PopBucket’s Eurogamer Expo 2012 Awards And Round Up

The Eurogamer Expo has seen the last of 50,000 gamers leave Earls Court today after a huge four-day gaming extravaganza. Among those 50,000 were a few of us from PopBucket and we’re here to give you a summary of what we played, what we thought of them and most important of all, to dish out the PopBucket awards.

With the Wii U open to the UK public for the first time, we simply had to head straight to Nintendo’s area and see just what their new console was like.

First up was ZombiU, which is probably the most important title release title for the Wii U. It showcases the fact that the Wii U certainly has the hardware to make great looking games. Sure, ZombiU isn’t the best looking game on the market, but launch titles are never reflective of a console’s potential. The GamePad was used for scanning items (used in a similar fashion to Resident Evil: Revelations scanner) and sorting out your inventory. Nothing groundbreaking but it was worked well.

Rayman Legends screenshot

However Rayman Legends showed the potentiation of asymmetrical gameplay. When there’s two of you playing, the lead player has a standard controller with the second player using the touchscreen to poke and swipe at the screen to aid the lead character. For example, you can pop enemies to kill them and help create paths by moving platforms. It works really well and encourages good, cooperative play.

As for the controller itself, it was smaller, lighter, more comfortable and better than expected. We don’t think anyone will struggle to play with the GamePad.

We also played three of Nintendo Land’s game and we pleasantly surprised at how fun they were.  The first we played, Takamaru’s Ninja Castle had us swiping across the game pad to throw ninja stars at an army of ninja attackers. It was really simple in its execution, but it worked very well rewarding a good aim and a steady hand. Donkey Kong’s Crash Course sees you guiding a fragile cart across an obstacle course by titling the GamePad left and right to steer the cart across ledges, lifts and platforms. The final game we had a go on was Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. This has one person using the GamePad to control two characters whose aim is to stop the other players, who were using Wii Remotes, from getting all the sweets on the map. This game in particular produced a lot of laughs and banter from random people playing together which was great to see.

These all combine to prove how Nintendo have once again used a collection of simple, yet fun games to highlight the advanced features of the GamePad and their vocal plans for asymmetrical gameplay.

Elsewhere now and the Tomb Raider reboot looked and felt much better than expected. The first thoughts that popped into our minds were that it was very much like a clone of Uncharted, albeit with a female lead. This is because the location, cinematography and the way it played all could have been ripped directly out of Nathan Drake’s latest adventure. The fact that we can compare it to Uncharted speaks volumes about the effort that Crystal Dynamics have made. The only worry is that it won’t be distinctive enough, but the hunting element and a much darker tone (such as a rotting body hanging from the trees) did provide glimpses of how the overall game can set itself apart.

Crysis 3 screenshot

Crysis 3 looks simply brilliant and we had fun on Hunter mode on Crysis. This mode had us playing as Cell against the Hunters. There is a real sense of tension as the survival clock ticks down and your invisible foe closes in with a one-hit-kill tech bow. It goes without saying that it’s great fun playing as the hunter, your increased speed and movement allowing you to stalk and kill your Cell pray with ease.

Whilst we’re on the subject of a Crytek game, we had a blast on Warface, their new PC (and possibly Xbox 360 and PS3) free-to-play game. The only thing that we need to say about this game, is that it’s not just a great free-to-play FPS, it’s a great FPS generally. The looks, options and gameplay are solid and puts many of the more esoteric FPSs on the market to shame. We can really see this becoming as popular as Counter-Strike or Team Fortress 2.

The quality of free-to-play games didn’t stop there though. Dust 514 played well, with the unique way it interacts with PC MMO EVE Online possibly marking this game out from the rest. However we would say that if it was a standalone game, it probably wouldn’t be as special.

Wonderbook screenshot

Wonderbook is a very interesting augmented reality game where the player uses the PlayStation Move to interact with a real, physical book which, through some computer magic, transforms into a book of spells on the screen. You’re taught how to cast fire, levitate objects and more, creating an almost surreal level of interaction between what you’re doing and the events on screen. We can see this product being fabulously engrossing for children and if Sony play their cards right and tie up the right licensing deals, they could make a fortune. We do fear though that it will never be used to its full potential which would be a shame.

Sony continues with the unique and exclusive games with The Unfinished Swan. This takes familiar FPS controls to create something exceptionally different. It’s a visually striking game but one that’s quite hard to describe, therefore watch the video below. What we can say is that we can’t wait to see how The Unfinished Swan takes us across the course of the game.

