As with last year, Eurogamer 2014 was a huge event. Earls Court was absolutely packed, queues for certain games up to 5 hours long. Unsurprisingly and with the number of games on show, there’s always some that are awesome and some that are trash. Having had the opportunity to play almost every game on the show floor (with a few exceptions) here’s my roundup of what was hot and what was definitely not, this year.
Best of Show
This was a difficult decision because both games that were in contention for the award I absolutely loved for very different reasons. The first is a product that’s deep into development - almost at the point of launching - while the second is in its infancy. Despite this, I had to go with my gut here and because of that, Elite: Dangerous pipped Evolve at the post. The reason why I loved Elite: Dangerous so much wasn’t simply because it looks beautiful (you really have to see it on a 4K monitor) but because it has so much potential and what they were demonstrated shows they know how to get it right. Ships feel weighty, fast and weapons are punchy. The hands-on demo might have been limited to a couple of areas of space and a few dog fights, but that didn’t matter. The thrill of zipping through space, dog fighting enemy spaceships is mesmerizing. Sci-fi settings have seen a resurgence of late with Eve: Valkyrie and Star Citizen also flying the flag for space adventures and yet Elite, unlike the others, feels very real (as opposed to a tech demo or financial black hole). For that very reason and the fact it was the only game at Eurogamer I kept thinking about long after playing it, it’s well worthy of this award.
Worst of Show
There were a few contenders for this category but the award, sadly, has to go to Gauntlet. Firstly, the game looks solid and I’ve no doubt have spoken to some friends who’ve picked it up already that it’s good arcade fun. My issue however is the fact that the game was only available on four units, had no multiplayer (despite being a co-op action game), no sound on two of the units and worst of all, was running a pre-alpha version in Windowed mode despite the game having launched on Steam. To add insult to injury, when I asked the staff member manning it as to why the booth was in such a sorry state he shrugged and said he didn’t care. Admittedly he might not have worked for Arrowhead Games but if they or their publisher can’t be arsed to advertise their product to the best of their ability, it isn’t worth playing or worth the attention of the paying public. It’s a real shame as I’m a huge fan of the original Gauntlet but they well and truly squandered the opportunity of Eurogamer.
Without a doubt, Evolve was a triumph. Not only is it visually stunning, but the game is bloody good fun. Queues were enormous and every single person who left the booth was excited to play it again. From the creators of Left 4 Dead, it feels familiar yet takes many of the best components from its predecessor and improves upon them massively. The four available classes (Assault, Medic, Support and Trapper) feel refined and you immediately realise that you’ll have to work together if you’re to defeat the opposing Monster. Controlled by a 5th player, the Monster is forced to quickly evolve by eating wildlife and as it does so, it’ll become stronger and larger. It's the sort of teambased shooter the industry has been crying out for since Left 4 Dead 2. I can’t wait for February 2015 to come around so I can play it again.
Most Impressive Queue
Dragon Age Inquisition wins this category hands down and to provide some perspective on how l lengthy the queue was, from the moment the Expo opened at 10am there was already a 3 hour queue as people sprinted for the booth. Frustratingly, that queue time was only an estimate and as it transpired, was way out. A young girl that was queuing at 10am was still in the queue at 3:30pm as I walked past and was still ten people back from the front. I can appreciate that the booth wasn’t massive (8 screens) but the demo time was too long and the staff interaction with players too intimate. I fully appreciate that the team behind Dragon Age Inquisition want players to have the best first impressions but the hand-holding and multiplayer walkthrough, for every match, was just unnecessary. If they were concerned about the games complexity they should have provided reading material and a video tutorial beforehand. Better yet, more booths to allow people to get their hands on it without wasting an entire day in a queue.
Most Wanted T-Shirt
When it comes to swag, games conventions attract all sorts of loot whores. This years Eurogamer was no exception and sure enough, the crowds were baying for T-Shirts. There were lots being given away but the Destiny crowd were like a pack of hyenas. Hundreds of fans were squashed into the center of the Destiny booth (arguably the biggest in the entire Expo) desperately clawing for seemingly one of only a handful of T-Shirts that were thrown out. My thought process during the time: who cares, it’s just a T-Shirt.
There’s two ‘winners’ in this category because both games left me absolutely bored out of my brain. The first, Battlefield Hardline, is quite possibly one of the worst brand-cashin’s I’ve ever played. Revolving around a game of cops and robbers (a fine premise), it’s just soulless. No effort has been made to add a unique sense of styling or fun and it could have, quite easily, just been a gameplay mode in any of the other forgettable Battlefield titles that have spewed forth in recent years. It’s a real shame that the company which made Dead Space has fallen so low.
