportunity to partake in a dying trend in the gaming industry: playing demos!
Demos used to be key in the video game world before YouTube gave people unfettered access to Let’s Plays and Live Streams. Yet while we have greater access to game information than ever before, it still helps to actually try how the game feels before deciding on a purchase. After all, being a “player” is what separates gaming from every other medium, right?
I tried three demos on my Xbox One last weekend, all games in franchises I’m familiar with. Here are my reviews for each one:
(note: the ratings I give are purely on the quality of the demo, not what I think the game overall deserves)
Forza Horizon 3
Demo Rating: 10/10
The demo for upcoming open-world driving game Forza Horizon 3 doesn’t just give you a taste of the action; it essentially serves as the first 30 minutes of the game. Much like prior entries in the franchise, Horizon 3 doesn’t waste too much time explaining the nuances of the controls or the purpose of all your actions. It simply drops you in the middle of Byron Bay, Australia and has you driving through some of the most gorgeous landscapes I’ve ever seen in a console game.
The graphics are beautiful, the controls are nearly perfect, the sound design is excellent, and the world seems so vast and large that I got the feeling Forza Horizon 3 will be one of the higher value experiences of 2016.
Once the demo basically ended, it explained what you will see should you buy the actual game, namely what looks to be a robust online mode as well as an even bigger open world than I had originally thought. Based on the demo alone, I might have to pick this one up.
NBA 2K17: The Prelude
Demo Rating: 7.5/10
I’ve long been a fan of the NBA 2K series, and I have no doubt that the latest entry in the franchise will be excellent. What my rating comes down to is really an average of the two modes available in the demo: MyCareer Prelude, which was very good, and 2KU, which was annoying and terrible.
In the MyCareer mode in the demo, you get to customize your character ahead of the game’s release, select where he goes to college, and actually play through his college career (only five games, but still). The controls are smooth as ever, the graphics are crisp, and the story built around your character actually resembles that of a real college athlete (the game even includes a media gasbag who continues to spew hot takes about your player being overrated). After playing through the Prelude, I was left hungry for more (which is, you know, the point of a demo).
On the other hand, while I was actually downloading the demo, I saw the “ready to start” sign after 38%, clicked it, and found I could do the training mode, known as 2KU. Instead of giving me drills to do or a free form practice, it just puts you on a court with nine other players and interrupts the action frequently with an explanation of the controls that I did not ask for. Such interruptions occur so frequently that it ruined my experience while waiting for MyCareer to load. These modes need to have a mode or something that lets the game know your familiarity with the series. GAMES SHOULD KNOW ME BETTER!!!
(side note: I hate this “ready to start” nonsense on Xbox One downloads. Just let me know when the whole thing is ready and don’t rope me in to some half-assed experience while I wait for the real deal to be ready. This is easily one of my biggest gripes with modern gaming, next to the fact that they don’t make games like Kirby Air Ride anymore.)
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2
The first Pac-Man Championship Edition (as well as CE:DX) reinvented the classic series in ways that made it believably adaptable to the modern gaming atmosphere. In the latest entry in the series, not much has changed (at least in the demo). The heavy-techno music gets louder and faster as you progress, the levels get more complicated, the ghosts get smarter, and the tasks become more complex as you go along. It was everything a video game should be; fun, chaotic, colorful, and addicting.
The only qualms I have with the demo were the way the features were presented. I ended up spending more time with the tutorial than actually playing the damn game, which I suppose makes sense for a demo but still dampened my experience a little bit. Still, it’s pretty much what I expected it to be, and I would recommend anyone versed in Pac-Man to give this one a try.
Picture Above: forzamotorsport.net