This past weekend myself and a several of the rest of the CCL team attended this year’s EGX in the Birmingham NEC. It had been a long time since I’d been to a major games show like this, with my last being Game Stars way back in 2004 at the ExCel Centre in London.
EGX was the second games event of the weekend, with the third (and I believe last) Button Mash of the year in Bradford Playhouse – we left much earlier than last time due to the 7am departure to get to Birmingham before opening which meant we played less games but at least we stayed for the quiz which we managed to win!
This year’s EGX is my event at the NEC, though I’ll likely be back again for some future Insomnia shows now that it has moved to the NEC, and it was impressive how big the show floor was. There were a huge number of new and recent games on display and (mostly) playable at the event, with the full list available on the EGX website.
The bulk of the show floor was given to the big players, as you’d expect. There were huge areas for Ubisoft, Eidos, Sony, Microsoft, Activision and EA among others all demoing their big titles due later this year or the beginning of next.
My memories of Game Stars are pretty vague now, what with it being pre-social media and HD cameras on your phone, but aside from the enormous queue to play Halo 2 that I passed on, I remember being able to play most of the games I was interested in quite easily. I don’t know if the shows were just less busy back then or not, but every one of the major games at EGX all had lengthy queues to play and as we were only there for the one day I didn’t want to lose nearly half of the day just waiting for a single game which means sadly I didn’t get to play some of the bigger games on display.
It didn’t help either that many of the bigger games closed their lines before the end of the show, some as much as two hours before the end. I could understand it if the queue was packed still at that point, but I noticed at least two games where the staff of the stand were sat by the systems the games ran on with no one playing them – if you’re going to stop people queuing to try your new game because new people queuing wouldn’t have enough time left to actually play, surely you want to use every possible minute before the end of the day to have people playing?
Having decided not to queue, I instead settled for just watching gameplay of the various games over peoples’ shoulders which was good enough as I at least got to see more games running.
Working down from the top of the hall, we first had the over 18 area. Ubisoft had both of their new Tom Clancy games, Rainbow Six: Siege and The Division playable as well as the new Assassin’s Creed, Syndicate. Siege looked to be very similar in gameplay to previous games in the Rainbow Six series, particularly the two Vegas games but much shinier and with destroyable scenery. From what I could tell of The Division it looked like a fairly standard third person shooter. Ubisoft claim to be learning from what went wrong with Unity for The Syndicate, but from the demo gameplay it’s hard to tell what if anything was different and it just looked like this year’s Assassins Creed.
Eidos had Just Cause 3 playable with dozens of machines running it. Just Cause is always good fun, and this looks to be no different than previous games with a huge amount of real estate to run around and blow stuff up in. They were also giving away Just Cause branded Google Cardboard sets for use with the Wingsuit Tour app, should you want to have a VR aerial tour of the game’s location.
Probably the highlight of the show for me was the extended gameplay demo of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. In a way I was quite glad that it wasn’t playable because I definitely would have spent hours waiting for it. The footage shown demonstrated many of Jensen’s new abilities and some of the dialogue options available and it looked very slick and shiny, though possibly with not quite enough yellow for my liking. I think I’m going to have to play through Human Revolution again to tide me over..
Over at EA, the new Star Wars Battlefront looks absolutely stunning with the Hoth level being played on the demo machines. I’m still a little uncertain about it with the lack of single player but it certainly looks promising and it certainly didn't hurt that they had a life sized TIE fighter parked in the hall. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst also looked very pretty and made me think that I really should get around to finishing the first one some point soon – I really enjoyed what I played of it when it came out but it was one of many games vying for my attention at the time.
Sony had several recently released games on display, such as Mad Max and Metal Gear Solid V both of which I’m currently working my way through so I didn’t bother with them. Also playable was more Star Wars Battlefront, the HD collection of Uncharted which looked great and Street Fighter V though to be honest as I’m not a huge Street Fighter fan I struggled to see much difference from IV, plus we all know it’s going to get at least five updated re-releases before Capcom are done with it.
