I like my expos like I like my Tom Hanks movies. Big. And this year’s Eurogamer Expo is Tom Hanksier and better than ever, moving to Earl’s Court for a larger venue, cramming even more salivating gamers into the place than ever.
Tickets sold out, and exhibitors are lining up to peddle their wares. Last year Heavy Rain, Left 4 Dead 2 and Lost Planet 2 stole the show for me. But what will this year offer? Well, let’s hit the show floor and find out.
After attending Comic-Con in 2008, I can’t help but compare all other events I attend to this as some kind of ‘geek barometer’, which is somewhat similar to losing your virginity to a pornstar, and all other sexual encounters involving utterances of “What do you mean that doesn’t bend that way?” Okay, I may have lost the train of thought there, where was I?
Eurogamer Expo! The first thing that I can convey is the grand sense of “what first?” that strikes you and the enormous queue for Brink made that an obvious choice of what to ignore first. Less queues were to be found at the stalls for Def Jam Rapstar, Just Dance or Dance Central but my masculinity is frail enough as it is that such endeavours may shatter it for good.
Vanquish is a game that is almost as fun to watch as it is to play, and when you do you see all sorts of delightful animations you may have otherwise missed whilst engaged with all the frantic dipping/diving/sliding that goes on amidst the hail of gunfire. It manages to remain effortlessly stylish throughout, achieving the rare quality of a third person shooter that doesn’t feel like a clone of Gears of War.
E3 saw a war of motion with Move and Kinect vying for your attention, and as the dust settled the impression was that Kinect (or Natal for traditionalists) showed the potential whereas Move showed the fact it was a tech demo. Playing the two technologies, the tables have turned as Move now shows the greatest potential whereas Kinect is still waiting to show anything worthwhile. By just showing Avatar-Friendly minigames, Kinect does not feel like it is playing with the big boys, whereas Move had the joyful games like The Shoot, the violent fan-pleasers like SOCOM and the “my arms are getting tired” violence with The Fight, and whilst none of them instantly scream “Buy me!”, the Move is a peg or three above the rest.
Gears of War 3 brought its beast mode to the table, which exists as a clever balance to horde mode, in which you play as the big nasties, although the twist lies in the fact each “spawn” presents you with a choice of units to play as ranging from Tickers to Butchers to Berserkers. Each is purchased via tokens which you earn through your efforts. So you may start a round as a Ticker but finish as a Berserker. There seemed to be a plethora of tokens left unused, which I can only assume was due to the environment we were playing it in, as being stuck as a unit you don’t want to play of isn’t to leave you in the mindset to rush out and buy the game. Or to rush out, wait five months, then buy the game.
Also from Epic was the ever-gratuitous Bulletstorm, bringing its gore-fuelled bravado to the fray. It was fun, in a gleeful “I just kicked a man into a giant cactus” kind of way, but ultimately felt let down by an overpowered whip mechanic, in which you fling out a Samus-Aran-esque leash which can pull enemies closer to you, leading them to be Slo-Mo’d in the air. The length and seeming invulnerability to most obstacles left it an odd experience that certainly needs refining before release.
Whilst these sorts of venues provide a wonderful stage to try technologies or games you would otherwise be unable to have access to, they also prove the environment in which you play is often key to the enjoyment of the game you are playing, with Fallout: New Vegas and Dead Space 2 being prime examples of this. Fallout is a game to get lost in, to wander around finding the treats of level design like a digitized Easter egg hunt. The small sampler provided does not leave the chance for that. Dead Space - and presumably its sequel – is a game of atmosphere, of terror at every corner at what might leap out at you, because let’s face it, if it is a corner in Dead Space something will leap out at you. Playing this in a well-lit Earl’s Court with 20% of the country’s supply of ironic t-shirts stood behind me, silently judging, isn’t quite the environment for the game.
I will be the first to admit I’m sceptical about 3D technology; I’d even go as far as to say I think it is a fad. This is despite quite enjoying many 3D things, in fact some of my best friends are 3D. But rather than fall into the category of luddite, I still give it a go. From Invincible Tiger to the game of the 3D movie that isn’t to do with bending various elements, I remained unimpressed. It wasn’t until Killzone 3 that I have managed to fall into the impression it is actually a detriment to gaming. This is on top of my current gripes of it being uncomfortable for those of us who already wear glasses already and expensive for those of us who don’t have 3D TV’s. I may be too quick to judge, as it was a pre-alpha build, but I remain still opposed to what I see as a useless “advance” and am still waiting for something to sell me. Until then, I’ll be in a world of 2D, maybe even painting myself in multiple colours so to disguise how many edges I have. Well done to the two of you out there who got that reference, by the way.
As the expo was in London, I managed to sample another fantastic English game, known as “Navigating the Underground” which was made ever more interesting with its sequel “Navigating the Underground during a strike.” Ah, such fun. This wonderful system also played a part in me missing my train home, and having to buy a new (and very expensive) ticket. Now, a lesser man than me may have taken this negative, and had it sour the whole expo, but alas I am a greater man than a lesser man than me, as I am me, and with this optimism I now turn my gaze towards Fable 3.
This series has hurt me in the past; sullied expectations, broken promises and, with Fable 2 being a disappointment in almost every way, did not do alot to invigorate the yearning for more from Albion, but as it turns out, deep down inside of me it didn’t matter. Like an abused woman on a terrible TV show, I still remain convinced Fable loves me, and won’t do it again, and this time Fable 3 will treat me right, so I needn’t get nasty with an iron to its face just yet. The game is funny, charming, self-referential and has possibly the best voice cast I have seen since Mass Effect 2 was announced. I am not hoping this game will be better than previous instalments, I know it will, and when it comes home it will have its dinner ready on the table waiting for it.
So, as I look back on Eurogamer Expo 2010, I realise I did not play as many games as I wanted, nor did I meet nearly as many people as I meant to, but I have been left with a lot to look forward to, so if you don’t mind I’m off to construct a shrine to Peter Molyneux. Well, a man needs a hobby.