Our man in… Eurogamer Expo 2009 (London)

by Johnus Maximus

Eurogamer expo logoThere’s not much in my life that warrants getting up before 7am on a day off, not even the potential to grind some more achievements whilst having a bacon and egg butty and a huge mug of tea will make me rise from my pit before lunchtime.

In the last weekend of October all this changed, as it was time for the second annual Eurogamer Expo, situated at Old Billingsgate on the bank of the Thames. Read on for my thoughts and feelings on the event.

Those who made the choice to turn up early were fortunately blessed with good weather and fine spirits, making friends amongst the throng of unusual faces was simple given a unified love of gaming and certainly helped pass the time until the doors were opened.

Representatives of gaming PR and of course, the Eurogamer staff were also on hand to keep people entertained, with free games, t-shirts, badges, chanting and the potential to get interviewed for Eurogamer TV by the effervescent Johnny Minkley.

Once the doors were opened everyone poured in, making a beeline for their game of choice. I personally did not know where to start, with over fifty games at the show, some recently released and some soon to be, there was so much to choose from. I managed to play a lot of the games, but not all of them, so I’ll give you a quick Twitter-style personal opinion on those I saw firsthand later in this post.

Eurogamer - queue this way
Queue minders were on hand to ensure the correct shaped queue was made

Before I give you the thumbs up or down for the games on show, let me also tell you of some of the other delights in store for those of us who attended. During the course of both days, representatives from developers such as Valve, Ubisoft, Quantic Dream and Black Rock Studio were giving presentations about the games they were there to show off.

Listening to people such as David Cage or Chet Faliszek talk about their art and participate in Q&A’s is an informative and inspiring event. Even better was that almost all of the questions were on topic and not intended to flame the fanboy wars! The only downside to there being so many presentations was that they were in such high demand that you needed to queue at least 45 minutes beforehand to be guaranteed a seat.

As well as the representatives from the games industry, there was also a chance to openly grill two of Eurogamers editorial staff – Ellie Gibson and Tom Bramwell. The resulting session was hilarious and surprisingly in less demand than the Ubisoft sneak peak of Splinter Cell Conviction fifteen minutes prior to the Q&A (it does look flipping amazing though).

Eurogamer Expo 2009 London
The view from above – the lofty heights of the press lounge

As well as finding out what the makers of the games had to say, you had an opportunity to discuss a career in gaming as several studios, publishers and academic establishments were on hand in the gamesindustry.biz career fair and the BAFTA surgeries. It’s definitely worth taking the advantage of learning from people who have worked in gaming for some time as their sagely advice can be beneficial.

So with all that to take in, you’d almost be forgiven for not actually getting time to see the games on offer. As well as the show floor and basement housing the mainstay, there were also two smaller areas upstairs reserved for a very special kind of gaming. The Indie Games Arcade was a warm and slightly musty room (better ventilation next year please) with some real oddities that defied the notions of conventional gaming, along with some home grown talent that should be given the due attention they deserve.

Finally, for those whose feet had gotten the best of them, the PSP Go Cafe was on hand with plenty of beanbags and comfy chairs to allow you to grab a quick bite to eat and play some portable gaming (or you can just sit on the floor next to one of the display units like my wife did).

Eurogamer expo london - basement
The basement ambience was excellent -dark with plenty of neon.

So, on to the important part – what games did I play and what did I think of them?

