After three days of gaming fun the doors have finally shut on Sydney’s EB Expo, bringing to a close what is possibly the largest video game expo in the southern hemisphere. Shane the Gamer’s Australian editor, Darren Price, looks back at the show.

Packed with publishers demo’ing their new AAA games, local indie developers showcasing their upcoming projects, merchandise stalls, live shows and Q&A sessions, the EB Expo 2014 had something for everyone.

The first thing that struck me was the diversity of the attending fans. It was great to see so many different people from all walks of life congregating at the show, all with one thing in common: a passion for playing games. If you’d have told me thirty-five years ago that my hobby would one day be as accepted and celebrated in such a grand style, I wouldn’t have believed you.

EB Expo 2014

All the industry giants were present with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all showing off their upcoming games.

On PlayStation, the imminently arriving DriveClub was playable, showcasing the beautiful visuals of a game likely to turn the racing genre on its head when it is given away for free to PlayStation Plus subscribers.

The demo of The Order 1886 from E3 was also playable at the PlayStation Booth. A very nice-looking game with some superb visuals and character animation rivaling modern CG movies. It was short and a bit of a tease, but did a pretty good job of showcasing some of the weapons and gameplay. I’m a little more excited for the game having played a slice of it – definitely one to watch. But I wouldn’t want to deliver a verdict on it just yet.

EB Expo 2014

The PlayStation booth gave my first go on From Software’s PS4 exclusive, Bloodborne. It looks fantastic and seems to offer players the same sort of challenge that the developer’s Dark Souls games are famous for.

Sony also had a playable demo of Until Dawn, a horror title that looks to cross the likes of the Saw movies with Quantic Dreams’ Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls.

Over at Microsoft’s Xbox booth, Activision had taken residence demo’ing Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare– on Xbox One, of course. There were masses of demo pods running the recently released Forza Horizon 2 dominating the main area. Off to the side, co-op Sunset Overdrive and Halo: The Master Chief Collection were both available to play.

EB Expo 2014

Activision also had a booth with pods running the recently released Skylanders Trap Team. Everyone who played got a free Skylander to add to their collection.

EA Games were demo’ing Battlefield Hardline and had a FIFA 15 competition running all weekend. It would have been nice to have seen The Sims 4 and some of the other EA Sports titles on show as well.

Bandai Namco were had the upcoming Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition, along with Formula One 2014, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, and Project Cars. Their booth was, however, dominated by the huge Witcher 3: Wild Hunt demonstration theater.

EB Expo 2014

Basically the same as the E3 demo, the sequence had Geralt hunting a griffin through the game’s drop dead glorious environment. Having wounded the immense beast, the Witcher pursued the creature through a forest, following a trail of blood that lead him to a hilltop confrontation. The whole game screams epic and, being open-world, is going to be one hell of an experience when it comes out in February next year.

Warner Bros Entertainment were showcasing the excellent Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor (a game that is keeping me up late at the moment), Mortal Kombat X and the newly-released Gauntlet. Polish developers Techland were also on the Warner booth with their zombie-parkour game, Dying Light.

EB Expo 2014

I played Dying Light at the expo last year, just before they announced that they were delaying the game. A year later, the natural motion seems greatly improved, with me able to quickly run around the environment, climbing buildings and, of course, chopping, burning and electrocuting zombies along the way. Dying Light is going to be a lot of fun when it launches next year.

Bethesda were in full-on survival horror mode with their upcoming The Evil Within.

As if playing the demo in complete darkness wasn’t enough, the publishers also had a small version of the Fright Nights maze from Movieword at the expo. Featuring real actors and designs based on The Evil Within, expo visitors were treated to a ninety-second preview of the Movieworld maze.

I went around the maze with an EA staffer who selfishly left me for dust when one of the horrors inside escaped its cage and chased me down the corridor.

EB Expo 2014

2K Australia were proudly demo’ing their home-grown Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Guaranteed to appeal to fans of the series and newcomers alike. With beautiful cell-shaded graphics, ridiculously over-the-top weapons and all that loot, it’s a game that is going to be difficult to resist.

2K also had plenty of demo pods with their top sports franchises, NBA 2K15 and WWE 2K15 available to play. The booth was, however, dominated by Evolve– a game that just may be the next big thing. It’s a shooter that makes players either the hunter or the hunted and sometimes both.

