Let the games begin
Gamescom is brilliant. Not only is it every bit the (very loud) European answer to E3, but in many ways, it's also better. Justin has filled you in on the many, many reasons that the German expo is the cooler show to be at, but for the dedicated craver of game-facts, one factor rises above all others. While E3 is the place for reveals and exciting flashy trailers, GC is where you get the meat.
If a big game was announced or shown off in LA, you can guarantee that it'll have a bigger, deeper, more detailed, and altogether more exciting appearance in Cologne. And this year, with new-gen really kicking off, there are a lot of big games to be excited about. Which are the most exciting? These ones. These are the games that myself and Mr. Towell will be most readily investigating when we go over there next week (though of course there will be loads more), so click on and check out exactly why this stuff a big deal, as well as the new content we expect to see.
Assassin's Creed: Unity
Gamescom is in Germany. Germany is in mainland Europe. So is France. Ubisoft is French. You can guarantee that the House of Rayman will have a big showing at GC. And nothing on its booth, or flickering on the screens of its behind-closed-doors demos, is going to be bigger than Assassins Creed: Unity.
The big reveal was at E3. That means that Gamescom will be all about depth, detail, and probably even more decapitations. And itll be playable too. Also, dont be surprised if theres a particular emphasis on female characters in any and all demos and trailers shown.
Assassin's Creed: Rogue
Hmmm, a new Assassins Creed has been revealed. A special, self-contained one for last-gen machines, with a new setting and a new lead character. But how to quickly whip up publicity, just a few short months before its November release? If only there was a Oh yeah.
Rounding off the North American period of the series just in time for the launch of the fresh, French Revolution saga in Unity, Rogue sounds like a mighty interesting prospect, regardless of its aged release platforms. What are we going to see at Gamescom? Almost definitely a big gameplay demo showing off just how the hell the games arctic environments are going to lend themselves to ACs traditional, scampery gameplay, as well as info on the newly upgraded ship battles and the games turncoat Templar lead. Exciting. That is what it will be.
Far Cry 4
Youve seen the E3 gameplay demo. You know why everyone is excited about Far Cry 4. Gorgeous, colour-drenched Himalayan environments. A cranked up, more fluid-looking iteration on Far Cry 3s cerebral, tactical skirmishes. A lunatic in a dapper pink suit. Weaponised elephants.
Mortal Kombat X
Right now, Mortal Kombat is in the best shape its been for years. Probably ever. Coming off the back of 2011s rather accomplished reboot, Mortal Kombat X looks like one hell of a meaty follow-up. Not just in the obvious sense, but in how its rapidly expanding upon the last games already solid groundwork.
Its predecessors excellent, narrative campaign mode is being cranked up a notch or several, now playing out over two different, eventually connecting time periods, spread over a 20-year gap in order to introduce the descendents of the original cast. And then are the combat additions weve already seen, such as environmental hazards and advantages, a la Nethrealms DC Comics fighter, Injustice. MKX also seems to be grabbing full advantage of the newfound freedom resulting from the series story refresh, getting seriously creative with new character designs. The two-for-one combo of Ferra and Torr alone(?) looks to throw MKs traditional fighter tropes right out of the window.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Its been far too long since we had a proper, full-sized, big-budget game from F.E.A.R. and Condemned developer Monolith Productions. The Washington-based dev has a fantastic reputation for building detailed, atmospheric, powerfully affecting, and intricately stylised experiences, but over recent years its only notable output has been the Batman-themed online shooter Gotham City Imposters.
Thats going to change in September, with the release of Shadow of Mordor. Seeing Monoliths sumptuous world-building talents unleashed upon Middle-Earth, Mordor looks like one of those games that unashamedly combines elements of multiple existing big-hitters (in this case the likes of the Arkham series, Uncharted, Splinter Cell and Assassins Creed), while blending them into something wholly polished and satisfying. It also looks real, real purdy on new-gen consoles and PC. Early experiences with the game have certainly been rather positive, so keep an eye on Gamescom next week for even more.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Last year, we saw how The Witcher 3s vast (and I mean, stupidly vast) open-world, procedural weather, and dynamic monster hunts are going to transform the flow of the series core gameplay. This year, we expect even more. The game is still a way off, releasing in February 2015, but given its ludicrous scale, theres still far more to talk about in the meantime.
