With several successful Eurogamer Expos in the can, the multi-platform site decided to hook up with Rock, Paper, Shotgun and announce offspring in the form of Rezzed! Brighton’s first mixture of a PC and Indie gaming show, I headed down to the…sunnyish city of Brighton to celebrate its conceptions with some old-fashioned gaming, interesting discussions and a christening of fountains upon fountains of Mountain Dew.
Striding onto the show floor with pride in its step and promise in its shadow, Farcry 3 was the first title many bolted to. A playable version of the E3 demo that didn’t seem to understand the meaning of ‘watershed’ and nor did it care, I can confirm that things are looking pretty darn good. Not that my confirmation is needed, everybody seems to be prepping for a huge hit, and the demo plays as good as it looks. Whilst sneaking into enemy camps in Farcry 2 was rather pivotal, there was something a hell of a lot more invigorating, fun and psychopathically enjoyable to stealthily link kills together with a crossbow. I think it speaks volumes for the gunplay if I can snipe my way through the entire demo and get a rollicking from the staff for forgetting to release a tiger amongst the crazed bandits that faced me, but ho hum. There were a few weeds that sprouted in my mind however that hopefully will be rooted out in the months to come. Though the demo itself is impressive, I want to see more examples of open-ended gameplay, showing just how versatile the island can be. I only realised when visiting the booth that protagonist Jason Brody has been stuck on the island for a number of weeks…still not giving a lot of context to armies of inhabitants worshipping you and painted boobs, but adding something of a depth to the dilemma the game is set around. Of course, I then proceeded to have expletives screamed at me through various different means by Vaas to the point where it just became plain comical. I’m hoping that we see a darker side to the game soon, one that we first saw when it was announced, as I’m sure there’s a heftier itch to scratch here that can be dealt with in broader terms than expletives and tits.
For a guy that barks self-deprivation in exchange for cheap laughs constantly, I don’t seem to even acknowledge videogames that dare attempt to tickle my funny bone (poor sense of humour realisations aside here). Serious Sam joined these ranks as a franchise I never really bothered to delve into. Many reading this have probably already played Serious Sam 3, with my slow brain only just catching up to the concept of a mouse this was my first try, but Rezzed gave a good excuse to show off the title with the announcement of the upcoming Jewel Of The Nile DLC. Things looked like a rather bog standard military shooter as the comically butch Sam entered this new warzone, and nothing looked like it would impress. I should’ve known better, and soon Sam proceeded to tear a huge eyeball from a lumbering beast and chucked it 200 yards before smacking its head in with a sledgehammer. The game is ridiculously over the top, it’s arena modes exceptionally hard-core and insanely fun and it all exuberates this Duke Nukem vibe that doesn’t stink of decaying urinal cake. It’s good, but you all already know this…right?
Aliens: Colonial Marines took me by surprise…in more ways than one. I didn’t have any overwhelmingly bad feelings about it, but curiosity was certainly dulled after offerings such as AVP. ACM pitted the Sega team as Xenomorphs against a group of peculiars dressed in military gear in a bid to see who gets wiped off the face of an arena quicker. As I snuck peeks in at what the Sega team were up to as they stalked their prey, flashes of Left 4 Dead attempted to kick my nostalgia lobe in epilepsy overdrive, and after sitting down with it, it rings true to the undead basher more than I originally thought. It’s immediately clear when you begin that teamwork and communication is key, as the game does a remarkable job of making you feel…well…naked. The HUD was bare to non-existent. Weapons were only reliable if you had the skill to track a Xenomorph at lightning paces. With higher ground obvious nesting territories for enemies, maps were bare for the most part, forcing others to whip out motion trackers to see where the buggers were hiding. Two handed capabilities are something of a luxury in this universe though, only being able to juggle either life saving radar or life saving rifle at one time, and you quickly learn that getting you bearings as well as reassuring everyone else is better than simply running wild. Agility keeps brute force on a leash, and if you can’t accept that then you’re nothing more than an unnecessary extra with bugger all dialogue. It all builds this great yet slightly terrifying atmosphere which suits the franchise perfectly.
