Eurogamer Expo 2011
Surprisingly, last week PEOWW managed to get off of the couch, assemble a few of the writers and get our arses down to the Eurogamer Expo in Earls Court, London. The expo ran for four days and dozens of titles were exhibited. We’ll leave the PR stuff to sites that can string together complete sentences without calling anyone a cocksucker and will do what we do best: talk about the games.
Blagging our way in with press passes, we had a choice right away. Join the OnLive queue, dive into Skyrim or Batman: Arkham City or get onto the PS Vita. Whichever one we chose would mean a shitload of queueing for the others and we’re not the type to queue. The biggest scoop would seem to be the PS Vita so we dived into that queue. Besides, it had the cutest PR chicks and if you’ve ever been to a games expo before it’s usually 95% sweaty men, 5% fat chicks with blue hair so breaking up that monotony is always a good idea.
The Sony folks made you pick a card like a sort of evil Derren Brown that can’t market a console to save its lives anymore. Pick a card and that’ll be the game you get to try out. Two of us went in. Andy got Wipeout and I got some shit called Little Deviants. Gutted. It wasn’t even a game about Karen Matthews other twenty kids.
However, the game actually turned out to be a brilliant showcase for the Vita’s numerous control setups. It started out with a mode that played a little like Marble Madness except that you use the touch pad on the back of the console to create hills and waves that roll the ball around. Initially it was ridiculously tricky but it gets more intuitive as you go along. The pad itself was extremely responsive and the potential for genuinely new gameplay ideas is huge.
They followed it up with modes that use the touch screen, tilt controls and of course the standard analog and buttons setup. The analog sticks (yes, not nubbins anymore) felt great if a little loose (in a PS3 pad kind of way) certainly better than the original PSP nubbins and, for my money, better than the 3DS analog slider. A quick go on Wipeout confirmed that these controls are perfectly capable of handling action games.
With decent analog controls and the console quality graphics, those of you who want to try out the PS3 exclusives but can’t be arsed with a PS3 may well want to wait on this.
Get ready to burn me as a heretic but I didn’t get the mass love-in of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Strip out the Batman flavouring and it just seemed like any number of roaming beat em ups, a genre that is ten-a-penny on consoles these days. That said, the E3 previews of Batman: Arkham City looked interesting, especially with the outdoor sections and so this was my first port of call on the second day.
After too much cutscene bollocks (you only get ten minutes on this before they kick you off) you finally get into the action. The combat was much as expected with lots of fast flowing fighting that, as with the first game, seems to play itself – a feeling that was confirmed when Paul and Gareth turned up and I was able to continue fighting whilst looking at them and talking.
However, the free-roaming grappling and gliding outside in the city was very entertaining, echoing Crackdown to some degree. Fans of the original won’t be disappointed and Arkham City may even win over some new fans as well.
I never got around to completing Demon’s Souls. I reached the third area and someone invaded my game and despite me managing to fight him off and kill him I was so annoyed that on my first attempt at a new dungeon some random attacked me that I stopped playing. However, I’m looking forward to Dark Souls and I managed to get a go on the demo.
I can’t tell you everything that happens in the demo because I took over from someone else who’d played a bit so I don’t know what I missed in the beginning and neither did I finish it. I was fighting my way through waves of skeletons before three showed up (I’d only fought two at a time before this) and a giant one as well who killed me in one swing so I let someone else have a go.
From that description though if you’re a fan of Demon’s Souls you should be happy. The controls seem to be exactly the same (hard to say for sure because the demo was running on a 360) with attack and defence mapped to the shoulder buttons and when you die you leave a little glowy patch that you have to return to to regain your full strength. Being a demo the RPG parts weren’t that obvious but I have no reason to believe that is any different to Demon’s Souls either. Seriously, ‘spiritual’ sequel my arse. This is Demon’s Souls again, but also on 360. Fans of the original and 360 owners who like tough, unforgiving, but ultimately rewarding games rejoice.
There was also a giant raven/crow thing. It didn’t attack me, it was just perched above me but I imagine it was there for a reason and I’m looking forward to finding out what that reason is early next month.
Ninja Gaiden 3
With Itagaki not at the helm of the new Ninja Gaiden I was both a little worried and hopeful for Ninja Gaiden 3. Ninja Gaiden 2 seemed a little too harsh to the point of being cheap and judging by interviews that seemed to be Itagaki’s goal, so with him now gone and Yosuke Hayashi in charge maybe the difficulty would still prove a challenge but a fair one. On the other hand what if Itagaki gave Ninja Gaiden its X factor? The thing that made it fun despite it punishing you at every turn. From the demo I played my fears are quelled for now. QTEs have been introduced but they aren’t awful and are generally intuitive, the gore has been toned down (though it’s still very gory) but it’s far more common for your opponent to writhe around in pain now and even beg for their lives (there’s talk of trying to humanise Ryu Hayabusa by making his actions have consequences) and you no longer pick up glowing orbs to replenish your health or charge your special attack, that seems to happen just by killing and when Ryu’s arm glows it’s ready to pop.
