Brendan Griffiths takes a look at some of the best upcoming games at the Leeds leg of the Eurogamer Expo including: Aliens Vs Predator, Avatar, Bayonetta, Dante’s Inferno, Dark Void, God of War III, Heavy Rain, Saboteur and Split/Second.
It’s not often that UK gamers get to go to an expo; it’s even less often that a show manages to climb its way north of London, so it’s no surprise that the Eurogamer Leeds Expo sold out in advance for its two dates at Saviles Royal Armouries Square for the 27th/28th October.
While the queue went around the building it didn’t take long to get in once the doors opened and despite the event being sold out it never seemed overcrowded in the two halls used. The gaming areas were made up of stools in front of TVs or playing stands like you might see in shops like Game and HMV. There was a mix of HD screens for each game. Some medium sized, others 50 inch monsters. Although, sitting on a stool two feet in front of 50 inches of brightly coloured Ratchet & Clank was a bit overkill, I had to lean back to avoid my face melting.
But on to the games I managed to get a bit of extensive time with.
Aliens Vs Predator
One of the busiest titles on show with fans of the films and the PC games eager to get a first look. The game was running a four player deathmatch over a LAN connection. The three character types of marine, Predator and Alien were all on offer, with all of them getting picked regularly with perhaps the marines just edging the popularity polls, most likely to avoid getting battered in front of a crowd. The marine does what you’d expect from a human with guns, but it was a little surprising to find there is no option to look down the sights of your weapon. On the other hand this kept the action’s pace high, reminding players of Unreal Tournament III. The Predator players enjoyed using the camo technology, heat vision and that iconic tri-target icon shot if they had the time to line it up. It’s some pretty scary shit seeing a marine suddenly lifted off his feet in front of you as he gets stabbed by the Pred’s wrist mounted blades. It’s a moment that totally nails that element of the first Predator film. The Alien on the other hand is going to be a challenge as it has no ranged attacks, but it can move on walls at bullet dodging speeds. The marines have no problem with them from distance but their melee attack is useless once they get in close, whereas the Predator is better equipped for taking them on with his hands. The graphics could definitely do with a bit of spit and polish before release but the gameplay between the three species feels like it’s going to be a big hit for multiplayer.
This will be a prequel to the events in the upcoming James Cameron movie that’s meant to finally make 3D look decent. Even the game will be playable in 3D if you have a stereoscopic TV, they’re so expensive/not really out yet so that’s not on show today. The level on offer today briefly allows you to pilot a ship through a rocky jungle cavern for all of a minute before dumping you down on the ground. The rest of the demo is made up of erratic feeling third person shooting, where you control a Master Chief-alike soldier shooting anything blue or with sharp teeth. You can slow down time and have a few special quake attacks and even get in a robo-suit. Unfortunately it all feels very generic. You’ve seen it all before and done better too. Hopefully the choice of playing as the other side will offer something more unique.
No doubt the most bonkers game of the show. With one of Devil May Cry’s original creators onboard it would be fair to say that Bayonetta could be Dante’s ideal date. Far from being a poor copy of DMC, the game manages to be massively entertaining and a lot of fun to play. The acrobatic shooting, swords, kicking and jumping are all very accessible and let you dive right in. Randomly, during combos Bayonetta’s clothes kept disappearing, her blushes only hidden by her hair and a flurry of stylistic movement swooshes, just a little weird playing it with ten people standing behind you. It goes completely mental towards the end of the boss fight with her hair transforming into a giant dog and eating him. Definitely one to watch out for next year.
The developer diaries of the level designs for these Seven Circles of Hell had me desperately wanting to get my hands on EA’s attempt to take on Kratos and God of War III. The game handles like GOW (no bad thing) so players can start ripping hell a new one straight away. Dante has a giant scythe that he’s robbed from Death himself in order to save his lost love from hell’s depths. A mix of medium and strong attacks, throws and energy pushes make up the combat along with some QTE’s as finishers and boss bashers. One of the bosses on display for this ‘Limbo Circle,’ Minos, was an impressive display of the game’s detail; a giant serpent with a chilling, ghoulish human head dominates a circular arena. The attacks from it are quite familiar with floor spikes and attempts at swatting you away with its giant hands, all reminding you of similar games. The platforming/climbing sections all seem solid enough although the fighting will hopefully have a little extra depth by release. It’s the visuals and booming sound effects that make the best impressions on the expo floor though. It already seems to be a hit with players, constantly drawing them in and many coming back for seconds.
It’s all been a bit quiet recently for info on this and it didn’t exactly put the crowd into frenzy. It might be worth another look further down the line though as its vertical combat seems to be quite interesting. Using a jetpack you cling to the underneath of a platform and the camera swings around to provide an angle that allows you to shoot at enemies peeping over the edge above. You can leap up or across to the next ledge too. We’ll need to play more to see if it can be fun for a whole game though.
