Sunday, October 19, 2008

Best Buy Gaming Invasion 08 Round Up

This weekend, Best Buy hosted Gaming Invasion 08 at Yonge-Dundas Square in Downtown Toronto, and myself and two friends, Cookie and EV, checked the show out Friday night.

Now, before I get into the details of the show and the great games that were present, let me tell you a little story. As a Best Buy Rewards Zone member, I received and email from Best Buy not only notifying me about the show weeks in advance, but also granting me VIP access! No lines, no waiting, and me and 50 others (plus one guest each) could have the gaming times of our lives!

The only catch was I needed to be there at noon on Friday, and all the VIP stuff was before the show actually opened at 2:00 pm.

I work for a living.

So the VIP bit didn't happen for me, but just before we left for the show after work, I got an email from Best Buy informing me that they hoped I enjoyed my VIP access, and that they're mailing me a $100.00 gift card to add to my gaming collection. Since I just got Gears of War 2 and then some for free, even though I lost out on actually using my VIP status, I call this a win! Now, on to the show!

The amazing thing was admission was free for everyone, so Gaming Invasion 08 was completely accessible to hardcore and casual gamers alike, and all the major platforms were present. The show was set up in a large tent, and right as you walked in, the first thing you see is Gears of War 2, right there by the door. The line was short, and very quickly we got to try out the new Horde mode in two player Splitscreen.

Overall, it was fun and challenging, and the graphics for Gears of War 2 were really crisp over the original game, no simple matter seeing as how Gears of War is one of the most beautiful games on the Xbox 360. They seemed to be a little more colourful, and the characters were more clearly defined. A lot of nice, new little touches were added as well, such as the Lancer's barrel turning bright red from heat after running empty, and the new Boomers were certainly intimidating as they come bearing down on you. Sadly, a lot of the game's options were grayed out, and the Right Stick was inverted, so I couldn't look properly and didn't play well, but I still got a great taste of what's to come on Novemeber 7th, and I want more. Lots more!

I couldn't tell you what the game sounded like though. We got there just as Mobile was playing on stage, and while the tunes were cool, they were _loud_, and my friends and I had to lean into each other and shout just to hear ourselves. That was too bad, because audio plays just as large a part in games today as graphics, and it would have been nice to, oh I don't know, hear things.

That aside, we still got to check out some really awesome titles, some new, others not yet released. Cookie really wanted to check out LEGO Batman: The Video Game, so we found that towards the back and she had a great time knocking countless crook's blocks off in the Xbox 360 version. EV had a great time playing Mario Kart DS (DS), coming in 1st or 2nd on her races, and we also checked out Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (Wii), BioShock (PlayStation 3) and Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS).

What really impressed me on the Nintendo side was Wario Land: Shake It (Wii), which Cookie was playing. I really liked the art style, and simply using the Wii Remote to smash things by literally shaking it was really cool and innovative. The Wii isn't my style of console, but seriously, hats off to Nintendo for something completely different and original.

I was a bit dissapointed on the Xbox 360 front, though, as Fable II didn't seem to be present, which I would of expected given it launchs this Tuesday. I would have loved to have tested it out quickly, but sadly it was not to be. I also was hoping that Fallout 3 would have made an appearance, either the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 version, but again, if it was there, I couldn't find it, and the lack of these higher profile titles, some of the most anticipated games for October not being there, was a bit of a let-down.

We then made our way back towards the front where I noted Dead Space was present on a PlayStation 3, but it was quite crowded around that section so we kept moving right up to the other side of the front where I got to check out Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (PSP), which only allowed dual mode, but the game handled nicely on the small platform and looked pretty good to.

There was also a part in the PlayStation 3 section where a large TV and a couch were set up, but I didn't stop to really check this one out, so perhaps someone else can fill me in on what was playing there. I think it was Resistance 2, but I could be wrong. Again, with the crowds, we were pushing through to find and play what we really wanted to see.

Which lead us into an off-shoot: the tent branched off to another section specifically for the upcoming PlayStation 3 title, Little Big Planet, which allowed 4 player co-op, so we all gave it a try together. I personally thought the game looked gorgeous, and the art style and animation are very unique. The characters are quite cute, and at this part of the tent, sound from the stage was more muted so you could actually hear things as the characters made their interesting little noises.

The bigest problem we had with Little Big Planet was simply the lack of knowledge on how to play, and while a PlayStation rep was kind enough to tell us the gist of it, his quick crash-course couldn't replace a solid in-game tutorial, which we sadly weren't able to try, so the game was more an exercise in frustration as we simply tried to figure out what to do.

After we gave up on Little Big Planet, we decided to head out. Like any show though, we couldn't leave without some kind of loot. EV got a LEGO Robin keychain (which she gave to Cookie), Cookie got a white PlayStation baseball cap, and I got a free World of Warcraft 14-Day Trial Edition DVD-Rom (yay for digital crack!).

And there you have it, our experience from Best Buy's Gaming Invasion 08. A lot of great games glimpsed, and a lot of fun had. Here's hoping for a repeat show next year!

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