The core gameplay is still a lot of fun though and all Ryu’s moves seemed to connect with a satisfying amount of force. The camera swings about quite a bit which adds to the excitement (although it does feel like the game is playing itself at times) but as is the norm for these types of games you will often be attacked from off screen. I was playing on Normal mode and it seemed very easy, I completed the demo having been hit only a few times and when I was it didn’t do much damage but even in the demo there are higher difficulties so Master Ninja fans should be catered for as well hopefully when the final game comes out. Now I can safely say I’m looking forward to it.
Resident Evil: Revelations
Having only dabbled with the 3DS at the event my first true experience was with Resident Evil: Revelations. The first thing I noticed was how quickly my eyes adjusted to the 3D compared to other games, even if the effect wasn’t so obvious as something like Zelda. The second thing was the graphics, which are excellent and an obvious relative to Resident Evil 5. I took a second to adjust to the controls thanks to the size of the handheld itself but if you’ve played a modern Resi title you should be right at home here.
Not that this seems to be exactly the same as that, ammo was in very short supply in the demo and the enemies that featured (Silent Hill style beige things with massive arms and floppy heads) soaked up bullets like nobody’s business. There were also a few puzzles squeezed into the short demo (using the stylus, natch) and you had to search the area pretty thoroughly in order to progress. This is obviously an attempt at bringing back the old school style of Resi, despite having the over the shoulder camera angle and high precision aiming, if you’re low on ammo you’re going to be forced to flee at times which should hopefully keep tension high. It’s too early to say how successful this will be but Resident Evil: Revelations remains the one 3DS game that truly interests me and hopefully it works, is a success and forges a path for new/old style Resi games on consoles as well.
Mass Effect 3
RPGs never work as demos, how can you give anyone a sense of progression in a fifteen minute demo? You can’t, so demos tend to concentrate on the combat which isn’t usually anything special. Mass Effect 2 blurred the lines between third person shooter and RPG (a little too much in my opinion) and it seems Mass Effect 3 is going to continue that. There were three choices of class in the demo, Soldier, Engineer and Sentinel with Liara and Garrus as your squad mates. The demo charges you with protecting a female Krogan as she ascends in a lift from waves of Cerberus troops. Mordin is also there barking advice to you and telling you if the Krogan is in any danger. You fight off three waves, climbing ladders between each wave to keep up with the lift before a giant mech strolls out for you to take on. Once that is done the demo ends. All in all it felt like ME2.
As per usual someone had left the demo unfinished so I picked up the controller and was playing as a Soldier class Shepard and I found it quite easy to play it as a run and gun shooter (not how I’ll play the final game) but obviously with the difficulty options that will be available in the final product this won’t be such an issue. Despite Mass Effect 2 not being a slouch in the looks department ME3 looks considerably better and the upgrade trees also seem to be more in depth than ME2, with the ability to upgrade specials in different ways so the balance between gameplay styles will hopefully be spot on with the final game of the trilogy. It seems generally speaking things are moving in the right direction in the right areas, and therefore, roll on March 2012.
Up next was Ridge Racer Unbounded. This straightforward demo didn’t stray too far from the usual formula and would have been easier if I wasn’t still in Burnout Paradise mode (having maxed that out a couple of weeks ago) and determined to race in the oncoming lane. One very nice touch was the projected score and position information against buildings, Splinter Cell: Conviction style. If you’re looking for an arcadey, extremely zippy racer, this looks like a decent bet.
Other demo machines hidden in the dark corners of the venue were;
Inversion (a very standard third-person shooter that would have bored us to tears except that it had a tricky gravity mechanic to it. It still looked pretty average though. Dead Space did it better and that was dull as pisswater. The demo level was a rocky, lava-based affair so they’ve got the ripping off Gears of War thing down too.
Tekken Hybrid (actually Tekken Tag Tournament HD, the ‘Hybrid‘ name refers to the fact that it is bundled with some bullshit Tekken anime on the same Blu Ray disc) was astonishingly average in all respects. Playing exactly the same as the original Tekken Tag Tournament but with hi-def graphics that seem to be hi-def versions of the original designs and therefore very ordinarily and quite dated. We guessed that the Hybrid name refered to some sort of PSP cross-over functionality (hence the plain graphics) but nope it’s just gash. All the characters seemed to be present and correct but Tekken‘s been irrelevant for years now.
