Com one, com all!
And here we go! Gamescom, the games industry's other big expo, starts tomorrow in Cologne, Germany. We're going to have a bigger GR+ contingent than ever before out on the show floor, scrambling for demos and nodding sagely through press conferences, and even more of us covering the show from our respective offices all over the damn planet. It is, without doubt, going to be a big deal.
But enough about us. You know what's more important? The actual games. And oh boy, are there a lot of them this year. To help you stay focused, as Gamescom news starts hurtling into your face at a rate of knots over the next week, we've compiled this handy and delightful list, running down the biggest and best titles getting a fresh showing this year, alongside what we reckon we're specifically likely to see. So without further ado, click on to start with probably this year's biggest game of all, and then proceed to hype yourself silly over the following pages too.
Fallout 4 made its grand debut just before E3 2015, but now that the warm glow of long-rumored confirmation is fading - maybe that was just all the radiation in the first place - it's time for Bethesda to get down to brass tacks. For all the combat, story, and building demonstrations, we've still only seen a fraction of The Commonwealth (AKA post-apocalyptic Massachusetts). Here's hoping that Fallout 4's Gamescom presence will include a grand tour of whatever's left of downtown Boston, The Institute, and places beyond.
Star Wars Battlefront
We've only been waiting a decade to return to massive Star Wars battles, so there's absolutely no pressure for EA and DICE to put on a good show at Gamescom for Star Wars Battlefront. An impressive E3 demonstration bought it some time, but we've still only had hands-on play sessions with the Battle of Hoth multiplayer map and some of the co-op survival missions. Snow speeders are great, but it's speeder bikes or bust at Gamescom.
Mirror's Edge: Catalyst
By rights, Mirrors Edge: Catalyst shouldnt exist. Faiths first parkour adventure came smack in the middle of EAs late-00s rush of original single-player games, and while it earned a fervent following of loyalists, it never found mass sales success. DICE has bucked the odds and returned to its beautiful dystopia, doubling down on what made the original great and fixing its flaws. Not many got to play its gun-combat-free demo at E3, so thankfully Gamescom will give us a fresh shot at its free-running pleasures.
Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
There aren't too many shooters out there that are appropriate to play with your kids or younger siblings, so Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is like a breath of fresh air from the typically violent genre. It has all the hallmarks of a good team-based military shooter, but with wacky zombie scientists, peashooters, and a plant that swallows enemies whole. The first Garden Warfare came out of nowhere last year and surprised us with its charming take on the genre, and the sequel looks to expand on those ideas, giving us new plants, new zombies, and new modes to continue the eternal struggle. It's not reinventing the wheel, but it will have a zombie pirate named Captain Dreadbeard.
Dark Souls 3
Unexpected but very welcome, Dark Souls 3s E3 announcement was quite the surprise, given that series mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki seemed to have moved on with this years Bloodborne. But the man is back, directing the third entry of the series that shot him to (relatively) mainstream fame, promising a game that will add the last bits of refinement to an already almost perfectly honed series, before he evolves it in a new direction in years to come. A new, more aggressive combat style - likely inspired by Bloodbornes much less defensive approach - compliments DS traditionally methodical play, with new combat stances putting players, literally and figuratively, in a better position to take the initiative. Expect to see both combat and story - such as it is - fleshed out more at GC.
Destiny: The Taken King
This is Destiny 2.0. The next major chapter of the story starts here, with Hive god-king Oryx waging all-out war on the galaxy. The core gameplay gets an overhaul, with highly modified Taken variants of every enemy species appearing to remix and rework expected combat behaviours completely. As for the new content? Theres loads. Destinys biggest, most ambitious raid by far. New sub-classes for all Guardian types, with brand new Super abilities. A raft of new story and strike missions, and side-quests, making up a whole new campaign. Remixed versions of existing strikes, a bunch of new Crucible maps, and whole new PvP modes. And of course, a sizeable level-cap increase, alongside big changes to the levelling system. Its not so much an expansion as a full, game-wide reboot.
Final Fantasy 15
Final Fantasy 15 has had a good long while to incubate. While most other games in the series have had a two or three year development cycle, FF15 has been under construction for a full ten years, so long that the developers had to abandon the original title because 'Versus 13' is so 2013. Yet it's managed to beat back every cancellation rumor, emerging with a new, meaty demo last March, and now its cast of boyband hopefuls will be strolling nonchalantly into Gamescom 2015 as well. It's uncertain exactly what we'll see - something brand new, or the same demo with a few improvements - but when a game's been kept hidden from the public for over a decade, any sign of life is a good one.
