Eurogamer Expo games round-up
Of all the things I thought I’d see at the Eurogamer Expo, a woman in a Yoshi suit was not one of them. The guy walking round dressed like Lara Croft raised a few eyebrows as well. I can’t help but feel that he was intending to be someone else, but the pale green t-shirt and the tight cargo shorts with even tighter gun holsters strapped to his thighs all conspired against him. That’s the nature of video game fandom I suppose; it makes people express their love for these things in some interesting ways. My fandom at the expo revealed itself when, speaking to a SEGA rep, they gestured towards a bundle of SEGA-branded lanyards and asked if I wanted one. Deep within my core a little part of me let out a child-like yelp. I’m always a sucker for free video game-related gear.
So then, lots of games ... so many in fact that when I walked in I didn’t know where to start. The queue leading into the Wii U stall was already snaking round the corner so I gave that a miss initially and instead went for a wander around the show floor, taking in all the various sights. What follows is a summary of the games I played, along with ones I that didn’t. As you can probably imagine, the big upcoming games had veeeerrryyyy long queues to play them so I opted to observe and report on these rather than spend half the day in a variety of snaking lines, thereby missing out on other games that were more easily accessible. So, onto the games I did get to play first ...
Now this was a very pleasant surprise. I’ve always loved the Forza games but after playing Forza 4 I did wonder just where Forza could go in any future update to make a purchase worthwhile. Forza Horizon answers that question loudly and boldly and it does so by moving away from the series’ simulation background towards something more akin to an arcade racer in terms of style and presentation. Imagine if Forza got fused with Project Gotham Racing and you’re pretty close to how Horizon plays. Personally that is a very good thing. The cars all look amazing and handle beautifully and it was great fun to play. The move to relax the simulation side of things is a good one and it makes a refreshing change to have something that doesn’t take itself so seriously. I’d label this as my game of the show; my time spent with it may have been brief but I loved every second and I’ll definitely be picking this up when its released.
I was really glad that I got to try this, as the Pikmin games remain high on my favourites list. There’s no better showcase for the Wii U’s graphical abilities - it is truly gorgeous. Lush, detailed and expansive plant life surrounds Captain Olimar and his pikmin as they are tasked to retrieve a variety of incredibly good-looking and life-like fruit and bring them back to his ship; it looks amazing. Just like its predecessors, you control Captain Olimar who, with a shrill whistle, can manipulate the numerous pikmin to carry out tasks on his behalf, such as lifting up objects and bringing them back to the central station or by tackling enemies, of which a few were dotted around the landscape. The change in this latest version is the addition of rock-flavoured pikmin who are the only kind of their species that can break the icy crystal barricades that block certain parts of the level, or in the case of the big boss beastie, the diamond-like shell on his back. It adds a nice layer of strategy to what was already a pretty taxing time-management sim. I couldn’t help but notice that I was using a Wii remote and nunchuck to control Captain Olimar, rather than the gamepad, which begs the question why this hasn’t seen the light of day on Wii already (with admittedly lesser quality graphics, but it’s certainly possible). That just re-enforces the notion that beyond Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. Wii U, there’s not much else on the nearby horizon from Nintendo and they need something like Pikmin 3 to help bolster the ranks a little. Cynical? Perhaps, but when it comes to the Wii U and me actively wishing that Nintendo succeed with it, it doesn’t help to reassure me. However, Pikmin 3 does look excellent and if you are getting a Wii U at launch this is going to be an essential purchase.
Nintendo Land: Takamaru's Ninja Castle
I’ll give Nintendo their due, the Wii U really is a smart bit of kit. Playing through Takamaru's Ninja Castle, just one of the themed games within Nintendo Land, really did have me grinning with sheer joy at what is being achieved here. Sure, in essence it’s little more than a mini-game - not unlike what you’d find in Wii Sports Resort - but to actually have that tactile feeling of flinging shuriken at charming cardboard cut-out ninja adversaries is great. You place the Wii U gamepad flat on your palm in front of you and turn it 90 degrees to the left. You then swipe your finger on the touch screen towards your television to make the ninja stars fly out towards your targets. It’s instantaneous, fluid and feels incredibly cool. The enemies you face increase in number and their movement patterns alter as you progress but ultimately it is just a glorified shooting gallery, but one that is great fun to play. This, along with the other mini-games available in Nintendo Land is Nintendo’s opening gambit, their attempt to convince you to pull a wad of cash out of your wallet. As fun as it is, and as good as the gamepad feels in your hands (it’s very light and comfortable), I still remain unconvinced. Nintendo have really gone for it to ensure that the launch of Wii U is accompanied by some great games but it’s very hard to escape the fact that most of these are already owned by the majority on other systems. Nintendo needs to ensure that the bulk of future releases are available on Wii U as well as on Xbox 360 and PS3. However … Microsoft and Sony are on the cusp of revealing their plans for the future and Nintendo may yet again find themselves falling behind because of the Wii U’s relative lack of power. One thing is for certain, it’s going to be very interesting to see how this pans out over the next year.
