If you're making the trip out to Olympic Park today or tomorrow for EB Expo, then you're probably prepared to see a lot of costumes, games, merchandise and terrible food. So to help make the most out of your Expo Experience, here's five tips from the show floor.
Cuphead looks great, but ...
Minutes before we left the office, Mark and I were waxing lyrical about Cuphead. When a game takes visual inspiration from the Steamboat Willy Disney-era of animations, it's hard not to — simply because there's nothing else quite like it.
The animation is smooth and there's an undeniable charm about the characters and bosses. The first level, for instance, features an angry potato and a furious carrot that occasionally tries to hypnotise you to death. Here's the problem though: the game's all boss battles, and while that's fine for a lot of people, it might disappoint those expecting a more fleshed out platformer.
As an aside, it's worth noting that the fire button is automatic and doesn't need to be tapped. That seems like the sort of thing that shouldn't need to be said, but judging off the amount of people I saw who didn't immediately pick that up it's probably worth knowing in advance.
Aussies? What Aussies
Everyone already expected the Australian contingent of EB Expo — otherwise known as the Home Grown Gaming section — to be smaller this year, but what we weren't expecting was a table with three games pitched next to the Academy of Interactive Entertainment stand. It was so apparently irrelevant in the planning that it was hidden behind the Australian Defence Force's recruiting efforts and didn't even warrant a light over the top of the three games, with the most visibility coming courtesy of rolling white image on a nearby TV screen.
Those Aussies were Mori, The Homecoming and Projection. I spoke to Mori's creator, Jared Hahn, briefly, which you'll be able to hear later (after I've finished editing and uploading the audio, anyway). But outside of that interview we, and the other journalists and freelancers I spoke to, talked about how EBX has more or less dropped off the indie radar entirely.
PAX Australia undoubtedly has a big part to play. Now that everyone is accustomed to the size and schedule of PAX, people are much more willing to factor it into their longer term planning. Purchasing a booth at PAX or even making the effort to attend often dries up the majority, if not all, of their spare funds, making events like EBX nothing more than a luxury.
Perhaps the closest EB actually came to honouring indies was the entrance for media and exhibitors. On the left hand side was Bethesda's booth, with a bombed out car, Pip-Boy and a gigantic Fallout 4 booth. On the right was a random Battlefield tank and a sign for Origin displaying freeplay sessions for, of all things, Battlefield Hardline. (No surprises: it was largely empty every time I walked past.)
In the middle was a booth for Rock Band 4 and, in front of that, four consoles playing Rugby Challenge 3 and Rugby League Live 3. In a weekend and a location that was set to play host to the NRL grand final, what could be more Australian than that?
Star Wars: Battlefront holds up well, and there's auto-aim
The primary purpose of EBX these days is to convince punters to pre-order, or at least retain faith in their pre-orders. It doesn't serve a great deal of use to media, since most of the material was already shown at Tokyo Game Show, Gamescom or even E3 (in the case of some games, like The Division). And that's for the games that are hands-on.
So for many, this will have been their first taste of Star Wars: Battlefront. It was the Walker Assault mode on Hoth — again, not new footage by any means — but it was nice to see it hold up in a 20 vs 20 battle on the PS4.
What was slightly less amusing was the slight auto-aim evident in the demo. It didn't occur often, but if you watch closely you'll see the crosshair snap to targets. In one sense it's welcome because the default sensitivity on the controllers, which is understandable given the setting, is inordinately high.
Occasionally, however, I'd snap to an enemy that was on the run, forcing me to flick the stick to unlock the crosshair. That'd almost always result in the aim going further away than I'd like, and then I'd have to readjust (usually with my movement, rather than the right stick, since that's a lot easier on a console).
It's not a deal-breaker by any means and it didn't happen that often in my playthrough. But if Battlefront is the only thing you're looking forward to at EB Expo — and you typically play your shooters on PC — then it might pay to know beforehand.
Cosplay is consistently the best part of the convention
Perhaps it's a little cruel, but watching the initial rounds of cosplay is equal parts hilarious, incredible and cringeworthy. Within the first minutes, I saw one of the most amazing costumes I've ever seen at a convention. Apart from taking years to put together, it also had LED lights in the gauntlet and a fully functioning plasma ball.
In the same five minutes, I also watched someone "cosplay" by wearing a Pikachu onesie clearly purchased from the internet. Someone else walked out while eating from a box of Tiny Teddies. I didn't know eating breakfast was part of their costume, but until John Robertson (whose delivery, if a tad ocker, is generally always fun) was made it so, they didn't either.
The Just Cos show, and cosplayers generally, always offers a good break from the commercialised nature of EBX. Given there's less happening generally this year, that break is even more necessary — although if you're looking for something to do that doesn't involve queuing up at a major stand, the LEGO showcase and the mini-museum of video games are a nice foil.
Just remember people are watching
Whether you're walking around, sitting down at a booth or just taking a photo — always remember there is someone, somewhere, paying attention.
It's not something that usually matters at a convention, unless you happen to be doing something out of the ordinary. Like the bloke above. (Hint: if you don't see it at first, take a closer look at the headphones.)
Enjoy your long weekend of gaming!