Have you ever wanted to be a video game hipster and tell all your friends you played Call of Duty: Black Ops II before anyone else? Yeah, me too - EB Games Expo 2012 was your chance.
Australian gamers rarely get a chance to come together on a large-scale and celebrate their love for the interactive arts, sure we have the rare expo here and there, such as Supanova, but nothing as large as this year’s EB Games Expo has been exclusively dedicated to video games.
As a special 3-day treat, a section of Sydney Olympic Park was filled with: exciting game trailers on giant screens; cosplay shows; presentations from world-class video game developers; showcases from local developers; and most of all, playable demos of the latest upcoming video games, from Halo 4 to various launch titles for the imminent Wii U.
On entry to the massive gaming arena, I could have easily ran around screaming at the top of my lungs in excitement, and if I was 15 I probably would have. The huge set ups were awe-inspiring: you had the Call of Duty stall, massive and bragging one of the biggest queues of the day; the playful Nintendo area; the multi-coloured Just Dance 4 dancefloor; and one of the most popular, a red double-decker bus which housed playable versions of Wii U’s most exciting title, ZombieU. These were only some of the many, many games on display. I’ll tell you a bit about some of the titles I got my hands on.
Nintendoland (Wii U/)
The more expensive Wii U bundle will come with this exciting little game which consists of 12 mini-games based on various Nintendo characters (you can purchase the game itself seperately as well). For example, you have a Donkey Kong rollercoaster-esque romp, and a ghostly mini-game based on the popular Luigi’s Mansion franchise. Available to play was the Donkey Kong game, and an awesome, highly-interactive Ninja game titled Takamura’s Ninja Castle. The latter has you using the ipad-like Wii U controller and the flick of your wrist to ‘fling’ ninja stars at various enemies, the five minutes that I played were addictive enough, I cannot wait to get my hands on an actual copy. I think Nintendo have a winner with this.
New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U/Nintendo)
Much like it’s wii predecessor, the new Mario title will recreate the hours of fun had navigating our plump little friend through some gorgeous level designs. More exciting news is that Yoshi and friends are a big part of this game, and make for a new balloon-type power-up which you have to shake the controller to activate, though I’m sure this isn’t the only role Yoshi will play.
ZombieU (Wii U/Ubisoft)
15 year olds were stopped at the gates for this one, those that didn’t want to queue up for the popular bus in the centre of the arena - which hosted most of the ZombieU demo’s - were allowed to have their go at Wii U’s horror-survival launch title in the Nintendo area. I enjoyed every second of this creepy demo, where I roamed around with a baseball bat and unsucessfully fended off a dozen zombies.
I was bitten and infected, but the surprise was that my ill-fated avatar was now permanently (un)dead. I now controlled a new survivor and my previous character was doomed to roam around the game as a zombified reminder of my n00b status – I did track him down, kill him, and then loot his corpse to get my items back though! A very creative and realistic idea indeed.
Assassins Creed III (Wii U/Ubisoft)
I played the Wii U version of this much-anticipated installment of the popular Assassins Creed franchise, and the controls came with an annoying learning curve. I was given little time to orient myself through steering a ship in a brilliantly layed out scene with gorgeous water effects and enemy ships all around.
Shooting and steering would take a lot longer with the control than I was given but once I happened to get past that bit the combat mechanics came into play and left me in awe. With only one dud in the franchise, the developers now know what they are doing, and it feels so much different then the others. I’m betting this will be the best Assassins Creed so far.
NBA 2k (PS3/2K Sports)
This looks like the most realistic baller game yet, and the soundtrack is awesome – admittedly, the huge sign advertising Jay-Z as the producer drew me in. I’m not usually one for sports games but the five minutes I had this in my hands was addictive enough to win me over.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (PC/Activision, Square Enix)
Without a doubt the most popular game at the show, the line was insane. I had to kiss my media pass for being the only reason I beat the rush and managed to pass into the impressive set up with rows of state of the art PC’s and headsets ready for a good ol’ fashioned LAN party.
