As the Progress Bar team entered the EB Expo Arena this year there were plenty of games to play, trailers to watch and people to see. Not everything was playable at EB Expo this year and with the distinct orange glow of EA being noticably absent, the team looked for something that could fill the void of Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2. These are the games that Darcy and Kochie were able to play during the weekend and their thoughts from those experiences.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Darcy: I had fun with the game but I’d watched so much footage of the starting area that it kinda felt like I’d already played it. That said the combat feels great and the inventory is reasonably intuitive. The control design of hold a dpad direction then scroll through with the sticks is definitely unusual though. It’s not frustrating to use but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was designed with the NX in mind as some people have theorised. After all, why not just have an item wheel like Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess?
Visually it’s a mix of good and not so good looking. I probably don’t need to explain this but the art style allows characters, monsters and structures to look great but on the whole… Well it’s definitely a Wii U game. The frame rate got a bit spotty at times and it was particularly bad around the Steppe Talus rock dude.
A lot of impressions from E3 talked about how easy it is to get distracted in this world and I can wholeheartedly agree now I’ve been able to get my hands on it. Seeing a chest or a bombable wall or an encampment of enemies, it all drew me in immediately, and not in a Ubisoft ‘tick a box’ kind of way. It felt far more organic: I’m wandering through this world, I see something interesting so I go and investigate. It’s more than just following a map marker.
I spent a solid portion of the demo at the edge of the plateau, using the slate to zoom into the distance to see what I could see. And I did see a few things I hadn’t seen in any other footage. One was a weird hut thing to the north west of the plateau, its roof was like a giant Dragon head thing made out of cloth and wood. Looked far more like someone’s home than just another monster lair but I could be wrong. I also had a good look at the thing climbing death mountain. It is NOT a Goron. It looks more like one of the guardians but huge and elongated. It had some weird windmill looking tail as well. Similarly, the flying platform was way more T-shaped than I realised, and I’m almost certain it has propeller things parallel with the ground, like a hovercraft.
Like watching your friend play a game for hours and hours then finally getting a turn yourself, my time on the plateau wasn’t anything groundbreaking. It was more of a confirmation. Yes this is an open-world Zelda game, yes it’s as fun as it looks, and yes I need to know more asap. At this point I think a trailer showcasing towns or more of the story would turn me into a blubbering mess. Can’t wait.
Gears of War 4
Kochie: After watching the trailer at the Xbox Keynote with Phil Spencer I was a bit doubtful as to whether or not I would enjoy Gears 4. My opinion changed dramatically after surviving in Horde mode until wave 18 where we were kicked out and I was having a ball mowing down enemies with my group. Unfortunately I’m not invested in the Gears franchise and it’s universe so the campaign won’t make make a lick of sense but anyone can wipe out waves of aliens and robots which is what I enjoyed the most. All-in-all a solid showing and with it coming to Xbox Play Anywhere I see myself playing this one on PC solely for the Horde mode.
Darcy: The enemy variety I saw across the span of probably 5 or 6 waves was impressive. There were standard ‘swarm’ grunts, with bigger, slower dudes that took a lot of hits and had big guns. These dog-like things that jumped up on cover and spat some kind of projectile. There were robot enemies too which, in my limited experience of the Gears of War franchise, I had not seen before. They self-destruct upon death but otherwise don’t seem too special. There were little sphere robots that would quickly roll up to your defenses and damage them until destroyed, they’re fast and easy to miss. Finally, there was a big chopper (maybe called a hornet?) that flew in behind our choke-point, making our cover useless. It took a lot of hits to take down although it was hard to tell how many of us were still alive/actually shooting it at that point.
After a while my team and I were told to shove off, but I made sure to try out the single player as well. This time with a controller on a PC. I changed the look inversion (phew) and actually jacked up the resolution to 1440p just to test the PCs they had set up. The game looks incredible and ran flawlessly. Obviously I have no idea what the PC specs were but yeah, very nice looking game. The demo I played starts with them spotting a dam in the distance, and ends with them getting to some sort of tower. Very brief and no doubt old news to people following the game. The combat feels like classic Gears of War, but the ‘wind flares’ as they’re called add quite a bit to an encounter. When throwing grenades or shooting the buzzsaw gun you’ll have to compensate for wind direction and strength. Suddenly all those reliable waist-high walls can blow or roll away or be shot to pieces. At one point a huge pipe rolled down the hill crushing a few swarm and narrowly avoiding Fenix Jr. The physics and effects playing out in these scenes looks amazing, and it certainly shakes up the standard cover-based shooter combat. After a few more encounters a weird laser-lightning storm hits and you have to dodge it and cross the battlefield, almost like a bullet-hell game. The demo ended shortly afterwards.
