EGX Round Up – Part One: Alien Isolation and The Evil Within

Adam and Kii went to EGX in London on Friday. Here is Adam’s coverage.

This Friday Kii and I had the privilege of receiving press passes to the EGX show, taking place from the 25th-28th of September at Earls Court, London. EGX is a huge gaming expo in which developers bring along demos of their upcoming games. Aside from sprawling sections for the big developers and gaming systems, there were also dedicated areas for indie teams too, as well as developer talks, stalls selling games merchandise, gaming charities and competitions. This will be the first of a couple of articles covering the games we played, my thoughts on them and the convention itself.

 

Alien Isolation

The new Alien game from The Creative Assembly (published by Sega) is one of the games I have been looking forward to the most this year, as I feel I have been missing out on survival horror recently, and the trailers and footage so far for the game seem to be hinting at that gameplay style, as well as tonally being very much in line with Ridley Scott’s original film. We took the lift up to the 18+ area of the expo, and joined what looked like a reasonably long queue leading out of the large walled off black area surrounded with the game’s logo. Joining the back, we were furnished with a free prequel comic. While this is a great bit of promotion and generous, to me it set off alarm bells as if to say ‘you are going to be here a while, here’s some reading for you’.

However, these fears were totally unfounded as they let the whole queue in one chunk, showing us a trailer and filling us in on the details of the demo and our objective, and that we had 10 minutes, while the previous group finished up. We were then led in and allowed to choose PS4 or Xbox One. I have to say I wasn’t expecting how well equipped some of these demos would be, as at a guess it looked like they had at least 30 of each system running the game. We sat down in the dark, green tinted booth, provided with some beefy headphones for full immersion, and started up the demo.

 

The objective was simple – get from point A to point B without being horribly murdered by the xenomorph. As Ripley’s daughter, Amanda, you start in a small room with only your motion tracker to pinpoint where it is, and a nearby flamethrower for defence. On the first attempt I missed it, going straight through the door into the access corridor. Creeping by as the alien stomped past, I thought I was clear but he turned and my brain briefly failed and tried to apply the tactic for dealing with clickers in The Last of Us, standing totally still. The alien is not a clicker. Rushing forward, the xenomorph was on me in a split second, right up in my face. Killing me in an instant, it felt like the monster had me personally and the second mouth was about to go right into my face.

Loading up the second attempt, the gravity of the situation had sunk in. That was how easy it was for grizzly doom to occur. I had been a little spooked by the atmosphere before, but now my heart was in my throat. I looked to my right, and Kii had already quit after her first death, Survival horror is not her deal, and this game seemed to be delivering just that. I remembered the flamethrower this time, but did not remember the controls for using it so fared no better at all. The death sequence was longer this time, with the highly evolved killing machine pinning me down before murdering me horribly. Grim.

Third attempt, I took it slowly and snuck around every crate and wall, but he still saw me. This time I hit him with a short burst from the flamethrower, and he scuttled off into a vent. Picking up the pace a bit, I made it to the end of the section and through the next door. Following my objective marker, I got to what I naively thought must be the exit and the end of the demo. Victory!

 

LOW POWER. FIND GENERATOR TO RESTORE POWER TO DOOR.

 

FUCK!

 

As I turned, I saw him drop from another vent into the corridor my objective marker now pointed me down. I proceeded with my motion tracker out, still seeing him in the distance. Suddenly, I lost him. The blip got closer and closer and he seemed to appear out of nowhere. I aimed the flamethrower again, but it was empty. I didn’t even bother to run. Game over man.

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The Alien Isolation demo was, for me at least, a perfect glimpse of a game. The tone and atmosphere were exactly what I wanted from an Alien game. I was almost too terrified to move for most of it, and the total lack of supplies and the feeling of being completely outmatched by your adversary made the game very much seem like true survival horror. This wasn’t you trying to figure out how to defeat a difficult boss fight. This was you trying to avoid a predator that was hunting you, and was very good at it. The self-contained nature of the demo gave nothing away about the story, the graphics were excellent and controls were fluid. The game is out in just over a week, and I am very much considering finally getting a PS4 to play it on. The release date of October 7th just so happens to be my payday, and I’m reasonably sure I can survive a month without food.

