It’s now almost a year since the Gamescom took place in Cologne, and the next one is almost around the corner. If you’re asking yourself what happened to the coverage, then I’d have to point you in the direction of Future Sack on Facebook where I tried to post hot news and infos during my visit. Unfortunately, the internet connection and battery of my phone didn’t often agree and there simply wasn’t enough time to fill in all the information. Being on my own also didn’t help to speed up things, and after a week full of running to and fro with lots of carrying stuff, some major back problems hit me. Not to go into further details, but suffice to say that it could have run smoother and better.
With a lot of press appointments, developer interviews, the amount of information and video cutting has been enormous. Add more review copies than one guy can manage, and you have yourself something of a problem. Fortunately, the latter has been taken care of with multiple reviews being published in the past weeks and months, while the former is slowly taking shape. I thought it would be an interesting idea to work my way backwards through all the venues I visited and then arrive somewhere where the whole interviewing started (actually back in 2012).
So grab your gaming head(gears) and gamepads and see what was all the rage last year, starting with the public areas on August 25 in 2013. As the number of photos has increased while writing the article, I’ll give you this one day in parts, which will probably be better for your internet connection and more structured, although it still looks a bit like a photo gallery, but with pretty interesting impressions.
A crowded and cloudy start
It started very cloudy, but was already quite crowded with the arrival of hundreds of people coming by train from various directions.
The main entrance was already closed off, but luckily getting in with a press badge worked wonders, although the number of people waiting to enter the premises spoke a different language.
Hands-on with the Xbox One and Xbox 360
The good thing about getting through first and knowing where to go is that once inside, the crowds already dispersed, and catching a first glance at Microsoft’s Xbox One was much easier than later in the day.
With the arrival of each new console, there’s obviously the craving for AAA products, i.e. reasons to buy it. Unfortunately, the titles on display weren’t indicative of its power and the games’ quality, with casual puzzler Peggle 2 and arcade racer LocoCycle being two games which looked and played rather last-gen.
There was still enough life left in the old Xbox 360 with Lego Marvel Superheroes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, How to Survive, Castlevania 2: Lords of Shadow, The Bureau, Saint’s Row IV, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and Lost Planet 3.
I only played a bit of How to Survive which wasn’t anything special outside the survival-horror-zombies top-down action adventures the indie community puts out on a regular basis (even so common that I don’t even remember a single significant gameplay element to stand out), then some turtle action which was fun but again didn’t offer anything particularly exciting in terms of visuals and gameplay.
The same held true for The Bureau whose only special selling point were the team-based cover shooter mechanics which didn’t always work due to some unresponsive AI and difficulty spikes.
Only Castlevania 2 held my attention for longer, although not necessarily because of unique gameplay or aesthetics, but because it was just bloody violent button-smashing fun. Of course, all these titles have already been released, and looking at the individual scores, they might not be the best of the last-gen lot.
Still, being able to play them without queuing for hours was quite a relaxing experience.
A PS4 no show, but all PS3 and Vita go go
Unlike waiting for getting hands-on impressions with the PS4…
Fortunately, Sony’s other consoles still had some life left, so it was time to see what the PS3 and Vita had to offer. The handheld might have struggled or is still trying to find a foothold in today’s mobile-gaming centric industry, but it’s clear that indie games and innovative play styles were in high supply, highlighted by titles such as Atomic Ninjas, Thomas Was Alone, Metrico, and Tearaway.
The first one was frantic arcade platforming action fun…
The second one has already appeared in various indie compilations and is quite simply a wonderful puzzler with very good and hilarious storytelling.
The third one was also a platform-puzzler, although I can’t remember for the life of it if it was anything special. Still, with indie gaming, you usually can’t go wrong with the Vita.
Tearaway has to be given the most credit for being a wonderful-looking and uniquely playable puzzle-platformer which puts the Vita controls into the best use I’ve experienced so far. Not only do the visuals impress, the way how one interacts with the paper-cut world and solves imaginative puzzles, makes this one of the highlights and will most definitely get the review treatment here soon.
A bit of indie plaforming-action with a 60ies James Bond-style theme could be experienced in the entertaining Counterspy: Last Breath for PS3.
Casual gaming fans were pleased to play either crime-story-with-storybook-characters adventure game Wonderbook: Diggs Nightcrawler (which has already been reviewed and given a 7.5/10) or Wonderbook: Book of Potions which looked more like the same of Wonderbook: Book of Spells (which has also been scored a 7.5/10).
Even more accessible was Wonderbook: Walking with Dinosaurs, although people walking were more of a problem as they passed by and made communication between the Move controller and camera difficult. This is something Sony should take into consideration next time they set up the booth. It didn’t help much either that one could barely understand the voice instructions due to the general noise of the Gamescom. Still, it was clear that the simple mix of educational text and mini games seemed to be the next logical step for Sony’s Wonderbook series.
A more mature audience was targeted with The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls, two titles which have already been released to critical acclaim (although the latter seems to be quite controversial in terms of gameplay). While David Cage’s fictional drama could be enjoyed on comfortable plush sofas…
… Naughty Dog’s survival horror was played in a much stranger environment.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t play either of them, but with so many great review scores and the way how people were queuing and captivated, it’s safe to say that Sony’s console still has a lot to offer. This was also made clear when taking a seat in the front row of an old cinema-like booth in order to play the PS3-exclusive The Puppetplayer, a puzzle-platformer with a unique paper-theater-puppets setting which came even more to life with the 3D glasses. It was only too bad that the annoyingly loud speakers from a booth next to it made it a pain to actually play for more than a couple of minutes.
To be continued…
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