As sad as it is, Gamescom must end and therefore this is my last Gamescom article as this rollercoaster journey comes to a close. I fly back home on Sunday and you probably thought I was mostly done, but no I have left some of the best till last. It was time to hit the exhibition floor and to put down the pen and notebook, and instead grab a joypad, keyboard and mouse to let my hair down and do what I love the most, playing games.
Sim City 4 – Electronic Arts
How can I not mention this sublime city simulator? I saw an early build of this in action back at the EA Showcase event a few months ago; it has come a long way since then and has been made available to play at Gamescom. Suffice it to say, the momentum and hype surrounding the new Sim City is completely justified. The animations are wonderful and provide the player with useful feedback without cluttering the screen with notifications or text. There are small bubbles when buildings or people have requirements or thoughts. One of my denizens was thinking about how her neighbourhood smells because of no adequate sewage system. It is little touches like this which make it more natural and fun to play. The graphics are a touch of class and not just a slap-on cheap upgrade to previous Sim City game engines.
Having a real hands-on play was a joy and I did not want to leave my seat at all. I did however manage to kill many Sims with a meteor shower, not my fault though, honest! Pro-tip, build some fire stations and police stations and if you see Sims complaining too much they go on strikes and your city grinds to a halt. Surplus power can lead to underutilised power stations; powering them down will conserve resources. Some features were locked such as further upgrades to buildings, which means we have to wait just that little bit longer for its release which is targeted for 2013.
Batman: Arkham City – Armoured Edition – Warner Bros. Interactive
I see a pattern emerging with the Wii U: scanning hidden objects. As with ZombiU, which I saw yesterday, the same scanning ability appears in Arkham City. It is nice to be able to interact with the environment like this, but I can imagine the novelty wearing thin after a short while when a button press is much more efficient. I will be waiting for a CSI game to arrive any time now. But having said that, a separate screen and touch interface is useful for multitasking. Access to all of your gadgets such as grappling hooks and spinning metals of death can be done on the controller. What you see on the TV screen is duplicated on the controller screen, so technically you can play while sitting on a toilet if you so desired. Not that I would suggest such a thing, maybe wash the controller first before inviting friends round to play.
Injustice – Warner Bros. Interactive
I am only mentioning this game again because this poor German gamer had to take battering after battering from me when playing this. I played all of the characters and the poor fellow was struggling frantically to get a hit in. To be fair to him, he was not familiar with the controls at all and even after placing his hands on the right buttons, his button mashing capabilities were not up to par. Remember the speed of Killer Instinct plus the combo juggling? Yes, that.
Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition – Namco Bandai
The untold tales from Lordran will take the player back in time when Knight Artorias was still alive. This RPG ticks all the boxes; state of the art graphics, in-depth storyline, characterisation, action and adventure – it will destroy your life. Forget visiting friends and family for a while as this voyage will be your new reality. It is not called Prepare To Die for no reason, so yes expect plenty of life threatening traps and scenarios to keep you thinking on your feet. There is no place to hide, and mobs are set to continuously respawn so do not stand still for too long. I am mostly looking forward to co-op play with some friends; if I’m going to die at least I will not die alone.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 – Treyarch/Activision
The centrepiece around my hands-on play with Black Ops 2 was the multiplayer aspect of the game. Personally I’m not a diehard fan of the series, but one cannot deny that it is still loved by many. At first glance, it does just seem to be another Call of Duty game; large explosions, various weapons to master, frenetic close quarter combat and so on. With certain Call of Duty titles, being on-rails was something of the norm and you were almost a spectator in a non-interactive game. Treyarch have attempted to address some of these issues that gamers have raised and open up more character options. The ability to build your own class is a welcome addition, with character points to spend as you wish on weapons and abilities. Up to three Wildcards can be purchased costing one point each, and opens more options to expand your class further. There are of course caps enforced with these Wildcards to ensure game balance. As you rack up the kills, you gain XP to level up and unlock items as you progress.
