Play.com Live Report

As the Play.com Live event comes to a close, PSU reporter Rob Zwetsloot puts on his smoking jacket and reminisces about his time at Wembley Stadium in front of a roaring log fire.

The weekend starts typically for England. Grey skies, drizzling rain, and strong winds. However, atypical to British convention was a games convention (see what we did there?). Namely, the Play.com Live event.

The event itself did not quite live up to expectations. Promises of Resident Evil 5, Force Unleashed, and Street Fighter 4 were soon dashed. Such no-shows may have had a stand with a repeating trailer running, as was the case with Ghostbusters and Prototype, and others had a video being played in the companies section. The Force Unleashed, however, had a poster. Mind boggling stuff.

However, not all was lost. Haze pods were dotted around the middle level of the convention, with four levels on show for everyone to try out while friendly Ubisoft underlings chatted to you about the game. Full GT5 race pods, reminiscent of arcade racing game stands, were manned by fashionable young men in pit crew jumpsuits to give you a few tips and general game info. There were also periodical tech demo walkthroughs of Far Cry 2 with Ubisoft Montreal’s Patrick Redding, which, although readily available on the internet, were truly fascinating.

A large portion of the show was aimed towards promoting Guitar Hero 3 (which is already out in UK, and indeed, the rest of the gaming world), and Rock Band (which has yet to grace Europe with its presence). However, both were only being marketed for 360’s. While we don’t like to be hugely biased towards the PS3, it still feels a bit of a let down for it to go unmentioned.

The Sony stand, which contained the GT5 booths, also had stands for the yet to be released (in Europe at least) Echochrome and Time Crisis 4. The latter of the two was very popular, as, you know, it’s Time Crisis.

Sega had a large section, although it was mainly devoted to Sega Superstars Tennis. The game looks gorgeous, with an array of characters and levels ranging from series such as House of the Dead to Crazy Taxi, NiGHTS to Samba De Amigo, and, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog. However, the gameplay felt a tad weak. The controls seemed unforgiving, requiring very precise timing and position to return a ball. This, combined with the false sense of security received from how easy it was to deliver a powerful serve, didn’t do the game any favours.

What we have to remember though is that this is obviously an early build, and when a rally started going, the controls seemed very fluid. If the basic hit mechanics are ‘fixed,’ then the game could become a very competent tennis game, rivaling Virtua Tennis and Mario Tennis (64).

Finally, on show was an ‘early Alpha build’ of Race Driver: GRID, which appeared to be the love child of Colin McCrae: DiRT and the TOCA series. The game was surprisingly solid, if not a little easy on normal mode, and mildy infuriating on pro mode. AI cars reacted realistically to being nudged as did you. The AI would occasionally spin off as well, perhaps as catch up mechanic? There are also five levels of difficulty, which helped even out the differences between the two steering options. Graphically, it looked fairly nice, although this early build didn’t look half as good as the eye candy from GT5 Prologue. Admittedly, it is quite a tough act to follow.

Well there you have it. There were a few other things going on, like some very low resolution conversions of some popular games to Macs (which looked awful), and an appearance by one of the Doctors of Doctor Who fame, but they’re not really relevant.

In the UK, games conventions like these are very rare. Every few years, an event comes along with a small fanfare, but then never becomes annual. Even though this event isn’t the biggest or best on the gaming calender, it’s still a refreshing idea, and if it were to carry on, it would only get better. The highlight of the weekend was the tech demo walkthrough by Ubisoft. Seeing a game through the eyes of the developer is a truly enlightening experience.

Over the next day, our reporter will bring you more in-depth previews of some of the bigger games shown at the event.