Ubisoft's decision to include a multiplayer mode in Ezio's latest adventure was both unsurprising and fairly exasperating. Publishers seem to be pushing an online multiplayer component on every decent singleplayer experience, and when I was invited to try out a few rounds of AC Brotherhood's new competitive gametype, I was genuinely expecting a tacked on little distraction.
Well shut my mouth. As it turns out, it's really rather good.
Rather than a straight deathmatch, Brotherhood's 'Wanted' mode is a microcosm of the series' most satisfying singleplayer kills. You'll choose your character from a selection or archetypes that resemble the gormless peasants that mill around the expansive city maps... and will be tasked with hunting. You'll be given an picture and a rough compass locator- but since there are plenty of identical NPCs to blend in with, you'll need to closely watch the characters for any signs of suspicious behavior. Sprinting, climbing or pushing through crowds is a sure indicator of your human opponent- and you'll need to approach them without alerting them to your presence (preferably dispatching them with a diving assassination stealthy crowd infiltration).Read on... and discover how the hunter becomes the hunted!
The four hour Gamescom queue for Diablo III is true testament to how gamers revere Blizzard's epic loot-grinding series. Whilst I was luckily able to bypass the lines and get behind the scenes, I was still a little nervous at getting to grips with Diablo's long-awaited return. Imagine meeting an old flame after several years of loneliness. Diablo III is basically designed to emulate the same balanced, beautiful and beloved gameplay of the franchise while making the experience more accessible and graphically capable... and from what we've seen, it's shaping up to accomplish exactly that.
Let's start with the basics. Clicking on an enemy moves your character in for the attack, with the right mouse button used to trigger a spell or skill. Using the numbers and function keys allows players to hotkey their favourite spells, though two frequently-used abilities can be mapped to the Tab key for easy selection in a hectic skirmish. The classic inventory screen and skill points system makes a welcome return, with the familiar red and blue globes informing players how much health and mana they have left.
So far, so Diablo II... except that several new features make the title much more user-friendly and accessible this time around. Enemies frequently drop health and mana orbs that replenish the player on-the-fly, meaning that we can stay in the fight for much longer before needing to haul ass back to town. A new checkpoint system also replaces the need to respawn back in the nearest safe city after death, which simply puts you pack on track when you die (although there will apparently be a gold or durability penalty when the final version goes gold).Read on to get to grips with Diablo III's most niche class!
When it was reaffirmed that Dragon Age 2 would be arriving in March 2011, across the top-end consoles and PC simultaneously, the audience of assembled journalists, bloggers and lucky enthusiasts erupted into applause. BioWare's next-gen take on classic, Tolkien-esque fantasy may have floundered around a bit in the last eighteen months trying to forge an identity of its own but its surprisingly compelling characters and storyline provide have earned the series a pretty big following.
Understandably, BioWare and EA are looking to see if they can strike gold twice with a sequel that Lead Designer Mike Laidlaw assured us had taken into account the feedback from the fans. Accumulating and sifting through, letters, forums posts and emails – an experience Laidlaw described as 'pretty humbling' – BioWare claim to have made 'improvements driven by the public' for instalment number two.
With that in mind, Laidlaw outlined three areas from the original that the development team have been heavily focusing in on, directed by the fan feedback: Graphics, Combat and Story. Dealing with complaints relating to the first game's visual style – or less diplomatically, that the console version looked like the backend of a boar with bowel issues – Dragon Age 2 is having something of a graphical overhaul. Although not terribly evident in the pre-build we were shown, the game has lost some of the photo-realism and looks to be striving for something a little more stylised.
Click here to read more...
What's there to say about Gran Turismo 5? You've all seen the trailers. You've all complained about the wait. You've all made your minds up about whether or not you'll be buying it. Still, you'd all moan if I came from Gamescom without getting some quality time with Yamauchi's epic racer... and suffice to say, it's shaping up to be the best pure racer ever. For better or for worse.
Yamauchi brought the latest code along to the show (since the team will be polishing it right up to the wire)- and clambering into a comfortable pod with a force feedback steering wheel, I finally began to see what all the fuss was about.Click here to get to grips with the "real driving simulator"!
