Apologies if some things don't sit right with you in terms of content delivery, I just wrote this for some friends on Google Wave, (No, I don't have invites), who knew I was there, and I'll be damned if I'm writing it out again.
The first thing that hit me was the size of it. Both days fully sold out, with a total of around 1300-1400 people in attendance each day, across the two buildings.
<In here on the Google Wave, are some poor photos taken at the expo, when I could sneak them in. If you're that interested in seeing these, I'll add them later.>
Assassin's Creed II (PS3)
There was an understandably large demand for people to play this game, so logically, they provide a whopping four screens for it, and we were getting turfed out fairly quickly when I got my chance to play it, apparently it had been fifteen minutes. I don't believe that for a second. It was only available on PS3, where I dislike how they've mapped the controls out, however the game is desperately pretty to look at, and runs at a silky-smooth constant 60fps. Combat is relatively unchanged in it'smechanic , but has been made a lot smoother, and free-running is better than ever, being more immersive than in the original. I can't wait for this one.
Bayonetta (XBox 360)
This demo was short-lived for me, as it didn't explain the controls at all, and left you guessing what your objective was. Just a hack-n-slash with tits,guns and glasses. This will probably end up being a rental, as the story seems quite interesting, but I can imagine the gameplay getting boring quickly.
Blue Toad Murder Files (PSN for PS3 & PSP)
I played this game with no expectations, only really to get swag from the pretty women promoting the game, (T-Shirt and Beanie), only to find myself thoroughly enjoying it. The whole game was available for play through, as it's only a PSN game created by Relentless Software (creators of the Buzz games), though I resisted playing it through all the way. Despite some irritating voice-acting and sub-par lip syncing, this is a tremendously enjoyable, charming title.
Dante's Inferno (PS3, XBox 360)
The first game I played from the 18+ area of the expo, which I was eagerly anticipating, what with it being created by EA Redwood Shores (EARS) studio, the minds behind survival-horror, Dead Space. I left the small plastic stool with mixed feelings about it. Yes it was another Hack-n-Slash, the second of three atthe Expo, which got repetitive in the stage that I played, which was a very flat, monotonous scape , (I think I was only in the second circle), so the limited weapons and abilities may have led to this feeling. Despite this I remain hopeful due to some fantastic characterdesign , fluid gameplay which runs at a constant 60fps, with 30 enemies on screen in full 1080p viewing. I am hoping there is just one morehook that will make this game a sure-fire purchase.
Dark Void (XBox 360)
Was absolutely rubbish. The inability to run at more than a light jogging pace, the terrible voice acting, jerky framerate issues, and a sub-par story made this my biggest waste of time at the expo.
Forza Motorsport 3 (XBox 360)
Admittedly, I didn't play this, but if you've played Forza 2, you know what you're getting, but much, much better looking, and with better sounddesign to boot.
God Of War III (PS3)
This was an absolute fucking joy. Despite being the third Hack-n-Slash at the expo, it far excelled the rest, and was worth the forty minute wait to play, even if the demo only lasted me about 13 minutes. The fighting is intense and fluid, running almost too smoothly. The games looks glorious, and the gameplay is intense. I can even forgive it the relatively liberal use of Quick Time Events, due to them actually being tough, and marking the Square, Triangle, X and Circle buttons at the appropriate side of the screen, (left, top, bottom and right, respectively), add into this equation a short time within which to react to the prompt, make even a QTE and intense experience. Given also, and already excellentstoryline in the first two games, which continues with 3, will no doubt be great makes me want to ship my PS3 up to me, just for this game.
Heavy Rain (PS3)
Another fantastic exclusive that Sony has managed to bag, this game really does look incredible, very realistic. In case you're unaware, this is a detective game about a killer who kidnaps children and then sends their victim's families a box with a piece of Origami in it, earning them the title of 'The Origami Killer', hence the games subtitle. Gameplay is focused almost entirely on QTEs, but works as a point and click adventure for the modern day. This game oozes style, andthe voice acting and lip-syncing is phenominal, probably the best I've ever seen in a video game. My one concern with the game is that it is so graphically intense it caused the four PS3s it was running on to freeze. A lot. There were no console problems at all apart from those running Heavy Rain. If Naughty Dog think they 'maxed out' the PS3, they've probably worked so hard that they've not seen this masterpiece. Oh yeah. I'm one of the unfortunate ones who it crashed on.
