Monday, 23 August 2010

Gamescom's from a gamers' perspective: 4 days of hands-on!

I've just come back from 4 very intense days of Cologne's Gamescom and there's really plenty to write about.

I'll give the perspective of a gamer that got in queue and played as much as possible during the event.
I'll just mention the games I saw and played, of course I didn't have the time to see everything (mostly because of queue times) but really squeezed a lot of stuff into these 4 days, mostly checking out the games I look forward to.

And so... the GAMES (by publisher):

Sony's space was the first I visited. There was so much stuff I wanted to check out and of course I also wanted to try Move!
Their space was really great: large, very creatively arranged and decorated, with tens of games to try out and a big staff to help you into the experience. The 18+ closed space was really great, with cool looking playing stations that resembled a bath rather than hospital beds and so on. Definitely the best and most creative looking booth/space of the fair!

Gran Turismo 5
What can one say about Gran Turismo apart that it's Gran Turismo, better and bigger than ever? It's just incredible to look at and great to drive, you really feel into a real circuit because there's so much detail and realism.
To me, the steering wheel is a must to really enjoy the experience. To all those that love the series and driving games is just a must have.

Infamous 2
Another sequel that looks like it's fulfilling its destiny. As Cole has grown up with more control over its powers and a deeper understanding of his actions so has the game: much more beautiful to look at, spectacular as far as special effects and powers go and with the same cool mechanics, refined and fine-tuned, already typical of the series.
Really sleek animations and a smooth, intriguing gaming experience. The game pace allows you to look at the outburst of power and destruction you unleash, which is quite spectacular.
The hands-on version at the booth still had heavy aliasing however that's certainly something they will smooth away since all gameplay videos shown featured a good anti-aliasing.

Killzone 3
Even though the made the characters a bit "lighter" (which is somehow a pity as it was something so peculiar of Killzone 2) the shooter experience is as great as ever.
The atmosphere and mood are great and you really feel into the battlefield, a really engaging experience.
Viewing it in 3D was really cool as well. I'm not sure about the quality of 3D (monitors and glasses) available at Gamescom, it would be nice to test these games on other 3D systems.

Little Big Planet 2
LBP2 is just a game you don't want to quit playing.
Already at the first level you get to use the new hook tool quite a lot. It allows you to progress through the levels since sometime jumping won't be enough (if you want to survive and go on). The pace is faster and the level design even more complex and engaging.
Levels are really rich with games within games that just add fun to fun.
The new create tools will certainly also set a new standard for the shared levels: with LBP the concept of Play & Create its at its best!!!

SOCOM 4: U. S. Navy Seals
A very solid shooter that seemed to well integrate the Move technology into it. Graphically speaking is not mind-blowing but definitely good looking and controls were easy to grasp.
The more tactical experience it will offer is certainly promising and will differentiate it from the other shooters. I'm also looking forward to a solid and enjoyable multiplayer!

Heroes on the Move
Really a great feel playing it with Move. Great response, funny to play and really good looking!
Definitely a title to look forward for Move users and for the lovers of the Playstation icon characters featured!

The Fighter
The game seems promising and didn't look bad although pretty basic considering what's on the screen and it still felt and looked a bit rough especially for the gameplay/move integration. Perhaps because of the calibration, the response between Move and the game wasn't that great and the character didn't really mirror your moves.
It's worth a second look once it's more polished.

Sport Champions
Another Move game that looks very promising. Nice and clear graphic, very good Move response and a series of different sport activities.
I watched various games and tried the arrow one which was really good: very responsive and smooth: definitely a more casual (but not that much) Move game that will be worth having.

Microsoft's space was a bit plain with just a series of playing stations (XBOX360 :P) on the walls.
Of course I'm not talking about the Kinect-part which was massive and with several booths were you could freely jump around.
I'm rather referring to the 18+ closed space that hosted Halo: Reach, Fable III and a series of other games (even though no one of those were mentioned on the outside, go figure!) among which Hydrophobia. (Other non-MS related hosted there were Shank, Star Wars: force Unleashed 2, Marvel vs Capcom, Enslaved, Castlevania: Lord of Shadows, Vanquish).

Halo: Reach
I haven't tried it that much since it's just a few weeks away from the release, however the shooting feel was good and responsive and definitely looks like a solid experience both for the co-op campaign and multiplayer.

