Monday, 14 October 2013

Eurogamer Expo 2013

I know this is a little bit late considering Eurogamer was a few weeks ago, but I originally published this post for Forces Of Geek on Thursday 3rd November. There's much more EGX stuf to come so watch this space...

As I entered Earl's Court Exhibition Centre in London, I was overwhelmed. It had seemed like forever since I'd last attended an expo of this size and scale, but I soon made myself right at home and after a quick lap on the main floor I headed straight to the over-18's area to queue for Titanfall. Over the last few days of the expo I had heard other people sing it's praises.

And Titanfall is certainly worth singing about. After an hours wait - ten minutes of which we were ushered over to a seated area, given headphones and treated to a short video about how the gameplay works and which load outs to choose - I was almost there. 

The video was a great idea because as soon as I sat down to play, I made my load out choices quickly (as did the other players) so were we playing the game in no time. Titanfall is unlike other games, Respawn Entertainment (who were also behind Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare) have chosen to create an entirely multiplayer game with no sign of a single player mode anywhere, instead they have incorporated various solo campaign elements into the multiplayer format to create a game which, if successful could change the way we game.

This unusual move away from single player gaming is incredibly bold and some have criticised Respawn of laziness. But I have no dount that those same critics will all be hailing Titanfall come release day because there truly is no word to describe it other than; FUN! 

You can play using a Titan (or mech suit, though Respawn are insisting we call them titans) and stomp around, firing heavy artillery and utilising various special load outs such as smoke screens or shields. Or, if you'd rather not be weighed down by a Titan (naturally, you forego speed and agility for big old rocket launchers and heavy fire) you can play as a Pilot, super-soldier types who are agile, fast and pretty good at running up walls!

The gameplay itself was fluid and the whole thing looked very polished. The game engine seemed to run incredibly smoothly, perhaps aided by its parkour mechanics and the double jump controls which help you seemlessly glide through the game. According to the pre-game video, there's actually a way to play a whole round without ever touching the ground! If the servers can hold up and remain consistant once Titanfall is released than this game promises to be Game Of The Year 2014. 

The next game on my to-play list at the expo was Dying Light, the first-person open world action survival horror game from Techland (Dead Island, Call of Juarez). Admittedly, it wasn't a game I had intended to play but overhearing people talk about it in the Titanfall queue, I became more and more intrigued.

Having never played previous games from Techland, I wasn't sure if this was an improvement but it was certainly very enjoyable and the controls felt intuitive. Most notably however, is just how good this game looks and I spent a fair amount of the demo looking around at things, admiring the derelict scenery glinting in the sunlight and generally minding my own business until...


Yes, this game is not for the faint of heart, even if you grew up on a diet of survival horrors like I did, it has plenty of jumpy moments and scares. Rather embarrassingly, but not unlike most other players I might add, I kept having scares and gasped quite loudly at one point during the demo. 

In my opinion that's not a sign of my own weakness but a sign of a great survival horror (seriously though, I'm totally not weak, scaring easily means I have great reflexes..right? That's probably some kind of scientific fact, I'm sure). 

Zombie games have changed a lot over the years giving us all the impression we'd be totally badass come an actual zombie apocalypse but Dying Light reminded me that it's easy to become overwhelmed by a horde that want to eat your brains. So much so that I found myself mostly running and climbing to escape zombies rather than attempting to take them down. If you get brave and decide to start swinging your axe about and decapitating heads, then beware because stamina in Dying Light is a factor.

Spend too long wielding your axe and your character becomes tired and lacks the energy to run away when there are too many zombies to handle, which happens...a lot. Lethargy is the real killer in this game (I bet your character regrets never setting foot in a gym, pre-apocalypse) so you must learn to use your energy wisely. That said, beheading zombies in this game is strangely addictive. 

Watch Dogs Campaign Mission Demo at Eurogamer 2013
Despite the fact there's still no playable demo for the public, I am still incredibly hyped for Watch Dogs and so I waited in line for a developer session and had the chance to see a campaign mission demo.

The amount of interaction in this game is astounding and the fact you can manipulate or use most technology as a means to your own devious ends is fantastic.

In an era where we all own smart phones and rely on technology for practically every element of our lives, I'm surprised a game like this hasn't appeared sooner. 

You can be as creative as you like, hacking into traffic lights to cause a pile up during a car chase or hack into bridge controls after you've made your way across safely for a quick getaway. Don't want to pay for your own weapons? Then hack a nearby stranger who uses a mobile banking app! 

The campaign mission was varied, however this could have something to do with the fact that you can play the mission however you like. You can choose to be as quiet and deadly as a ninja or run in all guns blazing drawing attention to yourself, as long as you can hack your way out of things there seem to be no restrictions on your chosen style of gameplay.

In fact, at the Watch Dogs stand there was free wi-fi access, just as long as you could hack your way into it, of course!

The developers touched upon multiplayer briefly and explained that you will be able to hack into your friend's games and cause chaos by stealing things or setting off alarms and such. This element sounds incredibly fun is in the vein of how me and my friends interact when we game online.

What is this witchcraft? Virtual Reality that *actually* works?!
I also had the chance to try out some Oculus VR hardware. I played, or at least tried to play, Surgeon Simulator and while the game is infuriating and extremely difficult to grasp I was surprised by what I saw. I looked around to try and find some indication that the technology wasn't working properly.

However, the one thing I didn't count on was just how much my peripheral vision was immersed in the headset.

I didn't get to test out the new hardware, Oculus Rift but I did speak with to some people that did, they all told me that they had surrendered to the virtual reality completely and one player added that when you look behind you, expecting an edge to arrive, there isn't one.

I'm not sure if the hardware will catch on but if it does, consider me a potential buyer!

My Eurogamer experience this year was full of unexpected good things like the Oculus Rift. I never expected to enjoy Dying Light so much and I played lots of great indie titles and spoke to their creators (expect more on those in the near future!). However, without a doubt my Game of the Expo was Titanfall!

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