“Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, where have you been?”
I’ve been up to London to visit Earl’s Court, see loads of new and up-coming games and even get to play a few for myself. That’s right, gaming fans – on Saturday 2nd October 2010 I went all the way to London to check out the 2010 Eurogamer Exhibition in all it’s glory.
First thing worth mentioning is the sheer number of ridiculously tall people attending this year. Ok, so I’m not particularly tall myself but even the girls (and there were quite a few) were taller which made me think either I was wearing the wrong shoes (no! never!) or I was just an Oompa Loompa for the day. Take your pick.
Anywho, after receiving my lovely wrist band and being told to hurry up and get inside by the slightly stressed out security staff, I was greeted by the sights and sounds of Def Jam Rap Star and Kinect – the former being full of wannabe gangsta rappers mumbling self-consciously into microphones and the latter being full of “I-wanna-tap-that” teenagers eyeing up the two attractive women bouncing up and down to an interactive dancing game. Let’s not forget the bored parents with their embarrassed offspring trying to pretend they were old enough to not need chaperones…and £13 for two sandwiches and a couple of drinks? Eep! But I digress – on with the good stuff.
The whole area was in rough sections, more or less, with the over-18′s being permitted into an enclosure towards the back which housed games like Bulletstorm, Crysis 2, Dead Space 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Gears of War 3, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, Killzone 3, Mafia 2, Medal of Honor, Saw 2, Dragon Age 2…you get the idea. Now unfortunately, being press doesn’t mean you get to jump ahead of the queue (sad face) so instead I had to wait my turn for a number of these games and for a lot of the time it was a case of watching others play, just to get some footage and an idea of what to expect both this season and next year. In addition to all the games there was also a mini HMV store selling games for all major consoles and a careers section where nice people from all over the industry were on hand to discuss possible openings, courses and how to brush up on your mad skillz, yo. Plenty of places to eat and plenty of places to pee – pretty much everything you could ever want under one roof.
DEF JAM RAPSTAR
The guys who brought Def Jam Rapstar to the Expo were by far the most dedicated team – they were performing constantly throughout the day without stopping and really managed to get people involved. Some well-known and some lesser-known tracks were available to try out and the game is suitable for all ages since all tracks are the radio versions with profanity edited out to make it more accessible to younger players. That being said, if you know the song and want to swear, there is no in-game penalty for this. But your mother might slap you upside the head.
GEARS OF WAR 3
With Gears of War 3 being pushed back now until next autumn, I was very keen to see my favourite chainsaw-wielding bad boys in action; I was not disappointed. The boys are back and with a few ladies on hand to make things a bit more interesting. Personally? Not feeling the whole female vibe, but for those who like a bit more variety when they are slicing up Locust, you will soon be getting to grips (easy, tiger) with three lovely ladies who are not only good to look at but handy with a Lancer. Epic Games were showcasing the latest gaming mode they have introduced at the event and guess what? You get to be the bad guys this time around. Being a Gear is all very well and good but if you ever wanted to slap Dom silly for moaning about his missus or take Baird down a peg or two, sign up to be on the Locust team and show them who’s boss. Beast mode, baby, yeah!
Design hasn’t changed much, layout is still nice and familiar but the weapons is where it’s at – if it don’t pack a punch, it’s not worthy of a Gear. So get your mitts on the burrowing-grenade launcher (ooooh yeah!) and a whole new shotgun which makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside as you point it at a Butcher and watch it rip half its face off. It’s those little touches that make it all worthwhile, right? Not much story-wise has been given away but expect a polished performance by the time Gear of War 3 hits the shelves later next year.
I’ve not played a Mafia game before and only got about ten minutes before I managed to drown myself by driving into a river (yes I did see it and yes I am that dumb) but aside from looking EXACTLY like Grand Theft Auto anything, it was smooth and fairly easy to play. My only real irritation was that the instructions to open doors, speak to so and so etc were placed right at the bottom left of the screen in very small print which meant unless you are used to this, you spend a lot of time button mashing in front of doors and people you want to talk to trying to figure out how to proceed. Got to say though, I like the whole period the game is set in and all the style that goes with it. Being a gangster is actually pretty cool and the missions, albeit fairly standard for this sort of game, are enjoyable nonetheless. If you are already a Mafia fan, pick this up and you’ll definitely enjoy it.
