Eager gamers got the chance to play this year’s most anticipated games at last weekend’s GAMEfest – we jumped in the car and set sail to the Birmingham NEC to see what’s hot and what’s not at the very first GAMEfest.
September actually see’s two computer game conferences within week of each other; this weekend saw the inaugural show from UK retailer Game and their aptly name GAMEfest.
And this week see’s Eurogamer hosting their annual Eurogamer Expo – there is something to be said about have having both so close to each other. But it was nice to see GAMEfest hosting their event outside of London. Something Eurogamer did try, once, with their Leeds show.
The timing of the event has seen criticism from some publishers who feel a new event from the UK’s biggest games retailer, and an established consumer was poorly timed due to its close proximity to Eurogamers Expo.
One affected publisher anonymously told MCV recently “with just three days to move from one site to the other, many are unimpressed by the expected costs”.
Eurogamer big-wid, Rupert Loman, told MCV he was “disappointed GAME is attempting to split the market”.
Gamefest’s pièce de résistance was an exclusive showing of Activision’s Call of duty Modern Warfare 3. Upon entering the NEC it was clear to see that COD was the big cheese of the show – and what Activision showed was truly stunning; witnessing New York’s skyline ablaze certainly got our attention.
We managed to get a few minutes with the game playing Survival Spec Ops mode, which involves fending out fiendish enemies alongside a fellow fragger. Everything is looking very good for Modern Warfare 3 this Christmas – everything except Battlefield 3.
That’s right, EA and DICE were on hand to try and steal its thunder. Unfortunately BF3’s stand was a little underwhelming, apart from the guys holding machine guns.
Although, they were probably just letting the game do the talking. We were treated to quick press preview before the riff-raff started to queue up.
First we hopped onto the single player and can report that the PS3 console version is looking very good indeed. Sure it not on par with the PC version – but the lighting and frame rate were solid as a rock.
Multiplayer-wise it was clear that the graphical fidelity had been toned down somewhat. But everything we saw, played and gawked at proved that BF3 really does have what it takes to take on COD and its first person shooter crown.
Whilst we rushed around the NEC to see as many games as possible before the show was opened to the public and we managed to get sometime with Microsoft’s Forza 4 – which is looking like the racing game of the year.
The graphics, lighting and handling tweaks add up to a massive change and was one of the most enjoyable games we played all day. Maybe that was because we were driving a stunning Ferrari 599 GTO around a beautiful vista in the Swiss mountains.
We managed to get a few laps on Codemasters follow-up to F12010 and from the looks of it not a lot has changed. The handling has been overhauled – but the steering wheel setup we were given made it hard to really access the changes from last year’s version.
Elsewhere, it was a little disappointing to see only three consoles showcasing the much-anticipated Batman: Arkham City. Although from what we did see it looks like it’s going to be every bit as good a Rocksteady’s first attempt.
Other games attracting enthusiastic punters included Elder Scrolls V: Skrim, the imminent Gear of Wars 3, Unchartered 3, Quake follow-up Rage and Saints Row the Third. There were even some games that won’t be available until next year – namely – EA’s Mass Effect 3, and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
After a few hours there was a definite growing frustration with having to queue up to play pretty much every game. We even heard stories of several hours just to play one game. It started to feel more and more like a Theme Park than a games convention.
Overall Gamefest was a massive success, to sell out a new show within a week of its main competitor shows that there is more than enough space in the market to have a couple of shows in the UK. Just not a week apart.
The biggest lesson that publishers have to come away with, is that they need to expand to events outside of London, due to the success of their business it’s clear that gaming isn’t just the preserve of Londoners. The NEC is a massive space is the perfect place to hold any form of trade show – let’s hope it back next year – bigger and better.