EGX 2014 – Highlights

Another year, another games expo at Earls Court.

Many games this year as usual, in particular a massive booths from both microsoft and sony trying to demo their new gen exclusives, many of the big games had ridiculous queue times as usual – the CoD AW line went up to 90 minutes apparently, no idea who would want to queue that long for CoD, but I guess there are people out there.

Of the big games I played, here are my thoughts:

Alien Isolation – Amazing, somewhat similar to Amnesia conceptually, but the demo area we were given was a small maze of corridors and rooms, with the objective being to escape from the area. Right from the get go though, the alien was out on the loose, his skeletal silhouette creeping about the dark interiors of the ship. Fighting the alien is impossible, even with the flamethrower we were given – instead, the emphasis is on sneaking and using the motion tracker to discern it’s position and keep out of sight, almost more stealth horror than survival considering the alien murders you in one hit. Though somewhat detailed in the game footage already found online, the depth of field (focus) effects used are impressive, holding RB brings up the motion tracker but doing so will focus your vision on the tracker and blur the world, pressing the other trigger will refocus on the world – it was really interesting and pretty well done, only thing that would be better is some sort of eye tracking where it does the refocusing automatically, but we all know that’s a long way off. The sound design and atmosphere is the real star of the game, with some horrific sounds which really induce fear, the razer headsets we were given seemed to vibrate with the bass when the alien drew near, and having the alien itself start clambering around next to whatever it is you’re hiding behind is seriously terrifying.

Bloodborne – The demo booth was operating a rather harsh, but fitting ‘queue for a life’. The queue moved swiftly because of this, players were brought in and basically got to play until you beat the boss or until you die. Bloodborne, is fucking. badass.
Personally I was terrified when I heard they had basically removed the shield, the slow but steady approach is what got me through both dark souls games – the sword and board with heavy armor which let me shrug off majority of attacks, that’s gone. Now, you get a shotgun or a pistol which of course has it’s own ammo supply. Combat is fairly familiar dark souls fare, however the default weapon (the folding scythe thing) can be toggled for short/fast and long/slow attacks, and then there’s hard attacks on top of that, the ranged weapon seems to mostly work as a reset/stagger move, dealing low damage but causing hitstun for enemies. The biggest change in bloodborne is the roll – it’s now a dash/sidestep, your character seems much more agile as a result, able to sidestep dodge behind enemies with relative ease, or quickstep forward to land a quick attack before the enemy can ready. The demo was a reasonable length and featured a small variety of enemies, the graphics were nice (as you’ve probably seen) but didn’t quite run at the promised 60fps I was hoping for, instead mingling somewhere around the high 30’s or mid 40’s if I were to guess. Upon completing the demo, I was congratulated by the staff and given a handshake and pat on the back, I guess not many people make it that far.

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Dying Light – Seemed solid but somewhat uninspired, it felt very much like the game that Dead Island should have been, a gritty zombie action survival game with open world elements and a variety of weapons and stuff. Really nothing too special here (similar to Dead Island 2, which I didn’t play but watched for a little while, really seemed like more of the same. After all, there’s only so many ways you can hit a zombie in the first person)

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Splatoon – Ah splatoon, the game I was really looking forward to. It was great fun, a kind of competitive multiplayer paint em up where you can hide in the floor and stuff. The problem however, comes from the fact it’s on the wii U… The game’s controls default to using the wii U pad to aim, you have to rotate the pad to turn your view… of course, when you can only twist it so far before it starts to sketch out, there were many times when I just could not physically get my character to turn the way I wanted him to, it suffers from almost exactly the same problems that Red Steel did back on the Wii, except that was BETTER. Instead here you’ll be put into scenarios where you can be stuck facing a wall for 5s or so and be unable to turn around because the wii U gamepad is being uncooperative. What a terrible shame. The game itself really was great fun, but it felt like trying to play a competitive shooter with a broken mouse/stick.

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The Evil Within – I remain cautiously optimistic for the Evil Within, I felt like the demo showed some really promising gameplay, and the game had some great atmosphere along with few but dangerous enemies and a sparse amount of ammo, making it feel like a true survival horror game and not the Gears of War style Resi games of late. My main worries with this game are on the console, the framerate for starters is absolutely abysmal, and then the FOV is really bad too and similar to the latest Resi games, the player model takes up way too much screen space and is too zoomed in, which causes some real nausea. To make matters worse, trying to aim at an enemy seems to give the main character eyes of a hawk, zooming in to a ridiculous extent with just the standard pistol, further reducing your FOV. Hopefully when this game makes it out on PC, a good rig will resolve the framerate issues, and some enterprising modders will fix the issues with the ingame camera. Fingers crossed.

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Now, of the smaller games, there were also some really interesting ones..

Boid – a small boothed manned by a pretty young girl, an RTS game which has basically been stripped down to it’s bare elements and set to a pretty artstyle similar to that of ‘Flow’. Maps are small and contain multiple spawn points which have to be captured, and then from there you can move your units onto pads to transform them into specialized units (heavy, fast, etc). It was pretty interesting, the lady gracefully held back for a few minutes as I got used to the game, and then eventually I think she had enough of me and just demolished me from 3 fronts at once with armies of heavy units. It was brutal, but I almost appreciate her for doing so. – http://tinybuild.com/boid

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Kingdoms – I really really enjoyed this one, it was basically a digital board game, featuring a 5×5 grid of squares, you can capture X squares per turn, cutting off your opponents trail of squares will capture their squares… Hard to explain, but really easy to learn and immensely satisfying to play. I played 3 rounds with one of the developers who, similar to Mrs Boid, didn’t show any mercy at all. I somehow managed to win the third game, but given that he took about a minute on the last move he certainly didn’t let me win intentionally. Coming soon only to iOS sadly – http://www.kingdomsgame.fr/

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A light in Chorus – Holy graphics. This was actually the most visually impressive game of the show for me, despite being an indie game by 2 people, the graphical beauty in A light in Chorus was incredible, a world painted out of the darkness purely by glowing particles… Has to be seen to be fully understood. http://vimeo.com/97512210 – They don’t have much footage of it up at the moment presumedly because it’s so alpha, but imagine that teaser, but… better. Gameplay wise it seems to be somewhat similar to ‘Dream’ in that it is an exploration game with some light puzzle elements.

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That more or less wraps up the highlights of the show for me this year. There were of course tons of other games on display, and I played loads of small indie games, but other than those listed, the others didn’t stand out too much, didn’t present anything particularly noteworthy, or just had queues which were too long for me to justify waiting for (Evolve, Order 1866, Big Pharma)