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 is the final main roundup post. While there were a couple of other games I could have written about, there may not have been enough for me to write about them. There were so many games at the Eurogamer Expo this year, and it’s taken a lot of my time just trying to write about the ones I got to play, let alone everything else at the Expo.
This final roundup post contains write-ups of my time with Brink, Fable 3, Kinect, Move, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Special Effect. Enjoy!
If the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword hadn’t been at the Expo, this game would most likely have been my choice for the game of the show. Consistently packed throughout the show, it took a while to finally get onto the game, but when I got to play it, it was more than worth the wait. Previously one of the highlights of the Expo last year, when it was just a developer’s talk showcasing a mission wherein you were tasked with being the Security and escorting a bomb-defusal kit or the Resistance who were intent on making sure the bomb exploded, the demo this year was of that very level, only playable to everyone on the floor as either side. It was from there that everything I witnessed last year was playable, more polished and was even more fun to play than it looked to be last year. The extra year of development time on the game has really given Splash Damage more time to give the game a much better impact and playing it was a defining moment of the weekend.
Taking control of a Security member in charge of escorting a bomb defusal kit, the demo started with you being able to fully customise aspects of the character you were going to play as. I could make him thin and tall and therefore more agile and more hurt by bullets, or a small fat tank that could absorb bullets but move at a crawl. Settling on an average build and height, the amount of customisation options were incredible, and it felt like you could genuinely design the characters however you wanted to, but as I wasn’t able to spend too long customising the character, what with a demo to play and all (plus I’m terrible at customisation) I wasn’t able to push it to the limits, but even with just three minutes or so on it, I came out very satisfied with the character I’d designed.
Of course, it doesn’t come down to just how it looks and how well you can design characters, but if that was an option, it’d certainly be miles ahead of a lot of games that spring to mind right now. As well as the game looking fantastic in gameplay, it’s also one of the only first person shooters around at the moment that I care about any more. Splash Damage have taken the serious side First-Person Shooter genre and given it a firm shake-up and made an online shooter worth paying attention to and playing offline.
They’re about to discover being on the Arc wasn’t very SMART… Okay, I’ll stop.
The addition of SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) makes it easy to run about and explore the confines of the area as well as allowing you to think in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily do in shooters. It takes a little while to get used to, but in time I imagine it’ll become second nature and something that mastery of will be all-important if you wish to separate the men from the boys. However, those who’ll come out on top won’t be those who take control and try to be a lone gunman. When I played the game, trying to do that just resulted in swift death from the opposing forces. Instead, working as a team and following the objective will get you points and encourages you not to spent your time trying to be the best, but rather to help your team to victory. Sticking by the bomb-defusal robot gave me experience for escorting it, and you get experience depending on how much damage you give to the opponents, so you’re rewarded for assisting with kills rather than just killing, too. As well as this, the dynamic AI director will give you more points depending on how well you follow objectives and do as it says, giving me more points for going off and repairing the crane on the map and changing my class to do so than if I stuck around simply trying to dispatch enemies. As well as that, the gameplay was incredibly refined and almost subtle in how much of an improvement it was over any other FPS games you’d have played. It’s hard to describe, but playing the game you can tell how much work Splash Damage put into the game and how much love.
Ending the demo with our side victorious, I was more than eager for the game to hurry up and release already. Pushed to a Q1 2011 release, Brink is an utter labour of love and I hope it sells as brilliantly as Splash Damage deserve.
I’ll let you in on something. I completely ignored all of the hype for Fable 2, later found myself desperately in need of the game and bought it at around half the original price. And I found it a massive let-down. The moral choices were incredibly hackneyed with mundane things affecting your morality (eating meat is evil and makes you fat? Don’t be a pussy) and way too many choices having nothing but aesthetic effects on the game. The combat was a button mashing let-down which thankfully actually rewarded you on how you used your skills and bolstered the ones you put more time into. The writing was at least okay, but something goes hilariously wrong with a game’s script if I feel sadness at my dog getting shot and killed, but laugh at the fact my family died the very next line. Or maybe that’s just a problem with me. We’ll never know.
The E3 trailer did little to impress me, and I heard the Peter Molyneux talk at the expo was a bit of a bust, but Fable 3 was one that many people at the Expo were interested in, and at PlusXP we managed to get a rather long interview with one of the designers on the game. However, I’d like to say that the game didn’t actually do much to impress me at the Expo for a couple of reasons.
