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.

Continue reading

Skylanders Imaginators, PS4 Review

skylander_logoAnother year and another update to the Skylanders franchise, not something I was expecting early on in the year given that Infinity seemed to be dropping dead, Lego wasn’t flying off the shelves and Skylanders Superchargers, well, less said about that the better.

We could go into the whole Skylands is in trouble again now that Chaos has found another time bending way to be, er, nefarious. There’s not a lot of point in that really, it’s the same old thing just with a new gimmick. Last year the gimmick was vehicles, which on the face of it should have won the hearts and minds of fans everywhere. Only they didn’t, there was something annoying about Superchargers, maybe the fact that they had pretty much ignored everything Skylanders fans had worked for in Trap Team or maybe it was the lack of identity in the game that was a hodge-podge of ideas that never really gelled.

So, its 2016, Christmas is coming and its time to strap in for another run at saving Skylands. Imaginators is taking a new direction, it’s putting the player in charge of design and customisation. This is where Imaginators wins, big time.

sky_im04 Continue reading

NBA 2K17, Xbox One Review

nba-2k17-cover

So, another year has passed and here we have the next NBA 2K coming our way. This year we have, um, Paul George on the cover. I know this because his name is also there. He plays for the Pacers, I know this because it is on his shirt. And I think his left elbow gives him trouble. Other than that, never heard of him. Makes me wonder why 2K don’t regionalise covers like the old Rugby games.

Chuck Steven Adams on the cover down here in New Zealand and I bet sales would go up. Surely there is top NBA players from most regions of the world to make this viable and even profitable for 2K. Just remember to send me a cheque from the increased profits.

nba-2k17-1 Continue reading

EB EXPO 16, LiveBlog

logo_eb2016It’s 2016 and we embark once more to Sydney’s Olympic Park (maybe Brisbane next year guys?).

This should be an interesting collection of thoughts as the day goes by in a blurry exhausted haze.

Remember to read from the bottom up.

 

09.54

PlayStation Stand EBExpo16

It’s been a long day so far, waking late and racing for a plan, 4 trains and now an hour into the show. I need coffee and bacon STAT.

First impressions, the show is loud and full of hands-on experiences as usual, but exhibitors do seem a touch thin on the ground. Sony have the majority of real estate with a heap of VR hands-on and queues to match, not forgetting CoD and Skylanders, as they brought Activision and partnered with Warner too.

With Battlefield 1 weeks away the absence of EA is noticeable, Ubisoft and Xbox have hefty stands while Namco/Square and 2k are present. 2K with their Mafia 3 inspired movie theatre.

Bethesda have a big Dishonored 2 showing, More on that later.

09.56

Hands on with Tombraider PS4.

Yes it’s been on the XB for a year, but this is the first time I have had a play and it look terrific. The weather effects (I was in a blizzard) are top notch and it feels very familiar to the recent reboot, amongst other third person leaping adventures.

My only concern after 5 minutes was Lara’s relentless internal monologue…

10.02

Farming Sim

Strangely quiet over here….

10.39

Popping Corn Theatre
Phil Spencer and Xbox presentation – imminent.

14.12

So, Phil Spencer the actual Head of Xbox came to Sydney and addressed the crowd. I have to admit initial scepticism, but the man sells a genuine story his focus is the community and exploring the best future for his brand.

I have to say I was won over by his no nonsense approach along with the rest of the crowd. The message is clear Xbox might not be launching into VR this year, but they are laying the foundations for the future.

The line up of recent and future games looks strong, Forza started the session along to the tune of “I don’t want to fall in love” – the game obviously has other ideas. It’s stunning and the social aspects or Blueprints that were demoed are a step up.

Follow that with an enthused showing of Dead Rising 4, even though it’s hard to forget the failings of the series back in my 360 days.

Gears of War looked shiny and exciting, returning to an older Marcus is the draw for me, but being without Xbox – it can likely wait.

As for the hardware, the recently released XboxS looks very nice in the flesh, more compact and sexy. However the chat was all about the Scorpio which will be raising the bar come 2017.

Now, where’s mister Spencer – I need to ask for an Xbox handheld…

14.20

Hands on with Steep.

image

Steep is a mountainous playground for thrill seekers in the snow.

What more do you need, the demo offered all types of the 4 sports on offer. Controls are pretty intuitive and the visuals are really quite breathtaking, if a little white.

