Last weekend, Britt and I attended the EB Games Expo in Sydney to check out a bunch of upcoming games and get a feel for what’s in gaming’s near future. This year, the focus was shifted from home-grown indie games to the multitude of AAA titles that were announced at E3 in June, meaning hype levels were high and lines were inevitably long. I was only able to attend for a day, but I did manage to experience some of the most highly anticipated titles on offer – even if only in the usual brief, convention-style manner. Britt had a bit more time at the expo than me, so she will probably be able to cover things in a little more detail, but here are my thoughts on what I did manage to see.
Star Wars Battlefront
The long-awaited reboot in this popular series was clearly one of the expo’s big drawcards, judging by the hype surrounding it on the day. On show was a playable demo of the ‘Walker Assault’, one of the multiplayer modes that will be available when the beta opens later this month, which puts players in the middle of a classic empire-rebel scuffle. And by scuffle, I obviously mean there are guns, AT-AT’s that look incredible, and a whole lot of chaos. I don’t play a whole lot of shooters, so I’m not the best person to compare it to others, but I heard more than one player coming out of the demo saying it was “like Battlefield, but with Star Wars stuff” and that’s fine with me given the graphics, expansive map and obvious attention to detail. Plus, we were told that Jedi will be one of the playable classes, but it was only available on the day to the lucky player that found the pick-up hidden on the aforementioned expansive map. Unfortunately for me, someone did find it in my match, but even though it was irritating for everyone that wasn’t Luke Skywalker, it seemed like it would be a whole ton of fun for the person who was.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
I loved the first (new) Tomb Raider. Loved it. And from what I could see on the day, the sequel is just going to give me more of what I love. We got a glimpse of another mystery-filled plot, some gnarly, scorpion-infested tombs, and an updated Lara who once again looks like she’s regretting every decision that put her in her current situation. The controls feel fluid and once again the game is great at pointing out which direction it wants you to go in, which takes out a lot of potential frustration. I don’t know if Rise of the Tomb Raider will bring anything particularly new to the table, but I for one am not so bothered if it’s just more of the same. It was good enough to get me upset that the initial release will only be on Xbox One.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
I didn’t play Unity or Rogue, so I have missed a whole generation of Assassin’s Creed, but it does look like Syndicate might have some new things to offer. For one, there are now two protagonists – Jacob and Evie – each of whom possesses their own specific set of skills. I only got to experience playing as Jacob, who specializes in close combat, but I’m excited that there will finally be a playable female protagonist in one of the main games in the series. Evie’s talent is for stealth, which may go very well or very terribly with another new addition to the series – the grappling hook. It’s a very welcome addition in my opinion, given how frustrating it can be to try and jump between buildings with any speed, but it is worth noting that even though Jacob was happy to grapple onto buildings, he decided to move between them at his own pace. Slowly is not actually how I wanted to chase an escaping enemy, but I’m interested to see how it adds to the game anyway.
Uncharted 4 Experience
Before I went into the booth, I had no idea what an ‘experience’ would entail in this context. Would it be like the Evil Within-themed maze from last year? A room filled with props and art inspired by the series? A life-size figure of Nathan Drake that I could – no. It turns out that what we were treated to was much of what was seen in the trailer revealed at E3, only with the addition of some live gameplay and an extra cutscene at the end of the chaotic Jeep chase. I don’t want to spoil anything for when the extended trailer is released to the general public, but I nearly cried with joy. Then again, that might have had something to do with seeing Nate in next-gen graphic form.
If you’ve played one LEGO game, you’ve pretty much played them all, but nevertheless I find myself enjoying every single one of them just as much as the first. There’s something magical about being able to jump in and play as your favourite characters from whatever LEGO universe you’re currently in and destroy every part of the world you love. LEGO Avengers is a welcome addition to the series, with every character’s skill easily finding a place in the LEGO bag of tricks that you will need to delve into in order to make your way through levels. As always, these games are way more fun if you have a friend to play with, though.
Guitar Hero Live
As a huge fan of the old Guitar Hero series, I’m excited that there might soon be a chance to whip the controllers out at parties again and not have everyone tell you to stop living in the past. The new controller feels much the same as the old, though the five fret buttons at the top have been turned into six and have been placed in a block as opposed to in a line, so it can be that tiny bit more like playing a real guitar. Instead of playing to a cartoon audience, the new Guitar Hero has you playing to a ‘live’ audience, which I imagine will be a hit with some gamers and a flop with others. I’m in the latter camp, but that’s because I spent a lot of time resigning myself to the fact that no matter how much I practice, Guitar Hero will never make me a real guitarist. I like that I can play it in my pyjamas, in my living room, while shoving popcorn in my mouth in between solos – I don’t need to pretend I’m anywhere else.
Though the indie section of this year’s EB Expo was scaled way down from last year, there was one shining light in the darkness – and that light was Mori. Mori is one of those casual games that is designed to be played in short bursts on public transport, but which had me swearing at the screen for far longer than I should have, even while I was surrounded by plenty of other gaming opportunities. The aim is simply to move a triangle around a clock face and avoid colliding with anything that comes at you, but the game is engaging and has a range of colour schemes for your aesthetic pleasure, so I loved it. We were able to secure a review copy of this little gem from the extraordinarily friendly dev Jared, so there will be a full review of Mori coming up in the near future!
The Nintendo Booth
There were so many games that I managed to get a passing look at, but that I didn’t quite have time for on the day. The Nintendo booth was all about the newly released Super Mario Maker and the upcoming Happy Homes Designer and Yokai Watch, but as far as I could tell it was more of what we’ve seen before. TriForce Heroes and Star Fox Zero were both looking like shiny new additions to their respective series, with both drawing a crowd and even pulling children away from the huge Super Smash Bros. competition that was going on in the middle of it all. Nintendo has a formula, they know what people love, and I for one hope that never changes.