Last week, the GAME online team took a trip to the Eurogamer Expo in London's Earls Court to get our many hands-on some of the top games that we'll all be playing over the coming months.
The atmosphere at the event was a buzzing and bustling as ever, with gamers coming from far and wide to get their first goes at everything from the Wii U to Assassin's Creed III to Dishonored - which alone had people queuing for over an hour to play!
With plenty of the team there, we were able to get a chance to play quite a few games. Here's what we thought...
Colonial Marines has been a long time coming. It was announced 4 years ago, and from the time we had during the Eurogamer Expo, for us the wait has been entirely worth it.
We got to go hands on with the multiplayer side of the game. Taking up arms as the Marines, we strode into the dilapidated area of the complex on LV 426. It is clear, especially with this level, that attention to balancing the levels is key to how the multiplayer will work.
There were plenty of places to fight back-to-back and funnel the Xenos through giving the marines a sporting chance, but also plenty of narrow corridors for Xenos to get up close, making guns useless, and dark areas for Xenos to avoid detection and hide patiently.
The weapons for the Colonial Marines are taken from, and inspired by, the film Aliens. Set just 17 days after the events of the film Gearbox haven't taken liberty with the groundwork laid down by the 1986 film, Pulse Rifles sound and look like their movie counterparts, the shotguns have a similar look to the pulse Rifles, not everyone packs a sawn off in space for close encounters!
And then there is the Motion Tracker, taken straight from the film, this will be your most used tool if separated from team mates. The Motion Tracker will detect movement around you and give the classic beep when an enemy is close by. Only problem here is that you cannot wield a weapon when tracking your foes, and if they stop moving they don't get picked up.
You'd think that the marines, with guns and motion trackers, would be superior to the Aliens. This really isn't the case! The Aliens are quick, agile and can crawl through ducts and up walls to avoid gunfire or sneak up on unsuspecting prey. On more than one occasion during our playtime in ACM, we'd have aliens attacking from the front whilst a few craftier players crept up behind us and attacked with tails and inner jaws.
Gearbox has done a great job with Aliens Colonial Marines by using sounds and files from the film to create an authentic "sequel" to Aliens.
The only Alien game I have enjoyed before was Aliens vs. Predator on the Atari Jaguar - the others have always disappointed. I approached with some caution, and, I'm very happy to say this didn't let me down!
I also played the multiplayer map very much based on LV 426. We had to play as the Marines against the Gearbox team as the Aliens, and first of all we had to pick the arsenal that we wanted to use. There was a choice of five classes, one of which had the infamous radar on the assault rifle with a shotgun. I didn't find this straight away but when I did I was rocking and rolling.
The sound effects were fantastic and sounded just like the film, and the screams of the Aliens were cool too. If I had been at home I would even have partaken in a bit of Hudson shouting" you want some too..." at the point when my screen was awash with my Alien bloodbath.
But for me, the best thing was that we were told that whoever managed to the score highest would win a t- shirt. As a team, we had lost against the Aliens... but I won that infamous t-shirt! After walking away I listened to customers and their thoughts, and it seemed pretty unanimous that it would definitely be on our radar.
Fans of the original 90s X-COM games needn't worry that this reboot would be moving too far from the RTS traditions. This is still very much a turn-based strategy game, but one that now shines with enhanced visuals and animation to realise the alien-infested world and the XCOM team tasked with protecting it.
The mission I got to try out was short and sweet, ideal for the pace of turn-based combat, which in turn makes it ideal for RTS fans. The isometric view works great for moving and controlling your team, intercut with closer angles during firefights and to reveal key evidence.
The pace may be a little slow for those alien (pardon the pun) to turn-based strategy games, but if you are a fan of the genre, this game will surely be a delight.
I Played this in co-op mode with Kirsten. I had control of the GamePad, which mostly showed a replica of the main screen with prompts to guide me what to press/drag/swish etc. I played the supporting role as Murfy while Kirsten took the lead character using the Classic Controller.