Spec Ops: The Line has only made the barest of dents in our gaming news up to now, but since I was able to get to grips with the pre-alpha build without any preconceptions, I was able to appreciate Yager's upcoming title on its own merits. It's a third-person shooter set in the cataclysmic ruins of Dubai after a series of massive sandstorms reduced the city to a lifeless desert... and though it's still taking shape, it's easy to see what they're driving at.
The story and setting is more than a little confusing, but here's what we know. Playing as grizzled lieutenant Martin Walker, you'll lead your team into the supposedly sterile environment to find a couple of missing Spec Ops squads... only to find that their commanders have gone full-on Apocalypse Now crazy. They're both carving out their own kingdoms and exploiting the terrified looters and inhabitants to do so.
The demo started in the destroyed ruins of an opulent hotel. Destroyed beauty has provided the art style for many many shooters, but Dubai provides a jarring contrast between the opulent hotels and arid sand dunes. Seeing crystal giraffes next to decaying bodies and genuine squalor is an obscene take on Dubai's massive class disparity. A falling mercenary shattered a recessed fish tank, showing off some seriously impressive glass effects even at this early stage.
Traveller's Tales are one of the few developers that successfully marry accessible family fun with a deep respect for their source material. Their Lego titles, while prolific, are also intensely capable in their own right- but many are worried that their newest Lego Star Wars title might be a step too far for the franchise. With every film now well and truly covered, Lego Star Wars III only has the Clone Wars CG television series to draw upon... and even though I'm a fan of the franchise, I was still a little worried about the new setting.
After half an hour of one-on-one time with the latest build and Traveller's Tales Producer Nick Ricks, I'm almost certain that this will be the best Lego Star Wars title yet. If not the finest work that Traveller's Tales has produced to date.
The first thing you'll notice about Lego Star Wars III is that it's running on a brand new engine. Characters and backgrounds enjoy a new lease of shiny high definition life, featuring realtime lighting, impressive texturing and a physics engine that allows Lego pieces to realistically roll around. Ricks explained that they'd moved the camera much closer to the action in order to create a cinematic feel- and by doing so, have managed to fully immerse the player to the characters and action. It's a much more visceral experience this time around.
I managed to get hands on with GoldenEye a few weeks back at the Ninty showcase day in London and wasn't terribly impressed and, as you may have noticed from his preview, neither was Jon. I'd like to say that it was the Wii holding it back, but frankly I think the idea was kind of doomed from the start. Bond fans shouldn't fear, though, because Bizarre Creation have teamed up with Eon Productions and Danjaq to try and provide a Bond experience that punches above the middling-to-average quality the series has languished in since Rare's heyday...
...and it's looking pretty good.
Echoing Everything Or Nothing, which really didn't suck all that much, Blood Stone 007 is shaping up to be a pretty varied third person shooter, with a good deal of interesting and promising parts to it. 'We really wanted to create a cinematic experience. Bond has this incredible history and it meant a lot to us as a British studio...I mean every little boy wants to grow up to be James Bond,' suggested Bizarre's Neil Thompson.
That's all well and good, but words don't necessarily make a good game. Thankfully, Bizarre have a few things up their sleeve. For starters they've turned to acclaimed Bond writer Bruce Feirstein for a script which sees a secret biochemical weapon go walkies along with a missing researcher. Of course Bond is tasked with finding out what the hell is going on and so, teaming up with Joss Stone's steely socialite Nicole Hunter, and jumping through a bunch of locales from Bangkok to Athens, he proceeds to get on with it, wading through a bunch of terrorists led by a man named Greco to do so.
Bizarre might seem to be an odd fit for Bond. The Liverpool-based studio are, after all, far more renowned for titles such as Geometry Wars, Blur and Project Gotham Racing. The secret to this game, however, lies in 2008's The Club, but whilst the team working on Blood Stone might be highly similar, the arcade, point-scoring style of the former has been replaced by a 'much deeper shooting experience'.
Click here to find out how Blood Stone 007's shaping up...
As a Monolith fan, I was genuinely interested to see what Warner Brothers have in store for the F.E.A.R. Franchise. The news that cooperative mechanics would playing a huge part this time around both intruiged and worried me- and luckily, I was granted some hands-on time with the demo and a handy rep to answer a few of my questions.
