Highlights from PAX 2017

Now that the dust has settled on Australia’s biggest gaming convention, have a look at the gems of a first-time attendee.

Highlights from PAX 2017

This was the first year I went to PAX Australia. I’ve been to almost every other major gaming convention the world has to offer, but I’d somehow never wandered down to Melbourne (I’m based in Sydney) to check out the first international destination for the popular PAX show outside of the US. To be honest, it’s no wonder.

The timing of PAX is always terrible. Release season starts quietly in August, ramps up in September, and is in full swing by October. I flew down to PAX on the Friday morning (really, really early), which meant I was also flying away from three of the biggest release of the year: Assassin’s Creed Origins, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Super Mario Odyssey. That’s not taking into account the recently released games I’ve yet to finish—Middle-earth: Shadow of War, The Evil Within 2, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, and Destiny 2 on PC—plus I’m also testing the Xbox One X prior to release.

So, yeah, no disrespect for the fun and games of PAX 2017 (it really is a great convention), but if there was ever a year I should have chosen to not go down, it was 2017. Still, it’s difficult to go to a gaming convention without having fun, and below is some of the great stuff I encountered.

The main original reason I flew down to PAX was to be part of The Chicken Challenge: PUBG Live panel. Alas, there’s no livestream replay for me to share, but it was totally nuts. Red Bull’s Australian esports editor Joab Gilroy was host, and handed out real chicken. I was playing alongside Stevivor’s Luke Lawrie, as well as some of ANZ’s best in PeakN_ and LinksyFPS. Despite some technical challenges—low fps, no mouse mats, no ReShade (cough)—it was a hell of a lot of fun to play a live game of PUBG in front of a packed crowd. Oh, PlayerUknown himself, Brendan Greene, turned up as a surprise guest, and while we didn’t win any chicken dinners in the game, the real-life chicken was a nice consolation.

I was also involved in another panel, which we were, honestly, initially worried about, but turned out to be a whole lot of fun. Once again, we were in front of a packed room (no pressure). We weren’t playing live games this time, though: instead, we were tasked with arguing the merits of lacklustre games. Ex-CNET editor Nic Healy hosted with his soothing radio voice, and I was flanked by IGN’s Lucy O’Brien, Gamespot’s Edmond Tran, and Joab was on that panel, too. The hook of the panel was that one of us actually liked the average game, but all of us had to argue as if we loved it. Hilarity ensued. Check out the replay below (I’m the hirsute one, if you’re trying to spot me).

Watch Fakin' It: Game Reviews - GameSpot Theatre - PAX AUS 2017 from PAX2 on www.twitch.tv

Now for some games. Before I was invited to check it out at PAX 2017, I already had Hello Neighbor on my Steam wishlist. The indie game is part stealth, mostly horror, and has you trying to sneak into your creepy neighbour’s house to figure out what the hell he’s hiding in his basement. I’ve become accustomed to jump scares, thanks to a cat that likes to jump and meow right next to my head in the middle of the night, but Hello Neighbor made me jump. A lot. The cool thing is the creepy neighbour’s AI adapts to your incursion tactics, which means you have to battle against new threats whenever you reset (it’ll happen a lot) and try to re-enter his home. It’s out on the 8th of December, and I can’t wait to yelp at it all over again.

I keep promising myself that I won’t get into collectable card games (of the digital variety), but whenever I encounter one, I always end up wanting to play more. Take Shadowverse, for instance. I spoke with Dewi Tanner, director of Western operations at Cygames, as he guided me through Shadowverse. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it’s a free-to-play CCG that’s a big hit in Japan and has been out internationally for a year. I appreciate the learning curve, especially for a newbie like me, and like that there are separate classes, as well as a story mode to learn from.

Later on, I had an enlightening chat with game designer Derek Kirtzic for Injustice 2, prior to the epic esports tournament on the last day of PAX. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to shed any light on why the recent PC beta was delayed at the last minute. He did tease that soon-to-be-released Hellboy character for Injustice 2 is hard-hitting and effective up close (that big ol’ fist) and at range (that big ol’ revolver). He’s also a fan of Batman: The Animated Series, which makes him awesome in my books, and spoke about the challenges of designing characters like Poison Ivy, who isn’t traditionally seen as a fighter.

Finally, I had a chance to go behind closed doors and check out the Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti. MSI and ASUS options were also on show (check out the image gallery), with the 1070 Ti poised to slot between the 1070 and 1080 in terms of performance and price point. One of the cool things is the new Nvidia GPU was available for pre-order on the show floor. No pricing for the Nvidia model at this stage, alas, but I’m told the price for OEMs will range between $720 and $760 Australian.

Senior PR manager Bryan Del Rizzo explained that Nvidia wanted to target all price points, but it feels like a gap that doesn’t particularly need plugging. This is more relevant considering Static Ice has Asus 1080 cards listed for AU$769, and MSI cards for as little as AU$699. RRPs are obviously not indicative of final retail prices but, if my Static Ice research is anything go by (including 1070 pricing), the 1070 Ti GPUs will have to fall in the high $500 to low $600 range to be viable. For me, I still feel my next GPU will be a 1080 Ti, or whatever the 11-series ends up becoming when it’s assumedly announced next year. For the record, I did try to tease 11-series details out of the Nvidia people during the session, but they (understandably) weren’t biting.

We also had a sneak peek of a 27-inch HDR-capable 4K monitor with G-sync support, running Final Fantasy XV on PC. It’s pretty damn gorgeous. Square Enix has reportedly gone all out with the Nvidia GameWorks, so patient Final Fantasy fans with high-end Nvidia rigs have a lot of eye candy to look forward to. As someone who isn’t a Final Fantasy fan, I was more impressed by the range of thin and quiet (40dBA max) Max-Q laptops on display. Of particular note was a recent Asus model that approached cooling differently, with a raised base, while the keyboard and touchpad have been shifted to the bottom of the gaming laptop to improve airflow for the key components up the top.

Outside of the games and hardware, it was awesome to walk around the packed show floor and see a whole lot of indie titles, as well as boardgames being played up the back of the main hall. A bit shout-out to the many PUBG cosplayers I saw, as well as the world-class cosplayers covering both major and minor games/characters. PAX is pretty awesome, Melbourne; but I’ll be checking the release calendar before committing to it again!

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