Fan Expo 2016 was yet another great year of fun, nerdiness, and cosplay in the heart of Downtown Toronto. And of course it also means it’s time for the yearly roundup of games that were showcased there that I was able to play. There was a lot of great stuff there at the Xbox, Playstation and Ubisoft booths, including some things that were just announced at E3.
Recore was announced at E3 a couple of years ago, and made our list of most anticipated games of the show for that year. The demo itself I found was a little disappointing – it is a bit hard to play, although some of that is because I’m not an Xbox gamer. But there are other aspects the demo wasn’t super good at explaining, like how to switch between the different types of attacks on your weapon, which turns out to be a very important part of the game. Gameplay wise, it’s a shooter. There isn’t really too much to say about that, the only thing that really makes it unique is the various types of attacks you can use, and how crucial using them is for success. Combat is fast paced and fun enough, but the environment in the demo wasn’t super engaging and the enemies not particularly interesting. Even the adorable robot dog didn’t seem to do much. Now, it might just be that this is not a very good demo, and not representative of what Recore has to offer as a whole. But it didn’t really make me want to rush out and preorder the game (which is out next week), which is the entire point of having it.
Now, I’ll fully admit it – horror games are not really my jam. I am the world’s biggest baby, and cannot handle the tension of your typical horror game. But I played this, in public, with headphones on, jumping at every noise like a total idiot, because I love you all. Outlast II doesn’t really reinvent the wheel when it comes to the horror game genre: it’s about a pair of intrepid newscasters looking to dig into the disappearance of a young pregnant woman in the New Mexico/Nevada desert, and has something to do with some kind of creepy religious cult in rural America. It’s all been done before, and even the new Resident Evil is doing it. But the game is very good at what it does. I was thoroughly spooked. I even almost screamed when I opened a window and a blackbird flew out at me. What makes Outlast unique is how important the camera is for gameplay (you play as the cameraman). It is pretty much your only source of light, and without it, you can’t see a thing. It’s super important to make sure you find camera batteries to keep that thing going (this unfortunately kind of ruins the immersion because why would you find so many camera batteries in the middle of Hicksville, but I digress), but the night vision really adds to the atmosphere and makes everything just that much more creepier.
The developers behind GNOG were tired of games that spell out what players need to do to complete puzzles, holding their hands all the way and often not giving the player much of an opportunity to use their own brains, so they made their own puzzle game that doesn’t do any of that. The result of this, GNOG, is a colourful, psychedelic experience that is actually very difficult. The key to finishing puzzles in GNOG is figuring out what your main objective is – in the level I played, it was getting all the coins in a room in an apartment building to the landlord. Knowing what it is goes a long way to help you figure out exactly what it is you’re supposed to be doing. But even knowing that doesn’t necessarily make the puzzles any easier. I only managed to figure out a couple in my short time with the game, but if you love puzzle games and are looking for a challenge, accompanied by colourful and engaging art style, GNOG is definitely the game for you.
Gravity Rush II
I feel like I am one of the handful of people who actually played the first Gravity Rush on PS Vita, which is one of the few games that actually made good use of the console’s unique features. However, while it’s great and a totally unique experience, it was often quite disorienting to actually play effectively. Gravity Rush is not going to be on Sony’s much underappreciated handheld, but is instead on PS4. And while it maintains a lot of what made the original game great, it is a lot easier to play on the main console, and the end result is a game that really makes you feel like the gravity controlling magical girl badass that you are. It also retains the comic book feel of the original, instead using the increase in graphics capability to make an even bigger city to fling yourself around (you never walk in Gravity Rush) and more unique attacks. My favourite was this siphon field thing where it picked up everything around you, so you could then fling enemies en masse off into the ether. It’s fun.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
OK so this isn’t really a new game, but I’m including it because I had a freaking blast playing it. It is an awesome co-op game. That is all.
Watch Dogs 2
I didn’t actually get to play Watch Dogs 2 myself, but I did get to watch a live demo of the game, which was essentially an extension of the footage Ubisoft showed at E3 this year. My initial assessment that the dev team definitely watched Mr. Robot continues to be correct, though of course this being a AAA videogame it lacks any nuance that show has. Unfortunately it looks like the game might be topical, which I find incredibly concerning given how much I loathed the first game. But there was a lot of other cool stuff that made me think, “OK it looks like they did listen to what people had to say” about the first game.
First of all, Watch Dogs 2’s San Francisco is enormous. It’s two times the size of the first game, and is completely unlocked and explorable from the get-go. You can go to Marin, Oakland, and even all the way out to Silicon Valley. And the game itself is quite beautiful to look at. The city is beautiful, the animations are beautiful, the cars are beautiful. Visually, it looks great. Marcus is a lot more agile than his predecessor, and can he even has some parkour moves that look like they will come in very handy. (He is also definitely more stylish, though his default outfit seems to be cooler than any of the customization options that I saw.)
There are a lot of new hacking options as well. Just walking around the city there are four different hacking options, including the ability to remotely control any vehicle and drive it around like an RC toy, which is a great way to cause a distraction. You can even hack vehicles while driving. They also showed us mass hack, where you can send a virus to all of the people around you, which is another great way to cause a distraction when you need it. Marcus’s phone still has apps and mini-games and has the ability to take selfies, but there is an actual gameplay element to it this time around. Using things like the Scout X app, which you use to take discover San Francisco landmarks around the city, gains Marcus and DedSec more followers, and in turn makes Marcus more powerful as a hacker. Ded Sec also has an app, which is where you can play missions, and you can pick and choose almost any order.
Watch Dogs 2 also introduces a bunch of new gadgets that help Marcus infiltrate locations. The first we saw was the drone, which has been seen before, which can be used to scout. I think this is a great addition to the game because scouting an area you’re trying to infiltrate is incredibly crucial, and was often very difficult to do in the first game without getting caught. Of course, the drone is not invisible – if you get too close guards will notice and shoot it down. But use it right and it can also be used to hack things like doors so Marcus can access interiors more quickly and effectively. We also saw the RC jumper, which is like your own personal Mars Curiosity and is also used for infiltration. It can hack, set traps and lures, and has a little physical arm that can pick things up as well. It can even insult guards and lure them into traps you have already set.
Best of all though, the mission we saw didn’t end with a fucking car chase.
Did you attend Fan Expo, or any other major comic or gaming convention this summer? What did you play? What are you excited for? Let us know in the comments!
//Image of the Intel Extreme Masters Toronto at Fan Expo 2015 by Intel Free Press, via Flickr.