Let's kick off with the player characters. As you probably know, F.E.A.R. 3 casts you into the role of two psychic clone soldiers, each of whom hate each other but grudgingly need to rely on each other's unique abilities.
The Point Man, as you'd expect, is all about direct combat. He's skilled with firearms and hand to hand combat- and naturally his slow-motion enhanced. This slowed perception also allows his co-op partner to operate in bullet time for the duration of the effect, which provides as well as providing a fair few achievements. He doesn't really offer anything new or exciting, but you can still rely on the Point Man to bring a hail of lead and devastating slide kicks to the party.
Fettel, on the other hand, is a much more interesting combatant. Whilst he can throw weak bolts of psychic energy at his foes, he's extremely vulnerable in open battles and needs to rely on his seriously impressive unique ability. Holding the left trigger while targeting an opponent binds him with a leash of twisted psychic hate... and a single button jab subsequently allows you to leap into your enemy and control them from within. Whilst possessing an enemy Fettel can shoot, equip weapons and take cover just like the Point Man- so considering that he offered the best of both worlds, I took control and started the demo with the WB rep backing me up.
I've remained fairly sceptical about Eurocom's reimagining of Goldeneye for some time. Rare's cult classic is a truly important milestone that deserves nothing less than reverential treatment- and cloistered away in Activision's trade booth, I was able to get some hands on time with an unfinished preview build of the upcoming shooter so that it could make some important first impressions. The Bond pedigree is undeniably top-notch, with Goldeneye's original writer Bruce Feirstein recalled to update the script to a 2010 setting. Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench provide the voice acting... so in theory, this ought to be a dead cert.
Goldeneye's singleplayer campaign will apparently last around 8-12 hours, and has four difficulty settings that include the original arcuate life bars rather than regenerating health. Eurocom have been tasked to build the maps around the “temple of player choice.” The level on show is simply titled 'Jungle,' and was fittingly set in the dense forests of Nigeria (updated from Cuba, which provided the backdrop in Rare's 1997 version). Players can choose a mix of action and/or stealth to complete each mission, with Bond able to shoot his way out of dangerous situations once his cover is blown. As the rep proudly stated, “Bond doesn't instafail missions.”
There are quite a few games we've seen that seem to be 'getting back in touch with their roots' – Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Mortal Kombat, absolutely anything by Nintendo – and here comes another one. Driver is coming back, and it's getting properly nostalgic too. There'll be none of this getting out of cars guff – well not in any tangible sense of thins anyway – this one's going to be all about high speed car chases and reckless endangerment in amongst the movie driving haven that is San Francisco.
Jack Tanner is back, as is his nemesis Mr. Jericho, for a game that's stripped back the diversions of poor Atari's effort to deliver an experience that's truly dynamic, aggressive and balls-out fun. That's the idea anyway. It's already running at 60FPS, although as this was an early build it was pretty ugly throughout, but hopefully that'll get polished before the end.
As the demo started, Tanner jumped into a car and started trying to run down his adversary, using the long tail-light blur as a useful device for keeping close and staying on his six. Weaving in and out of traffic, sending pedestrians running and boxes and binbags flying was all well and good but we could see it getting old pretty quick. I had to stifle a yawn. It was only 11 am.
But then they surprised us with a new gameplay mechanic called Shifting.
Much like an Agent in the Matrix (why the hell hasn't there been a game from their perspective?!), tanner can actually shift from car to car at the push of a button. With over 120 licensed, fully damageable cars in the game (including the DMC DeLorean), it would seem that the four wheeled world is his oyster. Spot a car within range and Tanner will defy the laws of physics and teleport himself behind the wheel of the new vehicle. How? Why? We don't care. It adds so much to the game.
Click here to read the rest of Matt's article...
I love Guitar Hero.
Plastic guitars and raucous drunken nights played a key role in defining my university experience, so naturally I was keen to try out Neversoft's upcoming addition to the series. Both World Tour and GH5 suffered from attempting to emulate Rock Band and losing a dedicated singleplayer aspect... and disastrous 2009 sales forced Activision to rethink their publishing strategy. Warriors of Rock is therefore set to be the only main Guitar Hero title of the year... and by playing to the franchise's strengths, it's shaping up to be absolutely incredible.