The Unfinished Swan
I knew nothing about this game before attending the expo and it certainly caught my eye as I passed its display booth. It’s a first person adventure / puzzle hybrid that sees you beginning in a blank white space. You can fire black globules of paint that will mark the surrounding area that you couldn’t see before due to the pure white vista. So, you fire your paint gun and it reveals that a set of stairs is in front of you, so you make your way up, firing your paint gun as you go to make the route ahead reveal itself. It’s such a clever idea and there’s lots of scope for a variety of puzzles and problems to solve as you head forward. The effect of the black paint splattering all over a blank canvas looks very good and I for one cannot wait to sit and play through this properly.
A really interesting premise, this one. Set in a near-future Tokyo where mankind has been wiped out, the city has gone all “I Am Legend” and been taken over by the animals. The demo let you play as either a small Pomeranian dog (the sort Paris Hilton would be carrying around in a bag) or as a deer. Swaggering man about town that I am, I plumped for the deer. You make your way around the city, eating and marking your territory in an effort to improve the stats of your animal, whilst making sure you avoid predators. I found this out to my cost when a cute little beagle dog that was standing there minding his own business suddenly decided to pounce on me, tearing bloody chunks out of my neck. I should’ve chosen Paris’s canine BFF. Still, it’s a fun game and if you can stay alive for long enough you’ll gain enough experience to unlock animals higher up the food chain. There’s a whole host on offer, including lions, crocodiles, chimpanzees and hippos and I for one am sorely tempted to get the full game to play through it properly (if only to track down that bloody beagle!).
Assassin’s Creed 3
Only a short demo that sees you standing at the tiller of a large galleon was available for me to try and it sees you taking on two other ships that are circling you in the choppy waters off an island in the Caribbean. It all looked very nice with the ocean in particular looking very realistic and detailed. The demo starts off with clear sunny skies, but soon a storm rolls in and the way the sea changes to suit the conditions is remarkable. It’s a joy to see. However, after spending ten minutes sailing around, trying to shoot these two ships and not really getting anywhere, I put the controller down. It would have been nice to try the main game rather than this little side-quest but on this evidence I’m not in any real rush to go out and buy it when I still have Assassin’s Creed 2 to get through.
... and now for the games that I didn’t get to play, but still got a good look at.
Looks lovely as you’d expect, and it’s totally in keeping with the tone and atmosphere established in the preceding games with plenty of opportunities to shoot an alien in the face. You get the impression that 343 Industries could have gone off on a tangent to put their own stamp on the franchise but have instead opted to play it safe. It’s safe to say that it’s one to notch up as “more of the same” come release. Depending on your feelings of the Halo games, hearing that 343 Industries haven’t veered very far from the existing template will either make you roll your eyes in resignation or wet yourself with glee.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted
Criterion’s latest is unbelievably good looking. The cars and the surrounding environment all look incredibly life-like and detailed and it’s a joy to watch. The handling of the cars also seems to be top notch, with vehicles all seeming to have a nice and hefty weight to them as they navigate corners. The game takes its cue from Burnout Paradise with a large open world setting and events dotted around the landscape that you trigger as you pass. I have to say that from what I saw it wasn’t exactly clear when or how these events were being activated; people just seemed to be driving around a bit aimlessly. Need For Speed is the game I was most disappointed not to have tried at the show. It looks amazing and I was eager to give it a try myself in order to understand just how everything worked. Here’s hoping a demo is on the way soon on PSN / Xbox Live so that I can give it a go!
I remain a big fan of the Guitar Hero series so to see this was a real treat. Take the basic idea of Guitar Hero, but with your own electric guitar plugged into the Xbox and used as the means of playing the notes as they scroll towards you. It gives you the added bonus of actually learning to play the guitar whilst playing the game, so things start off very simply with single notes slowly moving towards you, then gradually scaling things up so that eventually you’ll be leaping around like Status Quo before you know it. Presentation in-game is wonderful and I came away sorely tempted to buy an electric guitar just to play it myself. Definitely one to watch.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2
What can I say? As graphically impressive as ever, with a bombardment of bravado. You know exactly what to expect here, which will delight some but will cause others (myself included) to walk away with a rather empty feeling. It sure did look pretty but gameplay-wise there’s nothing much to see here that hasn’t come before, although branching quests through the main storyline are promised. The queue for this game was by far the longest, a fact that left me rather depressed if I’m honest.
New Super Mario Bros. U
Maybe it’s the fact we’ve had so many New Super Mario Bros. games now over the last few years that we’re suffering from over-exposure but I didn’t feel as impressed with this latest addition to Mario’s adventures as I thought I’d be. There’s no denying that it looks gorgeous - the move to HD really is glorious for the Mushroom Kingdom - and while it looks to play as well as it ever has and will be a lot of fun, it’s ultimately just more of the same but with a next-gen lick of paint. As with NSMB Wii, the focus here is on the multiplayer, and that is undoubtedly going to transform this from ‘more of the same’ into an essential purchase … if you have the friends or relatives to play it with. As a solo offering I’m sure it’ll be good, but it’s not the Super Mario Galaxy successor I was hoping for when the Wii U was announced.
Categories: Nintendo 3DS, Playstation 3, Previews, Wii U, Xbox 360