It’s E3 week and that means a lot of game news is out and about. Arcades are not dominating that news but they are there in a greater degree than seen previously, such as at Namco’s booth, Jersey Jack Pinball and Adrenaline Amusements. One game that is not there but I finally had the opportunity to check out today at a showcase by Mountain Coin in Salt Lake City is the new Big Buck HD by Play Mechanix and Raw Thrills.
The version they had there was a single Panoramic version, which is a model that does not come with a monitor thus allowing the operator to purchase their own at a price level they are comfortable with. The cabinet itself is thus cheaper than the standard version which comes with a 32″ monitor. What’s interesting is that they are pushing operators who go with the Panoramic version to pick a good monitor with little latency. This is something you normally hear about for fighting games but it is something that affects other games. In particular you want monitors with good “Game Modes” since that is supposed to handle the latency problem. Otherwise lag like that can affect the game.
Since we last heard about the game’s unveiling at Amusement Expo in March, there have been a few additions to the game:
-The game has a keypad built into the front control panel, right above the for entering in your password as seen below. That’s a nice change as it makes that part easier if its your preference although you can still enter in that information by pointing the gun at the screen.
-32″ version is about the same size as 27″ Big Buck Hunter Pro Game. New materials have been used in the gun shells for better shock absorption and after handling them, I have to say that I like the feel better. They just feel more durable like an arcade gun should be as opposed to something that feels like a console accessory.
-As noted previously, the game is always online and can connect via wired, wireless or a cell phone modem to get online. What is new is that the game will have DLC that the operators can purchase. So new animals will be made available as “Animal Packs” that operators can pay authorized distributors to get the digital download for. For a machine to get access to all of the online features the operator pays a subscription fee of $24.99/mo but they won’t charge that until January 2013.
-The integration of the player accounts into the game are much more involved now. It almost feels like an Xbox Live account with the new enhancements. If you have an older account from Safari, Open Season or World, it still works so you don’t have to go and make up a new one. As you can see in the video below, before you pick your trek you can look over your stats as well as Challenges to work on. Players can earn Big Buck Points as they play the game which can be redeemed for stuff from the Big Buck online store (launching soo at http://bigbuckhd.com) or even purchase game credits from the account. Players can access their profile from a PC to modify what is needed, such as an avatar or location info, track stats, find tournaments and create a friends list. Friends are automatically added to your list when you play against someone in a Showdown. The website above also will have a location finder to help players find the game closest to them and can also connect to their Facebook or Twitter accounts to post achievements, tournaments won, where they are playing, etc. which also helps advertise local venues that carry this. If you want a pre-programmed card to swipe and enter into your profile quickly, you can also order one straight from the machine and they will mail it to you, just like with previous versions of Big Buck.
-There are 400+ “Badges” that players can win that are a part of the challenges to complete. They estimate that it takes 2 years to win all of them. Raw Thrills will also create custom time-specific challenges to encourage further play. You unlock new challenges as you complete the simpler ones.
-There will be a smartphone app called the Big Buck HD Pocket Guide that is available for free for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices. This allows players to track their stats, find a location, compare stats with friends or to modify their profile. Using the Big Buck Points they have on their profile, players can actually pay for the game from their phone, something we’ve seen before in Japan to a limited degree. This is the first time I am aware of that such a detailed app has been made available for an arcade game and it will serve as a great way to keep players into the game.
-Operators can create custom tournaments where they select the animals, duration, price and prizes as well as invite other locations to participate in the tournament as a sort of “Location Vs. Location” type idea. Operators can also produce full sized ads that will play during the attract mode to advertise a tournament or other special. That’s a feature you usually see on pinball and it’s quite welcome to have with arcades. Operators can also order special “Cash Cards” to give away as prizes, which will work as gift cards for the game. The National tournaments are still available as is the Showdown mode where players can challenge users on another BBHD machine in real-time and win cash
I like this better than previous Big Buck games. It makes them feel very outdated, even though the basic concept is the same. The action is more dynamic – the animals behave more realistically and randomly, and the camera moves around a bit more. The “Dangerous Trophy” is something that the game picks at random out of a set of five levels, almost like it was Double Jeopardy. This doesn’t kill you in the sense that it ends your game – just ends the round a bit dramatically. The critters have changed a little as well, there seems to be a greater variety than before and it threw me off a little. The Facebook and Twitter features weren’t active in this version so I couldn’t try those out but I was able to use my Big Buck profile to start racking up some Badges. You also can pick an avatar straight from the game, or upload a tasteful one you have on your PC. I didn’t try the showdown or tournament modes but they will certainly be worth checking out as you can win cash from either one. The graphics on this are really good, on the level of a modern PC game with the 1920x1080p @ 60 FPS plus a lot of detail in the environments. The bonus games are much better now as well, dynamic probably being the word to use as the camera changes angles more often and with the increased graphical detail they have more to them than usual. I only played a couple of those – an amusing one where animals are skydiving and a cool one that appealed to me easily, a wormhole bonus that is a little like playing Tempest 3000 with a light-gun. I didn’t expect that so it was a nice little surprise. Made me want a new Tempest for arcades though, proper spinner and all.
I’m really happy to see a game take online content seriously like this. Not that it’s the first game to go online but the experience is better tuned than ever from what I have used of it so far.
I did grab some video of the game but I had no one to play for me when I did this so I ended up trying this one handed. I did however talk to an operator there that is interested in placing one at my location so perhaps when July rolls around I will be able to get some much better videos out of this, while highlighting some of the online features. I already have my arcade wired up to specifically connect games that support such things to the internet so I’m happy to provide some support that way. The game is officially coming out in July, with some test runs happening this month so you will be able to get your hands on before the summer is out.