Saturday, 31 October 2009

Eurogamer Expo 2009

Yesterday was the first day of two days that Eurogamer Expo took place in London, and of course I attended. I played a good selection of games there but I'm just going to talk about the ones that really grabbed my attention.

First and foremost, I'm a huge Left 4 Dead fan and so I was excited by the prospect of playing the sequel's Scavenge mode at the expo. The new mode sees the Survivor team racing against a countdown timer to collect gas cans, which they must empty into their tank to earn points and precious extra time. Meanwhile a team of Infected players will be trying to make their task harder, before switching sides to try and beat their score. It was an interesting new twist on the regular L4D gameplay which forced survivors to make some quick decisions; do you save your team mate who has been carried to the other side of the map by a Jockey, or do you grab that nearby can and just score a quick point while you have the chance?

That brings me on to the new Special Infected that players can control. This was one of the highlights of the game for me as I've been itching to see how they handle since they were first announced. The Jockey was a lot of fun as you can cause some real chaos for the survivors if you grab someone at the right moment. He would probably be more useful in a map with some inconvenient height drops, which this map unfortunately lacked. The Charger was also a thrill to use as he dashes in and scatters his targets. My only complaint was that his health seemed a bit too low considering how massive he looks. My personal favourite was the Spitter, a support class she-beast whose toxic spit can cause location-based hazards for the other team. I had a lot of fun spitting on incapacitated survivors, bringing a quick death by preventing their team mates from reviving them.

All in all, Scavenge mode seems more solid and less chaotic than Survival and the new Special Infected are a blast to play. They're a very welcome addition to the existing three classes and I can't wait to see some of the devious tactics people will come up with in Versus mode.

Other highlights of the expo for me included God of War 3, the game that needs no introduction. To be honest there's not really a lot to say other than it's more of the same winning formula that was perfected throughout its first two iterations, not that that's a bad thing by any means. Kratos' moveset is pretty much the same except he now has some large lion-head gauntlets that he can pummel enemies with. The new lighting engine is particularly noteworthy, beautifully demonstrated by the illuminating light emitted from Helios' severed head. Good old God of War.

Heavy Rain was another game that I've been anticipating for a long time and it was great to finally see it in the flesh so to speak. The two scenarios on show were ones that I'd already seen in previews (the scrap yard and the grocery store) but it was interesting to see how different players progressed through the branching events. Seriously, anyone who has any interest in games as a storytelling device must check out this game.

Finally I have to say a bit about the indie games section. There were some great games on show this year, highlights for me being Joe Danger and Cletus Clay. The former is a deceptively complex alternative to Trials HD, offering more emphasis on stunts and showing off with dangerous tricks and a clean, almost Pixar-esque look to it. The latter is an amusing 2D platform game with graphics made almost entirely with stop-motion animation. It definitely looked far nicer in motion than it did in screenshots so I'd urge you to check it out if and when you get the chance. It was a pleasure talking to some of the indie developers and I wish them all luck in releasing their games.

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