Eurogamer Expo 2011: Thursday, Sept. 22nd

Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Dance Central 2, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Mario Kart 7, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Burnout: Crash, The Gunstringer.

The EuroGamer Expo 2011 is my first gaming expo I’ve ever been to.  I had already bought a ticket so I decided to go despite not feeling close to half-health or fitness.

Modern Warfare 3

The place was only sparsely populated in the morning, so I made a beeline for whatever would likely be heavily queued up later in the day. This seemed like the logical place to start.  At first glance it looks like Modern Warfare 2 and it feels almost the same. If it weren’t for an entirely new map layout and a big MW3 logo on the start screen I’d have probably mistaken it to be DLC. It’s a shame they decided not to include Multiplayer, seeing as the Call of Duty XP event in California showed that it was possible.  Maybe they just didn’t want to fight with Battlefield 3 which was just around the corner.

The demo that’s playable on the show floor contains only two levels of survival, which seems like a cross between Spec-Ops and Zombies. You are plonked in the middle of a map and have to fight wave after wave of enemies. Unlike the previous two modes you start off with a bit of armor which slowly diminishes as you take damage. Once it’s depleted you’ll be back to the standard health and regeneration system. The enemies aren’t zombies, but rather wield a weapon and run around actively searching for you. You are armed with nothing but a pistol at the start but this doesn’t seem like much of a challenge as you can kill an enemy, steal their weapon and then run around like a prat and keep getting more.

Each kill rewards you with money and if you accomplish challenges such as getting a certain amount of headshots or a chain of kills you can get bonuses. You also get bonuses at the end of each wave depending on accuracy, kills and speed. The money can be spent at any time at select drop boxes: a weapons box, an equipment box, and a perk box. These aren’t readily available and have to be unlocked one by one as you play through the waves; which I though was a dumb design idea. Between each wave you have 20 seconds to reload, rebuy, reset and recuperate before the next one comes your way, or you can press “jump” to immediately bring them on. Why that button? Because Activision never expect you to jump to climb up or through anything!

While the perk system and unlocks were quite fun to acquire, I couldn’t help wonder if only putting this for show was anti-climatic. It wasn’t the most challenging thing on the floor and doesn’t seem like something that’s completely new, original or game-changing. They might as well make a DLC add-on for Modern Warfare 2.

Battlefield 3

Oddly, an EA game is hotly tipped to finally beat out Call of Duty. Throughout the day Battlefield 3 had queues that took forty-five minutes to play a fifteen minute trial, whereas Modern Warfare 3 had barely a five-minute queue.

It’s quite hard to see why, other than an aggressive advertising strategy, it has become so popular. The demo showed us a standard “Rush” game mode – the attackers must destroy two objectives to continue on, and they lose if they exhaust all their reinforcements. Battlefield 3 was a full 24-player game that showcased multiplayer on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

Throughout the fifteen minutes of play and quite easy winning, I couldn’t spot a difference between this and Bad Company 2. Four classes, similar weapons, similar ranking, similar scoring, similar HUD, same game mode. I didn’t bother with Bad Company 2 except for the demo, but I couldn’t find much any part of this game that was an improvement from the last. And it wasn’t without its weird bugs which made the game unplayable at times. Nevertheless it was fun, although I’ll have to attribute that more to me doing well and our team winning than the game itself.

Dance Central 2

Sadly, there was only one outlet for Dance Central 2. Maybe Microsoft know it wouldn’t be as popular here as it was at E3. Nevertheless, not caring that people were watching I had a go.

The story tends to be the same with the second in a series of Harmonix games, such as Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero II. The second has more modes, is more accessible and a little more challenging. It seems that the calculation for how well you do a move is a little stricter, or maybe it had to do with the fact that I was dancing alone with thirty people watching me.

The training mode, aptly named Break-It-Down, is a lot more manageable than it was before.  It allows you to select moves you want to practice rather than having to go through the whole song, and unlike the previous iterati0n you can learn all the moves at your own pace rather than it forcing it to move on.  The pair mode works perfectly as long as you have enough space to avoid smacking each other. The freestyle section has also had an overhaul.  If you do a move highlighted in a freestyle section you score bonus points!

Dance Central 2 was one of the very few games I looked forward to and actually enjoyed, that is before my self-consciousness got the better of me.

Final Fantasy XIII-2

Due to the news that the main composer and producers from the FFXIII left, I didn’t have high hopes for FFXIII-2.