Guitar Hero has gone back to its roots: strong guitar tracks, ridiculous solos and the feeling of genuinely being a guitar God in your own living room. The concept of starting a band and working through a world of themed setlists has been well and truly handled by Rock Band, so Warriors takes an entirely different tack. A massive and accessible freeplay mode allows any combination of instruments to take part in a cooperative and competitive gametypes- and an entirely new singleplayer mode allows solo rockers to engage in a deep and unashamedly silly campaign.
The graphics engine remains unchanged, but the gauges have been moved directly onto the scrolling neck of the guitar. It's less cluttered and more accessible than before, with players able to ambiently view their star power without taking their eyes off of the action. The window for hitting notes correctly is still refreshingly wide and avoids the “come on, why didn't I get that one” moments that Rock Band's twitchy inputs frequently provide.
Well this one came as a surprise. Sat in a specially-mocked-up fin de siècle lounge surrounded by walls of rich mahogany and ensconced in what might be the most comfortable leather couches in existence, Jon and I prepared to witness a developer demo of Bioshock Infinite a mere eight days after Ken Levine announced its existence. Turn of the century light fittings hung from the ceiling, fake leather-bound books adorned bookcases towards the back and period propaganda posters hung from the walls, the largest of which screamed 'For God and Country...It Is Our Holy Duty To Fight Against The Foreign Hordes'. Someone had clearly gone to town on this.
Felix's preview from last week highlighted the plot details revealed by Ken`Levine but here's a quick recap to follow that trailer.
The setting is Columbia, a floating city meant to have been a beacon to the world showcasing the undeniable power of America's ideals and ingenuity at the turn of the century. Unfortunately, its vast potential as a weapon (a 'floating Death Star if you will' as Lead Artist Shawn Robertson described it) led to massive factional infighting as idealism and altruism turned to oppression and nationalism. But this is not the faded, destroyed beauty of Rapture, oh no. Columbia is still colourful, living, breathing and vibrant, which makes it all the more sinister.
The year is 1912 and you play Booker DeWitt, an ex-Pinkerton Agent living in disgrace. He's approached by a mysterious man who needs him to track down a woman named Elizabeth for him. She's currently in prison on Columbia and is incredibly powerful, positioned at the centre of the civil unrest - half the populace want her freed, the other half want the key thrown away.
Thus Booker finds himself in Columbia, with assistance from the mysterious man, after all Columbia has been lost for years. Our demonstration began about a third of the way through the game: Booker has found Elizabeth but they've just become separated again.
You may have read my NBA Jam preview from last month and, if you did, you'll know that there are two games basically responsible for my childhood pre-Goldeneye, both of them delivered by Midway. One of them is the aforementioned, cartoonish basketball game that spawned the phrase 'Boomshakalaka!'...the other is Mortal Kombat.
Though I can appreciate them and have spent a lot of time playing the wealth of instalments that both seasoned series have birthed, I can't say I've ever been a huge fan of Street Fighter or Tekken, although I have bought every single iteration of Soul Calibur (number two kicked butt largely thanks to Necrid). It's always been the OTT, tongue-in-cheek uber-violence of MK for me. Mortal Kombat II remains, to this day, one of my favourite games of all time.
It hasn't always been the most reliable series. Deadly Alliance and Armageddon flirted with some rather bizarre, and under-developed, questing elements, and the fighting system became confused and muddled as it tried to keep up with the new wave of 3D beat-em-ups. Even favoured fatalities went under the knife at one point, Armageddon instead opting for a mediocre finishing set that had you create your own, significantly less satisfying conclusions to battle.
But, from the ashes of Midway's demise, has finally emerged something of a phoenix. Mortal Kombat is back...and we spent some time at Gamescom finding out exactly why it looks to be something of a triumphant return.
Click to here to find out why....
