EGX 2015: What We Played — Part 2

If you’re here without reading part one, then you might want to go read that.

Let’s dive right in. EGX 2015 was huge, and the games were bigger. We managed to tick off every major title we wanted to get our paws on while also having a quick nosy at a few indie gems too. In part two, we mostly waiting in impossibly long lines to play the big guns, but we’ve got a VR indie beauty in here too, just for variety. Have a look.

Need For Speed

PS4/Xbox One (November 3rd); Windows (Q1/Q2 2016)

Need For Speed games are a dime a dozen, and there’s a good chance you didn’t even notice that the franchise took it’s first break in a long time last year to do whatever it is racing games do on their days off. Probably polish their cars to impossible perfection before taking them into the streets and driving into oncoming traffic.

Need for Speed isn’t quite a reboot but it kind of is, too. In our hands on demo we played a multiplayer Rep Attack battle, an 8 person bout where it’s as much about driving cool and dangerously to grind ‘rep’ (which is something like Project Gotham Racing‘s Kudos system) as it is to come in first place. Once the challenge was over, we were free to roam around a slice of the city and do our best to get more rep, with the top contender winning a t-shirt. Since none of you were there, let’s pretend that we won that lame t-shirt.

The game was gorgeous, slick, and speedy, with a fantastic sound track. The online free roam mode included the other seven players whirring around the city with police and oncoming traffic thrown into the mix too, which led to time trial challenges being hilariously interrupted by a head on collision with a player completing in a different challenge. It was great that these races could be picked up at will without having to head into a menu, and it was also excellent that they weren’t instanced. Time will tell whether this messy city playground will be fun but ultimately hamper the ability to play competitive and chase high scores — but at the moment, Need For Speed is good, fast fun with lashings of car porn and an insane level of customization. Isn’t that all you really want from it?

Crystal Rift

Steam/Oculus/Vive (Out Now on Early Access)

A grid based first person dungeon crawler with a difference. We checked this out on the HTC Vive, which was our first time getting hands on with it. It takes the tech of the Oculus to the next level, for a level of immersion that we’ve never experienced in a video game before.  For fans of the Wizardry and Legend of Grimrock series’, there’s not a lot new here, and the innovation is really within the tech.

Without the VR it’d be a solid crawler with some neat jump scares, but the inclusion of the Vive is what really makes it special. If you’re not planning on getting your paws on the VR tech when it’s publicly available, then we can still give this two solid thumbs up for fans of the genre.

Homefront: The Revolution

PS4/Xbox One/PC/OS X/Linux (Q1/Q2 2016)

The average Homefront’s follow-up has had something of a checkered journey to our games consoles, and it’s still a while away yet. It had a bigger showing at EGX than we expected, and the queue was enough of a public gathering to surely alert the North Korean secret police. The screens in the line showed a demo by the game’s lead developer, taking us through all the fun things we could do in the relatively open sandbox of the city. It looked like a dystopian Far Cry, with a focus on Guerrilla warfare and hit and run tactics over the typical bombastic, one man army approach of Ubisoft’s monster franchise. It seemed like the city was a character itself, with a range of damaged buildings to flee into and clamber across.

It’s just a shame the demo we actually played was something of a muddled mess. With no launch date for the game outside of 2016, perhaps it’s excusable, but everything was off here. The shooting didn’t feel satisfying or on target, and it was impossible to land a headshot on an enemy that stood perfectly still. We killed a sniper guarding a building by emptying an entire clip, one bullet at a time at their head, until one connected. When we went inside the building, and then left again, they’d magically re-appeared. The sprinting is an average FPS’ walking speed, and enemies and friendlies don’t seem to move in squads of any sort – rather, they just amble around the low resolution, greyer than grey world of this city.

Everything that looked promising in the demo video didn’t look anything like it in what we played. We went from not caring about this game, to being incredibly interested, only to be beaten back down to apathy by the truncheon of one of its faceless oppressors. There’s a long time until release to polish it up, but being shown an experience entirely different from what we played left something of a bitter taste that it’ll be tough to over come.

