After the success and enjoyment of last year’s Play Expo in Manchester, I have been eagerly anticipating the return – especially as it coincided with my birthday! What better way to celebrate turning 25 than to play retro games, make a few purchases and see what’s new in the gaming world? Exactly. However, it didn’t go as planned and unfortunately, I was only able to confirm my attendance a few days before the event. As such, this isn’t as inclusive as last year’s review but there is one key point I did want to focus on at the end.
Bigger and better
With a much bigger space to utilise, Play Expo has learnt a lot from its first venture to Manchester’s Event City. Each arena got a much bigger space to fulfil and organise according. Where last year it could be crowded and hard to move, this year there was ample space that was filled with consoles, stands, shops and spectators alike. It was less claustrophobic but a much better atmosphere.
The costumes seemed much better than last year. Having been to Manchester’s Comic-Con this year, it was nice to return to a gaming atmosphere. Full respect to those that dressed up and got in the spirit – something I may have try one day, you never know – because it was clear a lot of effort went into those costumes.
The pros were just as intense this year as last, and that’s an intensity that drains you just by watching. I think I’m a gamer, but against these guys I know I’d have no chance. I didn’t interrupt for fear of death but it was fun to watch for a while again.
Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag
Of all the stands I saw and visited, this was the biggest for me. It’s fair to say that Assassin’s Creed is not my favourite series. I enjoyed the first one a lot, and the second did improve on what was great but it got tedious and repetitive for me – something I know other people don’t agree with.
After the second, it was a disappointment and unfortunately, there wasn’t much improvement this time. It caught my eye because it was on the soon to be released PS4 – so I had to try it out. The graphics weren’t as great as I wanted for the new console, which is going to show the crossover period we have where games are released on current and next gen consoles. Only later will we start to see the real capabilities of the PS4 and Xbox One.
AC4’s demo started on a boat that was as responsive as a slug with a hangover. It took what felt like ten minutes to turn and there were no clear instructions on what to do. Button mashing aside, the guys were quick to explain and I did crash once or twice while trying to figure out what to do. There’s so much to keep on top of that it was more of a chore than enjoyable. With a real tutorial, this might be different. Movement afterwards was also a bit sluggish and I switched off at the point.
It lost me. This is not an improvement and I’m not going to be buying this one, unfortunately.
PS4 and the controller
However, moving on from a disappointing game to an impressive console (or what were the indications of such). Not much can be said of the console from this demo but I did get my first taste of the new controllers and honestly, I’m very impressed.
I remember back in the PlayStation days where the first version of these controllers was released. I didn’t like it but by PS2, I had no choice and adapted. The design has been fairly consisted throughout and I like that. Even now, on PS3, of my 3 controllers, one is lighter than the others and is the one I use the least (I like a bit of weight, but not too much).
This new version sees new materials which make the controller a lot better to handle and use, with indentations in the analog sticks to rest your thumbs in. Much better.
The biggest differences were the lower trigger buttons, which stick out more to be easier to press. That’ll take some getting used to but it’s going to be useful if there is so much to do in games like AC4. The last thing is the touch pad, which wasn’t usable in this demo, so not much to say but it threw a few people looking for the start and PS button found on the PS3 controllers. They’ll find this with time, I’m sure.
Overall: very good and a good indication of things to come!
Throughout the day, switching between new and retro games, I found myself thinking about sensitivity in game controls. Are we so used to sensitivity that the slightest touch for that fractional movement is so important? Going from a Sega Megadrive to a PS4 was so strange because I had to hammer the controls to move on the former console, whereas now I barely need to press anything. I really had a sore thumb at the end of the day.
Has anyone else thought about this? I mean, it’s good we’ve made so many steps but has that changed the focus of our games and the difficulty? I still find these older games harder than a lot of titles released today. Just some food for thought!