Eurogamer Expo 2011
So here it is ladies and gentlemen. The Big Top of UK based video game expositions, the Eurogamer.net Expo in Earls Court, London.

My Impressions

Image courtesy of Eurogamer.net

Image courtesy of Eurogamer.net

Through lack of creativity and my unyielding urge to hit something with an axe, I quickly created an Ork. I headed into the demo with both longsword and battle axe in hand. I made my way through a nearby town, promptly ignoring the townsfolk as I ventured forth. I was an Ork after all; I wanted to fight something!

Finding some lonely wolves that were obviously looking for a fight as well, I descended upon them with twin bladed fury! Unfortunately, I was ripped to shreds as the PR rep kindly told me that, being a member of the press, he had turned the difficulty up to its maximum to ‘teach me a lesson’ …nice guy!

Noticing the five distinctly different difficulty levels was a nice touch. Unfortunately, there was no mention of a ‘Hardcore Mode’ ala Fallout: New Vegas.

After working my way through the frankly beautiful undergrowth and almost attempting to kill a salmon, which I noticed swimming up river, I was reminded that I have magic in my arsenal. So as I was approaching a bandit settlement, I thought it would be a good opportunity to test out Skyrim’s magic!

Equipping a fire spell in each hand, I’m sure the unwitting bandits were stunned to find an unarmed Ork in rag clothing wandering towards them who turned into a walking flamethrower! The flame effects are very nice in Skyrim and the satisfaction that comes from setting people on fire and watching them flail around makes me wonder if I should seek psychiatric advice of some sort.

But do I meet a dragon? Do I realize the true power of the Dovahkiin? You’ll have to wait for my full preview to find out!

House of the Dead: Overkill – Director’s Cut

House of the Dead
Being an avid fan of the House of the Dead series for many years now, I jumped at the chance to try out Sega’s latest edition to the lengthy franchise which has taken the simple and modest act of zombie genocide and practically turned it into an art form!

With their latest edition, I was privy to a gun shaped Playstation Move controller enclosure with your Playstation Move controller slotted in. This was both comfortable to hold and felt great. It’s uncertain if this is being bundled with the game, however. The major drawback of using the gun controller was the ‘pump-action’ handle to reload was cushioned and lacked that satisfying ‘click’ feeling.

The demo itself had you moving through a hospital, dispatching hordes of shambling zombie nurses and doctors and the occasional vomiting patient. The mood was suitably b-movie and classically grotesque, which is precisely what you would expect and crave from House of the Dead.

The end of the demo came with a boss fight (after a ‘missing scene reel’ moment in the interests of time) which was reminiscent of Sadako from the Japanese The Ring films. The boss fight was essentially her calling forth a horde of zombies to try and snack on your brains and you having to shoot her enough times before they reached you. This then changed to a undead game of Find the Lady, the card game where you have to guess which card is the Queen from a selection of three face down cards, where the boss, The Screamer, would duplicate herself into four identical copies and at the last moment before attacking you, three of them would ‘flicker’ as if being projected by a vintage movie projector, indicating that they were indeed the false Screamers.

Image courtesy of Eurogamer.net

To better illustrate the gun attachment…that’s not me, by the way.

This demo felt very retro and it’s more of what has made the House of the Dead series great, the Playstation Move controller

However, it felt sluggish and unresponsive at times, and the cross-hair was never truly where I was pointing the gun, though this could be an alignment issue with the set up at the Expo, so I won’t hold that against it as the game was, despite these issues, still fun to play.

Saints Row: The Third

Treading new ground, next up, by playing my first ever Saints Row game, I decided to try out their third incarnation of the open world sandbox shooter. Taking control of a pre-made character and what I presume to be somebody else’s autosave, I ran through the streets of the city, merrily shooting out tires and generally annoying local gang members. The gameplay was solid and crisp and I even stumbled upon a hidden indoor challenge which found me walking through what appeared to be a fun house, being shot at by gang members dressed in fancy dress and giant animal costumes. A far cry from the gritty brown and grey of Niko Bellic and the world of Grand Theft Auto.

This is what fans of the series have come to expect. After talking to some of the players around the booth, they all had the same impression. It’s fun because it’s not GTA. It’s silly, ridiculous, and sometimes completely puerile and that’s exactly what Saints Row players want from their games.

Silent Hill: Downpour

As many people will be aware, the Silent Hill franchise is one of my absolute favorites in gaming history and as such, the latest installment of it was one of my highlights of the day.