God of War III
No demo at an expo should be 20 minutes in length, especially as everyone seemed inclined to play the whole thing through, with some players taking double the time. While all other games seemed to have players playing for around ten minutes or giving up after repeatedly failing in the same spot and offering the pad to someone waiting patiently in line, GOWIII was a nightmare. But hey the game does look excellent with relentless action and powerfully high production values. Gameplay on show was a mix of minion slaying, troll felling, boss fights and flying. Fighting man-sized enemies seemed to be business as usual with no real differences to combat other than it being in shiny HD. The most prominent boss fight was the Chimera boss that had to be fought in multiple stages, starting with getting rid of the snake’s tail and ending with ripping off one of its horns and ramming it into its eye. If that’s not gory enough for you, Kratos even manages to eviscerate a Centaur. The flying section had Kratos using his Icarus wings to be thrust upwards through a huge vent with players moving him around through gaps and avoiding debris. Everything on offer looks fantastic and plays well but players wanting a bit more innovation from previous games may be left wanting a bit more than that.
A strange one for playing at an expo as it seems you need to spend more time than a quick ten minutes getting to know it. Movement was pushed forwards by pulling R2 and the analogue stick turns the player’s head to change direction. It’s a little clunky and makes manoeuvring the camera awkward. There were two chapter options available. The first saw you getting caught up in a convenience store robbery and trying to talk the robber out of it or taking him down. The other chapter had you playing detective in a scrap yard. The strange green visual effects when putting your sunglasses on (see photo below), making evidence pop up with icons seemed at odds with the rest of the games realistic visual style. The fantastic facial animation was a real-crowd puller around the monitors and really added to the game’s film comparisons. There were also quite a few mentions of the dreaded QTE’s too. Once any action kicks off, such as the fight scene in the scrap yard, the use of the face and shoulder buttons and the sweeps of the analogue stick to match on-screen prompts takes over. Missing one might result in you failing to land a blow or taking a hit, but missing one in the wrong place means you’re dead meat. Some players didn’t seem to mind others felt like they were missing out on the action. Sony has a tough job on their hands to keep the actual gameplay interesting for a full title, but we’re hooked by the characters and multiple story paths.
This World War 2 third-person shooter has the interesting premise of the player being responsible for turning the world from black and white into colour. Heavily occupied Nazi areas are greyed out, with the blood of Nazis and their insignia being the only colour around. Once that area is liberated colour will return. The level I played was occupied so the Sin City visuals were in full effect. Escaping from a Nazi base using melee attacks and guns seemed pretty standard, with the hero taking cover automatically whenever approaching a wall or low object. A good idea in theory but never as reliable as a ‘snap-to’ button like in the recent Uncharted 2. After escaping this area you get to drive to safety down narrow country lanes while being pursued by Nazi trucks and having to burst through checkpoints. There’s a map in the corner with a yellow line showing the way, and it even changes to the next best route if you miss a turn, 1940’s Sat Nav, you can’t beat it. Eventually the car starts to set on fire (not as a set piece, but because I let it get shot too much) and I bailed out GTA-style. Rather than wait around for a new ride I thought I wonder if I can just do a short-cut and run across the fields and hop over the walls. Fantastically the game let me do this before eventually arriving at a farm, where you can spot the Nazi’s in the gloom thanks to the red-glow the game gives them to help you out for another shooting session. It all looks like it could be quite interesting despite the slightly loose shooting and questionable cover options, and the unseen stealth sections might make it stand out from the competition too.
This looks set to fill the gap until a new Burnout game is announced and it’s bringing some added insanity to the table. Split/Second’s thing is destroying the racing environment as well as each other. You charge up a meter (by drifting, drafting and being aggressive) and at set points you can trigger a bomb dropping out the sky onto your opponents, often near other explodable areas. Or if you max out the meter you can radio in some major devastation such as blowing up the airport terminal, or the air traffic control tower, covering half the track in rubble and crushing anyone underneath. Or there’s even a whole plane skidding onto the runway, which is used as a part of the track. The amount of chaos around and on the track makes it feel like you’re racing through the best stuff Hollywood hasn’t filmed yet. All that and that’s just the airport track! The car handling itself doesn’t feel quite there yet, with cornering not feeling smooth enough to match the arcade style of the rest of the game, there’s also a lack of a nitrous boost option so the racing is a little slow. If the racing can be made as exciting as everything happening around it, Split/Second should be just the thing to make up for all the po-faced serious racers we’re getting lately.
All in all, a fantastic show for northern UK gamers, cheers to Eurogamer for arranging it too. There’s more coverage here soon, I’ll be writing up the best bits from two presentations from the developers of the new retro shooter Gravity Crash and the next big thing in first person shooters, Brink.