Eurogamer Expo 2010 Roundup – Part Two

On the first three days of October this year, I went to the Eurogamer Expo on behalf of Wired Radio, PlusXP and Gaminglives, and naturally, got a very, very large fill of videogames across the weekend. So much so that thanks to starting my second year of university straight afterwards it’s been a lot more difficult than I gave it credit for trying to type everything up. Rather than wait to post it all as one enormous post or wait until December to post it all like I did last year, I thought it’d be easier to just post up the summaries and hands-on experiences with all the games I had in multiple posts with a few games selected everytime. This means you get variety every time and keeps you guessing as to which ones I’ll post next.

This time around, I’m looking at Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Fallout: New Vegas, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, Killzone 3 in 3D, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Kirby and Fallout appear this time around because they’ve recently been released (at least in America) and so if I didn’t write about them sooner rather than later it’d end up dated before I’d get a chance to put it up =/ In any case, it’s a long read, so enjoy!

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

Albeit a brotherhood where you all want to and eventually have to kill each other… so just like every brotherhood, I guess…

While a discussion of adding multiplayer to series that don’t necessarily need it is always going to be a tricky one to argue, Ubisoft have helped opened that discussion up again with Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood which’ll come with it’s own multiplayer mode which was showcased at the Eurogamer Expo throughout the weekend. While it was consistently crowded with plenty of people more than willing to give it a shot, I ended up being a bit less than impressed with the experience.

Continuing from Assassin’s Creed II, a game I still need to invest in, the multiplayer level took place in a market area, but before starting, I had to pick which of 8 Assassins I could have been, and then a pair of special abilities (which you can also change between deaths) before spawning. You’re then given a target to assassinate. But be careful, anyone else can be hunting you down at the same time. Enter a game of cat and mouse where you’re a cat and everyone else is a potential mouse who is also a cat and hunting you, their mouse. While you’re given a primary contract, you’re also allowed to hunt down everyone else but won’t receive as much as a points pay-off as killing your contract. Sadly though, there’s no punishment for killing civilians apart from being given another primary contract and potentially giving away your disguise, but the latter is so easy to do that you might as well consider killing civilians consequence free.

The fundamental problem that the mode seemed to have for me is that for a mode that should rely on you being stealthy, hiding in plain sight and being careful, it didn’t feel like you were rewarded for any of that, or that any of those things were even easy enough to do in the first place. The engine for the game is built in a way that being stealthy around computer characters is easy enough if a bit unrealistic, but against human players discovering who the other humans are is simple. It’s anyone who runs, climbs anything, and doesn’t follow a very fixed movement pattern. It seems weird that considering how easy it is to distinguish who the human characters are, even with only eight character models present, that Ubisoft didn’t really do anything to mix up the computer AI to throw people off the scent. I didn’t even see the AI really react to people being murdered, and it really bugged me that in the end the mode didn’t have any of the stealth or intrigue it should have. It could go down to who you’re playing against but it’s obvious when people are trying to stay hidden and even more obvious when they’re human.

Tell me, does this syringe feel like chloroform to you?

When you’ve been spotted, or spot someone, you then have to run after them or run away. It just seems a bit weird because seeing as all of the characters don’t have defining differences apart from the special abilities, so you’ll run after someone at the same speed they’re running unless either of you has the sprint ability. Not that it matters because most of the abilities are a load of crap. The smoke bombs are useless, the gun is horrendously slow, you can’t target it and it doesn’t even kill who you’re aiming for and it takes forever to fire and its super obvious when you’re doing it. Plus for some reason it wouldn’t even use some of the abilities the first few times I pressed the buttons and you can’t customise which two abilities you have, you have to pick from predetermined combinations.

Then it comes down to when you then attack your contract or someone trying to kill you, and for some reason a lot of the time it wouldn’t let me strike my opponent for no reason, so nearly all of my deaths came down to “I pressed the button and nothing happened for no reason whatsoever”. If there was a better indication of when you needed to attack or if there was a way to defend or counter it’d be less frustrating as well. Then on top of all that, there’s nothing stopping someone standing behind you when you kill someone and killing you as soon as the canned animation is finished.

What it comes down to for me is that it really lacks a lot of polish. It seems that they didn’t change anything to do with the mechanics or the engine of the game to accommodate the multiplayer, it feels very incomplete and threadbare on top of that. While other people may find enjoyment on it to me it certainly feels like multiplayer for the sake of it. I should add that this is in no way writing the whole game off totally. I will openly admit I don’t know anything about the single player and so if I find myself buying the game, all the demo has done is put me off indulging in the multiplayer aspect, as I found it all rather lacklustre and underwhelming.

