On the penultimate, and traditionally busiest, day of EGX, the Power Up Gaming contingent set our sights on battling the inevitable queues to secure play time with some of the largest triple-A we’d yet to experience, and then turned our attention in the afternoon back to the Rezzed zone, where a plethora of intriguing indie titles were available to get hands-on with.
Our first appointment for the day was also one of our most eagerly anticipated of the weekend. While Power Up Gaming editor-in-chief Chris Mawson is a huge virtual reality proponent, he’ll be the first to tell you that he suffers horribly from ‘simulation sickness’, an unpleasant sensation akin to motion sickness that occurs due to a disconnect between your movement in the VR world and the real one; your brain struggles to process the fact that you’re not actually moving when it thinks you should be.
Although the HTC Vive goes some way to alleviate this with its room-tracking technology, not everyone has perfectly square, empty rooms to play in, and this is where peripherals such as the ROVR come into play. What is effectively a VR treadmill allows you to walk around in the games you are playing using WizDish’s special shoes. Thrust into a short Oculus Rift demo of Fallout 4, although it initially felt a little slippery – kind of like ice-skating – we were soon able to become acclimatised to the motions necessary to traverse in the game world, and it certainly beats using a controller for input.
In a chat with WizDish CEO Charles King, we excitingly discovered that the ROVR is platform-agnostic, and can effectively ‘tap into’ any existing PC game with VR support simply by mapping its treadmill system to WASD or joystick inputs. Although the current unit retails at £499, Charles explained that the company hopes to bring the cost down to the £100-200 range relatively quickly following a crowdfunding campaign and the the purchase of the tooling required.
Our full hands-on impressions of the ROVR, and our chat with Charles King, should follow in the coming days.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Having attended a developer session hosted by Horizon Zero Dawn creator Guerrilla Games the previous day, we were more excited than ever to finally get our hands on the demo for the upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive. Running on a PS4 Pro, the open-world action RPG looked as beautiful in-game as it has done in the trailers released to date.
Clocking in at around 30 minutes in length, the EGX demo saw us control protagonist Aloy mid-quest, being required to override and commandeer a corrupted Broadhead machine as a mount and then steal cargo from a Shell Walker, all the while fighting off packs of the defensive Walkers. Designed to introduce players to the game’s core mechanics, including both stealth and combat as well as Aloy’s Focus ability – which allows her to scan the environment to identify machines and their respective powers, strengths and weaknesses – the quest showed us a glimpse at greatness.
With some of the best and most fluid bow-and-arrow based combat we’ve ever played, we only wish we had been given more than a fleeting glipse; the demo area was far too restrictive and forced the game to reset when we strayed too far outside of its invisible boundaries. Our full impressions will follow in the coming days.
Final Fantasy XV
From the get-go, the beautiful-looking world of Final Fantasy will pull you in. We got hands-on with the beginning of the game, which provided us some in-depth tutorials and a few basic basic ‘go here, kill this’ quests. Final Fantasy XV moves away from turn-based combat completely with a more Devil May Cry-esque hack and slash form of battling.
You play as Noctis, who’s traveling with three comrades that’ll aide you in combat, provide advice and generally make the long trips more interesting with entertaining chit-chat. Each team member has a special attack that can be used during combat; useful for taking down the larger enemies in the game’s mini-boss battles. These fellow travellers also provide strategies ahead of battles that you can simply ignore if you’d like and go in all swords swinging. Take their advice though and you’ll earn bonus points as well as – most likely – finding the battle easier as they seem to know what they’re talking about.
Final Fantasy XV has a dynamic day to night cycle with bigger, tougher enemies roaming the wasteland at night. For this reason it’s best to set up a camp where you can heal, train, save your progress and bank your XP. There are great depths to the game’s RPG as you’d expect from a Final Fantasy game by now, even if other elements of the game have moved on from their old ways.
Gran Turismo Sport
As long-time fans of Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo series, we were understandably excited to try out the first current-gen iteration of the franchise, GT Sport, when it was announced as being playable at EGX 2016. Honestly, however, our first impressions of the upcoming title were more than a little underwhelming.
