When I think back to my time at this year's EGX London, the thing that stands out the most was the abundance of blood. Maybe it has something to do with the games I chose to play, but whether it was the unmistakable crimson of the succinctly titled Bloodborne, the claret carnage of The Evil Within or the outlandish neon of Sunset Overdrive, there was enough heart juice on show to open a blood bank. Still, if you think about it more in terms of quality over quantity, there was one game that took the crimson crown by a landslide, and that was none other than Mortal Kombat X.
When Eurogamer asked me if I'd be interested in sampling the new Super Smash Bros, my response was a resounding yes. I've always approached the series with a more casual mentality than most other fighting games, not because I don't appreciate the technical nuances of L-cancelling and wave-dashing in Super Smash Bros Melee, but because Smash has always been something I've enjoyed with a broad range of friends. When you take a game like Street Fighter to a certain level, you invariably reach a point where similarly skilled opponents are the only way to go - either that or wear a blindfold and pick random.
Last year proved to be one of the most progressive in UFC history. Not only did we see women fighting in The Octagon for the first time, we saw two of the sport's most iconic champions - Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre - lose their respective titles. Silva lost twice to Chris Weidman, with the second fight ending in a clean break of The Spider's leg, while St-Pierre vacated the title after a highly controversial win over Johny Hendricks. It feels like we're heading into a new era of MMA, and it's not something that begins and ends with the physical sport itself.
How exactly do you improve upon Monster Hunter? The series represents so many cornerstones in everything from the weapon classes, quest structure and crafting system, that from game-to-game, the most apparent changes are less fundamental and more supplementary. The addition of new monsters, subspecies and equipment has always been the easiest way to please the hardcore fanbase, but while the introduction of underwater combat in Monster Hunter Tri was a solid attempt at offering a twist on a familiar concept, it was hard not to feel a sense of déjà vu after setting a shock trap and hurling a couple of tranquiliser bombs.
As the first fighting game of the seventh console generation, Dead or Alive 4 didn't have to do anything particularly flashy to stand out from the crowd. The recipe for success was little more than looking pretty, offering up a familiar yet robust fighting system and topping everything off with the first Spartan appearance on the Xbox 360. But now that we're (supposedly) reaching the end of round two between Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, the genre has pulled itself out of the gutter with a diverse range of excellent fighting games. The question is, can Dead or Alive 5 go toe-to-toe with the heavy hitters on the big screen - or should it stick to the bikinis and volleyballs?
Before Street Fighter 4 came along and re-popularised fighting games, the wait from one fighter to the next was fairly long. Indeed, if you look back at the games released on the 360 in the years before the 2009 revival, the only noteworthy titles are Dead or Alive 4, Virtua Fighter 5, SoulCalibur 4 and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Now compare this quartet to the games we've seen since the start of 2011 and you'll have a list of at least ten titles that includes everything from The King of Fighters 13 to Arcana Heart 3 and Skullgirls.
Back when I worked in a game store selling third-party controllers to unsuspecting customers (on the basis that if I ever recommended an official pad, I'd be on permanent stockroom duty) an import-savvy shopper informed me that Famitsu had announced a crossover between Namco and Capcom. My automatic assumption was that this had to be a fighting game, and that Capcom had somehow struck a deal with Namco and was about to bring the likes of Ryu and Jin together in the ultimate 2D mash-up. Boy was I wrong.
It all began 15 years ago, with a lofty voice that proclaimed: "Transcending history and the world, a tale of soul and swords eternally retold!" But after the progressively stifled SoulCalibur 4 - a game whose unique selling point was the clashing of katanas and lightsabers in a Star Destroyer docking bay, with its cameos from Darth Vader and Yoda - it seemed like the curtain had finally fallen on the Stage of History. However, nobody told Project Soul director Daishi Odashima, as by taking the series 17 years into the future and retiring certain members of the cast, he finally gives us a SoulCalibur that shows tangible progression since its days on the Dreamcast.
For the longest time, I knew virtually nothing about the UFC. I'd dabbled with the Ultimate Fighting Championship game on the Dreamcast, and even watched some classic Royce Gracie fights on a borrowed cassette tape, but I was always far more interested in arcade-style fighting games where you could hurl fireballs and juggle opponents ten feet in the air. But after watching an MMA demonstration at an Undisputed event back in 2009, I began to watch and appreciate mixed martial arts as both a technical sport and a freeform style of hand-to-hand combat.
