Eurogamer Expo 2012
The quality of graphics and gameplay in Warface, from Crytek, is surprising, considering the game is free to play. The line to get hand’s-on with it at Eurogamer Expo 2012 was a long one.
This year’s Eurogamer Expo took place at Earl’s Court in London over the course of several days. Over 50,000 excited gamers showed up to get hands-on with this year’s most anticipated titles, and one of Armchair General‘s correspondents across The Pond, Alex Last, sent this report.
Gears of War: Judgment
Epic Games’ Gears of War: Judgment puts gamers back in the devastated world of Sera as over-sized, bloodthirsty, chainsaw-wielding soldiers. Although GoW 3 saw the conclusion of this storyline, in Judgment Epic returns to the very beginning, during the earlier days of Emergence Day, referred to as "E-Day," when the Aliens attack. This time, you will be in control of Kilo Squad led by Baird and Cole (among others whom we can safely assume won’t make the journey through this game, given their absence in the titles set later in the story).
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While Epic sported an impressive stand where gamers got hands-on experience with the title pre-release, multiplayer was the only mode available on the day. That said, this looked and felt like any other GoW title with some subtle differences: the frame rate appeared smoother, as were the character animations. The title also sported the new game mode Overrun. Not too dissimilar to GoW 3‘s Horde Mode, players in the classic survival scenario assume the role of the COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) soldier or a Beast. GoW3 incorporated Tower Defense, but this time less onus is placed on the build element, creating more of a vested interest in existing structures and greater dependence on team members.
The objective is dead simple—literally. As a COG (human) soldier, you must defend the generator from Locust attacks. As the Locust, your objective is to eliminate the human defense and destroy the generator. Simple, no?
Barbed wire defenses are featured on the map once more, as in GoW3. They ensure the advancing onslaught is slowed. Existing structures play an important part and could quite literally be the difference between a wipe of the brow after narrowly surviving a round or your team members lamenting your demise after you were torn to shreds by an unsuspected, flanking AI enemy. Thanks to the Class options newly incorporated into the Gears‘ universe, these can be maintained and additional defensive items can be purchased. Yes, I said Class options, a new element to the Gears multiplayer experience. More reliance is now placed on Class choice. By way of example, adopting the Engineer class gives the ability to mend and repair structures in double-quick time, to assist in your battle against the nightmarish and relentless enemy AI. In addition to this, the Engineer is able to deploy a sentry gun at will, at any location (on a recharge basis) to assist in mowing down the advancing enemy.
The staple of the series—the Soldier class—will be able to toss ammo crates to teammates. This allows greater team interaction and limits the need for players to venture outside of the defensive perimeter in search of much-needed ammo.
Character traits will be key and teamwork more prominent this time around. You will want to keep your friends close—and preferably keep your enemies distant—if you are to survive the new Overrun mode in Epic’s final instalment of the popular series.
The seasoned team of Crytek, the developers who brought us the Crysis series and FarCry, are bringing an FPS modern warfare title to our computer screens: Warface. What’s so different about this one? Quite simply, the title is F2P or Free to Play.
Got your attention? Thought that might.
At the stalls in the Expo, the Co-Op missions were exhibited, illustrating how this title sets itself out from the ever-more-saturated FPS market. Sporting some seriously impressive graphics and character modelling, Warface displayed a mission in which you and your band of soldiers venture down a river, taking out enemy emplacements along the river side and demolishing weapon caches and unsuspecting sentries. The game runs on CryENGINE3.
While hands-on time was limited with this title due to the sheer queue size (!), it was evident those in attendance saw something truly unusual in it. There is little difference in the quality of graphics and gameplay between this free-to-play game and one you would have to part with money to play.
The closed Beta testing is available to players around the world (at the time this is being written) and it is strongly recommended you take part, if the FPS genre is your cup of tea!
Company of Heroes 2
Company of Heroes, the popular top-down RTS title spearheaded by THQ, returns this year. This time around, players wage war across the World War II’s Eastern Front as part of the Soviet Red Army, offering opportunities to take part in key historical events. Release is planned for early 2013 but from the build-on shown at the Expo, it looks ready to ship very shortly. Textures and shadowing were impressive, allowing crisp detail and easy navigation around the play area.