Players are either part of a co-op team of four hunting and being hunted by a huge alien creature, who is also controlled by a player. I’ve seen the game in action, but I’ve still not played it as yet, so I reserve judgement. It’s got a good pedigree, though, being from the same guys that gave us Left 4 Dead. It’ll be interesting to see if it lives up to the hype when it comes out later this month.

EB Expo 2014

SEGA had Alien: Isolation – a game currently garnering some polarised reviews. The game sticks very close to the formula that made the first Alien movie a cult classic, maybe a bit too close for some gamers. Having played a preview build, I can tell you that it requires patience and nerves of steel. The alien xenomorph relentlessly hunts you throughout the game and without respite. As a fan of the Alien movies, it’s a game that I’m looking forward to playing.

As well as showing off their huge range of Turtle Beach products, distributor QVS were displaying Deep Silver’s upcoming Dead Island 2, which is coming to us from Yager Developments, the same guys who gave us the controversial shooter Spec Ops: The Line.

I played a co-op session and despite the shift from the original developer, Techland, and from Chrome to the Unreal Engine, the game is 100% Dead Island. There’s nothing more satisfying that kicking a zombie in the face and watching it go flying.

EB Expo 2014

Mindscape had a theater playing the Tokyo Game Show demo for Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain. The show was introduced by Snake himself, or rather a guy doing an awesome David Hayter impersonation, backed up by a silent woman baring a striking resemblance to the character, Quiet.

Whilst the video has been out for a while now, it was very cool to see it on a big screen and get the crowd’s reaction. The game looks fantastic and I found the way Snake’s female backup, nods and signals to him rather cute and very cool. It’s going to be a good game.

As usual, Ubisoft’s booth dominated the EB Expo show floor. Never shy to lay their cards on the table, pretty much every upcoming Ubisoft title was represented one way or another.

EB Expo 2014

At the front of the booth the Just Dance stage entertained the crowd as punters tried their hand at the game.

Far Cry 4 was playable, with the same demo that I played at E3, whereby players had to attack and clear a fortress. I chose the micro-light, which wasn’t a great idea, but proved to be quite good fun as wave after wave of enemy reinforcements joined in the party. Of particular note was watching a jeep full of enemy soldiers get blown-up sending the wreckage through the fortress entrance.

I was rather disappointed that Assassin’s Creed: Unity was not playable. Last year, visitors were able to play AC IV: Black Flag on PS4 demo pods. Instead Assassin’s Creed: Unity was only being shown as a live theater demo.

EB Expo 2014

It wasn’t a new level, a video of this part of Assassin’s Creed: Unity has been up on the internet for a while. But due to the sandbox nature of the game’s simulated city of Paris, each objective can be carried out in uniquely different manner.

The game’s protagonist, Arno has been charged with the assassination of the Templar Charles Gabriel Silvert who is safely locked away in Notre Dame Cathedral. Fortunately the keys to the building have been stolen. All Arno needs to do is find the thieves and get the keys that way.

Aside from the amazing level of detail and way the citizens of the city interacted with one another, the number of people on the screen at any one time is staggering. I did notice some clipping, as Arno seemed to physically walk through people in the crowd, but the game’s not finished yet.

EB Expo 2014

With the keys obtained, Arno climbed the walls of the famous cathedral, unlike in previous games, this time the buildings have been modeled at 1:1 scale, these means that, not only Notre Dame Cathedral full of tiny architectural details, it’s also bloody huge.

Once inside Silvert met his end with a dagger through the skull whilst sitting in the confessional. Arno then has to escape the building to finish the Mission.

Flash new-gen graphics aside, Unity seems to have retained all the usual Assassin’s Creed troupes, which is great. I was initially concerned that they were going for some sort of reinvention, but that’s not the case. The new hardware has enabled them to refine the game and create a simulated world of which the players are only one small part.

EB Expo 2014

Whilst I couldn’t try Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue was playable at the Ubisoft booth. This is a game that will appeal no end to sea-faring fans of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

It was great to be a captain again, taking out enemy ships. Both at sea and on land, the game mechanics seem identical to Black Flag. Which is fine in my eyes, as I see AC IV as a series high point. I like the idea of being able to explore the world of Assassin’s Creed through the eyes of a Templar as well.

