Monday, 10 October 2011

E14 Outings: Eurogamer Expo

On September 24th and 25th, E14 attended Eurogamer Expo. Unfortunately, due to a lack of home Internet, the write-up had to be delayed for a little while. Here, therefore, better late than never, are the opinions of Rob and Blake.

Rob: Well, this year marked E14’s first appearance at Eurogamer Expo, and hopefully it won’t be the last, as the show was the best presented convention I’ve experienced (admittedly, the only other gaming con I’ve been to was GAMEFest, which by a stroke of coincidence was the week before). Comparatively, the two were leagues apart. GAMEFest was not well done, but maybe suffered from being the first attempt to open the show up to the public (before now, the NEC has played host to the GAME managers’ conference only). For instance, Batman: Arkham City had around 30 or so consoles at Eurogamer Expo for visitors to use. GAMEFest had 3. I shit you not.

As if that wasn’t enough, they had Skyrim at GAMEFest. Oh yeah, they had it. They had the same 20-minute gameplay video that interested parties could have watched their own home…the Tuesday before the show. Thankfully, Eurogamer Expo had plenty of Skyrim terminals so players could experience the game first-hand. More on that later. Having said that, the T-shirt selection was much more preferable to me personally, as one of the retailers present at the Eurogamer Expo is massively overrated in my estimation. I won’t name names, it’s not really fair on them that I think they’re massively overrated and am not a fan of their styles. However, what I can do is give a shout out to the T-shirt retailers I did care for, which can be found at the official website of Level Up Wear.

So I’ll give you my run-down of the weekend, as I saw it. As a member of the enthusiast press, I was able to get in an hour before the general public, which was handy as all hell when it came to getting to play some of the games, which had crazy lines once the show floor opened fully.

I ventured up to Earls’ Court, and my first stop was Trion Worlds’ booth. For those unfamiliar with the name, they’re the people responsible for the popular MMO, RIFT. While they weren’t showing a brand new game, they were showing off the patch 1.5 for the game, which promises some considerable changes to the game without altering the core experience. I’ll be publishing an interview I conducted with the community manager for the game in due course, once I catch up from my “Haven’t been online for six weeks” backlog.

Next was another one of their games, which is an upcoming MMORTS called End of Nations. Developed by Petroglyph, staffed by some of the talented folks formerly of Westwood Studios (whom you might remember from the Command and Conquer games of yesteryear), the game is due for release early next year, and promises to be free to play (with costs incurred for things like cosmetic changes and the kind of stuff that most people won’t use – in other words, “DLC I can take or leave”). From looking at the game (an interview of which is also forthcoming), it looks like a phenomenal experience with a tremendous amount of depth, and well worth checking out at the End of Nations official website.

From there, I checked out Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and honestly I wasn’t impressed. The series has never really wowed me as much as it has wowed others in the past, it has to be said. I enjoyed Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare immensely, but skipped the sequel for various reasons, mainly an abundance of other games I was more interested in playing. I played and completed Black Ops, but found it no more exciting than any other first-person shooter. In fact, the amount of gung-ho pro-US bullshit in the game nauseated me, particularly as I’ve played Homefront, which should have been more in-your-face with the nauseating pro-US sentiment, but actually did it more subtly.

Anyway, I played a few rounds of the Spec-Ops mode, which was the only thing that I know to have been playable at the event. However, it just felt like a more limited Horde mode from Gears of War 2, and up against the even more polished effort of the third instalment of the franchise (which as you might have guessed from the review, I was particularly fond of), it does even less to enthral. Up against other offerings, the game seems to feel a little underwhelming. Of course, it’ll sell tons, but then popular doesn’t always correspond with good, so take some comfort in that.

Anyway, I played a ton of stuff, so here’s a list in alphabetical order.

Anarchy Reigns: - Third-person shooter from Platinum Games. It’s pretty decent, but will probably be one of those games that’s more fun with more players, as the game seems to be pretty heavy on the competitive multiplayer front.

Awesomenauts: - Multiplayer online battle arena game from Ronimo Games. Players storm the battleground to take out the other team’s base by killing enemies to unlock new abilities. This one’s a really fun game, due for release later this year, and there’s absolutely tons of customisation to be had over the six available fighters.

Batman: Arkham City: - Realistically, if you’re E14, you’re already excited for this game. Rocksteady’s follow-up to the astounding Arkham Asylum draws ever closer, and you won’t be surprised to learn that the sequel is shaping up to be that much better than the previous game. The game looks great, it handles really well and the combat is even better than before. I cannot say enough good things about it. Still not my game of the show, though. More on that later.