Fallout: New Vegas

Think there might be a problem with your camera, because I’m getting serious red eye…

So, New Vegas. This was a difficult game for Bethesda to demo at the Eurogamer Expo for a myriad of reasons. The main one being that the game is massively open-world and one where you’re encouraged to explore as much as you want. The second being that you were only granted a limited amount of time on the game and it didn’t really give you enough time to scratch the surface, let alone try and delve below it.

The demo takes place about an hour or so into the actual game, with all of the tutorial stuff skipped and you put within walking distance of an NCR held area where the convicts have escaped and are trying control of the area. You have a pip-boy in this game, too, and opening it up you could see a load of weapons they’d put into the demo including the grenade machine gun with more ammo you could possibly use (I tried, very hard).

However, the problem of the game being really hard to demo reared its head repeatedly, as I was mostly only able to experience a few skirmishes in the limited time I had, and the combat is pretty much exactly the same as Fallout 3. Not a problem for me, but combat-wise, the game seemed pretty much exactly the same, just with a few more add-ons in terms of weapons and so forth.

They sure know how to throw a party here in New Vegas…

Where the most improvement seemed to take place was in the writing. Even with a tiny bit of the game played, it felt that the writing I experienced was much improved over that of Fallout 3’s, and it felt more important, slightly better delivered and with more weight to it this time. Though there’s also the beginning story of trying to get revenge on whomever shot you and left you for dead right at the beginning of the game, so it could be that seeing as it was a priority it had more attention given to it. I also saw little sprinklings of the reputation system and the karma system again by attacking a gang during the demo. Wiping out the squad moved my reputation with them to a level where they’d attack me on sight, but improved my karma as they were apparently bad guys.

As I said at the start, the game was a difficult one for Bethesda to demo at the Expo, and it’s also a hard one to judge. What it felt like to me was that Obsidian managed to take what was given to them by the work on Fallout 3 and then make a game that builds on those mechanics and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it improves the experience to the point where by the time I was off it I found myself wanting to demo it time and time again, and found a couple of other times across the weekend to go back and play it to discuss it with others. If you liked Fallout 3, New Vegas promises to be a much bigger and better experience across the board, and if you didn’t like Fallout 3, then maybe the improved writing, reputation and karma systems as well as a whole new world to explore and plenty to do may change your mind. New Vegas is here. Don’t keep it waiting.

Hunted: Demon’s Forge

Not every game at Eurogamer could have been a hit. While you can normally tell by the appearances, sometimes you just simply miss a game until its pointed out to you. And sometimes, those games won’t be very good. With that in mind, I’d never heard of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge until a Bethesda representative bribed me and my friends with free T-Shirts in exchange for going to see the developer’s talk for the game. Going in with literally no information about it whatsoever, I ended up leaving the talk cursing that I’d wasted my time with loads of things to say about Hunted: The Demon’s Forge.
And few of those words were good.

The story, as explained to us is that the intrepid heroes are persuaded to go down to the nearby civilisation (they live alone for some reason) by a spirit as something bad has happened there, whereupon they find out that pretty much everyone has been killed or kidnapped by monsters. The two protagonists are then thrust against their will into adventure with their main reason for doing so to gather crystals for the spirit in reward for treasure or something. It’s not really made clear, but when you’re teased that there are interesting twists later, I can bet you the spirit is either secretly evil or their father. Or both.

Anyone got a breath mint?

