Sniper Elite 4

Sniper Elite 4 wins the award for the most gruesome game at EGX this year. When you pull off what the game considers an impressive shot it enters bullet time and shows you a super slow-motion X-ray view of your kill. I only saw the headshot kills, as the bullet shattered the skull, but the developers at EGX assured me that there were other slo-mo moments including nut shots (in an interview you can read later this week).

The demo I played at EGX was also an incredibly deep experience. It was 1943 and I was behind enemy lines, tasked with destroying a bridge that was home to a long-range Nazi flak weapon. All I had to do was get across to the bridge and blow it up. What I hadn’t realised when I sat down to play was how huge the playable area was. As well as the bridge, which was across a valley, there was also a fairly substantial village.

I spent the entirety of my time in that village. Sniper Elite 4 is a slow paced game, filled with planning and tactics rather than running and gunning. Things like marking the various targets or timing your sniper shots to coincide with the firing of the cannon, to mask the noise, are the best ways I found to get through the village. I was also met with several side objectives I could complete, such as destroying power generators or the like.

You’re given the tools to go about the mission as you see fit. Of course, you have a sniper rifle. I also had a silenced pistol and sub-machine gun, bandages, mines, grenades and a few other items I didn’t get around to using. The level was expansive and extremely well designed and all in all I had fun, despite dying a fair few times thanks to my own general impatience. I had never played a Sniper Elite game before going to EGX this year, but now I cannot wait to get my hands on this one again.

Sniper Elite 4 is due for release on February 14, 2017 on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn

You’re probably thinking to yourself, if you frequent this site, how did Horizon: Zero Dawn end up in a round-up? If I had finally gotten a chance to play it, after more than a year of hype, how have I not written a 5,000 dissertation on every tiny detail of the demo? The answer is that the demo wasn’t that expansive, and while I have now played the game, I didn’t learn a great deal that I didn’t already know.

The game plays exactly how it looks in the various gameplay demos and trailers that have been released over the past year. After a presentation of a trailer and a short Q&A section (where the Sony rep also mentioned that The Last Guardian was great), I was shuffled out into the demo area and dumped in the game. The area I was playing in was part of the same area from the gameplay demo shown at E3 a few months ago. Alas, I wasn’t able to go and fight the boss from that demo, as it was out of bounds.

So I pottered around for fifteen minutes. The game feels really great to play. Even fighting the limited number of enemies in the demo area required a variety of tactics. Stealth attacks were the best way to go, but when I was forced to fight the robotic animals in open combat I definitely needed to mix my tactics up. I also came across a pretty tough enemy that used area-of-effect electrical attacks and a front facing shield. Boy did he take some manoeuvring to put down.

I also managed re-programmed a larger robot to use as a mount but was quickly overtaken and smashed to pieces by a Watcher. Speed is key in Horizon: Zero Dawn. Whether it’s in dodging enemy attacks or collecting resources. I found that hit-and-run tactics worked quite well when collecting stuff. There are robots that wander the environment with containers on their backs containing valuable loot. A good tactic with them is to shoot the containers off their back and quickly loot it before making an escape. Or getting stomped. Either way, really.

I should also mention that I saw the game running in 4K on a Playstation 4 Pro elsewhere at the convention. It looked stunning, of course, with an amazing use of colour and lighting thanks to the HDR technology and a damn impressive level of detail.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is due for launch on March 3, 2017 exclusively on Playstation 4.

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Little Nightmares

Bandai Namco went all out with Little Nightmares at EGX this year, with a highly impressive booth that mimicked the environment of the Chef – the antagonist from the announcement trailer and the demo I played at the show. It was incredible. I posted a couple of photos on Twitter, but you should keep an eye out for the EGX Photo Journal post later this week.

As for the game itself, it’s a horror adventure game that’s shown from a 2.5D perspective. The way the game looks and plays is very reminiscent of a dollhouse – the protagonist finds herself in a twisted fantasy land called The Maw, which is deep under the sea. Everything around her is huge, from the doors and furniture to the enemies that she must evade.

The demo I played was short, with a lot of it seen in the reveal trailer. I had to essentially sneak past the Chef while it prepared some meat of unknown origin. It was a pretty tense section of gameplay – sneaking around the kitchen as the Chef wandered, preparing his meal. While the game is presented from a 2D perspective, the world you travel through is 3D, so you’re able to move back and forth to take advantage of the various hiding spots.

When I wasn’t sneaking past the Chef, who made a soul shreddingly inhuman sound when he spots you, the rest of my time was spent solving environmental puzzles to progress. As it was a short demo there were only a couple, involving moving a suitcase to allow me to reach a door handle, or using a sausage making machine to create something to swing across a gap. Simple stuff, but I’m sure the game will get more challenging further in. Though I’m not sure that the nightmares it might inspire could be described as “little”…

Little Nightmares is due out in 2017 on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

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Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2 really surprised me when I sat down to play it at EGX. For starters the demo was lengthy, with the Bethesda guys giving us a cool 30 minutes to play the game, which is longer than most of the other demos I was privvy to at the show. But mostly, Dishonored 2 surprised me because I never really got into the first game back in 2012. My 30 minutes with Dishonored 2, however, I enjoyed a great deal.

Part of that was down to the fantastic level design. The demo dropped me off at the entrance to the Clockwork Mansion, a labyrinthine maze of corridors and rooms that was built to change. To navigate the mansion I needed to pull levers that changed the layout and configuration of both the house and its rooms. Having to deal with the constantly shifting layout was challenging.

My stealth powers helped. I played as Corvo and had access to a few of his abilities, such as Blink, which played a big role in my gameplay experience. I quickly ditched the non-lethal approach I would take in the full game for the purposes of getting through as much of the level as possible and murdered everyone in my path. Even a butler who startled me and found himself with a dagger in his face before I even knew what had happened. At least my reflexes were spot on. The Clockwork Mansion was also home to Clockwork Soldiers – automatons who are really out to ruin any trespassers day. They were an entirely different challenge to the Human enemies. They had sensors in the front

They were an entirely different challenge to the Human enemies. They had sensors in the front and back of their heads, meaning they could literally see behind them. Stealth killing them was out of the question as well. Whenever I had to fight them I was forced to use my gun and shoot off their limbs. Plural. Shooting off a single limb barely slowed one down (even the head). 30 minutes of Dishonored 2 was a challenging, really well designed affair and I’m looking forward to continuing when it comes out.

Dishonored 2 launches for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One on November 11, 2016.

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Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III

The original Dawn of War was one of my favourite strategy games. Some of that is down to timing – it was released while I still held an interest in the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game. But Relic Entertainment did a fantastic job translating the tabletop game into video game format.

Dawn of War III was a classic real-time strategy experience. Playing as the Space Marines, I was dropped into a mission to stop the Eldar from creating portals. I had a couple of hero characters and a few buildings that constituted my base and was let off the chain to go and kill some alien scumbags. Everything about the game felt like old-school strategy without feeling dated in any way.

I had to send my forces across the map to hunt down the enemy through the fog of war, micromanaging their paths and targets for optimum efficiency. I also had to defend my base from occasional Eldar attacks, as well as build it up to be able to conscript more and better troops and vehicles. If you’re a fan of the Dawn of War series, or of the older real-time strategy games, then Dawn of War III should definitely be on your radar.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III launches sometime in 2017 for PC.

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