Gadget Show Live 2011 Impressions

May 9, 2011, Author: James O'Leary

Hopefully your appetite for an abundance of reviews and impressions from Gadget Show live has not disappeared after reading Trent’s game reviews, because there is much left to be said about the event. Myself and a friend travelled up to Birmingham, video camera in hand, expecting to spend two days looking at some of the best technology in the world, playing some of the best up and coming games and watching some of the best Starcraft 2 players from across the world battle it out for a slice of the £5000 grand prize. It turns out, however, that of those three expectations, I really only felt satisfied by the latter.

With Gadget Show Live being the first technology expo that I have been to, I was probably expecting the wrong thing, as I believed it would have been more like E3, with developers showing off up and coming products that you have never seen before. In reality though, the NEC was filled with retailers, selling you the same products that you can buy online or in store, just for a slightly discounted price. Aside from the “Future” technology zone, which was a small area at the back of one of the halls, everything on show was already on the market and wasn’t particularly ground breaking. The sales nature of the event should have been glaringly obvious, I suppose, upon walking in to the game zone, and being met by a Game Store. That’s right; Game had set up a store at the event, with hundreds of games to buy. It is at this point that I began to question, who would spend money to come to an event such as this, and then buy games that they could have bought in their local shop?

The game area on the whole would have been more aptly named as “the peripheral area”, as for the most part, everything on show was peripheral related rather than game related. Hall 8 was a who’s who of headphones, controllers, mice, keyboards and all other wacky gaming peripherals such as racing chairs, but really lacked what the name implied, games. There were no developer stands, and aside from three or four Kinect consoles, a PS3 area with about eight consoles and a Nintendo 3DS booth that always had a huge queue. There was very little in the way of anyone to talk to about the games that wasn’t just trying to sell you the next in the range of Tiger Woods Branded Wii Golf Professional Putting Gloves, or some other new fangled waste of money that you don’t actually need.

Between Triton, Steel Series and Turtle Beach, the gaming zone would have been an audiophile’s dream room, but being consistently told that “Our headphones are the only ones with true surround sound, not pseudo-surround sound” got old, very fast, especially when I’m fine with my stereo headset that I picked up for £139 less than the one they were trying to show you. To that point, the value of a £159 headset is really not evident when your stall is right next to the racing seat demo, which has blaringly loud engine noises all the time, completely diminishing the noise cancelling effect of the headphones.

James playing Duke Nukem: Forever. Disclaimer: No cheerleaders were harmed in the play through of this demo.

After finally getting away from peripheral promenade, we got to yet another pointless aspect of the Gadget Show live experience. As we got to the Over 18’s area in the gaming zone, there was a bouncer there to ask for ID. I am all for this, as there were many children around, and obviously it would be against the law to give them entry to the area. The pointless bit however, is that the entrance to the over 18’s area was so big, that you could happily stand outside the door and watch the Mortal Kombat tournament unfold from the comfort of the bouncer free area. Being nearly 20, we didn’t have to stand outside the area, but I was surprised that there weren’t many parents that complained about this, as the Mortal Kombat area produced so much attention and noise that it was difficult not to stand and watch the gratuitous violence when walking past.

The Over 18’s area was the only area in the whole show to be showcasing more new games than games currently out. Between Gears of War 3, Mortal Kombat, Socom 4 (which was at the time, unreleased) and Duke Nukem, there was a plethora of new content to behold, unfortunately for this new content, if that’s the future of gaming then I don’t really want in. I, like most other 360 owners, have played Gears of War 1 and 2, and enjoyed them greatly, but I’m not really excited for Gears 3, and after playing the multiplayer (which notoriously has been dubbed Shotguns of War after Gears 2), I am looking forward to it even less.

Shotguns of War is back, with the same choice of weapons, and the same punishing conclusion for using anything other than the shotgun. The default sensitivity settings make it seem as though Epic don’t want you to use the lancer or the pistol, because it’s about as difficult to consistently hit a moving target in the head as it is to finish the game Punch Out. From the small amount of time I had hands on with the multiplayer, it really feels like the same game with slightly different maps and a few new weapons. If that is what the Gears 3 beta is, I for one am glad that I am missing out.

Socom 4 was our next stop, as I was very intrigued to use the move assault rifle accessory (more peripherals?) and see how it affects the playing of the game. As you’ll see in the video of my friend Alex playing Socom, it makes playing the game insanely difficult. For someone just picking up the game, the control scheme of using the Move controller is punishing, as even the slightest move too far makes the on screen character spin on the spot while looking at the floor, doing a cross between line dancing and the robot.

I can only assume that the thought process for this control scheme came from someone wanting to move while playing on rails shooters like Time Crisis, but what made Time Crisis great was the fact that it was on rails, as it made it pretty much idiot proof because you couldn’t end up out in the middle of half a hostile army, staring at the floor, admiring the greys and blacks of the scenery in 3D. A second point is that holding the controller up at the high screen really started to ache after a while, and really put me off ever wanting to try the control scheme again.

