Microsoft brought their revived yearly fan event to good old London town this past weekend, and a few of the crew from the Tavern stopped by on Saturday afternoon to check it out. We came away mightily impressed with the event as a whole, from the superb layout to the games and giveaways, MS really went all out it seemed to make X019 feel like a big deal.
The Copperbox arena was transformed into a celebration of Xbox, decked out in bright green lighting and props at every corner – as you may have seen from the Inside Xbox stream on Thursday.
Despite the hectic appearance from the stream though, the actual event was well laid out, with enough room to breathe and short wait times for nearly every one of the games on display – only Doom Eternal was a bit of a wait, but then the demo was a decent length too (and good fun, but we’ll get to that).
There was a big push of Project xCloud on here. The first thing in front us as we walked in was a booth showing it off, with plenty of units on hand to try it out. Attendees also were guaranteed access to the beta too, the invite coming in quickly after registering through the Xbox Events app. As well as that, staff at the event were handing out free phone clips as fast as they could, allowing you to clip your phone to the controller for the best way to play the beta. It almost seemed as though all you had to do was breath to get given one, with many attendees walking around holding several in their hands! It was a great gesture, and certainly encouraged more people to check out the service.
Elsewhere, there were experiences around the floor; from picture opportunities with Storm Troopers and the big bad from the recently released Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, to a giant pachinko board where you could win between 1 and 12 months of Gamepass Ultimate and even a funky super slow-mo recording area that was simply a chance to look cool.
But, what about the games? Well, thankfully due to the limited attendance we managed to get hands on with a decent number of titles. Let’s take a quick look at a few standouts below:
As mentioned above, the wait for this was the longest of the day (about half an hour) but once we got hands on it made it all worthwhile. The frenetic carnage of Doom 2016 is present and correct, and somehow ramped up even further. After a brief tutorial on the weapons and new features, we were set loose in the game proper. Cue blood, guts and explosions on every inch of the screen. Gory killing the enemies is still super fun – perhaps worryingly, it got more than a few laughs out of me… – the guns all had some serious heft behind them and the new traversal mechanics opened up the level design nicely. Towards the end of the demo I did get a little lost on how to proceed with no clear route off my floating rock until I spotted a sliver of climbable surface hidden behind some pipes. Jumping on it saw me getting stuck in the geometry in an inescapable position, though our time was up anyhow. Other than this slight setback, I really enjoyed our time with Doom and am tempted to finally dig back into 2016 and finally finish it before next March.
It’s no secret that I’m rather fond of this years Resident Evil 2 REmake so I was especially keen to get hands on with this multiplayer take on the franchise. Four players must work together to escape an increasingly packed maze of zombies, lickers and hazards placed by a fifth player, who’s able to flick between cameras in order to track the survivors progress. While Ian and Graham teamed up with others as the survivors, I got to play as the overlord – and thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. Using a similar mechanic to card battlers or GEARS POP!, a segmented bar slowly fills up over time, with several cards on offer for you to pick from once you have the required points to spend. Even in this early demo, there was a decent selection to choose from, from traps (such as mines), through gun attachments for the camera to, of course, a wide range of undead to litter the area with. Zombies and the like can be placed pretty much anywhere, allowing devious traps to be set up just as things appear to going smoothly for the heroes. You can also directly control any of the creatures too, forgoing your elevated view point for a more hands on approach.
Clearly the best part of my demo though was when I got my hands on Mr.X. What was a terrifying menace throughout RE2 suddenly turned into the ultimate power fantasy; seeing the survivors scatter in fear as we gently lean under the door frame into the room before swinging our tree trunk sized arms around, knocking them for six. He’s hardly the easiest to control, one wrong move will see you losing valuable seconds as the victims escape, but when the hit connect…well, I’m just glad he’s on my side.
Survivors can get their hands on some weaponry to fight back, and can help each other in a pinch. The zombies seemed a tad easier for them to kill than in RE2 too, though that may just have been the fact that there are four of them attacking at once rather than just Claire or Leon. So far, Capcom have said that Project: REsistance is merely a proof of concept rather than a fully fleshed out title; it depends on the reception as to whether we might see this released one day. I do hope we do. While the RE spin offs have been hit or miss thus far, if the full game can keep the tension up as well as our short demo did then it could be really rather good.
I’ve not much knowledge of the original Battletoads, it passing me by as a kid for one reason or another. So when the modern take was revealed it barely even registered on my interest meter. Having played it now though, I can safely say that I’ll be looking to check it out come launch.
We played in the full 3 player co-op mode and what an absolute hectic affair it was. It didn’t take too long before the screen was filling with tough enemies to fight, bodies flying everywhere and some wacky over the top moves were giving us reason to laugh out loud. When Zitz’s head transformed into a giant robot before shooting out laser beams was when I knew this game was for me. Rash and Pimple have equally outlandish special attacks that fill the screen with flashy visual effects. The artwork overall is pretty damn good, with large, expressive characters and animation making it a joy to watch as well as play. The infamous tunnel level reappears, this time the perspective shifted to behind the characters – though the difficulty is just as high as the original is purported to be. Lining up jumps and routes through the tiny gaps proves to be way to much luck as judgement, ending our demo is a flurry of restarts and frustration. As long as one of you remains alive the others can respawn after a short while, but with 3 of you jumping and weaving about it seems to make things even harder still. But still, we came away impressed with the combat sections and they may even make up for the frustration found in these tunnel segments. Maybe.
Streets of Rage 4
Another blast from the past getting the modern treatment, I admit I was slightly apprehensive when going in to SoR4. The original trilogy – specifically SoR2 – was my childhood, countless hours spent working my way through it’s grimy crime underworld to a fantastic soundtrack and a satisfying combat loop. As soon as I moved Blaze and threw the first punch however, all my fears were eradicated. Dotemu have absolutely nailed the feel of the game, from the weighty movement to the impact of a grinding uppercut. The level we played felt a little ‘Greatest Hit’s’ at times – we only spotted one new enemy in amongst all the returning foes – but there’s no denying it was a fun as ever to dish out justice and a swift kick to the face to each and every one of them. I hope to see what new elements make it into the final game when it launches, though I’d be lying if I said merely returning to the well wouldn’t be enough.
The updated visuals have won me over too; initally looking a little too messy for my liking, in play the extra swagger and impact granted by the attention to detail enhances things no end. Sadly, the unit I was playing on had no working headphones so I couldn’t hear what I hope to be some incredible music to accompany the violence (original composers Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima return), though my mind filled in the blanks perfectly – for now.
Overall the event was exactly what we expected going in; a celebration of all things Xbox past, present and future. It was great to see not only some up and coming titles ahead of time, but where the brand looks to be heading in person. Project xCloud was a big focus – we will bring you our thoughts on the service as it stands soon – and it’s clear that Microsoft see all of gaming as a whole to be valuable to their success, not just a few tent pole titles. Gamepass continues to put almost any other subscription to shame with the sheer value being added monthly making it a harder and harder proposition to refuse. That more and more new titles are being added to service speaks volumes to how successful it is for Microsoft and it’s partners.
It’s a shame that we won’t get to go back next year, as with Scarlett looming there’s bound to be a big focus on that as well as Halo Infinite and any number of other exciting launch titles. Where ever it may be – be sure to get in early to secure your tickets, and have fun!