A Personal Look At EGX 2016 Part 2

 

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Welcome to the second part of my personal look at the EGX event in Birmingham this year. A gaming extravaganza for fans, media, potential developers and anyone else you can think of to come down and take a look at the new and upcoming world class games along with some new and innovative indie titles that are trying to make their mark on the world. 5 years I’ve been going to the EGX event and in each year I find plenty to keep me busy and also find more than I thought I would when it comes to games that pique my interest. This year was no exception. I went to the event with a list of games I wanted to see and ended up being more surprised and interested in ones that I had no intention of seeing or in fact had even heard of! My advise to you is to go and check out as much as possible, don’t wait in line for 3 hours to play the latest shooter only to finish the demo and walk straight to the back of the line for the same game, especially when that said game will be out in a matter of weeks. Expand your horizons and check out some of the over games on the show floor, I guarantee you will be surprised at what you find.

 

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Now here’s a game that came out of nowhere. Before today I had never heard of it. Now I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Talking with the developer, he said that it’s been around 3 years in development since concept and now it’s finally so close to release. Is it just another indie driving game to come out on the market only to be lost in the flood, well no, this is something a bit different. When I saw it I was instantly transported back to the days of Stunt Car Racer on the Commodore 64. Roller coaster like tracks where you race round at break neck speeds hoping to stay on track and maybe even finish without total destruction. Drive Drive Drive (DDD) is Stunt Car Racer and more. I will try to explain.

21118729605_3ea3138284Imagine a Tron meets The Last Starfighter colours and graphics but hi rezzed and brought up to today’s graphical quality. Add to that a host of different looking and different acting cars to race around with to the perfectly complimenting soundtrack and you have a pretty good game. Wait, there’s more. One track and one race is fine but why not have up to 4 tracks and 4 races all going on at once. Oh Yes, you can jump between up to 4 races at any given time and try to win them all. Points are awarded for manic driving, drifting, bumping and banging the AI drivers that seem to have taken driving lessons from a blind crazy driver. You can voluntarily jump from each track and race in the hope of guiding your car to victory in each one. Hold on, there’s more….Each of these tracks are in the same world at the same time and can intersect with each other. This can cause some serious carnage. Each race has a total of 4 cars, so with 4 tracks multiply that together and you can have one hell of a multi car pile up. Okay yes, it does all sound a bit crazy and yes it is but that’s what I love about it. It’s an indie title that hasn’t chosen to go down the commonly used retro 8 bit and 16 bit graphics style. It hasn’t chosen to go for a simplistic platform mechanic that gets very samey after 5 minutes. Instead, it’s a unique and frantic racing game that stands out from the crowd.

Oh and if that isn’t enough to wet your appetite then here’s an added bonus. All the tracks in the game are made using the in-game track editor. You can make up your own tracks full of twists, turns, loops and hills, dips and jumps then race your friends till your hearts content. The track editor has been developed so that anyone could make a track that’s fun and fast quickly without having to go into all the in depth minutia that some games insist upon. A quote from the developer was that it is a track editor for people that hate using a track editor. Sounds good to me.

Drive Drive Drive is coming to PC, Steam, XBox One and Playstation 4 very soon. Keep your eyes open for this one.

 

mafia-3-egx-2016

mafia-3-cinema-egx-2016This is a game that hadn’t really interested me until today. I own the previous games but sadly they just haven’t found time in the consoles. That might change with this third installment. Mafia 3 was on show in a mock-up cinema which was a nice touch but did mean that there was no hands on time with the game. Not to worry as it was still more than we got with Horizon Zero Dawn. They made a big point about telling us all that there were to be no photos or videos taken of the screening but of course some ‘daring’ individuals attempted to prove just how rebellious they could be and were promptly taken away, I assume to sleep with the fish!

The show started off with the usual montage trailer of upcoming 2K games of which there are a good few and some crackers in among them. Then onto the introduction to New Bordeaux. A new Orleans kinda place but for licencing reasons it’s not new Orleans, it’s new Bordeaux. The intro showed off just how big the game is going to be with various sections of the city and surrounding areas, all different and with their own developed storyline to interact with. Drug running, guns women, extortion, it’s all here for your pleasure. This game is defiantly 18 plus. It’s graphic, it’s blood soaked and it’s visceral. You take the lead of the protagonist Lincoln Clay, an ex soldier with a strong back story and what looks to be a damn good reason to go around with a grudge to bare.