Eurogamer Expo 2011
Starting the demo in what appeared to be an abandoned mineshaft, presented with a puzzle involving three cranks controlling the flow of a nearby water pipe, the focus of this latest Silent Hill appeared to be more on puzzle based mechanics rather than combat.

Combat doesn’t get ignored though, oh no. Half way through the puzzle, I had drained an underground section of the mineshaft, made my way through said section to find a First Aid Kit, which thankfully was announced with the ever familiar ‘item pickup’ sound from Silent Hill’s past, a considerate touch for long-standing fans of the series such as myself.

Leaving the underground section of the mineshaft I was attacked by a previously drowned woman who lurched at me from the murky waters that still remained in the tunnel. Fortunately, I had previously picked up a length of pipe on my descent into this tunnel, so dispatching the sunken horror was easier than expected.

The combat is much more fluid than the previous titles, gone are the days of James Sunderland and his haphazard bludgeoning ofEurogamer Expo 2011 nightmarish nurses, though whilst being more fluid, some of the attacks feel deliberately clumsy, there were a few strikes that looked like ‘lucky hits’ that not only connected but had a visual effect on the watery woman. It’s clear Murphy Pendleton (the main protagonist) is not fluent with weapons but can defend himself.

Near the end of the demo I found myself confronted by an enemy which seemed to take no damage when I attacked it. Hopefully, this is a return to the ‘invincible boss’ scenario where you must seek sanctuary instead of mashing the ‘A’ button until the boss falls down. I feel that this kind of scenario will give the game a more chilling element to it.

Lord of the Rings: War in the North

This title was a flight of fancy for me. I had not originally intended to look at it but decided when walking away from the Silent Hill booth to check it out.
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a third person action/adventure hack-em-up with three playable races: Human Ranger, Dwarven Warrior and Elven Mage. Picking the Ranger, I was plunged into a scenario where me and two NPC’s had to defend an outpost from hordes of enemies.

After roughly 5 minutes of dispatching wave after wave of Orcs, the PR rep from Warner Bros. told me that my seemingly obedient NPC partners were actually other players around the stand.

This was a big plus point for me and I understand that many other Lord of the Rings fans will want this title purely because it has multiplayer co-op.

The graphics were solid enough for an alpha build and the controls seemed stable, incorporating special attacks and changing from third person hack and slash, to almost first person bow and arrow combat.

Lord of the Rings: War in the North was an enjoyable title. Unfortunately, it just felt like it was lacking that Lord of the Rings magic, possibly because of the chosen level, who knows. I am however, excited to see how this one turns out.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Spec Ops

Another one of the most anticipated titles of the Expo and the main reason a few people will even venture to the Expo at all is theEurogamer Expo 2011 appearance of Activision’s latest installment in their multi-million unit selling franchise, Call of Duty
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We were treated to a session of Modern Warfare‘s latest multiplayer mode, Spec Ops. This horde-esque based mode is similar to that in Gears of War 2 and featured two players facing off against wave upon wave of increasingly difficult enemies.

Upon our excursion into Spec Ops, we were subjected to waves of general enemy riflemen, attack dogs, suicide bombers and helicopters. The standout feature of Modern Warfare 3 is how smooth and fluid the entire control system works. Being able to consistently maintain 60 frames per second really stands out here.

This mode brings to Call of Duty what I personally feel has been missing for a long time, fun! It was amazing fun having a standoff situation with a co-op partner against ever encroaching bad guys.

Eurogamer Expo 2011
Do me and my co-op partner find ourselves victorious against the hordes of enemies? Do we turn on each other? Find out soon in my special preview!

Also making an appearance today was the multiplayer element of Assassins Creed: Revelations which is just as enjoyable as the Brotherhood multiplayer except with additional characters and moves and also Rift, a suitably beautiful MMORPG which felt like a combination of Guild Wars and World of Warcraft. Not a

Highlight of the day?

Not to sound overly materialistic here, but I have to say that acquiring a free home microconsole from OnLive has to be my highlightEurogamer Expo 2011 of the day. Not only did I get to chat with MJ, the Community Manager for OnLive, and have an extensive chat about it (special article coming soon) but I was genuinely impressed by the incorporation and range of titles available on OnLive. OnLive is something I have had my eye on for a while now across the pond and the news that it is now available in the UK is fantastic!

And so the sun sets on the first day of the Eurogamer Expo. Stay tuned for my next installment including some developer conferences and possible some information about the Playstation Vita, perhaps!