Nintendo, Ubi Soft, Activision, Sony, Microsoft…all the big publishers have once again descended on the Birmingham NEC and for the third year in a row I’ve braved the queues to give you this lowdown of the best, worst and downright weird happenings at the Eurogamer Expo. And the best bit of all, Tornado energy drink is no longer a thing! Hooray!

The Ubisoft Showcase

Ubisoft had a hefty showing this year. Far Cry 5, Assassin’s Creed: Origins and South Park: The Fractured But Whole all had long lines and a good abundance of demo stations with each demo being roughly around ten minutes. What came as a surprise to me was Assassin’s Creed. Taking a break for a year looks to have done the game wonders and I came away thinking it was one of the best games of the show. Unity was the last in the series I played (I skipped Syndicate) and this feels like leaps and bounds ahead of this. It controls a lot smoother and  is less clunky than previous games and the combat is completely rebuilt. Someone at Ubisoft must have played some Dark Souls because instead of the usual counter system, this time you have a shield, sword and bow and arrow. So using your shield to block incoming attacks, you then can strike with your sword, that is if it all goes wrong and your stealthy approach fails. Which it did for me because I couldn’t find an option to invert the vertical camera so my assassination skills were left lacking.

In the demo you’re tasked with recovering artefacts from a shipwreck to prove a slaves innocence, a fairly simply task, but once this is complete you’re left to your own devices. So I decided to hoof it up a mountain which was also someone that felt different. There are no obvious handholds anymore, I just jumped at a mountain and your new assassin just held on. It looks a lot more natural to climb the environment now. Naturally when I reached the top I synchronised before diving off into some perfectly placed grass, so that’s still the same. I was left seriously impressed with what I saw.

From Best to Worst?

Time to get controversial as I went from one of the best of the show to possibly the worst – South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Now I have not watched the show in probably over a decade so I have no idea what the humour of the show is like anymore, but the demo was 95% fart jokes. Hahaha. Hilarious. It’s the sort of humour I stopped finding funny when I was in single digits, so the fact that an 18-rated game is relying so heavily on these sorts of gags is quite depressing.

During the demo you enter a strip club and are given a number of goals to complete. Getting into the VIP section is the first bit which comes with a farting/dancing mini-game that was the ultimate in cringe. From there it’s on to some point and click style gameplay as you need to spike a gin and tonic. This is where I get a bit stuck as I had no idea how to continue and the games hints weren’t exactly helpful. The other kid you are with literally repeating the same line every 30 seconds that maybe there’s something in this room you can use. There’s also a short turn based strategy battle scene that seems interesting, though it seems like this was later in the game so it was definitely lacking a tutorial for the demo.

I think I’ll be skipping this when it arrives later this year.

Far Cry

The most unsurprising game of the show award goes to Far Cry 5. That’s not a knock, that’s more an observation that this is a Far Cry game. Aside from the option at the start of the demo to play as one of three characters (one of which is a dog) there’s very little here that seems to take the series in any exciting new direction. The goal of the demo was to take over a base run by the enemy, using either stealth or all guns blazing to complete the objective. It felt okay, but had a few framerate issues in places, which will hopefully get sorted come February’s release date.

It was okay. One to watch, though I’m hardly rushing to pre-order.

Mario’s Back!

After skipping last year’s event (unsurprising when they were struggling with the Wii U), Nintendo is back and have brought the possible game of the show. Along with kiosks for Switch versions of Fifa, Skyrim and Splatoon 2, amongst others. The game everyone wanted to play was Mario Odyssey. Two levels were playable with a ten minute time limit, there’s New Donk City if you want to play in a nightmare world full of humans or the more traditional desert world. I chose the boring latter.

 

This was actually the first time using a Switch and was a little taken aback at first with the size of the controllers. Like the Wiimotes had a baby, they are rather tiny and don’t fit in my meaty paws as good as I’d like, but that didn’t matter once the game started. The game just feels great. Mario controls well, the platforming is responsive and it’s all masterfully designed. In the world I was playing the goal was to collect these Moon Shards scattered around the environment, usually by possessing enemies.

The game’s most celebrated new feature, during the demo I used Cappy to possess a Bullet Bill before driving it into a wall and murdering it. Then the weirdest of all: I possessed one of these stone golem creatures with sunglasses. Pressing the attack button would drop the sunglasses over the face and you could then see invisible blocks. It was all a bit like the Lens of Truth in the Zelda series. If each character you can possess comes with such a unique mechanic then I’m sold. Well, even more sold than I already was. Looks like a Nintendo Switch purchase is in my foreseeable future.

Fighting Anime

Seeing as I’ve lost all faith in Capcom following the Street Fighter V launch debacle, I’ve started to look outside that company for my fighting game fix, and despite having no real reverence for the Dragonball series, Dragonball Fighterz just looks amazing. Visually stunning, it’s the sort of fighter that anyone can pick up and have fun with, but for those more dedicated it seems like it could offer loads of potential online. Hard to tell too much though because the AI wasn’t great and I couldn’t see an option to increase the difficulty in the demo.

While again my Dragonball knowledge is limited, I’ve seen enough clips of the show to understand the fight style, and Dragonball Fighterz looks like it honours that. Pressing the left trigger I punched my opponent into the air, before I flew off, following him and giving him a few more punches before he fell to the ground. This could be my new fighting game obsession when it finally hits.

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