Fans will be beaming ear to ear this year with both the new-gen experience of Assassin’s Creed: Unity and the added bonus of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue on PS3 and Xbox 360.

EB Expo 2014

Ubisoft were also showing off The Division at the EB Expo via live theater demo.

For the sequence they had one of the game’s developers using the game’s companion app providing drone support to the console player. The game is packed full of tremendous detail, with some great weapons and a chilling post-apocalyptic setting. This is a game that looks better every time I see it and one to watch next year.

The biggest surprise of the show for me was Ubisoft’s The Crew. I had an exclusive 40 minute session on the game with the game’s producer, Ahmed Boukhefila. Now this was a game right off my radar. I’d seen it last year and I kind of knew that it was about driving across America.

EB Expo 2014

What I didn’t know was that it was from the same guys that did Test Drive Unlimited. A great racer that, if anything, was ahead of its time.

Whilst the other expo visitors engaged in multiplayer races, Ahmed took me on a guided tour of the game’s version of the US, and it is huge! The game is so huge that even in a fast car, driving without mistakes, it’ll still take in excess of an hour to drive from the west coast to the east. Now that’s massive.

My tour took me from LA to Las Vegas and from Vegas to the Hoover Dam. By just calling up the map players can either drop themselves on the spot, if they’ve already visited the location, or mark it with a waypoint.

EB Expo 2014

If an area has been unlocked your car can be dropped anywhere, not just on the road. I dropped a raid-enhanced Ford Focus in the middle of some sand dunes and spend a few moments just hooning all over the place.

Whilst a lot of the focus is on racing, the map is packed (and I really mean packed) with side Missions. Whilst dune-hopping in my Ford Focus I triggered a challenge that had me racing away from an ever-increasing red circle on the mini-map on a frantic dash that had been crashing though fences and back yards until I was finally overtaken. I can see myself wasting hours just buggering about like this.

The developers have approached the game in the same way they would an RPG, with the cars being the characters.

EB Expo 2014

This means that the game has one of the most amazing upgrade systems that I’ve ever seen. Head to the garage and the chassis is stripped from the vehicle, leaving just the engine, driveshaft, axles, exhaust, suspension and wheels.

And what’s super awesome is that the engine is running, and cutaway so that you see the pistons and a valve moving. Apparently, the whole lot is simulated, so you can actually see the effect modifications have on the car.

I’m no auto-engineer, but that sounds amazing. Indeed, as I switched through the upgrade options the components changed accordingly, swapping out air filters, silencers and tyres. All the while the engine running.

EB Expo 2014

The Crew looks amazing, features a massive map and great car customisation and tuning options. As a racing fan, I’m really looking forward to this one.

It was great to see a range of PC hardware vendors at the show, something that I felt was really missing from E3. Aussie retailer MSY was showing off their range of PC systems and components, including the gorgeous new GTX 980 video cards.

Razer were showcasing their range of enthusiast’s keyboards and mice. At the Tt eSPORTS they had a full range of Thermaltake PC cooling solutions and rather sexy PC cases.

EB Expo 2014

It wouldn’t be an EB Expo without a dirty great big EB Games store. This year it was even bigger than the last. Packed full of games and merchandise, the expo store was a great place to pick up something really special.

Each year EB have cleared out their warehouse and found the odd rarity to offer for sale, often at a discounted price. This year they had a number of long out of stock Titanfall Collectors Editions for sale along with a number of other scarce collectables.

This was my third year attending the EB Expo, which continues to go from strength to strength. It’s a highlight of my gaming calendar and I’d recommend the experience to anyone with a passion for games.

EB Expo 2014

I’d like to thank EB Games and their media relations people for assisting me during the show as well as all the vendors and publishers who allowed me access to their games and to their visiting guest developers.

 

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Darren Price - Snr. Editor | Contributor

Darren Price - Snr. Editor | Contributor

Senior Editor / Feature Writer & Reviewer - NZ & AUS at Shane the Gamer
Darren has been playing video games for over thirty-five years and writing about them for the last nine. He has written for New Zealand’s Game Console, both the short-lived print magazine and in the pages of NetGuide. These days he writes for anyone that asks nicely, as well as his own blog www.vicbstard.com.
Darren Price - Snr. Editor | Contributor

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