Last weekend - Saturday 15th March to be precise - Fruitbat, Qu_be and I headed to Wembley Stadium for the Play.com organised gaming event "Play.com Live". The event was advertised as a chance to play this year's forthcoming games months before release. The last event of this kind here in the UK was Gamestars back in 2004, which I attended with J. These events do need more support here, so when Qu_be linked me in, I jumped at the chance to go along.
I was a little worried that the event would be poorly attended, as the advertising campaign seemed somewhat lacklustre. I needn't have worried - as soon as we entered London there were adverts plastered all over the place!
Once we got inside the event it was clear that the only problem with attendance was one of overcrowding. The two halls that made up the convention were busy, noisy and hot. Initially it was offputting, but once we got into the swing of things we were on the prowl for games and swag-o-plenty.
Microsoft made Rock Band their centrepiece, and it was clear that the hugely anticipated rhythm game was one of the major draws of the entire event. There was a large crowd waiting for the chance to play for the entire time we were there, and with only one setup most people left disappointed. Two lucky makeshift "bands" were given the chance to play a song on the main stage later in the day.
A couple of movie tie-ins were situated just inside the entrance in the form of Kung-fu Panda (which was especially enjoyed by Fruitbat) and Lego Indiana Jones. Whilst I didn't get any hands-on time with the latter, it certainly looked up-to-par with the Lego Star Wars games.
The Ghostbusters and Prototype booths were a let-down, both having only one small screen playing short trailers which will no doubt be available on Youtube shortly if they're not already. That fight with Marshmallow Man does indeed look epic, however.
Square Enix fans would have raced straight up the stairs in the main hall, only to be sorely disappointed that the booth consisted of just a few HDTVs playing a loop of trailers. No hands-on here guys, but were you really expecting it?
The second hall proved a lot more interesting for me personally. First off, Sandisk were offering the chance to win an 8gb memory card for your phone. The idea was to pull a card from a big bowl, then they insert it into a phone and if it autoruns an application, it's an 8gb card and you win it. Nobody in front of me in the queue won, and neither did anyone else I saw that took a dip.
Also upstairs was a gallery of playable 360s and PS3s all with recently released, or soon to be released games. Games like Halo 3, Gears of War with extra multiplayer maps, Devil May Cry 4, The Orange Box, Conflict: Denied Ops and a bunch of throwaway games were all present in an attempt to boost sales.
One of my favourite booths was an indie games booth run by one of the educational establishments that I've embarrassingly forgotten the name of. They were showing off the finalists and runners-up of an amateur games development competition. Some of them looked really cool, and it's definitely something I'd like to see more of.
I've saved the best 'til last, of course. Qu_be and I got hands-on time with a very alpha build of Soul Calibur 4. I couldn't believe that they had bought it along in this state (the game was running on 360 devkits) but I was so pleased to see it. Normally we don't get to see builds this early here in the UK. Only three characters were playable (Mitsurugi, Taki and Sophitia), but already the quality is shining through and I'm definitely picking this one up after playing the hell out of 2 on the Gamecube.
To top things off, I played a quick game of Terrorist Hunt on Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. Plays just like the first, but there's definitely some extra shine to it. Should be good.
All in all, not a bad event. I didn't feel the same excitement that I felt for Gamestars, and I think the cramped nature of the event certainly contributed to that. There was a lack of pre-release games and definitely too many video-only booths. If you're going to show something at an event like this, make it playable. If I want to watch a game trailer I'll do it on the internet, thanks.
Will I go again if they run the event next year? Probably, but I'm a sucker for it. It'll need to be bigger (or at least, more spaced out) and there'll need to be a few more titles that I'm interested in to make me really excited for it.