Last weekend, thousands of gamers and developers from around the world descended on the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London for EGX 2014. The UK’s biggest gaming festival took place over four days and featured two floors of gaming in all its different forms. As well as playable demos of major unreleased titles there was also a cosplay competition, an indie showcase, fighting game tournaments and even a table top game area.
The size of the event became apparent as soon as I stepped off the train. Sony had completely taken over Earl’s Court station and there was PS4 advertising everywhere. The entrance to the convention itself belonged to Bethesda who decked it out in The Evil Within banners. The Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo booths occupied much of the ground floor with third parties and indie titles mostly located upstairs. As Nintendo’s booth was the one located closest to the entrance, it was hear that I began my visit.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
The first game I played was Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for the Wii U. As I have not played Super Mario 3D world this was my first experience of Captain Toad. The gameplay itself was rather unique. Unlike his Italian friend, Captain Toad cannot run, jump or attack. All he can do is awkwardly waddle around the stage. The demo I played contained one small level that seemed to be from the early part of the game. The objective was to grab the star at the end of the stage although there were also coins to collect and three jewels to find. The level design was simplistic but was made in such a way that it was hard to tell where everything was. The central focus of this game is to tilt the Wii U’s gamepad in order to change the camera angle and gain new perspectives of the level. It’s a novel game mechanic and one that I found to be much more intriguing than I originally expected. I left Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker feeling much more positive about the game than I had been before.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
Next up was Capcom’s Monster Hunter 4U. A group of four of us took on the Tigerstripe Zamtrios in the game’s new desert map. The Zamtrios would catapult itself into the air in order to come down and crush us. At other times it would inflate itself into a giant ball and roll around the place. The monster was labelled as an intermediate challenge and it did feel like an enemy that would appear in the early part of the game. As the map was so open there weren’t many opportunities to try out the game’s new mechanics. However, there was one part of the fight where I was able to climb up onto a rock and then leap onto the monster’s back. I had to use R to hold onto the monster as it was trying to throw me off. Once it got tired and stopped to rest, I was able to then attack the beast and deal considerable damage.
I ended my tour of Nintendo’s booth with their new IP for the Wii U, Spatoon. The demo was an 8 player battle where we were split into teams of four (imaginatively called Team Splat and Team Toon by the Nintendo staff). After a couple of minutes to let us get used to the controls, we dived straight into a 4v4 battle. Unlike other third person shooters, the goal of the game is not to kill people but to cover the stage in as much coloured ink as possible. At the end of the match, the game works out which team had the most ink coverage and they are declared the winner. It reminded me of the Stamp Out! minigame from Mario Party 4.
Being so different from other shooters, I found it tricky at first to get used to some aspects of the controls. For example, whilst bullets fly in a straight line, ink has more weight and so doesn’t travel as far. There’s no sniping from a distance in Splatoon, you have to throw yourself right into the mix and get up close and personal with the other team. Another interesting feature of the game is the ability to turn into a squid. This not only gave me a lot more speed and manoeuvrability but also allowed me to climb up walls and refill my gun. However, you can only be a squid in your team’s ink so territorial control was very important. The fact that the enemy can’t see you in squid form also makes this feature perfect for setting an ambush. A game mechanic I particularly enjoyed was the energy meter. Killing enemies and covering the stage in ink fills up the meter and when it’s full you are equipped with an RPG style weapon which fires huge blasts gn ink. It’s a rewarding and empowering mechanic that added to the game quite nicely. I walked away from Splatoon feeling that this was the sort of game that Nintendo needs to make more of. It’s a project where young designers are able to build on the company’s creativity and imagination to create something totally new and interesting.
After Nintendo I then moved to the Elite Dangerous area that was situated right next door. The developer had a circle of 12 widescreen systems set up in a circle so that it felt like some kind of command desk. Whilst keyboard controls were on offer I opted to use the joystick and throttle. The firsr mission was quite easy and boring, I simply had to pilot my craft behind an unarmed transport and destroy it. Having made short work of the enemy ship I was then allowed to try out a much tougher mission against two fighters. The game played a lot better once the difficulty and complexity were ramped up. The two enemies were fast, manoeuvrable and hard to catch. I had to wear down their shields with lasers before launching my homing missiles. I was able to successfully destroy both enemy ships but only after taking a lot of damage.
In Microsoft’s booth I was most excited to play Sunset Overdrive. The demo took the form of a 6 player co-op mission called Night Defence where the objectivewas to protect out Overcharge Vats from three waves of enemies. A small meter in the bottom left corner of the screen showed us the remaining health of our Vats. The main hook of the game is its movement system which involves jumping from car roofs and grinding across overhanging wires. Whilst the controls were certainly intuitive the actual mechanic itself didn’t seem to add much to the game as I just zipped back and forth across the small map. The traversal system probably works a lot better in the open city where you have an actual destination.
As with any Insomniac game, I had a huge arsenal of crazy weaponry at my disposal. TheHigh Fidelity fired out vinyl records Shaun of the Dead style whilst the Roman Candle uses fireworks as ammunition. My favourite was the TNteddy which shoots out exploding teddy bears. The Xbox representative told me that eventually the TNTeddy could be upgraded far enough to cause teddy shaped nuclear explosions. Whilst the guns do run out of ammo, they never need to be reloaded which makes the gameplay very fast paced.
Unfortunately that also made our team feel very overpowered. In the first wave, enemies were being destroyed as soon as they got onto the map and our Vats were never in any real danger. It was the same story in wave 2 although we were each given a trap to place which was interesting. The game didn’t really shine until the third and final wave which introduced new, larger enemies. These hulking brutes could take a lot of punishment and my team really had to work together to take them down. I was quite disappointed at the unsatisfying gunplay and traversal of Sunset Overdrive but this may have been the fault of the demo rather than the game as a whole.
The Evil Within
My first day at EGX 2014 ended with The Evil Within, the newest game from Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. As Resident Evil 4 is one of my favourite ever games, I am looking forward to this title immensely. From what I played at EGX, Mikami will not disappoint. The first thing that struck me about The Evil Within was the openness. The demo took place in a spooky mansion (surprise surprise) and I was able to explore it at my will. Every time I died I took a different route and found different rooms to explore.
With the lights dimmed and my headphones on, The Evil Within did feel quite frightening. The enemies were tough and my ammo was low. I felt much more vulnerable as Sebastian Castellanos than I ever did as Chris Redfield or Leon Kennedy. There was even a ghostly figure who snuck up behind me and gave me quite a scare.
One game system I particularly liked but didn’t get to really explore, was resource management. In the demo I came across a carefully hidden trap which I could to dismantle to gain parts. I was told that in the full game I would be able to combine the different trap parts I collect to craft my own weapons and devices. It’s a mechanic that both encourages exploration and forces you to use everything at your disposal to survive. Of all the games I played on Day One of EGX, The Evil Within was by far the best. This is the direction that Resident Evil needs to go in and Capcom should be taking notes.
EGX 2014 Previews: Part Two Is Coming Soon