The three-lap demo we were thrown straight into not only lacked Gran Turismo’s trademark character – feeling more like a straight driving simulator, probably not helped by the unnecessarily overcomplicated ‘racing pods’ we were playing in – but also felt a little disappointing from a technical perspective. The series has traditionally been lauded for its graphical excellence, but GT Sport paled in comparison to the likes of Xbox One’s Forza Horizon 3.
Ultimately, the demo lacked all of the excitement and sense of accomplishment that previous entries in the series have provided. Although it’s a long way from being finished, having recently been delayed to an unspecified 2017 release window, Polyphony have a lot of work to do to convince us that GT Sport is genuinely ushering in a new era of racing games.
Battlefield 1 goes back to where it all began, in a time when first-person shooter games are getting more futuristic and over-the-top than ever. DICE’s attention to detail is second-to-none, with Battlefield 1 feeling like the most authentic World War I representation to date. We got down and dirty in the trenches of a sixty-four player game in a domination-style capture the points match.
The Battlefield series has always been known for its dynamic maps, with the ability to rip buildings to shreds with your gunfire to make yourself a hidey hole. That’s back again in Battlefield 1 with fully destructible landscapes, outhouses and even trees. A plane crashed down near us as we ran across an open field, leaving a crater in the ground big enough for us to hide; creating a very manic situation but at the same time very cool and unexpected.
On top of dynamic landscapes we also have dynamic weather now, too. During the match the elements can quickly change from sun, to rain, to fog that certainly keeps you on your toes and can even turn the tide of war. If your enemies are picking you and your comrades off from a higher position and the fog rolls in, then suddenly the momentum can shift your way as their vision becomes impaired. It’s just another way in which Battlefield delivers on its promise that no two matches will ever be the same.
Perhaps the most impressive introduction to the series is the Behemoth. A huge airship, the series’ biggest ever in-game vehicle can be manually piloted, housing several weapons fellow team mates can take control of to reign down on the enemy below. Far from subtle, if you see one of these hovering above then it’s time to hop in one of the many planes or tanks dotted around the map to retaliate as quickly as possible.
One of the most highly anticipated games of EGX 2016 – not least because it offered attendees a global-first playable demo – Arkane Studios’ Dishonored 2 was our final stop in the convention’s triple-A area. Set fifteen years on from its 2012 predecessor, the Bethesda-published title offers an intriguing blend of traditional first-person action and stealth combat with supernatural abilities, all the while set in a steampunk world dripping with atmosphere.
While most demos were limited to 20 minutes of play time, our hosts kindly allowed us to complete an entire mission set in the fantastically ornate and sadistic clockwork mansion first showcased at Gamescom last month. In Dishonored 2, players have the ability to select between deposed Empress Emily Kaldwin or her original protagonist Corvo Attano, both of whom come complete with their own quirks, powers and abilities.
Although we managed to cover a lot of triple-A ground on Saturday, the ever-popular Rezzed indie zone wasn’t going to be ignored. Some of our day three highlights included Windlands, a PlayStation VR, HTC Vive and Oculus game from virtual reality aficionados Psytec Games, the masterminds behind last year’s terrifically terrifying dungeon crawler Crystal Rift VR.
Windlands is a completely different animal, however, feeling almost like a Spider-Man VR experience. Essentially a platform-cum-exploration adventure, players navigate the game’s lush and vibrant worlds using a grappling hook en route to picking up a number of collectibles, with its high-adrenaline traversals lending themselves to virtual reality perfectly.
Other stand-out titles included Sumo Digital’s physics-based 3D platformer Snake Pass, which came to fruition after an in-house game jam; Curve Digital’s Jump Stars, a hilarious and quirky local co-operative party game, and Tethered, a PlayStation VR god game in which the player must give purpose to an outlandish cartoony race known as Peeps.
Unfortunately, due to other commitments, we weren’t able to stick around for the final day of EGX, and this concludes our series of wrap-up pieces. That being said, we still have plenty of coverage, including full hands-on previews and interviews, to follow in the coming days.