Left 4 Dead 2 (XBox 360)
Time to make my brother jealous. (:D) This steals my Game Of The Show award, purely for the fact that I played it about four times over the two days, despite an often 30 minute wait, though the queues maxed out at one hour. Approximately half of a campaign was available to play, (two safe houses worth), in single player or offline co-op, where I played every time. It is very much more of the same, (no bad thing), butabout 12 times better as well. With 3 more special enemies than the original, and walking witches, the game is a lot more intense, and the new enemies make you jump a lot more, especially the Jockey and the Charger. The jockey works on a similar principle tothe hunter, jumping on you, usually just after you've taken down a massive horde, and want to heal, it seems, but rather than pin you down, it steers you (quickly) towards the nexthorde . The charger appears from nowhere, is half the size of a tank, and knocks you for a lot more than six. The addition of Melee weapons is a great one, although it does sacrifice your pistol, and when you find a machete, it gets insanely brutal. This game is insane heaps of fun.
Massive Action Game. Another PS3 game. This was the last new game I got to play at the expo, and I'm not sure how to feel about it. The online beta has been around since just after E3 now, and people still playing know the maps inside out, and are really, really good. This was a case of spawn, run for a minute and promptlydie again. For about ten minutes. I died too often to count, and got no kills. Whilst I can see a lot of promise in this game, given 256 people online per server, divided into squadrons, in two teams of 128, I didn't really enjoy playing it in such a public environment, or without a headset, which was irritating, since communication is a HUGE part of this game. Then the servers crashed.
Monster Hunter Tri (Wii)
Terrible controller mapping, and it's stiff and blocky at best in terms of everything. Rubbish.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)
This, like most Nintendo booths were disappointingly empty for most of the expo, though this was clearly the busiest of Nintendo's showcase, and with good reason. After this was announced at E3 earlier this year, I admit I was very skeptical about it, but after playing with 3 other people, 2 of whom were complete strangers, we had a fantastic time. There were eight levels to play through, but you only had ten minutes to play on the demo. The game retains the old-school Mario charm, albeit a bit updated, and the visuals are bold, but smooth, and it runs great on the Wii. The object is to get more points than you competitors, by getting coins, flowers, mushrooms and beating enemies. There are no penalties for dying, though you only have five lives to make it through the levels. It sounds like plenty, but gets tough, especially as the screen follows the player in the lead. This, I will be getting at some point.
Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time (PS3)
Whilst I joined a game that someone had left running half-way through, the controls are simple enough to quickly figure out and get going with in an instant. The art is vivid and bold, yet despite vomiting bloom in you face, it remains tasteful. The sound had gone on my TV, so I can't comment on that, but the gameplay was solid and straightforward, which is nice in today's gaming climate. What's even nicer is that what I feel will be an accomplished and excellent platforming game, will stand out as a beacon in today's shooter-dominated climate. A breath of fresh air, which looks fantastic and plays even better.
Red Steel 2 (Wii)
This is a vast, vast improvement on the original, actually delivering what we wanted from the first that we didn't get. The new graphic styling suits the Wii a lot better than the original, semi-realistic approach that was previously taken. The Motion Plus attachment makes the sword play much more enjoyable, and detects power much better than the original did as well. I will wait for reviews on this one, though. They said the first was great, but they lied then.
Saboteur (XBox 360)
This probably steals second Game In Show. It had by far the largest demo on the floor and the graphical stylings are simply a treat to look at. From the Monotone in non-liberated sections of France, save for the red Nazi bands on theGestapo forces, and fire effects, to the very colourful and bright sections of liberated Paris. The controls are excellent, despite taking some getting used to. Combat is tight, and the cover system is brilliantly effective, and non intrusive to gameplay. Damage, as far as games are concerned, is relatively realistic, you can't take many shots before going down, and the Nazi's have the same health amount as you. Voice acting is brilliant, and despite putting on the accents, they sound more realistic than cliched. I really cannot wait for this game.