This game appears to be a great mix of GTA5 and some Hitman. You can choose to go about your business of death and assassination by going with the stealthy approach or maybe finding the biggest, baddest collection of weaponry you can and proclaiming death or glory. Graphically it looks amazing. The lighting and texture really make the world feel alive and tangible. It’s a gritty open world with all sorts of side characters, distractions and visual feasts. Mafia 3 looks and sounds impressive although in the game play video we saw there was an occasion or two with some obvious pop in but it wasn’t the finished product although I would have thought if you were going to show you game off to the world you would at least make sure the section you are showing would run smoothly and cleanly but it wasn’t a big deal.

I love a good, deep story in a game that warrents it and this seems to hit that mark. I would have loved to have got some hands on time with Mafia 3 especially as we are so close to its launch but sadly it wasn’t to be. Mafia 3 is set to launch 7th October for Playstation 4, XBox One and PC. Sadly though you won’t get the amazing free popcorn that was on had while we watched the viewing at EGX, those are just the breaks in life I guess!

 

nosulus-rift-egx-2016

nosulus-rift-display-egx-2016Compared to last year there was a surprising lack of Ubisoft at the event. With the games that they showed off at E3, I expected them to be showing off some of the most popular titles but sadly this wasn’t the case. I can understand that they maybe didn’t want to show off The Division and it’s season pass considering the recent issues and delay with future dlc but I was expecting them to be showing off Ghost Recon Wildlands, For Honor, Steep and Watchdogs 2 at least. What we got instead was a really small stand that felt like it was in the middle of nowhere that was showing off South Park The Fractured But Whole. I say that they were showing it off but they were showing off the Nosulus rift more so. I know it’s used in conjunction with the game and I know it’s an advertising tool for it but there didn’t seem to be the hype for The Fractured But Whole that I expected to see. The game itself looked really good especially considering they had pre alpha footage tags all over the screen. It’s a game that I’m sure will be an impressive success but I feel they could have done more with it and certainly done more with their other upcoming titles. As for the Nosulus Rift, well, there seemed to be quite a few people willing to have their sense of smell assaulted in the name of gaming. With only 2 head/nose sets available though, the queues were extensive so I happily used that as my excuse to be an interested onlooker and non participator.The faces of the ‘test’ subjects were all the experience I needed there!

 

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playstation-4-pro-egx-2016Sony were more than happy to be showing off their latest iterations to the PlayStation 4 lineup us well as the newest versions of the camera, headphones and dualshock controller and of course the PSVR headset. PSVR was again this year by appointment only…..unless you were sneaky and managed to get a quick opportunity right at the end of the day. Having tried the Oculus on other occasions, it gave me something tangible to compare the experience to. Firstly, The PSVR is quite comfortable, More so than the Oculus and I found that pretty comfortable to wear in itself. As someone who wears glasses, I have always wondered just how these kind of headsets would feel but there seems to be no real issues unless maybe if you are wearing huge rims but those are the risks you take when you make that kind of fashion commitment. 

I managed to try out Driveclub VR and found it to be a pleasant surprise. The cockpit view was impressive and detailed. You really did get a sense of being inside the car. Close up graphics such as kicked up dust right in front of you or dirt etc on the windscreen looked really detailed and how you would expect it, the downside is that sometimes the further away the object or the texture was then the less detailed and more low resolution than I would have expected. I had heard from a few people that they were experiencing motion sickness after a while using the PSVR headset but I didn’t find this to be the case for me, I think that this will be one of those things that you will have to try out personally as everyone will react differently.

