Eurogamer Expo

2011-10-26

The Eurogamer Expo was held again this year in Earls Court, this time in the massive Earls Court One, with four days in 2011 dedicated to previewing upcoming games on all systems. The floor is completely owned by each of the various developers who've taken the opportunity to show off their forthcoming releases. There's nothing of the spectacle or involvement you might expect at something like E3, but the formula works: Eurogamer act as facilitators to put developers and gamers in the same massive room and then disappear out of the way to let things unfold. It works brilliantly, with gamers happily moving from area to area to sample the games that interest them. To give Eurogamer some more credit, they might leave the showfloor to the demos and gamers, but they also organize various developer conferences, with this year featuring a developer chat with Naughty Dog each day, as well as several other conferences showing at various points during the event. Disapointingly, our visit didn't encompass the Dark Souls event, but we did manage to catch an excellent developer chat which also involved Nolan North and some Uncharted 3 footage. The conferences and atmosphere were superb, and the stars of the show were the many varied games putting in early appearences. Entering the expo, the five titles I was most keen to try were Dark Souls, Skyrim, SSX, Mass Effect 3 and Final Fantasy XIII-2. Thankfully there was time to try those and more. Here are a few thoughts on some of the demos sampled.

Eurogamer Expo
Journey

The first thing we bumped into, before we'd got our bearings, was Journey. The game was beautiful and the demo enjoyable, but it loses a lot when you're in a crowded hall, out of your comfort zone. Predecessors flOw and Flower were relaxing, atmospheric experiences. Attempting to enjoy Journey against a backdrop of chaos and queues meant that it was nearly impossible to truly appreciate the game's greatest qualities. That said, the potential was there, and it'll be a store game absolutely worth keeping an eye out for.

Zelda 3DS

Despite being at the expo for the big PS3 releases, it was nice to try a little of Nintendo's 3DS, with reliable adventure game Zelda. We were still fumbling our way into Earls Court when we arrived in Nintendo's fortress of 3DS games and awkward queues. Happily, we were all very pleasantly surprised with the 3D visuals, which were surprisingly smart for a small handheld. The downside was that, perhaps as a result of playing while standing, the disruption to 3D viewing was extremely evident with every head or hand movement. It emphasized that the 3DS would be something to play while sat perfectly straight and still, but not something that you just slouch with on a sofa somewhere.

Dark Souls

As we explored further, I was delighted to grab a few minutes with one of the main highlights of the event, Dark Souls. Grabbing the controller, I tried to refresh my memory on the controls used in Demon's Souls, and started to explore the beautiful environment. The first thing that stood out was the visual leap forward the game has made over Demon's Souls. Perhaps the runaway import success, and subsequent releases overseas have given From Software the support they need to truly go to town on this game, and they're certainly succeeding in crafting something quite spectacular. Beauty is only one component though, and it's the rock hard gameplay that draws so many people to the formula. Heading out of the first room in the direction of a massive bridge, there was an enormous dragon lying in wait. Doing the only sensible thing with limited time, I headed the other way, only to find a massive metallic rhino creature that swiftly demolished me. As is traditional with a Souls game, it was a learning experience, and one that I would use to get past the powerful beast on my next attempt. By the end of an enjoyable ten minute play though, I'd been thwarted three times, and had progressed almost nowhere. In any other game I might have been disappointed. With Dark Souls I only fell more in love with a game I hope might be one of this year's greatest.

Final Fantasy XIII-2

While standing in the queue for the OnLive area, we each took it in turns to go and try other games for a bit, with my choice being a second go on Dark Souls, and a chance to play Final Fantasy. As a big fan of the Final Fantasy series, it was great to get a hands on with the sequel to Final Fantasy XIII. From the demo, the changes to gameplay seemed minimal, although there's been emphasis on improved exploration options in this game. What we all look for, really, is a recreation of the incredible freedom and depth offered by Final Fantasy VII, and we can only hope that each new FF game comes close. Everything else had the usual Square shine, with polished characters and visuals, and some spectacular bosses. The two greatest concerns still remain though: will the story succeed without the main characters many grew to love in the first game, and will we be allowed off the leash to explore the depths of the game as we see fit?

Eurogamer Expo
Naughty Dog Mini Developer Session

After finally surviving the OnLive queue, though emerging without an OnLive box of our own, we swiftly made our way to a booked mini developer session with Naughty Dog. To our amazement Nolan North was present, providing excellent commentary for the video shown and a nice opportunity to ask a few questions. Despite no hands-on play with the game, it was a genuine highlight of the day.

