Live Event: Eurogamer Expo – NEC Birmingham,21st – 24th, 2017

Eurogamer Expo 2017 (or EGX as it is more commonly known) returned to Birmingham NEC to celebrate its 10th anniversary. I personally have been going to EGX for the past 7 years and it is always one of the highlights of my diary. Over a period of 4 days, up to 75,000 people will visit the NEC for the opportunity to get their hands on the latest upcoming videogame releases. Unfortunately I was only able to visit EGX for 1 day this year, instead of the endurance testing 4 days which I managed in 2016! Despite this, I was still able to play some of the biggest AAA titles, and also some excellent indie games which are due out soon.

I was particularly excited to find out more about the release of the new Xbox console, the Xbox One X. Although not necessarily a generational leap in terms of consoles, Microsoft has promised to deliver the most powerful console on the market, which is capable of delivering true 4k gaming. Microsoft were conspicuous by their absence in 2016 but, this year’s show meant that a number of games were being shown off utilising the Xbox One X.

Nintendo were the other big hitter at EGX that I wanted to check out, following the hugely successful release of the Nintendo Switch, which released earlier this year. I had my doubts about the Switch following a weak line up of launch games but, Nintendo have had a really strong year in terms of games, releasing excellent titles such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. EGX 2017 meant that the highly anticipated Super Mario Odyssey would be available to play on the show floor, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it!

So, grab yourself a cuppa and check out my impressions of the games I played at EGX 2017.

Strange Brigade

People who listen to the 60 Minutes With Entertainment show, or read our reviews, will know that I love British developer Rebellion. Last year they released the excellent Battlezone, and this year saw the release of the wonderful Sniper Elite 4. Strange Brigade is a team based third person action adventure, which reminded me a lot of another Rebellion game, Zombie Army Trilogy. You can play alone or with up to 3 other friends, taking on enemies whilst hunting for treasure. What I really liked about Strange Brigade was the 1930’s setting which evoked a wonderful B movie feeling. The action was fast and furious as I fought off waves of mummified enemies, whilst using traps to my advantage. Even in this early stage of development, it looked great and played really well. Zombie Army Trilogy was fantastic fun and Strange Brigade looks to be every bit as enjoyable. I will definitely be keeping my eye on this one.

Strange Brigade is coming soon and will be released for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, (or don’t know much about videogames) you’ll have more than likely heard about the latest PC smash hit, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, or as it is commonly known, PUBG. The game has sold more than 10 million copies since its release, which is an incredible achievement, especially when you consider that essentially the game isn’t finished and receives regular updates. The big news is that PUBG is being released for the Xbox One later this year, which is a huge coup for Microsoft as they try to capitalise on its popularity. To explain what type of game PUBG is, I would describe it as the game version of the movie Battle Royale. 100 players are dropped onto a vast island, and it’s every man for himself as you forage for weapons and equipment. As is the case with the movie, the area of the island gets smaller and smaller which forces players to fight to the death. I’ve never played PUBG before and my brief time with it was as I had expected, based on what I’d heard from people who regularly play the game. The gameplay and graphics aren’t the most polished but, it’s the sense of tension knowing that literally everyone is out to kill you that really makes the game something special. Adding to this tension is that you can form small alliances to help you get through the game but, as with the movie, there can only be one winner, so they can turn on you at any time.

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds is available now on PC and will be released for Xbox One later this year.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Although Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is already available to buy, I wanted to have a play to see what all the fuss is about. The game is a turn based strategy title that is often compared to the critical and commercially successful XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which was released in 2012. Made and published by Ubisoft instead of Nintendo, a lot was riding on whether another company could capture the Nintendo magic that they so often produce. I’m not the biggest fan of strategy games but, from what I played I was pleasantly surprised with how accessible the game seemed. You can clearly tell that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a labour of love and the graphics and sound are both excellent. Ubisoft have done a great job with an iconic Nintendo franchise crossing over with one of their own.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is available now for Nintendo Switch.

Super Mario Odyssey

One of the most anticipated games due for release later this year is Super Mario Odyssey on Nintendo Switch. It’s fair to say that excitement has been reaching fever pitch since its initial unveiling, and Super Mario Odyssey has already won a number of awards at E3 and Gamescom. From what I played I can understand the hype as Super Mario Odyssey was one of my favourite games at EGX! I played a desert level where the local inhabitants had been plagued by icy conditions. The first thing that struck me was how gorgeous the game looked. As you would imagine everything was really vibrant and colourful, and the best way I can describe it is that everything seemed to just ‘pop’ on the screen. Despite some initial issues with the camera, the controls were excellent and Mario felt as responsive as ever. One of the new features is the ability for Mario to throw his hat onto objects and characters, essentially possessing them Linda Blair style. An example of this was that I threw my hat onto a rocket, meaning that I could fly around the map finding coins and secrets. One section of the game had me ascending a tower which literally took my breath away. It started as a normal 3D level, but as soon as I entered a pipe, I became a 2D pixelated Mario, reminiscent of early Super Mario games. Its neat little touches like this that make Mario games so special, and Super Mario Odyssey will be a day one purchase for me.