Darcy: I’ve deliberately been avoiding a lot of media for this game so I can go in as fresh as possible, but I couldn’t help but have a go. I played for around 30 minutes on Xbox One I think (Kochie definitely played on a PC. Having ESC pop up when reading messages before switching to the B button didn’t get missed). The demo I played has recently been shown off in the Clockwork Mansion gameplay trailer. The mansion itself is really cool, you can pull levers to completely change the layout of a room. It’s confusing in a good way, making what would otherwise be a standard mansion level quite complex.
Then there’s the clockwork soldiers, whose voice acting and dialogue is quite enjoyable. The delivery is spot on, with one example being “enemy evasion… successful” said with a tone of mild surprise and maybe even a hint of admiration. One cool thing the Bethesda guy mentioned was that every single clockwork soldier in the game will have a unique plaque that you can get by stealth killing them, or, if you’re going for a ghost run, you can pickpocket it off them. If you get every single one there’s some sort of reward although I have no idea what that may be.
As for the demo mission itself you’re tasked with killing Jindosh, the inventor of the robots, and rescuing Anton Sokolov. I’m not quite sure if it was a bug or if perhaps a clockwork soldier went on a rampage, but I got an ‘objective complete’ for killing Jindosh without being anywhere near him. I found Sokolov and then made a mad dash for the exit, sensing my time was running short. On the way I managed to cut a guy in half, then noticed that I was able to carry his severed legs around. I threw them, then used Emily’s equivalent of blink to pull the legs toward me, they flew through the air and landed in a chair with a wet thud.
I can’t overstate how cool the level design was here and the vistas of the city below bathed in the orange glow of sunset were gorgeous. Emily’s new tools and powers feel fresh, and seem designed to enable even more freedom than the first game. I can’t wait to play this.
Kochie: Probably my favourite game in show and the best part is that it comes out in November! After re-learning the control scheme from the first game I was sneaking around, exploring levels and killing anyone who was unfortunate enough to spot me. The game had some interesting dialogue and internal monologues that really got me invested even after the extended demo I was able to play. The ability to play as either Corvo or Emily also allows for a variety of different ways to play the game and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
With the level being a mansion I was under the impression that it would be a fairly linear experience but I was dead wrong. The ability to change the design at the pull of a lever had me exploring as much as possible and finding different combinations of mansion layout. Even after finishing my 30 minute playthrough I walked around and saw other players hiding in areas I was never able to find. To havc a demo this open makes me excited for what’s to come.
Kochie: Keeping with the theme of games that omit the letter ‘u’ from their name, we have For Honor which is one of my most anticipated releases of 2017. Unfortunately after my hands on with both the Single and Multiplayer modes, it may have dulled my enthusiasm a little. The best way I could describe the combat is a mix of Dynasty Warriors hack and slash, Assassin’s Creed’s instant kill combo and Nidhogg’s tactical sword placement for offense and defense. Being able to tactically hack and slash at my enemies was a great experience both in modes but I can see problems arising which would be similar to Dark Souls PVP where lag plays a big part in whether or not you hit your opponent.
With that being said, teaming up in Multiplayer against four other warriors and some cannon fodder soldiers was an intense experience that went right down to the wire. Timing and strategy are critical when fighting another player but it all falls apart when a 2 v 1 situation occurs as each of the greater party can just spam attacks to win. Against the cannon fodder it still felt like fighting in Assassin’s Creed where you would swiftly execute solider after soldier with only a twist of the left-stick. While this minutely contributed to our teams score, they only seem to be there to fill up the small map so it wouldn’t look so empty.
I can’t wait to play more of For Honor and yet I’m less excited than what I was before getting hands on EB Expo.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Darcy: This was just a brief eyes-on presentation not an actual playable demo. It started with a night-time mission with commentary, thankfully without the fake voice acting from the E3 demo. The graphics seem great and, dare I say it, achievable. We’ve been burned by Ubisoft on more than one occasion, but from what I saw it doesn’t seem to be reaching for anything unattainable. Who knows when it comes to performance and bugs however.
