by Johnus Maximus
It hardly seems a year since my last foray into the exciting and glamorous world of games conventions, but once again the annual Eurogamer Expo had returned, for this their third year. This time they abandoned the north/south dual-expo idea and instead went for a larger and longer event in our nations capital. There was the promise of more games, more developers and generally more of everything at this years event. Did it deliver? Find out below…
When I attended last year’s show – article here – it was clear that the Eurogamer team had a huge success on their hands in terms of demand versus supply of tickets, so it was inevitable that they took the show to a larger venue. A venue with more space meant more room for games, people and of course, queues. This year you really had to make sure you planned what to see in the day, as there was no chance of getting your hands on everything unless you were prepared to brave the elements and get in the queues early each day.
As well as a vast array of current and soon-to-be-released titles, there were unique presentations from leading games developers, the small but perfectly formed Indie Arcade showcasing a an alternative selection of PC titles, and a careers fair in association with Gamesindustry.biz. Plenty to see and do, having tickets for all three days proved pretty indispensable, but by the end of it I was shattered.
For me personally, there were some real highlight moments that made the show an experience to be remembered. Getting the opportunity to see industry legend Peter Molyneux talk about the ideas and inspiration behind all three Fable games, having my mind changed about the potential of 3DTV technology by Killzone 3, being lucky enough to attend the Eurogamer charity party in support of GamesAid, and finally embracing the opportunity to arrange meet-ups with fellow gamers, writers and like-minded friends.
Sure there were some negative sides to the show – queues seemed longer for some games this year (Brink especially), food prices were pretty exorbitant, Transport for London had plenty of problems keeping their tubes running, a lot of the demo units did not have people on hand to help when problems arose and there was clearly not enough soap/antiperspirant for some of the attendees. These things aside, the show was a success and I am looking forward to next year already.
Now, if you’re wondering what my opinions were of the games on show, wait no more, here’s the full rundown:
- Assassins Creed: Brotherhood – An interesting demo which showed a multiplayer game is possible in this franchise, but I’m not sure how much longevity it has without seeing more. Apparently it also comes with a regular-sized (15 hours approx) campaign to advance Ezio’s story.
- Brink – Fantastic looking team based shooter, one of the highlights of the show. With a huge range of customisation options for your character, and from the looks of it lots of unlockable items, and weapons, this tactical squad-based shooter could give the Halo and CoD fans something else to enjoy.
- Bulletstorm – Doesn’t look to be anything more than an everyday shooter with a few gimmicks – slow mo, whip and scoring. What was shown at the expo was the same demo that was at E3, but watching it in action it didn’t really excite me.
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – A promising hack’n'slash, puzzle platformer that is looking to prove that the ‘Vania series doesn’t need to be 2D to work. Sadly I didn’t get to clearly hear the voice acting, but I’ve got it on good authority that Patrick Stewart is fantastically hammy.
- Crysis 2 – Despite the single player mode looking quite interesting, the multiplayer demo just looked like a slightly futuristic Modern Warfare. Moderner Modern Warfare if you will.
- Dance Central – The best Kinect game on show and proof that Harmonix really know how to make a great game, this is a must-have title for anyone who buys Kinect. Demo only had 6 songs, so by the end of the three days I was quite happy to never hear Poker Face, Poison or Funky Town ever again.
- Dead Space 2 – Taking the sci-fi horror game to new depths of madness, Isaac Clarke’s situation doesn’t seem to have improved much since the end of the first game. Initially this just looks like more of the same gameplay but with better graphics than its predecessor, but that will be just fine as the first game was excellent.
- Def Jam Rapstar – It seems somewhat anachronistic to not include the profanity in this game, which is essentially a rap music karaoke, but that’s what has happened in order for this to remain a “family” title. Not my cup of tea, but I’m sure it’s something that rap music fan’s would enjoy.
- Donkey Kong Country Returns – It seems that Nintendo are really trying hard to squeeze as much life out of their IP’s as possible. Doesn’t look like much has changed in terms of gameplay since the SNES version.
- Dragon Age II – From first impressions it seems that Bioware have gone for a bit of an overhaul on this sequel, even though the demo on display was supposedly a fairly old build it did look very nice. The combat seemed to lack weight though, hopefully this will be improved before launch. Also notable is the change to having the dialogue wheel from the Mass Effect games.
- Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Like the irrepressible nature of monkey himself, this game is looking unstoppable in terms of delivering an exciting, cinematic experience. I don’t imagine there will be much depth to the puzzles or fighting, but the terrific acting and performance capture will more than make up for it.
- F1 2010 – Didn’t give this more than a once over, due to it already being available in shops. Looks like a genuine F1 experience should.
- Fable 3 – Better combat, better graphics and a whole host of advancements make this the game that Fable 2 should have been and one of my picks for best game on show. Careful to not give away any of the key plot elements, there was a range of demo modes available, all of which were very good. Here’s hoping the co-op works this time.
- Fallout: New Vegas – Another sequel that looks pretty much like the game it is a follow up to, I couldn’t get a feel of the storyline from the demo units, but the VATS combat system hasn’t decreased in how much fun it is, lots of slow-motion exploding limbs were on show.
- FIFA 11 – I’m not totally into football, or football video games, but what really struck me about this years FIFA title is just how realistic it looks, if the players didn’t have little icons above their heads you could almost swear you were watching a televised match.
- Frozen Synapse – An interesting simultaneous turn-based strategy shooter. Definitely one for the more intelligent gamer, looking for an uncoventional title to pique their interest.
