Gamescom 2012 in Cologne

One very long day for Futuresack exclusivity at Gamescom 2012
Last year being at the Gamescom from Wednesday until Friday for Adventure-Treff, this time I went there exclusively (except for some aftershow party) for Futuresack. Unfortunately due (again) to university, time was of the essence, and therefore I couldn’t get any business area appointments. Only arriving shortly before the end on Friday (August 18), but then having a whole Sunday (August 20), here are a few impressions from the public area halls:

No Wii U With Nintendo, but Rayman et al
Nintendo was officially absent from the event, so was Microsoft. Still third-party-developers and publishers were present to give the public what they wanted: the Wii U.
Playing the, thanks to crisp HD, beautiful Rayman Legends in Co-op for a short time (about ten minutes, which was just enough to get to grips with the control system), it’s safe to say this is one of the better uses the console is capable of: One player controls Rayman in old-school-platforming sections with a typical gamepad, the other interacts with the game world by using the iPad-like tablet. Unlike other upcoming games, e.g. Assassin’s Creed III or Batman: Arkham City, the tablet is not used as a map, but rather to help the other player beat enemies (by tapping on them to make them fall down) or, even more interesting, solve puzzles.
The latter was quite fun as one player had to pull down a bridge and the other had to cross it. The short demo didn’t show any difficult puzzles, but there’s enough potential and fun with this control scheme which will hopefully be used with other titles in the unique ways Nintendo was known for in the DS-era.

Capcom Cinematic Disappointments
Next stop was Capcom which had some interesting titles on offer, but one of the worst ways of showing them. Mainly being divided into a queue for a cinema presentation and area where the actual Resident Evil 6 demo could be played, there was much confusion when (after more than an hour waiting) one watched other people playing it inside, but then being led to a small cinema with uncomfortable seats and lacklustre speakers.

What was even more irritating was the fact that before entering this room, one got to see more or less the same trailers on a smaller TV screen. PR presentation was typically unintentionally funny with one guy talking about the end of the world as we know it and then without much further ado showing some trailers of Resident Evil 6,

Lost Planet 3 and

Remember Me.

Even if Resi seemed to be the one everyone was talking about and wanted to see, Lost Planet 3 looked more atmospheric (parallels to Dead Space 3 anyone? and Remember Me intriguing with its interesting dystopian game world. How the end products will look like, will be anyone’s guess, but at least they looked of consistent quality.
Resident Evil 6 on the other hand stayed out its welcome. Not only was the mixture of scary subway scenes with Leon Kennedy in stark contrast to some cabin fighting against a special police/terrorist (?) unit and zombies incongruent, the fighting scheme seemed to be pretty off, with Albert Whesker’s son not only fighting his enemies, but with camera issues and missed punches and shots. An escape from an avalanche might be a thing one expects from a James Bond flick, but here it looked a bit out of place, especially since the camera didn’t look as if it would help the player making the right decisions.
At the end of the “presentation”, one got a keyring with…yes, an “exclusive” code which one could use to watch the best bits of the trailer/presentation. A bit disappointing for Capcom, eh?

Final Fantasy Revisited on iPad and PC
After spending more than two hours for the Capcom event, a bit of tablet gaming with the Wii U and without long waiting queues was quite refreshing. So I got the chance playing Final Fantasy Dimensions on an iPad.
Suffice it to say, it was old-school all the way through, graphics looked dated but then again that’s the whole nostalgia point. At least one could automatically restart the last fight without losing too much progress.

There were also some PCs on which one could play Final Fantasy VII. Yes, the one which was already released ages ago on that platform (with all the bugs, being nearly unplayable), but now having the subtitle Legacy. I didn’t have time to play it, but for those people who are still against consoles (for whatever reason) this seemed to be quite a nice way to experience the game on the PC again without the initial problems.

Bloody Bunny
Even more interesting for a survival horror fan like me was Silent Hill: Book of Memories for PS Vita. Unfortunately there always seemed to be someone one playing it, so I couldn’t take a closer look. Still at least I got a picture with that scary bunny from Silent Hill 3:

Joe Danger is back
Not having played it either, but looking over people’s shoulders, Joe Danger 2-The Movie seemed to be more casual-friendly than the hardcore XBLA title, but it still looked like a whole lot of fun, especially in multiplayer.

Brick in your face with Force, or: Brick Force
Gaming mascots were all over the place, like Agent 47 from Hitman,

but who were the most striking were these guys, military box-heads I’d call them, promoting a rather weird game for… kids.

Yes, Brick Force was the name of the game, and from the looks of it, and especially from that mother’s critical eye,

I asked myself how this FPS got a 0+ rating. Oh wait, you just build Lego-like buildings and then destroy them. Still, looks rather intimidating, doesn’t it? And come on, the trailer looks like the typical deathmatch game…

Oh well, that’s USK for you…but that’s another story.

