Formerly know as ‘Eurogamer Expo’, this September 25th through 28th saw London’s Earls Court Exhibition Centre play host to the UK’s biggest annual videogame convention, ‘EGX London’.
Showcasing everything from obscure Indies to triple-A giants, the event gave public and press the opportunity to get hands-on with some of the most highly anticipated titles of the generation. Amongst the horde of gamers keen to catch a glimpse of the myriad IPs on display, was the team here at Level-Clear. So without further ado, here’s our report from this year’s EGX.
Before stepping in line for our first play session, a cursory lap around the exhibition centre made two things very clear.
Firstly, EGX is big. And by that, we mean bigger than before its rebranding. The event now makes full use of both floors of the exhibition centre, with the ground floor comprising of merch stalls and dedicated areas for each platform; and the first floor containing the Indie Devs, Unequalled Media’s ‘Fight Zone’, and the restricted ‘over 18s’ section.
Secondly, if you had any doubts at all as to who was leading this generation’s console war, five minutes on the show floor would have spelled out the winner for you in big, neon-blue letters. Sony’s PlayStation 4 was undeniably the console of choice for developers to show off their IPs on, including our first stop: Ubisoft’s Far Cry 4.
Offering nothing in the way of direction or objective, the FC4 demo spawned us outside an enemy stronghold with a set of locked gates ahead of us, and a gorgeous Himalayan vista behind. An ample supply of explosives and a nearby elephant to jump on, meant breaking into the fortress wasn’t exactly challenging. But whether you chose to barge or blow your way in, the alarms sounded off and combat ensued. The handful of weapons available felt satisfyingly brutal, and melee takedowns with grenade/knife follow-ups made for some beautifully stylish kill sequences. The system of healing yourself by injecting crafted syringes or digging bullets out from wounds has carried over from FC3 and still makes for some brilliantly tense mid-fight moments.
The relatively short demo wasn’t without fault however, with loading times between deaths lasting upwards of thirty seconds apiece, and textures struggling to render fast enough after respawning back in the game world.
For a title due to arrive in November, Far Cry 4 still feels like it needs a surprising amount of polish, but it’s at least shaping up to be as much fun as its predecessor.
Next up was Warner’s Mortal Kombat X. Featuring eight characters with three combat styles each, across four different arenas, there was plenty of choice to play around with.
What the team at NetherRealm appear to have achieved with this latest iteration of MK is nothing short of seriously impressive. Fights are fluid and faster paced than in previous entries, environments now feature useable objects and scenery in a similar vein to ‘Injustice’, and some beautiful models and textures make for some great looking combatants.
X-Ray moves have made a welcome return from MK9 and are more viscerally shocking than ever before, with each broken spine and sliced ribcage prompting an audible reaction from attendees.
The idea to simplify character-specific fatalities for demo purposes was inspired, and meant that anyone could pull off their character’s signature finish with a simple press of down and square on their controller. Managing all this whilst maintaining an impressively high frame rate is a tremendous achievement and makes MKX one to watch out for in 2015.
Somewhat less impressive was Bethesda’s ‘The Evil Within.’ A title which once promised a terrifyingly unique horror experience, but has since been reduced to another bland, third-person action/adventure, with dull visuals and clunky controls. Old school survival horror fans might want to give this one a miss and wait for Kojima’s Silent Hills, or even Alien: Isolation for something a little more effective. That said, it’s hard to fault Evil Within’s marketing campaign. Every wall and window of the Exhibition centre was plastered with advertisements and banners, and a huge amount of floor space had been dedicated to the game’s demo. Although we can’t help but think that getting gamers over-hyped for an ultimately mediocre experience might not be the smartest move on Bethesda’s part.
Looking a little out of place upstairs amongst the guns and gore was Sega’s Project Diva F 2nd. Released in Japan back in March, The Vocaloid rhythm-action game has earned enough of a western following to secure a UK launch this November 21st. What’s more, unlike the first Diva’s digital-only versions, Diva F 2nd will be receiving the physical release treatment on both the PlayStation 3 and Vita, with costumes and unlocks carrying over from the first game too. You can read our full review of the imported Project Diva F 2nd right here.
