I’ve had the craziest, maddest and, without a doubt, busiest couple of weeks since I first started regularly churning stuff out about video games. The EB Expo, game launches and exclusive hands-on with top upcoming games are just some of the delights that have been offered to me since moving across the Tasman to this fair city of Sydney.
Moving from sleepy Wellington, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia has dumped me right in the middle of video gaming central. In a few short months I’ve have a hands-on with EA Games’ fantastic Need for Speed: Most Wanted,and sat spellbound by Ubisoft’s glorious Assassin’s Creed III in the presence of the games creators. You can read about how I got on with Assassin’s Creed III at the hands-on hosted by the game’s associate producer, Julien Laferrière, and mission director, Philippe Bergeron on the Games Console pages of techday.com, here and at Shane the Gamer, here.
In the last couple of weeks my feet have barely touched the floor.
From the 5th October to the 7th I was one of the 30,000 folks that visited the EB Expo 2012 at Sydney’s Olympic Showground, officially Australasia’s largest gaming event ever. My press pass enabled me to report back on the goings each day which I posted on this site, as well as daily updates on Shane the Gamer and a summary of the event on techday.com. You can check the State of Play coverage by clicking here for day one, here for day two and here for day three. You can open links to my Shane the Gamer coverage by clicking here for day one, here for day two and here for day three. My techday.com EB Expo coverage can be found here.
The last time I attended anything like the EB Expo was the European Computer Trade Show in the late nineties. Sure I’ve been to a few Armageddons in Auckland, but they were nowhere near as lavish as the show that EB put on. The thing that struck me the most was the vast amount of space. My usual convention experience is that of an oversubscribed nightmare of sweat and stink, with everybody shoulder to shoulder. The EB Expo had just the right balance of exhibition booths to floor space for the amount of people on the show floor. It was credit to the organisers.
The publishers also put on a bloody good show. The major players like EA and Ubisoft had dirty great video screens pumping out awesomeness the whole weekend. Activision, rather disappointingly, chose to show off Call of Duty Black Ops 3 away from the general audience and only to fans that were dedicated enough to queue up for a couple of hours for the privilege.
Yeah, the queues. The absolutely absurd queue length for a 10 minute shot at game that will be available in a few weeks was pretty poor. Some of these kids had obviously been saving up to go to the show, having a ticket for their allotted 4 hours or whatever slot, only to spend half of it queuing up for their favorite franchise. They need to sort this out. And what’s all the secret squirrel stuff, why tuck the games away? Why not let folks stand and take a look without the need to queue up? This was a major fail in my eyes and takes advantage and the piss out of fans who are dedicated enough to waste a couple of hours of their lives to spend a few moments with a game.
Again, the power of the press pass, whilst not the access all area ticket I’d have hoped for, did get me a hands-on with a few very cool games. Even though I believe that Assassin’s Creed III was the star of the show, it was Metal Gear Rising: Revengance that provide me with the biggest surprise. Not being a great fan of the game’s lead character, Raiden (I was disappointed by his appearance in MGS2), I wasn’t convinced about a Raiden-powered Metal Gear action game. In my mind it was like someone took a load of bad ideas and put them in a Metal Gear game. At the EB Expo Mindscape booth, Metal Gear Rising: Revengancelooked a lot better than I imagined it would. Also, the sword-slashing game mechanic was pretty fine as well. By lining up the strike I was chopping up bad guys, melons, and anything I could chop; it was all worryingly satisfying. There was an element of Devil May Cry in there, showing of the game’s Japanese roots, but on the whole I’m really looking forward to playing it.
Another upcoming game which, along with Assassin’s Creed III, I’m really looking forward to (forgive me Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2) is Far Cry 3. I’ve loved all the Far Cry games, especially Crytek’s first game on the PC (I wasn’t so impressed by the Xbox360 Far Cry Instincts Predator), so the return to a lust tropical environment is very welcome. At the EB Expo Ubisoft booth they have a playable demo level showing of Far Cry 3′s sandbox gameplay. I had ten minutes to drive around the island running over, shooting and setting alight various random bad guys. The game looks great and if the live demo shown in the EB Expo main arena is anything to go by, Far Cry 3 has got one hell of a story as well. Roll on the end of November!
Naturally the show had EB Games’ paw prints all over it and because of this lack of independence I fear that it will never be the celebration of video games that it should be. That being said, whilst the expo may only exist in order to keep the EB Games tills rigging, it takes a company like EB, with such a vested interest in the industry and available purse, to pull off a show of this magnitude. I doubt that there would be anyone else with the stones to attempt, and succeed, in holding such a world-class gaming event in this corner of the world; so, despite my misgivings, hats off to EB.
The other week, whilst still recovering from the expo I got a cryptic invite, apparently from the FBI, to a top-secret training session to prepare for an imminent alien attack. Really it was PR speak for an invite to the Sydney XCOM: Enemy Unknown launch party. The memo told me to wait at a Sydney cocktail bar for transport to the secret facility. In my typical manner, having no idea about Sydney travel times, I arrived a bit early, well, really early. Having never set foot in a Cocktail bar in my life, I instead chose to wait, soaking in the Sydney sunshine watching for the first geeky-looking fella to enter the bar, after which I followed.
