EB Expo 2013: What it is to Next Gen?

Hello Polynauts,

I spent this weekend at the EB Games Expo, which is one of the annual gaming expos that run here in Australia. Like last year, I'll run through my impressions of things I experienced. Unlike last year, I'm doing an all in one post, primarily because I was too tired after getting home on the two full sessions (Sunday finishes at 4PM).

There were a few games there that were already released and I generally won't be writing impressions of those.

I'll start with the Sony booth first. To be honest, I was fairly disappointed with what Sony had to offer, as most of their offerings were on current gen hardware at a time in which we're nearing two next-generation console launches. The main part of their show floor was showcasing Vita and PS3 games. The second floor, which was locked behind a queue, contained the PS4 offerings.

This is in contrast to Microsoft's Xbox booth, which had playable XB1's on the show floor as well as certain high profile titles behind queues (I'll cover that stuff below).

Playable on the first floor was primarily titles like FIFA '14, Tearaway, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, Ratchet & Clank: Nexus, Puppeteer, Beyond: Two Souls, and Killzone: Mercenary. Beyond: Two Souls's demo is pretty much the same one up on PSN.

Gran Turismo 6 was also on the first floor, but the setup was a "driving cockpit." I also can't do racing sims to save my life, so I skipped out on this one.

Upstairs, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, Driveclub, Octodad, Hohokum, and Blast 'em Bunnies.

Killzone only had the multiplayer, which didn't really feel next-gen and the displayed mechanics are nothing new in other current shooters. The multiplayer mode we played essentially capturing and holding locations on a map.

Driveclub aside (I don't do racing games, sorry Polynauts), the other games really didn't showcase the pros or power of the PS4 and honestly looked like they could potentially run on PS3 hardware. This holds especially true for the latter two in the list.

Quite disappointing for something behind a queue (after morning, people were waiting an upwards of 60-120 minutes for this area). My format will sort of change down below, because I feel there really isn't anything to write home about, in terms of Sony offerings.

PS4 Hardware:

Some things I learned:

  • The little line on the top of the PS4 that appears blue in a lot of images for the console actually glows white. I'm not sure if it changes colour depending on the status of the system or is only applicable to these demo units, but while playing the games on display, it was white.
  • The touchpad on the PS4 controller can be pressed and functions as buttons.

Here's one of the PS4 consoles in operation on the second floor of Sony's booth. It looks like there will be 2 USB interfaces on the front.

This is the PSEye sitting on the rear of the PS4. And some dust.

This is the rear of the PS4. I took this to get an idea of the interfaces on the back of the PS4. From top to bottom, the interaces are AUX, Network (RJ-45), HDMI, miniUSB, and on the bottom right is the power interface. The actual operational consoles were set pretty close to the back edge of the platforms they were placed on. Combined with wire management, it made it difficult to discern, but it appears the PSEye uses the AUX port.

Here's the Dual Shock 4 controller. I feel it's a big improvement over the Dual Shock 3. However, the trackpad, to me, feels awkward to reach when holding the controller by its grips. The light on the front of the controller is essentially a PS Move and changes colours, but I'm sure you all already know about that.

Finally, Sony did also have the HMZ-T3 (their new head mounted display) for trial and I wasn't keen on it. Without glasses, the HMD gave me double vision, even after adjusting it. With glasses, it caused eye strain and I could feel that using it for a good duration would lead to headaches. My eyes are less than perfect, though, so your mileage may vary.

On offer right on the Microsoft show floor was Forza Motorsport 5, Killer Instinct, Kinect Sports Rivals, World of Tanks, and Zoo Tycoon. The new Kinect seems to pick up motion fairly well, especially considering that the row of consoles Kinect Sports Rivals was on was fairly dim compared to the rest of the Microsoft area. Killer Instinct wasn't terrible, but I have no idea about the technical traits of fighters so cannot comment on how solid it is. My wife seemed to like Zoo Tycoon and said it looked good, but I personally did not give it a go.