- Gears of War 3 – Despite some people getting into the campaign demo when they shouldn’t have, it would have made a far more interesting look at the title than the Beast mode (think inverse of the Gears 2 Horde mode). Not sure if it was down to the demo pods crashing, but playing this solo is just no fun.
- Goldeneye – Completely missed this, but to be honest it’s something I have very low expectations of, considering how far shooters have come in terms of graphics, controls and level design since the original.
- Gran Turismo 5 – The sooner this game is released the better, it is building up a level of hype that it can’t possibly hope to live up to.
- Halo: Reach – Another game that is already out, so I gave it very little time. But it is the best Halo game so far, so if you haven’t already, pick it up.
- Heavy Rain Move Edition – I didn’t see this on the floor, maybe because there were lots of other, more energetic and interesting looking Move titles. Personally I don’t see the appeal of arm-flailing your way through that game.
- Hunted: The Demon’s Forge – On paper this sounds like it should be fantastic, but it really wasn’t. The combat had no weight to it and when you exist in this swords and sorcery world you need it to feel like your character is knocking seven shades of ugly out of his foes.
- inFAMOUS 2 – It’s still fairly early on in the development cycle, but the super powered Cole McGrath already looks very much like the bad-ass superhero you would want him to be, this could be an excellent title if Sucker Punch address the concerns many fans had with the first outing.
- Killzone 3 – Played a demo level, which although did not showcase any particular gameplay mechanics that haven’t already been seen in shooting games, it did have fantastic visuals which looked even better in 3D and won over this naysayer of the emerging technology.
- Kinect Adventures – Severely noticeable lag and some mediocre minigames, this did not demo particularly well at the event.
- Kinect Joy Ride – I didn’t get to play this, but it didn’t appear to be particularly easy to play (I was later informed that small motions work better than wide flailing).
- Kinect Sports – Only got a chance to see the beach volleyball event, which actually was extremely responsive in comparison to the other two Rare titles on display, there’s hope yet for them.
- Kirby’s Epic Yarn – A really cute platformer with a nice flavour of Little Big Planet, thanks to the multiplayer mode on display. Great to see Nintendo making a real go at bringing this character back into the limelight.
- Little Big Planet 2 – While some people were trying out the creator mode, my interest was piqued by the co-operative platforming action, which doesn’t appear to have lost any of it’s charm and is certainly a must for any PS3 owner.
- Mafia II – Another “already out” title that I just couldn’t get around to looking at.
- Marvel vs Capcom 3 – One demo unit, surrounded by a sea of testosterone fueled combatants. Needless to say this one was overlooked by yours truly.
- Medal of Honor – EA were showing off the multiplayer mode, which all looks like something we’ve played many times before. Seemingly the only new feature which people will focus on is the inclusion of Taliban fighters.
- Metroid: Other M – Didn’t get to play this one, but it’s out in shops so I didn’t feel it was worth queuing for.
- Motorstorm Apocalypse – Bringing their own brand of racing into the urban atmosphere is bound to draw comparisons with Split/Second, but what I played was extremely enjoyable. Not as bothered by the 3D in this as I was Killzone, but it didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the race.
- Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit – Pretty environments, gorgeous cars and an intense feeling of speed, but seemingly with an immensely noob-friendly rubber band effect.
- Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 – I must have missed this on the show floor, but everyone knows that FIFA is the better game, right?
- Professor Layton and the Lost Future – Another Nintendo title that just didn’t have any prominence, and sadly, this meant that it was overlooked.
- Rage – Upcoming shooter/racing action game from the folks that made Doom and Quake. Looks like Borderlands crossed with Judge Dredd. Demo looked amazing on Xbox 360, so should be something impressive to behold on PC and PS3
- Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time – This was one of the games on display that had no controllers available to play, and seemingly no event staff on hand to rectify that situation.
- Revenge of the Titans – An excellently enjoyable tower defense game, fusing Command and Conquer style unit placement strategy with a vast amount of customisable weaponry.
- Rock Band 3 – The new accessories will blow your mind whilst simultaneously destroying your wrists. A fully stringed guitar with proper pickups and a nifty little keyboard that, along with a huge selection of songs, offer you an inimitable rhythm action gaming experience.
- Saw II – From what I could tell, this was pretty much more of the same game as Saw. Which is par for the course if the films are anything to go by.
- Skulls of the Shogun – A turn based strategy game featuring undead legions of samurai warriors. Reminded me a lot of Vandal Hearts, which is a very good thing.
- SOCOM: Special Forces – Unfortunately this demo was quite popular so I bypassed the queue after a cursory glance. Looks okay.
- Sports Champions – Another one I just couldn’t get around to playing, but it seemed pretty fun from the 5 minutes I stood and watched. Reminded me a lot of Wii Sports, but I guess that’s the idea.
- The Fight: Lights Out – An interesting combat game, not sure it’s exactly what I would want to play, but it did look responsive to the Move controller.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - By the time the rumours had got to me that this game was present, already the queues were phenomenally long. I’ve heard it plays well, is not plagued by unresponsiveness as seen at E3.
- The Shoot - Watching this in action took me back in time to the days of seaside arcades and light gun shooters – House of the Dead, Time Crisis et al. Definitely a good use of the Move technology.
- Trials HD – I couldn’t fathom why this was present, given how old it is.
- Vanquish – I’d already played this and thought it was fairly mediocre, but it’s actually a lot more fun and interesting watching someone else play it, due to the vast amount of onscreen action.
Well there you have it folks, a summary of everything I saw over the three days. It may not look like I did much over that time, but at least you don’t have to queue for thirty minutes in between reading about each game! I can heartily recommend a trip to the expo for anyone even remotely interested in gaming. With your support, it could grow it into something the UK games industry, press and enthusiasts could be proud of.