London MCM Expo – May 2012

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For us this years MCM London Comic Con is over, but as usual we had a great time running around the show floor and taking in as much geeky entertainment as possible, from the video games to the panels and everything in between. Highlights of the MCM Expo this year included me meeting Elvira, Kat registering her Autobot allegiance and Autobot name at the Transformers Universe booth, and of course Nickelodeon’s UK debut of their new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series AND seeing the accompanying action figure range from Playmates.

DAY ONE

Well MCM Expo London Comic Con day one is over and after grabbing a curry with the folks at Namco Bandai and ShifyLook I thought I’d round up what I saw, and importantly what I played, during today’s preview afternoon which as all about video games for me. After all on Saturday and Sunday there are typically massive queues for each and every game on display, but with the smaller crowds on preview day the queues were kept to a minimum. Well except for two games on show…

Lollipop Chainsaw

One of only two games with queues, it turns out this game is as awesome as expected, with some cheeky one-liners from cheerleading zombie killer Juliet Starling, plenty of blood and gore in a game that feels just like the fantastic Suda 51 title No More Heroes. I played through two levels: one standard zombie-slaying level with what I suspect is a mid-level boss; and a big boss battle with a villain whose foul language is a hurtful as his fists. Literally. However despite my enjoyment of the game there were some flaws – the graphics, despite playing on the Xbox 360, looked a little less than pristine, with the occasional display of bad collision detection (I jumped into a wall more than once). Plus the camera is a little ropey, especially if you get trapped in a corner.

Akai Katana

Rising Star Games have another bullet hell shooter classic on their hands with Akai Katana, which was produced by the shooter specialists at Cave, with the emphasis clearly on the “hell” part of description. An instant purchase for me now I’ve had chance to play it. A perfect accompaniment to the Rising Star released Deathsmiles (whose soundtrack you got for free with an purchase from the company’s booth.

Sleeping Dogs

Originally conceived as an entry into the True Crime franchise, Sleeping Dogs turned out to be much better than the franchise which spawned it. With a fantastic combat system – including a superb block, counter and attack combo that makes the in-game fights feel like they’ve stepped straight out a bad-ass action movie. The game also has a great parkour element to it, which is fluidly and easily implemented. To top it all of the game has one of the best voice casts I’ve heard in a GTA-style game, ever; including Will Yun Lee as the main protagonist, Wei Shen and former Martial Law star Lucy Liu.

Dead or Alive 5

The first Dead or Alive game to be released across all major platforms, the game looks stunning, with large 3D characters that look, especially in the case of the women, almost human. The version on show at the MCM (playable on both Xbox 360 and PS3) included the ability to play as four characters: Ryu Hayabusa, Hayate, Hitomi and Ayane. Having played through as all four characters it seems Hitomi is the stand-out, with the speed and power to easily defeat opponents. Gameplay-wise, Dead or Alive 5 feels very much like its 3DS counterpart Dimensions, with the same destructible environments and the ability, via the “Power Blow” system, to pummel your opponents into the surrounding scenery to cause maximum damage. The game felt a little easy, but it definitely has the re-playability factor (especially if you play it with a group of friends).

LEGO Batman 2

Looking like the best LEGO franchise game to be released so far, this has the same gameplay as the original game, but with the added ability to play as more heroes, including Suoerman, Green Lantern and the rest of the Justice League. The demo on display at MCM saw you play as Batman and Robin against a gallery of his iconic foes such as Harley Quinn and The Riddler. This time round however there’s a major change in the cut scenes… They’re voiced! Yes, for the first time ever LEGO characters are going to speak. Again the voice cast is strong and the script is funny. Could be another major winner for Traveler’s Tales and Warner Bros.

Aliens: Colonial Marines

The game everyone wanted to play, which is why there were even massive queues on the quietest day, Aliens: Colonial Marines looks very much like the previous Aliens game released on Xbox 360 and PS3, only it plays a damn sight better! We played through the first person shooter as marines whilst a team from SEGA took on the role of the eponymous Aliens. And we were slaughtered… It seems that once again the balance between Alien and Marine falls heavily on the side of Alien – especially when the Bull Alien was put it play! Tearing through the scenery, the bull alien made mincemeat of anyone and anything that stood in it’s way. Humans don’t stand a chance.

