Live Event: Eurogamer Expo – NEC Birmingham, 20th – 23rd September 2018

It’s that time of the year again where thousands of people travel to Birmingham NEC to get their gaming geek on! Over the course of 3 days I managed to play some of the most highly anticipated games due to come out later this year and beyond. Before I get to the games it occurred to me that although I’ve been writing about EGX for the past 4 years, I’ve never actually put together a survival guide for those of you who have never been before. So, here are some tips in case you decide to visit next year

  • Get an early bird ticket – Early bird tickets allow you to enter the arena at 10am which is an hour earlier than everyone else. Trust me when I say that you can get a lot done before the rest of the crowds turn up.
  • Decide what days to go – EGX runs from Thursday to Sunday. Thursday is usually the quietest day, Friday is noticeably busier, and as you would expect Saturday is the busiest. I’ve noticed that a lot of families go on Sunday so this maybe the best day to go if you have little ones
  • Plan ahead – Decide what games you want to play by using the handy EGX app. Once you’ve made up your mind head straight to the stand as it can save you a lot of time waiting in a queue.
  • Drink lots of water – EGX can be a gruelling event so it is essential to keep yourself topped up with fluids.
  • Take a packed lunch – There are plenty of places to get food at EGX, but as you can imagine they can be quite expensive
  • Wear comfy shoes – Expect to do lots of walking and standing around so it is essential to make sure you have comfortable footwear.
  • Be prepared to queue – EGX can get very busy and although there is plenty of room to move around, there are lots of people who want to play the same games as you. Queues to play the latest games can take anything up to 2 hours, so don’t expect to walk straight to the front of a queue. A lot of people take handhelds like Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo Switch to help pass the time.
  • Have fun – EGX has a great atmosphere so take it all in and enjoy yourself.

Anyway, let’s get to the games I played, so sit back with a cuppa and enjoy!

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

For anyone who read my top 50 games of 2017, you will have seen that I wasn’t a very big fan of the single player story mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. Luckily for me the story in BLOPS 4 has been removed entirely in favour of a brand-new Battle Royale mode called Black Out. I was hoping to play this at EGX, but unfortunately it wasn’t available. However, the mode I did play provided me with a great deal of fun. This new mode was a variation on Capture the Flag where we had to collect a bag of money and take it to an extraction point. This seemed simple enough but when you add limited weapons, ammunition and only one life per round you are left with an exhilarating match filled with tension. This new mode is improved even further by having the ability to buy new attachments, perks and items to aid you in the next round. I would imagine that the biggest attraction in BLOPS 4 will be the inclusion of the new Battle Royale mode which has made games like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite so popular.  Early reports suggest that Black Out may challenge the dominance of both aforementioned games, but only time will tell. Luckily for COD fans they won’t have to wait very long to find out as the game is released next month.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is released on 12th October 2018 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

I’ve been a big fan of the Tomb Raider games since they were originally released in 1996, but it’s fair to say that Lara Croft has had her fair share of ups and downs over the years. Things looked grim for the series until it received a fresh reboot in 2013, with the release of the excellent Tomb Raider. This was followed up with Rise of the Tomb Raider in 2015, which featured in my top ten games of the year. Once again you play as Lara Croft who is trying to stop the end of the world and pinch the odd artefact when nobody is looking. The major change this time around is that primary development duties were taken over by Eidos Montreal. The previous two games were developed by Crystal Dynamics, so it’ll be interesting to see if there are any major deviations with the style of the game. From what I played, Shadow of the Tomb Raider felt like more of the same which isn’t a bad thing at all as I loved the two previous games. I have high hopes for Shadow of the Tomb Raider and my brief playthrough at EGX gave me little to worry about. No doubt I will be picking this up sometime soon so expect a full report on a future entertainment show.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is available now on for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Ubisoft had a large presence at this year’s EGX promoting some of their biggest games, including Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. This year’s outing is set in ancient Greece and tells the fictional history around the Peloponnesian War. The demo that we played gave you the ability to choose from two new protagonists called Alexios or Kassandra. I chose Kassandra to explore the beautiful surroundings, and as you would expect from an Assassin’s Creed game, traversal is extremely easy with climbing and jumping feeling seamless. I was thrown into a huge fight that took place on a beach and was initially baffled by the combat. The previous games had a fluid rhythm to fighting, but Assassin’s Creed Odyssey introduces special attacks. When I finally realised what I was doing, I figured out the best way to take down enemies was to knock them over with a front kick and then stab the crap out of them! When you defeat a number of regular enemies you attract the attention of the boss which is where the real fight begins. In addition to the regular gameplay aspects there are also navel battles which seemed similar to Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. In all honesty I still haven’t played Assassin’s Creed Origins which was released last year, so I am unlikely to pick Odyssey up anytime soon. However, if you are a fan of the Assassin’s Creed games then I’m sure that you will enjoy the latest instalment.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is released on 5th October 2018 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2