Supremacy MMA may well have been the most pointless game of the show. As with real mixed martial arts, it’s all about the UFC. EA tried, and failed hard, to enter the octagon with EA MMA and got tapped out effortlessly and now Supremacy MMA is having a go with a roster of nobodies. The combat itself was stripped down and fairly ordinary with stiff character models exhibiting no real sense of impact or damage.
PES2012 and FIFA were present as they are due to go head to head over the next couple of weeks. Both games have demos on the two proper consoles but we took a quick look at PES2012, having written it off from the pretty awful demo. It was seemingly the full version and so we (Andy and I) played as North West London (QPR) and Northwich C (Norwich City) battling to half-time before getting bored. Unfortunately PES still feels sluggish and mechanical. The lack of team names is understandable but the fact that they make no effort on the kits (when given absolute carte blanche to do whatever they like outside of the licensing) is still pretty lazy.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D
I’ve always been of the opinion that console to handheld transitions never really work all that well. Sure, the Gameboy Advance had its occasional blips of success, but otherwise I remain fairly sceptical about the whole thing. Sadly, MGS3’s transition doesn’t look as though it’s set to do much to waylay my scepticism, as, from what I could glean from my very fleeting encounter, it’s a bit of a shambles.
The problem here certainly isn’t an aesthetic one. Visually at least, Snake Eater on the 3DS is up to scratch and the 3D elements, albeit eye-breakingly disconcerting, seem to open themselves up well to the game’s jungle environments. The problem here lies with the fact that this is clearly a game designed to be played on a console with a pad, and the 3DS, in spite of its intuitive design, simply just isn’t kitted out properly to accommodate the complex control scheme of a Metal Gear Solid title.
Even in a slightly dumbed down format the gameplay is incredibly cumbersome, a fact that isn’t helped by the fact that Konami seem to have inexplicably retained many of the camera issues that blighted the PS2 version back in 2004. Given that Sony’s analogue arrangement leaves much to be desired, it’s not often that I’m quick to praise them in terms of their game-related output, but to their credit at least the DualShock makes Snake Eater vaguely playable.
I suppose to some extent Konami are to be commended for trying something as technically ambitious as this at such an early stage in the 3DS’ lifespan, but, for the time being at least, it doesn’t look as though that gamble is about to pay off any time soon.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
By far one of the more exciting things we had a chance to play at Eurogamer, the long awaited sequel to one of the best games on the 360 is shaping up to be something very special indeed. Sadly, we only got a chance to play a portion of one of the adversarial modes, but this nevertheless offered sufficient insight in to what we can expect from the game’s co-op modes. And, let’s face it, that’s all we really care about here at Peoww.
Everything we’ve come to expect from the series is present and vastly improved. To this day Advanced Warfighter remains a perfectly good looking game, an impressive feat given that it’s nearly five years old now, and whilst the sequel didn’t exactly offer up much in terms of visual upgrades, Future Soldier looks set to deliver that in spades.
New additions include an intuitive multiplayer cover system, much needed for co-op but previously lacking in the Advanced Warfighter titles, whilst Ubisoft appear to have taken a leaf out of every FPS on the market right now and added the ability to run. Small additions they well may be, but overall the game is looking considerably more polished than its forebears. Whilst previous entries in the series suffered from a visibly slower framerate when it came to the multiplayer modes, Future Soldier has upped the ante, now delivering a consistently lovely array of visuals in keeping with the game’s single player modes.
Overall, it’s all shaping up rather nicely. Our only real gripe is that it’s not due out for another six months or so.
Shockingly we gave up on Skyrim to join the PS Vita queue (despite being literally five mins from getting a go) but we were stood right by the demo consoles and it was immediately evident that it’s Oblivion but prettier. With a sword in one hand and a flame in the other, the combat seemed to be what you’d expect from an Elder Scrolls game. Whatever happens, we’re all over this when it gets released.
One game that we were able to walk right up to was Rage, the latest thing from iD (the chaps behind Quake, Doom and Wolfenstein). That was thanks to them having a lot of demo machines set up but also down to a slight lack of interest from the floor. The demo had three sections to it and after wandering around one of them trying to find something to kill, we settled on an arena-styled level that played and looked a little like the risible Mad Moxxy DLC from Borderlands.
Rage is a fast, post-apocalyptic FPS with silky smooth graphics but the setting looks dull, no matter how much grunt you put into the graphics engine, and the gameplay was tired and generic. Three parts Metro 2033 to two parts Borderlands but somehow less fun than both those games. Early impressions for this game are that it’s what happens when programming geeks try to be funny. We’ll be avoiding it.