This first one is probably going to sound silly to some, but the overhauled menu just seems too much. Instead of addressing complaints that the menus weren’t very good in Fable 2, Lionhead just seem to have thrown something else into the mixture instead, rather than fixing it. If people had a problem with the menus, why take all of the menus out entirely and replace it with an even slower variation where you walk around, into different rooms for different items and die of old age before you’ve selected an outfit? Why not just fix what’s broken rather than replace it with a new component that fixes nothing? It’s a worrying sign to me if a game can’t even get the menus right.
A point was made of refusing to show anyone anything from when your character becomes a King/Queen. I wouldn’t have thought anything of this, and again I’ll admit this is probably a petty point to make, but why bring it up? No one would question it because the demo was of obviously such an early point in the game. But by making such a massive point of it, you’re going to open yourself up to a lot of scrutiny if that part of the game then fails to deliver. It didn’t affect my time with the demo, but I feel its something that probably shouldn’t have been pointed out, especially so I then didn’t have to moan about it.
However, the biggest problem for me with the demo was that it just didn’t seem like they changed or added much from Fable 2 at all. It just felt like they’d taken the engine from Fable 2, the graphics and the gameplay… and made a pretty much identical experience, sans a HUD. Why you’d get rid of the HUD is beyond me, seeing as it conveyed necessary information and taking it out of the game took me out of the game more than having it there in the first place. It seemed like Lionhead were trying to streamline and swap things around without really understanding why they were necessary in the first place. There didn’t look to be an element of improving on problems and fixing things from the previous games as there was taking things away and going “wait, look over there!” to the player whenever they felt something was amiss.
Of course, I’m looking too much into it, but after Fable 2 turned out to be disappointing and considering this sequel doesn’t really look to improve the series in a significant manner, I’ll give it a miss.
A silent battle was going on during the weekend, that between Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s Move. Both came to the Eurogamer Expo with several games in tow that would best showcase the hardware and convince the population they were the superior choice come this Christmas season.
On the Kinect side, Dance Central was shown off along with Kinect Adventures, Sports and Joy Ride. Dance Central was the main focus of the Kinect attention with consistently one of the biggest crowds throughout the entire weekend, and generating alone more crowds than I ever saw at the Move stand. Though I guess it helped you could hear it halfway across the hall. Joy Ride was the only other game I cared to take a look at, and it’s basically a pretty bad rip-off of Mario Kart which controls awkwardly, is clunky and slow and not really worth your time.
Dance Central came with about 7 different tracks to showcase the different styles of dancing in the game. Each song contained a large variance of dance moves that you then had to replicate to the Kinect’s camera in real-time, and the closer you aped the movement, the greater the amount of points you gained. Included in each song is a freestyle section where for a few seconds you can dance however you like and then have the camera show you what you just did.
So how does it play? Well, I’d never play it in public ever again, that’s for sure, and I’m glad I was able to demo it during the press hours before the general public entered, otherwise I’d never have tried it or lived it down when I did. You see, I’m probably one of the worst dancers in the history of dancing, and though everyone probably says that, the video footage I’m desperately trying to persuade PlusXP and Gaminglives not to post will agree with me. So maybe my time with it was a little biased when I say I didn’t enjoy it, but I’d probably play it by myself, alone, with no one around to witness me. Because dancing badly in front of people is a horrible experience for me whether its a videogame or not. Otherwise, the navigation for the menus was pretty poor, what with the lack of buttons and having to control menus by swiping your hands.
However, Kinect looks to be something that’s going to appeal to the casual audience and little else. The games on display were clearly marketed for that audience and because they offer a new way to play new games built specifically for that mode of play, the games should at least make good use of the technology, even if the games aren’t very good. Dance Central should be a fantastic game that champions the hardware most effectively, but otherwise I don’t see much to keep people interested long enough to make the kit a worthy investment.
Compared to the size of the Kinect stand, Move’s showing was a smaller affair, but with more machines and stands to demo the games, which may have been why the crowds were a lot smaller than the Kinect ones whenever I saw them. Sadly though, I left the Move stands pretty unimpressed, though it may have been more due to the games showcasing it. The two I remember specifically were an incredibly oddball game where an office worker is riding on a chair and a game called “The Fight”, which was also in 3D. Sadly, neither did anything to make me want to purchase Move, and if anything, prevented my desire to purchase it.
Donning a pair of 3D glasses, grabbing two Move controllers and ready to experience full 1:1 motion and an experience that would have been well crafted for motion controls, seeing as it was a one-on-one fighting game and would have encouraged you to fight as you would in real life, albeit holding two glowing wands. However, I came out of playing the game and struggled to avoid swearing off Move in future.