After a mild bit of alcoholic lubrication, a bus full of fellow game journos, PR guys and local gaming community members were driven to the St. Peter’s area of Sydney where a small bar (with more cocktails), a barbecue and a few Xbox pods with XCOM: Enemy Unknown where ready for us. Being new to a city means that you usually don’t know anyone. Sure I recognised some of the usual faces from other bashes that I’d attended over the last few weeks, but I wasn’t on talking terms with any of them. A free bar serving cocktails was just the catalyst for me to mingle and introduce myself to all and sundry- whether they liked it or not. It was a great night. I got pissed as a fart, spoke to loads of folks and, worryingly, can’t recall how any of the conversations ended. I’ll probably find out next time. Ashamedly, I Never touched XCOMthe whole night but did walk away with a review copy that I’ll talk about another time.
In the run up to the traditional Christmas saturation of game releases, the various PR outfits have been working their fingers to the bone in order to ensure that word gets out on what games to look out for. I’ve already mentioned the Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Assassin’s Creed III hands-on sessions. I missed out on the Medal of Honor Warfighter hands-on due to other commitments, but I was able to take a look at the game at the expo and Medal of Honor Warfighter multiplayer beta is now available to download on Xbox Live ahead of the games release on the 25th November. I’ll probably have more about MoH Warfighter soon.
I’ve a massive pile of games by the TV at the moment. Not that I expect any sympathy, but it is a quite an intimidating collection of new releases that I’ve got to find the time to get into.
From 2K, I’m getting my head around the rules of basketball (been a long time) with NBA 2K13. I first saw this game from a distance at the EB Expo on the 2K booth. I thought it was TV footage. NBA 2K13has some of the most realistic visuals that I’ve ever seen in a sports game. These fantastic graphics coupled with the heartstoppingly mental US-style TV sports presentation puts the game on par with the FIFA games for eye-pooping polish. I’ve set myself the task of reviewing this cool looking sports sim, so look out for that soon.
Tecmo’s Dead or Alive 5 is another game that I can’t resist reviewing. I’m not sure that I should say this but I own every Dead or Alive title to date, including the beach volleyball games. This latest release is sure to have the feminist burning their bras as Techmo’s scientific simulation of the effects of physics, pneumatics and gravity on the female form continues in its puerile, but fun way. Is it bit wrong? Perhaps. But, behind the jiggling boobies, DOA5 is also a very capable beat-em-up. Check back for a review soon.
The word got out that it has been three years since I played a FIFA game and so the folks at EA Australia sent me a copy of FIFA 2013. As I mentioned before I’ve been having a whale of a time playing Konami’s Pro Evo 2013. But as good as PES I’ve never got over the lack of licences for the English Premiership teams. I know it’s bad to say, but FIFA’s slick presentation of really does it for me and makes PES look, well, so tired. It’s a shame, as PES 2013plays so well.
I’m also currently wading through
Bioshock 3 Dishonored (which is difficult for me to spell without that missing “u”). The game does feel like the extension of a well-known franchise that is awaiting its third, steam-punk inspired chapter. The highly anticipated Dishonored shares many features of the Bioshock games, but takes things a whole lot further. The visual style, a unique painterly look, scored huge points from me. Also this is no corridor shooter, unlike the Bioshocks, Dishonored features huge environments that encourage players to try different strategies.
I’ll be back soon to talk about some of these games in a bit more detail.
Last time, I mentioned how Blu-ray gave me an excellent excuse to re-watch a piece of what I consider to be cinema gold. And whilst it may be fashionable to put down Titanic, 3D or otherwise, you can’t fault Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Anyway, last week I picked up a copy of the Complete Indiana Jones on Blu-ray. Yeah, yeah, so Australia got the Complete Indiana Jones Blu-ray set a month ago, well before the rest of the world. But I wanted the deluxe version, the one with the Club Obi-wan matches, the Pankcot Palace menu (anyone for chilled monkey brains) and a load of other junk that I’ll never look at again. To be honest, it wasn’t worth the extra $50; even the included Indy’s journal is a reprint from a book you can pick up from Amazon for a few bucks; but I’m a sucker for this sort of stuff.
As with most re-releases of my favorite movies on Blu-ray, the first thing I do is take a look at the extras. Not only does this release include making of docos for all three movies, it also includes a cool retro 1980s making of Raiders film. Of all the movies, I’ve only watched Raiders of the Lost Ark so far, my favorite film of the series. Whilst the film is, for the most part, very crisp in HD there are a few blurry bits. I’ve since found out that these were present on the original film and on the previous DVD release; something that I’ll check at a later date.
That’ll do for now. I’ll try to get back soon with some more details on the games that I’m currently thumbing my way through.