EGX 2015 graced Birmingham’s NEC for the first time since the event’s move from its usual home in the now defunct chambers of Earl’s Court, but the familiar sight of long queues of gamers, eager to try out current and upcoming titles proved that much of the event’s luster hadn’t been lost in the transition. With a stark amount of AAA publishers holding back their biggest future hitters from this year’s show, much of the floor space was relinquished to an increasingly large focus on indie games, YouTube Gaming showcases and most notably the public arrival of the industry’s prospective ‘next-big-thing’: VR.
While Oculus Rift has been a mainstay of the event for the past two years, it was its two closest challengers that drew the most attention with HTC and Valve’s Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR leaving attendees without pre-booked appointments clamouring for the chance at sneaking in a quick demo. While I fell foul of the booking system for the latter, HTC’s booth kindly ushered me into one of its darkened rooms and the result was frankly mind blowing. With four tech demos on display - each of which highlighted a different aspect of the technology’s potential – Vive certainly appears to be the most progressive of the VR headsets looming on the horizon. The ability to walk freely within the boundaries of an artificial world, untethered from chairs and flatscreen televisions (if not from a rather intrusive cable protruding Matrix-style from the back of your head) is an experience that feels oddly naturalistic in spite of the often alien surroundings.
Whether you’re recoiling from the underwater appearance of a titanic whale that drifts past after stopping momentarily to face you eye-to-eye, painting in full 3D or witnessing the cyber-sardonic wit of Portal’s GLaDOS first-hand in the demonstration’s coup-de-grace, the HTC Vive is a spectacular showcase of an industry still intrinsically fueled by the potential of technology. Although the PlayStation VR – recently rebranded from Morpheus – will likely trump the VR crowd due to its expansive user-base and reduced barrier to entry (i.e. it doesn’t require a completely empty living room), judged solely on my short time with it, Vive’s illusion of reality is the closest gaming has come to dispensing with the need for any form of suspension of disbelief.
Gadgets and tech news in pictures
Gadgets and tech news in pictures
1/10 New HTC Desire 626 handset launch
HTC has launched its latest Desire 626 handset with the Sense 7 software which automatically detects whether you’re at work, at home or on-the-go and alters its theme to suit your location. This advanced technology intelligently analyses your favourite photos to modify the look and feel of your apps, allowing you to modify the colour scheme and backgrounds – the ultimate in personalisation
2/10 Nasa confirms Mars water discovery
Nasa has announced that it has found evidence of flowing water on Mars. Scientists have long speculated that Recurring Slope Lineae — or dark patches — on Mars were made up of briny water but the new findings prove that those patches are caused by liquid water, which it has established by finding hydrated salts.
3/10 Customers wait in line at the Apple Store in Paris to get their hands on the iPhone 6s
Several hundred camped outside the London store in Covent Garden. The 6s will have new features like a vastly improved camera and a pressure-sensitive “3D Touch” display
4/10 Bloodhound SSC: The most powerful ever made is shown off to the public
The car is displayed at Downing Street, when the team visited David Cameron to demonstrate the project.
5/10 Lunar eclipse threatens Nasa technology
Artist's rendering of Nasa's LRO spacecraft, which will have to withstand a rapid drop in temperature during an upcoming lunar eclipse that could lead to it shutting down.
6/10 Mobile phone bills could rocket up after Ofcom announced that the fees it charges to phone operators will be trebled
The regulator will now charge far more to phone companies for using the mobile spectrum — and though it says that fee will not be passed on to customers, experts have said that prices are likely to go up.
2007 Getty Images
7/10 New iPhone 6s rose gold
Apple has released a bright pink new iPhone 6s — likely the only way that you’ll be able to tell that someone has the new handset. The company released the new phone with much fanfare, but almost all of the changes — a new camera and pressure-sensitive display — were on the inside. The only new noticeable addition to the phone’s look is the very pink rose gold colour, and a tiny “S” on the back. The new handsets will be released on September 25
8/10 iPad Pro
Apple has launched a huge new iPad, which it hopes can bring the tablet to offices and designers. But it unveiled it with an Apple-designed stylus — an idea that was famously mocked by late Apple founder Steve Jobs
9/10 Apple TV
Apple has introduced the new Apple TV
10/10 Apple Pencil
Apple has introduced the new Apple Pencil
In the present however, EGX’s showcase of the next six months of gaming releases was, well, mixed. While indie games like Prison Architect (complete with a glorious prison-cellblock stall to boot) and the Dark Souls-esque isometric action-RPG Eitr stood out amongst the burgeoning Rezzed and Leftfield Collection zones, the general feel of the big budget titles can be summed up in two words: safe and steady.
The recently delayed Starfox Zero gave the impression that muted early previews have been resoundingly on point. While not helped by the fact that one mission is essentially a copy-paste job of a level from Starfox 64 (known on our shores as Lylat Wars), the Miyamoto-produced shooter whiffs of stale design choices, irksome gyroscopic controls and lifeless graphics. While Xenoblade Chronicles X was better received by the Nintendo faithful, many will be hoping that the magicians in Kyoto are hard at work on their next console, the NX, in the hope it might see the light of day at EGX 2016.
With Microsoft proclaiming on posters around the UK that it has the “biggest line-up in Xbox history” hitting shelves in the coming months, it came as little surprise that its golden trifecta of Forza Motorsport 6, Halo 5: Guardians and Rise of the Tomb Raider were present and accounted for. With time at a premium I opted for Lara Croft’s latest Xbox One timed-exclusive adventure due this November. A sequel to the well-received, multiplatform series reboot from 2013, judging from the demo, developer Crystal Dynamics has certainly listened to fan feedback about the bizarre lack of tombs in its predecessor, with crypts, ancient statues and archaic booby traps all making a comeback from the Tomb Raider games of old. With familiar gameplay and a penchant for putting its heroine in grave peril, Rise of the Tomb Raider shows enough promise to be called a genuine competitor to Naughty Dog’s upcoming Uncharted 4, set for release in March 2016.
Away from PlayStation VR, Sony opted to show off recently released games on its home platform with Metal Gear Solid V, Destiny: The Taken King, Mad Max, Rocket League and Until Dawn all on display. The snaking trail of people surrounding the stand, however, had one game in mind: Star Wars: Battlefront. Easily the most sought-after game of the show, Battlefront offered gameplay snippets in two varieties with a stall for a co-op, horde-mode style encounter and a separate, infinitely more popular showing of a 20 v 20 competitive multiplayer battle. Blasters, stormtroopers, jetpacks and ‘that’ John Williams score, Star Wars: Battlefront could be this year’s sales juggernaut, and judging from my short time with the game, it may well deserve to be.
An encouraging early, pre-alpha build of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst and a riotously fun open-world preview of the anarchic Just Cause 3 rounded out my highlights from EGX 2015, yet in a year where Bloodborne and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain have opted to subvert their predecessors’ worn mechanics to create something entirely fresh, the majority of the blockbusters games on display at the NEC did little to suggest that the norm has been disturbed long-term. Against the backdrop of sublime, experimental movements in the VR space, the safe and steady sequels at the show paled against the opportunity to experience something entirely new. Facing off with a gigantic aquatic mammal before stepping over to the edge of a sunken shipwreck, staring into the distant, partially visible darkness leaves you wondering - like the VR experiment itself – just how far can this go?Reuse content