James does his best Geordi La Forge impression while playing Socom 4.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing of all of the Gadget Show Live, and I know many people will disagree with me, was Duke Nukem: Forever. I went up to Birmingham with Duke Nukem as my must see game of the show. I really wish I hadn’t hyped the game up for myself, as within a few minutes of playing the demo, I suddenly lost all enthusiasm for buying the game. The game starts with the Duke Nukem charm that we are used to from previous games, but it quickly became evident that the twelve years in development for Duke has not been kind. The game looks bad. I’m sorry; I just had to say that. The first impression of the game was that the graphics need updating, badly, especially in the second half of the demo. With a game like Crysis mere feet away while playing Duke Nukem, you would have felt short-changed if you’d paid to see the Duke.

The second biggest thing that really needs to be brought up to speed are the loading times (pun intended). The initial loading time was huge, and for what was included, a few hallways and a boss fight, it really is a wonder what the game was loading. As for the boss fight that was included, it is perhaps the most boring, uninteresting boss that I have ever fought. Boss fights are meant to be challenging, and to me, a boss with two different attacks that you just have to constantly fire guns that seemingly you have an abundance of ammo for is just not a good way to showcase your game. Defeating the boss brought no sense of achievement, no accomplishment, and bared little celebration other than a Duke Nukem-esque cut-scene that joked about the twelve-year wait. In short, if the demo was meant to make us say “Hail to the King”, then all it did was make me want to commit treason against this virtual monarch.

Gadget Show Live's £2000 top prize winner Naniwa at the Alienware booth mid-game.

I’m sorry to be stealing Total Biscuit or Yahtzee’s shtick, but perhaps it’s time to move on from the cynicism and talk about some of the positives that came out of the weekend. As I had alluded to earlier, there was a big Starcraft 2 tournament taking place over the weekend, with some of the best players from around the world, with £5000 on the line, the biggest prize for a Starcraft II tournament the UK has ever held. The majority of the competitors were representing Team Dignitas, as there were a few players who didn’t attend the tournament regardless of qualifying. SeleCT, Sjow, BlinG and Naniwa were the four players for Dignitas in the tournament, with Socke representing Team Alternate and Hasuobs playing for Mouz Sports.

These six players are undoubtedly six of the best in the world, with numerous accolades shared between them. From European champion Sjow to MLG Dallas, and current player to beat Naniwa, the reputation of the players alone certainly made for a nail-biting tournament. Day one brought a few surprises, with newcomer to the scene BlinG taking a victory from one of the best Terran players in the world, SeleCT being the biggest of the day. With day one being the group stages and determining the seed numbering for day two, the players were less worried about their performance as we found out when we caught up with them for an interview.

Day two, however, was the day where the money was on the line, and every little mistake could cost you your place in the finals. BlinG once again knocked out a big name in the way of MouzHasuobs, cementing his place as a real contender in the growing world of eSports. It was not to be for the only British player in the tournament, as the finals came down to German player Socke and Swedish MLG Dallas champion Naniwa. If you had been following the tournament at all over the weekend, you’d be forgiven for expecting a close final, since both players had put on showcases of their skill in all of their games, but the Naniwa made it look easy. Taking the finals 2-0, Naniwa showed everyone exactly why he is the player to beat right now with incredible timing, hitting Socke’s defences at the precise time that he had an advantage.

Unfortunately, a return to negativity is required, as the advertising for the tournament was non-existent both at the event and online, as there was no signage and the live stream that was broadcasting the event wasn’t being promoted on any of the Starcraft 2 community websites. The quality of the tournament was so high that it really did deserve more press and attention than it received, with caster Total Biscuit trying his hardest over both days to increase awareness levels on Reddit and through twitter. The lack of advertising and updates made it difficult to follow the tournaments progression unless you spent the whole weekend watching the screens that were showing the matches.

While it may not sound like I had a very positive experience at Gadget Show Live, I did thoroughly enjoy my weekend in Birmingham talking with the players and casters. The whole Gadget Show Live experience was very professional, with a high standard of quality in every aspect of the event. The tournament itself was a testament to how good a British event can be, from the high quality of the games, to the superb commentary by Total Biscuit for every single game, with Dignitas Apollo joining him for the Sunday. It’s a wonder why there aren’t more tournaments in the UK for eSports, a topic which I discussed in my previous article, as we clearly have a passion for competition and definitely have the talent to back it up. With rumours and rumblings about Major League Gaming, the largest tournament series for gaming world-wide, coming to the UK next year, is this perhaps the start of a beautiful relationship between Britain and competitive gaming?

Our eSports interview video special is going live in just a few hours!