EB Games Expo Roundtable

Feature article

The EB Games Expo took place last weekend, featuring a number of upcoming releases to whet Australia’s collective appetites for the coming months. Some took advantage of the show floor to really present some big and exciting things, with Sony in particular pushing their virtual reality product before it launches next week. Other publishers were noticeably absent this year (EA? Hello? Is Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1 not worth a space?) but that didn’t detract from what was a busy and fun three days at Sydney Showgrounds. Here are some thoughts from those of us on the Checkpoint team who were in attendance…

Olivia: This year, EB Games Expo was all about October as over the next few weeks many of the games on display would be released to the public. The big hitters in the industry all turned up to show off their shiny new toys for the crowd, whether they were ready or not. For some this showcasing worked well and really allowed the audience to discover what was on display, whereas other products felt unfinished and rushed for their upcoming release.

Xbox titles Dead Rising 4 and Gears of War 4 showcased the power of the new Xbox One S, attracting long lines. Both are strong continuations of their separate franchises and demonstrated the focus on gameplay being continued with these sequels.

Over in the Playstation 4 section Horizon Zero Dawn and Resident Evil 7 were big crowd favourites, and with amazing graphics both demos were a must try. Other titles from the showroom floor such as Dishonoured 2 and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands fell below the mark. Bethesda’s Dishonoured 2 demo was buggy and highlighted just how reliant the series is on BioShock. Ubisoft’s Wildlands presentation was merely a rehashing of the content shown at E3 earlier in the year.

Nintendo was the courteous and safe haven of the convention again with seating for all, allowing tired freelance writers to rest for five minutes before entering a line for another hour.

Archer: This was my first year at EB Expo and I didn’t go into it with too high hopes, thinking “Eh this’ll mostly just be an EB marketing exercise”… but I must admit I had a pretty good time regardless and I found it worthwhile for the most part. EB did have a massive store and the “shopping” section does essentially take up half the floor, but that isn’t to say I didn’t have fun with the rest of what was on show; there were plenty of games I hadn’t seen much of yet, with the highlights for me being Driveclub VR and Watch Dogs 2.

Driveclub VR was a surprising one as I’m not typically a racing SIM fan, but the combination of VR, racing wheel & racing chair was one of the most engaging VR experiences I’ve had. Meanwhile the sneak-peak of Watch Dogs 2 has me very much looking forward to the new title. EB Expo had enough to keep me engaged, but I doubt anyway really needs to be there longer than 1 day. Good fun to see with friends, but I wouldn’t recommend buying a full weekend ticket.

Meags:  The EB Games Expo was both more and less than what I was expecting. I think I had anticipated something more along the lines of PAX – hardly any space to move due to the large crowds and wall to wall booths showing off a plethora of gaming experiences. But it really wasn’t that at all. It really was just a retail/marketing experience, with the stereotypical (yet oh so very wrong) 18-35 hetero-male bracket being the target audience, hardly any diversity to speak of, and leaving me with a sense of being used by the monopolizing retail giant.

Having said that, I can’t say that I totally hated the experience. There were some fun things to be had, like the wand dueling with Paul Harris, the WRC 6 racing set up, and Dishonored 2. But, for me, it was Sony that really stole the show. Their booths had such a large crowd that even with express passes it took a good 45 minutes of waiting in line to play non VR games. Horizon: Zero Dawn looks AMAZING, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare multiplayer is solid, their Driveclub VR set up, while making me feel slightly motion sick to begin with, fully immersed me in a racing experience. But Eve: Valkyrie in the VR… WOW. Blew me away. It wasn’t a waste of a trip, not by a long shot, but next time I’ll have a better understanding of what to expect so I won’t be as disappointed.

Anthony: An event like the EB Games Expo always gets me over-hyped, mainly because that means free stuff and epic gaming. This years expo would have to be the best I have experienced. First, I got to meet Managing Director of Sony Computer Entertainment (AUS/NZ), Michael Ephraim. Then, I learnt how to properly cast spells like a true Harry Potter boss thanks to the great Paul Harris, wand choreographer of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, and I got to chomp on loads of Red Bull and some Sweet Watermelon and Raspberry Twist candy.

