Last Friday, I popped down to London with a few mates to attend my first video gaming exposition; the Eurogamer Expo, held inside Earl’s Court. After humble beginnings in the Docklands just six years ago, the Eurogamer Expo has grown to become one of the most important dates on the British gaming calendar – and this year was all the more significant as the public got their first hands-on experience with the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft, the PS4 and Xbox One.
(Apologies in advance for some shoddily amateur photos – my camera is quite old now!)
Having braved the London Underground system for the first time to arrive an hour before the doors opened, it allowed me to get a pretty full day out of my trip, and the following article is a summary of some of the highlights of my day.
– I made a beeline for the PS4, so lets start there shall we? It’s lucky I did head straight for Sony’s wares; even getting there right at the start of the day, it took roughly 40 minutes to get into the games booth, and the queue remained jam-packed right up until closing time indicating at how popular the PS4 may prove upon its launch. My first impressions of the console are largely positive; its a lot smaller than you might think when up close, and the redesigned DualShock controller is comfortable and grippy courtesy of its two-texture design – most importantly for me, the new curved triggers are a huge improvement over the floppy triggers one finds on a DualShock 3.
– As far as games are concerned, I managed to get some hands-on time with the title that will launch with PS Plus, Driveclub. The demo offered a quick two lap race with objectives placed along the track (e.g. score a high drift during a particular corner section, earn the highest speed through a speed trap etc.), where you competed against ghost data from the person directly opposite your console. In a nice touch, before you began the PS4 camera took a mugshot which then popped up in the leaderboards at the end of the booth (see below). My initial impression of the handling of the cars in Driveclub wasn’t too good; certainly it appears to lack the finesse of Gran Turismo 6 (also playable at the Expo). However, the focus on interaction with other users, similar to Need For Speed’s Autolog system, is well implemented and not overtly obtrusive. It’s also quite the looker, and the effort put into making a realistic crowd is very notable compared to GT6’s empty racetracks
– The other PS4 title I played was the hilarious Octodad: Dadliest Catch, which you may remember as popping up briefly during Sony’s indie showcase at E3. The demo had you attempting to get dressed for a wedding and then tie the knot without arousing too much suspicion to the fact that you have eight limbs and are knocking over everything in sight. I thought it was a good laugh, if a little short, and it seemed to be quite well received by the watching crowds.
– Some of the other games on show also impressed, including the high octane Resogun which looked beautiful in action, and while I didn’t see it myself I am reliably informed by my friend that Killzone: Shadowfall was also jaw dropping in action. The same can’t be said however for Knack, the launch platformer that Sony are putting a lot of their hopes into. The demo suffered from laggy framerates, disappointingly basic gameplay which did little to show of the core mechanics of the game and an unexpectedly high level of difficulty which left a lot of visitors visibly frustrated.
– And so what of Microsoft and their offerings? Err…very little in fact. While the likes of Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse were playable, a number of Xbox One titles were shut off behind walls meaning no-one could see stuff like Dead Rising 3 or Killer Instinct, which I consider to be a very strange marketing move. Even more embarrassing was the fact that while they hired a big stage, it was used primarily for giving away free tat and holding awkward dance-offs rather than showcasing games. I did manage however late on in the day to sample the new controller by walking straight onto the deserted booth for Zoo Tycoon – it’s smaller and thinner than a normal Xbox 360 controller, meaning that your index fingers are going to have to readjust to the lower bumper buttons. The triggers also seems less springy than they do at the moment; aside from a much improved d-pad, it feels like a bit of a step back from the current design.
– I did also manage to catch a glimpse of the Xbox One interface by accidentally pressing the Home button, but nothing was available because it was temporary profiles being used. I ran away before the people at the stand noticed.
– I would like to say at this point that I was able to get hands-on with the likes of Pokemon X & Y, Bayonetta 2 and The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds at the Nintendo booth, but my plans were foiled by the fact that for whatever logic Nintendo only saw fit to bring two Wii U/3DS stands for each game (for comparison, PS4/Xbox One games has on average at least four booths per game). The result were incredibly long lines all day, and I didn’t want to sacrifice my trip for a five minute blast of Pokemon. I did manage to play a quick four player game of Super Mario 3D World: it was enjoyable enough, but not exactly re-inventing the wheel. I tend to prefer the single player Mario platformer titles anyway.
– Aside from the main stands, there was a plethora of other games on display. Among those that I tried were Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus (which now sports a much improved system for weapon upgrades), Lego: Marvel Super Heroes (allowing you to team up Stan Lee and Howard The Duck amongst others to fight crime in a Lego version of New York), Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (an insane comic book style hack and slash with zombies seemingly sticking up two fingers to the traditional Ninja Gaiden model), The Crew (Ubisoft’s team based racer which impressed me for the enormous scale of the cities that you drive across – it takes 90 minutes to get end to end across the map apparently) and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (which now gives you full control of movement in battle and offers an interesting Majora’s Mask-esque gameplay scenario where the clock is constantly ticking down). I would have really liked to play Batman: Arkham Origins, Battlefield 4 & The Elder Scrolls Online, but the reality was that the increased crowds meant that one couldn’t simply walk onto demos as you might expect.
-I also managed to have a quick go on the Nvidia Shield and try out the interface. Given the large size of the controller and screen its a bit unwieldy compared to say a Vita or 3DS, but regardless when it was streaming The Bureau from a nearby computer the on-screen graphics were top notch. The menu system is also clean and easy to use. I would have liked to try the Occulus Rift, but again, large queues thwarted any potential viewing time.
– A random observations to close up with; the general atmosphere among attendees was quite incredibly friendly, with the section dedicated to Retro titles being filled to the brim with enthusiasts all day (I wish I had more time to look at all the old consoles, and I’ll be sure to prioritize if I go next year). Provided that it doesn’t get much busier in coming years, it’s a day-trip well worth taking.
I appreciate that this was just a brief run through what was a very busy day; if you would like more observations about some of the stuff that I’ve alluded to above, send me a comment and I’ll do my best to fill in the gaps.