The EB Expo - AAA Roundup
Welcome to EB Expo Sydney 2013.
So I had the privilege of attending the EB Expo, the biggest gaming convention in the Southern Hemisphere, this past weekend (the 4th-6th October). I had a great time and would like to share with you all of the cool stuff I’ve seen over the past few days. As is normally the case with events like these, the most space was dedicated to the biggest titles, so I'll start with them. However, for all you lovers of indies and niche titles, coverage of smaller titles along with anything else that grabbed my attention will come soon in a second article that'll go up later. So, here's the rundown of the AAA titles I managed to get my hands on.
Assassin's Creed 4:
Not quite a walk on the beach, but seems to be a major improvement.
They had a console build of Black Flag available to play, but the core elements of the game will be carried over to PC. The scenario was simply a naval assault on a fort for fun and profit. The ship-based gameplay is massively improved over that of AC3 as you would hope, given that the game’s advertising has been built around it. Kenway's ship, the Jackdaw, responded beautifully to the controls and was a pure joy to command. Ship-to-ship combat has also been improved, with a variety of historical ammunition types available to you and your crew. You can also board ships once you’ve done enough damage to them, with your crew tossing out grappling hooks and drawing both ships together. Once you’ve cleared out enough of the opposing crew to force surrender, you can use the captured ship to repair the Jackdaw, or add it to your fleet.
You’re also able to let go of the wheel freely once you’ve left combat (or once you’ve destroyed any guns that the fort had been firing upon you) and continue the fight on foot, which was required for the second part of the scenario. This works in much the same way as the previous games in the series. The demo also featured two cutscenes, which, while not looking as polished as the rest of the game at this point in development, at least indicate that Ubisoft is as dedicated to the story of its historical protagonists as it always has been.
The Sims 4:
Cause I'm sure you're all dying to get a look at me (that actually is me).
The Sims 4 was an odd one, consisting only of the Sim Creation system, which was mostly complete. It's a massive change from previous installments in the series, and I can only link it to the system used in Spore. You have a great level of control over the entire body shape of your Sim, being able to select and resize individual parts of the body and face with the mouse, which I found to be a refreshing change from the ‘every Sim has the same basic body type’ feeling that I got from each of the previous games in the series.
Unfortunately there weren’t a great deal of customisation options at this point, with traits and age groups other than “young adult” missing from the build that I played, and the amount of options for hairstyle and clothing were sorely lacking. However, given EA’s history of saving a lot of stuff for the expansions, I couldn’t say that I was expecting too much more there. I would also have liked to see how the rest of the game played, but it wasn’t on offer. What I can say is that what I played was well polished, and I’m looking forward to this one.
I feel that this scenario sums up Dying Light perfectly...
To tell the truth I hadn’t heard very much about this one, but I gave it a go anyway on the recommendation of a friend, and I wasn’t all that impressed. Maybe it’s a personal weariness with the Zombie craze sweeping the industry, or maybe it was something wrong with the game itself - it’d probably take a full review’s playtime to tell - but I just didn’t walk away from it excited for its release. The best way of describing Dying Light is to imagine that Mirror’s Edge and Dead Island hooked up at and had a child. Said child took the thematic elements and combat from Dead Island, the free-running mechanics from Mirror’s Edge, and is now struggling to reconcile the two into a single game.
The combat is sticky and swinging your melee weapon doesn't feel very effective, although the throwing weapons do feel better. Inevitably, every time I took a zombie on, I ended up having to go through the ‘avoid getting bitten and snap their neck’ quicktime event that happens whenever you get too close. The movement is awkward as well, which is a major problem since the game clearly points out that it’s better to use your free-running skills to avoid zombies rather than hack your way through them. The environment that the demo centered on was tight and had little indication of which paths were available to take, two things that every game based around movement like this absolutely must have.
There’s still time for the devs to fix these problems and, who knows, it may actually turn out good, all I can say is the demo was severely disappointing.
You'll have to keep a close eye on this...
Although no playable copy was available for Watchdogs, there was a fifteen minute gameplay demo which turned out to be one we’ve previously covered here at Pixel Judge. The demo shows off an open world, that felt very similar to the Assassin’s Creed Series; the viewpoints from AC are now “local nodes” that coordinate with the global operating system in that area, the stealth looks like it’s nearly unchanged, and movement seems to be exactly the same. The combat and gunplay seem fluid, with the option to hack a variety of items to provide cover, distract guards, and even remove threats. The demo showed off various aspects of gameplay that show how the finished product tries to synergize various tasks such as driving and, at the same time, giving you the ability to hack objects in order to prevent others from escaping (or to ensure your own escape) in a fluid manner taking your attention away from either task. Definitely one to keep an eye on.
Wolfenstein looks amazing!
Again, no playable copy was around but the gameplay demo was astounding! This was a much more polished, much more epic, extended and brand new playthrough of the same mission scenario that the E3 demo showed off. The gameplay I saw completely eased any fears I may have had about id Software not developing the game. The gunplay looks amazing, and the ability to dual wield almost everything is something that I’ve missed in every shooter that I’ve played since Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64. The destructible environments and multiple paths fit in well with a game where it seems that most of what you do is infiltration (loud, explosive infiltration), and the multiple ways to remove big threats is great. For example, there was one instance where, instead of grabbing a turret and using it to take down a mech, they snuck through some vents and dropped a decommissioned V2 rocket on it for an insta-kill. For the first time in a long time, I’m actually feeling excited about an FPS release!
That rounds it up for this time. Sadly, the supermassive titles like Call of Duty and Battlefield had waiting lines that went further than the eye could see. One of my personal favourites, Titanfall, also held the public at bay with a humongous queue. Yet, skipping these titles did give me the opportunity to go off to the quieter areas of the convention to find some hidden gems. So, come back soon for the rundown on the indie titles! As well as that, we will have a look at the state of the gaming industry in Australia based on my discussions with the developers behind a few of those titles.