Split/Second (XBox 360)
This only had one track playable on the demo, the airport, which featured in the unveiling trailer earlier this year. The graphics are simple, but functional and good to look at, and the way they've incorporated the HUD just behind you car is a brilliant idea, meaning it's not a distraction as it's where you're looking at anyway, and only displays what you need to know; laps, score, position and effects meter. My one complaint is that the controls are touch too twitchy for my liking, which results in imprecise drifting, which is a shame as this appears to be the main way you fill up your special bar in order to activate the track effects.
Tekken 6 (PS3, XBox 360)
The final in the list of new games I played. (I also hit up Borderlands, despite sinking 26 hours into it, since Friday (22nd) evening). This is Tekken, finally on a return to the form that gave the series it's well-respected name in the first place. It runs fantastically smooth, and the combat feels fluid, even using the control stick, something odd considering other fighting games that have made this transition *cough* Street Fighter IV *cough*. The visuals are stunning to look at, and the addition of Mortal Kombat style changing arenas through breaking walls and floors, creates an altered atmosphere, that makes the series feel fresh again. There is also an absolutely MASSIVE character roster, probably close to 50 characters, including all old and some new characters, which means I can't help but wonder, 'Is this going to be the last ever Tekken?' I mean, going out on a bang with improved fluidity, no framerate issues, a huge roster and on both consoles?
So that's it for the games that I played at the Expo. Sorry for the essay on this, but there's more just below this.
I saw three of these over the two days, all of which were very interesting to attend, and one that left me feeling very priveleged.
Ask Eurogamer! - Tuesday 27th
With Tom Bramwell & Johnny Minkley, online editor and main man of Eurogamer TV, respectively.
This was, as is fairly self-explanatory, a Q&A session with Tom & John about the expo, and video games in general, whilst nothing new was learned, particularly, it was interesting and provoked some mild debate, and made me realise just how many people had lucked it into the games business, especially as journalists.
Splash Damage, " BRINK ", Wednesday 28th (XBox 360, PS3)
With Paul Wedgwood, CEO of Splash Damage, creators of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory for id Software .
This made me feel like one of a priveleged few, the second group of people to have ever seen in game footage and the UK unveiling of Splash Damage's upcoming game, Brink. Brink is a futuristic shooter that features 8-player drop-in co-op gameplay, with two campaigns to complete. Brink is set in a fictional city built at sea, and was the pinnacle of green living. But the world outside went to shit, and left this place, called 'Ark' cut-off from everything else, and a load of refugees turned up and started living in the shipping containers of the docklands. This left them poor, and trying to seek a fairer distribution of wealth, whereas the security see them as nothing but terrorists. The gameplay features intuitive 'free-running' depending on where you look whilst sprinting at an obstacle. The visuals are fairly generic for a futuristic, struggle shooter, in a dystopian world, that was once the shining beacon of the human race.
From what I have seen of this, I am excited for it, as there is so much depth to it, so much more that I don't have the time, and I expect you don't have the will to read through, to explain. Keep your eyes out for this one. Brink is published by Bethesda Softworks.
Just Add Water, Gravity Crash, 28th (PSN)
With Stewart Gilray, CEO of Just Add Water.
Just Add Water is a small digital-distribution games company, with a team of just six staff, only three of which made Gravity Crash, a PSN exclusive, retro-style game. This is a game is nice to look at, but boring to watch people play. Using the classic 80's formulae of space shooters involving, Gravity. Inertia, Thrust and Vector Graphics, they bring the 80's back, and put it in Hi-Def for all to enjoy. This session was the shortest of those that I attended because most people didn't have questions to ask at the end, and a fairly dull powerpoint presentation explaining how the game was made and what influenced it. Meh.
That was it for the developer sessions that I saw, and all of them, with the possible exception of Brink, will be available to stream on the Eurogamer website soon.
I left at the end of the second day after about 18 hours of Video-Game testing, watching and listening. I was (and still am) exhausted, but I almost wish it couldn't have ended. It was a truly magical thing to attend, and I can see this getting larger, but hopefully not too large, as I feel it would lose the brilliant atmosphere where it's run by gamers and game journalists, and where security and other officials there love video games.
I can't wait for next year.