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Eurogamer Expo 2009

So a couple of weeks ago I attended Eurogamer Expo 2009 in London, which was all in all, a delightful event, and an integral part of the London Games Festival. Although low-key compared to monster-expos like E3, Eurogamer had a lot to offer a wide variety of gamers, from the career fair to developer conferences and hands on demos. For anyone who was unable to attend and find it all noteworthy, please proceed to read my highlights below.

Firstly I’ll not mention the games that I tested which are now already out (but weren’t at the time)  –  I have only my light addiction to Modern Warfare 2 to thank for that. So firstly, I had a little look at Avatar the game; amongst some communities, the film has generated a huge amount of hype so I was eager to see whether a game, supposedly closely made alongside the film, could deliver, unlike so many other movie-merchandising shameless flogs. The graphics are nothing special but are solid and the whole gameplay feel is quite reminiscent of Gears of War in terms of camera angles character visuals.  The game appears to have an XP system, which could be interesting along with shooter gameplay but aspects like the extremely linear levels and awful animations for explosions and flames began to put me off. Perhaps it has more to offer, but the game didn’t seem vastly appealing, yet it did feel more worthy than some other past movie-game offerings.

I also managed to catch a quick play on Zipper Interactive’s bigger-is-better MAG. The game, as you may already know supports up to 256 players per match, which prospect, personally, given the experiences I had in the likes of Battlefield 2, makes me wee a little in delight. But obviously there’s much else to consider before it gets my approval. The graphics and environment looks fairly good, though like Avatar, nothing special. However such an FPS with previously mentioned features can get away with this. I didn’t get to experience any vehicular play due to the map size, but what I played seemed fairly fun, though the real test will be seeing if genuine, intense battles can occur once its out, online on the PS3, with 8 year-olds likely making up half your team’s ranks. Watch out for this one.

Being a huge fan of the original Mass Effect, in all its alien fornication glory, naturally I quickly made my way to tryout the sequel. Disappointingly the demo restricted me to one short fight scene followed by a cut-scene (a good one nonetheless) with little chance to do any exploring of make use of its famous dialogue system. But combat certainly does feel more fluid and substantially more exciting, in a gears-of-wars-ish fashion but different and with that Bioware touch we all know and love.

A favourite of many PS3 fans, God of War continues after GoW 2, in, well, you guessed it – GoW 3. On this blockbuster the graphics are looking sharper than ever, resulting in ever more satisfying incisions into goats with the heads of rhinos or whatever counts as a mythical creature nowadays. Essentially it looks to be bringing more of what it did before, in a bigger and better way, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. My only concerns lay in fairly trivial things like camera angles, though there are no serious problems.

Pandemic Studios’ The Saboteur, on paper seemed very intriguing, if not a great idea. Its use of colour and black and white as part of gameplay, fitting in well with idea of a stylised game reminiscent of war movies, is an original idea if there ever was one, but the game isn’t on paper, it is in fact on a disk and the awkward combat and Mario-kart vehicle handling (take into account a lot of the game is meant to relate to driving, given the lead character is a race car driver) made the experience of what little I played quite disappointing. I also wasn’t entirely impressed when following a long cut scene, I was asked to talk to a girl 3 meters away, which triggered another cut scene, and then subsequently the same thing happened once again.

Speaking of cut scenes, undoubtedly my personal highlight of all the games was the genre-busting Heavy Rain. I mention cut scenes as the game almost feels like one in its entirety – but in a good way. It doesn’t get much more original than this. The game is essentially a detective story, and thus you investigate a serial killer, looking for evidence and such. I was able to play two very cool scenes – the first had me take on the role of a somewhat overweight tired looking detective (classic movie-look, which is nice to play in a video game for once) who witnesses a store robbery. As the scene plays out, your options float around you, for example triangle for dissuade etc, resulting in different outcomes. The visuals are stunning, as well as the environments; there were thousands of individually crafted products on the shop’s shelves and the facial expressions were a far cry from the monotonous faces games usually offer us. In the second scene I played a younger guy, interrogating a scrap yard owner in his workplace, then looking for clues after his departure. And so the blood stains revealed themselves across floor with pop up information and clues coming out of it, in real time, as though it were my avatar’s thoughts. Needless to say this is definitely one to watch – I’ve nothing against good old RPGs or FPSs, but to see a brand new IP, together with original, dare I say, possibly, groundbreaking gameplay is bloody fantastic.

Finally I attended a developer conference on Splash Damage’s Brink. Splash Damage is in a partnership with Bethesda, who made Fallout 3, so this got my attention very quickly. The game, coming out in Spring 2010, hopes combine, as other games have successfully done, a first person shooter gameplay, with RPG elements including character class, weapon and appearance customisation. The avatars are stylised (big-chested / shoulders the width of pews) which is I shame, but the story looked interesting enough and the idea that friends online can jump in anytime, and join in your missions and objectives is pretty cool. What really grabbed my attention was the so-called SMART system standing for smooth movement across random terrain. This feature supposedly analyses the speed your moving, the direction your going and any other relevant data, then finds a way for you to traverse your environment, in a fluid motion, without “canned animations”, in an attempt to solve one of the FPS genre’s last common faults.

So there you have it – there was a huge amount going on this year, and my summary only covers a small portion, but be sure to contact me should you want to ask anything else. Additionally, I’ll be adding some photos to this post tomorrow. Lookout for my Modern Warfare 2 and Assassin’s Creed 2 reviews early next week!

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November 21st, 2009
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