We were lucky enough to make it to this year’s EGX where we got to try a variety of games coming your way in the near future. Here’s what we thought about them all.
Bloodborne - February 2015
Arguably our most-wanted game at the moment, we got a chance to try out From Software’s latest epic, the current-generation, spiritual-successor to their magnificent Dark Souls. We were not disappointed. It feels very much like a Souls game - your character stands up onscreen in front of you and you travel through the city of Yharnam fighting off the bad things. What’s striking though is the technical excellence on display here which is something we’re unaccustomed to from this group of developers. It’s great to see they’ve upped their technical abilities, no doubt with some coaching from Sony’s Japan Studio. The world is beautiful, detailed, vibrant and atmospheric. Your character moves smoothly and the frame-rate in this demo never veers far from the suspected thirty frames per second. Certainly there are no Blighttown missteps to see here.
The world is different to that of either Lordran or Drangleic and it gives off a Eastern European vibe with a lot of gothic architecture reminding us of Jack the Ripper’s London, for example. That’s not the only difference, either. You have no shield. You do have a wonderful cleaver of some kind which can be extended, or an axe which can become a spear. Maybe you take a great big hammer with you, or just the sword. In addition you always have a blunderbuss or pistol. It forces you to attack more and plunge yourself into horrific battles you lose control of. Try and fight one enemy and others rush you. Whilst the AI doesn’t turn things into horde mode, it allows much less of the one by one strategy of picking folk off. The gun should be used as a shield if needed but in reactionary terms - not in a turtling kind of way. Parrying will become ever-more important. Also we have the regain mechanic - if you lose health but strike back quickly you can regain some. Again it pushes you forwards but the game is as challenging as ever and attack often ends in death.
We enjoyed our brief time in Yharnam, reminding us of what we loved about the Souls’ series in the first place - the challenge, the winding geographies, the mystery which you get to uncover or pass beyond as much or as little as you choose. We got hints of what’s new too, and it all seems rather wonderful - if a little terrifying to go with it. February can’t really come soon enough given this is what’s waiting. Potential to be the PS4’s system seller, even when Drake turns up.
Project Cars - 21st November 2014
We were able to play this on the PS4 as well as see it running on PC at a 4K resolution. It’s clear a lot of time and effort has gone into this game and the car models look brilliant, with the handling feeling weighty and realistic on the settings we were playing on (you can control the car setup in any number of ways). Racing felt like a Gran Turismo which bodes well. What was slightly disappointing was the lack of vibrancy in the tracks we played. It was a grey track which you race around. This is not surprising given the horsepower being focussed on the cars, but still a negative in what was otherwise a positive trial.
Volume - 2015
Mike Bithell’s follow-up to his massively popular Thomas Was Alone is a top-down stealth ‘em-up inspired by his love of Metal Gear Solid. Its design is futuristic with a stiff-upper lip Britishness. The game itself works very well. Each room is a puzzle really on how to get from A to B without being discovered. You can move, duck, fire arrows and more, all avoiding the lights, the guards and activating switches here and there. In the levels available to play the challenge ramped-up pretty quickly and the full release is going to be a brainteaser more than a feat of agility if this was anything to go by. It’s clearly on-track to be what Bithell wants it to be and is one to watch if you’re a fan of the Indie scene or otherwise.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity - 13th November 2015
We didn’t get to play this but we still left very impressed. We’re fans of everything Assassin’s Creed here but watching a chap play a level and be talked through what he’s doing versus what you can do was magnificent. What we have here - according to the little we saw and what we were told - is everything we’ve asked for. A re-focus back onto assassinations, no eavesdropping missions (bet they still exist!), multiple solutions to a mission and a new parkour model which is hopefully more free-running than previous. There are still leaps of faith too, the best bit about any Creed game. This has the potential to be special.
Until Dawn - 2015
Sony’s Teen slasher meets Heavy Rain. We had been excited to play this since the revision was announced earlier in the year and we got the chance to play one particular level part way through the game. Playing as one female character alongside a male NPC we got to do some skulking around a haunted-type house, investigating what was going on and how we could find our friends, whilst avoiding the maniac believed to be in the house. We learnt bits about the back story which seemed to take elements of Carrie, The Evil Dead and I Know What You Did Last Summer and all with a certain atmosphere leading to multiple jumps driven by the surprise, as opposed to the pure horror that something like P.T. brought. That didn’t lessen the impact however. Towards the end we got to make a choice that clearly has significant impact on the progression of the story. We chose the evil solution. It felt good, for a fleeting minute then the sheer horror of our choice made us feel a little bit bad and an awful lot longing for more of this interactive horror movie. It won’t be to everyone’s taste but it’s looking very promising.
Lords of the Fallen - 31st October 2014
This has been marketed as Dark Souls, but easier. It definitely has the immediate look and feel of such a thing, if more colourful. We chose a tank class starting character and were dropped into a game someway through. Lock-on was awkward and unwieldy but this may have been due to the cramped interior we were in and the camera responsiveness, also. Fighting felt weighty enough with a great big sword and powerful with our magical attacks. The enemies were a challenge but mainly due to their numbers and strength, rather than attack patterns in this instance. There was scope to trick the enemies and have them fall into blackness, for example. The game was easier than From’s titles because if you just hang around for a while you regain any lost experience, so not dying again enables you to progress as quickly as if you hadn’t dies previously. It remains to be seen whether the levelling, lore and overall game are anywhere near as good as those games which this imitates, but it’s definitely not broken and for sure has set itself up to succeed with this showing.
The Evil Within - 14th October 2014
Shinji Mikami made Resident Evil 4. He made Vanquish. Naturally we couldn’t wait to check out The Evil Within which we hoped would do for survival horror today what Leon and company did for it ten years ago. The reality presented by the demo we got to play was vastly different. Slow, lumbering movement and directionality. Awkward puzzling, lack of focus on objectives. So-so graphics and an atmosphere from the past matching up to the overall feel of the game - one that is repeating Resident Evil 4’s tricks from years ago rather than reinventing for the here and now. Given experience we cannot believe this is representative of the whole game. We have faith that this demonstration was just an awful choice to show off the game and picked for other reasons. All we can offer in counsel is wait for our review. We still believe, but the data are suggesting otherwise to date…
Mortal Kombat X - 14th April 2015
The current generation’s first classical fighter. It looked utterly magnificent, revelling in it’s role of gore galore, with fatalities and special moves breaking bones - with the X-ray vision presentation - and other things, before cutting folk in half, ripping their nutsacks out or something else equally satisfying. It played fantastically well, already technically proficient despite release being April 2015. We found it fun, playing against a total stranger and with the way it presents itself, clearly this would be a superb party game. In terms of single-player we didn’t get to see anything, nor have we been exposed to the full roster of playable characters. We have no concerns about this game being anything less than excellent - but it will pivot on if you’re used to the Mortal Kombat move inputs which are typically learnt directional inputs and button presses (like Tekken) rather than quarter circles or half circles like the other fighting franchise, Street Fighter.