Part two of our epic countdown of the best games of EGX 2018, starring disgraced fighting game character, Shaquille O’Neill, a couple of Finn the Human wannabes and a Lynchian police officer with a hatred for clothes.
5 – OnRush
From the company behind such rally games as Dirt, Grid and the Colin McCray franchise, comes a game that looks to take the term ‘off road’ to new limits. Arcade racing is most fun when it’s chaotic and destructive, and this new team-based racing game looks to deliver on both fronts. OnRush strips away the technical aspects of racing games that leave casual fans with whiplash, and instead introduces more gamified elements like classes and abilities. In fact, it occurs to me now that I write this, Overwatch might just be OnRush’s closest comparison. There are no start or finish lines in OnRush, rather, you have objectives that you have to meet, such as a countdown mode where driving through gates gives you a time extension, while making sure your opponents miss those same gates. The first team to run out of time loses. The circuits are almost as wide as they are long and are densely populated by drops, ramps, and obstacles. Each vehicle comes with its own special traits. The smaller vehicles are quicker but weaker and the larger ones specialise in disrupting other vehicles’ racing lines. But the most genius move of the game, the one that really revolutionises the genre and makes this the freshest take on racing since Burnout Takedown, is the Stampede. The Stampede means that you are always in the funnest part of the course, right in the heart of the action. No more will getting to the front of the pack and speeding away make for a lonely and isolating experience. Stampede gives you a rolling start to the game, making any matches’ first moments a fight for survival. Secondly, no matter how far away you are from your fellow drivers, you’re never too far away from ‘Fodder’. Fodder are AI driven cars that spawn next to your vehicle so you always have targets you can smash into or have to outmanoeuvre. OnRush is focussed on exorcizing all of the divisive and dull parts of motorsports and focussing solely on the competitive, the exhilarating and the triumphant.
4 – Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn
I cannot believe that in 2018 I would be talking to you about a spiritual sequel to Shaq Fu for the SNES. It’s even harder to believe that I’m here to praise it. Back when I was seven I first played the game after doing a swap with an older neighbour. I can’t remember what the game I swapped was, but I can’t imagine it was worse than the one he gave me. Shaq Fu is legendarily awful. A travesty of a fighting game made by developers whose only experience was in puzzle platformers. Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn, takes several steps to redeem Shaq’s video game reputation after its terrible predecessor. Firstly, Shaq admits from the beginning that his story is convoluted and full of holes. If only most protagonists were so honest. The new Shaq knows that his previous outing was awful and doesn’t aim to pretend otherwise. Secondly, if you have the kind of heritage that would make the Trump children feel ashamed, probably best to own it with some hilarious takedowns. Seriously, this game manages the rare feat of making me laugh thanks to its anarchic and irreverent humour. The gameplay also does an astonishing job of not being utterly dysfunctional. The original was a one on one fighter. This 2018 update is a Final Fight style brawler and a remarkably enjoyable one at that. The tutorial alone develops three or four types of variation to keep the fighting game mechanics fresh and gives Shaq a plethora of options with which to take on a variety of challenges. It’s baffling to think a Shaquille O’Neal game could be this awesome 24 years later.
3 – The Adventure Pals
The Adventure Pals is the kind of game where you carry a giraffe in your backpack. The Adventure Pals is the kind of game where you trail confetti after you double jump. The Adventure Pals is the kind of game that has an antagonist that doesn’t even pretend to have an evil plan, he just says you’d be too stupid to understand it. This game did what I thought was almost impossible. It made me believe in the PS4 Pro and 4K gaming and it did it where games like Horizon and God of War failed. The 2-D animation on the souped-up Sony system was so fluid, the characters and environments so well defined, the colours so bright and vivid, that the whole time I was playing I could barely differentiate the game from a lost episode of Adventure Time. Everything the game does, it does with a flourish and surprisingly more depth than you would normally credit a cartoony platformer for having. You need to make the most out of your jump, glide and wall jump mechanics if you want to get to those hard-to-reach areas, and to also figure out how to use them in combination. You also have the ability to parry, to knock your enemies into traps and juggle them. All of it done with the kind of cartoon aplomb that would bring a tear to the eyes of the Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister, Dot.
2 – Disco Elysium
Disco Elysium contains one of the most visceral openings to a video game I’ve seen in a long time and it’s only spoken word. Your primitive, reptilian brain finds its way back from unconscious oblivion and begins to despair in horror as it realises that the living tissue growing around it is in unbearable agony. This is what it is like for your id to go from blissful stupor to full-blown, brain-bursting hangover. The game then dumps you into a wrecked apartment, naked as the day God made you, with the freedom to leave with as many or as few clothes as you wish. This is your introduction to the world of Revachol, a coastal city where the powers of monarchy and populous destroyed each other, and in their absence, corporate capitalism has taken control. You play a cop awoken from a bender so furious, you’ve lost all semblance of yourself, so are forced to rework your personality from the ground up with some of the most fascinating character progression options I’ve ever seen. Will you be a cop with a tender soul and allusions to Monet? Will you be a thuggish fascist? Will you be a delusional vagrant with a badge? You can choose from a plethora of options that all affect your ability to perceive the world in startling and obscene ways. There’s even an attribute called ‘Inland Empire’ dedicated to making the world seem more Lynchian. Disco Elysium is an RPG that promises to show the world there are more ways to interact with a game than simply swinging a sword into a monster’s face. It’s about exploring, inspecting and analysing the world and the people that populate it. It’s going to be an interesting and exciting time finding out what all of these potential interactions are.
1 – Heaven’s Vault
At the heart of Heaven’s Vault there is a solitary mechanic. One that I have never seen in a game with such a lush and detailed world. You need to decipher an alien language with very few frames of reference. The location my archaeological antagonist, Aliya Elasra, discovered could be a Garden of the Dead, or a Temple of the Gods, or even simply, a House by a Lake. All of those answers and the combinations in between are possible, but only one is correct. To find out which, you must discover the meanings behind their mysterious symbols. I can only imagine the sense of satisfaction gained from first reading a whole sentence in a language that you have successfully deciphered. This is one element that comes with exploring the remnants of an alien civilisation in a story that combines the speculation of science fiction with the mystery of uncovering lost history. Written and developed by the people behind the incredible mobile hit 80 Days, the game that made narrative adventures cool again. The 2D character models are a deliberate reaction to photorealism and the inherent difficulties it has in convincingly conveying emotion. The animation is all keyframes, with only absence in between. It gives the game a turn-of-the-century storybook quality, like a magical fable in a Ray Bradbury setting. It has set off every one of my antennas with its intriguing hook, beautiful graphics and innovative mechanics. And the writing is pitch-perfect too. Best game of EGX Rezzed 2018 hands down.