Just Cause 3

PC/PS4/Xbox One (December 1, 2015)

Rico Rodriguez’s return to video gaming is refreshing in that it makes no attempt to be anything other than the stupid, explosion filled, physics defying thrill ride that it’s always been. There’s no plot here, besides another despot dictator deserving a dethrone by way of grappling hooks and driving cars into gas stations. This time, things are a little Mediterranean themed and for some reason Rodriguez now looks like Gerard Butler rather than anyone who’s ever been anywhere near a country where they might actually call someone Rico.

It’s also refreshing to see that Just Cause 3 continues the franchise’s penchant for dumb exploding fun in a beautiful setting. The island of Medici is huge and beautifully realized, with terracotta tiles, white plaster buildings, and cobblestone streets. It actually looks like each town or city has a character of its own, which will only make them all the more fun to annihilate.

The game adds the ability to grapple up to 4 objects together, and the introduction of a wing suit. Both change things up immensely. Being able to make a soap-on-a-rope out of expensive cars is great fun, and it’s also amazing to cause a statue to face palm itself into oblivion by attaching a grapple to the arm and then one to the head and holding RT to pull them together. The wingsuit can be used to launch off a grapple, a-la the Arkham series of games, and it makes traversing the huge world an absolute joy. It also results in some hilarious instances of slamming poor Rico into walls and watching him slide to the ground. He can take it, don’t worry. It’s more of the same dumb fun but with a current gen lick of polish. Time will tell whether there’s any more substance to the game play and story versus what we’ve come to expect, but for the moment, if you liked the first two, you should go right ahead and add this to your Christmas list.

YIIK: A Post Modern RPG

PC/MAC/PS Vita/PS4/Wii U (Q4 2015)

That’s pronounced Y-Two-K, folks. We found out that the hard way when asking the developers about their amazing looking YIIK game, which was pretty embarrassing. That aside, this is definitely one to watch. It’s an RPG about Hipsters, essentially, set in a small American town in the nineties. It’s heavily inspired by the stellar Earthbound series, which should alone be enough to make you stand up and take note. We got hands on with a little bit of walking around town and fighting foes. The combat is reminiscent of Nintendo RPGs like the Mario and Luigi series, where timing and pressing the right buttons can increase the power of your attacks and decrease the damage you take.

YIIK has a gorgeous, cel shaded look that gels well with the subject matter, and it’s laden with pop culture and hipster references. It’s a strong, story driven title with a quirky combat system featuring tossing vinyl and playing a keytar as methods of attacking. It looks and sounds delightful, and from what little we played, has a hilarious and off kilter script with its own unique sense of humor. It’s a self-aware, truly colorful that looks like a wonderful antidote to every po-faced RPG we’ve been subjected to in the last few years. For something a little like this in the mean time, check out Toby Fox’s delightful Undertale, a PC only RPG that is a strong contender for one of our favorite games of 2015.

Tom Clancy’s The Division

PC/PS4/Xbox One (March 8th, 2016)

With a four-hour wait to get our hands on a brief demo of the late Tom Clancy’s latest behemoth, there were consistent murmurings that it’d better be worth the wait. After playing around in the post apocalyptic New York with a squad of strangers, the jury is still somewhat out. There was a little controversy when more recent footage of The Division didn’t match the beauty of the original E3 game play demo – which had ridiculously fake team chatter – and it’s sad to say that the game looks closer to this recent preview than the original gorgeous demo we saw.

Hands on, it plays like a mix of Gears of War, Rainbow Six, and Destiny. You level up, upgrade gear and skills, and when you shoot enemies little numbers fly out of them like mathematical blood. The apocalyptic New York is gorgeous and grey, and it actually feels like you’re in an abandoned city rather than walking through corridors dressed up to look like abandoned city streets. The shooting and cover mechanics are tight and the different classes seem varied enough. The game was tough in a way that encouraged you to stick with your team and actually work together.

This was something of a shame, as in my particular experience, my team were awful and never bothered to revive me when I ran ahead of my awful team because they couldn’t seem to follow a basic mini map, even with a Ubisoft representative standing beside them telling them to follow the marker on the map. Overall, The Division is about what you’d expect it to be with the time put into it and the prestige behind it. With the mechanics looking solid already, and missions ending in a tense extraction where you fight off waves of foes while waiting for a chopper to rescue you, the real test will be in the full game in how the story, mechanics, leveling and open world are balanced. So far, we’re optimistic.