 

The Evil Within

Next we checked out another one of my most anticipated games, The Evil Within from Tango Gameworks, Bethesda and original Resident Evil architect Shinji Mikami. The promise of more survival horror, the pedigree behind its creation and the footage seen so far has also placed this on my list of ‘if it’s good, finally go next-gen for it’ games. We queued for a bit longer this time, maybe 20 minutes. Bethesda had provided cardboard versions of a safe to put on your head, with a flap for the door, based on one of the monsters in the trailers (most people used these boxes to carry around the rest of their merch). We were again given the choice of PS4 or Xbox One, with a decent number of systems on hand, and sat down in front of the game. Kii was very clear with the attendants that she wasn’t playing. Fool her once horror games? Shame on you. Fool her twice? Shame on her.

 

First was a short series of clips from throughout the game, all out of context so no spoilers. I couldn’t hear any of the dialogue through my headphones, which were quite quiet and fuzzy. I wasn’t sure if this was intentional so as to not give away any story, or if the headphones were just broken. Probably the latter. Anyway, after a tantalising clip show, the protagonist Sebastian Castellanos (an excellent name) was dropped outside a large ominous looking mansion (Mikami loves his mansions). After testing out my revolver on some crows (which dropped shotgun shells for some reason. Maybe they were shiny, but survival horror games should probably have fewer ammo pick ups and drops than that), I arrived at a grand courtyard area with a fountain. Being very used to similar third person games, I fastidiously looked around the courtyard for ammo and collectibles despite having a limited time to play and collecting items being meaningless for me playing a demo.

Entering the mansion, there was a brief glimpse of what looked like a patient on a gurney being rushed through a huge metal door by some doctors, slamming shut behind them. After a bit more exploring, I encountered my first enemy, being some form of zombie/wight/maniac. When you kill an enemy, as well as looting ammo or other pick ups, you can also drop a match and set the corpse on fire. I’m not sure what function this plays, maybe they can reanimate if you leave them? Presumably this is something that will be clearer after more time with the game. Needless to say I did it to every enemy just in case (even killing one with fire after knocking it down with a shotgun blast), to the point where I seemed to run out of matches. Admittedly, I probably didn’t need to set the dead crows on fire. Lesson learnt.

When the second enemy appeared, the screen started to distort in a combination of a hallucination and static, and a hooded man appeared and stalked towards me. I ran, tail between my legs, and he disappeared. Next, I found a room containing a severed head with the brain exposed, surrounded by tools and probes attached for study. A mini game started, playing a recording to give hints at where to insert the probe. Getting it wrong damaged your own health somehow, and one of the attendants tried to explain the section to me from behind despite the fact that I was wearing noise cancelling headphones. Moving on, I went up the stairs in the atrium and ended up in a large library. A few of the enemies looked particularly grotesque, some being wrapped in barbed wire of with part of their face hanging off. Heading up a ladder, the hooded man appeared again, This time I tried shooting, with no effect, and then decided to see what would happen if he reached me. Maybe it really was a hallucination and he would just disappear? I was wrong. Before disappearing he knocked me down and nearly killed me. I then got the hell out of there, and started to continue into the mansion, but our time with the game had ran out.

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The Evil Within demo wasn’t quite as close to classic survival horror as I would have liked (thought this may be unrepresentative of the rest of the game, and I still have high hopes), but it certainly captured the atmosphere of the original Resident Evil and that is definitely a positive. There was a really freaky resonance that felt familiar and new at the same time, with effective if standard gameplay mechanics. The trailers and some of the character design indicates there may be some over-reliance on gore over genuine scares, but that remains to be seen in the context of the game. Regardless, my excitement for The Evil Within has not dulled at all after playing the demo, if anything it has gone up and I’ll be looking forward to the October 14th release.

 

Come back tomorrow for some more ramblings about some games I played at EGX!

Adam

KiiGX: Part One

Adam and Kii went to EGX in London on Friday. Here is Kii’s coverage.

So Adam and I were cheeky enough to request press passes from EGX (Formerly known as Euro Gamer Expo) and they were silly enough to give us entry for the Friday!

