Population Explosion At The Gathering

As someone who has been lucky enough to travel the gaming universe within the space of six months, starting from PAX East, through the incredible extravaganza that is E3 and finishing off at Gamescom, the thought had never occured to me that there could possibly be a down side to our globe trotting.  Sure, there’s the neverending fatigue of having to keep the flow of content coming in lieu of a decent night’s sleep, but that’s a ridiculously small price to pay for seeing what we do, when we do.

It’s the “when we do” aspect that came in to play today.  Standing talking to countless other journos, their interests piqued at the latest gameplay footage from the upcoming Xbox titles, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d let the side down.  Surrounded by excited chattering discussing this new feature or that new mechanic, trying to decide which of the games they’d cover first, all I could think of was “I have nothing new to add”.  Not because I wasn’t impressed because, for the most part, each of the titles on show had something to offer most gamers even if the entire package wasn’t quite there… so the graphic whores could marvel at Battlefield 3 even if they didn’t like war games, the strategists could get excited over the tactics in Resi Evil Raccoon City even if their love for the zombie genre equated to their love of shingles.

Instead, my sadness was because we’d already covered most of the games from the myriad of events earlier in the year and, as you’d expect, the code on display was invariably the same code that was used at Gamescom in August which, unsurprisingly, was the same code from E3 as they ran so close to one another.

Being able to get hands on with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Halo Anniversary, Mass Effect 3, Resi and Dragon’s Dogma was certainly a considerably difference from watching someone else play through it in previous presentations, and it was nice to finally play a Halo game for the first time since the original graced my first Xbox all those years ago, but I couldn’t shake that feeling of “some other site could have been here and seen something new” and it was, admittedly, very saddening.

Nevertheless, the whole Gathering 2011 experience was one that I have enjoyed.  I enjoyed finally putting a face to the various PR email addresses, meeting some of the other sites in the flesh, and today I met Meagan Marie.  I’m sure not one single person reading this went “oh cool, Meagan Marie!” and, I have to admit, I wasn’t exactly sure who it was that walked us through the Tomb Raider presentation beyond that niggling “where the hell do I know her from??” feeling and so, as soon as I remembered, I ran a quick check on Google and it’s Moxxi.  Yes.  Mad Moxxi.  Well, not exactly… it’s the girl who had that amazing Moxxi cosplay that I’ve mentioned in the past.  If I see her again tonight, I’m going to gush about her costume.  I have no shame.

The number of people in attendance today was quite an eye opener.  Yesterday we had perhaps thirty at most but, after being split into groups of six to eight people, I overheard someone mention that there were nine groups in all.  Quite an undertaking for the Microsoft folk to herd from room to room but, all credit to them, they managed it without a hitch.  With this being my first community based event, I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but it had that Strongman atmosphere where nobody was a rival and everyone was there united in passion.  I can’t imagine too many industries with that sort of camaraderie but it was certainly evident here this weekend.

Throughout all of the titles on show today, the one question that I wanted to have answered more than any other (as I prefer the “straight from the horse’s mouth” approach) was the technology behind Halo Anniversary.  I knew that it was a combination of both the old and new engine running in tandem, but I wanted to know whether switching over to the retro mode meant that the older engine took over so that you were literally playing the old game, or whether it was still the latest engine with all the textures hotswapped and the dynamic lighting toned down.  I may be a gamer, but I’m still a techy at heart, so it was disappointing that I couldn’t get into an in-depth discussion on this.

So… the games… Deus Ex looked pretty damned cool and the Missing Link DLC introduces an overhaul to the graphics so that everything is smoother and more refined than the main game, but the changes are exclusive to the DLC and don’t carry over to the primary campaign which, although understandable from a logistics point of view, is still a shame.  There were so many visual components in Deus Ex that made me sit up and take notice, things that most reviewers likely never touched on and so would have escaped my attention were it not for sitting in front of the game today, such as the interactive highlighting which adapts to the foreground, insofar as the golden halo around objects will also outline your gun as you pass over it – tiny little touches that provide that “oh that’s cool” moment.  It got me excited about playing through the game though, so yet another title has been added to that ever-increasing “must play” list.

I still have my reservations over Tomb Raider as, to the casual observer without a controller in-hand, it appeared to be a lot of watching QTEs with the occasional button press, but I have it on good authority from Meagan that this isn’t actually the case although it probably does look that way from the outside looking in.  The puzzles are less obvious and formulaic than those in earlier Tomb Raider games, and rely more on mental agility than being able to drag huge obstacles from one point to another, so from that perspective I’m actually quite excited.  I do love what they’ve done with the franchise though, in fact I adore it.  Lara is far sexier, but also very demure, and there’s a light in her eyes that hasn’t been in any previous incarnations.  While the shorts, t-shirt, double holsters and conical breasts have been chucked in the shredder for this release, the all-new Lara stands head and shoulder above her predecessors and I hope this gritty new approach to the series takes hold for future titles.

My surprise hit of the day has a certain “I told you so” element to it, as it’s a series that Lorna has been trying to get me into for years – Hitman: Absolution.  I love stone cold killers; it’s just one of those things that has always appealed to me, and the idea of a bald guy with a barcode on the back of his head, wandering around in a fine suit with blood-red tie really does pump my ‘nads… but… I just never lifted my controller and fired up any of the games.  That, my friends, will change.  Absolution has got me foaming at the mouth just a little bit, and the way the orchestration slammed in to take us from a serene stealth-kill spree in a library to a frantic rooftop chase-down as Agent 47 attempted to escape a chopper managed to get my heart pumping more than I had ever expected.  Kudos to the composer though, because it was the music that got the adrenaline going more than the visuals but, regardless of that, it still happened.

All in all, this weekend has been one to remember for one reason or another.  The sadness at not being able to bring anything new to the table as far as reporting is concerned, and the guilt at having taken someone’s place who could have been seeing all these titles for the first time is overshadowed by having met some excellent new people (one of whom greeted me with “What’s the news?”, thanks to prior prompting from Lee… for those of you who don’t know, I receive at least a dozen “What’s the news?” texts from Lee most days.  It’s his thing) and from having my tastes widened and my eyes opened to new possibilities.

Plus, I met Moxxi.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Richie richie says:

    Man, you guys have covered some fucking events in the last year for real.

    I can only imagine how much fucking queueing that adds up to.

    Quality article. Hitman can fuck off though. I ain’t never buying another IO game. Not ever, see?

  2. Lorna Lorna says:

    I was a little disappointed by Hitman in some ways at E3, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I know that I wasn’t keen on the instinct mode, and am concerned about Hitman losing that punishing old school level of skill, practice, and patience needed to play it. Still, that said, the release is currently among the few gracing my interest list for next year. Glad you finally had a glimpse at what I see in the games ;)

    I also found that Tomb Raider was a little too heavy on the QTEs for my liking… although I liked the gritty feel to the series with this entry, the jury is still out on how dumbed down some parts will be if there are too many QTEs. Sounds like you had a great time anyway :D

  3. Edward Edward says:

    You deserved to be there, as I told you at the time.
    Also, if that was Vikki you met she’s awesome!

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