To step onto the show floor on Press Day at Gamescom is to experience the calm before the storm: the lull that comes ahead of a quarter of a million people over four days. Of course, up in the meeting rooms it was anything but calm, with journalists and suited businessmen scurrying frantically to and fro, desperately trying to remain faithful to a packed schedule of appointments on the first day of the show. We were no different in this regard. Having shared our highlights from the array of press conferences yesterday, here's a brief look at some of the best things we saw from Wednesday.
Eagerly anticipating a behind closed doors action regarding Capcom's official announcement of Remember Me, one could have been forgiven a pang of disappointment at its no-show follow up in Cologne. However, visiting Capcom this morning did bring the opportunity to finally try out DmC and see if it actually warranted the suspicion/scepticism/vitriol/cautious appraisals that its been treated with ever since Ninja Theory relaunched Dante as a swaggering teen with the cheekbones of Eddie Redmayne.
Happily, a spot of hands-on delivered an impression that may hopefully allay the fears of some series fans out there: setting aesthetic opinion aside, the game really does play like in a manner befitting its title.
Ninja Theory have proven that they can do combat – Heavenly Sword was evidence of this. Unfortunately, Enslaved rather indicated that they could also create a game that, for all of its strengths, failed in the action department. A Devil May Cry game needs to be slick, it needs to be responsive, you need to feel both empowered, but constantly alert to the creatures around you – aware of your own substantial ability to deal out damage in a variety of cool and acrobatic ways, but also wary of the dangers that the demonic beasts around you can pose.
For the most part, though, it looks as if Ninja Theory have done their homework. It's not like Capcom have given them completely free rein; the Japanese publishers know only too well the damage that this might do to the series and their own financial resurgence should the game prove a flop, and although the look of the game might herald a brave new take on the character of Dante, fans should rest assured that from what I saw of the game today, the have little to worry about when it comes to gameplay.
To be honest, though, the highlight of the day was finally getting to grips with 2K's two big offerings here in Germany. As Jon has repeatedly stated, Borderlands 2 is frankly shaping up to be one of the best games of the year, and we got a chance to dish out some serious damage with the ultimate class unlocks in today's demo. The Siren's new Thoughtlock feature, though not a new concept in itself, is fantastic, turning the tide of many a battle by persuading enemies to briefly join your ranks for a bit. And if you kill your possessed slave, the Thoughtlock bubble simply floats on towards a new victim while there's still power left in the bar.
Perhaps the hero of the day was the ultimate power for the Commando, though. Roland's trusty turret (now handed over to Axton)has been pimped mightily this time around, with the new ability to retrieve it boosting skill recharge time, and the nuke option – causing a minor mushroom cloud whenever you deploy your sentry gun – particularly handy for clearing out foes that have crowded together in numbers. The Mechromancer looks interesting too, with certain traits providing new gameplay opportunities. As our demonstrator pointed out, the shotgun suddenly becomes a wildly different weapon when the individual pieces of shot start ricocheting off walls. Rest assured that we'll be covering the newer features shown to us in far greater detail when it comes to the full preview.
A final word on Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown. In short, it's fantastic, and the multiplayer mode proved particularly satisfying. One of the QA reps suggested that there'd be 30-40 hours of single player material – a lofty claim that remains to be seen – but the point is clear: this is a huge game, and the additional PvP makes it an even more attractive prospect. Playing on Xbox 360 was a surprisingly pleasant experience,with the turn-based strategy undimmed by the lack of a mouse. It's a game that I couldn't help but feel would have been ripe for Move functionality, but such a suggestion was quickly dismissed.
There's so much more to talk about as well – with Revengeance, Warface, Deadpool, and PES 2013 all shining – but you'll have to wait for our full write ups over the coming weeks. Roll on EA, Sony, Bethesda, and more tomorrow!
Highlight of the Day: Outflanking a member of Firaxis' QA team in XCOM: Enemy Unknown's multiplayer, before the rest of my team was annihilated through Chrysalis zombification.
Disappointment of the Day: That I had to stop playing Metal Gear Rising.
Weirdest Moment of the Day: Deadpool breaking out in song in the middle of an elevator in a target's base.
Ratchet & Clank: Q-Force has been a bit quiet on the old hype machine, thanks to Sony still not getting the hang of the whole marketing thing, but R&C is still one of their most consistent games series. Tower defence is the latest element to be introduced to the sci-fi gun slinging platformer. Smashing up crates and aliens for bolts funds construction of your defensive turrets. This stage involved protecting a central zone from invaders attacking from multiple paths. Don’t worry, it’s hardly an RTS and you can still run around and enjoy the familiar action, it’s just a case of planning for backup in advance. Sadly, I didn’t see any new weapons today, but trying the game out in 3D was better than I expected. Admittedly, I had to run right into the greenery and mess around with the camera to get a decent angle to appreciate the extra depth.
Marvel Heroes wasn’t exactly topping my excitement list initially as I’m a console gamer. However, after playing the free-to-play title, I’m certainly eager for more. I can quote the excitable developers as saying it’s like: “Marvel meets Diablo on Steroids.” Rather than instantly dumb down a strong comic back catalogue by forcing you to make your own hero (yes, we’re talking to you DC Universe Online) you’ll be free choose your character from a list of Marvel do-gooders. Playing a four-player co-op mission today also revealed that you can all choose the same character which will stop any mad scrambling at the character select screen. The action may be simple SDF and mouse-click attacks but the random attacks from boss villains looks set to keep you on your toes. Any loot you see on-screen is only visible to you, meaning that you can pick up anything you see without worrying about greedy bastards stealing it from you. The devs are aiming to optimize the game for low end PCs too which could make this a very viable option to players new to the genre.
The Unfinished Swan was a presentation I slipped into just to kill time and it turned out to be one of the best things I saw today. Playable with the Move controller or a pad, this first-person game begins with you stranded in a completely white screen until you decide to start pressing buttons, which will eventually unleash your paint ‘gun’. Firing globs of paint creates black splatters against white solid objects previously invisible in the white world. This is how you make your way through the world and the contrasting imagery is startlingly sharp. Further stages revealed other abilities like firing water bombs to encourage vines to grow, creating a route for you to climb. I’m fully aware the game could get old fast with what could be a repetitive mechanic, but at least it seems to be something of an original concept. Ok, it did remind me a bit of De Blob 2, which also encourages you to fire paint everywhere, but this is a bit classier.
Highlight of the day: Defeating Magneto before my co-op teammates had even arrived at the fight in Marvel Heroes.
Disappointment of the day: Finding out that PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale is a bit... (check out my hands-on preview soon).
Weirdest moment of the day: Wondering why LittleBigPlanet Karting had stolen ModNation Racers’ lengthy load times.