While I hold out no hope for the story, I also hold out no hope for the relationship between the two heroes, obviously built to act as anti-heroes with dialogue and personalities ripped from the book of cliché. If your selling point of the characters is that you mixed it up by making the woman the bloodthirsty killer and the man the calm, laid back one when the woman specialises in long range and the man in close up bloodthirsty melee combat, I think you might kind of be doing it wrong. Especially when you deliberately dress the girl up stupidly skimpy and have her walking view really blatantly show off her arse. Though that’s not so much a point as it is a complaint about how obviously sexualised she is and how unprepared she’d then be for combat.
The dialogue uttered in what we were shown was barely passable with the man trying to sound like every grit-eating hero ever put into a game and her trying to sound like every self-absorbed bitch to ever be put into a game. My major frustration with it was it was obviously trying to portray them at odds with each other despite being partners for whatever inexplicable reason, and so they were constantly trying to out-speak the other in terms of wit, or whatever they’re trying to make them outdo each other at, but it just comes across as each side trying to out-ham the other with dialogue that doesn’t quite sound right and jars in a way that doesn’t make the conversations work and also caused me to slightly wince a little.
I’ll give you an example. The woman’s finishing move (look, I didn’t care to remember either of their names. Leave me alone.) is to fire an arrow into the enemy’s eye. Upon doing so, the man looks at the corpse and hams “I can understand shooting him in the head, but in the eye?” with disgust at her. Now, I don’t claim to be any good at biology, but surely the eye is in the head, and if you’re going to shoot someone in the head, you’re still going to kill them with the arrow most likely by hitting them in the brain. So what difference does shooting them in the eye make? Seriously? Why is this allowed to be actual dialogue anywhere? How did it get that far into the development without anyone bludgeoning the writer to within an inch of his life for being so fucking stupid? It’s an incredibly stupid attempt at trying to out-smarm the other character, its not funny, its delivered terribly, and makes no sense for a guy who hacks people to death for the entirety of the game to even begin to complain or object to what she’s doing. Plus, her response was just as stupid to the point my memory had no choice but to block it and any further dialogue in the game out to avoid my brain from haemorrhaging.
Of course I’m overreacting to it, but simply going “the dialogue was poorly written” wouldn’t have done it justice. I’m getting a headache over-analysing it to the point I am.

All of this so far and I haven’t even explained how the game plays. Basically, if you’re using a bow and arrow, then you’re basically playing an inferior medieval-style Gears of War, complete with cover-based shooting and the such to the point it literally just looked like character models had just been swapped in and then the makers called it a day. If you’re going up close and personal though, the melee combat just looks horrifically clumsy and slow with enemies taking what seems like an atomic age to eventually keel over and die. It didn’t look like it felt very satisfying or fun to pull off. Though, not to completely gloss over it, I’ll admit there were some good ideas in the mix too. The first of which is that both characters have degrading shields which only block them from a limited amount of attacks before they have to pick up another one from a fallen enemy, with their shields also being damaged by you meaning you’d then have to pick up their broken shield if yours fails, which could be interesting. Also a limited amount of reviving crystals that you can throw across the battlefield to your fallen partner instead of having to run over, which should mix up the formula a bit. Not only that but at certain checkpoints you can choose who to play as, the woman or the man. Though she’s supposed to be a master at long range and he a master at close quarters, I feel the reason they didn’t show either trying out the class they’re inferior in is because there’d be no recognisable difference. Just saying.

Hunted: The Demon’s Forge? More like… Cunted… The… Fuck Off!

The other way the game shakes up the formula is by having magic as a factor. One can fire… fireballs at the enemy while the woman can fire lightning, and each can use magic to power up the other’s attacks. In the demonstration we were given the woman used lightning to power his attacks, which rather depressingly turned the boss fight later on into a total cakewalk, and with it looking like the magic doesn’t really need to be recharged it doesn’t seem like there’s much stopping you from powering yourself up with magic and blasting through super quickly.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t like a lot of what I saw of the game. While graphically it looks superb, complimenting a game solely on how pretty it looks isn’t something I do, and the gameplay has to stand on its own, and it really doesn’t seem like it does. It feels like a Gears clone at times and with too many problems with the gameplay that I wouldn’t be capable of enjoying it. Plus the writing looks to be so horrendous that I won’t even be able to enjoy it in a so-bad-its-good way. You may find something to like, but I’ll give it a miss.

Killzone 3 (3D)

Hey, we’re here to audition for the Enclave in Fallout… are we too late?

Whether you like it or not, 3D is coming to gaming. While at the moment it seems too expensive with too little promise at this early stage unless you’re talking about the 3DS, it hasn’t stopped the initial outlay of games coming out trying to take advantage of 3D. Anyone else find all this talk of 3D in games really confusing? I got into gaming literally as the old kind of 3D was coming in and we all remarked at how stuff like Super Mario 64 was in three dimensions. Now we have this other one with glasses and depth and at times I’m never really sure how to address which is which.

Anyway, Sony is putting quite a bit of investment into 3D gaming at home and pushing the PS3 to its limits, and while current games enabling it weren’t initially developed to use it, Killzone 3 is one of the first games to be developed for the PS3 with 3D in mind. Being shown in its Pre-Alpha Code build at the Eurogamer Expo on 3DTVs with attached glasses, it was always going to be a weird experience getting used to.

