My second visit to Gamescom is probably the most exciting yet, unless you lived under a rock you should have heard by now that certain next generation consoles will soon become this generation. For the first time, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 are playable to the general public and the titles that have arrived alongside them will make any gamer have wet dreams. An expected 300,000 people will flood the corridors of the Kolnmesse over the course of the event, with tickets sold out months ago. I’ve had a chance chance to play some fantastic games already and will be playing some more over the coming days.
Wolfenstein: The New Order – Bethesda
Return to Castle Wolfenstein was one of my favourite games of 2001, which in turn was based on the original Wolfenstein 3D game by Id Software back in 1992. Fast forward to 2013 and we have a sneak peek with the next installment of this Nazi-infested franchise. The history we once knew has turned on its head, World War II was lost to the Nazi regime in 1946 and now in 1960 they reign supreme. As hero soldier Captain B.J. Blazkowicz, you lead your fellow allies to thwart the Nazi onslaught and change history. Or, to change history to how it should be. The demo starts with you scaling the walls of a Nazi stronghold. As you advance, soldiers jut through the windows to fire some bullets down your way. What with flying debris from an exploding shell hurtling towards you while being shot, this sequence had me on the edge of my seat. Playing this on the Xbox One definitely shows the graphical improvement from the Xbox 360. Now, it is almost on par with a PC… almost. The anti-aliasing is still not up to scratch, although sitting far enough away from the screen ala a living room set-up would make this barely noticeable. There are some very cool set pieces and this definitely feels like a Wolfenstein game and will be released sometime in 2014
Thief – Square Enix
Garrett needs no introduction to fans of Thief: Deadly Shadows et al, and this revamp is going to be a good one. The in-game video footage we saw had Garrett sneaking and darting around patrols and using his Focus techniques to detect enemies from afar and also assist in lockpicking, There have been mixed feelings about this Focus ability, as a kind of cheat system. As a Thief fan myself, I can tell you that the game does seem easier to play in comparison to the originals. Having said that, it doesn’t make it too intrusive to the overall enjoyment and it has been said that Focus and on-screen indicators can be changed or disabled to give you a more challenging experience. There were additional sections of the game that I have not seen, which included breaching a manor house to obtain some sparkly treasure. Hidden switches can be discovered, such as around picture frames. Rumble feedback is used to indicate if you are near a hidden switch as you feel around the edges. Finally, Garrett stumbles across a casket containing the jewel inside but reaching the contents involve a kind of combination lock. Garrett can peer through cracks in the case to see how the locking mechanism works to open certain locks. It’s obvious from what was seen that although you can have the option to kill everything or sneak around in terms of combat, the grey matter will come into play as well with various puzzles. I’m also so glad that water arrows are back, they were, and always will be, my favourite.
XCOM: Enemy Within – 2K Games
An addition to the XCOM family is in the pipeline, with some more fun with this turn-based combat strategy puzzler. Working out the best way to flank and outmanoeuvre something you can’t see is always a problem, however some new units have been introduced to help. A new mech can be used, the Mechanised Exoskeletal Suit. This suit has abilities such as Collateral Damage to destroy cover and hurting anyone behind it, with Kinect Strike for close range melee attacks. A new explosive from Dr Shen’s lab has been introduced, called Pin-Point grenade. As the name suggests, it will take out anything on the end of the grenade but the splash damage is reduced to prevent friendlies from getting caught in the blast. Think of it as a sniping grenade. The aliens also have a mech of their own called Mechtoid, to make it more evenly matched. The game is slated for a 15th November 2013 release on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. It will cost $29.99 USD on the PC and $39.99 on consoles. I am betting on a simple currency symbol flip for us European folks.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – Square Enix
I have played FF XIV: ARR to death since all the beta rounds, but I saw something new. The Battle Challenge pits you against a Titan, which I can only describe as an angry beast with a massive stomp attack. The demo lets you play on all the specialist classes, such as the Dragoon, Monk, Black Mage and so on. Suffice it to say, they all look superb and having to level two classes to get to that point will be well worth it. Also to beat Titan you will need to remember to use your Limit Break when the bar is full. The game is out on 27th August, Goodbye life, it was nice knowing you.
Arma III – Bohemia Interactive
The beta is shaping up nicely, but I saw Altis for the first time. My God, HOW BIG?! The monstrosity of an island has enough playing area to put the population of London in it. The detail is immaculate; insects buzzing around freely, oblivious to the carnage of machine gun fire around them. Every time I hear about Altis my mind gets blown each time and it helps that the map makers have made the island their own by creating unique towns and government compounds. There are also nice little Easter eggs to find, such as a quad bike track in one of the towns if your soldier pals want a race. The views and vistas at high vantage points are simply beautiful, and you will not struggle to make a scenic postcard out of a screenshot. The mission editor is extremely powerful, with events that can be scripted from a few simple mouse clicks. The AI is top-notch as I asked about the difficulties in path finding for such an intricately detailed area. All the hard work has been done for you and there is no need to micromanage any of the units available. You can also place a rabbit on the map and control it in a third-person view, rabbit cam! Altis will be available over the next couple of weeks via Steam to those who have Arma III beta installed.