Fable III
Take Fable II and make it better all around: very nice looking graphic with a less rough and cartoon style, more adult looking all around without going too realistic.
A real co-op experience with 2 players able to roam a world together with their own characters (and dogs).
Even more impact on the world depending on your choices. And the world will also be influenced by the choice and actions of the others you host into your game.
Very nice looking space to customize your character (a bit like Ezio's Villa in Assassin's Creed 2).
The possibility to create a unique character (with the pre-order) that will then give you a mission depending on how you created it sounds pretty cool!

A shooter-adventure XBLA timed exclusive that will also be released on the PSN later on. This is a downloadable game that could easily be mistaken for a retail: very nice looking, great water and very good physics, looks quite deep gameplay-wise.
The game focuses around water: this makes for a very peculiar gameplay and adds quite some tension (you can drown if you're not careful and go breath when you need to). The demo was really engaging, as said, you have to play smart and use water to your advantage in the different situations you'll find yourself into (you can shoot at electric cables to electrify your enemies or you can shoot at it to render it harmless for your own safety - or just do both one after the other).
Definitely a game to check out even because it will be a cheap one to snatch through XBLA and PSN and certainly interesting to play!

Nintendo's space was clean and cluttered with kids but not only!
I have to say that I'm guilty of not owning any Nintendo's console, however after the E3 presentation of the new Kirby I just had to try it out.
I also wanted to check Epic Mickey but didn't have a chance.

Kirby's Epic Yarn
Great style, fun gameplay, smooth and collaborative co-op. A great platform with a sweet flavour to it that will make me buy a Wii.
The level design is very well built and you can also interact with the environment, for example you can open zippers that will reveal hidden places, scrunch up towers to jump up and reach higher level. You can throw your companion against enemies or jump on it to go higher.
The style is very well done, original, solid and well integrates with the gameplay (makes sense to fold a tower made of soft fabric).

EA's space really had a lot of stuff worth checking out and I was able to get my hand on quite some stuff.
I couldn't see Mirror's Edge playing on the iPad but Faith's bag was my trusty companion during the Gamecom!

Crysis 2
The 3D intro was definitely impressive as well as the campaign footage (the same already shown at E3 but seeing it in 3D was quite cool).
The XBOX360 multiplayer demo however wasn't that impressive as far as the look of the game is. That said its various features seemed intriguing with customizable characters, varied and vertical maps and promising rank-up system. It moved smoothly and the map seemed well built with a lot of covers and routes to flank your enemies. You can also somehow modify the environment: breaking catwalks etc. to create shortcuts or cut your enemies out.

Dragon Age 2
It's named Dragon Age but honestly doesn't seem to have much in common with its predecessor. Quite different as far as gameplay goes, looks and feels much more like an action game than "Dragon Age". The story is indeed a sequel from the first chapter but everything else it's definitely not.
After Mass Effect it really seems that BioWare is re-defining Dragon Age as well, to make it more action and, probably, more console-oriented but it also featured the wheel dialogue system and you can chose to be aggressive, neutral or defensive (just like in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2).
The graphic still looked very rough, will it feature co-op?
Still a lot to find out but certainly not what I was expecting from Dragon Age's sequel.

Medal of Honor
The multiplayer (improved from the beta released weeks ago) feels a lot like Battlefield (after all it's DICE) so it's very intuitive to play but lacks the destructibility and has less wide spaces (only taking into consideration the BETA and Gamescom maps).
The map I played however looked well build, on multyple levels and able to give you a good advantage if you carefully chose the way to go (a couple of time I was able to flank the enemies and shoot a bunch of them from behind).
When you die you still just suddenly drop-dead (as in the beta), I don't know if that's just how it's going to be in the final game (feels a bit awkward) to offer "something different".
The classes and rank up seemed more fine-tuned, with more weapons etc., in the end it's a direct competitor of Call of Duty so it certainly needs to deliver to be successful.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
As for being HOT it certainly is! A driving game that will certainly be fun: great looking, fast pace and very smooth driving experience.
We just got into the action, having to escape police and win the race against other. You have to find the best route to get there first, avoid other other races weapons and try to eliminate them and the police with your own weapons.
It looked and felt really great, engaging and "explosive": certainly looking forward to it and to the online experience!

