PopBucket’s EGX 2014: Awards and round up

EGX-2014

It seemed like only a year ago since we were last at EGX (formally known as Eurogamer Expo) but here we are back at Earl’s Court, London again to sample some of the best the gaming world has to offer over the coming months and year. Now that EGX has ended we’re going to give you a run down of some the great games we played. We did have a go on many more than the below however it was impossible for us to cover all the games. We focussed on the titles that you might not know about. Everyone knows what the new Assassin’s Creed will be like, or the new Call of Duty so we mostly tacked the new IPs like Sunset Overdrive, one’s we’re more curious how it’s ended up for one reason or another (for example Alien Isolation and Dead Island 2) and most of all the indie section.

Dead Island 2
Disregarding how silly the title now is as California isn’t an island, we had really good fun with this title. Taking on a couple of co-operative missions, team PopBucket set out to smash as many zombie heads as we could. Martyn was our top scorer with a whopping 72 of the fiends meeting their doom by his hands.

The graphics on offer in Dead Island 2 look amazing as you sprint across the sun-soaked suburbs of California. However the series has received criticism for its repetitiveness and sampling 12 minutes or so makes it impossible to tell if Yager have fixed that problem or not. Lets hope they have as zombie slaying has never looked so good.

Escape Dead Island
Don’t mistake this for some quick knock-off. There’s a good chance that this spin off could be better than the main series. Switching to a third person view and adpoting a stylised, cartoon look instead of realism means this last-gen title still looks fresh. It’s a world apart from the realism of Dead Island 2 and instead of visceral gore you have axe blows accompanied by thwack, thwomp and various other words that could be in the ’60s Batman TV series.

The sections that we played also contained many new elements for the seriese like surrealist type dream sequences where our hero is strolling around floating islands and zombies that resemble his father. Some of this stuff worked really well and coupled with the cool melee combat made this feel more like a SUDA 51 game than a Dead Island game, which is no bad thing in our books. Definitely one for the zombie lovers to look forward to.

Alien Isolation
Unlike the disastrous Colonial Marines, Alien Isolation has certainly nailed the sheer terror upon spotting that dreaded white circle appearing on the motion tracker. Aided by some brilliant recreations of Ridley Scott’s Alien film and amazing lighting, rushing to cower under some storage unit has never been so lovely. The thunderous walk of the Xenomorph sending chills down you as it gets louder and louder before you finally see it appear from the darkness is exactly what a good horror-survival game should be. Getting to the exit however seems to be rather tricky as the alien can seemingly appear out of nowhere. If this is simply due to the game being hard (in a good way) or hard because of the AI is yet to be seen. Having only 10 minutes to demo the game naturally makes you want to push further, quicker than you perhaps might normally so maybe we were just rushing. The other issue of how it holds up over the course of the whole game remains to be seen. Even Dead Space and the original Resident Evil upped the action in one way or another so time will tell

Sunset Overdrive
We’ve seen a load of footage for this game since E3 so it was great to finally get hands on with Microsoft’s latest IP. Sunset overdrive is a madcap cross between Crackdown, JetSet Radio and Dead Rising 3. That means lots of explosions, crazed weapons, combo kills, rail-grinding and fast, paced fun.

We got to demo a four-player co-op mode which was not too dissimilar from Gears of War’s Horde mode. It involved defending various points on the map, setting up various traps and blasting countless enemies. The controls are easy to get to grips with but mastering the technique of staying the move by grinding on rooftops and the various rails, whilst gunning down foes could take a few sessions to master. However, it was instantly apparent that the colourful visuals, random weapons and addictive combo scores will make this a very popular release. We can’t wait to get cracking and see what the game’s campaign has to offer.

OnLive
Not a game this one but you may remember that OnLive made a lot of positive noises when they launched the cloud gaming service in the UK three years ago. However it went bleak the following August with layoffs, buyouts and company changes knocking down OnLive’s reputation despite their promise. However in the intervening years society’s media consumption of music and film (via platforms like Spotify and Netflix) have become even further ingrained in our lives. Coupled with improved internet infrastructure across the UK, OnLive is having another big push to get cloud gaming back on our minds and there’s no reason it won’t work this time.

A few mis-steps of the past such as the walled garden business model were acknowledge so now a more open approach is being taken. Like their launch offering there’s the all you can eat subscription service called PlayPack. Costing £6.95 a month you can instantly jump into a wide selection of games such as BioShock, Batman: Arkham City, The Witcher 2 and Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. When we got home we tested a few games out to see how solid the platform performed. We tried BioShock and Batman: Arkham Aslyum as graphic heavy games that simply wouldn’t run on our laptops and Sonic 2 to test the speed/lag side of things. We’re pleased to report that the service performed well. It was by no means 100% perfect on the 14Mbps speed but damn near it. With speeds set to soar in the near future this won’t be an issue soon anyway.

But the key to the new and improved OnLive service is CloudLift. Instead of forcing you to buy OnLive’s version of the game you can link you Steam account to the service allowing OnLive’s servers to take your Steam purchased game and let you play it on your rubbish laptop or another device such as your tablet. The important bit is that the cloud syncs your saves so you can always pick up where you left it before.

Not all games are supported by CloudLift so don’t think you’ll be playing Half Life 2 on your Android tablet any time soon. The selection however does include high profiles titles such as the Arkham series, Grid: AutosportMetro 2033 and its sequel Last Light and others. A full list can be found by following this link.  The service is in open beta and new deals with publishers are in the pipeline so the list of supported titles will only increase over time. For only £4.95 a month, those with a rubbish gaming PC/laptop will hopefully going forward be able to pick up a cheap game in one of the famous Steam sales but then stream it via OnLive meaning you can actually play it without having the graphic settings on minimum.