Couldn’t get much footage of anything EA related as the minute anyone even so much as raised a video phone in the general direction of one of their games, a friendly representative of either EA or Eurogamer requested that all filming cease immediately. Nevertheless, Dead Space 2 and Medal of Honor were pretty popular as was FIFA 11. Dragon Age 2 surprisingly had little attention and whilst people were having the odd go on the console, they didn’t stay long which could be due to Dragon Age Origins requiring more than a mere few minutes to really get to grips with. Controls seem much the same and there is little graphics-wise which are overtly different but current DA fans would be insane to pass up the chance of playing this upon release. I was expecting more interest considering the large fan base for this game but it seemed that the EA game everyone was talking about was Medal of Honor. People were getting a good twenty minutes each to play; a generous amount of time considering the popularity and how busy the place was, but I didn’t get a chance to have a go thanks to time constraints – the queue was clocking an average of 45 minutes waiting time so I stuck to some photos instead.
FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS
I got to play a little Fallout: New Vegas and for those who say it’s just Fallout 3.5, well it is and it isn’t. Sure, the game play is much the same, the style is no different (apart from obvious frame rate improvements and sharper graphics) but hey! It’s in VEGAS! I made the mistake of restarting when the guy in front of me left the console and someone from Bethesda rushed over to take me back to the preset checkpoint part of the way through the game (my bad) and then proceeded to take the time to tell me the nearby places I could go to in order to explore and which weapons to try out. A few new enemies around, new weapons (I especially like the boxing gloves – those things are better than knuckle dusters!) and all new towns to explore. Seriously, guys – reducing this to being referred to as mere DLC is a gross injustice. This game is all-deserving of being released as a single entity, so don’t let the haters put you off.
Saw II was predictably gross – everyone started off having to slice open the underside of their own eye socket with a scalpel in order to pull out a key…if you like puzzles, close-up shots of gruesome mutilation and torture scenes then this is for you. To be fair, the graphics are realistic and well done – emotions are displayed almost perfectly which can be very rare in a computer game at times. The shaking and terror your face as you slice open your stitches is incredibly convincing and will certainly add a little zing to your game play.
I had a quick glance at Killzone 3 and was appalled to see that they’d brought a crappy pirated version over with the visuals all blurry and hard to make out. Silly me! It was simply NVIDIA bringing their new 3D glasses to the event to showcase them and allow people the three dimensional experience that everyone’s been talking about recently. I’ll be honest, these glasses are light-years away from those rubbish cardboard specs you used to get back in the early 1990’s (if you don’t remember the ‘90’s, please don’t tell me. It makes me feel incredibly old) and there wasn’t a scrap of green and red plastic in sight. Instead, these are a rather funky pair of dark shades with better fit than cardboard, I can assure you. What appeared to be blurry became beautifully focussed upon donning a pair of these glasses and made the experience far more immersive than you would have thought. Nvidia had these 3D glasses attached to a number of games at the Expo and people were very keen to try them out.
ASSASSIN’S CREED BROTHERHOOD
Now Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood was not something I was particularly interested in, I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan of the other games in the series and when I found out this one was still involving Ezio I called “lazy!” from my judgemental casual-gamer throne. But from what I saw at the Expo this year, I take that back.
Yes, Ezio is back – but we’re in a new city with new goals and new ways of playing. Multiplayer? You got it – you might have a target in your sights as you make your way around to find the best opportunity to assassinate them but beware! Someone is also targeting you – and if you don’t blend in well enough, you become more and more apparent to them until they too have you pegged and before you can say Initiation Ceremony, those hidden blades will be sinking into your back. A nice mode and one I can see becoming very popular.
Had a little mooch around the Playstation Move area – ok, so the controllers look goofy but the game play is pretty smooth and sensitive – more so than the Wii, I have to add. The games they have adapted for this are also more edgy than their Nintendo counterpart (Killzone 3 and Heavy Rain being two of them) and from what we could glean above the heads of the aforementioned ridiculously tall people, the sensors are pretty sweet with little drag.
Kinect had its own corner of the Expo this year and was showcasing two types of game – a dancing one and a sporty one. Pros? Sensitive, incredibly accurate and definitely fun. Cons? You look stupid and so far all I’ve seen of Kinect is what most would consider as just party games and shovel ware. How they will incorporate (if at all) anything other than sports/party/music games without the use of extra peripherals, I don’t know, but unlike the Wii and Move, you have to really get into the game, as it were, to make your motions count. Those playing tennis genuinely looked exhausted after a couple of sets thanks to throwing themselves around the area – if you’re going for Kinect I would strongly recommend plenty of space before playing otherwise keep the paracetamol on standby for your bruised limbs.