The Division 2 is one of my most anticipated games of 2019, so I was quite happy to queue up for nearly two hours to get a chance to sample what to expect next year. The Division was one of my favourite games of 2016, and you can read more about why I liked it so much here I haven’t played The Division for a while, but I was surprised just how quickly things came back to me when I picked up the controller to play the sequel. My take from this is that the gameplay hasn’t changed much from the first game but, there are a few new tweaks and additions which help to keep things fresh. The combat felt great and working together as a team to take down a group of highly armed terrorists was awesome! Graphically the game looks better than the first and I was particularly impressed with the new environments. The setting has changed from a snowy Manhattan to a greener Washington DC. This in itself is a welcome change as although it was fun to wander around snow covered streets, I did wish that the snow would melt away occasionally. It’s not only the setting which impressed me but also the smaller details such as the characters backpacks. This may sound silly but seeing every item attached to the pack moving and swaying as your character ran really helped to bring the game to life. The Division 2 will be a rare day one purchase for me and I cannot wait to play more co-op fun. If you liked the first game, then I’m sure you’ll be just as excited as me when The Division 2 is released next year.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is released on 15th March 2019 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas

Everyone thought the toys to life genre was finished when Skylanders, Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions called time on their foray into the crossover world of gaming. Ubisoft have decided to have one more crack on a market that is all but dead, and from what I played at EGX, I genuinely hope that Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a massive success! Starlink is a space exploration adventure where you literally bring your spaceship to life in the main game. The starter pack contains a mount which you easily slot over your controller. This is where your star ship is placed, and I have to confess that is seemed a little strange at first, as I’ve never played a game with something sitting on top of the controller! I quickly realised that it is essential as you can change your weapons to help you progress in the game. Most importantly though having the spaceship sit on the controller didn’t impede my enjoyment of the game or ability to fight the enemies. Not only is the game really fun and exciting to play, the beauty of being able to change my loadout by literally taking weapons off the ship mounted on my controller felt a little bit magical. The toys and accessories themselves all feel really solid and well-made and I’m sure that they will go down a storm over Christmas. If you enjoyed Starfox or Starwing (coincidentally Fox McCloud and the Arwing are available in the Nintendo Switch starter pack) then I’m sure you’ll love Starlink: Battle for Atlas.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas is released on 16th October 2018 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Super Mario Party

I must confess to never having played a Mario Party game until EGX, and now I know what I’ve been missing out on all these years! Super Mario Party is a collection of mini games designed with two things in mind; fun and laughter. Four of us played a tournament featuring 6 games, all which brought the most of out of the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons. The main idea is to make the games as simple as possible so that anyone can play them. This included frying a piece of meat in a pan by gently flipping the Joy-Con to ensure all sides of the meat were cooked. It may sound a little goofy, but I can honestly say that we laughed like idiots for the whole time we were playing. Super Mario Party looks to be an absolute blast for friends and family and another sure-fire hit for Nintendo.