Treyarchs's upcoming Cold War shooter has attracted a lot of attention thanks to its original story and the controversy surrounding the Infinity Ward debacle. Many critics are currently unsure of whether Black Ops can truly deliver a bona fide Call of Duty experience, so in order to settle the issue, Activision were more than happy to show off a developer walkthrough of two previously unseen levels. I'm delighted to report that our time in the steamy jungles of Vietnam shows off a title that's on course to be more ridiculous, much bolder and infinitely more brutal than any CoD seen to date. Since these are genuine gameplay levels, expect some spoilers along the way. Also, Activision weren't allowing any photography or filming in their trade area, so apologies for the lack of footage.
The first mission, entitled Victor Charlie, literally started in the Huong River on Febuary 5th, 1968. Sergeant Mason, the player character, wakes up in a radidly submerging helicopter that's been downed by enemy anti-air defences. Stumbling forward to help the injured pilot, the riverbank erupts with a hail of gunfire that kills the unfortunate aviator and causes the helicopter to slip even further into the murky river water.
Luckily, this allowed us to take a look at one of Black Ops' new features: the ability to swim underwater. Prying the door open, Mason freely swum through the silt and grime, surfacing behind a boat attached to a jetty. Using a context-sensitive click of the right thumbstick, he grabbed a hapless Vietcong soldier from behind and used him as a human shield while gunning down a squad of soldiers on the river bank. Incoming bullets slammed into the unfortunate meatshield, with showers of blood pluming from his torso and a twisted grimace clearly visible on his face. A slow-mo bullet camera sequence picked out the last kill in gory slow motion. This was unfortunately a scripted set piece rather than a free combat ability ...but make no mistake, Black Ops is out to emulate the visceral, cinematic of its predecessors and deliver even more 'I can't believe that just happened' moments.
Square-Enix are branching out of late. In fact, ever since the company formed they've rather enjoyed surprising people. No longer are Square simply 'the guys that do Final Fantasy' they're trying new things, entering into publishing contracts in new areas, and now, for the very first time, they're about to release their first Western RPG.
Not that they're developing it in-house, no that role is going to Obsidian, a name that RPG fans should certainly be familiar with as the studio behind Neverwinter Nights, KOTOR 2 and, of course more recently, Fallout: New Vegas. It's the first collaboration between the two RPG factions and they're pretty sure that they've managed to work together, using Gas Powered Games for consultancy purposes, to produce a game that will stay faithful to the series' action-RPG roots whilst also incorporating some rather interesting new elements as a result of bringing the series to home consoles.
The demonstration we were shown used the Xbox 360, showcasing the Guardian class, one of six unique playable classes that will all have different styles, different moves and abilities and slightly different stories. Sounds a bit like a certain BioWare RPG involving origin stories and dragons? Yeah, I thought that too. If you've been following Dragon Age Dungeon Siege since inception, you'll know all about the disgraced 10th Legion. Well, a century on, they're attempting to restore some of their former prestige, and you're right at the forefront of it all.
Click here to read the rest of Matt's preview...
And now for something completely different. Regular followers of my weekly XBLIG roundups will be aware that I'm a militant promoter of Indie Games, and this hasn't changed just because I happen to be surrounded with flashy booths and titanic publishers here at Gamescom. The Indie scene is one of the last true bastions of creativity left in the gaming industry after years of reprocessed sequels- and it doesn't get any more independent than Gotland University. It's a Swedish game design school that holds an annual student competition, and as such, they're free to explore new concepts and art styles without constraints from publishers and the sequel culture. The competition winners have the opportunity to show off their wares at Gamescom as well as various cash prizes... and frankly, they've crafted some immensely promising experiences. Pay close attention, because these three unsung games are quite unlike anything else you'll see in the show.
Developer: Northern Gate
The Indie scene isn't short of a few hand drawn sidescrollers, but Pawns is a thing of genuine beauty. The art style and meticulously crafted graphics are both colourful and incredibly detailed- and I'm not exaggerating when I say that it gives Braid a run for it's money. A huge amount of blood, sweat and tears has clearly gone into Pawns' presentation... and every drop of it is clearly visible.