Assassin's Creed Syndicate
It's that time of year again: the Assassin's Creed train is rolling into the station, and coincidentally, it's bringing a few extra trains along for the ride. Assassin's Creed Syndicate is set in 1868 London, just as the Industrial Revolution is just getting underway. That means a slew of new toys to play with, like fully drivable carriages, a grappling hook, and steam trains that our Assassin protagonists can use as mobile fight platforms. And that is protagonists, plural, because Syndicate stars a pair of Assassin twins who you can switch between as you desire while you explore open-world London. Each has a unique fighting style that emphasizes different ways to approach the Assassin's Creed model: Jacob goes in fists flying, while Evie has stealth assassination on lock. Evie has kept to the shadows in most promotional material so far, but Gamescom promises to finally shine a light on how she operates. We suspect there will be much stabbing.
Rainbow Six Siege
Expect more info on the competitive portions of Rainbow Six at Gamescom. Weve already seen Terrohunt, and the regular 5vs5 online modes, but nows the time to learn about more traditional PvP stuff. We already know about the one-life-and-youre-out team deathmatch options, but expect far more - especially considering Siege is betting its entire hand on being an online-only outing. Will we see some kind of objective-based multiplayer modes, that split the main games missions into individual slices of play? Very likely.
Homefront: The Revolution
The path to Homefront's sequel has been tumultuous, but if publisher Deep Silver can keep believing, so will we. Homefront: The Revolution is set in the year 2029, where the armed forces of the Greater Korean Public have shifted their focus from the western United States to an East Coast occupation, with Philadelphia as the linchpin. Rather than playing as yet another seemingly invincible super-soldier, you're an everyman member of the local militia, using guerilla tactics to get the upper hand in the fight against your oppressors. It's an intriguing spin on near-future warfare, and if you're partial to strategic flanking and indirect combat against an enemy with superior firepower, The Revolution could be right up your alley.
The original Crackdown will forever be known as "that game that you bought because it gave you access to the Halo 3 beta but that's okay, because it turned out to actually be pretty fun." Its an open world adventure hopped up on comic books and steroids, allowing players to leap over buildings, sprint at superhuman speed, transform cars, and more, all wrapped up in an incredibly compulsive levelling system. Basically, the more you did of X, the cooler X became. A new developer took the reigns for Crackdown 2, but couldn't replicate the joy of the original. Series creator David Jones is back for this third installment, so we'll be watching closely to see if lessons have been learned.
Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
It's been a rocky road to release for Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, but in less than a month, none of that will matter, because Big Boss' final, vengeful chapter of the Metal Gear saga is almost here. The Phantom Pain represents the culmination of years of tactical espionage action, applying the series' trademark stealth gameplay and absurd attention to detail to a pure open world. Players can sneak through massive environments, recruit soldiers by hilariously launching them into the air with balloons, and build and customize their own mercenary empire. Konami's giving The Phantom Pain one last hurrah before release at Gamescom, providing the first chance for the public to play the game before it hits retail on September 1st, and we can't wait to check it out.
Halo 5: Guardians
The jurys still out on Halo 5, but that only makes this weeks Gamescom appearance more exciting. We know that, while the core shooting is resolutely Halo, the new, Destiny-style focus on aerial play, verticality, and powered-up melee makes the overall combat flow rather different. Weve seen a campaign demo at E3 that had more in common with Call of Dutys scripted, AI-driven spectacle than Halos usual emergent, player-driven combat. But weve also seen great things in Warzone, Halo 5s large-scale, multi-objective multiplayer mode, which blends PvP with campaign-style tasks over a vast, vehicle-strewn battlefield. Despite what weve seen elsewhere, it feels like a rallying cry for all that Halo has traditionally been about. Surely Gamescoms showing will focus on cementing further reassurance? Well see in a few days.
Everything has been turned upside down in XCOM 2. The aliens have won, and Earth now rests in the palm of their hand. Humanity is undergoing complete subjugation, and XCOM itself has been labeled a rogue organization. After suffering greatly during the initial stages of the invasion, XCOM has reinvented itself to combat the exterrestrials' dominance. Its a faster, leaner strike force that hits hard before flying off into the night in a totally-not-from-the-Avengers helicarrier. From half-human, half-snake mutants, to sword-wielding XCOM troopers, and the fresh ability to carry injured soldiers to safety, there are a ton of next features to get excited over in XCOM 2.
The sequel to one of last-gens most under-rated action games, Mafia 3 has immense potential. The follow-up to an initially confusing, but ultimately excellent crime epic - Mafia 2 is effectively a sumptuously realised linear tale, played out against the arrestingly atmospheric film set of a pseudo open-world city - it remains to be seen whether Mafia 3 will maintain its predecessors focus or opt for a more traditional free-roaming structure a la Grand Theft Auto. Our hopes are for the former, but either way, if new developer Hangar 13 can maintain 2K Czechs affecting characterisation and atmospheric world-building while handling the new games apparent four protagonists, we could be looking at one of the most interesting actioners of the next couple of years.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
While Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a worthy restart to the classic series, it dropped a few balls here and there. Prescriptive, combat-only boss encounters, limited hub areas and less than stellar open-combat Square willingly admitted to all of these transgressions at E3. Weve already seen examples of a far improved fighting system, bringing this up to spec to most modern FPS-es-es. Weve even seen a boss fight ended with nothing but a quick chat. Hopefully, Gamescom will expand on this promise and show us a real-life version of the game were all imagining. Only maybe without the weird bit where 1000 dancing Adam Jensens break out into New York, New York. That bits probably just us.