Super Mario Party is released on 5th October 2018 for Nintendo Switch.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

I’ve got to be completely honest and say that the entire time I was playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate I didn’t have a clue what was going on or who was winning or losing! I mainly did a lot of button mashing, but this didn’t make the game any less enjoyable as we had a great time in four player competitive action. The game features a massive (and I mean massive) list of characters to choose including classic Nintendo franchises and the likes of PAC-MAN, Sonic the Hedgehog and Snake from Metal Gear Solid. The Smash Bros games have always had a reputation for being one of the most complete and deep beat-em ups on the market, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate looks set to be the best yet!

Super Smash Bros Ultimate is released on 7th December 2018 for Nintendo Switch.

Mario Tennis Aces

It’s fair to say that tennis games aren’t really my forte, with the last Tennis game I played on a Nintendo console being Super Tennis way back in 1992. That being said I was extremely impressed with Mario Tennis Aces and had an absolute blast! As you can imagine, there are a number of characters to select from the Mario universe. I played with Donkey Kong and Toad and each had a distinctive feel, meaning you can select a player to suit your style. This being a Nintendo game, the focus is to have fun, and playing against my friend was competitive and also a massive laugh. There were a number of different shots and the feedback from the Joy-Cons helped to immerse you even more into the match. Although there is a single player mode I believe that you will get the most out of the game from playing with someone sat next to you. Mario Tennis Aces appears to be another excellent addition to the Nintendo Switch library and well worth picking up.

Mario Tennis Aces is available now for Nintendo Switch.

The Dark Pictures – Man of Medan

From the makers of the excellent Until Dawn comes a brand new terrifying experience full of supernatural horror that is sure to chill you to the bone! I am a big fan of Until Dawn so was naturally interested by the latest title from Supermassive Games. This time the action takes place on an abandoned ship in the Pacific Ocean rather than a cabin in the woods. One of the main aspects of the game is that your character has to make choices to determine who lives and who dies. The game itself already looks gorgeous and there is the same level of impressive facial animation which featured in Until Dawn. Real actors are used including Shawn Ashmore which helps to provide a genuinely cinematic experience. Although I am intrigued by The Dark Pictures – Man of Medan, my only concern is that the gameplay felt very simple and unengaging. Essentially you just pushed forward to move your character who only had the ability to examine items. Of course, a game like this will live or die by the strength of its storytelling, so hopefully this will be the strongest element of the game. Either way, Man of Medan is the first in an anthology of games from The Dark Pictures, and I’m always happy to play new horror games.

The Dark Pictures – Man of Medan is coming soon and will be released for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus boasted one of the longest queues at EGX with people prepared to wait upwards of two hours to play one of the most anticipated games of 2019! Metro Exodus is a first-person shooter and the third game based on the novels of Dmitry Glukhovsky. I was a huge fan of the previous game; Metro Last Light so have high hopes for Metro Exodus and based on what I played I won’t be disappointed. First of all, the game looks gorgeous and I’ve always felt that the Metro games have their own distinctive style which sets them apart from other first-person shooters. Metro Exodus promises to have more of an open world setting which gives you the opportunity to take a stealth based approach or go all guns blazing. Speaking of guns, you can find different materials meaning that weapons can be customised to suit your play style. All in all, the 15-minute demo was enough to whet my appetite for the finished game which is released next year. The mixture of excellent graphics, different ways to play the game and tone of the story, mean that Metro Exodus should be a fitting end to the trilogy.

Metro Exodus is released on 22nd February 2019 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Soulcalibur VI

It’s been a while since I played a Soulcalibur game. In fact, the last time was when it was originally released on the Sega Dreamcast in 1999! Soulcalibur VI looks absolutely stunning with incredibly colourful graphics that seem to ‘pop’ off the screen. Although I am not a massive fan of fighting games, I couldn’t help being drawn into the action, which was fast paced but not as manic as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. One of the main reasons why I wanted to play Soulcalibur VI was the inclusion of a new guest character, Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher games. Guest characters from other franchises are nothing new for Soulcalibur with the likes of Darth Vader from Star Wars, Link from Legend of Zelda and Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed appearing in previous games. I adore The Witcher 3 so couldn’t pass up the chance to play as one of my favourite characters of all time. If you’re a fan of the Soulcalibur series, then I think you’ll be extremely happy when Soulcalibur VI is released next month.

