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Hands On With The FFVII Remake Demo

by October 20, 2019 1 comment

The Prelude

Having read several eye-witness reports where fellow gamers had finally got their chance to play the Final Fantasy VII Remake at various events, I had long resigned myself to the fact that I would not be able to experience the demo first hand. Indeed, even the vain (and distant) hope of Square-Enix putting the demo up on PSN seemed as if it was nothing more than a wistful daydream.

And yet, just two days before the opening to EGX 2019, came an out of nowhere announcement that the Final Fantasy VII Remake was going to be playable right here in the UK.

There’s no way that I could turn down such a chance right?

The Anticipation Builds

They say that the anticipation of something is half the experience, and that was certainly the case here.

As you can imagine, the queue for the Remake stand was insane. Having anticipated this, I made plans to arrive (extremely) early and be at the head of the queue, where I gladly took the 1 hour and 30 minutes wait time over the queuing horror stories that I both saw and heard elsewhere. Indeed, the demo area itself was quickly cut off shortly after my arrival due to the huge influx of gamers converging on the Remake, with distraught players forced to schedule gaming sessions for later in the day via an App. Yikes!

So there I was in the queue, the excitement and anticipation growing, with the monitor replaying the TGS trailer (that I’ve personally seen a hundred times, though it never gets old), and a fully geared up and cosplay accurate version of Barret just a few steps behind me, impressive Advent Children gun-arm attachment included and all!

The queue itself shifted at a snail’s pace.

There were only 20 gaming units (5 of which were specifically set aside for special ticket holders and reserved slots), leaving only 15 units for those in the general queue, and presenting an average turnaround time of around 15 minutes per demo play-through. The actual turnaround time was a lot longer though, since the staff would wait to clear an entire row, sometimes two, before letting players join the gaming stations. Understandable, as that meant that they could keep an eye on, not only the time, but who was where in order to ensure that everything went smoothly and everyone got a turn, but it had the unintended effect of stretching out the waiting time even further.

Regardless, I eventually got to jump into the gaming seat, slotted on the headphones, and immersed myself into the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo.

The Demo

The demo itself was the same build that we have seen from this year’s E3, a cut off segment from the original Bombing Mission where you work your way down the Reactor in order to sabotage it. Players have only 15 minutes with the demo, where either you defeat the Scorpion Sentinel within that time-frame or you are politely asked to put the controller down and move on. Though you have a limited time with the demo, you are certainly left with a lasting impression.

Let’s start by saying the obvious – the game is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Everything from the Reactor railing, to the rotating vents which can be seen in the background, to the random flickering lights which show that the place isn’t exactly well maintained, has been crafted with care. And this is before we even look at our central characters. We have of course discussed the character designs in our YouTube videos, but they are even more incredible to see in motion with you directly in control.

The two characters available to you within the demo, Cloud and Barret, each have their own distinctive walking, running, and battle mechanics, cementing their individuality in a way that you couldn’t completely get within the original game. Cloud felt more lighter on his feet to manevour than Barret, which goes hand-in-hand with his upfront slashing approach, whereas Barret felt more heavier, suiting his long-range tanking play-style (and physical size).

The demo is forced to throw a ton of quick tutorials at you, and with the limited time that you have available to play it, you have to quickly run through it. Thankfully, I have of course watched the demo play-throughs countless times, so it was just a matter of getting to grips with the control scheme. The first major mechanism that you are given is the ability to switch between characters … and boy, is it awesome. With a simple Up or Down of the D-pad, you can flick between Cloud or Barret at any given time.

The transition is so smooth and intuitive that it is a marvel to use. The ability to switch instantly opens up so many possibilities to every battle, giving every encounter a sense of both uniqueness and enjoyment.

Indeed, the game quickly frames the uniqueness of both Cloud and Barret’s battle suitability. Whereas Cloud could easily dispatch the Security Officers on the higher floors of the Reactor, the Mono Drives proved to be a trickier adversary for the versatile slasher due to their ability to float and move around the battlefield a lot more quickly. This is where Barret instantly shone, as you could take a step back and attack this enemy from a distance whilst the AI took control of Cloud. As a test, I switched back to Cloud and attempted to test his range against the Mono Drives. Though there are moments where he can jump up into the air and unleash a quick slash against the floating enemy if they come close enough, he is generally just not suited for this type of encounter. What followed, with the First Ray perched up high, was impossible for our hero without the use of Materia, leaving Barret to once again finish the job.