My overall impression of the event was jeez, it was big. EGX ran from Thursday 25th to Sunday 28th and it filled Earl’s Court One. I was expecting the Friday to be lighter on people since generally attendees would be in work or school but no! For Kii forgot that this was London and what passes for busy in the frozen north of her homeland is nothing to London! Honestly though, it was nice to see a gaming event get such good attention, there was a massive industry showing with ‘The Big Three’ each having an area to show off their goods and numerous indie teams in the Rezzed section. The main show floor was open to everyone whilst there was an over 18s area upstairs with demos for games like The Evil Within and unrestricted demos of games like Mortal Kombat X which had toned down versions at the console booths. We ran around and queued with the best of them and hopefully I can put into words the awesome and exhaustion that we experienced.

Bayonetta 2
I am currently lording it over Adam by being the only Lighthouse Keeper (That’s what we’re called now, I’ve decided) who actually owns a Wii-U. This means that I get to own Bayonetta 2! Which we managed to get our hands on at the Nintendo stand and I’m super glad that I’ve already preordered it. It is everything that Bayonetta is meant to be, flashy and accessible game play with over the top tongue in cheek humour. As someone who has already ordered it, I won’t go too far into a description as I’m likely to do a full game review but it looks pretty and is so enjoyable to play.

Alien Isolation
I played this for you guys. That’s how much I love you. I don’t do survival horror, I just don’t enjoy being scared witless and losing years from my life. At EGX I lost years from my life for the sake of journalism. I haven’t played any previous Alien games but I know that a lot of people were disappointed by Colonial Marines for going too Call of Duty with the Alien franchise. Isolation has distanced itself so much from its predecessor that Colonial Marines has filed a missing person’s report. Needless to say I was fucking terrified, you have a real sense of being prey and I would suggest playing with headphones or surround sound if you wish to genuinely shit yourself.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
After going through a series of scary and gory games I ran back to the joyous colour of the Nintendo area where I got my grubby little hands on Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. As you may have noticed from my previous articles, I really love Monster Hunter so I was pretty damn excited. You played the demo on an individual 3DS as part of a four person team. You could select between all of the available weapons with preset armour and had your hunters pouch stuffed full of useful goodies. Whilst I did want to try out the new insect staff, I went back to my trusty dual blades to make sure I wouldn’t embarrass myself in front of the Nintendo gods. Prepared, we set out to fight the challenge monster that was a cross between a giant lizard and a water balloon which showed off Monster Hunter’s odd ability to make ridiculous creatures somehow plausible.

After running around the new desert map we took down the tits-hard WaterLizardBalloonBomb in a time that won every member of my team a T-shirt! My impressions of the game play were that it wasn’t dissimilar from Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, however, changing how you play has never seemed of importance in previous games. The key changes to the new incarnations tend to be in the weapons, armour and monsters because if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it! There is a new climbing mechanic but the monster that we fought didn’t lend itself for that mechanic to be shown off. In conclusion, I’m looking forward to seeing what other varieties of monsters that my team and I can set forth and destroy for its pretty headgear! Sadly, we have to wait until early 2015 to get hold of a European copy whereas the Japanese get to play in October this year. Whilst I’m upset that I have to wait, this is no where near as disjointed a release as Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and thus I have more hope for the franchise gaining strength in the west.

Poncho

Poncho
I would have loved the extra time and energy to really explore the indie area a lot more but I did come across Poncho. It’s beautiful and if you love 8-bit style games like Fez then this is the perfect game for you! The utterly charming platform exploration game begins as an adorable robot in a dystopian/post- apocalyptic future who needs to gather things his creator has left for him so he can save humanity. I immediately fell in love with this game and got to chat to one of the developers, this is where I found out that the game was only in Alpha and the full game development was still being funded via Kickstarter. A Kickstarter which runs out shockingly soon! So here’s the plug, please visit HERE and pledge anything. Not only because it’s an awesome game but I really really want to play the full thing and I am not above using my power here for my own means. Go forth and stick it to the man by funding a nice indie game! (Note, funding may not actually stick it to the man).

Kii