EB EXPO 2017 – Liveblog

Observations from this year’s EB Games Expo.

11.10

Last day of the annual visit to EB Expo, kicked off in style with a quick early access and walk around the empty hall. A nice run of stands that suit the venue better than last year in Sydney. Most notable is the impressive Nintendo stand which mirrors their success this year with the Switch launch and solid catalogue of games.

11.16

Hands on with Super Mario Oddessy:

We beat the queue and got hands on with Mario on an empty stand, from ten minutes of demo it’s really obvious that this is a Switch killer-app. Throwing Mario into a multitude of Kingdoms, free roaming and full of activities.

The visuals are spot on and there is plenty of depth to get lost in, not forgetting the couch co-op where one player is Mario and the other is his ever useful hat. It’s fun, family friendly and will be under a lot of Xmas trees.

 

11.50

The Playstation stand was as usual filled with lots to do. VR furore may have taken a step back this year, but new titles like Inpatient were on offer and more importantly Gran Turismo. Yes, GT in VR, which incidentally blows away the Driveclub VR competition, even though I’m a fan of that.

Activision and Warner were present on stand, so CoD was on offer and we got to have some time hands on with the new Lego games. The next chapter of Lego Marvel Superheroes being the big draw card there, for all the titles they pump out the Marvel ones are way out ahead.

Being Human looks cool and the next Playlink games were on hand, but I had an age restricted plus one, so we gave it a pass.

13.05

After a quick and perhaps nasty snack it was time to hand out at Ubisoft.

Another strong stand, following their usual circular design. Assuming from above it matches the Ubisoft swirl logo.

The games:

FarCry5 – looking fantastic on a bank of PS4 Pros. More free roaming FPS action, set in a fictional US state and with a narrative not overly far from the world today it feels great and will certainly be a must have in atet post-Christmas wasteland.

Crew2 – More vehicles, better graphics and lots to do. The Crew was fun, the Crew2 expands on that.  In the wake of all the serious racers hit around now, its good to see a plain old vanilla arcade racer still has a place.

Assassin’s Creed Origins – Backed up by a wealth of historical detail the AC series has me back on board with this one. Having missed a couple of years I’m keen to get to grips with this. Running in Xbox 4K it looks very pretty indeed, apart from that the gameplay is unmistakable and offers up the excellent ‘tourist mode’ for people that just want to experience the knowledge that Ubi have accrued.

Another dancing title – well, let’s leave it there…

13.52

Hands on with Skyrim for the Switch.

Yes, its an old game that nearly everybody has played, but the Switch makes it attractive again by adding flexibility. Allowing you to play on etc mini screen or big screen, being able to take Skyrim wherever you go and being able to use a multitude of control methods, the most immersive being the twin joy con method where you can block and attack independently. That said, the rumble feature works wonders when you get down to some serious lock picking.

Certainly worth etc pick up, even if its while we wait for the VR version.

13.59

The Xbox stand covered a decent amount of space which was mostly split between Forza and Shadow of War.

Both titles look fantastic, the weather effects in Forza alone are worth the asking price and as for Shadow of Mordor – it’s more of the same only bigger, deeper and better. People that love the first game can’t go back after this.

Across the stand Player Unknown Battlegrounds made an appearance, as did Cuphead, Age of Empires and a smattering of Minecraft. No surprises there.

14.33

Retro Baby.

This Expo had a lot less floorspace compare to Olympic Park, which made it cosy and brought a few of the outdoor areas into the main floor.

One of which being the Retro Zone, stocked by Weird and Retro. This was a slice of gaming heaven with machines ranging from Space Invaders on an Atari 2600 through to Rouge Squadron on etc Gamecube. Spanning a lifetime of games each screen brought a memory back to life and I got to introduce Rufus to the joy of Dreamcast Soulcalibur and C64 Basic. Nothing like a bit of rose tinted joy amongst the megabits of today.

15.08

Overall this year’s Expo was smaller, but there was plenty to do. Stands had more presence and the venue felt fully used over the voids that Olympic Park offers.

As for showing there were lots of great new titles on offer, most of which will be in homes over the next 2 months. Around etc place everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves and there were a few sizeable queues for limited demos on exciting exclusives.

As ever the EB Store made a decent appearance, while not really feeling like a bargain hunt, it is always worth a trawl. We picked up a few Minecraft torches at a reduced price and there were still a good pile of SNES mini consoles stacked up behind the counter when we left.

This was a good show, it didn’t try to do too much and gave the consumers what they wanted. Although decent Cosplay was  bit thin on the ground today, maybe Sydney people just do it better.

The good news is that this year, I’m looking forward to next year a lot more.

Fifa 18, PS4 Review

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat and in cooler climates the Premiership is in full swing. Given that we are on the cusp of gaming’s very own silly season, what else is there to do other than give the annual Fifa update a run out and stretch those chilled calves of poster boy Ronaldo?

It’s actually a bi-annual update for us, having spent many years chasing the newness of these games recent times have seen skipping a year to be the best option. Often giving more impact to the fine tweaks and polishes that the developers so deftly apply.

Any given year Fifa offers up a solid package, content in spades as you play online, offline in various modes, being able to pick and choose contests, flex your management muscle, play as an individual and now the newly improved The Journey. Otherwise known as the Alex Hunter single player narrative, The Journey put you squarely in the boots of an up and coming youngster, forcing you to play in key games and make sound rational decisions for him with Mass Effect style choices over dialogue.

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Senran Kagura – Peach Beach Splash!, PS4 Review

Or to give it a real intro “PEACHY BEACHY SPLASHY!” according to the deep, gravelly voiced, shouty announcer.