Some of Sony’s first party games now and Little Big Planet Karting was a fun if unexceptional karting game. It had the look and feel of Sackboy’s world and the modes we’ve come to expect such as racing and battle mode, but there was uniqueness missing from the levels. Maybe it was just the two levels available to play, as the race was on a typical beach level which has been done many times before, and the battle match took place in some generic looking metallic chamber. Fingers crossed the final levels are more varied, but at least there’s a level editor so we’ll no doubt see some great user generated content.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is an enjoyable knockabout game but not a patch on Smash Bros, possibly because Sony don’t have as big a recognisable character pool to draw from. Hopefully more will characters be announced before release. It drew criticism from our fighting game guru Michael, who said that it lacked the fun factor Smash brothers has, particularly the enjoyable feeling of tension when characters in that game were on low health and one hit could put anyone out. He also didn’t find the level design as imaginative. Despite its deficiencies, we think it’s a guaranteed commercial success, and any game where you can play as PaRappa the Rapper is one we will always have a soft spot for.

Doom 3 is being released and repackaged so we had a quick go on it to check out the new 3D mode. We quickly wished we hadn’t. Although the game still looks good (it has had a bit of a polish which helps) and plays well, we felt that the3D mode was truly horrid. Martyn, PopBucket’s editor and co-founder, doesn’t mind 3D films and always has the 3D effect on the 3DS on full, but said that playing Doom 3 with 3D mode on, it was painful to the eyes and the 3D retrofitting didn’t work as guns were going into the scenery.

Aliens Colonial Marines multiplayer screenshot

A pleasant surprise this year was the latest venture into the Alien universe, Aliens: Colonial Marines. Those familiar with the James Cameron movie will be impressed by the chunky weaponry employed by the marines and will enjoy using authentic guns like the iconic motion tracking chaingun.

Watching the Xenomorphs tearing apart their marine foes, it is fair to say that we approached playing as the troopers with some trepidation. However the group teamwork the game encourages you to use (simply because it’s so easy for even one Xenomorph to ambush a single marine) evens the odds and everyone we played with learned to work together to survive.  Playing as the Alien was thankfully much better than previous efforts. In Aliens vs Predator, it was extremely disorientating when you were scurrying up walls and ceilings, but the switch to the 3rd person angle makes it far easier to control and more enjoyable as a result.

Another sci-fi shooter now with 343 Industries’ highly anticipated first original entry into the Halo franchise.

Infinity Slayer on Solace was the game – basically, traditional Slayer with points earned during the match that can add up to call in an Ordnance Drop, Halo 4’s equivalent of killstreaks, consisting of a set of three randomly selected weapons or power-ups, of which the player can select one to cause mayhem with. And the map? Very reminiscent of Halo 3’s Construct and Narrows build-wise; the feel being closer to Halo 3 than the ‘motion blur’ of Halo: Reach. Loadouts are executed in a very simple manner, though they will undoubtedly take a bit of getting used to considering the sheer dominance of their part this time around, but the traditional pick-up weapons (coincidentally, the more powerful ones, which will spur many a fisticuffs-fuelled scramble to nab them up) littered around the maps help keep things familiar for veterans.

But, of course, the burning question: Does the dominance of the loadouts skew the balance? And the answer to that is no, not at all, with a massive sigh of relief, and very thankfully as well. Where Reach’s relatively misguided spin on loadouts were highly experimental, Halo 4 has championed the notion, cementing their place in the game’s tapestry without a hair out of place, or a smidgen of doubt.

Definitely the one to watch out for alongside Call of Duty: Black Ops II in terms of the direction they’re both taking.

Gary’s first port of call at the Expo was to play Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the non-canon hack ‘n’ slash spin-off, and spiritual successor to Platinum Games’ 2009 hit Bayonetta. Set some years after the events of Metal Gear Sold 4: Guns of the Patriots – though, as mentioned, strictly not canon – players assume control of Raiden, once again a cyborg ninja, as he takes on armies of opposing cyborg ninjas and mechs while aiding to rebuild an unknown country.