Expect a bigger look at the games expanded (but streamlined) combat--particularly the new ranged hunting--an oglesome look at some new areas of the staggeringly large (like, 30 times larger than the previous game) world map, and without doubt a new mission demo showing off some manner of horrifically ambiguous moral quandary that almost certainty wont work out well for everyone. Or maybe even anyone. The Witcher is like that. Its brilliant.
Lords of the Fallen
Dont write off Lords of the Fallen as just some Dark Souls rip-off. While the dark, action-RPG is undeniably inspired by From Softwares masterwork--like milkshakes are inspired by milk--it looks like there are more than enough twists, turns and tweaks at play to provide an entirely new flavour of the familiar recipe.
Headed up by the Producer of the excellent The Witcher 2, LotF is being described as an RPG soup, unashamedly lashing its influences to a banner while proclaiming that it will deliver not a familiar retread, but a heady remix of all the best games youve played before. With other influences as diverse as Street Fighter and Tekken, we could be looking at one of 2014s most interesting RPGs.
It might have been knocked back to 2015, but dont think that Evolve wont be a big deal at Gamescom. If anything, the delay will ensure that 2K has to make this appearance resonate. Given the size of the beasts and blasters involved, its bound to.
Effectively Left 4 Dead meets Godzilla, with a side order of Cthulhu for good measure (mmm, calamari), Evolves smart, but accessible, class-based co-op balances team tactics against really big fucking monsters. All of that has already made it one of this years most surprising, refreshing and entirely bombastic new-gen announcements. Its been an absolute hoot every time the GR teams has played it, from reveal to E3, and its Gamescom appearance is bound to scale things up marvellously.
If you played the beta, you know why this is exciting. Hardline is an urban, cops n robbers-themed Battlefield from Dead Space studio Visceral Games. We already know, first-hand, that the multiplayer is a tight, controlled frenzy of tactical aggression. Emergent set-pieces explode at every level of the city, from its streets, to the heady heights of their bordering skyscrapers. But for once in a Battlefield game, the single-player campaign sounds like it might match up to the online action.
Visceral is promising a story mode much more in-line with the kind of gameplay Battlefield is lauded for. Were getting branching paths. Were getting spiralling objectives, with multiple strategies and means of attack. The whole thing sounds delightfully non-linear, and if Visceral can blend that approach with its traditional flair for pacing, then we could be looking at a modern Battlefield game that finally delivers the whole package. And well very probably find out if thats the case in just a few days.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
After two damnably strong entries, Dragon Age is seriously stepping up a gear for its cross-gen threequel. Bigger (BioWare has aggressively researched existing open-world games such as Skyrim), freer (customisation has been given a potent shot in the arm, with all gear now moddable to your hearts content), more tactical (the strategic combat camera is a standard option for all versions this time), and far, far more beautiful (just look at it), it appears to up the Dragon Age concept to levels never seen before.
Youll have far more power over the evolution of the story as well. Youre playing the head of the Inquisition during a civil war, and so have the ability to wreak havoc on the worlds layout and fortunes on a case by case basis. With the promise of a less linear, much more open-ended story to boot, you really will want to keep an eye on this one at Gamescom.
BioWare has a new franchise on the way. Its being unveiled at Gamescom. The path to that reveal has been paved by three live-action teaser trailers, unified by the title Youve been chosen. All three seem to contain young people with some manner of super powers, suffering the fallout from their abilities in various, vaguely disturbing ways. Beyond that, we know nothing, though the name Shadow Realms has been bandied about in file-names related to said material. EA trademarked that name a while back, so its a good bet. Also a good bet is a collaboration with Fallen London and Sunless Sea developer Failbetter, which said that it was working with BioWare in February.
