And Then I Went To The Eurogamer Expo, pt.3 – The Games

1 Oct

Part 1

Part 2

Ah, videogames. Let’s not prat about with a real introductory paragraph; here’s what I played, and just a smidge of what I thunk.

Battlefield 3

The only game I queued more than once to play, though admittedly that was because a) the line was comparatively short and b) rounds were extremely short, and we got kicked off after just one – about four minutes of play time. Even more disappointing was that we were playing a map designed for 64 people with between 10 to 12, and was in fact the same map in the open beta that everyone is rightly complaining doesn’t contain any vehicles. Or fun. Even with truly distinct classes, excellent sound design and impressive tech, it’s genuinely difficult to decide how such a brief, sparse experience affected my purchasing intentions – by all accounts, both this and the beta are completely unrepresentative of Battlefield’s trademark combined arms battles. File under ‘Hmmm’.

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 2 with a few more places to put skill points, basically. And that’s great – ME2’s combat was a phenomenal improvement over the laughable awfulness of ME1’s interpretation, and here it’s been augmented with some weighty melee moves. One guy in front of me, in fact, spent much of the action-oriented demo striding up to armoured bad guys and pistol-whipping them to death, including the section’s final boss, which exploded in Shepard’s face after sustained gun-butts to the shin. My own run-through wasn’t so much tactically questionable as just flat-out awful, my untrained hands stabbing at the mysterious controller of something called an “Xbox 360”. Regardless, I had fun shooting things in a series known mainly for rambling dialogue, and if Bioware take the same ‘expand, don’t overhaul’ approach to ME3’s conversation and role-playing systems as they have to its combat, this could be very special indeed.

A brief moment of some screens not having anyone playing on them, a few minutes after we all piled inside.

Smuggle Truck

A brief detour to the Indie Arcade here: Smuggle Truck is a side-scrolling driving/physics game, whereby you attempt to navigate a pickup truck full of illegal immigrants over bumpy desert terrain. Sadly, our comrades are prone to bouncing clean out of the vehicle should the truck take a particularly nasty knock, and soon I was throwing migrants all over the place – losing them all would end the game. Eventually, a baby, wrapped and still smiling, lept from the back end like a pinball, and landed – to my horror, as well as that of anyone watching over my shoulder – a few feet in front of me. I can’t stop. I can’t even slow down.

I ran over a baby.

If this all sounds hugely disrespectful, the game itself is intended – I think – to draw attention the dreadful things immigrants to the US have to endure in order to improve their standard of living, rather than to mock them outright. Still, when the second baby went flying and landed, head-first, in a pile of quicksand before slowly descending out of sight, I understood why Apple were a bit iffy about including the iOS version in their store.

These Robotic Hearts of Mine

Click on cogs to rotate the hearts attached to them until they all point upright. Decent blend of narrative and puzzling with plenty of eerie ambience, but…if it were a person, it would wear lenseless glasses and use Tumblr.

Blocks That Matter

A 2D platformer filled with destroyable blocks that, as in Minecraft, can be collected and placed elsewhere to create bridges, steps and traps.Of the Indie Arcade games I played, this was easily the most substantial and satisfying to beat, and the only one I wished I got more time with. Some entirely unexplained restrictions on where I could place my blocks caused a bit of avoidable frustration, but the idea and execution are otherwise solid.

Really Big Sky

Retro two-stick shooter, played on a keyboard, with gorgeous environments and effects. There’s not much original stuff here at all, besides the delightfully British man running comms, so I’m not too glum about never seeing it again.

Uncharted 3

Naughty Dog had laid out a few multiplayer games, a bizarre failure to acknowledge their game’s strengths that’s almost on par with the BF3 demo. Online in Uncharted 2 was fiddly and had no sense of weapon balance — number 3 has actually tightened things up so that I didn’t feel completely helpless using the default loadout, but hand-to-hand combat (which in previous singleplayers was swift and brutal) is still an embarrassing dance of missed swings and lame canned animations. Uncharted 3 is still a day-one purchase as far as this reporter is concerned, though that’s based entirely on qualities not evident in multiplayer.

Modern Warfare 3

I was dumped in a chair next to a stranger, who remain entirely silent and emotionless throughout, for twenty minutes of the new Spec Ops mode. Much like the Zombies mode of Treyarch’s Call of Duty offerings, we were tasked with beating back increasing waves of enemies, earning cash for doing so and using it to buy bigger and better guns for when the choppers and exploding suicide dogs showed up.

As a co-op mode, the fact that your enemies are alive and toting automatic rifles make this a far more tense and enjoyable experience than the bleak, doddering Zombies mode. Spec Ops is absolutely the newest thing in MW3, so hopefully it won’t make the mistake that MW2 did with its equivalent and close it off to anyone who wasn’t a Steam friend. With more people playing, this could be the surprise hit of what will be the year’s biggest money-printer.

***

There were a few other games I got my hands on: Skyrim, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Saint’s Row 3, most notably, but didn’t get enough time with any for a worthwhile opinion to crystallise in my brain. Next year will, fund allowing, hopefully be an all-weekend affair. How could it not be? For eight hours I got to explore a side of games – a massive, gregarious, exciting new side of games – which you can’t ever appreciate sat at a screen in a bedroom.

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