Star Wars: The Old Republic
I have to say I'm not a MMO or MMORPG games however I was very curious about this one: who doesn't like the Star Wars universe, after all?
The game does look good enough, there are interesting and different classes and there seems to be quite some room for nice team experiences.
The introduction we played showed an nice and well structured environment, you can of course accept side missions or not and depending on how you play your character you'll build a reputation and NPC will react to it and the same is valid for your companion characters. The presentation video pointed out that a lot of work went into dubbing so that all the dialogue will be spoken and there will be different talking tones depending on whether your character is more on the light or dark side of things.
The developers' aim is to make you feel like a character from the universe, I'll definitely follow this one to finally try a MMO after the big disappointment that APB was. The gameplay, level build and all other features of Old Republic looked and felt quite promising!

Blizzard's space was imposing with big screens that showed the awesome cinematics and trailers of Starcraft and WoW. However not being a WoW player and with Starcraft already installed on my pc what I was looking for (and took quite a queue to reach) was:

Diablo 3
The nice thing is: they just put you in front of a monitor and let you play. Different classes, loads of items, co-op playing: Diablo III it's simply a must have and just after a little time playing I didn't want to leave my character alone to let other attenders check it out.
Just as with the previous chapter there seem to be tens of options and items and the environment is really well built and complex. I played the monk and really loved how it moved and played: totally fun and engaging, that's all one needs to know!

Bethesda's games being all 18+ were shown in a restricted access area. Quite a nice poker of games that, luckily, didn't mean too long queues, apart from Rage's 1-hour long presentation (and 2 hours long queue x_x).

Very nicely impressed by it. The style is very cool in the right, exaggerated way.
The multiplayer was resistance against security and I played resistance. The customization options were many, very different and great looking (it only lacks female characters :( which would have looked super-awesome).
The shooting system was very intuitive and well done, easy to grasp, easy to play. Very good looking, smooth movements and animations. Good level design, you can climb and gain a position advantage to your enemies.
4 classes that are quite "classic", think about Killzone 2 with the engineer leaving turrets, the medic that heals etc. What it's nice is that you earn points every time you hit an enemy rather than just for kill and assists which perhaps makes the reward system a bit fairer.

Hunted: the Demon's forge
This was a nice surprise playable in the Fallout booth.
The game, scarcely advertised so far, is a full co-op (think RE5) set in a fantasy world.
The female character is an archer while the male is a Warrior, however both can use melee and ranged weapons and both use magic.
What I liked most is the strategy between the two players. The warriors goes melee while the archer covers him from a higher and more covered position but of course you can play your strategy however you like. While the path is mostly just one the environment is wide enough that you can plan your strategy however you like and exploit the various levels, covers etc. at your advantage. The characters can launch a potion to revive each other so you can do it even from a distance.
The controls were easy and intuitive and playing felt quite smooth. If you play alone you can take control of both characters so that you can actually guide the AI character too if you need to.
Quite engaging, for those that love co-op games (but not only) this is a must to check out!

First time Rage was shown to an audience and it was quite cool. Not only the video was intriguing, showing quite a lot of game but also the developer in the room explained a lot of things about the game development and features.
The game looked great: with a rich, post-apocalyptic feel, a very complex, multi-levels environment and a lot of details. It's a shooter, driving game with RPG elements.
Somehow you could put between Borderlands and Fallout talking about the style and game elements but that as far as the graphic and scenery complexity it blows both away. It's much more complex and deep than borderlands, it's not so RPG as Fallout.
idSoftware basically decided to start a new generation/type of shooters and they certainly can do it.

Fallout: New Vegas
I'll be honest, this is just not for me. While Killzone 2 could almost cause motion sickness when you played it (I loved it by the way) in Fallout: New Vegas your characters keep going on a rail. No walking or weight feel: nothing of nothing, to me this is just like breaking the illusion, I can't feel into it.
Add to it the dumbest IA ever that run against you while you shot them with a shotgun... ah, I said. Just not for me.
For the Fallout lovers out there, it's probably more of what they like, sorry I can't be very informative on this one :P!