Super Mario Odyssey is released on 27th October 2017 for Nintendo Switch.

Splatoon 2

One of my favourite games of 2017 is Splatoon 2 for Nintendo Switch! I never got the chance to play Splatoon on the Nintendo WiiU, so I jumped at the chance when it came out early this year. Splatoon is an 8 player online shooter with all the charm and playability that you would expect from Nintendo. Like all the best games, the aim is simple, but there is a lot of fun to be had especially with that “just one more go” feeling. As part of a team, the objective is to cover the floor in more paint than the other team. As you can imagine, the matches are often very fast and frantic. Throw into the mix; dozens of special weapons and perks from different clothing and there is a surprising amount of depth to the game. My friend is on the fence about buying a Nintendo Switch, so we had a round of Turf War and even though he lost, I think he is one step closer to grabbing the latest Nintendo console.

Splatoon 2 is available to buy now for Nintendo Switch.

Sonic Forces

People who know me know that I’m not the biggest Sonic the Hedgehog fan in the world. In fact Sonic has been through a stormy history with many people saying that there hasn’t been a good Sonic game for years. Sonic Mania released this year which was made by fans of the franchise and has gone some way to repairing the reputation of the Sega mascot but, that was based on 2D Sonic games from the 90’s rather than the 3D attempts which have largely fallen a bit flat. It’s always difficult to judge a game by spending a few minutes with it at events like EGX but, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Sonic Forces. The game looked good and played nicely even when Sonic was running faster than my eyes could keep up with him.

Sonic Forces is released on 7th November 2017, for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

Assassins Creed Origins

I have enjoyed a number of Assassins Creed games however, like many gamers I began to feel burnt out by the yearly releases, which added little to the gameplay except changing the setting and time period. In addition to this Assassins Creed Unity was a public mess for Ubisoft, releasing with numerous bugs and the now infamous missing face models, which were enough to give you nightmares. The follow up, Assassins Creed Syndicate, suffered as a result which is a shame, as I quite enjoyed the London setting in the time of Queen Victoria and Jack the Ripper. Assassins Creed took a year off in 2016, meaning that Assassins Creed Origins is the first big budget release in the series for over a year. A lot is resting on its shoulders, and one of the reasons I wanted to play it was because it was being powered by the Xbox One X. My initial impression of the game was that it lent heavily from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. From the way you ride your horse around an open world, to the way that question marks would appear for you to explore. In fact you could go so far as say that everything but the setting seemed to take inspiration from the CD Projekt RED masterpiece. This is a good thing and also a bad thing in my opinion. The combat and climbing will probably be better handled than The Witcher 3 but, the strength of The Witcher series has always been the writing and characters. As I’ve said before, the characters in The Witcher come to life and you actually care about decisions you make in the game. I’m happy to be proven wrong but, I am sceptical about how much you are going to care about exploring ancient Egypt. We played an alpha version of the game and there were a number of bugs including frame rate issues and screen tearing. As for whether I could see the power of the Xbox One X, to be honest no but, I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt as it was a development kit we were using and alpha version of the game. Either way, we won’t have long to find out if my fears were proven right or wrong, as the game is out next month.

Assassins Creed Origins is released on 27th October 2017, for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Far Cry 5

I was a massive fan of Far Cry 4! I loved the open world, being able to tackle missions and objectives either stealthily or going in all guns blazing. I also loved how you could get in numerous land, sea or air vehicles to get around the world. The biggest compliment that I could pay the game was that everything felt alive, from the animals which would roam around and sometimes attempt to kill you, to the vegetation and inhabitants. Based on the 10 minutes of playing Far Cry 5, I would hazard a guess and say that it will be more of the same but look prettier. As I had spent over 40 hours with Far Cry 4, I immediately felt comfortable with the controls and gun play. The main difference will be the setting, moving from the mountains of the Himalayas to Montana USA, as you fight against a radical preacher and his violent cult. Far Cry 5 has already garnered some controversy focusing on far right issues, so it will be interesting to see how the game tackles the story, especially with everything that is happening in America right now.

