An In-Depth Look at Wreckateer @ E3 2012

The presentation of the upcoming XBLA title Wreckateer from developer Iron Galaxy that is being published exclusively for Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE Arcade by Microsoft Game Studios as one of the elements of Microsoft's Pre-E3 Xbox 360 Press Briefing was delivered via the big screen at the press briefing by a vivacious and excited young female gamer -- Alex Ruiz from Microsoft Game Studios -- who provided a live gameplay demo that included her taking a few very well-placed shots with the massive Ballista to terrific effect.

According to Alex Ruiz the game was conceived as Angry Birds with the player as the bird -- and while that description sounds cool it really is not all that accurate considering that what Wreckateer really is, in addition to being a world destruction title that happens to be VERY Kinect-focused, according to Alex "Wreckateer is about fun -- you just go in and if you like wrecking stuff, if you like seeing explosions, if you like taking out Goblins wearing bunny suits, you know, whatever... And then you can also appeal to the more competitive side; you can get a higher score if you hit that tower at just the right spot -- you know, get your action going on with a split-shot just at the right point, so it really appeals to a broad audience, and you can have fun no matter what kind of game you are in to."

Finding the right Goblin-filled castle is just the start of the challenge -- finding the best way to destroy the castle is the second stage!

Considering that Wreckateer is not only an XBLA title and an Xbox + Kinect Title, it also happens to be one of the cornerstone titles for this year's Summer of Arcade 2012, which is Microsoft's effort to help gamers battle boredom during the Summer Doldrums.

The Kinect-side of the game is, of course, featuring you as the controller -- and as we watched Alex on the stage spread her arms as she steps up and then reaches down and grabs ahold of the Ballista just as if she were doing it inside of the game -- pulling back on the Ballista, she releases it and the large piece of ammunition flies through the air -- holding her arms out like they are wings, she guides the shot through the air, taking it precisely to the target location that she wanted in order to do the most damage, and as the round slams into the tower, we see Goblins flying as bricks and mortar are turned into shrapnel that helps take out even more of the infrastructure of the tower and we get a very impressive sample of the destructive power that we -- as the controller -- can bring to the game!

The Official Wreckateer Demo at the Pre-E3 2012 Xbox 360 Press Briefing at USC's Galen Center.

The Xbox LIVE Summer of Arcade 2012
Returning to the XBLA platform is another entry in the annual Summer of Arcade program that has, since 2008, been providing gamers with new titles in the arcade world to help them with the battle vs. boredom that crops up each summer when the Summer Doldrums set it... Wreckateer is actually the second game scheduled to be released as part of the five titles that make up the Summer of Arcade -- and gamers will be interested to note that once again the SoA program features a

Buy Three and Get a Bonus offering -- gamers who purchase any three of the five Summer of Arcade hits will get 400 Microsoft Points as a reward for participating in the promotion... The points will be automatically added to your account at the conclusion of the promotion.

The official release schedule is:

-- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD -- Available July 18th for 1200 MS Points

-- Wreckateer -- Available July 25th for 800 MS Points

-- Deadlight -- Available August 1st for 1200 MS Points

-- Hybrid -- Available August 8th for 1200 MS Points

-- Dust: An Elysian Tail -- Available August 15th for 1200 MS Points

Created as a physics-based destruction game, the world in which Wreckateer takes place is a construction of a sort of fantasy medieval environment in which the primary enemy -- Goblins -- are an easy to dislike focus for ire and Ballista rounds! In Wreckateer the gamer plays the role of a new recruit to the "Wreck & Tinker Destruction Company" which has been hired by the King to demolish a series of Goblin-infested castles across the Kingdom.

As mentioned above and seen in the demo, gamers take control of a ballista-type siege weapon that, using a supply of regular and magic ammunition, allows the player to select their type of ammo and then use their skills to demolish the enemy castles, ramparts, bridges, and towers. This is accomplished by grabbing the ballista within the virtual construct of the game, aiming it, and then releasing the shot, after which (depending on the type of ammunition) the gamer then guides the round to the desired target spot with varying degrees of accuracy.

At least part of the "skill" in applying post-release guidance includes understanding the physics that apply to each ammunition type -- as guiding the shots is not an identical process for all of them. The Ballista makes very effective use of the Kinect controller, as once the gamer begins to acquire experience with the device it delivers a close-to-real feel in how it is charged, aimed, and fired -- and of course the process of altering the trajectory of each shot in mid-air (an effort that leads directly to improving the number of points rewarded for each shot, a process that can be improved even further by making use of the different power-ups available to the player) in order to better target the shots in order to improve their destructive power by aiming at weaker spots or strategically significant spots on the target.

While the live demonstration at the Pre-E3 Microsoft Xbox Press Briefing including demonstrations for the Split-Shot (a rather large type of ammunition that splits into four smaller projectiles after it is launched and that permits gamers to expand, contract, and rotate the shots in the air thereby improving the resulting damage), and the "Flying Shot" that, with spread arms, the gamer can literally fly to its target spot with bird-like gestures, again permitting a more effective destructive outcome.

Not shown in the demo are the standard plain shot, and the special explosive rounds -- and while complete information about the variety of shot types is not, at present, known, there are said to be three other types that will be part of the game that, when combined with the different Power-Ups will offer more experienced gamers expanded options for both damage type and improved points.

Getting the shot right leads to good points -- improving your shot and adding Power-Ups leads to higher bonus points, which is part of the pay-off for improving your wrecking skills!

Usually we see a strong focus upon explosives and traditional cannons within the genre of world-destruction games, so the substitution of a Ballista -- even if it includes among the variety of ammo types supplied for it the traditional explosive rounds -- is nonetheless an interesting alternative to the usual aim and push-button approach, and of course combining that unique choice with the Kinect motion-sensing controller is a brilliant move on the part of Microsoft considering that the game really does feature a perfect game play environment for Kinect, which is something we cannot say about all of the games -- arcade and regular -- that have been released for it.

We suspect that Wreckateer will be this seasons equal to last year's The Gunstringer -- a Kinect-focused game that has just the right collection of elements and appeal to turn it into a surprise hit with gamers for reasons that go beyond the usual, nicely folding into the fact that whether it was engineered from the start with Kinect in mind or not, it turns out to be a perfect fit for that type of game play. We can easily imaging Wreckateer becoming the focus for group play and healthy game competition!

The inevitable comparisons between Wreckateer and Angry Birds are easy to understand -- but while Angry Birds does have the sort of addictive game play element that is required for cult-status, we find that Wreckateer has elements to its play that Angry Birds lacks, not the least of which is the fact that because the gamer has control over their shots after they leave the launcher, the process of improving one's score and, perhaps more important than that, applying a greater degree of skill than luck, will in the end offer more game play satisfaction, which is never a bad thing.

Wreckateer will be available on XBLA on July 25th for 800 MS Points, and we expect will become one of this summer's more memorable games.

Posted: 26th Jun 2012 by CMBF
Wreckateer, Xbox 360, E3, XBLA, 2012,