I jumped onto a snowboard eager to relive some1080 style skills, which almost got there, but ended up being more of a Snowboard Kids wipeout.

I might not manage being the fastest on the snow, but love the Wingsuit and Paragliding for some nice views.

15.43

Driveclub VR hands on.

PlayStation Stand EBExpo16

Ok, managed to get into a quiet slot and jump behind the wheel of some Driveclub VR and it was awesome.

The depth of field is nice with a floaty 3D effect, the response time of the visor to the screen is good enough. Not forgetting this is a mass market product for the home. And the immersion just got me straight off the bat.

The race started and I was driving, really driving, while the VR and sound did a lot for that you have to credit the steering wheel and force feedback with som of it. Regardless, I’m so in – even with a minor problem. I am somewhat myopic and not wearing glasses with VR doesn’t work for me. As such my varifocals struggled to keep everything in focus, I may have to resort to contacts and that’s my excuse for hitting a few walls, even if I did manage to bash my way to the front and win.

VR 10 mins in? Yes please.

17.33

Skylanders Imaginators, making amends.

image

Had a play with Imaginators and while it may just another Skylanders game it is fair to say that they are bringing something really new this year.

Forgetting the vehicles of Superchargers, Imaginators lets you build your own Skylanders from hundreds of options.

So, the traditional figures are pretty much bunk. Time to throw Creation Crystals into the mix, but here’s the rub. Once you create a character it’s pretty much locked to that crystal, some people won’t like it, but I don’t mind. It makes you think about the strategy of building your ultimate Skylander and probably being priced around. .99 cheaper than the figures of 2015.

The crystals are elemental based and give access to base body types, then you can dress them up with unlockable skins and weapons. I like the system, it’s breathing life into the franchise. There will be Sensei figures that will add upgrades and experience to your creations, so there is still the need to gather some of the new batch plus you will be able to introduce your old characters too.

After that it’s a classic Skylands adventure, platform and smash and level up, with a few experience earning gizmos thrown in. In fact the selfie mode is more appealing than the Dead Rising one.

Back to Skylands? Yes please, sign me up.

XBOX ONESIE – Yes, it’s for real and I kind of want one.

Not content with offering the ultimate entertainment and gaming access via the new Xbox One S console, available in 500GB and 1TB versions from today, the team at Xbox Australia has now turned its hand to the world of fashion design, working with some of the country’s biggest film, TV, gaming and sports fans to release their first collection known simply as the ‘Xbox Onesie’. Continue reading

A day in the life of the #EBExpo15 (live-ish-blog)

EBLOGO2015It’s time for the annual mission to Sydney, an early start followed by a redeye flight, a few hours on the show floor and time to chat with some like minded people while poring over this years exciting new releases.

The plan is to hit this post up with a story of the day, so let’s see how it goes.

Continue reading

2 Weeks and counting… #EBEXPO

EBLOGO2015Just under two weeks before the doors are flung open at Sydney’s Olympic Centre for EB Games and their now annual extravaganza. We might not have an event of E3 calibre, but its a great way to give the industry a pre-xmas hype right on the cusp of Silly Season, also known as the October to November release window.

With hands-on demos galore and the chance to spend time with the occasional developer the show is well worth a visit for anybody remotely interested in seeing what’s around the corner.

Latest press release follows and a few appetite whetting videos.

Continue reading

Destiny: The Taken King – Launch Trailer

I for one have been looking forward to getting a bit of Destiny mojo going again and this Led Zeppelin backed live action launch trailer is pushing me along.

You killed his son. Now Oryx, The Taken King, wants revenge. Gather your Fireteam and take on the greatest threat this universe has seen with Destiny: The Taken King.

Blurb about the video follows… Continue reading

Resident Evil – Revelations 2 Review (Xbox One)

RER 2 - Cover

I have to admit to not being a fan of episodic releases, no real reason, other than hating the fact of having to stop playing because the developer says so. Thankfully all the episodes for Resident Evil Revelations 2 were released in a timely manner and are available as a full download and complete pack on disk as well.

The make up of Resident Evil Revelations 2 is four regular episodes and two special episodes, all of which can be finished of in around two hours each. The first episode does include Raid Mode, a timed challenge style game, which has some great replayability to thankfully increase the gaming you will get out of the package as a whole.

RER 2 - 1 Continue reading