Behind queues we had Ryse, Dead Rising 3, and Titanfall:

Titanfall: I'm typically not a big FPS person anymore. Most of the ones that come out these days, I just don't enjoy as much as I enjoyed shooters in the 90's. Titanfall, however, was a lot of fun. The multiplayer mode opens up with an intro, sort of setting up a story for the multiplayer map. One team needs to capture\rescue an individual, while the other team needs to prevent that.

The game is a class-based shooter. You pick your pilot's loadout and then your Titan type. You can double jump and jumping at a wall at an angle will allow you to run across it like you've seen in videos. Titans appear to be on a 2 minute cooldown and can be given basic orders when deployed and not being piloted.

After one team wins, the game\map enters a mode called "Epilogue" where the losing team needs to escape the area in a certain time while the winning team needs to eradicate the remaining enemies. The escape point on the map I played was a helicopter\gunship type of thing hovering off the edge of a building. You acquire bonus points for escaping the scenario.

I can actually see myself playing this game with people, unlike games like the constant iterations of Battlefield and Call of Duty, which I simply have zero interest in and find fairly bland and uninspired.

Also:

Ryse: Son of Rome: I was placed at a machine that was showcasing Single Player elements, however after choosing the scenario, the game crashed and I was moved to a Multiplayer machine.

The MP mode was a co-op gladiator arena in which the individual and I needed to complete increasingly difficult objectives, in the arena, while trying to please the observer (presumably the emperor). It was fairly meh.

If anyone has watched gameplay videos of Ryse, you may recall the onscreen QTE prompts. These are gone, at least in multiplayer. An enemy will get a skull and crossbones over their head when "weakened" in which you can press RT and a face button to initiate those execution moves in those videos.

Overall, though, I left Ryse feeling unimpressed and unconvinced it was next generation. Then again, what is next generation supposed to look like?

Dead Rising 3: The demo essentially places you in town full of zombies, at level 25 (if I recall correctly) and with a bunch of crafted weapons. It can fit a lot of zombies on the screen, but there was no real premise on why you were there. The game sort of feels like it's lost its campy nature and zaniness, in replacement of a more serious and gritty tone.

I could be wrong, though. Some of the crafted weapons are sort of ridiculous and powerful and I did get to drive a sports car through masses of zombies.

It just doesn't have that "Wow! So freedom! Very zombies! Much crazy! Wow!" (so shibe!) feeling that the original Dead Rising had when it came out. I left feeling fairly disinterested in the title - After two play throughs, as for the duration of the expo Dead Rising 3 had nearly no queue, despite being a title you had to queue for.

XBOX One Hardware:

Okay, so with the XB1 being just on the show floor and my desire to actually get hands on with the controller, I forgot to actually take good images of the console. I do have controller pictures, though. Sorry in advance for the dust and dirt my camera picked up. Also, the IR\red glow of the controller is my camera picking up the IR emitter. You actually can't really see it with the naked eye and that area is a glossy black (at least at the light level I was viewing them at).

While I like a lot of the concepts Sony has announced as well as inFamous: Second Son, the Dual Shock 4 just does not feel as good in my hands as the XB1 controller. I can't describe it other than it kinda feels natural in my hands. The d-pad is fixed and "clicky" and it is even easier to move your fingers between RT\LT and RB\LB. Now, this doesn't mean I'm going to run out and get an XB1, but I am damn well going to pick up one of these controllers for my PC once the drivers are released.

Nintendo had a fairly small presence compared to last year's EB Expo and even PAXAus. The main portion of their area was a community area with a main stage, a large TV array (4 screens functioning as one), and a lot of bean bag chairs. Mario Kart 8 was showcased in this area as well as Super Mario 3D World. Games of Mario Kart 7 were ran sometimes for fun, sometimes for prizes. Nintendo trivia questions were also asked every so often for prizes as well.

I kind of like this setup (it was also at PAXAus) as it's a great place to get street passes. I broke the 1000 street pass mark this weekend and am 4 puzzle pieces away from completing Puzzle Swap. Unfortunately, level 1 Miis are fairly worthless in Secret Quest (Street Pass Quest\Find Mii II).

