Standby for [INSERT EXPO-RELATED TERM/GAME HERE].
It’s that time of year again. Once a small little thing on the UK calendar, Eurogamer Expo has now become one of the biggest events in the gaming calendar, and is in my eyes the last massive trade show of the year along with the big four of E3, gamescom, GDC and Tokyo Game Show (anyone who dares to suggest PAX gets a slap on the wrist with a ruler).
This year’s show comes at a time of massive transition. We’ve had the release of four truly watershed games in 2013: Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite, The Last of Us and – recently – Grand Theft Auto V, all on the current cycle of consoles.
Now, we’re two months out from the arrival of the next-generation consoles. Both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will be playable on the showfloor, though we’ve yet to find out the line-up of games Sony will be bringing to the show (if I were a guessing man, the dev session line-up may be a good guess as to what will be there from them).
Putting aside Sony’s yet to be announced software (when it is announced, I’ll be sure to add in a special mention to it here)(Update: HERE IT IS! – Beyond: Two Souls, DriveClub, Doki Doki Universe, Gran Turismo 6, Helldivers, Hohokum, Killzone Mercenary, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, Octodad: Deadliest Catch, Puppeteer, Rain, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus, Resogun, Tearaway The Playroom) this year’s line-up is still amazing to behold. Here’s a quick look at some of the games you should be getting quite excited for and rushing for (in a careful manner) come Thursday morning at 10am.
Selfishly speaking from a personal standpoint, this is going to be the first game I go to when doors open on Thursday morning. Respawn’s debut effort since it was set up in the wake of COD-Gate at Infinity Ward three-and-a-half years ago has gained a lot of positive traction since it was unveiled at E3. Plenty of positive reaction has come out of E3, gamescom, TGS and other shows the game’s been playable at. Chances are the game will be running on PC with a 360 controller rather than the Xbox One version, but nonetheless, this is the one game I am most excited for than any other at the show.
But if Titanfall is my most anticipated of the show, Bayonetta 2 comes a close second. The Platinum sequel is. bluntly, one of two reasons why I still haven’t chucked (read: traded) my Wii U yet (the other being Monolith’s X). I loved Bayonetta 1 back in 2010 and Bayonetta 2 looks more of the same and thensome. But hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Bring on the wicked witch!
Lets put PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to a side here for a second. Many have hailed VR gaming as the next big step in gaming, and the Oculus Rift looks set to deliver that to a mainstream consumer audience next year. But the OR has been available to developers for a while: Half-Life 2, Hawken and Team Fortress 2 are some of the games that support it, whilst above game Titanfall, Minecraft and DOOM 3: BFG Edition are some of the games that looks set to support it. Expect this to be a heavy attraction at the show.
Mike Bithell’s done a bit alright for himself. Since leaving Bossa Games earlier this year to go it alone after releasing Thomas Was Alone on PC to big success, the game went to PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita and became an even bigger success in its wake. Having made TWA as a side-project whilst at Bossa, Volume will be his next big thing, styled as a stealth game. Even now, Bithell hasn’t given much away on Volume (other than it’ll be coming to PS4 and Vita first early next year), but considering – by his own admission – the inspiration of Metal Gear Solid 2 for Volume, this is certainly one game I’m keen to get to grips to at the show.
Need for Speed: Rivals
I was left rather cold by Need for Speed: Most Wanted last year, which was a massive surprise considering that Criterion – Burnout Revenge aside – were not the type to make games that generated a so-so response from me. So I’m hoping Rivals, made as a co-production between Ghost Games Sweden in Gothenburg and Ghost Games UK in Guildford (a UK team that recently splintered from Criterion), Rivals has – very cautiously, however – got me curious for this year’s instalment. Once bitten…
The Crew could be on here for various reasons: the potential of its second-screen support, the fact it insists on itself being an online driven get together to have friends form a crew (geddit?). But the cold, simple truth of it is that Ubisoft Reflections is behind it. Well, them and Ivory Tower, consisting of a group of ex-Eden Games (Test Drive Unlimited) staff. Ubi Reflections did fantastically well with Driver: San Francisco and combine the skills learnt on that with some of the guys behind TDU, this feels like a certified winner.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Hotline Miami on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita is easily one of my favourite games of this year. The 80s-centric action fest has vibes of Drive around it (without the driving or Ryan Gosling), no doubt helped by one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard in a game. But since then, I’ve been feeling left uneasy by HM2 – thanks to a fantastic PC Gamer piece by Cara Ellison last month – that even now I’m still unable to describe. But I’m still curious as to see if and how HM2 can live up to the original – and if I can figure out that uneasy feeling after playing it afterwards.
— Special Mentions —
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD
Sonic Lost World
The Elder Scrolls Online
Sir, You Are Being Hunted
Of course, the other big anchor for the Expo is the developer sessions. Over the past few years, the likes of Hideo Kojima, DICE boss Karl Magnus Troedsson, ex-BioWare bosses Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, Peter Molyneux – who will return on stage this year – 343 Industries creative boss Frankie O’Connor and Valve’s Chet Falizek are some of the devs that have graced the stage in recent years.
This year, another stellar line-up is in store, but here’s the three big ones you should look out for.
Phil Harrison on Xbox One – Thursday 12pm BST
The European boss of Microsoft Studios has been one of Xbox One’s many faces, appearing at E3 and co-hosting the company’s gamescom press event with Microsoft Studios VP Phil Spencer to drive home the Xbox One message. Since E3 and the company’s u-turn on the system’s always on DRM/second-hand policies, followed up by the introduction of a self-publishing indie program in Cologne, good will is starting to build towards the system again. Now, as the system prepares to make a larger-scale UK debut, Harrison will intend to give a developer session that drives home the fact that Xbox One is willing and ready to take on PlayStation 4.
David Cage on Beyond: Two Souls – Friday 1pm BST
With just a couple of weeks to go until Quantic’s next opus is out in the open, David Cage will be on stage to talk Beyond one more time surely before the game’s release. Cage will be making the case for Beyond with Quantic Dream’s emphasis on story set to be high on the agenda, as will almost surely be the inclusion of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. Personally speaking, Beyond will be my final game from this generation. As someone who was rather fond of Heavy Rain, I can’t wait to see what QD can do with Beyond. Plus, it’s the Ellen Page game I’ve always dreamed of.
Julie Uhrman on Ouya – Sunday 3pm BST
Now this should be interesting. The Android-powered Ouya, once hailed as a potential pioneer in games, does not have a lot of goodwill at the moment thanks to the Free the Games fund, which has been under intense scrutiny in the past few weeks. Ouya co-founder Julie Uhrman will be aiming to set the record straight and attempt to reset its stall for a console that, in raising $8 million on Kickstarter, had shown some serious promise. And could even still do so if its messaging gets back on track.
— Special Mentions —
Guerrilla Games on Killzone: Shadow Fall
Bethesda on The Evil Within
Media Molecule on Tearaway
Evolution Studios on DriveClub
CD Projekt RED on The Witcher III
WB Montreal on Batman: Arkham Origins
Eidos Montreal on Thief
Ubisoft Montreal on Watch Dogs
Eurogamer Expo happens from September 26-29 at Earls Court in London. Tickets are now sold out, so there’s NO chance of getting one (bearing any last minute competitions or second-hand sales). However, you can stream all of the dev sessions on Eurogamer.