A potential ‘game of the Expo’ was the long-awaited Saints Row: The Third. The sequel to our favourite gangster sandbox-em-up, SR3 looked familiar while ramping up the action with more customisation options, some incredibly inventive weaponary (a giant dildo and laser-targeted airstrikes) and some crazy finishing moves in the melee combat. There wasn’t any sense of mission structure in the demo but the core gameplay was very impressive indeed. If you’ve played the previous games, this doesn’t stray too far from the series but the game will be looking to put the pressure on GTA5 from the get-go when it comes to all-out fun.
Batman: Arkham City
Well despite only getting twenty minutes of playtime (and about half of that spent watching unskippable cut scenes, grrr!) I reckon this could well be in for a solid ten out of ten when we get to play the full game. Arkham City is both huge in terms of scale but in detail with rooftops filled with Riddler challenges, destroyable security cameras and roaming gangs giving out tit bits of information about side quests and general happenings.
Wow, this was a big disappointment. The PC version is looking teh sex despite having to use EA’s shitty Origin software but the 360 version still has the same old Battlefield control problems with lag input and botched stick acceleration both rearing their ugly heads while the visuals looked washed out with blocky textures and monochromatic lighting making spotting enemy soldiers the biggest challenge.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
Well after months of no information GRFS finally surfaced to spew molten gaming jizz right in our faces leaving us begging for more. Going against the grain of current games it eschews the run and gun action of Battlefield or Call of Duty for a more considered, tactical model that rewards planning and teamwork rather than ADD reflexes and auto-aim exploitation.
Well it’s Halo made all shiny but still filled with the same hateful gameplay that’ll attract horrid cunt players as ever. If you’re the kind of person that knows what MJOLNIR stands for you’ll love this. Otherwise keep the fuck away.
Aside from all these modern efforts, the expo also reserved some space for the chaps from R3PLAY, the Blackpool-based retro expo that we visited last year and is on again in November, and they were exhibiting various retro consoles and handheld devices. Our personal highlight was Sensible World of Soccer which was running on an Amiga A600. Horribly clammy joystick aside, the game’s still got it.
There was also a small area reserved for indie developers. Our indie highlights were the Snake-inspired Hard Lines (available on iOS for both iPods and iPads) which was ridiculously addictive for what was basically Snake with bells and whistles and also Fotonica, a beautiful modern twist on the ‘running man’ genre (the most notable example of which is Canabalt) but in a first-person perspective and with some gorgeous Rez-style graphics. Check it out HERE.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
It was the Ace Combat you’re familiar with. There was either a gunship mission (that seemed to oversimplify the helicopter controls to the point of it having kiddie wheels) or a fighter mission in which you take on lots of enemies in ex-Russian jets trying to blow the shit out of Miami or some generic American coastal city. Nice ground detail anyway, but since the game is obsessed with jets and missiles you won’t spend much time looking at the scenery.
Maybe it was the shitey Dualshock3, but I didn’t really get on with the controls. You first get into a turning battle with an approaching bogey, only once you’re in close vicinity can you enter what seemed to be an entirely superfluous dogfight mode. This was just a minigame which let you lock your unlimited missiles on for a guaranteed hit. It seemed to be a repetitive affair, the enemies only really differentiated by one designated an ace, although that just meant they turned quicker.
I got bored after fifteen minutes and got my free t-shirt with a simple Namco logo plastered over the chest. No doubt the game will be proficient enough when it’s released although if it’s anything like previous releases it’ll be DLCd up the wazoo with all kinds of hentai plastered over the planes. As for the t-shirt, when I went to wear it the next day I was overwhelmed by the stench of chemicals no doubt used for its production so it had to go in the wash before being worn. There’s probably a metaphor of some kind there but I can’t be arsed to come up with it.
Mario Kart 3DS
It was Mario Kart on the 3DS. It’ll sell shitloads. Well, given how relatively unsuccessful the 3DS has been, it’ll sell reasonably given the lack of buyers. Maybe I’m stuck in the past, but Mario Kart was fantastic on the SNES and everything since (bar the stellar Super Circuit on GBA) has been but a pale imitation. I spent more time playing Mario Kart in the Retro corner of the show than the five minutes I spent on the 3DS incarnation. Meh.
Mario Bros 3DS
So there you have it. A run-down of a lot of games. There are no real surprises here. The same old franchises and a couple of not very confident looking newcomers. We were disappointed at the no show of Aliens: Colonial Marines and we had our hearts set on finding Vicious Cycle (the fucking no-marks who wrecked the Earth Defense Force series) but they’ve long since given up supporting that fucking lemon. But with Skyrim, Mass Effect 3 and Saints Row: The Third all looking spiffy, we’re happy enough. Also, none of us queued up for Modern Warfare 3 because, you know, fuck that bollocks. But we’re happy to tell you that it looked exactly like Modern Warfare 2. Like, exactly.