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Is it something I want to jump in on day one? Sadly no. Don’t get me wrong, the technology is great. It does change how a game feels, it does add a new aspect to gaming and I can see it being an interesting way for gaming developers to broaden their design ideas and explore new and diverse avenues. I have a couple of issues with it though. Firstly, its the amount of use that it would actually get after the initial honeymoon period. This isn’t a device that I would put on every time I wanted to do some gaming. It would end up being a ‘party piece’ that would come out to show new people what it can do and for the occasional session here and there. My two year old son has already said that it looks like a robots head so would probably freak him out if he saw me using it. This then leads on to the price issue. Yes, £350/$399 is a good initial price considering the price of the competition but if this does become an occasional piece of gaming kit that will sit along with the lies of the Rockband drums, the Guitar Hero guitar and other such peripherals then that price feels like a lot more than I’m ready to pay. The other main issue I have is that as much as I’m a PlayStation fanboy, I can’t argue the fact that they have a bad habit of dropping new ideas after the initial launch. The PS Vita is probably the latest example of that. A great idea and an amazing piece of gaming technology but the support for it has been sadly lacking. Does anyone remember Wonderbook or PlayStation TV?? Exactly. I will wait and see how it goes before deciding to dent my bank account with this purchase.

 

musterbrand-at-egx-2016

musterbrand-egx-2016It was also nice to see our good friends from Musterbrand showing up for the first time at EGX. They had a very upmarket looking set up with some of their latest lines for everyone to look and and buy. I hope they had a good experience and will be returning. Its nice to see a clothing company making a name for itself with a range of more upmarket and boutique style of clothing that still appeals to the target market. From what I could see they caught the eye of quite a few interested people and it does make a change from the usual, all be it good enough clothing outlets that normally frequent this kind of event. I know for a fact that Connor would have loved to have been around to see them and I’m pretty sure he would also have tried to buy up most of their range. As you can see from the photo, their lines do look amazing and well worth checking out at the next event that they attend or by heading over to their website and seeing just what they have to offer.

I can see there being a nice consumer battle going on in future events between the new kid on the block, Musterbrand and the more well known heavyweight brand, Insert Coin. In the end there can only be one winner and that will be us, the consumers.

Final Thoughts

EGX 2016 is as it’s always been, a gaming mecca for the gaming community. Games of all genres and styles have been brought together for us all to enjoy. Last years event was the first to be held at the NEC and to be honest it showed. The event was cluttered and felt like too much was crammed in but that could easily have been because EA decided to bring a massive TIE fighter to help promote Star Wars Battlefront. This year there wasn’t any extravagant floor pieces so it meant that there was more floor space for both game stands and people to walk around.

overwatch-egx-2016There were a few issues that could have been worked on, firstly the 18+ zone was far more space than previous years. It felt like it had been put together to only show off Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2. The area felt hidden away right at the back and felt as though it wasn’t given the attention that it has had in previous years. I’m not saying they should have a hoard of booth babes beckoning in age appropriate gamers as that’s a whole different issue. It felt as though they were missing half of what should have been on show in there which just adds to the oddness of Ubisoft and EA being virtually absent compared to last year.

The smaller indie titles were given a good showing and really helped to show the diversity in what is available to all ages and interests. Triple A games are always going to be the highlight and showcase pieces but the indie titles are coming close to being as big a draw to the event. It’s where you are most likely to find a hidden gem that could become your next gaming obsession.

PlayStation made a good showing of what they had to offer generally. They made a good attempt at getting the PSVR into as many hands as they could to show it off in its best light. VR will always be a difficult dynamic to show off to the general public but I think they pulled it off. They had plenty of games on show and everyone in their exhibition area seemed happy with what was coming. I just wished it had been easier to get a look at Horizon Zero Dawn. almost everyone I spoke to had no idea you had to book to view it so it proved to me that I wasn’t the only one who missed this opportunity. It’s always nice to see the Gran Turismo pods out as it brings back that arcade feeling while also having the latest consoles and racing game to play.

If you are into games at all then EGX is a perfect place to indulge your desires. Do it right and you can have an enjoyable time getting to see some of the latest developments as well as emptying your bank account on the newest games and merchandise. Unless you are planning on being there for the full 4 day event then you aren’t going to get to see everything so don’t stress yourself out attempting to. I had a very enjoyable time mixing between big titles and indie games. The planning team have learnt from last year’s event and changed a few things for the better. The community gaming spirit is there and although not quite at the level I feel it was back when it was held at Earl’s Court in London with the after parties and meet ups but I feel that it won’t be long before it regains that much loved aspect to the overall event..  

All I can say is roll on EGX 2017 and I hope to see you all there.

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