Sometimes in life, sacrifices have to be made. For the greater good, in the fight for good versus evil, or in my case, sleeping in a Travelodge bed for three nights just to bring you darlings some hot and sexy hands-on gaming from the Eurogamer Expo. A smattering of PlayStation titles were sampled from the triple-A gold to the cheeky indie titles and here’s a breakdown of the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Seriously though, the Travelodge room didn’t even have a lock on the door and I forgot my toothpaste – the struggle was real.
The key to any convention is getting in to the big games before either the kids or over-excited cosplay nutters do. With that in mind, Horizon: Zero Dawn was my first stop, given it was the first time the general public had been able to go hands-on in the United Kingdom. After a short presentation, (which teased some extra story details, that certainly piqued my weathered interests), we got to grips with Aloy and her world filled with brightly coloured machine animals.
The demo was relatively short; kill some animals, ride some animals, use the different weapons that have been seen in the trailers. It was fun, although a little unfulfilling. The demo was incredibly short so it could possibly be that I’m left wanting for more content in my session as opposed to more content generally.
Horizon: Zero Dawn certainly shows promise. It has all the hallmarks of an open-world action adventure – interesting plot, huge over-world, great sound, better graphics but my mind isn’t made up yet. The weaponry feels somewhat limp when impacting these giant animal-esque machines and while I think characters using a bow and arrow is a much smarter move than trying to wedge some narrative in explaining how everyone has got guns or magic, smarter doesn’t necessarily mean better. It also has a very Tomb Raider meets Assassins Creed feel about it and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not yet. Either way, we’ll it’s still on course for a release date early 2017.
After the bombast of Horizon: Zero Dawn, I found myself navigating the crowds to arrive at Conga Master, a frankly brilliant party game where you try and compete with other players to form a conga line. If that sounds a little bonkers, then that’s because it really is. Different characters have different skill sets, whether that be their attractiveness to the participants or their speed. You’ll dance through the crowds and woo them with your skills, which is as simple as just moving around or near them. You’ll have to watch out for hazards like banana peels, bouncers and drunks.
The mode I played, Cut The Congo, involved you picking up scissor power-ups to shorten other players conga lines. The modes take nods from popular game titles (Cut The Rope in this instance). My personal favourite was Command and Conga – nice. The fact that this game boasts a single player campaign (how the fu..?), local co-op, and competitive multiplayer modes puts a lot of other games to shame. A combo system, different levels, thirty different characters – this is one impressive looking title. Currently out on Steam, the PlayStation 4 version is aiming, again for an early 2017 release.
As soon as it had begun, my time with Conga Master was over and I found myself, controller in hand, playing Black and White: Bushido, a tasty little multiplayer slasher. Taking the best parts of Mark of the Ninja and Nidhogg this beautifully crafted game combines quick combat and demands quick thinking. Up to four players can partake in different multiplayer modes and although I only got to sample death-match and team death-match, it quickly asserted itself as a game that must be added to my collection.
Much like Nidhogg its lure is a simple one – players are ninja-like folk who can dart around the levels at high speeds, slicing the bejesus out of anyone who comes near them. The difference though comes in form of the ‘light’ and ‘dark’ areas of the level, which change on the fly. If you happen to be a ‘light’ character standing in a ‘light’ area, you’ll vanish from view with the touch of a button. You can walk slowly (invisible to yourself and the opponent) but jumping or using power-ups will reveal you. This can create some incredibly tense moments as you try and fathom were someone is but of course, the lighting of the level may change and you’ll quickly get found out. A tense but fun slice-um-up for sure, it hits PlayStation 4 before the end of 2016.
Toyko 42 followed this with less of an eastern persuasion, despite the name. Instead we had a Grand Theft Auto meets Syndicate inspired isometric game, that finds you as a trainee assassin. Anyone who has looked at this game should be immediately inspired by its beautiful style; further proof that you don’t need to spend millions on a game engine producing real-world graphics to look cool. This game oozes cool and then goes on to produce some engaging gameplay, light humour and an interesting over-world, begging to be explored. I managed to complete a couple of missions before getting whisked away to pastures new. What I did play impressed me greatly; I hope the final over-world is either bigger or finds you moving between destinations but even if it didn’t I would still be picking this up. The guys that created Frozen Synapse have a hand in this, so expect it to be a sleeper hit that consumes your soul in early 2017.