This week also marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the original PlayStation console in the UK and Sony had a couple of consoles from each generation of PlayStation, in their original store cabinets no less, showing off some of the bigger games from each machine.
Sony and HTC both were demoing their virtual reality technologies over the weekend, but you had to sign up for these in advance for a chance to get a place and I wasn’t picked for either but members of the group who were all were quite impressed with both of them.
Randomly placed in the middle of all the big developers were Introversion, with Prison Architect on display in their rather elaborate prison stand. While it’s been available in open beta for a while (and many of you probably have it from a Humble Bundle or Steam sale already) the release version of the game is coming very soon so they were making a big push for that.
Sega’s only game on display was Creative Assembly’s new Total War title, Total War Warhammer.I’ve never managed to get into the Total War games and standard Warhammer doesn’t really do anything for me so this more or less passed me by. It did have quite an impressive giant spider next to it though! Activision also had Call of Duty: Black Ops III but this was entirely hidden away inside an enclosed stand. A few years ago it might have been something I would have queued for hours for, but having skipped the series entirely since Modern Warfare 2 that wasn’t the case and I didn’t see it at all, but I’d be very surprised if it had more than minor or cosmetic changes to the usual CoD formula as they already know what works and sells.
Over at the Xbox stand, they had all of the big titles for this Christmas playable. Forza 6 looked shiny and awesome as Forza games always tend to, and Lego Dimensions (aka the breaker of bank accounts) was, well, a Traveller’s Tales Lego game. The camera is much less fixed than it is in past Lego games and the huge range of characters and settings make it more varied than ever but the core gameplay is much the same. Halo 5 again looked very shiny and builds on the multiplayer style of Halo 4. Timed Xbox exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider sadly was another one that I didn’t get to see in action as it too was hidden away inside a closed booth.
This year also sees the return of the music game genre, with new entries in both the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series. Of the two, Rock Band 4 looks most unchanged from its previous iterations which I hardly think is a bad thing as Rock Band 3 was superb.Guitar Hero Live has done away with the cartoony band you play as to instead have what looks to be a filmed (if heavily post processed) band and crowd to play along with.
Thankfully, I didn’t have a problem with queues over on the other side of the event, where Nintendo had a huge display of their games near the indie corner. I’ve been eagerly anticipating Triforce Heroes for months and it didn’t disappoint, though sadly the random guy who ended up as the third player for myself and Dave was distracted by Nintendo’s stage competition and wasn’t doing so well with the co-operative parts. They had the rest of their big titles on display as well; Mario Maker, Smash Bros., Splatoon, but I have all of these so didn’t feel much need to play them again at the event. Star Fox, which I played at the last Insomnia, was also there but now sadly with Q1 2016 dates on it as it’s been delayed which is very disappointing because it’s a lot better than I was expecting it to be when I first saw the gyroscope control gimmick in the footage from last year’s E3.
There were a number of indie games on the Nintendo stand as well, mostly due as downloadable titles for the WiiU or 3DS. Most I already knew about with a number of ports from other platforms or known upcoming games like Mighty No 9 but the one that really caught my eye was Fast Racing Neo. Unexciting title aside, it looks very much like the F-Zero game that Nintendo don’t seem to be interested in making. The demo version had a pretty low resolution at least in split screen multiplayer (single player wasn’t on display) but played well so I hope that the final game has a bit more polish.
Over in the indie zone there were quite a number of promising looking games, and I was happy to see Raging Justice again and can’t wait for that to come out. Elite Dangerous was by far the biggest and most impressive game on display in the area, I’ve somehow not seen too much of it until now but I’m now very much considering picking it up once my current run of far too many games to play runs down.
It’s not hard to see why some people go for the entire weekend, if you do want to play all of the new games you have to schedule some serious time for waiting in queues which I just didn’t have – it’s a good way for the 3DS owners among us to rack up tons of StreetPasses though I guess! While I would have liked to have got to play more games, I was mostly impressed with what I did play and there are a lot of good looking titles coming up that I’m going to keep my eye on.