Although lines for testing upcoming game titles were ridiculously long (even for express queues), the opportunity to play some of the upcoming titles was really awesome, particularly Final Fantasy XV, World of Final Fantasy, Horizon Zero Dawn (Ohmygaaaarrrrddddd) , Resident Evil 7 , For Honor and Dead Rising 4.

However, above all, the real jaw-dropper was the PlayStation VR. Hands down this thing is amazing and really takes gaming to a whole new level. So many feels from this (literally), whether it’s scaring the crap out of you or just taking time to admire the PlayStation VR’s captivating display, this is definitely something to add to the Xmas list. The only downside is that some games are not clean and crisp; there are some pixelated and unrefined visuals, but besides this minor problem, it doesn’t take away an amazing experience. EB Games Expo 2016 was definitely a blast.

Luke: This was my fifth EB Games Expo in a row, and it was interesting to see some publishers throwing everything at the show floor while others remained reserved or absent completely. Sony had a massive presence, with PS VR and Horizon: Zero Dawn being favourites, but the tastes they were giving of these titles were literally teases. Horizon featured a very small demo area which made the game feel much more confined than what has been shown up until now, and you’d have been pretty pissed to line up for hours to only play a 5 minute PS VR taste.

For Honor was an absolute highlight for me, but I’m still not 100% sure on the combat holding up for the entirety of the experience. I was eager to try Steep but was bloody terrible at it, uncertain if that’s the games fault or mine, and I also appreciated the opportunity to play Dishonored 2 and Resident Evil 7. The Last Guardian only showing some video footage is… concerning?

Nintendo felt very reserved, with Zelda: Breath of the Wild behind closed doors and only playable to those with a golden ticket (seriously); with nothing official about the NX yet, I guess there isn’t much else they could show, but I was surprised to not see Pokémon: Sun and Moon given how much they are hyping it.

I also thought the lack of EA presence was super strange, especially with Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1 around the corner. That being said, they had open betas for both those titles, so perhaps they didn’t feel the need?

Jakob: I dont think I’ve ever been more hyper-focused at an event than I was during the EB Games Expo. My first highlight would definitely have to be the Playstation VR session we attended; I played EVE Valkyrie, Ocean Descent, and Resident Evil VII. EVE Valkyrie was by far my favorite, being jetted into the middle of an interstellar skirmish was done beautifully, I liked how even after I’d stop accelerating, I drifted if I didn’t put the breaks on. Ocean Descent was beautiful to begin with but left me squealing by the end. When I took the visor off, not only had Luke been watching and laughing, but Michael Ephraim (the Managing Director Sony Computer Entertainment Australia and New Zealand) had also been there. He told me that mine was possibly the best reaction he’d seen to date.

I haven’t had many opportunities to get some hands on experience with the system, so I was pleased when it played so well for both games. I did wonder about the clarity of the graphics for Resident Evil VII, as it looked more like older generations of the game.

My second highlight, and one that had me giddy at the knees, was the opportunity to take part in the Wand Combat Masterclass facilitated by Paul Harris. For those who don’t know, Paul was responsible for the change in the physical language and choreography that occured in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The legacy of his input continued throughout the remaining movies.

I got to go up on stage with only 11 other people, my replica of the elder wand in hand, to go through the 5 attacking and blocking stances he developed.  I sat in on a brief Q&A with Paul shortly before the masterclass occurred, which I will write up in more detail for the website soon. Needless to say, I was giddy coming off the stage, and got an autograph before I left.

…and that’s a wrap for the EB Games Expo 2016! We will be posting up detailed hands-on coverage of all the games we played over the coming weeks, so make sure you check back here for all the latest gaming news, reviews, previews and more on Checkpoint.

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