Square Enix's space had some similarities with Nintendo's one: clear and clean looking, well organized.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
There was a video showing at Square Enix' Gamescom cinema every few hours. The intro video is obviously mind-blowing.
It's a stealth game with a lot of action, environment interaction and the ability to chose your strategy and route to the mission goal.
It's set in a not so distant future as far as time goes, 2027 but in a very heavy cyberpunk vision of the future with nanotechnology being very advanced and characters (well, not everyone of course but definitely the heroes or villains) that are a mix of human and cyber tech.
As far as the graphic compartment is concerned the gameplay footage didn't look particularly impressive but weapons, the different ways you can approach the environment and so on were definitely captivating. The live demonstration showed some interesting features: definitely to check out!

Namco Bandai's hot spot for me was

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Being hyped for quite sometime by Ninja Theory's new game I really wanted to try this out.
The combat system is very cool, nice moves, very smooth, easy to grasp controls. Steady frame-rate.
The platform part of the game (jumping around the map) felt pretty guided but it could be because the start serves as tutorial: still, it was quite cool to play with all the crash and bang going on as you proceeded. I wasn't able to reach the point where the characters meet but I'm really curious to find out more the co-op play this features.
Very nice mood and style as well as color palette although not particularly impressive graphically. PS3 and XBOX360 versions looked pretty much the same.

Lucas Arts. I was upset there was nowhere to check out my favourite disciple at the fair... until I entered Microsoft's "Halo & Fable" booth and found 2 stations that featured it: my marvel!

Star Wars: the Force Unleashed 2
again, it's the first one bigger and better. Very high quality graphic, very smooth, wide spaces, ass-kicking powers! The moves are spectacular, the animation smooth and acrobatic.
The disciple, atmosphere and anything is just heroic and you really feel powerful and at the center of it all.
It's very easy to control and move and very satisfactory when you unleash your powers!

THQ, I loved Red Faction: Guerrilla so I was looking forward to the next chapter

Red faction: Armageddon
Features Mason's grandson in a quest to find out who's killing all Mars' inhabitants.
We were shown a gameplay video that was really amazing: imagine what you can do when you can break and destroy everything around you... and then re-build it! In fact this is a new ability of the character: things can be rebuilt so, for example, you can blow up a containers' door, enter, rebuild it to hide yourself inside, locate all the enemies around you (with a sort of rader) and then break out and wreak havoc!
There is also a new magnet-based weapon that can dispose of anything built of metal in quite a few shots.
Definitely the worthy successor of Guerrilla this new chapter looks even more complex, with more and more intriguing weapons and therefore strategic possibilities and an evolved Mars to explore!

Valve's Portal 2 was one of the games I absolutely wanted to try out. It was just a video but a quite awesome one!

Portal 2
First of all it looked amazing and very high resolution so it probably was the PC version. Unfortunately because of the noise (terrible noise) and the lack of subtitles it was hard to follow the bits of dialogue featured, however the images spoke loud enough.
The graphic was really excellent, super-clean, super sci-fi style. Physics was also impressive as well as how everything looked smooth and polished. A super platform that will really engage the player to find the best way to reach its objectives!

Konami's Castlevania had its own stand but I actually played skipped the queue and played for quite some time

Castlevania: Lord of Shadows
The graphic featured a heavy aliasing on XBOX360 however the game combat was smooth and easy to grasp and the interface very nicely done. I had some slight trouble with the camera since sometimes it was hard to rotate it to the direction you wanted (when I needed to touch the life spring, for example).
I found it funny that you had to hit your werewolf enemies multiple times to get rid of it but launching a dagger would make them explode as big blood balloon.
The middle-boss fight looked a bit too staged but was still nice.
It certainly didn't look as spectacular as GOW is both for the environment and action however I think it can be a nice game to play.

Sega had no booth at Gamescom 2010 but Vanquish was available to play at the Microsoft's "Halo & Fable" booth, unfortunately you had to be lucky enough to enter and find it out 'cause it was not advertised anywhere.

Talking about coolness! The character moves are really great and spectacular and controls are smooth and responsive. It really isn't hard to see the hand of Bayonetta's Plantinum Games behind the combat system and animation.
The combat experience really run smooth, with good graphic, great response and a series of moves that really make you want to experiment. For example if you engage an enemy in melee and start punching it with fists you can keep pressing the button and the fists become faster and faster so much that you don't even see any more.
While the cover/slide system may remind of Gears of War this is much smoother and refined. There are several weapons you can carry and chose depending on the situation and the map looked open enough to allow for some tactic: taking vantage points and so on.