The Senran Kagura franchise has been around a while, mostly known for fighting games centred around the Shinobi warriors of its cast list, who all happen to be Manga styled busty maidens. Presented in classic cel-shaded animation the ladies bounce through their fights and become more undressed as things go. Peach Beach Splash is no exception, apart from the setting of the narrative, which seems to have dragged the characters from the Ninja Schools for a summertime water pistol competition.

Its a paper thin excuse to get the ladies in bikinis and have them run around a Splatoon-esque arena game, but each to their own.

Peach Beach Splash is undoubtedly aimed at the Japanese market, that much is obvious, a culture that is not afraid to have fun with games in this vein without feeling uncomfortable of having to make excuses as to why the screen is suddenly filled with bouncing, yet tastefully covered cartoon boobs.

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Agents of Mayhem, PS4 review

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it is part of where Volition/Deep Silver went with AoM, that said there’s a fair bit of imitation flattery going on too.

From the people that have offered up a few iconic hits in the Saints Row series comes another third person sandbox game, but this time with a twist and that twist appears to be the result of a hazy night out with Crackdown and Overwatch. The Agents themselves are an interesting array of characters or rather caricatures, each with their own signature moves, buffs, gadgets and skill tree. The Mayhem is the agency they work for while disposing of bad guys in flamboyant episodes of destruction.

Cue the action music and let the bad guys ham things up.

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Matterfall, PS4 Review

Matterfall is undeniably a Housemarque game.

Encapsulating a number of classic genres and wrapping them up in a slick and glossy visual package is the order of the day, the narrative is forgetful sci-fi, but it does give the mechanics of the game some reason to exist.

It’s a 2d Metroid-esque platformer, with nods to classic games like Turrican and bonus driven point scoring that would be right at home with a Jeff Minter title, but it is also dumped squarely in the Bullet Hell bracket.

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Superhot PSVR Review

Superhot is the super stylish, super interesting, super puzzle shooter that has been a round for a while on PC now. When it was revealed for consoles at E3 I was intrigued, when it was revealed especially for PSVR I was super excited.

Here’s the kicker, the game is played in short bursts or snippets of action, the action moves when you move and is otherwise frozen.

The idea is to move, plan, move – get to the weapons, attack the bad guys in the right order like some methodical Jack Reacher and dodge bullets like Neo from The Matrix. Clear? Good.

For the uninitiated Superhot throws the player into a very stylised first person shooter world, in stark contrast to its peers Superhot has a signature grey/white appearance, which leaves you feeling like you are trapped in some paper diorama. The enemy figures are basically red crystallised mannequins and weapons or objects are black.

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Splatoon 2, Nintendo Switch Review

Splatoon is something of a phenomenon for Nintendo fans. Its a title that delivers family friendly arena combat in a fresh and unique way. The game was certainly a favourite on the wiiU, which I admit passed me by, but let’s make amends with that now there’s a Switch in the house.

Splatoon is  franchise with a very well defined sense of character, there is no mistake when you see the artwork or catch a glimpse of a Squid of where they belong. It may be a hard task catching up when you don’t know the history, but it soon becomes familiar, although sense may come later along with buckets of pink and green ink.

Let’s be honest straight up, Splatoon2 is near enough a killer app for the Switch. It is an accessible and addictive online shooter, while there are solo modes to get you into practice it really is all about social gaming. The presentation and wrapping are essential to build the colourful world these creatures live in, but at its heart lies a slick and fun gameplay behemoth that will keep you coming back over and over.

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Cars 3: Driven to Win, PS4 Review

The Cars franchise is one of Disney Pixar’s well loved products and rightly so, over the years Lightning and Co. have made it across the line in various videogames, probably most notably in the first incarnation of Disney Infinity.
Here we are in 2017 enjoying the third movie, which incidentally looks like a huge improvement over the second, with Driven to Win – a polished and exciting racing game that picks up after the events of the film.

We’ll just take a pause and speak in hushed tones for a moment, it’s also not just for kids. While the game could be levelled at the younger demographics there is plenty to keep an arcade or avid cart racer fan happy.

Okay, Rev, Rev, Rev – let’s go.

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ARMS – Nintendo Switch Review

There is no doubt the Switch is benefitting from the introduction of classic franchise games like Zelda, Mario Kart and the upcoming soon to be franchise Splatoon. Everybody is getting a bit of what they really wanted, but what the system also needed was a solid, innovative and new IP, cue the strange and loveable brawler ARMS.

Taking a heap of inspiration from Western friendly Manga styling ARMS offers up an interesting roster of characters that are pitched together in beating each other senseless via their, yes,  ARMS.

Of course it needed a twist, so here it is. The ARMS in question are spring loaded swing them across the arenas extendable arms, all loaded with exciting and varied beating instruments at the business end.

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Tekken7 Review, PS4

Tekken a fighting franchise that’s as old as the hills, if there is a block where these games live then Tekken has been around it a few times.

There’s not a lot you can say as far as setup goes, it’s a 2.5D brawler, pretty much in the vein of every other Tekken so far, a huge array of fighters to battle with or against and a deep, complex, emotional narrative.

Maybe the last bit was a tiny lie.

Technically and visually the game is top notch, after waiting a day or so for the 48gig download I was pleasantly surprised by the intro and the shiny looks. The intro to the single player sequence of fights goes along the lines of old spiky hair dude apparently kills someone’s mother when they were young, they try to fight him and get thrown off a very high cliff. Years later (now) old spiky hair dude ends up fighting with and against scarred red eye due, who is something to do with the boy thrown off the cliff, but by now I’ve started skipping. Even when Nina and her leather catsuited bottom come flying into the fray.

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