EB EXPO 2011 Review Part 1
The best and the worst
©2011 David Hilton
As my headache begins to subside and my addled brain begins to refocus on less stimulating environments, it’s time for me to decide what I saw that I liked and what I think didn’t work so well.
EB Expo was the first gaming conference in Australia of this size, and so there were bound to be some issues, but what is surprising is just how few there were.
The amount of organisation required by a very small team of dedicated people is just astounding and everything really did work. It was everything I’d hoped it would be, and almost everyone I stopped and spoke to were impressed.
The atmosphere was fantastic, and the variety of attendees was astoundingly diverse. There were many many kids, teens, parents, even grandparents (many reading newspapers in the lobby avoiding the noise and lights), people in Cosplay (which will be up in photos on the site later), young adults, and aging 40 year old adults like me.
There was at least 1/3 women, with even more female event staff and booth babes to balance the number.
The large numbers from the public meant chaos, but the small army of event staff and booth reps made it organised chaos.
So what was hot, and what was not about the Expo? Which games and publishers sparkled, and which have room for improvement?
This first part looks at the specifics of the expo and the next one will be a general review of the experience.
WINNER BIGGEST AND BEST BOOTH:
At a games expo this is especially true: massive speakers, huge screens, flashing lights, banners, and greeters ushering you their way like they are selling you a Persian carpet in Morocco, all compete to get you to look away from the overwhelming distraction of the whole, to the smaller focus of their products.
Space is at a premium and how you organise it can make or break your demonstration.
To most of us this seemed like the Battlefield 3 Expo. EA’s presence was almost as ubiquitous as that of the army of EB Games event staff on the floor. Judging by the gigantic lines to get to play the game’s single player mission, this is what the public most wanted to see.
Even poor Mass Effect 3, itself a behemoth of a game, and the EA Sports titles and Need For Speed: The Run seemed dwarfed by the power of Battlefield 3. That said, the area was very well organised, with good spacing, helpful staff, and clear gaming space. Even if in square metres it doesn’t turn out to be the biggest, it certainly felt that way.
RUNNERS UP: Ubisoft and Microsoft
While Ubisoft had a huge stage for public dancing to Just Dance 3 that took up a lot of space, it gathered a lot of attention, and in behind it were stalls for games from Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, to motion based games, to controller co-op titles like Tintin. It was pretty well set out, but didn’t feel as open as EA.
Microsoft’s was also large, especially when you added the Halo closed doors section. It was full of Kinect booths, plenty of friendly staff, and even had a few displays including the upcoming Star Wars Kinect Limited Edition console and a bloody heavy Gears of War Lancer. It may even have been bigger than EA’s booth, but didn’t have the same open feel, and not enough separate space to let players and the Kinect interact without trouble.
WINNER SMALLEST AND WORST BOOTH:
This one certainly was visible, with a towering closed-doors tower with images of Skyrim and RAGE prominent in the middle of the exhibition centre, and screens all around the square where people both played RAGE (already released) and lined to get into the special Skyrim presentation, which turned out to be footage seen before. The Skyrim statues were cool though! Overall, small and less than spectacular.
RUNNER UP: Nintendo
Nintendo staff were fantastic, they gave away free lanyards and gear, but the space to play was a big crammed maze. The did try raised platforms for playing Zelda on Wii, but overall I felt like I was suffocating (and I don’t suffer claustrophobia!). Poor use of space. Maybe less 3DS player consoles and a line up system would have been more organised.
WINNER BEST EXPO SHOW:
Battlefield 3 featuring Lars and Daniel
From the opening spectacular, to the nightly closing laser and smoke show, to the keynote by Peter Moore, the arena shows by EA, Playstation, Namco Bandai, Bethesda, Ubisoft, and THQ, to the Battlefield 3 presentation by Lars Gustavsson and Daniel Matros, there was plenty to watch.
In fact, many journalists chose to use the shows as downtime from the rushing around getting impressions of games, interviews, and networking.
This one, however, wins over the opening of the Expo’s amazing motocross stunts by ShowTimeFMX.
It combined game footage with an amazing entrance with smoke, explosions and abseiling commandos who escorted well spoken gaming bigwigs Lars and Daniel who began pumping up their game.
It was well paced and combined live effects with screen video. The sound was enough to make you deaf though! This is what a public gaming Expo show should look like.
RUNNER UP: Opening ARENA Spectacular
It started a bit slow, possibly because most of us were up early after travel, and the dancing to Just Dance 3 didn’t really hit the right note with the public, but the sheer audacity and crazy skill of the ShowTimeFMX stunt crew in tight space and quick succession was a show I won’t forget for a long time.
Make it a quicker intro with those lasers and smoke used at the end of sessions, drop the dancers, and keep the motostunts and video montage and you’d have the perfect Grand Opening.
WINNER WORST EXPO SHOW:
Sunday EBLIVE Session 2
THQ and Namco Bandai Partners
Saints Row looks to be a big middle finger up to violence against women movements, the mainstream media, homeless people and psychologists claiming overly violent games are ruining our young. Or it’s designed to let us take our stresses of the day out on a bunch of avatars in as creatively violent ways as we can.
This is basically Loony Toon violence done much more graphically and I’m not sure everyone will be pleased. Gives over-the-top a new definition.
Big announcement for Final Fantasy: It finally has a JUMP button!!!! WOW!