Fit to bursting with Indie darlings, I decided to cleanse my pallet with some multi-platform triple A shooters, namely Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1. As both have recently had open betas I won’t spend too much time going into details as both were the beta builds that had been available previously. In Titanfall 2’s case, everything felt much like it had during the beta and that’s certainly a good thing. I’m certainly excited to get to grips with the other titans now that I’ve wrecked more dreams with ‘Ion’ than I’ve had hot dinners but if you’re going to ignore my giant chest laser, more the fool you to be honest.
Battlefield 1 did offer up something that TitanFall 2 couldn’t however and that was a map that wasn’t available during beta; St Quentin Scar. Whilst some of the community had the opportunity to have a bash at this previously, I wasn’t one of the lucky folk and as a proper Battlefield groupie, I was pretty excited to get involved. Sadly, my team lacked less than the usual amount of co-ordination and my dreams for taking part in an absolute thrashing faded away when the chat flooded with calls to ‘get your dicks out for Harambe’.
Undeterred, we cracked on in earnest and I was probably more impressed with St Quentin Scar than I was Sinai Desert, which bodes well for the overall release of Battlefield 1. It’s a map that boasts the usual size of a Battlefield title and still provides those little pockets of fun that make the game so enjoyable. I quickly got to work in the main town, flitting between houses and killing folk with the assault class. Before long, the giant airship showed up (and it is giant), to begin its bombardment of my team. I took to the skies, spinning and twisting in the air, in order to bring the airship down. It was spectacular and got me all the more pumped for Battlefield 1.
After that though, I moved onto the main event, the reason for me being here –Dishonored 2. It is fair to say that I am a massive Dishonored fan and so the chance to go hands-on with the second one was worth the wait. I was told we would have two objectives but only time to finish one. In order to see as much as of the level as possible, I attempted and successfully completed both; in your face random Bethesda employee.
Although I had the chance to play as Emily, I opted for Corvo partly for the familiarity and partly because he’s just such a cool character to play as. The level is a mansion that belongs to an inventor named Kirin Jindosh and he is as much a character as the level itself is. See, the whole mansion is a giant rubix cube that moves at the flick of a switch. It makes for a fascinating display of level design and it was quite the feat to make it seem as seamless as it was. I couldn’t stand around in awe for long, as I was set upon by the large clockwork soldiers, seen in the trailers and gameplay videos. They make for some tough opposition, not least because they tower over you and get in your face with their melee attacks or use a static electricity charge to get you from range. As the level went on, I fought off multiple attacks from them, whilst trying to navigate a constantly changing maze and stay one step ahead of the time limit. It was thrilling stuff to say the least and if this level is anything to go by, the final product will be something very, very good indeed.
Before I went for my final appointment, I had the chance to briefly have a crack at Sub Level Zero, a game that should have any Descent fans of the nineties positively jumping for joy. It strikes me as being more of a Descent roguelike which could be a very winning formula. I also had a spare moment for Gravity Rush 2, and having missed the first one, this sequel reminded me that its predecessor might be worth a look in. The graphics were slick, the gameplay fun and I’ll be keeping an eye on this one as it nears its release window.
My final leap into the unknown for the trip, came in the form of a go on the PlayStation VR hardware, which was something I had been intrigued about for quite a while. I only had a brief, twenty-minute demo to go by but from my time with Robinson: The Journey, I was left with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the headset was the lightest of the virtual reality headsets I had played around with. It was also the most comfortable and the easiest to adjust. As someone who wears glasses, the comfort and ease of adjustment are big factors.
The game on the other hand, left me wanting somewhat. It’s a pretty typical affair – crash on an alien planet, get around with the help of some A.I, witty dialogue. Graphically it looks amazing up close but look into the distance and you’ll see the limitations of being so ‘close’ to the screen. Nevertheless, the actual gameplay was fun enough and I am intrigued overall as to what they’ll do with the story and setting.
That concluded my time at Eurogamer Expo. It was a whistle-stop tour of some fantastic games and there were dozens that escaped my keen eye but everything that I saw offered something different and intriguing. If nothing else, it is a very good time to be a PlayStation owner.