It reminded me a bit of Super Mario Galaxy where player two takes a supporting role of collecting stars while player one gets all the key action, but much more interactive and a greater sense of involvement and contribution. We had a great laugh. It was my first time using Wii U but I think I got the hang of it ok! It was hard to sync up our actions and we gave up completing the level in the time we had, but I could imagine my 10yr old LOVING it - this is definitely one for the kids.
Fast, furious and utterly bonkers, PS AS BR was another addictive treat. Four of us played together and just had huge amounts of fun trying out the different characters and levels where skill very much took a back seat!
The four-player scramble battles were very much the best way to showcase this game, and the choice of characters and fighting styles made it so much more entertaining than a standard beat 'em up. Dante, Kratos and Cole McGrath proved to be the most powerful, but the real fun was to be had with the likes of Nathan Drake and Sweet Tooth, who take the infinitely fun choice of shooting their opponents.
With the interactive environment as likely to take you out as the other players, and a kill vs death ratio determining the winner, this takes the best of beat 'em up battles, multiplayer mayhem and SONY's excellent cast of characters to form a game that will keep you grinning every time you play.
I'd never played an Assassin's Creed title before, despite my friends' insistence.
I was lucky enough to have a go at both the demos - first up, Naval Combat. Starting slowly (and that's being very generous!), I had a darn good go at taking control of the ship and unloading several rounds of cannon balls onto my target. Well, most went in the sea, but I got the gist in the end... just as my ship rubbed up against the rocks for the last time. Next time...
It was such a unique experience with fantastic movement that was so fluid on the water. I didn't think about it at the time but when I think back, I got a sense of being on the ship and movement up and down with the waves, a sense of slowness and heaviness. Very exciting and different, I'd really love to have another go, but perhaps without a queue of not so novice gamers stood behind me whilst I batter the heck out of the ship!
After this, I had a chance to play the 'On Foot' mission demo where I had to make my character climb a cliff face to carry out his stealth mission and assassinate three enemies. I managed to get to two of them but unfortunately my time ran out before I could get number three. Again, next time...
I was knocked out by the gameplay and the the quality of the graphics and scenery was breathtaking. As someone far more at home with 2D platforms or racing games, I can't wait to have another go.
Most Wanted by name, Burnout Paradise by nature, and 20 Years of Convention out of the Window!
Most Wanted sees you getting behind the wheels of some of the sexiest cars in the world to then throw them around the City of Fairhaven and the best part, most of the cars are unlocked as soon as you put the disc in, you just need to find them. Driving in Most Wanted is similar to Burnout Paradise, but the cars have a more defined sense of handling, acceleration and speed since they are based on real cars, and they look stunning.
As you blitz through Fairhaven with up to 7 friends, Autolog will document everything you do so that you can send challenges to your friends for almost anything you do.
Bright. Warm. Totally immersive. This first-person sequel has crisp graphics and gameplay that really make you feel like you're on the island, with everything from the effects of the breeze blowing to making your way through leaves and branches moving and reacting realistically. This is a game that truly gives you a sense of being in the first person - and one that really should be played on a high-end PC!
As one of the more popular games I was only able to get about 10 minutes playing, but during that time I was able to take several different turns and explore several different parts of the island. From lookout posts, to knife-throwing challenges, to hang-gliding and some very vicious guard dogs, the choices of location and action all within mere moments of the respawn point were massive. If the world was this open in just 10 minutes of playing, I can't wait to see what hours of gameplay can offer.
Plus it was fun to do a first-person game with a bow and arrow for a change!
First person + dark moody screens + jumpy horror = too creepy for me!
I declined to play this as I could easily predict I'd upset Nintendo when I launched the GamePad in panic! (I know this as I did exactly that when I first held a real mouse. Ok I was 5, but..)
