The UK's biggest consumer-facing gaming event of the year took place at the weekend. EGX allows gamers from around the country (and beyond) to play new video games weeks and months before their release – and 2015's event, held over four days at the Birmingham NEC, was huge. Exact attendance figures are yet to be released, but 2014's EGX brought 75,000 punters to London's Earl's Court, and this year's version looked even more popular.
VICE Gaming had three of its finest in place to check out the very best of EGX's playable previews, each of them instructed to write about just one standout game from the expo.
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
A chirpy Nintendo employee with a multi-coloured mohawk ushers me, my mate, and a wheelchair-bound stranger through the first dungeon on The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes.
"I hope you're ready for some fun", he shouts over the surrounding Splatoon tournament din. "Who's played a Zelda game before?" We each flip our open hands from prone to standing.
"Well, you've never played Zelda like this before." As it turns out, he's both right and wrong.
When our 15-minute foray into Tri Force Heroes begins, we each pick a specialist item. Two of us go for bombs, and my mate picks a bow. It's an important choice that determines the role we'll play throughout each of the forthcoming obstacles. Each is distinct and involving.
As a bomb user, I have to time throws, blow up blocks and weaken enemies. Given that we all share the same health bar, I have to be extra careful not to damage my teammates in the process. I'm a bit better at moving around so I navigate our party through a timed running section, being extra careful not to kill us by falling off the edge, and picking up life-replenishing hearts.
'The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes', preview trailer
Making our way cautiously but clumsily through the first dungeon, pushing blocks, smashing rocks, and bundling on top of each other by "totemming", one of the game's most charming and essential features, we eventually go head to berserk head with a spiky spinning top boss.
It's a manic way to close the experience. Piling on top of each other, throwing bombs into a hole on its surface, frantically smacking the exposed weak point with our swords, we gasp and talk tactics and laugh and apologise and back-pat and everything else that makes great co-op games great. We fuck it up royally, mind, lose all of our three lives and replace the 3DSes reluctantly on their pedestals. But it's the unmistakeable nuts and bolts of Zelda. And it's totally exhilarating.
"Oh, guys," sighs our trusty dungeon guide. "You were so close. But did you have fun?"
Though it remains to be seen whether Tri Force Heroes will work as well over Wi-Fi, despite the variation of touch commands on offer, we collectively offer our rainbow-headed friend a resounding yes, and disperse into the sprawling NEC, grinning from ear to ear.
Jonathan Beach / @jonothonbeech
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is released for 3DS on October 23rd
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Mirror's Edge: Catalyst
It's been seven years since we hurtled across the pristine skyline of Mirror's Edge, but in a show full of exciting games its sequel, Mirror's Edge Catalyst, showed me I was right to have Faith (sorry).
Catalyst has the original game's athletic protagonist Faith, a "runner" (basically a black market postie), hurtling across the City of Glass, using parkour to traverse the environments. In the EGX demo, players are given a trio of tasks to complete within a 13-minute window, which is enough time to explore and see some of the improvements developers EA DICE have implemented.
The dodgy combat of the original has been reworked, with your momentum factoring into each individual strike as you struggle with the new antagonists – the KrugerSec. I managed to pull off a couple of the melee finishers, but they actually felt a tiny bit jarring against the free-flowing movement of the non-confrontational gameplay.
This follow-up has ditched the linear paths of the original for a more open-world landscape, which thankfully felt densely populated in the tiny area of the city I was exploring.
'Mirror's Edge: Catalyst', gameplay trailer
The three tasks have distinctly different flavours, and will no doubt be sprinkled throughout the game's open world. "Delivery" saw me using the game's new combat mechanics to fight through several armed guards like a violent paperboy; "Race' was a time trial from point to point in the open world; and "Billboard Hack" is a Mirror's Edge twist on the 'solve the puzzle that is climbing this tower' mechanic that annoyingly seems to be everywhere in video games recently.
The short demo was accompanied with an exposition heavy video showing some of the story beats behind the new world, and the demo's tutorial hints at some Black Mirror-like elements to the plot, with a HUD initially filled with advertisements and GPS tracking. While I'm not sure if EA are bold enough to rival the bleakness of Charlie Brooker's television show, I certainly love a spot of dystopia with my parkour.
The demo was only a tiny slice of the game, but it was enough to get me hyped up for a game I felt ambivalent about before.
Jake Tucker / @_JakeTucker
Mirror's Edge Catalyst is released for multiple formats in February 2016
New on Motherboard: Many Americans Still Live On or Near Toxic Waste
Who said high-concept games were trash? The idea of Giant Cop couldn't be clearer – you play a giant cop, lording over a tiny city, who must peer down, find criminals, pick them up and then carry them to jail. And out of that simple premise, developer Other Ocean finds humour, a lot of visual flair and some sharp but subtle satire.
Picking up a naked, hairy man who's been done for indecent exposure, then holding him by the scruff of the neck right in front of your eyes, before tossing him idly into the police station car park always gets an internal smirk. Same goes for when you spot an illegal street race, and simply reach in and pluck both sports cars right off the road. Giant Cop isn't exactly a God game – apart from passing new laws, you can't change anything about the city you police. But there's a terrific sense of power in just reaching down, like that massive hand from the National Lottery, and spiriting somebody away to jail. And it has an affected, pretty, 1970s aesthetic, so as well as a funky, sunny, Miami-beachfront cityscape, the people you preside over are all wearing open-necked shirts and afros. It's like Shaft, if Shaft had been 100 feet tall.
'Giant Cop', teaser trailer
For all the posturing, try-hard criticisms of surveillance culture and government control that have bled into games in recent years (see Watch_Dogs, Advanced Warfare, GTA V) Giant Cop feels like the only one to get satire right. Here you are, this enormous presence looming large over a city, and you couldn't be more removed from the ground-level realities of the people you're supposed to be protecting. Arrest five people for burglary and you're awarded a monetary bonus – you're not looking for serious criminals or probable cause, you're just jailing anyone who looks like they were committing a crime in order to boost your stats. Giant Cop's an incisive put down of systems like PRISM and CompStat, though it never beats you round the head with it.
It's still in early development – EGX was actually the first time Giant Cop had ever been shown in public – but with this idea, Other Ocean is onto something.
Ed Smith / @mostsincerelyed
Giant Cop will have a release date when it's damn well ready
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