PART ONE l PART TWO
After the chaos of day one, I was hoping for a little more of a relaxed experience on day two. Boy was I wrong. The crowds were massive and getting time with any of the games was an even harder task than it was on the first day. Luckily I was committed to the task and managed to get hands and eyes on some more great gear and games.
The first line I tackled was one of the biggest. Nothing gets gamers excited like a new console and the WII U was no exception. Playing the Wii U was a different experience. Looking at both the controller and the screen while playing took some getting used to, but once I grasped the idea I found the extra screen space a blessing. I got some time with New Super Mario Bros. U and Rayman Legends. Both handled really well, had crisp clear graphics and boasted the ability to play on the tablet controller. This meant that while they weren’t reinventing the wheel, they were the perfect games to show off new hardware. The Wii U has impressed me enough at this point to be a day one purchase and if Nintendo get the third party developers back on board, there is no doubt this system could be a massive success.
In the next queue I joined, I felt more than a little out of place. I am a rather large gentleman and therefore stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the massive line of eager children all with one thing on their mind: SKYLANDERS: GIANTS. Granted, this isn’t normally my cup of tea, but I did promise my seven year old son that I would play it and let him know how it was. The good news for him (and just about any family) is that it plays really well. A simple action RPG experience, Skylanders Giants could be the perfect family game. Activision has added co-op to the mix this time around which will only make parent/kid sessions even more enjoyable. Don’t discount this one folks, beneath the ‘collect them all’ marketing spin is a game that is actually quite a fun experience.
While I had a good time with Spyro and his pals, I needed something a little more adult for my next game, and nothing I saw at the Expo was more ‘adult’ than THE LAST OF US. Like Tomb Raider yesterday, this was a brutal and tense experience. I only got to see a live demo of the same level shown at E3, but even though I had seen it before, it was still a confronting experience. I get the feeling that the game is possibly the first true ‘survival’ game and it doesn’t shy away from what the cost of that survival is. The demo also showed off some crafting elements, namely creating a Molotov cocktail, and some nice environmental interactivity, but the real star of the show was the combat. Both gunplay and hand to hand had a shocking reality to them that made me wince on more than one occasion. Naughty Dog seems to be really pushing the envelope with this one and The Last of Us should be firmly planted on everybody’s radar.
Next on the agenda was a little game called HALO 4. I have been a fan of the franchise since the first title, but felt it was getting progressively stale. Luckily it seems that Halo 4 is changing things up and giving Master Chief the spit and shine he deserves. The taste of gameplay I got my hands on was the perfect teaser. It was only short in length, but it gave me a chance to fight some fresh enemies and use some new weapons. One gun was a particular joy to use. Somewhat akin to the Flak Cannon from the Unreal series, it took down the sinister new enemy race with ease. The gameplay felt like the Halo I know and love but completely fresh at the same time. It looks like 343 Industries has really stepped up for its first game in control of Microsoft’s premier franchise. Check out my Halo 4 interview with 343 Industries creative director Josh Holmes here.
The last game I got to play was PLAYSTATION ALL-STARS: BATTLE ROYALE, Sony’s attempt at a franchise mash-up brawler. I was slightly surprised by this one. I went in expecting a Smash Bros. clone and while it seems that way when you are watching it, playing it is something else entirely. The game is scored by hitting your opponents with special moves which in turn are charged with normal moves. There is a nice risk vs reward system in place that encourages you to take a few chances to land a big, multi-level super move. It adds some interesting strategic elements to the game as well as making it flow in a different manner to just about every other title in the genre (okay, so there is only one other game in the genre, but you get the point). This could potentially be a great party game if the fun can hold up over a longer period. You can read my interview with the game’s director Omar Kendall here.
So it was with a pounding head from excessive exposure to dub step and sore feet and knees from the hard concrete floors that I trudged to the train station, my time with the EB Games Expo over for 2012. It certainly was an experience and despite the long lines and more techno music than any one man should ever be forced to listen to, I had a great time. The chance to play and see so many new games is always going to be hard to say no to. So with that in mind, ice on my knees and a beer in my hand I sign off from my EB Games Expo adventures with a smile and no small desire to do it all again next year (after I have had plenty of sleep of course).
PART ONE l PART TWO