I got pwned pretty much the entire time because I’m a total n00b but the capture-and-defend style of the multiplayer game was fun – fun only when I didn’t die every second though. Although the multiplayer was just the standard FPS online play we have all come to expect, the game, unsurprisingly, looks very polished and I cannot wait to get my hands on the solo campaign.
Hitman: Absolution (PS3/Square Enix)
This looks amazing! The latest hitman also looks extremely difficult and frustrating, the stealth game will require you to be pretty damn clever. I had to slowly make my way through a crowded marketplace and use a detection mode to suss out my target. I then had to inspect the area for places I could make the kill and wait for my target to walk around to a dark area – I failed, twice.
God of War: Ascension (PS3/Sony)
One of the most enjoyable and exciting games in the entire expo and my personal pick for stand-out game was definently the latest installment in Kratos’ bloody story. It had everything you love about the series, and then some. I first had to battle a bunch of small goat-like creatures, followed by a huge mini-boss and then had the curious task of repairing a structure in slow-motion. I was allowed to stop this construction whenever I wanted to create new platforms to climb up to the next level – a very creative addition to the game, and something which looks amazing.
My only disappointment was with the demo is that it was a little too easy, of course Kratos is going to be uber powerful, but I don’t want to charge through the level button-mashing and occassionally laughing at the ridiculous amounts of gore, I want a challenge. Hopefully, the full game provides a challenge and isn’t short, because this looks like something you would want to play pretty much forever.
South Park: Stick of Truth (THQ)
Unfortunately, this game wasn’t playable but an awesome gameplay demo on a large screen was entertaining enough to win me over. I haven’t had much faith in past South Park games (remember that terrible FPS on N64?) but this seems like the exception rather than the rule. It is pretty much a very interactive episode of South Park, and although the humour I heard was pretty tame and unfunny (calling someone a douchebag is just not that funny) the gameplay was like a great RPG – really complex and fun. The best bit was a battle with the teenage vampire kids, where Cartman summoned Mr Slave to come and jump on one of the enemies. The enemy, of course, disappeared into a deep, dark hole.
Injustice: Gods Among Us (PS3/WB Games)
Addmittedly, the fact that it is from the same creators responsible for one of the best Mortal Kombat games of the controversial series, won me over. Unfortunately, the game was basically just Mortal Kombat with just DC characters, and we’ve seen that before.
Some of the moves were awesome, like Batman unleashing a punishing combo where he shocks his opponent and lets the batmobile do a number on his foe, but it was just all very boring. I played the 2 player versus mode though, perhaps the story mode will be better – I can imagine them doing wonderful things with the characters established story arcs.
These were just some of the games which stood out at the Expo. Without going on and on about all of them: there was Halo 4, which rivalled Black Ops in popularity and had monster queues all day; Farcry 3, which looked fantastic as expected; Splinter Cell Blacklist, which looked like one of the most amazing action games I have seen; Just Dance 4, which drew attention from most of the 13-17 year old males in attendance (most female staff members had their turns at dancing); and Playstation All Stars Battle Royale, which was basically just a playstation version of Super Smash Bros – but it did seem very, very fun.
Another great area of the expo was dedicated to local developers, who eagerly showcased their games to a respectable chunk of the punters. One game that really stood out to me were Grapple Knight by Red Knight Games, which is a fun little platformer with promises of upgradable grappling abilities and what not, It was pretty fun using my grappling hook to pull myself towards a giant bird and slashing away at it.
Another interesting PC game was by Brennan Hatton and a game called Growth where you controlled various environmental aspects like wind speeds, the intensity of the sun, and the rain. You had to get each of these variables right and then click ‘grow’ to see how well your plant does in your controlled conditions. It sounds a bit tedious, but it was really very fun and pretty addictive.
EB Expo wasn’t all about the games though, there was loads of education available for anyone looking to get into the gaming industry and the best way to learn came with several presentations throughout the day given by industry leaders in the EB arena. These presentations were always accompanied by impressive visuals, fireworks, and for the very opening show, a dirt bike show.
With rumours of next year’s expo being even bigger, you can be sure that EB Games Expo is a very, very welcome addition to Sydney’s long list of entertainment events.