Lara is back…with a vengeance
When I saw there wasn’t a very long queue in front of the Tomb Raider presentation and that it was actually in motion, I stepped right in…just to wait for another hour before finally getting in. Seats were a bit more comfortable than in Capcom’s cinema, but what was waiting for the audience? A 45-minutes gameplay footage! Wow, not just watching a trailer, but seeing Lara Croft live in action, played from a console.

Of course the presenter wasn’t much of a showman, giving his typical PR talk, not really explaining much of the gameplay (like what’s with the RPG elements?). Still it was quite nice to get a first impression of the smart female archaeologist surviving in the jungle.
Maybe a bit drawn out and the graphics at some points slightly outdated, especially the textures, the final stage of the presentation was quite breathtaking, with Lara going through the motions by using stealth to escape her captivators (with a suggested rape scene), escaping oncoming trees and branches with her parachute and… but no more spoilers.
Even if Lara’s latest outing looks a bit too much like Uncharted, it’s definitely one game series going in the right direction with its mature storytelling, gritty visuals and the most vulnerable Lara Croft ever.

Merch, merch, merch for real nerds
After such a long wait and presentation, it was again nice to just walk around and get some more impressions of other booths one didn’t have to stand for hours, i.e. some merchandise stands where you could actually get everything videogames-related you could wish for, if you had the pocket money.

A blast from the past
Then it was retro time. Having a quick look at the machines and consoles of old, it was a nice trip down memory lane, even if that meant seeing some stuff before one was born or can’t remember having played when the games came out. Not only many flippers, but also the good old C64 with the original Donkey Kong conversion was quite fun to play, even if the controls were a bit clunky.

Just sitting down on a big pillow and playing Wing Commander was a treat as well, even if I didn’t get the chance to get my hands on the controller.

Originality in indie games and at universities
What was also quite impressive, were all the indie games on show, projects done by students with quite an interesting set of ideas, like a (Not)Tetris-version in which the blocks fell down and reacted in a realistic ragdoll-fashion.

Actually one could have spent a whole day in the retro section, being lost in the good ol’ times, revisiting games one knew from yesteryear or experience new ones.

Battling the German rating system or understanding it?
Last and very least, before closing time and hitting the hot outside world (38 degrees, hottest day it seemed), was a quick discussion with the USK. As mentioned before, this was quite another story.

Having already talked with the Entertainment-Software(U)-Self(S)-Control(K) people two years ago and having quite a refreshing perspective on the way games were rated in Germany, this was one of the worst-informed and defensive talks I had for a while.
Maybe going there on the last day before closing time wasn’t the best idea, but then again those people behind the counter weren’t just for show, giving away (rather cool-looking) T-Shirts, but also being OPEN-MINDED with all sorts of questions.
So I asked one guy who already gave me the WTF-do-you-want-look: “Are there any specific rules how the USK rates certain games? Like for example some games I played recently which had murder and homicide in them and then getting a 0+ rating. Can you explain how this happened?” The games I was referring to were the Ace Attorney series, Hotel Dusk 215, Last Window and Edna: The Breakout, all having quite some serious subject matter and being difficult to understand storytelling-wise for such a young audience.
To cut it short, the guy (who remains nameless) didn’t even ask about the titles, but said that OF COURSE they had rules, categories and that they had “specialists” from many different areas, like psychologists, teachers etc. who spent even HUNDREDS of hours playing the games…and that it was totally fine having murder and homicide in a 0+ game…because it’s about the context.
Yeeeeeah, riiiiight. So as he didn’t really know any of the games, I asked him if games like the Anno series weren’t a bit too much for children to comprehend or even play. His answer: “The rating system is only a recommendation if it’s suitable for that age, but at the end of the day it’s up to the PARENTS.”
Riiiiiight, so what about parents who trust this rather arbitrary rating system and don’t have the time to read games magazines to inform themselves about the actual content of the games (BTW, even the back of the box of Last Window informs the potential buyer about murder and betrayal, so one doesn’t even have to play it to know it’s not for 0+ year olds)? Oh, and if we’re at it, what did he think of the PEGI system?
As I heard rumors it would replace the USK and be a unified rating system for Europe, I put him to the question, especially since PEGI actually gives the parents some indications what to expect in the games (violence, language etc.) and not just a number with no explanation at all.
His answer: It’s problematic because apparently there’s a list of features which is given to the publishers who then check it and write down what they think is in the game, therefore having a game on the shelves without anyone else checking again.
Yeeeeeeah, riiiiight, so if I would be a publisher, I wouldn’t give Ace Attorney: Justice For All a 12+ rating (as it’s done in the UK), but go for the 0+ which it received in Germany. So there’s definitely something wrong in the state of Germany.
After being cut off rather rudely by the guy ignoring my questions (I wasn’t aggressive or anything, I just wanted to have some plain answers, like two years ago), the conversation was over…

Closing hot comments
So was the hottest and longest day in Cologne at the Gamescom 2012 (even though the heat was kept outside of the halls), with some pretty interesting titles to watch for in the near future, some retro fun, and some rating system which will hopefully soon be a thing of the past in Germany.

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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