London Game Week 2003: European Computer Trade Show

 


I might be wrong, but just about the most uncool thing to do at a game expo is for everyone in your crew to wear T-shirts emblazoned with the name of your website. Real videogame journalists don’t do that. They don’t sit in the press office media room posting “OMG I AM AT ECTS LOLLERS!” on Forum X, Y, then Z, while there’s a queue of people behind them, either.

Actually, Real journalists not only don’t wear t-shirts with their credentials pasted all over them (Dude, I am so legitimate. Would I have this T-shirt if I wasn’t?), they actually don’t appear to do any work at all. They stand at the ECTS bar all day from… Ooh, 10am, drinking solidly, and consider creating a feature on people cheating on their spouse at ECTS.

Real journalists don’t queue for a cubicle when there are plenty of urinals empty and waiting. Actually, I don’t know if that’s true, but GDCE is the only place on earth I’ve observed a line of 10 guys waiting on 2 cubicles while 8 urinals are empty. If they were all doing coke, fair enough, but I doubt it. (note: We here at Insert Credit in no way advocate the using of drugs. We barely tolerated Tim drinking Dr Pepper.)
(Editor's note: we only advocate hard drinking. 'Cause...you know...we're real journalists.)

There are rules as to how you act as a journalist at a games expo. I have learned. At least I wasn’t wearing a dorky t-shirt.

Atari

“Terminator is arguably the most famous character in motion picture history.”

I’m pretty sure it was the director that was claiming this from one of the video monitors on Atari’s stand. It would make more sense to claim that

“Atari are arguably the most famous name in video game history.”

That may well be true, but the Atari on show has already, barely longer than a year since it’s rebirth, returned to doing what Atari has been always known for – horrible shovelware.

It’s interesting if not mildly scandalous to declare that Infogrammes, not content with ruining it’s own name and Hasbro Interactive’s, is now set to ruin Atari’s for the umpteenth time. The legacy of Atari deserves better than –

Enter the Matrix (PS2/Xbox/PC/GC) They were showing every version of this, for what reason I could not fathom. One – it’s been out for ages. Two – it’s been slated soundly by almost the entire specialist press. It’s not a surprise to note that the machines were very rarely being played.

Kya (PS2) Another 3D platformer in the “nice controls, oh so boring” school of game creation. Haven’t games companies moved on from the 3D platformer glut that followed Mario 64? I guess not.

Unreal Tournament 2004 (PC) This is literally UT2003 with some added bells and whistles. The redeeming feature? Assault mode is coming back. If you weren’t aware/didn’t care about the mode from the original Unreal Tournament, it was almost a multiplayer game “Story Mode”, and simply my favourite part of the original (and the lack of which was the reason I was so disappointed with UT2003). You know if you like it or not by now.

Nothing else on the stand was particularly worth mentioning. Driver 3 and the aforementioned Terminator 3 were only available in video form. Beyblade? Dungeons and Dragons? It disturbs me that the awful Enter the Matrix was the designed focal point of the stand. Hard times ahead for Atari.

Capcom

Capcom was a closed stand, however, thanks to their excellent PR we were allowed access to any of the game demonstrations of our choosing. Sadly, travelling to Capcom’s UK HQ take part in the demonstration of RE:Outbreak was impossible in the timescale, but we were lucky enough to be able to meet with the head of Capcom studio 8, Tom Sekine, to playtest and discuss Maximo Vs. the Army of Zin (PS2).

Tom was a really cool guy – perfect English to the point where the translator sat there like a lemon, and deeply interested and enthusiastic about his game to the point where it was easy to be swept along with him, and is therefore about the only game I’m going to do a proper ‘preview’ for.

I’ve got to be straight out, though - things weren’t looking so good when the first thing to happen in the intro movie is a large breasted girl descending on Maximo to plead (and I quote) “Help me! Please help us! Monsters are attacking our Village!”

