This past weekend was the 15th Annual rAge Expo, South Africa’s premiere video games exposition. Held at the TicketPro Dome in Northgate Johannesburg, the event was packed as usual as gaming fans from all walks of life and parts of the country made the journey to Jo’burg to catch up with friends and get their hands on some games and hardware put on display.
Ubisoft Press Evening – Hands on With Some Impressive Games
Friday evening was reserved by Ubisoft and local distributor Megarom for a hands on with Assassin’s Creed: Origins, The Crew 2, South Park: The Fractured But Whole and Far Cry 5. The team even went so far as to load updated code for AC before we got our grubby paws on the controllers. I was fortunate enough to play for a solid half an hour on the PC version and even with this preview code can report that there were no glitches or bugs to be found. The code shown to us was also remarkably large as when I glanced over to others playing beside me they were in completely different areas doing completely different missions.
The game itself is still an AC game in that it is an over the shoulder third person stealth game. You still climb walls, kill people stealthily and generally try not to get caught. There are some significant changes however. Firstly that Assassin’s special vision is either no longer present or locked away in the RPG like skill tree. I think that they have done away with it as once you identify enemies they remain silhouetted and identified by a marker and white outline even through walls. The eagle companion is used exactly like the drone in Wildlands up on the d-pad summons it and you fly it around, holding left bumper to freeze your view to better spot and mark targets. Like the drone it is on a cooldown, that felt a little too long.
The big push in all the marketing is the combat. Ubisoft have stated that it is more difficult and tactical. Tiredly compared to Dark Souls I expected parries, blocks, feints and rolls. In fact combat was mainly mash right trigger, you take a few hits more than you would in older games, but mashing gets you through an encounter. Except with a high-level “gold” enemy. These captains are tough buggers, learning the fight controls and their “tells” and patterns will be important to completing any mission. Also, the mashing of the trigger may have been possible as the series will, for the first time, include difficulty levels. I couldn’t confirm this with the representatives or in the game settings, but the difficulty may have been set at easy for this code.
Andrew was able to play the game on the XBox One X developer kits, look out for his impressions.
South Park was exactly what you would expect, a turn based JRPG inspired game covered in South Park ooze. The crass humour is omnipresent, you start the game sitting on the toilet pinching one out and have to engage in a mini-game to complete. The artstyle is wonderfully crude, but the combat system is, like the first game, deep and satisfying. I enjoyed my twenty minutes with the game mainly as it concentrates on combat rather than the story and humour. One part of the story that I thoroughly enjoyed though was the combat sequence that serves as your character’s superhero origin. It’s a great way to reintroduce the combat mechanics and tutorial for the subtle changes to the battle system. I am reviewing the game later this month and am looking forward to some turn based action.
Jumping across to Far Cry 5 I was dropped right into the first liberation mission that was shown at E3. As expected gunplay is excellent and the introduction of a companion is welcome. I chose to use the sniper and her AI was excellent sniping away as soon as I started blasting, making my life easier. Andrew chose the dog and he sniped from the tower. He did say that the AI was pretty dumb as the enemies kept running for the large machine gun enabling him to just snipe them one by one. I was able to experience the vehicle controls and besides the plane controls being inverted which I don’t like they are intuitive and quick to pick up. All in all this game is looking to be more interesting than I first thought it would be.
Finally we got to play the PC version of The Crew 2. Seemingly inspired by Forza Horizon’s race to the festival prologue, you start in a car racing through the streets of NYC making insane turns and jumps off buildings in a Porsche. Switching to the powerboat did not result in a huge adjustment in controls, they are fairly similar but different enough in the agility that you don’t feel like you are driving a car on water. The final change to the stunt planes was a big adjustment as now you have rudders to assist in tight turns as well as having to deal with an additional dimension of perspective and movement. Continuing my theme of sucking at controlling planes I managed to crash three times.
Detroit Being Human – More Gesture Controls
I am not the biggest David Cage fan. I admire his attempts at doing something different, but find that his ambition exceeds his and game technology’s ability to deliver. Having said that the demo we played on the show floor was impressive. Graphically it was on par with anything Naughty Dog and Guerilla Games have done. The level of detail in the character and environment models are stunning. Gameplay wise there is still an over-reliance on gesture controls. To kneel you push the left analogue stick down. Unlock a tablet, swipe right on the touchpad and so on. All these inputs are unnecessary. The highlight though was the investigation you undertake. You walk through the crime scene gathering information to make your negotiation with the criminal easier. The use of the Batman Arkham Origins like detective reconstruction is brilliant. Unlike that game or Arkham Knight there is a logical progression to what you find that makes the ultimate reconstruction plausible.
The game looks amazing and the story interesting, interesting enough that I may actually pick this up.
rAge – General Impressions
I haven’t been to any overseas expos so cannot compare, but others who have, have generally commented that rAge is slowly reaching E3 levels of efficiency. I enjoyed the expo this year more than other years. Parking was ample and entrance was quick, I didn’t experience waits in long lines.
The layout is still chaotic though and in the spherical Dome it is easy to get lost. Better signage may help, but this is never going to be a problem that goes away. The stands were generally well set out and easy to get to, except the most popular ones. Dark Carnival was again too busy and the line too long. They honestly need to consider getting a bigger stall, the demand is there.
In terms of bargains, I didn’t shop too much, but I did not see huge price reductions. I managed to snag Unchartered: Lost Legacy for a bargain price, but most other games were slightly discounted or very old stock. Even the usual overstock on Collector’s Editions and subsequent bargains were nowhere to be seen.
The large stands were very well setup and laid out. XBox’s stand was simple and clean and easy to get into and out of, as was Sony’s. The lines to play Assassin Creed and the various Sony games were long, but manageable and people were generally polite and didn’t shove or jump in front of people.
There were a couple of hiccups. I noticed a large number of stalls selling unlicensed merchandise, especially T-Shirts. Organisers really have to crack down on this as it is not a great reflection of the gaming culture in SA or a good impression for the overseas visitors, many of whom are likely to be from distributors.
The best part of rAge this year was the weather. Having a rainy weekend may have sucked for cosplayers getting wet, but it kept the temperature in the Dome to manageable levels. This was the first time ever that I felt comfortable in the venue.
All in all rAge was a good weekend and worth it just for the press event. We may not have seen anything brand new, but the effort put into it by major distributors and publishers is heartening and bodes well for the future.
Grumpy Old Man who still collects toys (THEY. ARE. NOT. DOLLS), PC Gamer lured to the Dark Side of console gaming, comic book reader and fan of all things pop culture.
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