Inversion

Free from the OnLive queues, we headed briefly through the careers and retro sections, and then into the over 18 section, which featured a handful of hotpant-sporting Saints Row babes and some tough-looking guys manning the entrance. Inside, the first game we had a go with was Inversion. Though not necessarily bad, Inversion was one of the weaker titles tried on the day. After faffing with the controls for a while, there were some very neat gravitational effects on offer, and it was a reasonably enjoyable demo, but nothing truly stood out, despite the impressive physics on display. It looked like the sort of game that might be worth checking out after a serious price reduction.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 3

Though initially we only sat down at the NGS booths since there was a convenient pair of free stations, a surprise highlight of the show was Ninja Gaiden Sigma 3, for which the demo made gamers look and feel pretty much godly. The game's are well known for their difficulty, but in this demo, there was a clear emphasis on attracting gamers to its extravagant blend of over-the-top action and effects. An enjoyable ten-minute session was sadly ended with some mystifying lack of direction in a smoke-filed area, but it was still a surprisingly enjoyable demo experience.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier

One of the few online titles we tried on the day, Future Soldier was a tidy multiplayer experience and one that will undoubtedly provide hours and hours of online fun for many, but it did little to truly stand out. Other than a visual tidy, what can Future Solider, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3 and others offer that isn't just a shinier version of what we've already seen?

Battlefield 3

Finishing off proceedings in the over 18 section, we headed over to EA's Battlefield area. The game stations and queues were largely centered around the online features, but we took the opportunity to sample the single-player campaign. The demo, despite looking alright, did little to wow its potential audience, and didn't feature anything particularly unusual in the run-of-the-mill section of gameplay offered. Cruelly, EA had omitted the option to invert the Y axis, which is the first step many of us take with any game. This led to some teething issues and a demo that felt as if it ended in failure. It was a shame, considering the game is being hyped as a potential Modern Warfare beater this year. That said, feedback from gamers who had sampled the multiplayer was extremely positive, with several friends expressing great enthusiasm for the online potential of the game.

Mass Effect 3

Not far from the over 18 entrance, Bioware's Mass Effect 3 was on show, with a demo perfectly pitched for 10-15 minute sessions. After selecting attributes for your squad, you head through a small facility, with popular comrades Mordin Solus, Garrus Vakarian and Liara T'Soni putting in appearences. With somewhat smaller screens and stations, things didn't look as spectacular as other sections did, but the game's underlying quality was clear, and the demo was finely polished. It emphasized the link between queues and queue stations. It seemed that the bigger the stall setup, and the more screens and banners it had, the longer the queue was. Mass Effect 3 didn't have a particularly large stand, and so despite the importance and fame of the series, the queues were relatively short. Perhaps we should be grateful for the sheeplike tendencies of our species.

Naughty Dog Conference

Joining the queue just in time, we quickly headed over to the main conference of the day for a break from gaming. Here we saw a little sneak-preview footage and an enjoyable Q&A session with the same guys we'd seen in the mini developer session, which happily included Nolan North. There was some confusion over filming the conference. Spectators were specifically asked not to film the videos as it contained footage the developers didn't want distributed, which was fine, but some Eurogamer Expo staff were then asking some of us to stop filming the Q&A session as well, with the reason not being clear. Thankfully, with the wonder of the internet, full videos of the entire session were online within days, and downloaded for a happy recording of the event. Aside from some confused Expo staff, the event was well organized, with decent sound, a good screen, and some entertaining moments from Nolan North. If only we'd also been able to attend the Dark Souls equivalent!

SSX

After the presentation, we tried to grab a few minutes with a few more games before the end of the day. One choice that had been high on the list all day was SSX. Though clearly an early build of the game, SSX looked quite stunning, with some absolutely massive slopes to explore, and truly epic scenery for the backdrop. There was a crazy rewind button that caused some confusion, but the jumping and trick usage was as good as ever, with uber tricks thrown in for spectacular amazingness. With the show coming to a close, it was one of several excellent games that we narrowly managed to fit in before the close.

Sonic Generations

A brief go on Sonic Generations resulted in few surprises, but it was nice to see solid side-scrolling platforming and dizzying speed. It'll take something more special for the game to stand out in today's market.

Eurogamer Expo
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

With some fairly extensive queues going on for Skyrim, this demo was left until quite late in the day, but we managed to make it into the last session before the stall's assistants packed up. Despite Dark Souls and Mass Effect 3 being two of the most anticipated demos of the day, it was Skyrim that left the biggest impression. It was partly due to the colossal Samsung screens used for the demo, the surround sound headphones and the controlled nature of the queues (by putting people in as a group and allowing a fixed demo session, there's a lot less pressure from people behind you, allowing you to truly enjoy the experience), but the demo itself definitely left an impact. Much like previous Elder Scrolls games, you are unleashed on a massive open world of beautiful forests, lakes, mountains and creatures, with permission to explore whatever you want. Deviating from most people's standard routes, temptation led me to explore a different area, beyond the mountains, where I stumbled across mammoths, a giant and several other interesting creatures in a vast open plain. The whole thing looked beautiful, with not a glitch in sight. It was one of the few demos that actively changed my mind about preordering a game.

Though we wouldn't necessarily want to attend multiple expos per year, the Eurogamer Expo, as a one-off opportunity to try something like it, was a great experience and something we each agreed we'd like to repeat in the future.

Post a comment

Comment:

characters remaining.

User comments

MeteorStorm Random Quote Picker

QuoterQuoter

GLaDOS

Not even I was designed perfectly. I was designed with too much empathy for human suffering. I overcame that problem, true story.