The first thing I spotted as I got off at Earl’s Court, heading for the Eurogamer 2012 Expo, was a couple of people cosplaying as Big Boss and Dr Strangelove from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. I had found my people.
Inside, the lavish convention danced provocatively in stringy underwear, offering a smooth thigh of FarCry 3 and the worrisome bulge of Gears of War: Judgement. It was a convention for every type of gamer. It’s fairly easy to sneer at the current output of games, with the over reliance publishers have on shooters which flood the market, and it was evident on the show-floor how firm this mindset was.
Indistinguishable sections were allocated for identi-games Medal of Honour: Warfighter, Battlefield 3, Warface, Call of – wait wait wait, Warface? Are they being serious? Unless they’re planning an extremely imaginative reboot of Scarface that name should never have been considered. It should have been given to an evil henchman in a 1980s Steven Seagal movie.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 had by far the longest queue for any game at the event, and I imagine would have eaten up a chunk of valuable gaming time if I had any interest in the franchise. As it was, the rest of the convention was jammed full on fun and innovative games, and as soon as I finish this sentence I’m going back to forgetting the Call of Duty franchise exists.
What was wonderful to see, especially against the backdrop of the aforementioned wall of militaristic boredom, was the number of mainstream games that are moving away from shooting-centric gameplay mechanics, and are concentrating on the act of exploration as the driving force of their games. FarCry 3, for example, is a gorgeous looking FPS set in a colourful open-world environment that is full of tiny details and exciting ways to travel around the game world. It’s a shooter, certainly, but one that understands that isn’t everything it needs.
The newly-rebooted Tomb Raider also has a focus on exploratory action, with a pseudo-sandbox world rendered with beautiful greenery and earthy textures. Then there’s the new Bethesda offering of Dishonoured, a free-form RPG akin to their previous Elder Scrolls games with a BioShock art style, and then there’s the big dog: Hitman: Absolution. A game with about a bajillion methods of accomplishing the smallest task, rewarding the player for being inventive, for scouring the environment, and for discovering secrets to aid their goals. It’s a refreshing time to be a gamer.
There’s one negative to the convention: sexism and misogyny are familiar issues with the gaming community, who are, often fairly, accused of the objectification of women, and the lack of proper female characters in the games themselves has always been an issue, doubly so since in their place women are treated as walking jiggle-physics machines.
What doesn’t help this problem? Booth babes. For those of you who don’t know, these are attractive women who wear very little and stand near big game releases to be gawked at, in the hopes that their presence will attract a few more eyes. It’s something we need to move on from as a culture.It’s insulting the very community it’s selling to, thinking the only way to keep us engaged is to show us titties.
Elsewhere, the showfloor was packed with demos: God of War: Ascension, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Crysis 3, Air Buccaneers, Assassin’s Creed 3, Resident Evil 6, and plenty of smaller games too, with a fantastic indie section which was impossible to spend too long in.
Nintendo had a showing of the Wii-U, in the delirious hope that anyone cares about the Wii-U, and Sony had the Playstation Vita, in the delirious hope that anyone cares about the Playstation Vita.
Around every corner was a new game, with a new freebie, and friendly people who had all come to the same place for the same reason: to play games and feel smug that they’re playing them before anyone else.
For me, there are two awards for the Game of the Show. The fanboy in me is rooting for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, which makes up for it’s perplexing name with some fantastic combat mechanics. I was dreading playing that game. The Metal Gear franchise is one of the most intelligent, dramatic, and imaginative game series we have, and from trailers it seemed that they took the breakdancing-cyborg-ninja scene from MGS4 and had turned it into a whole game. And that’s exactly what they have done. And it is glorious.
Co-winner is Hitman: Absolution, a seminal demo put this straight to the top of my list of most anticipated games. It’s a slick experience, with real stealth gameplay and pure freedom to play however you want to. It controls tightly, it looks amazing, and from all appearances we have a challenger to the Hitman: Blood Money throne.
The flop of the show award goes to LittleBigPlanet: Karting. I find it cute that developers think they can turn Mariokart into a genre. Like when we had Sonic: All Star Racing, and Crash Team Racing (I don’t care what you say, CTR is not a good game). It’s even cuter that they think it’s original to have a creation-centric kart game, because that exists. Modnation Racers. It came out like two years ago. It is exactly the same game. Other than that – seriously, exactly the same – the controls are floaty and unresponsive and the karts handle like a panda running from a possible sexual mate.
It was an excellent event. In summary: less boobs and karts, more exploring and stealthy murder. If you’re interested in the games I’ve mentioned, more in-depth hands-on articles are on the way.