Downstairs, NVidia’s own dedicated, walk-through area gave players a chance to test out the company’s new Shield with fan-favourite titles like Half Life 2 and Trine 2. Both of which ran impressively well for tablet games and the optional, wireless controller felt familiar and ergonomic. That said, there were a few latency issues when displaying externally through HDMI, and none of the units were demoing the systems Shadow Play streaming service from NVidia based PCs. The walk-through did have a couple of very impressive rigs set-up though, running through 4K resolution monitors and displaying demo builds of Deck13’s Lords of the Fallen, and Techland’s Dying Light amongst others.
Despite some criticism for being ‘just a Dark Souls clone’, Lords of the Fallen has brought enough of its own ideas to the table to help distinguish itself from the Souls franchise and features some gorgeous visuals with a stunning lighting engine. Fans of the ‘hard as nails fantasy’ genre should look forward to this one releasing in late October.
In a very similar vein (of course) was From Software’s Bloodborne, playable in the PS4 area. Much like the game itself, the demo did seem a little unfair, with attendee’s playtime coming to an end the moment their chosen character died. That said, it did make for an enjoyable meta-game, with players competing against each other to see who could survive the longest. Even the nearby Sony reps conceded that anyone who reached (let alone defeated) the demo’s boss should be happy to have made it so far.
As you might expect, it was Nintendo who showcased the lighter side of the industry with Mario Kart and Smash tournaments running throughout each day, as well as playable demo’s of much-anticipated titles like Hyrule Warriors and Splatoon.
The only ‘adult’ exception to the family-friendly IPs on offer was the Wii U exclusive, Bayonetta 2. Which although has suffered visually as a result of the move to Nintendo’s platform, still boasts the same, over-the-top, Devil May Cry style gameplay as the original. There are also a handful of new Wicked Weave and torture moves, unlockable costumes, and a co-operative online multiplayer. Launch isn’t even that far away, with the game due out on October 24th.
Microsoft’s dedicated section was packed primarily with Halo fans, keen to try out the Master Chief Collection multiplayer, but there was still enough space for some of the console’s smaller releases including: Ori And The Blind Forest, and SWERYs latest Kinect-controlled ‘sleuth ‘em up’, D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die. Both of which were well worth a look, although the on-going Fifa tournament not ten feet away did little to help players immerse themselves in these two, unique experiences.
Despite being out for almost a month already, Destiny looked to be the single most queued for IP of the show. A huge number of fans waited patiently for a turn on Bungie’s FPS/MMO hybrid, where they took control of pre-levelled characters in either Crucible combat or Vanguard story missions. The play-area even featured a replica, life-size speeder that fans could queue to have their picture taken on, as well as prize giveaways and some free merch.
Despite a solid, triple-A presence at the show however, it was the guys over at Sega’s Leftfield collection and the ‘EGX Rezzed’ area that provided the most unique experiences.
Elliot Johnson and Matthew Warshaw’s A Light In Chorus offered a beautifully surreal first person trip through a world made up entirely of coloured light particles. The co-op, Native-Alaskan ‘Never Alone’ also stood out with some gorgeous visuals and cute character design. And DoubleDutch’s SpeedRunners generated a huge buzz with its fast-paced, addictive local multiplayer.
Anyone looking for a brutally hard, old-school side scroller, needed look no further than Wolf Brew Game’s Slain; a truly retro experience with some of the best pixel-art we’ve ever seen. And if a tongue-in cheek, 70’s Cop-themed, Hotline Miami sounds like your thing, then be sure to check out LA Cops from the makers of Typing of the Dead.
In short, this year’s EGX has well and truly cemented itself as the premiere gaming event in the UK. Bigger and better than before its rebranding, there was something for everyone this year, from the biggest current-gen blockbusters to some truly innovative, indie gems. With plenty of content to get hands-on with, developer sessions, merch stalls and more, it was worth the admission price for the atmosphere alone.
The team here at Level-Clear are thoroughly looking forward to coming back next year, and in the meantime, we’ll see you at EGX Rezzed in March.