My Guilty Pleasure (A Day Out at the Eurogamer Expo)
Today I fought my way through the drizzle, crowds and lunacy of London to be one of what appeared to be several million attendees at the Eurogamer Expo (“E2”?) in Earls Court. Here was gathered the cream of the world’s gaming enterprises showing off their shiny new wares – and shiny indeed they were.
Crammed into a cavernous exhibition chamber, my first impression was that of entering an arcade - hundreds of people milling around consoles; awkward teenagers to every side; the constant, humming threat of violence in the air. My initial experience was of walking along the queue to attempt entry to Peter Molyneux’s presentation of Fable III – I gave up when I realised the queue stretched right across the diameter of the hall and seemingly off into infinity (or at least well into the café). Sadly, queuing was very much the order of the day and I spent the vast majority of my time impatiently tapping my feet behind a succession of sweaty, long-haired, fluffy-moustachioed teenagers who had settled in for the long haul on my chosen game.
Still, this isn’t intended to be a rant (at least, not all of it) so without further ado I present The Mouthhole’s Eurogamer Expo Highlights:
Gears of War 3
Undoubtedly to many people the “Game of the Show”, GoW3 was present with a fully playable multiplayer demo of the new “Beast” mode. Here, players take on the role of the Locust Horde attacking firmly-entrenched COG soldiers, in a neat inversion of Epic’s oft-plagiarised “Horde” mode. All the traditional Gears stalwarts were firmly in place – a chunky cover system, fantastic visuals and gushing, excessive gore. One of the new takedown moves involves ripping off your foe’s arm and bludgeoning them to death with it. One to watch.
Fallout: New Vegas
“War Never Changes”, begins Ron Perlman’s narration to the epic Fallout 3. It seems that Obsidian have taken a rather literal interpretation of this and changed almost nothing to the formula set down by its predecessor. VATS, the Pip-Boy, and awkward, wooden character models are still present, albeit under a new coat of gloss. It’s difficult to tell from such a short dip into New Vegas whether the changes Obsidian have made under the hood, and to the overarching story, will be enough to overcome the use of an engine that was already showing its age two years ago. As a huge proponent of Bethesda’s masterwork, I truly hope so.
Dead Space 2
Visceral’s 2008 Sci-fi horror is one of the few truly terrifying games on the Xbox, and its sequel certainly looks to be upping its game. The original was a stunningly beautiful and unique horror experience, with external spacewalks a particular highlight, and Dead Space 2 builds on this with some incredibly cinematic set-pieces. Such is the fidelity of the graphics that initially these battles appeared to be pre-rendered cutscenes – it wasn’t until Isaac Clarke, the game’s protagonist, is lopped in half by a necromorph tendril that you realise you are actually in control. The days until Dead Space 2’s January 25th release date cannot pass quickly enough.
Love it or hate it, motion control is unavoidable. Seen, perhaps fallaciously, as the gateway to the mystical realm of the “Casual Gamer”, motion controllers such as Kinect, the Playstation Move and the older Wii are being touted as the saviours of the industry as a whole. Whether or not you believe this, know one thing – Kinect is damned good fun. From the moment you step up to the screen and wave to confirm your presence, control feels intuitive, engaging and enjoyable. Seeing your avatar react to your actions is a child-like pleasure, and controlling a car using just your hands awakens your inner six-year old. Hopefully Kinect’s potential can be extended beyond a Mario Kart clone and a minigame collection – if it survives the initial period while developers get to grips with the technology we could see some truly exciting titles in the coming year.
The culmination of Lionhead’s attempt to rejuvenate the RPG, Fable III also sees the development team refine the formula used throughout the series to make it the most accessible game yet. Unfortunately, from a brief playthrough, this seems to have manifested in shallow combat, teeth-gratingly dire voice acting and overuse of slow motion to highlight special kills. The comedy of Fables I and II, never their strong point, has been pushed to the fore here, with one section of the quest seeing you face off against fire-breathing, demonic chickens. Yes. Combined with the blocky, outdated graphics and excruciating “comedy” accents, it seems Peter Molyneux’s opus is in danger of a serious mis-step. However, the scale and dynamism of Fable III cannot be judged from such a brief time with the game, so with luck these initial worries will be mollified come the October 29th release date.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
In a world where “multiplayer” is a byword for M16s and team deathmatch, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood provides a fresh new look at the concept. The premise is simple – you are given a picture of another player’s character to track down and assassinate in a map full of identikit avatars. You are given your target’s vague location, and have to watch for anyone acting strangely in order to close in on your quarry. The twist is that, all the while, another player is silently hunting you. Evading your pursuer whilst simultaneously tracking your target is a skilful, tense balancing act, which threatens to break out into a full-blown chase at any moment should you bodge the assassination and alert your target to your presence. Each player can have up to four others on their tail, ensuring that matches are never dominated by a single experienced assassin. This looks to be shaping up to be an interesting and refreshing new take on the multiplayer experience.
Formerly the darling of the PC gaming world, widespread piracy has seen Crytek move their flagship IP onto consoles for the first time. The new CryEngine 3 certainly looks the part, and helps elevate a fairly standard Modern Warfare-style shooter through some spectacular near-future visuals. Basic gunplay is solid and enjoyable, with variation added via your character’s abilities, which include invisibility and super-strength. Easily activated via the left and right bumpers, these abilities slowly drain your energy gauge, discouraging overuse but enabling some interesting tactics. With this, CoD: Black Ops and Medal of Honor all on the horizon, FPS fans will be spoilt for choice.