PAX East returned to the Boston Convention & Expo Center for its third annual show. Once more, I was there to take in all of the many sights, sounds and even smells. The show floor was packed as usual and it’s always great to see gamers of all types gather under one roof to celebrate the industry. Like I usually say, PAX is our E3. The Penny Arcade guys put on a fantastic show as usual, and I can’t wait for next year’s show. Curious to know what I thought of the show this year? I’ve jotted down some of my highlights, lowlights, and even some curiosities from this year’s show.
My thoughts are waiting for you after the jump…
Gearbox Goes Big:
Gearbox was easily one of the highlights of the show bringing the hugely popular Borderlands 2 and Aliens: Colonial Marines. The big part though was the fact that both booths had massive statues dwarfing everything around them. The Borderlands 2 booth featured a giant statue depicting the four new heroes ready to strike down any alien PAX goers. On the other end of the floor, the Aliens booth had a giant alien attacking that big yellow mech loader. You know, the one that Sigourney Weaver was in? It was very cool and better yet, you could take a picture with it. Kudos to Gearbox for knocking it out of the park with their contributions to the show.
Ubisoft Brings The Big Guns:
I was also really impressed with Ubisoft as they brought a heap of games with them to the show floor. Gamers could go hands on with Far Cry 3′s recently announced multiplayer, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’s Guerrilla Mode, the soon to be released Trials Evolution, I Am Alive, and also go hands on with the free to play PC title, Ghost Recon Online. Not only that, Ubisoft put up a makeshift theater right on the show floor to treat gamers to a glimpse of Assassin’s Creed III’s gameplay.
As usual, Rockstar was another huge presence at the show as they always are. They always bring a closed off booth which kind of sucks trying to look on from the outside but once you’re in, you feel like part of an elite group in a party setting. They brought along a DJ to spin some tunes, had a plush black carpet and each gaming rig inside came with a Rockstar employee to help you out and give you tips as you played. They certainly know how to make you feel welcome. The massive line to get in proved it.
I have to say, each year as the show grows, you notice subtle changes that are put in place. This year, the walk ways on the expo floor were wider, the lines were well-organized, and things seemed to flow better. It was much easier being able to walk around this year without trying to cram yourself through a narrow opening or trying to go against the grain of traffic. I also have to tip my cap to the enforcers as well who always do a great job of keeping order and helping out where needed. It’s one thing to run a show and another thing to learn each year and make changes in order to improve the show as a whole. The Penny Arcade guys certainly know what they’re doing.
Typically, if you need a place to relax at this event, you have plenty of options available including the Handheld Lounge and the Freeplay areas off of the Expo Hall. This year, local arcade in northern NH, Funspot, brought along some of their retro arcade games. The room was filled with flashing colored lights, and gamers smushed into the arcade cabinets of games like Donkey Kong Jr, Gradius, Punch Out!, and Q-bert. It gave you that old arcade feeling and it was fantastic. I also want to mention the Classic Freeplay room which, in addition to old school systems like the Genesis, NES, and Dreamcast, featured old school TVs to play them on straight out of the 80s and 90s. Totally Awesome.
Sony’s No Show:
I don’t know why Sony continues to ignore this show each year. They’ve always had little to no presence here and it’s pretty disappointing. I would have loved to see Starhawk (for example) on display for the masses at the very least. Microsoft has always been there from Day 1 on full display and even Nintendo has been upping their presence and they don’t even have anything huge coming out this year for the Wii (WiiU doesn’t count yet). Hopefully, Sony begins to see the value of supporting shows like this and makes it out next year. I won’t be holding my breath however.
I guess it’s only natural, but it seems like every year this place gets more and more crowded even with this year’s event falling on Easter weekend. I’m really happy for the show as increased popularity can only lead to better things. The hard part about it is, the longer the lines become and the less you’ll get to experience without waiting in 2+ hour lines. Plus, the Fire Marshall has a fit if lines are not kept in an orderly fashion.
Not Playing Borderlands 2: Yeah, the lines for this one were insane. If you wanted to play this, you pretty much had to commit most of your day camping out in line. I have no doubts that I’m going to be dumping hours and hours of my life into this one so I’m ok with not having played it. As someone at the show mentions “Why am I going to waste 2+ hours of my time to play a game I already know I’m going to love?” Well said fellow attendee, well said. Still, a part of me wanted to be selfish and play it early though. Oh well.
Oddities and Interesting Bits
Booths seemed to be a big deal this year as most companies opted for some sort of massive statue, display, or larger than life screen. I already mentioned Gearbox, but 2k Games also brought along Spec Ops: The Line and decked out the booth like a desert oasis complete with a destroyed bus in the middle. Let’s see, what else…The Behemoth showed up this year with a massive TV screen showing off gameplay above their booth, Firefall was back again this year and had a huge LED banner above their booth, and WB brought along Suda 51 and Lollipop Chainsaw complete with a massive school bus and even Juliet herself. The booths were way more elaborate this year than they’ve ever been and that really makes the show that much better.
Chevy Has A Booth:
Yeah, your guess is as good as mine. Actually, I’m sure it involved a pile of money. Chevy were handing out shirts if you gave them your information. They did have a cool and quite big Chevy Sonic flying drone along with a few cars but other than them trying to make you Chevy lovers, I’m not sure the point to having them at a gaming related convention.
4 Zombies And James Brown: I have to say, you all did a great job with your cosplay costumes this year. I saw some really well made outfits from games like Gears of War, Assassin’s Creed, and so many others I can’t even remember at the moment. The best though was seeing 4 Zombies (from Popcap’s Plants vs Zombies) dancing to James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” all in sync. No sight quite like that.
Shave Your Head Like Vaas and Get a Tattoo: I’m sure most of you have seen the E3 Far Cry 3 video where the crazy Vaas tries to explain the definition of insanity. Well, Ubisoft was giving away 100 copies of the game, if you were crazy enough to shave your head into a mohawk like the antagonist. While you won’t see me up there, I did see a few people getting their mohawk’s on. Not only that, Ubisoft hired a local tattoo artist to pre-screen attendees to receive a real tattoo of a tribal image pulled right from the game. While hair may grow back, that one is permanent.