Last year’s The Gathering was a hoot so it would be rude not to turn down another fun filled extravaganza, courtesy of Microsoft and the Xbox Community Network. For those that didn’t read up on last years article, The Gathering is where Microsoft invites its ‘Elite’ members of its community network of websites and bloggers to a luxurious location to showcase its winter line-up of titles for its Xbox 360 Console. Yours truly was invited and here I am, if a little late, to report on the event which fulfilled our blood thirst for Gears of War 2, Resident Evil 5 and Left 4 Dead, through to getting battered and bruised in Streetfighter IV and where we loosed all our inhibitions with You’re In the Movies, Lips and Guitar Hero World Tour.
The venue this year was set in a luxurious hotel suite outside Reading, UK. Not the most glamorous of locations in the UK (sorry, I can say that, I was born there), but this soon changed as myself and a few other fellow bloggers were swooped up off the cold streets of a November evening and into the warm comfort of a stretched limo that took us to our stately hotel destination just a few miles away.
This year’s event was going to be a total lock down of gaming proportions as it was to be held in one location, with each game title on the list showing in a different room within the hotel. After checking in, we headed to one of the rooms in the hotel. The room was all lit in red lights, so it could only mean one thing. No, not a strip show, sadly, but the introduction to an evening titled – The Gears of War 2 Horde Tournament!
Two of the animators and artists from Epic Games, Maury Mountain (no seriously that was his name) and Matt Hancy, was at hand to introduce us to the game, which had launched to the public that same evening. After seating all of us down in front of our gaming pods, it was time to unleash the Horde, as each team of five players had to get to the highest wave in order to win some fabulous Gears prizes. My team managed to make a decent first effort of wave eighteen (you have to think non of us had played GoW2 and we only had one first shot at this), but the winners kept on going throughout the night and surpassed waves into the late twenties, enough to win themselves some signed Gears of War 2 Comics, Cogs and other Gears swag. And so that was the end of an eventful evening, only a few hours sleep was between us now and a whole day of gaming goodness to wake up to.
With breakfast devoured we all made our way to the main room where a few of us made a bee line for the pods that had a playable build of Streetfighter IV on them. Not to look too over keen I kept myself back and let a few others have a go while I looked on, wiping the dribble from my mouth every now and then. The game looked awesome, but more about that later…things were about to start.
After a brief introduction from Graeme Boyd, A.K.A. – Aceybongos The Gathering began, and we were soon put into our teams and whisked off to our first ‘activity’. For my group we were ushered into an old stately reading room, perfectly fitting for the game on show – Tomb Raider Underworld. The man himself -Eric Lindstrom from Crystal Dynamics gave us a little insight to the game and before we knew it we were taking Lara for a spin, or in my case, a swim. You can read our impressions on the game in our review here. After our allocated time of 40 minutes we had to down our pads and leave Lara literally hanging, as we had to move onto our next location…
Next up was Ubisoft, where Chris Easton from Ubisoft’s Montreal Studios showed us his upcoming masterpiece that is Prince of Persia. After a brief talk on the game and what we were about to see, we were all let loose. I was a big fan of ‘Sands of Time’ but failed to get my hands on ‘Warrior Within’ and the later ‘The Two Thrones’. This is the franchises first next-gen outing so I was keen to learn more. The time we had on the game (again, around 40 minutes) was enough to play out the introduction section of the game, where I was introduced to the moves of my character such as the wall running, claw sliding and a little combat, while a little bit of the story and its characters were unfolded. The controls felt very easy to master and in no time we were wall running, jumping over pits and scaling walls. The new cell shaded art style used in the game felt very fitting. There is still enough detail in the world and its characters to not make it too cartoony. I got a sense of ICO on PlayStation 2 when playing this game, which talking to Chris has been one of the influences for this game. This is certainly one game I will be looking forward to playing come its release in December.
Before I nearly defeated the first boss monster we had to press onto our next venue, a talk about the New Xbox Experience with Robin Burrowes, Head of Xbox LIVE Marketing in Europe. Robin guided us through the upcoming NXE, which has now launched on Xbox LIVE. You will get to read all of our impressions of the NXE in a weeks time. Robin was a sound bloke and was open to hearing our worries and ideas for the Xbox 360’s new interface. Being an interface designer/developer myself I took a great interest in what Robin had to say as well as give him a few tips myself, whether he takes any of them on we’ll just have to wait and see. If you’re reading this Rob, you know where to send the royalty cheque too, OK 🙂 Before we could get too deep into the debate of why the female avatars have less choice of jeans and shoes we were whisked off again to check out Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.
Before we all sat down, we were briefly introduced to this now released game by Elissa Miller, Lead Animator at Rare. After which we all had a play around the vibrant and colourful world of Banjo Kazooie. The areas we had to play around in was the same level as the recently released demo, so in our allocated time I repeated my steps from the demo as that’s all I knew what to do. Sadly I was never a fan of Banjo games but luckily we have someone that is. We’ve just reviewed the game this week, so check out Dave’s impressions on the game over here.
The Gathering 2008 – Part 2
Read on to hear about Resident Evil 5 and Streetfighter IV in Part 2 of my report from The Gathering 2008.