Everything IO Interactive has said and shown so far of Agent 47s latest outing is perfectly pitched for fans of well-paid global contract murder: huge levels rammed with hundreds of NPCs. Multiple routes, options, disguises and weapons. The thing is, weve really only seen the promise so far, by way of one mission set in massive fashion show in a Paris castle. The scale and ambition of that setting alone is daunting, but what we havent really seen yet is any action. Squares got to be planning some decent gameplay demos, taking in at least a couple of radically different example hits at Gamescom. And there are all the interesting, online enabled, dynamic challenge features to expand upon too.
More than two years after making its E3 debut, Avalanche Studios Mad Max is finally ready to grind players into the blasted pavement of its post-apocalyptic wasteland. The PS4/Xbox One demo at this years E3 offered a taste of what its like to customize Maxs Magnum Opus, the loving name for his custom war-ready roadster, but didnt provide much of a look into how the story plays out. Gamescom comes just weeks ahead of the games release, so the experience on the show floor will be close to the full, dusty, violent thing. Fingers crossed its a lovely day.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
As a proof of concept, the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot was a resounding success. Launching to nigh-universal acclaim and the highest sales ever in the series' history, Tomb Raider showed how to do right by a character while taking things in a new direction. The team at Crystal Dynamics will have to prove that its vision is no one-hit wonder, and Rise of the Tomb Raider (currently) looks to do exactly that. With current-gen power rendering its exotic locales, and the promise of bigger, more elaborate tombs to raid, it's got us anxious to see and learn more.
This temporally focused sci-fi shooter's gone through some time distortions of its own, being pushed back into 2016 to give it some breathing room away from the Christmas heavy-hitters. That's no bad thing - Max Payne creator Remedy has been releasing high-quality, low-expectations chunks of action for 20 years now, and Quantum Break looks like a natural evolution of its best work, incorporating MP's chronologically-disturbed shoot 'em ups and Alan Wake's more considered fantasy narrative. Following Jack Joyce on a bullet-riddled journey to find out why hes suddenly gained time-altering powers (and including an in-game live-action TV show about the bad guys that shifts depending on your actions), it should play out like Life is Strange colliding with Hard Boiled. By which I mean: it should be really, really cool.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Call of Duty: Black Ops is back. Considering the previous two entries were also two of the biggest money makers in Activisions indefatigable series, a third BLOPS is no surprise. What is surprising is how magical and absurd this entrys Zombies mode is. Gamescom represents an early, welcome chance to dive into all that Jeff Goldblum, all that Ron Perlman, all that Heather Graham starring Zombie campaign action that Treyarch has somehow squeezed into what used to be a pretty stone faced military series.
Its time to see how the latest NBA 2K plays. Expect the answer to be slick as hell, especially if Visual Concepts has made the necessary tweaks to defence and in-game presentation that fans have demanded. Its unlikely well see the new Spike Lee-made story mode at Gamescom, as the MyCareer stuff is usually held back until REAL close to launch, but for those hungry to know whats in there, expect some info to dribble out of the event. Yeah, yeah, the pun is intentional. Oh, and there should be info about the much-maligned online, and still-not-quite-ripe MyTeam modes too.
Double-yoo tee eff is Scalebound, anyway? No one knows, and that's why it's so fun to speculate! All we can do for now is extrapolate based on what we've seen in the announcement trailer, and there is a lot going on there: giant monsters, dragons, medieval weaponry, magic, wireless headphones and a human with a transforming set of scale armor. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit of all, however, is Platinum Games being listed as the developer. This is the studio behind games like Bayonetta, Vanquish and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, some of the biggest and best action games of all time. Okay, Platinum also made Legend of Korra and Anarchy Reigns, so it's not a flawless record, but hopefully the backing of Microsoft as publisher will ensure a quality product. Only time - and Gamescom - will tell.
Mother Russia Bleeds
If you put Streets of Rage, Hotline Miami, and about 16 pints of blood in an industrial-sized blender, the resulting mess would look a lot like Mother Russia Bleeds. This wildly violent, side-scrolling beat-'em-up is being published by Devolver Digital, which has a track record of picking up cream-of-the-crop indies. And after MRB's savage debut during Sony's E3 2015 press conference, we're excited about getting our hands dirty, bruised, and possibly broken when we jump into the fray at Gamescom. It's not just the excessive pixelated brutality that has us intrigued, mind you - we're hankering to see what those drug-induced manias, gimp-suited enemies, and toilet-based executions are all about too.