CES 2012: Square Enix - Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Hitman: Absolution

by: Sean Cahill -
I had the opportunity during my time in Las Vegas to sit down with the good people over at Square Enix and get a preview of two highly anticipated titles of 2012 in Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Hitman: Absolution.
 
Final Fantasy XIII-2
 
First and foremost, let us say that the development team over at Square Enix has listened to the fans and addressed the biggest complaint from the first title in that it was too linear.  In the demo that I received, which is currently available on Xbox Live and Playstation Network, the world is far more open.  Sure, there is still that entire need to follow Point A to Point B, but opening up the menu itself will show a world that needs to be discovered with plenty of NPCs and such to interact with.  It's going back to the basics for Final Fantasy, the reason that the game has locked in its fans for over 20 years.  Fans should enjoy the more open areas to roam, giving them the feeling that they are truly choosing the direction to go with in the game.
 
The game itself will focus on two characters primarily.  Lightning’s younger sister, Serah, and Noel Kreiss, a time traveler from the future who is the last human alive in his time, attempting to restore the past so he can change his world’s fate.  Lightning will make appearances as a knight in Valhalla, which is a void area in the world.  The battle system has not changed much from the predecessor of the series, keeping the job roles in tact, such as Sentinel, Ravager, Medic, etc.  The third member of the party is used by your choice of 150 monsters that also take on these roles, though their roles are set instead of being changed by the player.  Added into the battle system are cinematic attacks, which fans of games in the past of the franchise can relate it to Sabin’s Blitz system from Final Fantasy VI in which you have to input proper commands in order to execute an attack.
 
Making a comeback in this game as well is Mog, who is a supporter of the group and helps the player find useful items along the way, some of which are absolutely vital to the advancement in the quest.  Little changes have also been made to the HUD in-game, such as the mini map now always pointing north, which was not the case in the previous game and made things somewhat confusing for players as to which direction they were going.  On top of these changes, 360 gamers will no longer feel as though they have an inferior looking product as the graphics have been shored up to look close to the PS3’s Blu-Ray version.
 
Final Fantasy XIII-2will be available in North America on January 31, 2012, just a couple of weeks away.  Be sure to check out the demo yourself in preparation for the launch!
 
Hitman: Absolution
 
While we know plenty about what to expect out of Final Fantasy XIII-2, the fifth game in the Hitman series is one that we know little about.  Hints and teasers go back to as early as 2007, but now that we have official confirmation from both Square Enix and developer IO Interactive that the game is in full development, fans of the series can look forward to the next installment.  I was lucky enough to be treated to an early build of the game as a walkthrough through one of the missions.
 
Those of you who are a fan of the Hitman series will recognize the classic style of gameplay.  Stealth is certainly rewarded as you progress throughout the game, but sometimes you need to be a bit more violent to be rewarded with information.  The game is open enough where it allows you to decide how to eliminate your targets one by one.  The “Silent Assassin” reward is there yet again, given only to the finest players mission to mission, and it is much harder to achieve this than in games past.
 
Enemies that you encounter can be alerted by your presence whenever and however you want, such as throwing objects to gain their attention or just flat out running in front of them to take them head-on.  The alert system gives you an elevated warning system that will allow you to ascertain just how much the enemy is alerted to your presence.
 
Building upon the gameplay system is what was shown at E3 this past year called the Instinct System.  There are varying levels to this, but it will affect you in different ways, such as being able to predict an enemy’s path that he will walk or even slowing things down and giving you the chance to pick and choose your targets carefully for as many bullets as you have at your disposal.  It’s a unique twist to what we have seen in “bullet-time” style shootings, and it is very, very smooth.
 
There is no hard release date for Hitman: Absolution just yet, other than expecting it at some point in 2012.  More information will become available as the year rolls on.

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