For a first day it was jam-packed – I also checked out Jagex’s Transformers MMO sign-up booth and registered my allegiance to the Autobots and my chosen Autobot name; as well as paying a visit to a number of stalls and snapping up a few DVDs and Blu-rays (including Iron Sky from the folks at Revolver), and a graphic novel, Darth Vader and Son, from the Travelling Man stall and game or two from Rising Star…

DAY TWO

Yesterday saw our second day at the MCM Expo London Comic Con and the day was a mixed bag… Beginning with a walk round the show floor our first panel of the day was for the new Nickelodeon iteration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with co-creator Kevin Eastman and Rich Magallanes the Senior VP, Current Series, for Nickelodeon.

There were a lot of details kept under wraps for obvious reasons, but what we did see has me super-excited for the new series. With the Turtles given a makeover to make each one stand-out from the other and the “teenage brother” aspect of the concept heightened, Splinter made slightly younger, Shredder made even more evil, Krang more like the comic iteration and now The Krang – an entire race of robots with squishy brain creatures in their bellies, and April O’Neil made younger – aged in line with her 15 year old turtle friends in fact, the series sounds a new spin on an old story. And it’s a good spin… Paying homage to everything that has come before, in particular the original comic and the first cartoon series, Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looks like a perfect family show – dads who grew up watching the original series will have no qualms with sitting down with their kids to see this new version. There were plenty of questions from the audience regarding returning characters, theme songs and story lines to which Rich Magallanes could only answer “We’re looking at it…” which sounds like a yes to me – making this possibly THE definitive animated version. And with a voice cast that includes Jason Biggs, Sean Astin, and original 80′s Turtles voice actor Rob Paulsen back for the reboot and an art style the pushes the envelope of 3D animation by melding it with traditional 2D and an anime influences from the exclusive footage we saw this is unlike any show that has come before it.

Plus, for those that were worried about Michael Bay’s take on the Turtles, apparently co-creator Kevin Eastman is happy with what Bay and co. are doing with the franchise and assures fans that (so far) everything is true to the core of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and that’s despite the “Alien Turtles” talk – after all, as Eastman said in our roundtable interview (look for the video soon) “the ooze, which mutated the Turtles, comes from outer space, so doesn’t that make it alien?”

Splitting in two for most of the day, Kat and I divided our time between the rest of the days panels. Whilst I was at the TMNT panel, Kat was covering the panel for the new Transformers Universe MMO where Jagex were showing just a little of their eagerly awaited new game. First up though she got some hands on time with one of her most-anticipated games, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. Which, according to Kat: “the game looks and plays well in both 2D and 3D, with graphics that look a lot better than previous entries in the franchise. Controls are still the same – you can flick through the abilities you’ve acquired and the attack commands are very familiar if you’ve played Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep or Re:Coded games. Whilst you can play as both Sora and Riku in the full game, due to the massive queues and time constraints gameplay was limited to one character – in my case Sora”.

We also sat in on the LEGO Batman 2 panel on the Gamespot stage where we caught a little footage of the game in action. As for the Transformers Universe MMO it seems that Jagex may have a hit on their hands: “Melding both the original Transformers characters and the latest iteration, Transformers Prime, including, of course, fan favourites such as Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. With no graphics on show information on just how Transformers Universe will look was limited to some stills and concept art – all of which looked very promising”. Both Kat and I signed up on the Jagex stand and registered our Autobot names, along with a LOT of other attendees and if the interest at the MCM Expo was anything to go by, Transformers Universe will have a huge player base!

My second panel of the day was for the upcoming British sci-fi horror Storage 24, and yes it IS a horror movie despite writer/producer/star Noel Clarke’s protestations that it’s a “sci-fi film with more gruesome deaths.” From the footage we saw (and not the crappy trailer – a point which was surprisingly pointed out by Clarke) it looks as though the film is an Earth-bound take on the Alien movies, with its very own strange monster crawling the corridors of a storage facility – hence the title. You have to give props to director Johannes Roberts, whose excellent film high school horror F is NOT getting a sequel (apparently on a financial level it did terribly), he opted for practical effects for Storage 24‘s alien, hoping to imbue it with the same kind of personality that was found in creature features of the 80s. The film looks interesting enough and if Roberts can bring the same creepiness to the storage facility corridors as he did to the school halls in F then he and Clarke could be on to a winner. The film opens in the UK on June 29th.

My final stop of the day was at the stand of one Elvira. Yes, the legend that is Elvira was at the London Comic Con to promote the DVD release of her latest film Elivra’s Haunted Hills and I couldn’t resist stopping by and getting an autograph.

All in all this months MCM Expo London Comic Con was yet another success. As I said last year, the ExCel Centre is pushing capacity already and with attendance reportedly up 23% across the entire weekend and up 30% on Saturday alone I can see the need for even more floorspace come October!

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