There was a lot of stuff going on at GameStop Expo this year, including a lot of games we didn’t get to (Sorry Bloodborne and Alien: Isolation, hopefully next time!) But as I’m now sitting on an airplane to London right now, I want to take the time to write out my top 5 games that I saw this year at GameStop Expo.
- Evolve: This is a game that has ENORMOUS potential. As it stands right now (in its pre-alpha state I might add) the game is a little bit too unbalanced. When our opposing monster wiped out our Medic, the game was essentially over for us. That aside, what an incredible rush it was while the game lasted.
I myself played the hunter class where I had access to a Harpoon, SMG, Sound Traps and an enclosing arena to help corner the monster, hinder it and support the team in taking it down. By hunting smaller game and harvesting character upgrades from them, we were able to build our characters up before our encounter to give ourselves better odds of surviving and hunting our giant, giant game.
Alpha-level balance issues aside, the game is tense, frantic, highly-tactical and a hell of a lot of fun to play. After this event, it has rocketed up my “games to watch” list for next year. I’m just glad that they’re taking their time on the game to make it as good as it can possibly be.
- Bayonetta 2: I’m going to say it right now: in my humble opinion, Bayonetta is the best combo-based action game on the market right now. Its set pieces are ridiculous, its combat is stylish and it’s just one example of why it is that I love Platinum Games so damn much. Bayonetta 2 takes everything they did in the first game and jacks it up another couple levels higher.
Let me shoot this your way: the level begins with you fighting angels while riding on top of a fighter jet screaming between buildings in a city. Suddenly, another big bad angel comes up, dwarfing the plebs you were just fighting and cutting the jet in half, leading you to jump onto a moving commuter train where you commence fighting off this angel that is at least three times your size. You beat it by summoning a monster 3 times its size.i
When that monster rogue and fights back against you, you enter winged combat fighting it King-Kong status on a skyscraper where you summon another EVEN BIGGER monster to eat that. If that isn’t Platinum Games signing that off with a John Hancock style flourish, I don’t know what it is. If I had any regrets about buying a Wii U (I don’t) they were suddenly wiped away because Bayonetta 2 is everything you’d want out of a Bayonetta game.
- Shadow of Mordor: The Batman Arkham games have a great combat system. Lord of the Rings has a great, rich fantasy setting. What happens when you take the best of both and smash them together? You get Shadow of Mordor. In the days before the Fellowship, Mordor and Mount Doom seemed like pretty nice place. Then Sauron began to rise and the Uruk and Orcs came and mucked it all up. It’s in this setting that the game takes place.
Gameplay is quick, and features a combo and ability system not unlike the one you would see in Arkham. The big draw in this particular game is the way it uses it’s setting to the fullest extent. Your goal in the world is to take down the Orc hierarchy from the bottom using a multitude of options at your disposal. When you explore the world or take part in one of thy randomly generated missions, you will find many of the Orc commanders running around leading their troops.
One option is to outright kill them, and in doing so, you can find runes and take all of their power for yourself. Another option is to take it down, and extort it to fight for you. You then have the commander and all of his orc troops allied to you, so when you have to fight one of the five orc commanders, you will have more allies and less opposition. The orc commanders you find in your game all randomly generated, so the enemies you find in your game won’t be the same as the ones from a friends. On top of that, they all have agendas of their own. When your character dies or time passes, commanders will fight each other, kill each other, take actions to power themselves up and progress their own agendas, which will affect how you interact with characters in the game. What I saw impressed me, and I can’t wait for the game to come out later this month.
- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS: I think by this point we know why it is that we’re excited for this game. I won’t go into too much detail as to why I don’t want to wait a minute longer than I have to in order to get my hands on it, but I will talk about one mode that completely rejuvenated my desire to get in on the smashing: Smash Run mode.
Back in the good ol’ Gamecube days, there was a Kirby-based game called Kirby Air Ride. It was, of all things, a racing game where you boarded one of many different styles of warp star and raced your opponents. Fairly simple concept, but the multiplayer mode was truly original. In it, the two players had five minutes to roam about a large city and build up their characters. They would find different stars, stat upgrades and bonuses lying around, that would allow them to complete their ideal build, and star. Then, after the five minutes were up, the race would begin and players would use their built-up characters. Smash Run mode is exactly this, but in Smash Bros. form.
Players run around a map for 5 minutes killing enemies (my favorite were the random Pokemon like Cryagonal and Chandelure that showed up) to gain power ups that raise one of a number of stats. Then, after the mad dash for stat raising, the four players will take their built-up characters and fight to the death. It’s a cool spin on an old concept, and I promise you it’s going to be the mode I’m going to be spending the vast majority of my time on at parties from here on out.
- Sunset Overdrive: This game is just some good old fashioned fun, and my hype for this game runs deep because of it. Insomniac has gone back to their ridiculous-weaponry based roots for this one, and boy is it just a blast to play. Between the wall running, grinding on rails, and crazy midair flips, the stylish game world was a joy to run around in. On top of that, each of the weapons at the player’s disposal felt unique and fun to use, just like it was back in the Ratchet and Clank days. My weapons of choice among the ones available in the demo were a rapid-fire gun that shot records to cut my energy drink-soaked enemies in twain, and an ice-bomb launcher that froze the baddies in place to then wail on ‘til they shatter to pieces.
The particular demo we played was for the multiplayer mode in the game, which was essentially a horde mode where players worked together to destroy the oncoming droves of enemies. In a style similar to games like Left 4 Dead, the enemies come in different classes that have different powers, like the Popper that explodes when it gets near you into a cloud of orange energy drink goop.
While cooperative, there is a competition element to the multiplayer. At the end, players are scored on their game, where higher ranked players receive better bonuses and loot upon completion. One big, and in my opinion wonderful, thing to note is that just killing enemies won’t put you at the top of the scoreboard. To truly rack up the points, you have to have style. By grinding on rails, running on walls, and killing with cool flips and abilities you rack up more points and multipliers adding to your score. It adds a new element to the tired horde mode formula that fits with the over-abundant style of the game.
For the record, as runner ups to this list that I wish I had room for, I would add the likes of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax and Persona Q: Shadows of the Labyrinth. I’ve already talked about how much I love Persona, so adding them to this list felt like beating a dead horse, but they are both GREAT games that I simply cannot wait to get an extended look at.
BONUS: Biggest Dissappointment: The Evil Within: Boy, did I want to like this game. It’s Shinji Mikami returning to game development for the first time since RE4, and I truly have a lot of respect for Mikami. Not to mention the fact that Survival Horror games have become increasingly rare in the world today so it’s nice to see one so prominent. Man though, do I wish it was a better game.
The controls felt unintentionally clunky, the jump scares weren’t scary, there was a very lackluster sense of tension, and as a whole the demo just felt incredibly tedious. The setting looks like it has potential, and as far as gross-out horror goes it was there in spades, but in general the game feels very, very bland. If that demo is supposed to represent some of the very best the game has to offer, I’m going to have to pass on it until it goes way, way down in price.