Since 2008, Eurogamer Expo has grown steadily to become the biggest and wildest games trade show in the UK. Since 2010, EGX has taken place at the vast edifice of the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London, packing the 1930s exhibition hall full to the brim with new electronic sights and sounds. This year was the biggest yet, with an
approximate 65,000 attendees visiting over a four-day period. EGX hopes to cater to all tastes, offering a wide variety of brand new mainstream platform games, smaller indie titles on PC and mobile, as well as a large area dedicated to reliving gaming’s heritage with numerous classic games ranging from the Atari 2600 to Arcade titles. It’s great that these early games aren’t forgotten even if most people, including myself, have no idea how to code in BBC BASIC and thus are flummoxed by just trying to boot up a BBC Micro.
The highlight of EGX has to be the developer sessions which are held in a large conference room upstairs, where each day a vast array of games developers and luminaries take 40 minutes to show off their latest game or discuss a chosen topic, with a final 10 minutes for audience questions. For example, I listened to Peter Molyneux give a typically jovial talk about his upcoming game Godus, showing off how he hoped the game would develop and the new stuff people could expect to do in it in the future. At the moment, Godus really isn’t all there and they seem to have launched into Steam Early Access a bit too early, but as Molyneux assures us, he is aiming to make a God game with a Civilization-inspired reach, allowing you to watch and guide the development of your people from Stone to Space Age. Whether he can deliver on that promise and create a game which reaches the same heights as his previous efforts of Populus and Black & White is another matter.
Then of course there are the games themselves. Whilst I could wax lyrical about every last game I saw at EGX, here are some quick thoughts on the big three I saw (I couldn’t stomach the queue for Titanfall, sorry).
It’s getting difficult to tell these days whether Thief is copying Dishonored or Dishonored copied Thief. Naturally, Dishonored took a lot of ideas from the classic Thief games of days gone by, but the newest iteration of Thief seems to be cribbing a lot from Dishonored, right down to the radial menus and special powers which induce time dilation. Furthermore, the city Thief is set in bares more than a passing similarly to Dishonored’s Neo-Victoriana city of Dunwall. Nonetheless, the reborn Thief looks really fascinating.
The gameplay demo saw Garret infiltrating a rich manor house to steal an outrageously large diamond and the master thief has a number of tricks up his sleeve to remain in the shadows. There is a quick-dash move which allows Garret to quickly move from cover-to-cover, slowing down time in the process. Garret also has access to an Arkham Aslyum-style Detective Mode which allows him to see the footsteps of guards through walls and highlights items of interest in the environment. Of course, if you’re a Thief purist the developer assured us that you can play the whole game with these powers and abilities turned off, although I would expect you’d find yourself at a severe disadvantage by doing so.
Health must be replenished by finding health kits around the world and the same goes for the Detective Mode ability which will run out very quickly if used a lot and can be charged again by finding a certain flower. Luckily, you can hold a number of these in your inventory for later use. If you do get spotted, Garret is very handy in a fight. He has a number of different types of arrows which can be used to take out enemies as well as his customary dagger and seems to be capable of taking out several enemies at once if necessary. There appears to be a conscious effort to make Thief a bit easier for “modern audiences” by taking out some of the hardcore stealth aspects of the previous games, and it will depend on your heritage with Thief whether you view this as a good or bad thing. Nonetheless, definitely a game to watch in 2014.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
What really is Wolfenstein these days anyway? What does it mean to people? This is a difficult question to answer, and in all honesty I’m still not sure who this latest game is really for. The New Order is the third reboot of the Wolfenstein series, the latest game since the ultra-violent sequel to Return to Castle Wolfestein in 2009.
This time in The New Order, the Nazis have won the war, and B.J. Blazkowicz is launching “an impossible counter-offensive” against tyranny in a counter-factual 1960s setting. Gameplay-wise, Wolfenstein plays very proficiently. The shooting is meaty and weighty in the same way RAGE was (unsurprising when you consider the game is running on id Tech 5), although thankfully enemies aren’t too bullet-spongy aside from the robots, where it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether they’re actually taking damage or not. B.J. can dual-wield most weapons and can take a fair amount of damage before keeling over,and his movements have a weight and force to them which feels appropriate.
It is also graphically impressive; the demo has you playing through a Nazified version of the Natural History Museum and includes lots of Germanic Fraktur font over everything, and there is also a planetarium area where you can shoot up the moon to your heart’s content. So far, The New Order seems interesting and worth keeping an eye on. Nazis are certainly very rote enemies these days within video games, but the latest Wolfenstein is at least moving away from the Occult trappings of the past and painting these future Nazis as technologically advanced foes who will be a challenge to eradicate, especially as they have taken over the entire planet. Wolfenstein could be some solid, pulpy fun if done correctly.
Straight off, Dying Light looks absolutely gorgeous. Despite the fact that the city you’re in is flooded with undead zombies, the world feels incredibly vibrant and alive. The abandoned buildings have curtains that flutter in the high breeze and smokes billows down the ruined streets. How does it actually play? Poorly. Perhaps it was simply my inexperience with console controllers (PC gamer!) but I found manoeuvring around, scaling buildings and physically attacking anything very challenging. Jumping is mapped to the shoulder buttons which feels bizarre considering how often you’ll want to be running and climbing.
The analogue fighting makes a return from Dead Island so you can dismember the zombies tactically if that takes your fancy, although just randomly slashing at zombies will take out most foes very effectively. Most of my demo time I spent simply shambling around in a zombie-like daze, randomly kicking at any undead creatures that got in my way.
Dying Light promises a fuller open world than Dead Island offered and it did feel very open, in that you may need to continually squint at the map to work out where you should be going. Dying Light, like Dead Island before it has much promise, but it still needs to prove itself to be more than a re-tread of the previous games.
If you live in the UK and haven’t been to Eurogamer Expo, I’d highly recommend it. Tickets are cheap and queues aren’t too long, plus the sheer variety of games on offer is commendable. If you’re looking for something a little more PC-orientated, EGX’s sister show Rezzed is also worth checking out. Whether EGX will be at Earls Court next year is open to discussion given Mayor of London Boris Johnson wants to tear down the building to make way for apartments, but what is definite is that EGX is here to stay.