I was able to play two maps: Cargo and Turbine. Cargo is situated in a Los Angeles that’s looking rather apocalyptic and Turbine being a canyon based map. I have mixed feelings on the Turbine map; there are certain vantage points which can be used for sniping and surprise attacks. This provides you with many options on how to approach the game, with opportunities to attack a player from behind. But there are gripes with one of the spawn points; as my fellow team-mates raced ahead, I was slightly behind them and at the corner of my eye I saw the opposing team rushing behind us on an alternate path. My team was subsequently gunned down as I tried to defend our position. Given the surprise attack at such an early point in the game, roughly 5 seconds, I can see this becoming a problem.
I asked about this at the booth and the response was that the teams switch spawn areas halfway through the game so all players have to deal with this which evens the odds. To paraphrase, “The player has the option to also take the other path and meet the opposing team head on”. This is all very well, but the fact that starting teams spawn so closely to each other at all with this map design there is a likelihood you cannot plan for a more strategic long game which this map is attempting to encourage. Unless of course you kill them within the first ten seconds or die yourself so you can get to the position you actually wanted. The action is definitely there however, and the attempt to outdo the original Black Ops is apparent. But the jury is out on this one.
Hawken – Meteor Entertainment
First of all, this looks amazing. Second of all, it is free to play. My jaw literally dropped to the floor when Kurtis Buckmaster, CCO at Meteor Entertainment told me that this was completely free to play. A mech game such as this has taken a long time to come to fruition, and it was something I always wanted since the old glory days of MechWarrior. The mech FPS combat genre has been very quiet, but it is about to get much louder with this title. I jumped into a game and I cannot tell you how beautiful the Unreal Engine-powered MechWarrior looks. As an ex-professional Quake player himself, Kurtis has been in the gaming business since the dawn of time and describes Hawken as something he has always imagined to play. With this in mind, he jumped at the chance to get involved in this project.
There are several mech classes to choose from: light, medium and heavy. Each class has positives and negatives, one of the key factors being speed. Slower mechs such as the heavy class provides superior armour and will last much longer in a fight. The flipside is manoeuvrability, which is where the light class truly excels. With a combination of the shift key and the side step keys, you can dash back and forth at will to avoid incoming projectiles. Tactically speaking, this is the most versatile; Kurtis described a scenario whereby if you were outnumbered, you can dash behind one of your foes to use as a shield while firing on another if against heavier classes. This opens another dimension to simply rushing headlong into battle.
The medium mech is the staple mech class is a good all-rounder. All mechs can be customised for things such as colour and loadout options. I particularly like the Hellfire missiles; with a press of the middle mouse button, the locking reticule appears. Once a target is acquired, a quick press of the right mouse button fires a barrage of missiles which can be difficult to avoid. As with many titles I have covered this week, this is definitely one to watch out for and I plan to have an in-depth look at it after Gamescom.
As the name suggests, this is not a game but one of the massive halls in the Koelnmesse. I did not have time to see this earlier in the week but I am glad I discovered it today. It deserves a mention because not only did it have a skateboard park, but also a large stand full of PC case mods which must have taken half a lifetime to create. They even had a Portal sentry model as a PC case.
Not far from this was the Amiga stand; everything retro was here and there were many old classic platforms available to play, such as my beloved Commodore 64. Complete with the typical joysticks found in the 80s and early 90s, you were sucked back to a time where the birth of gaming was just beginning. To see all of these games such as Space Invaders, Elite, Centipede and so on being played on two decade old consoles brought a small tear to my eye. The display cabinets had perfectly preserved specimens to admire; I completely regret letting my mother throw away my Commodore 64 and Spectrum.
The past few days have been a blast, and although my schedule was packed to the brim with little sleep and no lunch breaks, it has been a pleasure to bring to you a slice of Gamescom 2012 to the Daily Joypad. The developers, designers and PR folks really made this event, to bring to the public their passion for gaming and their creations. I could not have brought you this coverage without the awesome work from the team back in London, so please give them a round of applause for their effort and hard work. Bring on Gamescom 2013!