So I was happy to watch Kirsten, and I did actually squeal when she was suddenly rushed by Zombies coming swiftly out of the water. She'd been distracted looking at her inventory (as instructed by the game moments earlier), and I can deduce from this that you need to become familiar with the GamePad and get used to referring back and forth swiftly or you'll not survive long.
I'd like to have a go at playing this in the safety of my own home... if I'm lucky enough for the big fellow in red to drop a black Wii U down my chimney this Christmas. Or at least invite someone with a stomach so I can sit behind the sofa with my cushion and watch them through my fingers!
Looked fantastic, and played fantastically well, too. It was easy to get to grips with, even for a player who has never played one before. Fast, frenetic and with satisfying button bashing - just what you want in a hack and slash game! The executions were as satisfying as ever and the bosses were amazing - a must for all PS3 owners.
It's very difficult to talk about this game without comparing it to Mario Kart. many karting games have tried to fill the gap for non-Nintendo gamers, but this may be the surprise title to pull it off.
F1 Race Stars offers classic karting gameplay, with simple controls and all the fun, charm and addictiveness you'd want - they even manage to throw in the bonus boosts, invincibility and throwing-stuff-at-other-drivers that makes it more than just a racing game. The F1 roots are still on show - get hit too many times or push your car too hard, and you'll need to quickly drive through a pit lane to get back to full working order.
The drivers and cars may lack the individuality you'd normally get in a game like this, but the tracks - cartoony courses that are like crazy golf interpretations of the real F1 tracks - more than make up for it.
All in all, this is a fun, addictive karting game that has raced to the top of my must-have list this year. The surprise treat of the day!
The most impressive game at the show for me was Dishonored. Great graphics and gameplay. The multiple ways to complete a level is a great idea, but it was the diversity in how you can go about those multiple ways that I loved the most. it's not just open-world levels, it's open-choice gameplay.
Everybody walking away from playing it were talking about how good it was, too.
I really liked the look of this - great visuals giving a real sense of place and intrigue. Watching the others play it, I wanted to get my hands on it too! The swimming was really realistic, and , the effects of the sun in the water as age tried to swim up wowed me, felt errr swimmy! But I wasn't expecting to see Corvo get eaten by a fish in the river!
As well as getting the chance to play games, the developer talks gave us a chance to learn a bit more about the games. For Dishonored, Arkane Studios' Christophe Carrier (Lead Level Designer & Audio Director) and Dinga Bakaba (Assistant Producer & Game Designer) took to the stage to provide a bit of background about the game, and to show that there really are two ways to play it.
In their introduction, Christophe and Dinga told us that Dishonored came out of a love of the first-person game and its combination of stealth and action, and a desire to push the genre further. Gone is the rail-like direction of each level, replaced with a series of open-world levels, designed in a steampunky-style and inspired by plague-era London.
But the biggest point of the game is the choice is gives the player. You can play it stealthily, hiding in the shadows, using your supernatural abilities for minimal combat and fatalities. Or you can go all-out action, with brutal kills and make use of a brand new arsenal of weapons.
They proceeded to demonstrate this with the same level we'd played on the floor, with heor Corvo out to kidnap the Royal Physician (described as part da Vinci, part Rasputin) . First it was done with stealth, using back passages and rooftops, and possessing people rather than elimintating them. Or at least that was the theory - one mistake and the whole place was alerted to Corvo's presence and bit more force was needed than originally planned.
The level was then played in full-on brutal fashion, where no guard was left undamaged (heck, even the maid got it!) and all skills were on display. Decapitation, hacking people limb-from-limb, setting razor mines and stopping time to avoid being shot and take your enemy out were all shown to bloody effect - and rapturous applause in places.
A few extra tidbits came out of the Q and A session at the end of the demo - it is possible to complete the game without a single kill (except bosses). And, most tantalisingly of all - in the later levels, you'll find out that you're not the only one in Dunwall with supernatural abilities...
Everything we see makes Dishonored more and more tantalising. Cannot wait to play it!