While all of the mainstream kids were at PAX Prime, us cool cats in Vegas were checking out Gamestop’s annual Expo, featuring everything at PAX and then some. From next-gen consoles to Sonic in a Mario display, almost anything imaginable was there (except for a hands-on Watch Dogs demo).
First off, good news. Current generation games that were on display are looking great, such as Batman: Arkham Origins, Sonic Lost World and Titanfall (yes Xbox One fanboys, it’s coming to 360 and PC as well!).
The Arkham Origins demo was great fun, but some of Batman’s new gadgets made him extremely overpowered in the demo (remote batclaw, anyone?). Hopefully the full game still manages to challenge players.
Sonic Lost World was fun too, but primarily on the 3DS. My earlier analysis of the boring Wii U trailers was, in fact, correct, as Sonic doesn’t feel fast and/or exciting on Nintendo’s quirky console. Luckily, Sonic retains his trademark speed and FUN on the 3DS version, featuring faster paced levels and better Wisp usage. In short, if you own a 3DS you might just be getting the best version of the game.
Titanfall was the biggest surprise, as up until Gamescon a few weeks ago no one had gotten a chance to play it hands-on. Well, it’s flipping amazing. There was an hour+ long line to get into the multiplayer demo, but it was well worth it. Two teams of six rocket booted and quick-scoped their way around the map in what I assume would be Iron Man’s version of Call of Duty, but that all changed with the Titans. Once the giant robots got involved, conventional FPS mechanics hit the fan and the game really showed its true colors (which were amazing amber and f*cking awesome indigo). Even better, everyone got a Titan at one point or another, meaning that no one was left out of the Gundam robot fun.
Two of Ubisoft’s biggest and most anticipated games, Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and Watch Dogs, were present but not hands-on. There was a special screening for each, showing content not currently on the internet. While it was cute, there should’ve been a hands-on demo this close to both games’ launches, and the Watch Dogs demo sparked some serious concerns over the PS4 version being better than current gen versions graphically, but more on that later.
Microsoft’s massive set up at the Expo included demos for Ryse, Kinect Sports Rivals and even a photo-op with Dead Rising 3’s zombies. My verdict on the new Kinect is that it’s still a door stopper, although it IS better than the current Kinect. Not by much, however, as it still reads movements relatively slowly and still can’t process overlapping body parts, such as putting one arm over your chest. Kinect Sports Rivals wouldn’t have been much fun had the Kinect worked better, however, as the game was boring and felt like a poor imitation of Wii Sports Resort.
Ryse looked really boring, even though expo-ees weren’t allowed to even play the Kinect version. There was a one-on-one showroom where you could watch a Microsoft employee play a demo up close and personal, but that was as close as you got to Ryse: Son of Rome’s Kinect functionality.
Sony had demos of their new PS4 racing game Drive Club and Warframe’s PS4 port, but everything else was PS3 content (Beyond: Two Souls and The Puppeteer). Nothing was impressive and while Sony’s booth was big, it lacked impact.
The one big issue worth mentioning with what gamers saw of the Xbox One and PS4 was that the visuals weren’t impressive, far from it. If anything, most next gen games on demonstration looked just barely on par with some current PS3 titles, and a tad better than current 360 titles. The Watch Dogs PS4 demo looked bleh, and anyone who’s pre-ordered a next gen console would be wise to listen to myself and Adam Sessler and cancel that pre-order as soon as possible. Fanboys will be fanboys, but smart consumers should hold off, as these machines don’t seem to be living up to the hype they’ve generated whatsoever.
Those were the biggest highlights and disappointments of Gamestop Expo 2013, give or take a couple of games (such as Super Mario 3D Land and Bayonetta 2 on Wii U, which both had great demos, and a couple of less pressing games like Wolfenstein: The New Order and The Elder Scrolls Online). It was well worth the $35 admission price, and I highly recommend avid gamers to go to next year’s expo, as it’s as enlightening as it is fun.