The Eurogamer Expo this month was a rather dour affair. Aside from the fact that no one else I know seemed to want to go on a Saturday, it was pretty much a mess of queues. There seemed to be fewer, but more high profile games than last year, resulting in those games being completely rammed with queues. I didn’t manage to get hands on with Assassins Creed IV, Titanfall or Ryse. I didn’t get to play COD Ghosts either, but that was more because I just didn’t want to. I almost played Killzone Shadow Fall, but after waiting an hour in the queue to enter the PS4 area, the sight of another hour-long queue to play, took my will to live. So what did I play?
FFXIII Lightning Returns
Lightning Returns has mixed expectations from me. FFXIII wasn’t great, it’s charaters weren’t terrific and FFxIII-2 didn’t hold my interest for very long – but it’s a pretty slick looking action RPG game with Lighting as the Focus – who was one of the better things to come out of FFXIII.
The game definitely feels like an RPG, with the battles emphasising strategic use of battle commands. Just like FFXIII’s paradigms, but with more of a nod towards FFX-2, Lightning is able to change between 3 equipped classes. A active time bar limits how many skills can be used by each class. Once it’s depleted it’s time to switch class, allow it to regenerate in the back while you go crazy with the skills of the new class. It’s an interesting system and it keeps a good pace, even in longer battles.
The game looks solid, keeps a steady framerate and has some good designs for environments, monsters and Lightning’s outfits. Needless to say it’s certainly on my radar, and while it’s still a little way off (it’s coming out feb next year) its definitely something to look forward to.
Final fantasy X and X-2 remakes are due out soon. The PS3 HD remasters were on hand to play. Specifically, they had the opening sequence of FFX to play. The good news is that this is a good HD remaster. Much like the MGS or God of War remasters a lot of work has gone into the character models and enviroments to make it look good on a HD screen. The animations are as dodgy as they were on PS3.
The game still plays well and I look forward to getting this on Vita.
Trying the Oculus Rift was one of the main reasons for going Eurogamer this year. It was the first thing I rushed towards in the morning and I still had to wait in a queue to try it. Let’s start with the bad – the resolution on the screens isn’t great. Also the game I tried, War Thunder, didn’t have a particuarly great 3D effect, appearing more like Crysis 2’s faux-3d, than the more genuine kinds.
On the good side, the headset is pretty light, quite comfortable, and feels very natural. The feel of looking around a virtual aircraft cockpit is pretty cool, and it’s easy to envision a future with more VR games. Surely we’re just a few steps from .hack’s VR visor’s right? I wish there was more to say about it, but the demo of War Thunder that was available was hardly the most spectacular or exhilarating experience. I only found out later that Strike Suit Zero also had Oculus Rift’s plugged up with it – but of course there were queues for that too…
Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate
Blackgate on Vita was pretty much Batman, albeit fixed to a 2D movement plane. While I think the full console experience of Batman would’ve easily worked on the Vita, Blackgate does offer an alternative experience. It looks pretty and the basic gameplay is the same Arkham stlye rhythm fighting and gadgets galore people have come to expect from the series. I only played a small section, taking out a couple of gun-wielding goons in Batman’s trademarked gargoyle-mounting antics.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
Lords of Shadow was a terrific game, and the sequel and end of the story looks to be following closely in its predecessors footsteps. The demo had the player fighting nasties and fighting atop an enormous titan – Shadow of the Colossus style. The graphics are good, but look like they could really benefit from running on PC (on which it’ll be launching simultaenously with the console versions this time around) Also keep in mind that the HD version of Mirror of Fate is coming to PS3 and X360 this Halloween. It bridges the story between Lords of Shadow 1 and 2. Hopefully that will make its way on to PC too.
PS4’s Knack was a little disappointing. While the idea of the character being made up of lots of floating particles is interesting, the game feels a little souless and empty – despite the best attempts of its fairly expensive looking cutscenes. The gameplay looks rather unadventurous, the backgrounds are a lot quieter than the busy backdrops of Ratchet and Clank, and quite frankly I’m not sure who Knack is supposed to appeal to. He’s not cute, he’s not cool, he’s not awesome – he just is.
To make things worse the game doesn’t run at 60 from the looks of it and doesn’t seem to maintain a solid 30.
Another PS4 title, Resogun was quite pretty with its explosive use of particles. It’s from the people that made Stardust and that much is pretty obvious after just looking at the control setup. The boost and bomb functions remain intact; however the game world has changed. Rather than spinning around a planet, you now whizz around a cylinder, much like Odin Sphere – only with a ship. It seems a solid title and a good PSN game for the PS4’s launch.
Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z
Yaiba was an odd one. One of the only games in the 18+ area I tried (because the others, like Titanfall, had stupidly long queues) Made by ex-capcom Keiji Inafune in collaboration with Team Ninja, Yaiba is an odd sort of game. The gameplay is pretty much furious hack and slash. The graphics and the humour seem more like an attempt to copy Suda51 and Grasshoppers madness; and while the graphics manage a cartoon look really well, the humour doesn’t quite nail it in the same way as Suda51’s.
On top of that the game felt really early in development, numerous bugs and camera issues broke up a fairly fun experience. There was also some disappointment that any environment traversal was broken into context sensitive button pushes to wall run and break through walls.
One question rings loudly in my mind upon picking up the Shield – why? why does it exist? why is it so ugly, heavy and unwieldy. I’m sure someone at Nvidia must know – but I certainly couldn’t figure it out. They had it running XCOM Declassified – which I totally couldn’t figure out the buttons for. It was displayed on a monitor and being streamed to the Shield’s screen at the same time. Even if the shield wasn’t the heaviest ‘handheld’ device I’ve ever tried to grapple with, it’s the most badly designed piece of hardware I’ve seen in recent years. The sticks are horrible, the buttons – especially the shoulder buttons – are awful to press. That someone actually thinks this product was ready to show to the public both surprises and offends me. It’s a pretty useless device, with little application or need. Steer well clear. I mean just look at it…
So, my game of the show? Lightning Returns. If Witcher 3 would’ve been on the show floor, it would’ve been that – but it wasn’t – so Lightning Returns was my most enjoyable fifteen minutes of the day. Apparently you have to know the story in FFXIII-2 to understand what’s going on in Lightning Returns too, so I may have to play that pretty soon too…