This version of the game is built on Relic’s Essence 3.0 engine, which sports several gameplay and mechanics improvements. CoH shows off the updated Line of Sight system and through the use of ColdTech recreates the devastatingly harsh weather conditions of this historical period, creating further challenges for the keen strategist in the Eastern Front campaign.
Returning to the franchise is the standard PvP modes as well Co-operative. A brief play-through on the show floor demonstated this title has received a serious overhaul and will join the many impressive RTS titles in the history-themed wall of fame. Definitely one to watch.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
No surprises with this one, but taking a considerable amount of show floor space, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 blew most other titles out of the death match arena.
Hands-on was once more multiplayer only, which followed the standard of the event. Single player seemed firmly mum’s-the-word for most titles featured on the day.
That said, CoD has always been multiplayer heavy and this year’s annual offering— the ninth title in the series—doesn’t look like it will disappoint fans. First and foremost, what sets the title out from its predecessors are the graphics. Sporting smoother textures and player movement, the improved visual experience is immediately obvious. While some maps in the past appeared bland or box-like, with textures suffering at the hands of the fast-paced action, considerable time was apparently invested in the pixel department; CoDBops2 looks crisp and adds depth to the fraught gunfight experience.
How does it play? Well, CoD has always been more fast and furious than thought-provoking and nothing has changed in this respect. Gun battles are short (in some instances, for some players, ashamedly so—and that’s all I’m going to say) and the maps are littered with dog tags. On the subject of Dog Tags, CoDBops2 throws salt into the wound, with the addition of Kill Confirmed Mode. Collect fallen foes’ tags to level up in experience.
What kind of maps and scenarios can we expect, given that we have previously visited airports, deserts and trenches countless times before with this franchise? The map shown at Expo was that of a luxury cruise ship—which provides a variation in tactics, to say the least. While one might expect this floating battlefield to be claustrophobic and consistent, there was a surprising dynamic in play. Large open areas littered with sun loungers and pools provide a welcome break from corridor fire fights and tight galley conflicts. The cruise ship sports large living quarters and reception rooms, which accommodate those who have an itchy shotgun–trigger finger or those well adept at using a blade at close quarters. In contrast, long flanking corridors along the circumference of the ship still allow for some long distance pot shots, but be aware that the perimeter of the ship isn’t closed off—so sticking to the outside could mean receiving fire from behind. The map keeps you moving as a player, unless you find a place to camp, most likely behind a bar or piece of furniture. Campers are of no use on this particular map, though. This was clearly a map designed with the soldier in mind.
Finally, on to the perk system: As with all recent CoD titles the perks, or unlockable benefits based on kill streaks, are back, and this time around you can expect more deadly tools with which to wage war across your broadband connection.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter
Medal of Honor returns with Danger Close developing and EA publishing once more. The title on show, MoH: Warfighter, was—you guessed it—multiplayer only, making it easy to compare and contrast the latest MoH against the other heavy hitters at the Expo. With Danger Close adopting DICE’s illustrious Frostbite 2 Engine (as seen in Battlefield 3), environments chip away under intense fire and explosions are a delight to unleash across the game’s map.
By way of player choice, national preference sets the player apart—with 12 different "Tier One" units available from 10 different countries, players are spoilt for choices.
Player movement is smooth and weapon handling feels engaging. Where some titles available in the community feel detached and isolate the player from the gaming experience, these weapons feel solid. The rotation maps on show were smaller than in previous MoH titles and will likely suit the Call of Duty veterans out there.
Reloading seems painfully —if not deadly—slow at first, but can easily be compensated for once you have had time to get your bearings in the game’s arena. This is one of the ways in which Danger Close wishes to bring the realiities of warfare to the gaming community, a far cry from the swift weapon reloads of the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises.
Health also regenerates slower, adding another element of tactical consideration when picking your engagements. Medal of Honor better rewards the thinking gamer than do the rapid-death-match, twitching-trigger-finger experiences of many other titles. If you want more of a tactical, realistic (as much as you would want it to be) game, this is the one for you.
About the Author
Alex Last is a post-graduate in student of War, Culture and Society. Combining his interest in social history and popular gaming culture, he also manages his own blog on Console Curious.