You see, “The Fight” is a game that gives the impression it was made for Move, but it just doesn’t work. The 3D was completely pointless, but that’s besides the point. The game controlled terribly, and the motion controls were awful. It genuinely took me less than thirty seconds of trying to actually play the game until I gave up and made my character look as if he was jerking himself off and signalling to the enemy he was a wanker. There’s no 1:1 motion, and if there was, it didn’t take into account the speed or power I was putting in, as my character only managed to hit very few weak shots and tiring himself out for no reason rather than actually trying to punch or uppercut. My character’s hands just flounced around like a fish out of water even though I was actually putting effort into it.
It was such a disappointment, and while I won’t rule out Move in future despite the fact that I didn’t enjoy my time at all with it, because I believe it shows a lot of future promise. It’s just currently it holds very little promise, and purchasing it might be a premature and risky decision at this juncture in its life. It needs some killer apps and soon, but none of what I played could be remotely qualified as such.
I have a thing with racing games where I can’t enjoy ones that come more on the serious side than the fun side. To that effect, I’ve spent hundreds of hours invested in the Mario Kart games and the Burnout games, but very little in any other racing game. I last flirted with the Need for Speed series with Underground 2, a pretty fun racing game where the open world worked effectively and the racing was pretty fun, but after that, the series apparently became a bit too stiff and serious and less fun.
So how lucky for me and everyone else that Criterion, the developers behind the Burnout series were gracious enough to revive the Need for Speed franchise with the return of the Hot Pursuit part of the franchise.
With the ability to try out the multiplayer demo and being either the Police or the Pursued, I opted for the Police and tried to see how many I could take out of the running. I wondered how the game would play, and how the multiplayer would work out, and it turned out putting the faith into Criterion was the right way to go.
The game plays fantastically and looks pretty as heck, with the controls working fantastically as well. Criterion clearly put a lot of their love into the game and it shows so much, even from a quick five to ten minute demo. Driving a supercar police car, I was tasked with taking down as many of the racers as I could, with a team of four police cars against four racers. As the Police, you’re several seconds behind the racers but you’re also given four items you can use to close down and take them out of the running. There’s the police helicopter that drops obstacles in front of their path, the EMP which upon locking on will stop their car running for several seconds, the roadblock and tyre-bursting spikes.
If you’re familiar with the Burnout driving games, or driving games in general most likely, you’ll have no troubles fitting in and getting into the groove of the game like I did, and you’ll be speeding along, boosting and setting traps in no time. However, you need to use those traps strategically, as they have a long reset period and so failing with them will put you at a massive disadvantage. You also have a limited amount of times you can crash or hit other obstacles before you’re completely out of the running, and it’s also possible to take down cars much like you can in Burnout as well. It feels like a slightly more realistic Burnout a lot of the time with the addition of weapons to keep the game interesting. Sorry for the repeated comparisons, but it’s my only comparison point in racing games that isn’t Mario Kart.
Finishing my time on the game taking out 3 of the 4 drivers and helping the Police to a rousing victory, I came out wanting to buy my first Need for Speed game (I borrowed Underground 2), or at least giving it another look further down the line. Even from just the multiplayer aspect alone, Criterion have done a fantastic job with Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and it’s well worth a look if you’re a fan of racing games or any previous Need for Speed games.
Please go and visit www.specialeffect.org.uk :)
One of the best parts of the weekend was hiding away in a distant corner of the Expo. People were able to play games with only a couple of buttons and in the best case, only with their eyes. A small charity was able to give gamers a more interesting way to play than Move and Kinect were able to with millions of dollars investment money. A charity dedicated to developing technology to help those differently abled play videogames, its something that makes you think. We take a lot of our gaming for granted, and I think the charity is absolutely amazing for what they’re doing. What is also amazing is the efforts of Kat from Gaminglives, who recently completed a 24 Hour Halo Marathon and raised over £600 for the charity. I would write more on this, but I feel her write-up of Special Effect and her experiences on doing the marathon for charity are better reads than anything else I can produce on this subject.
Gaminglives.com – Game On For Everyone
Gaminglives.com – 24 Hours In Reach
Thank you very much for reading the Eurogamer Expo 2010 Roundups. Hope you enjoyed, and be on the lookout for the final Eurogamer Expo 2010 post soon – The Best and Worst of Eurogamer 2010!