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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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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Puyo Puyo Tetris, Nintendo Switch Review

Take a couple of fondly remembered puzzle franchises, mix them up with some multiplayer add a party machine like the Ninetendo Switch and what do you get?

Well it’s certainly fun, but sometimes equally frustrating.

The original Gameboy for me was all about Tetris, that grey/green liquid crystal display and the unforgettable theme tune pumping away. Dropping blocks at speed and holding that big heavy handheld up to my nose in bad light. Yes, those were the days. Puyo Puyo, not so much. To be honest it has passed me by until now and while I could happily rank Tetris up alongside the the Rubik Cube or Othello as ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ cultural icons I have to say Puyo Puyo is new to me.

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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo Switch Review

I’m a purist when it comes to Mario Kart, having experienced many heart wrenching moments at the hands of the characters and many slating moments of joy. Especially sneaking a 150cc win against Luigi on the Rainbow Road. This was all of course a very long time ago on the SNES. When consoles were simple, you couldn’t Tweet or Post anything you did and the gameplay mattered, especially in glorious Mode7 graphics.

So twenty odd years later and here we are with a polished version of the wiiU Mario Kart, a extensive track list, extra modes and a host of characters new and old.

Start your engines.

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Switching it up and falling back in love with Nintendo

Nintendo has always been something of a mystery to me, recent years I have been sold by the hardware, but never enough to stick with it. Maybe its the family friendly vibe or just that the killer apps have been just way too cutesy.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve lived and loved some good times with Nintendo, mainly SNES, various Gameboys and the ultimate couch co-op machine the N64. Of course those were the olden days, before things got online and social, before Trophies, Achievements and Coins.

Having been in the wild for a couple of months, we’re late to the Switch party, but that’s often not a bad thing. Continue reading