Here’s a roundup of some of the games I managed to get some extensive hands-on time with at the recent Eurogamer Expo in London. As well as highlighting what was looking good, I’ve pointed out a few that you should definitely beware of before you splash the cash. The Contender category consists of a few games that you might usually overlook due to past form or generic looks, but have a read; you might just change your mind.
Considering I spent most of the second demo level trying not to crush the pad in frustration I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this third-person cover-shooter. The shooting against the Terminator-style bots feels aggressive thanks to the chunks of paint and metal that fly off them but it’s the bosses that really impress. The second one I faced, a large spider mech, was a tense battle where I had to shoot cunningly hidden glowing areas on the back of its legs, before going for its exhaust core. It took way longer than it should have thanks to some useless AI partners, who generally ignored all commands, but there’s still time for things to improve before it’s released next year. Definitely one to watch.
After a tantalising playtest at Gamescom involving a long opening and a few minutes with a pistol, I wasn’t sold on Rage. After being let loose a bit further into the game, I’m totally on board. It’s wonderful what a combat shotgun can do for a game.
Today’s mission mainly takes place indoors through tight corridors and rooms with multiple entrances, perfect for being ambushed from all angles. With the aim of stealing some parts, I had to fight my way through some British punk wastelanders armed with machetes and guns. Rage’s arsenal is going to be a big hit with gamers. The combat shotgun leads the way and is perfect for twitch shooter fans, bringing back fond memories of Doom and Quake. The assault rifle has a lot of kickback to it, so short bursts are required, but when combined with some shotgun quick-swapping, you can really clean up. The triple-bladed boomerang is perfect for decapitating enemies too. With different ammo types to look forward to I’d say the weapons are going to get even better. Even dying is cool, as you’re required to match up some analogue and trigger prompts to resuscitate yourself, bringing you right back into the fight, much to the surprise of your enemies.
The racing side of Rage wasn’t available, but I did have a spin on an ATV and a buggy through some tight canyon roads between missions. When the boost button is applied, you better be ready for some speed that’s all sorts of awesome. Visually the game is stunning, more so when you’re boosting through the mountains and enjoying the smooth frame-rate. With less than a week to go now before Rage is released, it couldn’t be more desirable.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
I’m never touching my PSP again; it’s all about the Vita now. This is an outstanding piece of technology. Golden Abyss feels like a full-on Uncharted release. The graphics are almost on a par with the PS3 and the addition of a right analogue stick for aiming means that you can immediately settle into a comfortable gaming mindset. Some of the Vita’s unique features are well represented in this demo. When Drake is climbing walls and looking for handholds, you can draw your finger across the screen, touching all the ledges in a path, then sit back, and watch him follow them. It’s not a gimmick you’ll tire of; it’s something you’ll be happy to do instead of clunking around with the analogue stick. The motion-sensors in the unit can be used to lean away from ledges to prepare for a jump. The touchscreen can also be used to pick up weapons or perform stealth takedowns, both with an icon tap. The motion gyros can also be used for aiming a sniper rifle and this is the only element that still needs work, as the correlation of your hand’s movement and what happens on screen is unpredictable. The fact that Vita games are looking and playing this good already are very positive signs for the future of Sony’s new hope.
Ridge Racer: Unbounded
The amount of people that walked away from this game mid-race was astonishing. Having played the game at Gamescom I knew what to expect. The devs have admitted the game is too hard, but that was after E3, why isn’t an improved build on show yet? That’s a complete world tour with this terrible version now. The cars feel like they’re being crushed into the ground from above and the drift mechanic is completely broken, either spinning you out or just making the car wobble a little before strolling around the corner normally. When drifting is required to build up boost to catch up 7th place, it’s a joke. The best I saw anyone, myself included, finish was 3rd out of eight.
A game so horrible looking I almost asked for some 3D glasses to help with the double-vision coming off the screen. The worst 3D attempt on the 3DS yet.
With the single player still in hiding, I had a second attempt with the game’s four player deathmatches. This 3D environment beat em’ up is failing to click so far with overly simple action as four players rush to start hitting each other before the other one does, essentially making sure their health lasts longer as both players button-bash until the other one falls. Try and get involved with a pair currently fighting and you’ll find most of your attacks fail to even register. For now, I’d stick with WWE games for multiplayer beat downs.
A special mention needs to go out to Dark Souls. I didn’t get around to playing it, but it seemed to be affecting nearby games with its evil powers. On the first day, the nearby SSX just died on all screens for hours and on the second day it needed a hard reset after every run. Planning to buy Dark Souls? Then you had better hide your other games, it wants to kill them all.
Need For Speed: The Run
This one is getting better. The desert highway track I played at Gamescom was a bore, but this new mountain track, complete with snow and avalanches was an action packed treat. The Run has a rewind feature, but with a difference as it’s more like an action game’s checkpoint system. For example if you’re dodging a series of boulders in the road and you wreck your car in the middle of them you’ll be reset to the start of that section, having to dodge the first few again before having a second attempt at the one that took you out. It’s unsettling at first, but then you realise it’s not just trying to be cinematic with the action, it’s taking elements from the action genre, making you beat a tough section rather than plonking you back on the track past the tricky bit with the usual patronising pat on the backside. Using rewinds will probably show up on your times in the Autolog, so it’ll become a matter of pride getting a clean run. The drifting is still a little reluctant, but I’m definitely putting the game back onto my ‘ones to watch’ list.
Making a strong point for having something to play after Uncharted 3 and Gears 3 is Inversion. It tries something different by allowing you to change gravity at certain points, by planting your feet on the walls or ceiling, with your enemies able to do the same. When you’re firing at someone crouching behind a low wall while you’re standing on the side of a tunnel it starts to feel very strange indeed and you may find yourself creaking your neck at an angle to reorientate your aiming.
The hero has other skills like a pulse attack that lifts enemies and objects into the air for you to shoot or grab them and fling them away. In a neat touch, you can throw heavy objects at rickety bridges to take them out. It’s great fun seeing enemies fly off it in the debris of planks and rope. Don’t write off this underdog yet, it has fun written all over it.
It was a strange decision to mix traditional 2D Sonic with the newer 3D one. But I’m happy to report that the 3D sections are coming together nicely, with the enemy lock-on working well enough and plenty of excitement being provided when avoiding trucks chasing you downhill or when you’re speeding away from the screen through boost gates. The inspiration from past games means that the levels on display seemed to be very similar to ones you’ve played over the years, so we’re hoping Team Sonic will finally design some completely new ones, instead of lazily retreading old material in the name of homage. We’re looking at you Sonic 4. The 2D levels need a little work so far, with the main problem being the camera feels too close, meaning you have little chance to avoid enemies and traps. Another problem in both styles is keeping your momentum going, if you miss a jump or get tagged it can feel like forever before you’re allowed to get up to speed again. As long as they keep the Werehogs out of it, we’re going to remain cautiously optimistic about Sonic Generations, especially as Sonic 4 Episode 2 has failed to materialise.
So, with the Expo season coming to an end, what have you enjoyed (or not enjoyed) an early taste of? Be it at E3, Gamescom, TGS, Eurogamer or anywhere else.