The EuroGamer Expo started in 2008 as part of London Games Festival. It was attended by 4,000 people, and the growth since then has been nothing short of phenomenal. 2009's event had expanded to encompass two UK cities in effort to scoop up more attendees. The enormous undertaking was held first in The Royal Armouries in Leeds on the 27th and 28th of October 2009, moving down south to Old Billingsgate Market a few days later on the 30th and 31st. The expanded real-estate allowed for 14,000 total tickets available last year. This year's EuroGamer Expo was moved to the much larger space of Earl's Court Exhibition Centre in the heart of London. So how did the first day of EuroGamer 2010 go? A staggering 3,000 people entered in the first 45 minutes alone, and some people even camped out in front of the event from 2AM on Friday morning. Now THAT'S commitment, but commitment of that level is something we gamers don't shy away from. Overall not a bad start, not a bad start at all.
I approached the front desk with feigned apathy, but in all honesty, I was uncontrollably excited. Now you've got to understand two things at this point: this is the first 'real' game expo I've been to and the first real chance I've had to play preview copies of game that are of definite AAA status, thirdly, it was also my first time visiting under a 'press' badge. I ascended the escalators onto the show floor and was greeted by a vast sea of gamers huddled around screens and dancing on podiums (they were demo-ing the new Kinect-enabled game Dance Central, I hadn't unknowingly walked into a strip club). I thought I was in heaven, then I turned around and saw the Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood hands-on booth, then, I KNEW I was in heaven.
Hands-On Demo – Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Sitting down in front of a monitor that had the latest game in the Assassin’s Creed franchise loaded up was exhilarating in itself. Assassin's Creed 2 is one of my favourite games of all time, so I was enthralled at the opportunity to play the new multiplayer mode on Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. If you've seen nothing about this new online mode, the whole point is to simply assassinate your competitors. The “catch” is that there are NPCs littered around the game world that look exactly like the other assassins, and the players are unidentifiable (other than movement) from NPCs. You get told who you're supposed to assassinate, getting points for the kill but losing points if you kill an NPC by mistake. Gameplay boils down to what is essentially a waiting game. You have to wait for the opponent - that you know is “around here somewhere” - to make a mistake. He has to do something that an NPC wouldn't do, like running or climbing. The easiest way to explain it is that it's a brutal Turin Test: figure out who the human is and stab them in the face, all the while making sure the assassin stalking you doesn't take notice of your non-computer actions. You're not only tasked with assassinating your current target, but also trying to avoid the person who's targeting (and attempting to assassinate) you. Paranoia sets-in quickly with this game mode, and you'll likely be convinced that every single character (most of which turned out to be harmless NPCs, of course) were “after me.” I can see the multiplayer mode on Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood being the primary draw of the game.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is available on the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3 on the 16th of November in the US and the 19th of November in the UK. PCs can expect the game in Q1 2011.
Looking to the Future
Rock Band 3
Of course, I didn't spend all my time playing Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (although I certainly wouldn't have complained about it). I trekked through the convention halls, stopping only to analyze shiny and glowy things (read: everything). Rock Band 3 was one of those things. I'm a huge fan of the music game genre, especially those games that make me look totally bad-ass in my living room with a guitar strapped to me rocking out to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and the like. Yes I'm one of those people who crank it up to 11 and then power slide, arm swing, and tap solo my way to victory. Granted, it would be much more impressive if I could play it higher than medium, though I tell people I only play medium because I love the music so much I don't want to hear the distinct notes of failure. Rock Band 3's brand new 'Pro Mode,' where you get to strap on a totally new guitar (yes, yet another plastic peripheral) and rock like a God. Unlike the previous iterations of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, this guitar has 17 frets with 6 buttons on each fret, making for 102 buttons! The Rock Band PR team claims that this new guitar and mode are crafted to feel more natural in relation to a real guitar, rather than playing a 'dumbed-down copy.' You'll be required to form chord shapes and strum as if you're playing the real thing. Harmonix said there would be a “little bit of forgiveness” but what you're basically getting is a real guitar experience. If that's not enough, Squier will be putting out a real guitar next year which has electronics built into the neck and fretboard that allow compatibility with Rock Band 3. I haven't seen a price range on that yet, so if you know what it is going to be, let us know! The Madcatz 102-buttoned monstrosity will set you back about $150 (or £125).
Rock Band 3 is available on the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo DS on the 26th of October in the US and the 29th of October in the UK.
Motorstorm Apocalypse & Killzone 3
This year's EuroGamer Expo showcased a series of stereoscopic-enabled 3D games. The new Motorstorm Apocalypse and Killzone 3 each had long lines waiting to try out 3D gaming. I don't agree with using 3D technology as a way to con people out of more money, but in this case there won't be a 3D and a 2D version of Killzone 3, there'll just be the single version (not counting any special editions or whatever they decided to do) and the 3D option will be just that, an option. An added ability to get the player even more immersed in the gaming experience is always a good thing, although whether or not 3D makes the game harder to play is debatable. I can't think of a better way to get a player into a game than literally making them feel like they're going INTO the game. While you may think the only reason I was interested in the 3D gaming was because the glasses looked cybernetically enhanced, you'd be exactly... right. Because they did. In the back of my mind I was thinking, “if these are the robots that take over the world, then all hail our robot overlords!” The glasses are designed well and feel quite comfortable, which they should be when you consider that the price tag is probably going to be something around the region of £130 a pair. I'm fearful about the ensuing headaches from any 3D eyewear while gaming, and just thinking about wearing them for the duration of a game gave me a headache. I noticed it was almost impossible to walk by someone playing a 3D game and see anything cool at all - you would have to have a set of glasses for each friend watching, otherwise the screen is a big blur. Motorstorm Apocalypse was especially bad for this, the whole point of the game is to move as fast as you can, so when the screen is blurred because of that speed, the added stereoscopic “blurriness” just made my eyes hurt. Think of it this way: if you've ever seen a film in 3D and taken the glasses off, that's what it's like. The way stereoscopic 3D works is, in it's most simplified version, the more blurry something is, the further away it is. Remember that when you're looking through some of my EuroGamer Expo pictures, if you see a game screen that looks really blurry it's not because we're drunk and have the shakes, it's just what a 3D game looks like without the glasses. Terrible.
Motorstorm Apocalypse is available on the Sony Playstation 3 with a tentative release date of the 25th of March 2011 in the UK.
Killzone 3 is available on the Sony Playstation 3 with a tentative release date of the 22nd of February 2011 in the US and the 25th February 2011 in the UK.
I thoroughly enjoyed EuroGamer Expo 2010. There was something to do for everyone and plenty of things to see. The queues were manageable, and when you finally got to sit in front of the console, you always got about 20 minutes of game time no matter how long the queue was, which I thought was good. The developer presence on the show floor seemed minimal, and it's always more fun to talk to someone who knows everything about the games; talking to the people with 'brochure knowledge' and half-an-hour of playtime really shows - even to the inexperienced gamer. However, many of the developers were tied up in discussion panels, so it is understandable that PR had to man the battlements while they were gone. I was pleasantly surprised with how many developer conferences there were, and the turnout for each one was equally stunning. I'm sure it made every developer feel good too see a room packed, all waiting with baited breath for them to start talking. Earl's Court turned out to be a fantastic place to hold the event: prime access to the London Underground and other forms of public transport meant a lot of people were able to make it this year, and it probably helped a lot towards the record breaking numbers that turned up. I'll definitely be going again next year. Maybe I'll be playing Assassin's Creed 3, or maybe the Gears of War 3 preview will still be there because it's been delayed yet again. See you there!