Dance Central was the one everyone was watching, not least because of the two bouncing blondes showing off their moves and encouraging others to give it a try. I can see Dance Central getting a LOT of sales – this game is much more than your usual step and jump fare seen recently. For a start, accuracy is key – if you haven’t got the moves then you won’t get very far with this as it rates you according to how closely you follow the dancers on screen. You copy what they are doing mirror-fashion and then at one point you go into freestyle mode where you are captured dancing (or not, as the case may be) however you please. There are varying degrees of difficulty and I would strongly recommend not going for anything too high when you are starting out as even on Medium difficulty, some of the moves are quite demanding. But the results look pretty sweet – I saw members of BBC’s 1 Extra having a quick go and despite them getting a pretty bad rating at the end, the moves used in the dance itself made them look like proper dancers as opposed to bopping along to something less advanced with the end result looking like you’ve got something unpleasant wedged in your pants.
Love it or hate it, Kinect can deliver insofar as these sorts of games go. Whether it will branch out into different gaming genres successfully remains to be seen but if you don’t mind forking out for something with a little more finesse than a Wii, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
Of course there were many more games at the Expo but time was of the essence and I only had until about 4pm (the kids were done with the Science Museum by this point and needed feeding. Selfish creatures…) so I whizzed around the other titles such as Halo Reach, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and SOCOM Special Forces to get to what I was most looking forward to:
Ok, so call me biased but this is one beautiful game. Clearer, sharper and a whole lot more interesting. Your decisions have way more impact than you are probably thinking even now, with the release date imminent. The interactions are easier and range from cute (running around, holding hands with pretty much anyone – I chose the gardener for comedic effect) to downright disgusting (belching in people’s faces). Instead of fiddling about with the D-pad to make your choice between smiling and slapping, two options for interacting and their corresponding buttons float on either side of the screen; at first I thought this would be in the way but actually it’s not and blends very well.
You have a dog, you have a breadcrumb trail but otherwise the screen is refreshingly empty, leaving more room for some fantastic visuals and gorgeous cut scenes. Selecting weapons and clothing from your Sanctuary (where the marvellous John Cleese drolly points out the finer details of your selections) is an enjoyable interactive experience and much less cumbersome than the old methods of scrolling through menus and clicking options in the previous Fable instalments. Fighting in Fable III, at least what I saw of it, was much more involved than before and you need to keep your wits about you when surrounded by enemies.
The outfits are cool; there is no other way to describe them. The level of detail and customisation that has been poured into this game will make it a far more satisfying experience for Fable fans and those new to the series. The weapons have more clout and feel more realistic this time around and the environment has been finely tuned to include greater detail, more realism and depending on your actions and decisions, accurate reflections thereof. The loading screens now feature adverts a la Fallout 3 with things such as nose-picking devices and hats which are steam powered, which are things we all want if we are truly honest with ourselves. Lionheads’s unique brand of humour is prevalent throughout and overall it really does look as though Peter Molyneux is getting closer and closer to delivering the game he’s wanted to create since the first Fable burst onto the scene back in 2004. PM has clearly listened to fans, re-jigged the bits he thought weren’t quite working and optimized, streamlined and honed almost every element of Fable III to make it immense yet personal to each gamer who plays it. And let’s not forget – YOU CAN TALK!!! I didn’t get to hear the voice because some idiot behind me was yelling into his mobile phone but the fact your Hero is no longer a mute tower of Will, Skill and Strength is awesome. Fable III, whether you are expecting a little or a lot, will most definitely please people with its quirkiness, attention to detail and a pretty sweet line-up of acting folk to voice the characters: John Cleese, Simon Pegg, Zoe Wanamaker, Stephen Fry and Ghandi – sorry, Ben Kingsley; if you don’t know who these people are then shame on you and get Googling!
Of course there were plenty more titles at the Expo and I would have loved to have the time to really get to grips with all of them but it simply wasn’t possible. However, if you want to know the other games that were available this year for playing, check out http://expo.eurogamer.net/whats-on.php for the full line-up.
Aside from the horrendously expensive food, morons with mobile phones and the thrice-mentioned ridiculously tall people, the Eurogamer Expo 2010 at Earl’s Court in London was a fantastic success and this was mainly down to the efforts of the staff. Both industry reps and Eurogamer staff/volunteers alike were consistently helpful, courteous and, above all, very excited about the games they were showcasing. A special mention to Bethesda and Lionhead representatives in particular for being polite, incredibly helpful and full of advice when asked about the best way to play the games they had brought with them – no one considered mixing with the common public to be beneath them and having been to other exhibitions before this was a nice change from the usual attitude received. So hats off to all of the Eurogamer staff, volunteers, security teams, those stuck out in the rain directing people to the right areas, gaming reps, demonstrators, industry peeps and anyone else I’ve neglected to mention – a fantastic expo and definitely one to go to next year. I leave you now with some of the epic noms that were on offer. Roll on 2011!
Last update: October 7th, 2010 at 6:20 pm