The demo saw Ghosts One through Four sneaking their way through an enemy camp to find intel on an enemy targets location (the guy they go after in the E3 demo). Two Ghosts commandeer an enemy vehicle which allows them to drive straight into the enemy camp without being detected. Meanwhile a third Ghost sniped lone guards and shot out lights for his teammates. Eventually they get the intel but get spotted and have to make a hasty escape. One of them turns off the generator and they switch to night vision and shoot their way out, eventually driving away in a buggy with a chopper on their tail. Was cool but also hard to imagine it going that smoothly with a bunch of online randoms. I was getting both MGS V and The Division vibes from what I saw, make of that what you will.
Darcy: I honestly don’t know why Ubisoft decided to demo this at EB Expo. The game was rough as hell in every way possible; it looked, ran and played like crap. I don’t personally see the point of a game like this and I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes the way of The Crew. It feels like it’s trying to blend two different types of game and not doing a good job of either. One positive is that I laughed a lot at the physics when I stacked it, flight suiting into tree branches, skiing down sheers rock faces etc.
South Park: Fractured but Whole
Darcy: Another very brief demo, was probably done in under ten minutes. It seems the kids have this time decided to play superheroes instead of fantasy, and I got the impression you’re the same ‘new kid’ as the first game. Obsidian’s absence has me a little concerned but rest assured the game is still funny. Your personal hero’s origin story involves fighting off home invaders shortly before walking in on your parents having sex (or in the words of Cartman “Your dad… fucking your mom…”). A nice touch was one of the burglars checking their phone while waiting for you to choose your attack. There was only one other combat encounter and it was again too brief to really get to grips with the subtleties of how it will all work, but the game is definitely fun and funny.
Kochie: While other classes looked to be available, you were only able to select the Speedster class and nothing else which was similar to what was shown at the most recent E3 and a little dissapointing. There was also no Jew class which I’m disappointed about. The game as a whole seems to be upgraded in every way from the combat to the sound and most notably in the combat. The tactical chess-like feel of this sequel’s combat system is something that I’m really excited to get into when it releases in 2017.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Darcy: This started with a story trailer I hadn’t seen before with some human enemies in masks. Then the guy played through the demo that was showed at E3 before I got ~15 minutes with the game. It was basically the small area from the E3 demo from the edge of Aloy’s village to just before the scene where she fights the ‘demon’. I ran around, picked up plants, took over a Broadhead and made it my mount, shot arrows from its back, killed some of the raptor-looking things, shot canisters off the backs of grazers and killed one of the tough crab machines with big loot crates on their backs. To give a very general sense of how it played: think Rise of the Tomb Raider crossed with the freedom and more open areas of The Witcher. I’ve had a sneaking suspicion for a while now that this games open world will be far more like the former than the latter, but this demo was too small to come to any conclusions. One thing’s for sure, it looks phenomenal. I asked what I was playing on and they said a PS4 dev kit, whatever that is, but the game is gorgeous and ran quite well too. I’m not sold on the story elements that we’ve seen so far, but the game has plenty of time to win me over on that front.
Kochie: Another top contender for best game in show for me was Horizon: Zero Dawn. Everything from the environments to the bio-mechanical creatures and the combat system oozed polish and I was sincerely loving every minute of it. The characters and backstory are interesting and entices me in to want to jump in and play more when it releases in 2017. Being PS4 exclusive is a bit disappointing for me as I was grappling with the controls a fair bit but with the game being single-player, time slows down whenever you are using your weapon wheel which is nice. Completing the short list of objectives in the demo was do-able and I can see this possibly evolving into a completionists nightmare as the open world may be littered with objectives and quests to complete.
Sniper Elite 4: Italia
Kochie: This playthrough was a little all over the place to say the least. There was no tutorial or hand holding and it just chucks you into the middle of a mission. It’s definitely a slower paced game though so only having 15minutes with one mission didn’t feel adequate time to play it slow and steady. I still stumbled my way through and learned to time my shots effectively. This lead to some impressive kill shots and their subsequent gore-y xrays were very satisfying.