Instructed by a shady-looking bloke named Boris, players are taught the basics of the game’s feature Blade Mode, a deeply intuitive, precise and, most importantly, incredibly fun way of slicing ‘n’ dicing enemies into the meaty bits with satisfying swipes, controlled by holding L2 and using the right stick to direct the flow of the blade in swoops and swipes of utter insanity and flawless animation. The more damage dealt and more stylish the kill, the more BP (Battle Points) players are rewarded for each foe they dispatch of, which are used to power Blade Mode; otherwise, it’s a case of going totally toe-to-toe with light and heavy attacks and none of the fancy slashing action, to build up enough points to refill the bar. While a wholly action-oriented game, stealth is always an option, the game’s new AR display presenting players with the equivalent of Batman’s ‘Detective Mode’, allowing them to see through surfaces and plan attacks accordingly – and it seems that approach is set to become more of a necessity than an option against the wide range of enemies on offer; the most fear-inducing one being the Gekko – giant, two-legged walking tanks have no qualms with darting about all-legs like a hyperactive dalmatian, ripping everything in its paths to shreds and flicking away adversaries like mere ants. Better get some stylish kills then, eh!

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance just goes to show that the Metal Gear series will always prevail, no matter which suit it takes, and the fact that Revengeance could quite possibly be the start of a series is a very exciting prospect indeed.

Carmageddon Funsize, will be available on iOS devices shortly to help fund the development of Carmageddon: Reincarnation and build up interest in the game. There will be a free and full paid for version, but from what I played I wouldn’t recommend anyone buying it, as much as I would like to. The graphics were very poor and considering how wonderful iOS games can look now, it was disappointing to see PS2 like graphics. It also don’t control very well either, with fishtailing a common occurrence. This game won’t do anything to help build confidence in the Carmageddon name.

After a fair bit of queuing (we’re British, so we’re experts at it, right?) we got to go head to head in a few games of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2’s multiplayer. In short, it did not disappoint. As long standing Call of Duty fans, we adapted quickly to the new technology and weapons on offer.

Three members of the team took on three other teams of three in a couple of different game types on a variety of maps. Our favourite was our first game, Kill Confirmed on a giant Cruise-ship. This was a fast paced match which showed off everything that is great about the multiplayer experience that we all know and love. The graphics were lush, the sound incredible and the action intense. Fans of the series will be right at home and newcomers will be born again.

Dishonored screenshot

Dishonored’s steam-punk-style epic really wowed us when we got a chance to get hands-on. We’ve seen a bunch of footage over the last six months, but none of that really prepared us for the game itself. Dishonored is the latest offering from Bethesda Studios and plays very much like a stealthy first person shooter. The player takes on the role of an assassin on a quest for vengeance in a grimy, smog-choked metropolis which is reminiscent of London.

We played a level in which your objective is to infiltrate a town-house and kidnap one of the occupants. This gave an excellent opportunity to showcase the stealth elements, as well as the hand-to-hand sword fighting and shooting aspects. We also got a chance to try out some of the assassin’s special abilities like bending time, x-ray type-vision and our personal favourite: the ability to summon a horde of rats that will distract enemies, as well as devouring the bodies of downed foes.

We really enjoyed our time with Dishonored and can’t wait to get stuck in once it releases.

Prison Architect screenshot

Prison Architect immediately grabbed our attention when we saw its synopsis. Described as something along the lines of an old Bullfrog game, in particular Theme Hospital and Dungeon Keeper, it brought back memories of fun, simple to grasp but complex to master management games of the 1990s. As you can guess from the title, you play the role of prison architect, making sure your facility has cells to lock up the criminals, catering to feed the staff and electricity to power the electric chair. It’s great to see a game like this so popular at a gaming convention and that gamers still like managing their spreadsheets as well as their P90s.

Assassins Creed III now and naval battles adds something completely different from what we’ve expected from the series but from the mission that we’ve played, it’s a worthy addition. Our initial reaction was it was going to be filler missions but it’s very fleshed out with a variety of weapons for dealing different types of damage. This includes weapons designed to sink ships, or ones to disable them by knocking out their sails. We can’t wait to play more of this untapped area of history.

So after playing all these games at the Eurogamer Expo, what can we say? Well, quite simply gamers have a lot to look forward to over the coming months. From big budget AAA first party games like Sony’s God of War: Ascension to their small partners producing The Unfinished Swan. Third party developers are continually doing a wonderful job, creating games like Dishonored. Plus the Wii U looks like it will be a brilliant console. This brings us to our awards section, for the games that truly made their mark on us.

Awards

Best original game – The Unfinished Swan

Best graphics – Crysis 3

Best singleplayer game – Dishonored

Best multiplayer game – Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

One to watch – Prison Architect

Best in show – Dishonored

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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