A lesson learned - Don’t go to EGX on a Saturday. Take a day off work and go on the Thursday or Friday.
This was my second EGX - the first being back in 2010 at Earl’s Court, London when it was still called the Eurogamer Expo. The longest queuing I did was 20 minutes or so for Medal of Honour. I was expecting the same again this year in Birmingham and was excited at the prospect of a day’s gaming on upcoming titles - some of them playable for the first time in the UK.
How wrong I turned out to be.
I had an 11am - 6pm day ticket. As I reached the arena, the traffic slowed to a crawl and that was followed by my first queue - for parking. After that, a long queue to actually get in. It was 11:40 by the time I was in the event area and heading straight for Star Wars Battlefront. I joined a queue that snaked back and forth. Not to worry, I thought. This game was 20 v 20 so getting rid of 40 people each time should get this queue moving pretty quickly. Just a couple of minutes into the wait and we were told by a member of staff that from where we were stood, we were looking at 3 hours. What? That’s going to wipe out the day?!
I left the queue and scouted around elsewhere - Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (on only ten consoles) - 3 hours. Rise of the Tomb Raider the same. Halo 5 the same. 2 hours + for Need for Speed. This wasn’t going well. I headed into the 18+ area where all the Ubisoft games could be found. The queue snaked for Assassin’s Creed. It was a 3 hour one again for The Division and Rainbow Six was looking at 2 hours +.
With a slot booked for a demo of Project Morpheus at 1:40pm, I knew I couldn’t commit to any of these queues even if I was prepared to. I grabbed some lunch and re-evaluated my plan.
While Star Wars Battlefront was at the top of my list for trying out, the beta was just 2 weeks away, so I scratched it off. I’d already played the beta for Halo, so that went too. I was in the beta for Rainbow Six, so I ditched it. The rest, I’d take a look at after the VR demo and see if the queues had gone down any.
PlayStation VR - Project Morpheus demo
As I waited for my slot I watched a guy playing a game that combined the headset with the PlayStation Move controllers. He was the passenger in a vehicle, looking around with his head, grabbing a coffee off the dashboard and bringing it to his mouth etc - the coffee fell to the floor when he tried putting it back. Needless to say the car was then attacked by armoured cars and bikers and he had to shoot them out of the window. It looked fun, if a little dated and proof of concept-like.
My turn next and I got a normal controller, the headset and Battlezone - a remake of an 80s tank shoot em up effort. With about 100 degrees of view it was cool to look around the game space and it is certainly immersive with nothing between you and the game. It was also blurry as hell and within 5 minutes I was feeling sick as a dog.
This is supposed to release in the first half of 2016 and at this stage it feels like it needs work. Even then though I just can’t see people sat around at home with these headsets on, certainly not for any real length of time. And the thought of 2 hours watching a film on it (the likes of Netflix and Hulu have signed up), I just can’t imagine it being preferable to a TV or cinema screen.
Feeling a little ill and not necessarily walking in a straight line, I headed back to the event floor.
I’d spotted earlier that the queue for Homefront: The Revolution was manageable. It was still over 30 minutes, but I went for it. The game looks well and has a cool escalation mechanic where more enemies and friendlies arrive at your location if you get rumbled while on a mission. Sprinting though was unbelievably slow. Crushingly slow. I don’t know whether they were going for realism or not - considering you are playing a guerrilla resistance fighter rather than a trained soldier - but I could run faster than this and I’m not fighting for my life against some crazy Koreans.
Next up I wanted to get hands on with the Elite Controller. The controller looks and feels great and you can tell with the materials used, the finish and the weight, that this is a quality product. I was worried your fingers wouldn’t rest well on the paddles at the back, but they are well placed and you can have as many of them attached or unattached as you like anyway. No regrets on the pre-order from me.
I had a quick go on Forza Motorsport 6 while I was at the Xbox booth and if you haven’t already seen it, I recommend downloading the demo, it’s a beautiful game that plays great.
Tomb Raider wasn’t in the 18+ area and instead was behind an enclosed section at the Xbox stand, so I couldn’t see it over anyone’s shoulder. A shame, but we know it’ll be a winner anyway. I got to see Need for Speed, albeit from a distance and that is looking very pretty. I’ll definitely be trying out the EA Access trial.
Mirror’s Edge queues remained long and I didn’t get to play, but it is looking stunning and the gameplay looks smooth and more varied than the original.
Call of Duty Black Ops III queues were long enough to put me off, but certainly not as long as you’d expect from the once mighty franchise.
The Division was being played on the Xbox One and is looking great, though I still worry that anticipation for this has waned since the reveal blew us all away.
They’d obviously anticipated Battlefront being a big deal and so there was a big screen for people to watch it on, right next to a life-size Tie Fighter. The game looks amazing and I can’t wait to get on the beta (8th to 12th October).
Towards the end of the day I got to play Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. It looks every bit as visually stunning as we’ve come to expect from the franchise and the climbing mechanics are better than they were in Unity. The threat indicator that encircles your character wasn’t as distracting as I feared and the hand to hand combat is a lot more brutal than we’ve seen in the series before. Really good.
I’m glad I went as it was fun to be around it all and see these games in action, but it was a real shame I didn’t get to play more due to the queuing. I’d certainly go again, but I’d try a week day and an “early bird” ticket that gets me in at 9am.