Far Cry 5 is released on 27th February 2018, for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Super Lucky’s Tale

I’m a sucker for a good platform adventure game, and one of my all-time favourites is Banjo-Kazooie! These types of games were extremely popular in the 90’s but, they seem to be few and far between these days. However, the success of the Ratchet and Clank reboot and the recent release of Yooka-Laylee means there is definitely still an appetite for them. Lucky’s Tale started life as a virtual reality game for the Occulus Rift. Now the game is being published by Microsoft with the name Super Lucky’s Tale, we get to enjoy this 3D platformer, minus the need for an expensive VR headset. I really liked what I played and it reminded me heavily of games like Banjo-Kazooie, even down to the way that the characters communicate. I doubt that it is going to trouble the likes of Mario, which is arguably the king of platforming games but, I still think there will be a lot of fun to be had, especially if you enjoy these kinds of games.

Super Lucky’s Tale is released on 7th November 2017, for PC and Xbox One.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I own The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but to be honest I’ve never actually played it. I think the reason for this is because I feel a bit intimidated by the thought of spending 200+ hours sat in front of my PC. Earlier on this year Bethesda announced that Skyrim was coming to Nintendo Switch, and all of a sudden my interest piqued. For some reason the thought of being able to take the game away with me and play on the go felt like a whole new proposition. The big question is how would the game run on essentially a tablet, where it was notoriously difficult to run on consoles such as the Xbox 360, and especially the PS3. Based on my brief time with the Nintendo Switch version, I have to say that I was really impressed that they managed to squeeze such a massive game onto the console. The game looked and played really well in handheld mode, and I may well pick it up when it is released later this year.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is released on 17th November 2017 for Nintendo Switch.

Huntdown

I have to credit my friend Wayne (@diddygamer) for unearthing this gem for me. On our way to EGX he had a list of games that he wanted to check out. On his list was Huntdown, and after he showed me the trailer for the game I could understand why. Resembling 16 bit games from the 90’s, Huntdown plays like a modern day take on games such as Robocop Vs Terminator on the Sega Megadrive. Playing alone, or with a friend with local co-op, you take control of two bounty hunters facing different factions which was reminiscent of The Warriors. The graphics and setting looked absolutely sensational, and the gameplay was fantastic fun. There were plenty of weapons to collect and even though the game was tough, you could at least revive your partner if they took too much damage. We played the Nintendo Switch version and I absolutely loved every second if it. This will be an instant purchase for me when it is released, as it reminded me so much of the games I loved in the early 90’s.

Huntdown is coming in 2017, and will be released for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

Dead Pixels 2: Straight to Video

The main reason I played Dead Pixels 2: Straight to Video, is because I couldn’t resist the booth that had been set up with old VHS tapes and a video player next to the TV. Developed by one man, Dead Pixels 2 reminded me so much of my childhood in the 80’s that I actually fell a little bit in love with it. The game is a randomly generated side scrolling shooter with role playing game (RPG) elements. Up to 4 players can play to take on the undead hordes which roam the streets. Although the gameplay was simple, using the right trigger to fire right, and left trigger to fire left, I found myself getting lost in the whole VHS inspired era and setting. One of the highlights was when you started to take damage, as the screen would go fuzzy as if the tracking of the video was being adjusted. Based on my short time with the game, I will be keeping a close eye on Dead Pixels 2: Straight to Video’s development.

Dead Pixels 2: Straight to Video is coming soon for PC.

Mantis Burn Racing

Dave and I are big fans of everything that VooFoo Studios release, especially Mantis Burn Racing, which I played at EGX 2016. You can read what Dave thought of the latest DLC for Mantis Burn Racing, called Battlecars here. The big news from VooFoo ahead of this year’s EGX, was that the game is being released for the Nintendo Switch. Although I didn’t get my hands on the Switch version, I did watch someone play it, and I have to say that it looks particularly impressive, especially in handheld mode. Mantis Burn Racing is a great game so the ability to take it out and about with you will be another reason to own it.

Mantis Burn Racing is available now for PC, PS4, Xbox One and will be released for the Nintendo Switch soon.

Raging Justice

If like me you are a big fan of side scrolling beat-em ups such as Final Fight and Streets of Rage 2, then I get the feeling you will love Raging Justice. I played Raging Justice two years ago at EGX, and it struck a chord with me then. The game has been in development for 4 years, and although this may sound like a long time, you have to take into account it is being made by just two people, husband and wife Nick and Anna Makin. Playing either alone or with a friend, you take on the role of maverick cops Nikki Rage and Nick Justice, as they fight their way through the seedy underworld. It has to be said that the graphics for the characters are excellent, with them having a digitised look which evokes memories of Mortal Kombat. Everything screams late 80’s early 90’s arcade beat-em up which is one of the reasons I absolutely loved it. I personally cannot wait for Raging Justice to be released, and I had a big smile on my face playing it at EGX 2017.

Raging Justice is coming soon for PC and Xbox One.

So that was EGX for another year. As you’ve read, there is plenty to look forward to in the coming months and I think it is a great time to be a gamer. My only problem is having the time to play everything. Thanks for reading.

Review by Chris (co-host of 60 Minutes With and The Same Coin).