The biggest complaint about the first game was that it was too linear.  I didn’t mind, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t have its flaws in other places, too.  Instead of fixing what didn’t seem to work  in the last game, (such as the ridiculous amount of training you had to do, or the fact that it was tactically advantageous to Game Over so you can reset your paradigms) Square Enix added in a whole mess of crap which they thought was “cool”. Cinematic action sequences (which are really Quick Time Events) rarely ever work. From my own memory the only game that made QTEs work was Paper Mario. Actually the Mog Clock, is another interpretation of a Paper Mario mechanic; rather than being wild in the field enemies pop up with a clock. If you attack them with your sword in the field while the timer is in the green zone, then you start with a Preemptive Strike which grants you bonuses (although not exactly the same bonuses) at the start of battle. If the timer runs out, the enemy starts with bonuses.  If you just make contact with the enemy or hit them in the yellow zone then battle will take place on even ground. You can also run away if enemies pop up.

If you defeat a new creature with a high enough rating you capture the creature for future use in battle. You can have up to three at a time and each one has their own role so they essentially function as a new character. While they all share a HP gauge,  they each have a special bar that can be used to trigger an underwhelming special attack when filled.

The core gameplay hasn’t changed.  This is another one of those “look what we can do, look what you can do” over-the-top type games. I don’t doubt that people will be attracted to it.  I just find it hard to enjoy when I know it’s free roaming and has alternate endings, which should never work in a story-driven game.

Mario Kart 7

I’m not a big fan of the 3DS. While the changes are more substantial than previous versions of the DS, 3D is only useful for making your eyes sore and making sure the battery runs out faster.  I do like the Mario Kart series, however.  They are so simple and addictive, yet it still manage to add enough chaos to make any player go through a full range of emotions. I’m glad to say that MK7 is no different.

MK7 is a 3DS exclusive, but the 3D is still not necessary so it might as well be a DS game. In fact it’s still essentially Mario Kart DS, but now they have paragliding! I can spot a gimmick from a mile away, but much to my surprise paragliding is fun and challenging.  More importantly, it works! You glide automatically when you are airborne and can still control your car. Glide well and you can gain a hefty advantage, glide poorly and it would have been better if you had just made a landing. Whilst in the air you cannot pick up or use items, although you can still get hit by flying blue shells.

There are now also fully underwater levels, but in other levels you can somehow still drown.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

This is one of the games I wasn’t planning on seeing, but it perked my curiosity and I had a go at it.

Uprising is barely like the original Kid Icarus. You control Pit in three different stages, the first of which is a flying stage. While pit flies forward you can control him over two planes using the circular pad.  Shooting is done using the touch screen and the trigger, much like Metroid Prime: Echoes. It is an arcade style shooter and simple enough to get to grips with easily. The second stage has him running on the ground level and the final stage is a boss fight.

What annoys me about this game is that while all attention is paid to the top screen (again in 3D) there is stuff going on the bottom screen! It is mostly dialogue, but some of it is useful. How the heck am I supposed to pay attention to that while playing?!

Not much more needs to be said. The 3D is annoying but utilised well so I could see how far away enemies are when I’m shooting. I have high hopes for something I never expected to be enjoyable.

Burnout: Crash!

If you compared today’s Burnout with the original game you would think that they were two completely unrelated. Burnout Crash takes a mechanic of Burnout: Takedown and gives it its own game. The idea is to drive a car into an intersection, blow it up repeatedly and cause as much damage as possible. Scored are determined by the dollar value of destroyed objects.

That’s it. Not a particularly enticing description, but it was enjoyable and challenging enough to warrant more attention. It uses Kinect, but I found that to be pointless and just went ahead and used the controller.

The Gunstringer

A Kinect shooter that doesn’t use some gun peripheral?! The Gunstringer has already been released, but that didn’t stop me from trying it here. You control The Gunstringer, a puppet in a rogue theater wild west situation. I couldn’t quite make out what it was but that wasn’t the point.

Your left hand controls him like a string puppet. Swing it left or right to move him left of right and pull up to jump. Your right hand controls his shooting hand. How do you shoot without a trigger? You hover the aiming cursor over targets, then make a bicep curl to fire at the targets, all the while moving the Gunstringer out of the way of incoming bullets.

Most of the time he is running forward, but there are some stand-off situations where he has to shoot enemies from behind a barrel that you peek out to shoot or get shot. There are also little bonus mini games where you can fire two guns at once at pigeons, and all these transition beautifully into each other. This is one of the most ingenious uses for Kinect I have seen, and the on-rails move and shoot works a lot better for this game than it has for others in the past. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a bit weird to get used to.

“Really?  Brand new, brown military shooters are lacking in innovation? I would have never guessed!” – SebastianSB


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