Battlefield 3: - Played a fair bit of this one, both on Saturday and Sunday in Multiplayer mode. While it controls really well and looks really good, the game does some really unusual things. For instance, players can put torches on the end of their guns, and the only purpose it seems to serve in Multiplayer mode is to throw off people who didn’t put the torch on their guns. Most bizarre, but the game is fun.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier: Ubisoft has an uphill struggle with this game in terms of brand recognition, because although they’ll get their loyal player base, the game is…well, alright. It’s pretty cool and Ubisoft have done some good work in making the game controls accessible to players from other series, but the game doesn’t really seem to do much in the way of different gameplay modes. Having said that, my play time was limited and there’s plenty more time before the game ships in March 2012.

Inversion: - This one’s an interesting game. Being brought to our world in February 2012 by Namco Bandai, the game employs third person shooter controls but adds in the ability to manipulate gravity either higher or lower in order to solve puzzles or make enemies easier to kill. While the gravity mechanics make for some slight changes, the game handles almost exactly like Gears of War, only it doesn’t feel as much fun.

Lord of the Rings: War in the North: - This one’s a really odd game. It’s a really fun game, and the combat options are really cool, but the game is absolutely tough as nails, and punishingly so. The game looks graphically awesome as well.

Ninja Gaiden 3: - Like Ninja Gaiden or Ninja Gaiden 2? Good, this game’s pretty much what you’d expect. That’s not meant in an unkind way, the game’s really fun. However, don’t expect a completely different experience, except for the fact that the game is incredibly good-looking in motion.

Rage: - The game’s out now, and there’ll be a review up on here before too long. My two cents on the game are that it plays pretty well, and looks fucking incredible in motion.

Silent Hill: Downpour: - This game’s a couple of weeks from release, can you believe it? It’s unbelievable considering that it has no marketing presence that I’ve seen at all. Anyway, I played it, and it seems a little bit like they’re running out of ideas. It looks pretty good, and has a good sense of tension, but the demo I played didn’t really do much to wow me.

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim: - Now we come to the game that I was most excited to play, and my experiences can be summed up in two simple words: Erection Factory. That’s the feeling I got from looking at it from behind the queue barriers on the Saturday, and most certainly how I felt actually playing it on Sunday. Imagine Oblivion, but with combat elements from Fallout 3. Thankfully, I don’t mean V.A.T.S, though it works well in Fallout 3, it’s mainly stylistic changes, like slow-motion finishing moves like you’d see on killing blows in Fallout 3.

That’s probably enough writing, isn’t it? There’s a lot of information there to digest. All I’ll say other than what I played is what I experienced from looking at The Old Republic, which is that the game looks absolutely superb and that BioWare and EA seem to be doing everything right in terms of making the game competitive with World of Warcraft.

That’s all from me, here’s Blake’s impressions of the Sunday.

Blake: Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I thought it was well presented, although it was a bit overwhelming and it sometimes could be hard to find certain games. That said, though, once I got my bearings everything was well laid out with the queues moving quite quickly, so you were never waiting to play a game for huge length of time.

Highlights of the Expo had to go to Skyrim with awesome visuals, improved combat over Oblivion and huge game world, the 25 minute play through left me wanting more in a good way.

Another highlight came in the form of Batman: Arkham City, which is looking set to deliver what Rocksteady did with Arkham Asylum and more, especially with it’s open world and more fluid combat and stealth mechanics.

Then there was the Playstation Vita, Sony’s next-gen handheld. After getting to grips with it, I felt that the screen was fantastic, the controls comfy and the touch screen and Six-Axis working well, as I tackled a sample of Uncharted: Golden Abyss. It looked and played just as well as the PS3 Uncharted games (Yes, the graphics are that good). If I had one small gripe, it would be that it was trying a little too hard to make use of the Six-Axis and Touch screen, but I suppose this will be things that players would get used to with practice.

Lastly, special mentions need to go to Rage and Battlefield 3, two really enjoyable first-person shooters that look set to deliver on their promises, and will be the ones to watch when they come out this year. If there were any disappointments to be seen at the Expo, it would be Modern Warfare 3, which looks like very little has changed graphically or in feel since Modern Warfare 2, and the “Spec Ops” mode feels nothing more like COD’s version of Gears of War’s Horde mode, which it seems a lot of games are trying to emulate lately (I’m looking at you Space Marine). So from what I saw, Modern Warfare is going to have to step its game up if it’s going to maintain it’s best first person shooter crown from the likes of Battlefield 3 this Xmas.

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