We also looked at one of the first Android powered TVs in the UK. It’s going to be a few years away until everyone can afford one and market adoption really gets going but we’re sure it will be a game changer (and not just limited to gaming). In our demonstration the OnLive app from Google’s Play store is downloaded onto the TV like you would on your phone, log into your account and start playing something like Saints Row IV. It really is impressive plus it’s very user friendly. Cloud gaming is shortly going to take off big time. In the meantime head on over to OnLive’s website and take out the free trial, you won’t be charged if you cancel before the trial ends.

Life is Strange
We were given a hands-off presentation of this modern, espisodic adventure game due out early 2015. Max can rewind time to either allow you to see an alternative ending for the sequence or fix mistakes. But with your actions having a short, medium and long term consequence what you may think be a good option at the time may have a knock on effect elsewhere later on. The good thing is the actions that have a consquence are not as obvious as Telltale’s The Walking Dead “X will remember that” or Bioware’s red and blue coloured options in Mass Effect. If you’re struggling to wonder what it’s like, think The Walking Dead mixed with Beyond: Two Souls.

The developers are describing this title as an AAA indie game. The basis for this is that it’s made by 40 people and backed by a big publisher (Square Enix) but with the themes, gameplay and maturity of an indie game. This gives the title the best of both works. For example it looked amazing, mostly in part to the developers hand painting the entire game, giving the title a real, lived in look.

In terms of vibe, when another journalist referenced Twin Peaks as a possible influence we immediately knew exactly what he meant. It’s that juxtaposition of the completely mundane normality of life with the surreal which will set this apart from other episodic games. The game also has an awesome folk and Americana soundtrack featuring real artists like Sparklehorse to seemingly ground the game in reality. It worked really well and game a really nice small town America feel.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
The sequel to a Square Enix’s immensely popular Guardian of Light sees Lara and her buddy Carter joined by two Egyptian deities with godlike abilities. Now boasting four player co-op, Temple of Osiris has literally doubled the fun of its outstanding predecessor.

The usual head scratching puzzles and twin stick shooting action are both here but now you have even more opportunities for fun co-operation and the (very) occasional betrayal of your teammates. With the different abilities of each character you really need to work as a team to overcome the various puzzles and challenges that you run into along the way. This was a shed load of fun and the new Egyptian setting really gives this a different feel to the original. You’ll love it.

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition
We loved Sleeping Dogs on the last gen. It was a game that gave us all the racing, shooting and fisticuffs we crave in a fantastic, under used setting. What is instantly apparent about the Definitive Edition is the vast improvements to graphics, thanks to the new gen capabilities. Hong Kong has never looked so good, with improved smoke and shadow effects, supreme lighting and better draw distance. The way the neon lights reflect off of puddles in the rain soaked streets is a thing of beauty and we noticed that the streets are also far more densely populated with NPCs now, making the city feel even more alive.

The Definitive Edition will come with all of the game’s original DLC packs, as well as all of the additional costumes and weapons that were available as add-ons. Even though we’ve played the original to death, the improvements in this re-release really make us want to relive all of the Sleeping Dogs glory, swordfish and all. Watch out for our review.

Gang Beasts
We’ve never had so much fun playing a game with random people than we have with Gang Beasts. It’s clumsy, stupid and brilliant all at the same time. The first two adjectives are said in the nicest way possible and reminded us of Octodad: Dadliest Catch. If you’ve played it you’ll know how difficult it is to control Octodad and the hilarity that brings when navigating the environment and using objects. Now imagine eight Octodads having a WWE style Royal Rumble in locations that add to the chaos like a Ferris wheel at the end of the pier, or doing battle on the top of a moving lorry. Pure, simple and hilarious fun that we demand turns into a fully fledged release ASAP.

Flockers
Team17, best known for the Worms series, has realised the world has been without a decent, modernised Lemmings game for too long. Replacing DMA Design’s titular rodents for sheep isn’t groundbreaking and nor were the abilities granted to us in the demo. But we did play a solid puzzle game that’s quick and easy to pick up and learn but get’s progressively harder to multitask as you try and avoid your flock from meeting one of many possible deaths. It also looked really good with levels rich with detail, nice lighting and vague hints of a plot and themes as your flock progress towards completion.

Splatoon
First person shooters have pretty much always been unsuitable for children (despite what you see parents buying for their little kids in shops)due to the typical war settings they use. However, much like what Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare has done for third person shooters, Nintendo have made a brilliant FPS that parents can enjoy with their young kids. The premise is simple, shoot your paint gun all over the map. The team that’s covered the most square footage of the map wins. You still have paint grenades and can attack the opposing team but with bright, vibrant colours, non-aggressive premise and simple yet effective control scheme means everyone can get involved. Who says Nintendo don’t continue to make new, interesting IPs? Especially a online FPS with no Mario in sight.

Awards
So now lets dish out some awards to some of our favourite games that we played at EGX 2014. We’ve sampled a great mixture of titles this year from games created by teams of hundreds to just the one person. And the thing that continues to amaze us is that no matter the size of development team or budget, you’re guaranteed to find something great.

Without further ado, here’s the PopBucket EGX Awards 2014 winners:

Best original game – Splatoon (Wii U)

Best graphics – Alien Isolation (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

Best art style – Yoshi’s Wooly World (Wii U)

Best singleplayer game – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

Best co-op multiplayer game – Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

Best competitive multiplayer game – Gang Beasts (PC)

One to watch – Calvino Noir (PC)

Biggest WTF? moment – Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd (PS3)

Best in show – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Author: Martyn Newton

Overlord of PopBucket and a gamer from a very young age with earliest memories including Theme Park, Detroit (look it up), Sim City, Championship Manager 2, The Lion King and Command & Conquer.

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