Guitar Hero Live

PS3/PS4/Xbox 360/Xbox One/Wii U (October 20th, 2015)

If you’re following the renaissance of rhythm games – if that’s still how you define the genre – then you’ll have discovered that the innovative Rock Band franchise has gone back to basics, and the generally iterative Guitar Hero brand has decided to opt for something entirely new. It was this that made us check out Guitar Hero Live over Rock Band 4 in our limited time, as we’re a sucker for an underdog, and also because Rock Band 4 was on a stage and we can’t sing to save our lives.

Guitar Hero Live adds a new controller and strips it back to just guitar game play. The slick new controller is wireless and has six buttons instead of the usual five, arranged in two rows of three. That makes little sense in text, but it’s essentially to emulate the real strings of a guitar a little more accurately. For veterans of the old Guitar Hero and Rock Band games, it’s tough to get used to, with black notes being one row, and white being the other. Once you come to terms with it, it does feel more like real chord placement and strumming.

The live part of the name comes in that each song has a unique, live action band and venue for it that plays and reacts to your music. You’re essentially in first person, as the guitar player, and if you suck, the audience will boo you, and your band members will get right up in your grill and look at you like you’ve lost your marbles. The live approach is strange, in that it looks great if you’re watching someone play, but when you’re focusing on the notes yourself, you don’t really see it. It also begs the question as to why you’d go to a gig with a “You Suck” hand drawn sign.

The limited track list we were given showed good diversity. The Gaslight Anthem, Fall Out Boy, and The Black Keys were present and accounted for, with a couple of others added. Adding a Live performance for each set song seems a little strange as it’ll make DLC harder in future, but this is being approach by having a different mode for multiplayer songs and DLC tracks that’ll likely involve micro transactions and buying passes rather than actually owning the songs. The live mode is a bit of an oddity and you can’t help but wonder that it costs a heck of a lot of money to add a feature that most players won’t properly see, and that will repeat every time you play a song until the point of boredom.

The biggest innovation comes from the new controller, but it’s tough to judge it on its own merit and rather wonder why they’d make a controller that doesn’t work with Rock Band 4. Rock Band has been the new champ for some time, and their instruments from the previous generation will work on the new title. It’s not likely that someone looking for the full band experience of RB4 will splash out for Live and it’s shiny new controller too. Guitar Hero Live seemed good at first grasp of the slightly sweaty controller, but we can’t help but feel it’s shot itself several times in each foot before the race has even begun.

Star Wars: Battlefront

PC/PS4/Xbox One (November 17th 2015)

Let’s finish up with the biggest of them all. The original two Battlefront games, back on the PS2/Xbox/PC era were some of the highest regarded multiplayer shooters of all time, even if they have aged fairly poorly. Hope was high for a return on the last generation, but there was nary a whisper of it happening. Now it’s come to fruition, with Battlefield behemoths DICE behind the wheel. We can confirm that the game does exist. It was not just a feverish dream. We’ve played it, and Star Wars: Battlefront is coming.

We got hands on with the Co-op Survival Mode – where, like the Horde mode from Gears of War 3, you essentially have to face waves upon waves of enemies growing in power each time. You’re a pair of crashed Rebel fighters taking on what soon becomes an Imperial army, with Storm Troopers turning into Shock Troopers, AT-ST’s, and eventually a Star Destroyer. Yikes.

The demo showed off the astonishing graphics, perfectly polished shooting mechanics, and a level of attention to detail that has to be seen in action to be believed. We’ve never played a game where enemies move so much like real human beings. They march in formation, they flank, hide, side step bullets, and are just generally animated in a way that makes them feel real. They brace themselves before firing, hide in cover to reload, and it’s generally incredible. The mode starts off relatively sedate, and the ability to use a jet pack of sorts to cross the map in one fell swoop or climb cliffs quickly makes it easy to find vantage points to take down foes.

As the enemies pile up, you begin to use it much to escape conflict, and it’s breathlessly exciting to boost away from a squad of Shock Troopers to get a good vantage point to floor that AT-ST with a well delivered rocket. There’s a lot to love here, with the sound effects being crisp, gorgeous, and entirely authentic. We didn’t get a chance to check out the huge scale death matches, but the mechanics on display in Survival Mode showcase a tight, polished shooter than looks about ready to live up to all the hype.

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Categories: Lists and Editorials, Video Games

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