Soulcalibur VI is released on 19th October 2018 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Hitman 2

Agent 47 returns in the follow up to the critically and commercially acclaimed hit from 2016. Whereas Hitman was released over five different episodes throughout 2016, Hitman 2 will feature a complete story on its launch with content added later as part of a season pass. IO Interactive were rightly praised for their constant stream of new content, including timed elusive targets which kept players hooked to the game throughout the year. As an added bonus, if you own the first game you will receive updated and remastered versions of the maps which made the first game so much fun. In the demo for Hitman 2 we were treated to a hugely impressive level set at a racecourse in Miami. The game looked stunning and I was particularly impressed with the level of detail and amount of people on screen at the same time. The Hitman games have always given you an excellent sandbox environment to play around in, providing many different opportunities to tackle each objective. Hitman 2 looks set to expand on this with a greater level of detail as well as new locations and targets.

Hitman 2 is released on 13th November 2018 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

This is Pool

We are huge fans of VooFoo Studios here at 60 Minutes With Towers and always take a keen interest in their latest releases. For such a small team they have made some excellent games that are extremely well polished, featuring superb gameplay and excellent graphics. Dave and I reviewed VooFoo’s previous game; the excellent Mantis Burn Racing and its DLC Battle Cars, so please click on the respective links and then go out and buy it! Pure Pool is a favourite game of mine and Dave’s and a little-known fact is that 60 Minutes With was created over a game of Pure Pool! Over the course of three days at EGX I kept returning to This is Pool mainly because it was so damn good! It takes the excellent gameplay of Pure Pool to another level with some fantastic new mini games! I played a game called Danger Ball where you couldn’t touch the black ball but must pot the other balls after each shot. Clear the table and more black balls get added which ramps up the challenge each time. This was just one of a number of new modes which will make This is Pool a day one purchase for me, and another excellent addition to VooFoo Studios already superb library of games.

This is Pool will be released in 2019 for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

Valfaris

Valfaris was one of my favourite games from EGX! It featured fantastic gameplay, a kick ass soundtrack, and incredible graphics which reminded me of retro games from the 16-bit era. In fact, the game plays a lot like similar 16-bit games I loved such as Turrican and Super Probotector. Your character carries a regular gun and power sword which is used to top up your mana. Your mana is used to temporarily power your shield and special weapons so timing when to use them is essential. Although the gameplay was tough, it never felt impossible and had that ‘just one more go’ feeling. The music also plays an important part of the game with its heavy metal soundtrack suiting the intense gameplay. There were fantastic little touches that made me smile, including your character moshing when I finished the level and enemies stumbling around when you chop them in half. Valfaris looks superb and I cannot wait to get my hands on it next year.

Valfaris will be released in 2019 for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

Catastronauts

If I could give an award to the game at EGX that provided the me with the most laughs, then it would definitely go to Catastronauts. Imagine Overcooked set in space and this will give you some idea of the fun and chaotic essence of the game. The aim of the game is that you and three friends must work together to destroy other enemy spaceships. Team work is essential as you need to repair the ship, load the cannons to fire the weapons, put out fires, throw mines over the side and avoid solar flares. These are just a few of the tasks you must carry out and we had amazing fun shouting at each other as things inevitably went wrong. Catastronauts is absolutely brilliant and like the best games is easy to pick up and hard to put down. Catastronauts will be an essential party game experience that will delight friends and family for many hours.

Catastronauts is released on 28th September 2018 for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

So that rounds up another fantastic year for me at EGX!  Now you know all there is to know about a visit to EGX, from survival with a packed lunch to the standard of new releases. Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll be seeing you at EGX 2019!

Review by Chris (co-host of 60 Minutes With).