The second offender in this category has to be Far Cry 4. The demo was a ridiculous scenario of the player assaulting a fortress either with stealth or firepower. The firepower option involved you jumping the wall or riding an elephant through the barred gate. Honestly, the whole thing was just ridiculous. Annoyingly, its field of view was tiny so it felt like I could barely see anything, it didn’t look particularly great and the AI was woeful. If that’s the best Farcry 4 has to offer to the waiting public, I’ll look forward to seeing it fail.
Best of the Leftfield Collection
I had real difficulty deciding this award because the Leftfield Collection trumped anything the Rezzed area had to offer. The two main contenders for me were A Light in Chorus and Rok. The former is, without question, one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen. In a darkened environment the visuals take your breath away. Beneath the initial beauty and awe, there’s also a solid exploration game that allows you to pull objects from the world to bring life and light to another area. It’s quirky and despite me finding progress difficult (I wasn’t sure how to overcome certain puzzle areas) it left me not only wanting to play more but to go back and simply admire the creativity in its visual design. Take a look at the video if you don't believe me.
The second game to have caught my attention was Rok and despite it being on iOS game (what about us Android users?) I really loved it. You play an ancient prisoner escaping his fortified cell with the help of a mysterious woman and a handful of telekinetic powers. What impressed me so much about Rok wasn’t just its artstyle but the fact it was so enticing. It had a vibe reminiscent of Another World or Ico where there’s a real curiosity about the world you inhabit and what you’re actually doing there. Having completed the available portion of the game, I really want to play more, I just hope Stitch Games bring it to Android and that they ramp up the puzzle difficulty to really challenge the player.
Best Multiplayer Experience
One of the biggest surprises for me was Nosgoth. I have some friends who play it, but I’d honestly never read a thing about it. The game is a weird guilty pleasure for me because although it's a little rough around the edges, I think it's something just that little bit different to snag itself a very healthy playerbase. Its premise isn’t original (two teams of four fight against each other in an arena) but what makes it interesting is the limited action set and the fact that it’s set in the Legacy of Kain universe of Humans versus Vampires. The Humans feels incredibly strong as a pack if you stay close to one another but they’re very vulnerable when alone. In contrast, the Vampires rely heavily on scatter tactics to separate Humans out, to then pick them off. There are some great skills to play around with and the classes have great synergy: there's also a clear underlying need for communication for teams to really come alive and coordinate effectively. At the moment, it’s in closed Beta and there’s a very active if not small community supporting it - I just hope that Psyonix continue the good work and refine what they already have.
There were so many poor games at this years Eurogamer I could happily throw up a list of twenty here but if one has to be picked, it would have to be Destiny’s multiplayer. Firstly, I’m a huge Halo fan but I haven’t owned a console in years (PC master race reporting in!) so I was really looking forward to getting my hands on Destiny's deathmatch modes. As mentioned previously, the Destiny booth was enormous and covered a huge area of the Expo. Unsurprisingly, it was absolutely jam-packed with people waiting to play the game. When I managed to jump on, the game mode was Point Capture and I was a Warlock. Several things sprung to mind: it’s beautiful but it’s so safe and dull. As a Warlock I was expecting some form of magic but all I was capable of wielding were sexed up grenades (with enormous cooldowns) and an arcane melee blast. For the most part, I was then stuck with firing a generic assault rifle that’s bullet based. How did a company that invented the Neelder, Carbine or Bruteshot manage to make so many yawn inducing weapons? I’m not suggesting they aren’t punchy or don’t look the part, but there’s absolutely nothing exciting here. Even the point capture mechanic is so tried and tested I was bored within minutes, especially when I’ve played Evolve and Dirty Bomb. I can see the appeal of Destiny’s multiplayer because it plays exactly like Halo and it appeals to a very specific market of adult that is still entertained by that sort of gameplay. For me though, it really isn’t enough and I think is a missed opportunity to progress the genre.
Although I'll be leading with an impressions piece on Alien: Isolation, I just wanted to give a shout out to the team behind it. It's not perfect and there's some niggles I have with the concept, but if a game can scare the pants off me in broad daylight inside a packed Expo, it's doing something seriously right. Stay tuned for my thoughts on it.