Express at Eurogamer Expo 2010

The Eurogamer Expo has been around since 2008 and this year it took place in a packed Earl’s Court Arena in London. Many of the world’s biggest publishers were on hand to show off their wares for the coming year and Adam El Araby was there to check it out first hand. Here are our impressions of what we saw:

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

The focus of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood was firmly on its multiplayer mode with demo units pitting show goers against others scattered all over the show floor. The multiplayer works surprisingly well and it felt fresh and original amidst a sea of copycat shooters. It does a great job of successfully translating the series’ trademark gameplay elements of elegant platforming and satisfyingly visceral assassinations into a fun competitive mode. Each player is assigned a target to hunt down while avoiding his or her own would-be executioner.  Information on your target’s location is relayed to you via an on-screen display that updates in real-time. It’s tense and exciting and served to allay any fears I might have had that Ubisoft was rushing this one out but it remains to be seen if this dynamic will remain satisfying after extended play.  Brotherhood will be released in November.

Fable 3

Microsoft’s Fable 3 was playable on the show floor and felt rather similar to Fable 2. Some improvements have been made to the combat system and now your weapons will change and develop along with the player. The menu system has been completely eliminated in favour of displaying all information within the game world. The player takes on the role of the King of Albion and will be faced with some pretty major decisions right from the outset.

We attended a presentation by director and industry legend Peter Molyneux wherein he detailed the influences on the series and its development. He attributed the visual style of the game to Sleepy Hollow, and the combat to Kill Bill and mentioned that he considers Ico to have the finest game design of all time. He credited that game and it’s handholding mechanic as a key inspiration for Fable 3’s inclusion of touch as a mechanic. He also announced a Foursquare-style mobile phone app that rewards players for checking-in to real-life locations with Fable 3 gold.

Little Big Planet 2

Little Big Planet captured the hearts of many I spoke to at the event with its charming art and newly refined and enhanced gameplay. Despite the fact that the game has recently been delayed until next year, it looked to be in good shape at the show. The platforming felt as satisfying as ever and the creation tools are a clear leap beyond the original game’s already fairly generous offering. Now it’s possible to create enemies with their own AI and you can even completely transform the game into a racer or a shooter if you like.  It’s impressive stuff and I can’t wait to see what the community comes up with once this is out in the wild.

Gears of War 3

One of 360’s heavy-hitters, Gears 3’s new Beast mode was being demoed on the show floor and it features players taking on the role of Locust creatures and attacking the human COG soldiers in an interesting bout of role reversal. I left the demo slightly unconvinced as the some of the Locust creatures, in particular the small tickers, felt frustrating to control.  Playing as the Ticker your objective is to run up to a COG and explode. Playing as the hulking Berserker, however, is a more satisfying affair as the massive beast charges around the map crushing any COG unfortunate enough to get in her way. Think Left 4 Dead and that’s pretty much what’s going on here with each Locust requiring a certain style of play. Visually, the game still looks stunning and improvements over Gears 2 were subtle but noticeable.

Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2, the sequel to one of my favourite games of 2008, was playable at the show and looks like it hasn’t lost a shred of the original’s tense atmosphere and frenetic combat. The Strategic Dismemberment gameplay, which rewards you for cutting off the disgusting Necromorph’s limbs to weaken them, returns here and some new enemy types have joined the battle. A beta test of the game’s new multiplayer mode is going on at the moment and it pits teams of four humans against four Necromorphs. The human engineers handle much the same as Isaac does in the game’s single-player but, similarly to Gears of War 3,  playing as the enemy Necromorphs offers up some very different gameplay. There are several units to choose from, The Spitter, The Pack, The Lurker and The Puker, lovely. Spitters attack by spitting acid, Lurkers can climb on walls and The Pack attaches itself to enemies. The multiplayer is an enjoyable diversion but I can’t help but wonder if an experience like Dead Space, which is predicated on a tense atmosphere of isolation, really benefits from the inclusion of online modes. Hopefully, the single player won’t suffer for its inclusion. We’ll see when the Dead Space 2 is released early next year.

Crysis 2

The sequel to the game that made your PC look inadequate was playable on PC and 360 at the expo and it was looking pretty great on console. It didn’t quite match the visual splendour of the original at its best but Crytek are clearly pushing the hardware with excellent post-processing effects making up for lower-quality textures and models. The gameplay felt mostly unremarkable and I didn’t find the weapons particularly satisfying to use. Without its shiny visuals and impressive physics, Crysis will struggle to establish itself on the 360. The PC version looked and played better and it’s there that Crysis 2 will really shine.

Playstation Move

There was a number of Playstation Move demo units on the show floor running most of the launch titles. Pool was a pretty impressive use of the tech and the Move controller makes a fitting analogue to a Pool cue, when it worked. But in that environment calibration proved to be an issue for the system and led to some fairly unpredictable results. Heavy Rain Move Edition worked better and Move made for a fun way to perform that game’s already limited set of interactions.  Echochrome 2 was on display and involved using the Move control to manipulate M.C. Escher style tricks of perception. It was fun but a little finicky.

Gran Turismo 5

We got a chance to try out the very long awaited Gran Turismo 5, and we played it in 3D to boot. From the cockpit view, the effect of the 3D was at its strongest and truly added an extra level of immersion to the experience. It’s certainly a selling point for Sony’s 3D tech. The game itself still handles as well as ever and the stunning visuals with their immaculate level of detail are proof that Polyphony Digital hasn’t just been sitting around playing Forza for the last five years.

Killzone 3

Killzone 3 was playable and, like most of Sony’s titles, it was in 3D. The 3D effect here was less impressive than in GT5, but it was still noticeable.  The visuals are an evolution of Killzone 2’s and the gameplay hasn’t changed much either. That said, the environments are very nice and the jet pack adds a fun element to the gameplay. Overall, it feels very similar to its predecessor but more of the same isn’t always a bad thing, eh?

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Hidden behind thick black curtains was perhaps one of the best treats of the show, the latest instalment in the Zelda series. Boasting queues of over two hours, only the truly dedicated got a chance to play this for themselves but those who did were not disappointed. The graphical style is a nice mix of Wind Waker’s Toon Shading and Twilight Princess’s more mature Link. The gameplay, with the added fidelity of Motion Plus adding to the accuracy of the sword, performed well and it showed little of the difficulties Miyamoto had on stage at E3. The area in the demo was a grassy field with plenty of targets to try out the new Wii Remote aiming system on. Skyward Sword is shaping up very well and will be a rare gem in the Wii’s release schedule next year.

So that’s it for the Eurogamer Expo. 2010.  There were plenty of awesome games on display for pretty much every console. It’s shaping up to be a great year for games and with Vanquish and Castlevania out soon, the end of year game deluge is just beginning. We’ll be here to keep you informed so check back in next issue!

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