Gameplay-wise, you control one of two champions sent out by mother nature to punish mankind for their destruction of the planet. Each of the characters can draw on two of the four seasons; with the Stone guardian capable of summoning wintery blasts and life-restoring trees whilst his companion wields raging sunbeams and autumn wind. The brawling action is fast and furious, requiring fast fingers and two-player cooperation to succeed.
I can't really express just how excited we were by the Deus Ex: Human Revolution trailer. I know I know, it was just a shiny CG movie that seemed to have very little bearing on actual in-game experience, but it was so utterly gripping, flush with steampunk design, intricate cybernetics and brutal takedowns that it was almost inevitable the video ended with me shouting 'This is a thing that I want!' Today we were privy to a brand new developer demonstration of the gameplay and so, perched on the edge of our seats, we awaited something akin to a gladiatorial verdict. Would it prove thumbs up, fulfilling our weighty expectations and making good on the visual promises in the trailer; or would, perhaps the more likely verdict, we walk out of the presentation with disappointment in our hearts.
As it turns out, it pretty much blew us away.
I've been playing a lot of shooters at this year's Gamescom- and will be playing a whole lot more before the conference ends. Quite frankly, I was starting to crave something other than bleak wartorn environments and noscope headshots... so when Nordic Games invited me along to try out the new Robbie Williams-branded version of We Sing I was genuinely looking forward to the breath of fresh air.
After picking my way through the bewildering labyrinth of lavish industry booths and suited figures behind the Business Centre doors, I was shown into the Nordic centre booth with low expectations and a creeping sense of dread. However, I'm delighted to report that I left with a beaming smile on my face. After some hands on time, a dignity-smashing singalong and a developer chat we're convinced that it's almost certainly worth checking out by Robbie fans. And to be honest, it's a guilty party pleasure in its own right.Click here to read on... if you're a Robbie Williams fan!
Portal was arguably one of the most surprising things to come out of The Orange Box. I mean we all knew Half-Life 2 was going to be good, but no-one was really prepared for just how stunningly inventive and utterly captivating Valve's little mind-bending puzzler would be. The few videos from E3 were enough to send even the most casual of fans into a flurry of forum debate and we got to see a little bit more at Gamescom.
First of all, Wheatley, the comically-English hovering sphere that serves as something of a sidekick during the continuing adventures of Chell, is now voiced by Stephen Merchant. As we meet him he's cracking up because he's been incorrectly informed that turning on his own flashlight would kill him, after realising that's not true he calms down and floats along merrily beside you, insulting you accidentally one moment and endearingly apologising the next. Frankly, it's good to see his West Country burr being put to better use than advertising Barclays.
GLaDOS is back...and she's a little narked that you tried to kill her. Just as gloriously sinister and childish as before, she figures that you're actually the same...except you managed to kill her and she needs to return the favour. Cue a whole new array of perils to navigate, only this time you won't just have the Portal Gun and the Companion Cube to help you out.
This video was all about the goo, of which there are two types we saw in Portal 2: red and blue. The latter - Repulsion - is useful for bouncing around. Redirect one of the streams that come pouring from the walls and ceiling onto a surface and it immediately becomes springy which ,as the video demonstrated, is useful for dropping sentry guns onto and sending them flying.
A friend of mine, let's call him Bob, was venting at me the other day about how he felt that music games, far from encouraging people to pick up and play real instruments or listen and engage with different styles of music and new artists, were the sort of thing that the devil would lock the bathroom door for if he had an upset stomach. He felt that such games as Guitar Hero and Rock Band stifled and sapped creativity, taking up time and increasing amounts of money that could be better spent actually going to gigs, buying music, talking to bands and doing the thing for real.
He might have a point...but, then again, you don't get Achievement Points for strumming along to Sweet Home Alabama down your local pub, although that barmaid you've been eyeing up might agree to finally go out with you.
Def Jam Rapstar is about to change that and, on top of that, it might be the most surprisingly impressive game we've seen at Gamescom yet. Encompassing the last thirty years of hip-hop with 45 tracks including the vocal stylings of such artists as Dre, Snoop, T.I., Kanye West, A Tribe Called Qwest, Run-DMC, Method Man, not to mention localised tracks for the four countries in which it's being released, it's striving to be not just the premier hip-hop game out there, but also hoping to set a benchmark for the music genre.