The settings shown off in the game were clearly meant to showcase some of the new things being featured in Killzone 3 such as the snow and the jet-packs, as well as of course the 3D, but, well. Snow’s nice and all, and I’m sure the jet-packs are actually a unique and fun if slightly clunky experience, but after the time I spent on the other demo level, I came out feeling like I’d just played Killzone 2 again. The snow is purely an aesthetic touch which does nothing to impact the gameplay in any way, and the gameplay and mechanics felt literally exactly the same as Killzone 2. Of course if you were a fan of Killzone 2 then it’s a great starting point and you’ll be right at home, but something about Killzone 2 never really clicked for me and I ended up giving up a few missions after feeling kind of underwhelmed about it all.

We’re here to kick some butt… in 3D!

So what about that 3D vision as well? The one the game’s been built in mind for? Sadly, I came out feeling underwhelmed about that as well. I’m pretty sure it’s because the game is in a pre-alpha state, but the 3D would either focus on the gun in front of you or far into the distance, but never in the part where enemies were and were shooting at you, which made the whole thing seem kind of wasteful and very slightly nauseating. Also, if I wasn’t sitting at the middle of the screen, then the 3D wouldn’t work particularly well, which was particularly noticeable in the cut-scene I witnessed as well.

I come off sounding extremely negative, but it’s more a case of disappointment. Granted, the technology is in its infancy and the game was in an early build, so I’m hoping it’ll improve drastically as it continues development. That doesn’t mean there weren’t flaws with what I played, and it felt like they’ve taken Killzone 2 and just added one or two things without trying to meaningfully improve the gameplay and make it a more incredible experience. I’ll keep my fingers crossed it’ll improve, but if a flagship 3D title isn’t going to improve the experience then it might not sell 3D for Sony as well as they’d like.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Epic Yarn? Pull the other one…

He’s made of string. He walks around in one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen in my life with the most fantastic and whimsical animations to boot. Everything clicks and I’ve fallen in love. Actually, let me rewind and back up. At Nintendo’s E3 conference I was expecting the new Zelda and the 3DS, but one title being announced completely caught me off guard and caused a very audible cheer. That was the return of the pink puffball known as Kirby in what looked like it’d be one of the most unique platforming titles around. Come Eurogamer’s Expo and I find myself staring at it. It’s simply so beautiful, and grabbing Pix3l from Gaminglives I went to tackle the demo they had onhand of the first three levels. I would pose a hypothetical question about whether I’d like the game or not, but I may have spoiled the answer already.

The first big difference from previous Kirby adventures is the fact he can no longer inhale and eat enemies. Instead, Kirby has a large range of abilities from the offset and morphs into different forms to fit the situation. Double tapping the direction you want to go turns him into a car, picking up your friend turns them into a baseball, and when falling you can float further by turning into a parachute or fall to the ground by turning into an anvil. It’s not only useful but insanely charming and cute too, and it means you’re instantly able to go in and try to master it.

This is literally one of the cutest and most beautiful things I have ever seen on the Wii…

Which is a good thing too as the challenge comes not from dying, as dying is impossible in this game. Instead the challenge comes from the fact trying not to get hit at all. You see, throughout each level there are loads of beads and gems to be found, as well as three treasures. Grab as many beads and gems as you can to try and get the gold medal for each level, but don’t get hit or you’ll lose a bunch of them. It worked incredibly well in the demo and didn’t become frustrating or hard to play as a result, but for me added to the fun, as well as trying to mess about and see what I could find by exploring, which is encouraged heavily with all the rewards you can find to boot.

In terms of everything in the game though, it all just feels… perfect. The mechanics of how everything works is perfect. The animations, the graphics and the way everything fits together just flows so well that the game gives off an utterly irreparable sense of charm that gives you a massive smile on your face and the game is such fun, even with two players. There’s no frustrating pitfalls from working with someone else, and literally, everything clicks into place as soon as you even start. The game is outstanding in every way and should hopefully be a massive runaway hit. I can’t even continue praising the game enough from all too short three levels I played. Not short as in lacking, but short as in “I wanted that moment to last as long as possible”. Hopefully it’s another smash hit for Nintendo, and to anyone who doesn’t find themselves impressed by the game in any way or unable to at least smile at it, I hope you find your soul again soon.

Hope you enjoyed part two! Check back next week for Part Three before the Best and Worst of Eurogamer Roundup.

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