But either way, a new BioWare Game. Apparently set in the real world. And quite possibly as creepy as Satans own balls. Thats exciting, isnt it? Yes, yes it is.
Initially unveiled as a--probable--last hurrah for PlayStation Move (remember that?) on PS3, Until Dawn has since been bumped to the PS4, Supermassives title is a teen-horror tinged, survival scare-frenzy, set around the archetypal woodland cabin populated by variously irritating youth-types. The original pitch was that the aforementioned motion controller would be used as a flashlight when exploring, passed between characters over the course of the game. With Move seemingly non-existent within Sonys future strategy, don't be at all surprised if the game has been heavily retooled during its absence, to focus instead on the capabilities of the DualShock 4.
Beyond that, we know very little. However a new, untitled Gamescom teaser trailer has just arrived from Sony, depicting a close-up of a snowflake and a fairly conspicuous blood spatter. Given Until Dawns wintry setting, Id say that makes it pretty definite lock-in for a big press conference showing.
The Order: 1886
Gamescoms demos are going to be pretty damn crucial in determining how excited we should be about The Order. Ready At Dawns historical monster shooter looks drop-dead, new-gen lovely (still one of the few games to really show up the new-tech difference), but is that at the expense of gameplay? Early demos have so far been very, very focused around canned set-pieces and pseudo-interactive, scripted events, almost feeling like a weird hybrid of Gears of War and Heavy Rain.
New content at Gamescom, though, will surely give us a much clearer picture of whats really going on here. Is it a real shooter? Is it an interactive movie with occasional shooting? Has it been retooled into the worlds first, high-def moustache grooming simulator? Well know within a week.
Talk of Quantum Break thus far has been limited, and almost entirely focused around the games relationship with tie-in TV content for the Xbox One. But theres one major reason to look beyond your yawns at yet another Microsoft multimedia innovation and take this game very seriously. Its the newest creation of Remedy Entertainment. Remedy made Max Payne. And Alan Wake. Big, clever and interesting is the studios calling card through and through, and the latest addition to its pantheon is having its door blown off for the first time at Gamescom.
GC will host the games first proper, full reveal, most probably at Microsofts press conference on Tuesday. Its going to be a very big deal, if not the centrepiece of the whole MS show. Its been a while since Microsoft dropped an exciting, shiny, brand-new, first-party exclusive, so you know its going to be out to impress with this one. Hell, given Remedys track record for strong, innovative narrative, maybe the TV tie-in will even manage to be worthwhile too (maybe).
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Yes, its another Call of Duty. Yes, there are a lot of them already. No, this one probably wont be a radical reinvention of the series, akin to rebooting The Human Centipede as a mismatched buddy sitcom. But based on its E3 reveal a couple of months ago, it does look rather interesting.
Skipping the story and world set out in Ghosts in favour of a new sub-series and newer-than-new, futuristic setting, its also the first CoD to be fully developed by Sledgehammer Games, Activisions answer to EAs Visceral. Sledgehammer even boasts several of the Dead Space teams original members. Its also the first Call of Duty to get a three-year development period rather than the usual two. All of those differences are already showing fruit, by way of new-gen spectacle (the real thing this time; sorry, Ghosts) and an intriguing, fast-paced sense of verticality--alongside some exciting, rangey tactical play--resulting from the natty new future-tech on show. Call of Duty? Fresh? Dare I use those words in the same sentence? Well find out soon.
Lust auf mehr?
Of course those aren't the only games that'll be at Gamescom. In fact they're not even the only games we'll be seeing. But I reckon they're not a daisy-chain of hype to getting on with. But perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps there are other games that you utterly demand to know more about from GC, above any and all others. If so, let me know in the comments. What are you looking forward to seeing more of next week?
And while you're here, check out some of our related content. Gaze in terror at The 33 absolute WORST photos from Gamescom 2012, then start looking forward again, with Andy's discussion of Why Microsoft should (and will) go big at Gamescom 2014.