"A lot of the games do both of those well, and Crackdown is a game where you want to feel meaty, you want to feel physical; you want to feel heavy," he said. "But you're also kind of a bionic flea jumping through the air and doing all this crazy stuff. So it's all those tiny details and you continue to work on those all the way throughout."
Yes, this was a very early build of the game, but there was no evidence of something as fundamental as player animation being a focus or that the work Bundrick described was a priority -- especially considering that he compared agents to being bionic fleas. There's every chance that what I played was a bad or old demo. Those sort of things happen, but Bundrick's response was more than a little concerning for a game that's in the final stages of development ahead of its Nov. 7th street date. For now, I'm cautious, having been burned before.
As it stands, the brief portion I played felt like a kid awkwardly slipping into her parents' clothes, trying to pass for her mom. The closest thing Sumo has made to this type of open-world game was the Colorado level of last year's Hitman reboot. It showed.
Meaning, while Sumo has to work just to get the basics of its 10-year-old predecessor established (we're not going to talk about 2010's awful Crackdown 2 from Ruffian Games), Deep Silver Volition can build on the foundation of 2013's flawed Saint's Row IV. The Illinois-based team has been making open-world games exclusively since 2006's Saint's Row for the Xbox 360, and its confidence was tangible everywhere I looked.
"This is our wheelhouse, right?" producer Kate Nelson asked during my Mayhem demo at E3. "We know open-world games."
Saint's Row IV experimented with the Crackdown formula of collecting power-ups around a perpetually nighttime city to upgrade things like your avatar's flying power. But unlike Crackdown, advancing those less-than-thrilling skills didn't happen in real time; they were basically experience points you used to manually upgrade a set of abilities. It was a far cry from the instant gratification of suddenly being able to jump higher or seeing the cab of a semitruck transform into a nitrous-powered battering ram once you got behind the wheel.
Those still exist in Mayhem, but the powers you boost with them are so over the top that maybe the upgrade system won't be as annoying. Specifically, the Saint's Row spin-off adds Bayhem-esque abilities and super attacks (e.g., Ball Pit, which encases enemies in giant bouncy balls and sends them flying into the air). That's on top of a massive city to explore and an authored narrative dripping with Volition's trademark charm and wit.
Cutscenes are fully voice-acted, and there's constant chatter among you, your two asymmetrically skilled squad mates and agents back at home base. One of the missions has an internet-porn-obsessed Justin Bieber stand-in to investigate and then eliminate, for instance.
That's not to say there weren't issues here and there. Double jumping over elevated ledges didn't work 100 percent of the time, there were tons of menus to sift through to pick my various powers and abilities, and the targeting system wasn't as tight as I'd have liked. With how well everything else performed, though, I'm hopeful these can be addressed by the game's ship date on Aug. 15th.