Heading off into vaguer corners of the expo floor (namely anything that wasn’t in the 18+ section), there were a few stand-out titles that both struck me in animosity and appealed to my ultra hermit capabilities by straying far away from MMO territory. Skulls Of The Shogun raised itself from a dark corner of the graveyard and shone out to be my surprise of the show, a fun RTS aiming to not alienate those who steer clear from what the genre is conventionally known for. I didn’t have a long time with the game, and a majority of it was spent in a rather probing tutorial, but the game mixes the dynamics of standard RTS titles with more dynamic gameplay to present a game that’s exceptionally deep if blatantly simple. A surprisingly deep title that doesn’t patronise newbies, it’s shaping up to be a fun game, especially for those who wish to violently fight it out to see who has the better brain online.
Q.U.B .E also intrigued me, even if it’s because it’s following the same ‘experiment against your own will’ theology Portal relishes in. Stuck in a labyrinth of padded walls, it feels like you’ve been trapped in the most hygienic mental asylum in the land. With bizarre plasma suction pads on your hands, you soon realise that coloured elements in the surroundings can be pushed, pulled and manipulated to help you progress. Things started out simple, with basic puzzles consisting of getting used to the rules of different coloured blocks, but soon you find the laws of physics gradually becoming more and more complex, forcing you to adapt. Each time you think you overcome an obstacle, another minimalistic puzzle rears its ugly head where a different host of rules must be learnt, and it’ll make you kick yourself when you realise how long you spent on it. A novel combo of Portal and Mirror’s Edge, it’s a puzzle platformer that certainly looks like it knows how to play its players.
Arguably the mega ultra show stealer of the daymondo was Borderlands 2, the almost impossibly huge sequel to a sleeper hit that seemingly had to bellow through miles of concrete to be heard. We’re already expecting a mammoth of a title to come our way this September, with trailers proclaiming its holster containing ‘gazillions’ of weapons, but it’s only when you see the game for yourself that you realise just how true these bold proclamations are. Gearbox veteran Randy Pitchford is exceptionally passionate about this new iteration in the series as he demonstrated in his Borderlands 2 Q&A, and if there’s one thing he would’ve wanted us to take away, it’s the fact that bigger really is better. A Pandora twice the size of before to explore, 5-6 more types of enemies than the original Borderlands and so many guns that the developers physically find it impossible to count, it made me gulp in anxiety at the thought of quite how DLC will dare be implemented as it doesn’t even sound like it’s needed.
Improvements all seem rather obvious is sequelitis terms, but there are underlying promises made that proves the guys at Gearbox have been listening to fans. Rather than tearing small groups of minions away from the rest of the world, now players can combine split-screen and online co-op together as long as they’re not a telly hog. The skill trees have also been given something of a reworking, offering up batches of murderous abilities that compensate for both those planning to play alone or in a team. Examples include basic ones that allow commander Axton to basically never run out of ammo, to assassin Zer0′s insane looking skill in spotting out enemies critical weakpoints and adding a damage multiplier each time he hit one. The enemies in this title are said to be biologically puzzling with players having to really root around to find critical shots, and with a good deal of teamwork scoping them out, Zer0 can pile up his damage multiplier to a ridiculous 999.
The demo on the expo floor as well as the demonstration given by Pitchford (for the poor of playing) showed a newly imagined Pandora. Gone are the dusty dunes that painted the planet all over, a bastard named Handsome Jack has taken all credit for your previous efforts opening ‘The Vault’ 5 years ago, taken over the Hyperion corporation, and is fast tracked to industrialising the entire planet. Tundras and jungles have been promised to bask in a even more beautifully cel-shaded glory, but the demo focused on a sterile dystopian wonderland and testament to the series’ new baddie. It all looks utterly phenomenal, Pitchford himself stating that he’ll take 20 minutes out of his day to observe a rock. Though I probably won’t be doing this (though slow news days do occur…), everything does look absolutely gorgeous, and it’s reassuring to see the series has retained its interesting style…and Claptraps’ dark sense of humour.
Despite feeling like a pocket Eurogamer Expo drowning in Mountain Dew (Seriously, there were mountains of the stuff, so much I now bleed green), Rezzed brought enough big blockbusters and genuinely interesting panels to shine out in a dull and dreary day in Brighton. A great opening effort for what’s sure to become a yearly seaside tradition, I look forward to celebrating a first birthday come 2013…should fate not be so cruel on the young and the Mayans turn out to be right about the end of days…