Last month I packed my rucksack with the usual assortment of travelling essentials and made my second pilgrimage to the Eurogamer Expo. And while travelling from the UK's most southerly county isn't exactly cheap or hassle-free, the level of gaming opulence on offer made it worth the while.
Milestone won a race last year. It may have been a two bike race between SBK X: Superbike World Championship and MotoGP 09/10, but in terms of who earned the accolade of "real riding simulator", Milestone proved a premiere racing license doesn't necessarily make for a more realistic simulation. It also takes dedication, experience and – due to the complex nature of two-wheeled physics – a meticulous attention to detail.
After ten years of epic exchanges, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is finally bowing out as its long-awaited sequel shows up, looks nonchalantly at its watch and apologises for being late. But before we take the Sons of Sparda and Odin into the training room, two of the world's most accomplished Marvel 2 players want to show you their skills in one last high stakes money-match.
The line between fighting sim and arcade fighter is easy to discern. In the red corner you have the Street Fighters and the Tekkens, with their hadoukens and golems. In the blue corner you'll find the realistic mix of manoeuvres and physics boasted by the Fight Nights and the Undisputed. There's rarely any crossover.
This year marked my first trip to the Eurogamer Expo. I was only able to attend the opening day, and with so many games and conferences I wanted to sample, I came up with a simple strategy: don't stay on one game for too long and try to mix it up.
Although England has a history of international football tournament failure, here in the UK we're nonetheless renowned for our sporting patriotism - by which token UFC 2010 should make a good impression. Last year's game only had one English fighter, Michael Bisping, but for 2010 we're getting The Ultimate Fighter 9 winners Ross Pearson and James Wilks, as well as Dan "Dhalsim" Hardy - a Brit who survived an armbar and kimura submission attempt by legendary Welterweight Champion GSP. Other 2010 British additions include Terry Etim, Mostapha Al-turk and Andre Winner (unconfirmed), as well as James McSweeney for DLC. Get in.
When Eurogamer asked if I would go to the SBK X press event on their behalf, my first response was, "will I get to take an YZF-R1 around Silverstone like I did with MotoGP 09/10?" Obviously this was meant in jest. But what they said next pretty much sealed the deal anyway: "no, but you'll get to spend a day at a swanky hotel, and Carl Fogarty will be there". Four times World Superbike Champion Carl Fogarty. In!
Two years ago I would have struggled to get enough people together for some casual games of Third Strike, yet now the European fighter scene is once again thriving and it's all thanks to the spectacular Street Fighter IV. What an awesome year it's been. Now we're on the verge of the next instalment in the SFIV saga, and fans are hoping for more than a mere update.
This week I was given the privilege of blasting a brand new Yamaha R1 around the Stowe circuit at Silverstone. Although it was on a cold morning where I couldn't get any heat into the tyres, for those brief 20 minutes of amateur riding I was reminded of all the reasons I love biking.
Sitting down to my first round of Tekken in over a year, I'm a little concerned. As a fan of the series since Tekken 3, I've always been a solid Law or Yoshimitsu player, with both characters' 10-hit combo strings hardwired into my brain. But with my opponent sat next to me, a look of serene assurance across his face, it occurs to me that this year's Street Fighter IV addiction may have dulled my 3D fighter fundamentals. I needn't have worried. After a shaky start and some mild profanity, the Jeet Kune Do chef scraps a round-three victory with a well-timed one-inch punch. Yep, this is going to be an all-nighter for sure.
Back when weekends involved nothing more than GoldenEye and Mario Kart, I remember renting a Dreamcast after my stingy parents refused to upgrade my N64. One of the games that came in the box was the intriguing Ultimate Fighting Championship. As a group, my friends and I had a fair amount of experience with Tekken 3 and WWF War Zone, but UFC was unlike anything else. The standing combat was a less flamboyant Tekken, but the intricacy of the ground game eluded us almost entirely. If one player managed to pin the other to the floor, frantic button-mashing ensued, with the dominant fighter usually battering his opponent for a KO. It clearly had depth that rewarded skill and good timing, but ultimately I was too smitten with Soul Calibur to care.
Playing Street Fighter IV on Xbox 360, we're trying to recall the last time we were so hyped about the release of a fighter. Enthusiasm grew during the build-up to Soul Calibur IV, as did our anticipation for Virtua Fighter 5 a year prior, but it's an age since a fighter has been so prevalent in actual office banter. With the console release of Street Fighter IV weeks away, the trash talk about who's going to rush down who has started to turn nasty. How we've missed it.