One of the perks of being a Virgin Media customer (beyond getting my name wrong and constant up-sell harassment) is that I got cheap, early-access Eurogamer Expo tickets! This was my first Eurogamer Expo, though I’m no stranager to ECTS or ATEI/EAG. The setup was quite good – perhaps a bit smaller than I expected, but nice to see a games show that’s actually aimed at gamers. I was always amused at the hoops you had to jump through to get tickets for ECTS and ATEI; more so when you actually visit the events and realise the majority of people there are gamers who have jumped through those same hoops. Good to see that the games industry, finally, after several years, got wise.
There was a fair amount on show. Lots of soon and not-so-soon to be released games, the WiiU, a surprising and pleasing amount of indie content and various bits and bobs. The WiiU was certainly the main attraction, but was managed terribly and was extremely disappointing. While most of the company reps were great and very helpful, a couple of Nintendo’s were oddly aggressive and patronising. I don’t think anyone at Eurogamer needs to be told how to play WiiU mini-games, or have buttons on their controllers pressed for them. The decision to dedicate three entire kiosks in the WiiU section to a video panorama viewer was baffling too. It’s almost as if no one at Nintendo has picked up a smart-phone in the last 5 years or so – this isn’t astounding stuff. Wonderful 101 seemed quite fun, but not as fun as I was expecting. The rest of the WiiU content was very disappointing. Pikmin 3 looking bland and boring was especially upsetting. It’s ironic that playing on the console has secured my decision not to buy it on release. I could easily write about how disappointing the WiiU was for a lot longer, but I just don’t care enough.
What was pleasantly surprising was how good Sony’s presence and content was. Reps were polite and helpful, not getting in the way where they weren’t needed and turning up when they were. Much like a good waiter. They had plenty of kiosks and space, and queues were minimal (not due to lack of interest, mind). Playstation All-stars Battle Royale, though clearly a Smash Bros. rip-off, is actually a very good one. We spent quite a while on it, and it was very enjoyable (possibly more so than Smash Bros. Brawl, but it doesn’t even approach the heights of Melee). The cross-play was especially impressive too, mirroring almost the exact same game frame-for-frame with only minor graphical omissions. Stand-out game of the show had to be When Vikings Attack, though. Incredibly simple concept, but perfect execution and impressive cross-play again. The only disappointment was that it doesn’t have a confirmed release date, but Clever Beans say it will be on PSN before the end of the year. This is definitely day-one purchase material.
Carmageddon definitely deserves a mention. It’s just as much fun as it was all those years ago, and the tablet/smartphone port has been handled perfectly. A shame that there was no demo or footage for the Carmageddon Reincarnation project, but hopefully it made a few more people aware. Also worth mentioning was God of War: Ascension, which although is more of the same, it’s a brilliant same that it’s more of. The multiplayer worked surprisingly well too, though a LAN setup is always going to be more fun than online. There were a few things that I’d have liked to have tried, but queues prevented me – nothing I would deem queue-worthy though. Hitman looked quite impressive, but the whole misogyny thing has put me off. Same goes for Tomb Raider. Dishonoured looked interesting, but not so interesting to queue for. Halo 4 looked like more of the same, though the considerable graphical upgrade certainly doesn’t hurt. Dead or Alive 5 was quite fun, and pleasing to see that they’ve returned to the mechanics of Dead or Alive 2 (clearly the series high). Disappointing amount of guys picking bikini-clad women to fight and leaving the camera aimed at crotch/chest areas; we evened the score a bit by playing as ridiculous-looking guys and aiming at the groin. Yes, I am 12. Disappointed to see that they’ve not included Zack’s weird sports-bra costume. The indie games arcade section is probably worth mentioning in that almost everything in it was terrible and just trading on a quirky look with zero gameplay to back it up. I conclude that there’s still plenty of room for ideas and innovation in the British indie games community.
All in all, a pretty fun event. Slightly disappointing that the industry still hasn’t moved on from the whole booth-babe thing, but it’s definitely far less prevalent than it used to be, so that leaves me with some hope. The graphical standard of console games is astounding, especially given there hasn’t been a hardware refresh in over 5 years. I’ll definitely be returning next year.