Ubisoft had several games at the fair but the only one I decided to queue for (and luckily it wasn't too long a queue) was:

Assassin's Creed 2: Brotherhood
As you can imagine this is a sort of expansion for Assassin's Creed second chapter. What's new in the game is that you still control Ezio but also have a bunch of other assassins that come with you.
I can't say much about how this feature work though since we could only try the multiplayer.
The video showed the new chapter start which felt a bit awkward with Monteriggioni under siege and no one that had noticed the many siege towers approaching...
Anyway, as far as the multiplayer I tried. There basically are 8 characters and was an all vs all. You are given and objective, which is one of the other player and you have to assassinate it. Of course someone else is going after you so you also have to avoid being executed. While the idea sounds nice it didn't feel particularly engaging since you basically have to approach your objective and then execute it just pressing a button.
The characters only differ for the appearance (since there can't be characters that look the same) and then there are 3 sets of skill you can chose depending on the special abilities you like most.

Runic Game had a little but welcoming stand, unfortunately just side by side with Razer,'s disco stage however people didn't get discouraged by the unbearable high music and queued up to try the second chapter of their Torchlight series.

Torchlight II
Many complained about the first Torchlight for not being co-op, well, the second chapter is co-op! The graphic is brilliant as in the first chapter, colourful, nice models.
There were two classes to try out (of the four that will be in the final game): a melee and ranged one, you can play as male or female and slightly customize your character.
You can choose a cat, dog or ferret which are all very cool looking. There a lot of action that goes one with many enemies to dispose of with your weapons or powers.
This will be a nice one to play before Diablo III releases :P!


UP: The fair was really great, a lot to see and try out, well organized.
There were a lot of people but the space is huge and you never ended up squeezed in the crowd (well, maybe before they opened door if you wanted to be among the first to enter, however not that much in that case either).
The room temperature was also good: you could go around wearing a shirt without sweating, corridors however were a bit hotter.
Also reaching the fair via S-Bahn was very fast and comfortable, from the main Cologne station it's just a stop and there's plenty of trains every few minutes.

UP: 3D games were cool to check out hands-on: Crysis, Killzone 3, Gran Turismo 5 and King's Bounty, among other. Unfortunately there was no WipeOut 3D, I asked and they explained they were experiencing some trouble with the 3D monitor so they had to take it away.
Probably though they give their best on larger monitors, those at the fair were probably around 22/24 inches.

So-So: Lots of nice goodies, lots of shirts but no female ones (I'm talking about those that were being given away not the ones sold there). The Crysis 2's I heart New York shirt is pretty cool but I also like the Portal 2 ones.

There was a little stand selling gaming-related stuff (Blizzard's shirts but, again, no female ones) and some action figures but I would have liked more.

It would be nice if publishers would also bring some special goodies for sale, you know, things like those included in special edition that you cannot get anywhere but buying the game or at this fair (what about LBP goodies or shirts, for examplE?).

Square Enix also always shows its action figures but they only sell them online (perhaps would be too much trouble bringing it at the fair? However they were advertising they just opened their European shop.

Down: too much noise! My gosh some of the booths were more noisy than a disco.
Honestly I really don't feel it was fair. The Microsoft booth was "dwarfed" by the Red Dot Games one that hosted DJs with noisy music and smoke and all and the MS staff basically had to shout into your ears to explain about Fable III's new feature.
Checking out Torchlight II was also a pain in the ears as they were just near the Razer booth which seemed to be in direct competition with the Roccat one to see who had the loudest music.

While I noticed teenagers were captured by the deafening music like bees from honey (or rather free t-shirt and booth babes) the fair is about GAMES, people that want to PLAY games and be able to LISTEN at what game character SAY, to listen at the preview videos and so on.
Not a problem if they want to turn part of the fair in a disco, next time just put Razer, Roccat and whoever else isn't interested in GAMES and listening at them somewhere separated: attendees and staff will warmly thank-yuo!

Down: well, this is a bit of a girlish complain: not enough female character! While I do understand that implementing female characters can mean a lot more textures and models (like for Brink, although they'd look super-cool) for something like Crysis it would only be just one model (more or less) and what about Killzone 3 too? It would be nice if other maker would follow the example of S.O.C.O.M 4!


  1. Nice read!
    I really like the short tough on the games.
    Looks like you have a very busy days at the fair !

  2. Next year I want to bring a little chair for the long queues ;)!

  3. Loved the reviews from Gamescom.

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