WINNER FRIENDLIEST BOOTH:
While many booths came close, Microsoft had an army of happy helpful personnel on hand to help people figure out how to play the Kinect games and to play co-op with you if nobody else wanted to. They were especially great with parents and kids.
OXCGN also found them extremely accommodating to media and gave us extensive time with Halo: Anniversary to properly get an impression.
WINNER LEAST HELPFUL BOOTH:
I’m perfectly aware that perhaps who I spoke to wasn’t the best example that Activision had, but it was at what appeared to be their ‘information’ desk where staff should have been at their best that I had the most trouble of any booth.
Where other booths had people who bent over backwards to try to help media, the Activision bloke I spoke to about just WATCHING Modern Warfare 3 simply dismissed me with a “Sorry we don’t allow media to go back there” because it wasn’t final code or some such excuse.
He was friendly enough, but wasn’t going to check with anyone else higher up either. He then informed me when I asked if I could just line up with the VIPs or even the normal line that I couldn’t go in as I was media. Hun??? I couldn’t see Modern Warfare 3. That was that.
He kindly took my card and said he’d try to organise a session we could attend at a later unspecified date. Yeah…sure.
I decided not to bother faking it like I was a normal public member and line up anyway.
Cordial but ridiculous is how I would describe the tone of the exchange, and it does nothing to improve Activision’s diminishing reputation.
Meanwhile there was little help for those who were trying to work out who got to play Goldeneye: Reloaded next. It was whoever pushed in first sometimes.
A friendly member of the public had to tell an underaged kid who jumped in before my son to wait his turn, with not an Activision person in sight, except over at the ‘information’ desk where there were a bunch of them conversing with each other. (I have a photo to prove it!).
WINNER BEST GAME OF THE SHOW:
It had to be Battlefield 3. It was everywhere. It had the longest line ups to play it. It was playable in single player. It had the biggest show. It looked amazing.
I personally haven’t been the most excited about yet another modern warfare shooter, and have made no secret of that.
I’m also more of a single player gamer than a multiplayer one.
But what I experienced of the single player was enough to get my attention and keep it, even with all that distraction. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but the feel and look does make it seem like real war. I’m just glad I’m not a real soldier.
Tense atmosphere like that, with smoke billowing around, being partially blinded by light flare and bullet sparks ricocheting off rocks near me was enough to make me think: duck down and stay there and let someone else go ahead!
WINNER MOST SURPRISING GAME OF THE SHOW:
Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster
But no, this game was fun. Sure the garden growing wasn’t so much play as aerobics, but other levels were fantastic and a great idea of how the Kinect can be perfect for family with a diversity of short play levels.
I hate Elmo as much as the next guy (I like the Count, A-A-AAAA), but everything fit and where this could have been an exploitative title out to get oblivious parents’ money with little regard to the gamer, it played well.
Of course if you are sneering Mr. Hardcore Gamer who only shoots or uses mice, or whatever, then obviously forget it.
RUNNER UP: The Adventures of Tintin
Co-op this title was a lot of platforming fun. Especially as the little doggies Snowy and Snowy 2: Blackie?
I know it’s another kiddie game, but let’s face it: quality younger gamer experiences have been lacking on 360 and PS3 compared to Wii, and this one looks like it could be another great Dad or Mum and son or daughter experience. My son and I really had fun climbing and barking and jumping along together. And that’s what gaming should be about: fun.
RUNNER UP FOR DIFFERENT REASON: Saints Row: The Third
This one isn’t surprising for how good it seems, but for how surprisingly crazy violent it is.
I know in Australia we should be finally getting an R18 rating, but this is something that could hit the media fan in a big way, with the ability to enact ridiculous violence in a huge variety of ways on those poor innocent (but purely fake pixellated) people aimlessly wandering the streets of Steel Port.
WINNER MOST DISAPPOINTING ABSENCE:
Yes there was a show about it in the Arena, but it was the tactile joy of exploring it and its functions in our own hands before its launch that we were hoping to do more of at the Expo.
Unfortunately it was under close guard and we only got the one opportunity to get near it. Bummer. It does look remarkably like the PSP in shiny black though.
WINNER BEST FREE LOOT:
CM STORM Gaming Periferals
CM STORM had all sorts of goodies in a big fancy bag. From t-shirts, to bags, to model computers, to beanies….they gave the most away. Their gear also looked really good too.
Which is kind of the point: attract visitors with freebies then get them to look.
Thanks Booth Personnel!
With all the mayhem of the show it is remarkable and worth mentioning the efforts of the booth staff and reps to keep a smile, a friendly tone, and enthusiasm throughout a day full of noise, hordes of people (often rude or impatient), and challenge.
A special thank you from me personally to the reps at EA, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., and Microsoft, as well as Game Informer personnel who either arranged interviews for us with a cheerful smile, shared a friendly chat, or otherwise helped us out.
A very special mention to EB GAMES Expo organisers who went above and beyond for OXCGN.
Coming Soon: Was EB Expo a success? Review Part 2.
More EB Expo 2011 Coverage
EB EXPO 2011 Review Part 1: The best and the worst Here
OXCGN’s EB Expo 2011 Awards Update 2.0 Here
OXCGN’s EB Expo Huge Photo Gallery Here
Halo: Anniversary Hands-on Here
Impressions of Upcoming Games: Skyrim, Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 3 And More! Here
EA’s Peter Moore Faces Rude Australian Crowd Here
EA’s Peter Moore: “We Unite The World Through Play” Here
©2011 David Hilton