The game continues to take Maximo away from the Daimakaimura world and establish him as his own character/franchise. (Alex offered that the next title in the series could be “Maximo Kart Racer.”) Not to say they haven’t left in the required amount of homage – The game has lost the central hub system, instead progression is linear, through a wonderful 3d representation in the style of the original Daimakaimura map.

And of course – the boxers make a comeback. When I played, Tom had helpfully kitted out Maximo with a sturdy pair of metal undies, which I can’t imagine would be too comfortable. Maximo can also be equipped with, interestingly, “vibrating underpants” which will alert him if treasure is nearby (I can’t decide whether vibrating pants would help or hinder me in treasure seeking, personally).

There are many weapons, abilities and enchantments to combine, so the Maximo character can be quite customisable to your style of play. Not quite to the level of Bioware, but enjoyable.

Another new aspect of the game is innocent bystanders for Maximo to protect should he decide to. I couldn’t exactly tell what this added to the game (if anything).

“Many people who play the game are always asking – ‘how do I kill the innocent?’ “

If the gamers wanted that, as Alex dutifully noted, they should play “Maximo Theft Auto”.

It’s not all roses, though. The level I played involved a AI companion that, if they died, caused Maximo to die also.

This is a very infuriating game design.

Tom did note that the level of difficulty needed tweaking, though. My suggestion for two levels of difficulty (Normal and “Daimakaimura mode – Two hits kill”) was considered amusing, but not viable. Still, you never know…

The game is expected to be 6-8 hours long (Tom echoing my sentiment that games that are short but deep are more pleasurable than long games, though there is a place for both) and Susumu Matsushita involvement seems even deeper this time around, with an art gallery of his unlockable in game.

The game is expected January in the US.

Electronic Arts

Freedom Fighters (PS2) I’m under the impression that the version I played of this was severely faulty, somehow. I did play it last thing as ECTS closed, I guess. The PS2 might have been overheated after the rigours of being on for 8 hours, or something. But after this received some glowing words from Kevin, the game I played was severely disappointing. For one, after watching the player in front of me struggle to get his character to leave his sewer base through either the door or the map screen (he couldn’t manage it) I proceeded to not manage it either. Or to manage to work out what to do when I started a new game and couldn’t leave an apartment through the only door, or using the map.

So the only thing I can say about it is that the game sure sounds cool. The setting, communist paranoia, is a breath of fresh air compared to your usual madlibs style game setting. You only have to look at the different settings available to tabletop RPG players to see the range possible. It might be easy to claim that in that industry it’s easier as the player does most of the imagining, but I think that’s a lazy line of defence. Even though I couldn’t play this properly, I hope it’s as cool as it sounds.

Konami

Castlevania (PS2) Oh dear. I’m going to have to disagree with Eric-Jon completely. The ECTS version of this (I notice that they dropped the subtitle “Lament of Innocence”, interestingly) is a huge disappointment.

Why? Because the game had a real similarity to Capcom’s Chaos Legion. Something that also struck me about Maximo vs. Army of Zin, the homogeneity of combo-brawlers is not good. At least Maximo has a very unique asctetic style and feels different because of it – Chaos Legion and Castlevania just seem too close for comfort.

That’s not to say Castlevania isn’t better. The controls are wonderfully fluid, particularly when you have to get involved in a little platforming action.

And that’s one thing that is missing from this 3D Castlevania in a BIG way. Platforming action. Castlevania, well, it always seemed to me to be more about the platforming than the whipping. And it wouldn’t suit the 3D update of its closest rival, Metroid. The game displayed could be a great 3D update if they incorporate far more platforming and less of a bent to large melees and combos. An experiment though the current version may be – sadly, I’m less than impressed.

Midway

Midway was an interesting one. By appointment only, the booth apparently had a ‘rolling video of games’ on show. The monitors were all turned away from the door. What were they possibly hiding?

[next: Nokia]


 

[Atari - Midway]

[Nokia]

[NVIDIA - Vodaphone, ECTS Awards]