  • Army of Two: The 40th Day – When I watched it being played it did look like a decent co-operative experience, but it crashed a couple of times and hung on the loading screens, which dampens my opinion of it somewhat. 2/5
  • Aliens vs Predator – The speed of the game and the visual style have translated well to the console, although the demo build did have some graphical glitches. I have high hopes that the scenario modes will be better than the free-for-all mode on display. 4/5
  • Assassin’s Creed 2 – Taking on board complaints about its predecessor, Ubisoft seem to have a polished gem here. Faster climbing, more varied missions and exciting combat makes this a promising sequel. 5/5
  • Bayonetta – It’s just like Devil May Cry, but wearing a pair of high heels and a push up bra. The Japanese button basher has been done before, but never this colourfully. 4/5
  • Borderlands – It’s like Fallout made some babies with Crackdown, and is as addictive as World of Warcraft. The best co-operative experience this side of L4D2. 5/5
  • Dante’s Inferno – Supposedly a “mature” title, but really it’s just puerile violence and button bashing. But I’m not complaining, I like games like that! 4/5
  • Dragon Age: Origins – Looked like a modern take on Baldur’s Gate, simplistic combat but not sure how the dialogue will hold up. Difficult to get a feel in such a short amount of time, but looks promising. 4/5
  • Global Agenda – Another third person shooter MMO to rival Star Trek, looks competent enough, but will it be addicting? Also, will you need a NASA pc to run it? 3/5
  • God of War III – More gory button bashing against a backdrop of mythology, great fun and greater visuals. Ripping the eyes out of cyclopes has never been so much fun. 5/5
  • Halo 3: ODST – I’ve already played this, but anything with Nathan Fillion in deserves to be given a second mention. 5/5
  • Heavy Rain – This game will make even the most fervent Xbox fanboy want to buy a PS3. After playing this I have no doubt it will be the game of 2010 that wins every accolade imaginable. 5/5
  • Left 4 Dead 2 – Of course I’d rather have Episode 3, but with more campaigns, more play modes and most importantly, more zombies, I find it hard to resist this premature sequel. 5/5
  • Lost Planet 2 – The multiplayer combat demo didn’t show off the best I believe this game has to offer – big giant monsters make everything better. 3/5
  • MAG – Great visuals, but struggles to set itself apart from more established rivals, look forward to see how it handles out in the open. 3/5
  • Mass Effect 2 – Looked great, but this expo was the wrong environment to try and show this game off, too much noise and no subtitles meant you couldn’t follow the plot. 4/5
  • Medieval Games – Not a very compelling set of mini games, but I’m sure someone will enjoy it. 2/5
  • Monster Hunter 3 Tri – Is this really so popular in Japan? Running around a large map for ages chasing a monster that runs away as soon as you get near it didn’t seem much fun to me. 1/5
  • Need for Speed: Nitro – A slightly cartoonish departure from the main series that offered no real incentive to use skill and focused more on the garish visuals. 2/5
  • New Super Mario Brothers Wii – Definitely one for the family that plays together, I enjoyed the competitive spin on the traditional sidescroller and can see this causing a few tussles in the living room at christmas. 4/5
  • Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time – It’s just a run of the mill platform game, but with sumptuous graphics that beg you to explore it further. 4/5
  • Saw – Probably the most unexpected game of the event, looks like an interesting puzzle game but hard to get to grips with on the day. It’s pretty gruesome, so look away if you don’t like red. 3/5
  • The Saboteur – Another game that came across as rather rubbish thanks to the demo on display, the red ring of death on the first day sums it all up. 1/5
  • Split/Second – A beautiful, vivid and exciting racing game, with more explosions than a Michael Bay wet dream. 4/5
  • Star Trek Online – It’s the IP to rival Star Wars, the space combat seemed difficult but the “away team” exploration was fun. Worth checking out the beta if possible. 4/5
  • Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All Stars – Colourful and fast paced 2D fighter. Only one unit and it was being showed off by a guy who could kick your ass with his eyes closed. 3/5
  • Tekken 6 – Things really haven’t changed much since Tekken 3, the graphics just seem to get a little better each time and now you can get in on Xbox. 4/5
  • Wheelspin – Not a patch on F-Zero, but with 8-player split screen it could provide some good times. 3/5

So, those were the games that I played, plenty to look forward to in the next six months and a great time to be a gamer. Of course I was disappointed that Modern Warfare 2 was not on display, but by all accounts that game pretty much sells itself on its reputation. Also, I was really shocked that DJ Hero was not present. With a game as unique as that, I think it will take some convincing for consumers to buy another hefty priced peripheral game, so where better to let people see it than at a show like this.

For £6 a day, this is possibly one of the most fun days out you can get as a gamer, so keep your eyes peeled on Eurogamer.net for news of next year’s show. My personal thanks goes out to Rupert Loman and all his staff, they did a fantastic job.