Last week we mentioned Microsoft's David Edery's tips on how to make a more compelling demo for Xbox Live. It's a pity that the developers of Codemasters' Turning Point: Fall of Liberty didn't catch this article in time, or a lot more people might have been ready to buy their game next month. As it stands, I've been looking forward to the title for months now and after playing through this brief snippet of gameplay I'm considering going to the store and pulling my preorder simply on the merits of this lacklustre demo.
The first thing Spark Unlimited did wrong was give us the same opening scene we've seen countless times in teasers, trailers, and behind the scenes clips. The Nazi invasion of New York is certainly an important part of the game, but there is no real impact for the player if they've already watched it played out countless times. As Luke summarized in the previous article, "give players a taste of the game's strengths, not simply the first 15 minutes of the game." This demo keenly illustrates this point.
Games rarely snag a player's full attention within the first 15 minutes, especially when all you are really getting is a tutorial on gameplay mechanics using the weakest weapons available versus the dumbest enemies possible. I am almost certain that Germany and its allies wouldn't have made it across the pond if their crack soldiers opted to hide around the corner from every construction worker who stumbles upon a gun. Then again, maybe they were briefed beforehand. "If you see an American construction worker, avoid them at all costs. Same with florists and plucky news boys." Probably not.
The graphics and general atmosphere are alright I suppose, but nothing that really leaves a lasting impression on my brain. Perhaps later in the game the visuals perk up and we get a better taste of the unique flavor of 1950's America hinted at on the game's website, but aside from a few architectural choices and the very last scene of the demo, Fall of Liberty could really have been set in any time period.
Gameplay is rather standard shooter fare, with a few nifty platforming elements dropped in here and there. The level design in the first bit is completely linear - even when it looks like you have a choice you can be sure a stray bomb or exploding gas tank will lead you by the nose to the next checkpoint. Bleh.
If the Turning Point: Fall of Liberty demo did anything, it made me much more apt to listen to anything David Edery has to say. Give me a nice chunk of gameplay in the middle of the game, with more powerful weapons, tougher enemies, and basically just glimpses of what's in store for me further down the line if I was to purchase your game. In this case the demo might have done more harm than good.