Thumbstix at EGX 2018

My annual pilgrimage to Birmingham (Yes, they got the name right this year) to check out all things gaming once again took place last weekend, as I attended EGX 2018 at the NEC. As usual, a lot of the big boys were there, with large areas take over by Sony and Nintendo. Xbox repeated their actions from two years ago and did not have a dedicated space, instead focussing on supporting third party developers, and it was difficult to miss the massive Xbox One branding that adorned the Ubisoft and Square Enix areas.

There were some big hitting games on offer to play as well, with Assassins Creed Odyssey, The Division 2, Kingdom Hearts 3 and Metro Exodus all playable for the first time in the UK. PC gamers were also well looked after with a huge presence from the likes of Hyper X, CoolerMaster and Asus ROG. Completing the line-up were the usual merchandise stands, the Rezzed zone, the developer sessions and the Boardgame and Retro areas.

But for myself the interest lied mainly in the Console gaming areas, and my plan of attack was to blitz all the AAA games on the Thursday and Friday, when the crowds and queues are smaller, and then leave the Rezzed area until Saturday, when the masses arrive and the queuing is horrendous! So, instead of doing a run down of everything I played, here is my Top 10 of EGX 2018 (just like all the good click-bait sites do)!

The Division 2 – It’s safe to say that I wasn’t a massive fan of the original game. It came out in a year when I was taking part in the Year Of Shame challenge and at the time it did feel like a huge bullet dodged. But, give Ubisoft some credit as they have improved and added to The Division and the game that’s currently out there is a vast improvement on the first release. The Division 2 feels a lot more polished and, more importantly, lots more fun. Set in Washington DC, the demo saw your group of four agents heading through the heart of the city in order to rescue an important McGuffin from a downed plane. Of course there were enemies in the way, but they felt less bullet-spongy than in the first game, which ultimately improved the enjoyment. It helped that Ubisoft has rigged the demo so that you had to play in a squad of four, and you were mic’d up as well, which reinforced the need for communication. Although The Division 2 wasn’t that high on my radar, I came away enthralled and excited by my experience.

Hitman 2 – Hitman Season 1 is one of my favourite games from the last few years, so a sequel that refines that game engine and improves it was always going to go down well with this gamer. It didn’t disappoint, with the demo showcasing the huge and packed race setting of Miami. It was bright, beautiful and packed with life. Following the well-worked opportunity method of the first game I soon found myself dressed as a flamingo whilst in possession of some secret documents and was ready to take out my first target before the demo timer ran out. Make no mistakes, this is my most wanted game of the rest of 2018, along with a certain western themed game.

Figment – This was the surprise hit of EGX for me and a bunch of close friends. Tucked away in the Rezzed area, Figment is a musical action adventure game set in the human mind. All the artwork is hand-drawn and gorgeous, with musical performances that are revealed through your exploration. Figment is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch and coming soon on PS4 and Xbox One. Developed by Bedtime Digital Games, you can find out more about Figment on the official website. Keep an eye on Thumbstix for the upcoming review.

Just Cause 4 – Not playable at the show but there was a huge area in the middle of the Square Enix section dedicated to video footage of the game, alongside live narration by Simon Miller. Just Cause 4 looks absolutely bonkers! Rico Rodriguez is back, and this time he has gadgets galore! Want to attach air balloons and boosters to a tank, making it a flying tank? Or attach air balloons to red barrels and have them follow you around like your own personal army? Or use a Wind Gun to blow enemies over a cliff? The general consensus is that Just Cause 4 will allow you to do anything you damn well want. And it looks amazing!

Jump Force – I’m not a fighting game guy, and as I stood watching good players excel at Jump Force a big huge gap opened up in front of me and before I knew it I was sitting and playing this fast and insane 3D fighter. I think I did a sterling job as at one point my character turned into this huge Michelin-Man (google it) character and I pummelled the hell out of my CPU opponent. I did hear visible gasps of impressiveness behind me, so I think I did OK. Before I embarrassed myself I gave up the hot seat, and as I wandered away I had a huge grin on my face. Jump Force was the sole cause of that massive smile.

Kingdom Hearts 3 –  I have never played a Kingdom Hearts game previously, mainly due to the series being PlayStation exclusive. However, I have been impressed with the trailers released so far, and I was happy to take my place in the hour long queue in order to check it out. There were two demo levels to check out and I went straight for the Toy Story themed level. A quick introduction to Woody and Buzz and we were away taking care of the intruders to Andy’s bedroom. Visually KH3 is looking incredible on the Xbox One X, especially with the Disney licensing making the visuals so familiar and appealing. Releasing in the quiet period of January 2019, this will hopefully appeal to newcomers like myself.

Spider-Man – Yes, I know this is already released, but I have not yet had the opportunity to sample the delights of Insomniac’s new AAA super-hero game. But after playing I can see just why it’s getting all the plaudits. The swinging mechanic is sublime, and the fighting was challenging for a beginner, but is something I know will become more flowing and satisfying the more you play. The first thing I did after the demo was to purchase, so it definitely had the desired effect.

Wavey The Rocket – Another hidden gem in the Rezzed area from Upper Room Games, Wavey the Rocket puts you in control of a waveform that Wavey will follow. Changing the amplitude and frequency of the wave will enable Wavey to get through the level safely collecting all the goodies available. There is a demo available through the official website. The controls take some getting used to but Wavey The Rocket looks, sounds and plays excellently!

Sea Of Thieves Developer Panel  – I’m a big fan of Rare and Sea Of Thieves so I was happy when they announced a special panel would be taking place at EGX. I had the pleasure of bumping into studio head Craig Duncan on the show floor before the panel and was impressed when the whole Rare contingent were outside the panel room meeting fans of the game an hour before the designated start time. The panel itself was fun and filled with plenty of anecdotes and sneak peaks into what’s coming next. Rare have created a game and a culture that is full of heart, and long may this continue.

Super Mario Party – Nintendo had one of the largest areas on the show floor and were showing the behemoth that is Super Smash Bros as well as Super Mario Party. Again I was teamed with three other gamers and we were put into the new game mode which just consists of consecutive mini games. From trying to win a tricycle race to running away from ghosts this demo was a huge amount of fun, even with randoms! Of course you will need real friends to play Super Mario Party and this is going straight on my list to purchase for Christmas fun with the family as anyone can pick up a JoyCon controller and master the basic controls.