As far as I could tell, you were not able to hold down Square (the attack button) with Cloud. You had to continuously press the button in order to chain his hits together and attack. On the other hand, you were able to hold down the Attack button with Barret in order to unleash his gun combo, which finished in a heavy hit before you could repeat the cycle. Once again, this gave a lot more uniqueness to both characters, and something that we’ve seen will be represented within other characters, like the glimpse into Tifa’s alternating combination moves.

With every hit of an enemy, you would gradually fill up your ATB bar, allowing you to unleash the more impressive moves located within your arsenal. What stood out for me personally is that there is no magnetic lock-on to opponents in play here – not at all. If you use an ability which doesn’t have the range to strike an enemy, then that ability is wasted. I tested this out several times, with my Braver missing a Security Guard who was just too far away, and it occurred similarly with Focused Thrust, which can only lunge so far before the manevour automatically ends.

It is a system that I was surprised, and very happy, to see here.

Reaching the lower level of the Reactor, we then encounter the Scorpion Sentinel. Let me start by putting to rest some of the fears that several fans have been harboring. You do not have to worry … this game, or the demo at least, was certainly not easy. The Scorpion Sentinel Boss Battle forces the player to utilize everything that they have learnt via the tutorials on the way down – character switching, the command menu, giving quick commands to allies, and ability use. At first glance, the amount that you need to do seems daunting, but the mechanics are very carefully layered within one another that it quickly becomes second nature to pull any of them off, and makes me even more personally excited to see the other mechanics that we have not even been introduced to yet – like Cloud’s unique battle stances and Summons.

As I mentioned before, the Scorpion Sentinel is now an actual viable threat. The battle itself consists of several phases, and at times he can hit particularly hard if you are not careful, resulting in a battle where you can not simply ‘button mash’ your way to victory. Everything from the Scorpion Sentinel’s lock-on lasers, to the EMP pulse, to his pouncing attack, to the out-of-range (to Cloud) Reactor Wall missile assault, to utilizing cover behind debris, adds a distinctive flavor to the encounter whilst also hinting at even more complex battles later on within the game.

I was forced to use both Cure and Potions during the various phases of this encounter, and witnessed both Cloud’s Cross-Slash and Barret’s Fire-In-The-Hole, Limit Breaks.

As I stated earlier, positioning is very important for Abilities, and it was one of the most important aspects of this Boss Battle. There were points where you needed to lock-on to specific legs in order to cripple the Scorpion Sentinel, or dive behind it in order to clearly attack it’s core, or switch to Barret in order to continue hitting it whilst it prowled the Reactor walls, or make a split-second decision to either use Guard or get out of range of the damaging EMP attack. It gave the battle even more life, as you were constantly moving, attacking, switching and using the full scope of the battlefield to your advantage.

At any point where you made enough regular damage to the Scorpion Sentinel, it would enable a Stagger system, allowing you to then go full hog and unleash everything within your arsenal for higher damage output. Though I had seen many of the Materia effects from watching other play-throughs, it was fantastic to see firsthand the little touches like the lightning sparks around Barret’s hands as he casts Thunder, or the Ice that momentarily remains around an opponent before fading away.

Conscious that my time with the demo was quickly coming to a close (especially with the stand Staff beginning to eye our row) I pulled everything into the Stagger I had just initiated, unleashing the Triple Slash ability with Cloud whilst using the Quick Command with Barret to cast another effective Thunder spell.

Cue the final cut scene, and unfortunately, the end of the demo session.

The Aftermath

I found myself grinning ear to ear, trying to instantly reflect on what I had just played firsthand. Turning to my side, I did feel sorry for the guy a few chairs down who was politely asked to put the controller down as the session time was now ended, right in the middle of the Scorpion Sentinel battle. Credit to the Staff though, because although they were under a lot of time pressure and the queues for the Remake area were insane (spilling way out of the defined queuing barriers) I did see some of them allow some players to try and finish the battle if they were in the final phases.

And so I left the area with nothing but positive thoughts and feelings about the Remake. The best way to describe it is that everything just seemed to fit, all the systems, individual mechanics, and the uniqueness to every character just rolled together just right. I found myself walking through the rest of EGX in a daze, just marveling at what I had experienced, that this game, that I have personally so long awaited a remake for, is now almost here (well, part of it anyway).

I have no fears. I have no concerns. Come 3rd March 2020 I am fully prepared to be blown away again by my favourite game of all time.

Now then, how much for a PS4 Pro and a 4K TV?

1 comment

  1. ForceStealer
    #1 ForceStealer 20 October, 2019, 15:02

    Sounds fabulous, thanks Claymore!

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