Games on offer were Pokemon X\Y, Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Wii Party U, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacies and Super Mario 3D Land.

As someone that hasn't seriously played Pokemon since Gen 1, I'm actually pretty excited for X\Y and liked what I saw. I'll be picking this up in the next week or so.

The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds I am pretty hype for, after playing it. Hyrule looks like LttP (which is one of my favourite Zelda games) and the wall walking mechanic adds a new depth to the puzzles. I don't think being able to rent items early is going to make the game too easy. I really like what I've seen and am pretty convinced to pick it up on release.

I did not play Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze or Wii Party U and Wind Waker HD is already out (but it looks great!). I did play Super Mario 3D Land and it's pretty fun playing together with a group of people. I kind of like Peach's floatiness.

My wife loves Professor Layton and she liked Azran Legacies, but I guess there was only one puzzle available in the demo.

Nintendo 2DS: This was on hand at the Expo in the Nintendo area. The pictures online don't really do it justice. It's not uncomfortable in the hands, although the screens felt more on par, in terms of size, with a 3DS than a 3DSXL. It's very solid, but I like my big 3DSXL screens.

Everything Else:

Here's where I'll cover everything that wasn't at the big 3 booths. Rather than break it down by publisher, I'm just going to list them here. Primarily, because I'm lazy.

Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag: Honestly, it just felt like more Assassin's Creed. The naval combat is there and pretty much how it was in AC3, from what I could tell of the demo. Outside of the Animus is first person and you play as yourself in Abstergo Entertainment's offices.

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don't Know!: It feels like a goofy dungeon crawler, but the lack of a run button was really killing it for me.

South Park: Stick of Truth: This wasn't playable by expo goers, but did have a representative playing through a demo build of the game. It looks like an episode of South Park in terms of art style. The RPG is turn-based and maintains South Park's flavour of humour.

Dying Light: I was fairly unimpressed with this. Honestly, it reminds me of Dead Island and the melee mechanics feel off.

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z: I found this game to be terrible and the camera would mess up every time you dashed. I didn't see anything in this other than mindless hack and slash and it feels nothing it like a Ninja Gaiden game.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII: I was actually fairly surprised by this. FFXIII was a boring mess, for me. More a game about paradigm management and selecting autobattle more than anything else. Lightning Returns is more action-oriented and battles are a lot more involved.

I'm not sure about party members, as none were available in the demo, but the paradigm management has shifted into class management, but with more to do than autobattle. Each class, in battle, has its own AP gauge and specific attacks are assigned to the face buttons. When not in a class or attacking, the AP guage fills back up. So combat looks to be effectively shifting between classes to utilise abilities that best work against the enemy's vulnerability.

I'm not sure if that makes sense, but it's a lot more fun to play than FFXIII was.

Dark Souls 2: You died. (this is a good thing!)

Blast 'Em Bunnies: This was at the Sony booth, but it's a very basic game in which you move the controller to aim and shoot bunnies. There's different gun power-ups, etc. It's an indie game, but it appears to be very simplistic.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2: Gabriel kills all the things trying to kill him or I guess drinks their blood too.. It's a beat 'em up of sorts and seems more fighting oriented than the first one, which if memory serves had a good amount of puzzles. It crashed on me during the boss fight.

Scribblenauts: Unmasked: It's Scribblenauts + Superheroes.

Beyond: Two Souls: Press X to baby. Although it might be a good movie to watch.

Just Dance 2014: New tracks, same concept.

Rocksmith 2014: Why do I even own a real guitar? Apparently I should stick with coloured buttons on a fake guitar controller.

Sims 4: I did not play this, but my wife did. She said there wasn't much in the demo (character creation apparently) and was disappointed. I'm guessing this isn't that far in development.

I failed at taking a notebook over the past 3 days, so this essentially what I can remember. If I recall anything, I'll add to the post and if you Polynauts have questions on any of the games or hardware, I can try and answer them. If clarification is needed, please let me know and I'll try to update the post.

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