Gamescom Round-up – Day One

Over the next few days we’ll be bringing you detailed impressions of everything we’ve played and seen today. For now though here’s a quick summary of what we’ve witnessed at Gamescom on the press day.

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The Games

Peggle 2 (Xbox One)

Incredibly faithful to the original, I was slightly dubious of having this as my first next-generation experience. It managed to remind me that good gameplay trumps graphics or fancy features any day. This is Peggle, it’s a little prettier, but it’s just more Peggle, and that’s a brilliant thing.

Castle of Illusion HD (360)

Much less faithful to the original, rather than a razor sharp animated style as featured in Rayman Origins/Legends, the developers have decided to go for 3D but with the gameplay forced into 2D. The game was old-school platforming at its most formulaic and the poor frame -rate and resolution really didn’t help much. It might be best to leave Castle of Illusion in your memories.

Battlefield 4 (PC)

Although it was almost constantly crashing and behaving strangely, we managed to get in pretty much a full round of Battlefield 4’s new mode – obliteration on the Paracel Storm map. Water plays a huge role in this map and that was probably the biggest change from Battlefield 3. Everything felt a little faster and the second-screen integration is going to be quite a big deal for many, but the game wasn’t quite the huge step up that would warrant a new number.

X-Com: Enemy Within (PC)

An expansion to the excellent X-Com strategy game, Enemy Within introduces mechs, supersoldiers and more powerful aliens into the mix. Everything shown off had a legitimate use that really changed the strategy of the game such as a needle grenade that obeys cover so can be directed away from your men even in close quarters. I also got an assurance from a developer that when it says you have a 99% chance to hit, that really is the case, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

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Forza Motorsport 5 (Xbox One)

While queuing for Forza I wasn’t all that impressed. The graphics are pretty, particularly now they’re in 1080p60 (or what appeared to be that to my eyes), but not spectacular. The cars look like slightly nicer versions of the old ones. As soon as I started a race though I suddenly discovered something amazing – the force feedback triggers. Feeling the accelerator rev under your right finger and the brakes trying to lock under your left is an experience that’s hard to describe, but works perfectly. This technology is huge and Microsoft need to be making a bigger deal of it. As far as I know Forza is the only game using it so far, but I fully expect FPS games to follow suit.

Killer Instinct (Xbox One)

After expectations were set low with the initial reveal, Killer Instinct is a surprisingly fun beat-em-up. It’s easy to come back from a near-thrashing with a spectacular combo but it’s definitely not about button mashing. Careful fast strikes are what’s needed and the depth to it might attract a wider audience than initially believed. I’m all for only paying what you use in a game so I like the idea of buying the characters you want, I just hope the multiplayer infrastructure is ready to encourage competitive play.

The Crew (PC)

The Crew is a reasonably bland racing game that also appeared to crash on me after a minute or so of play. Similar in feel to the newer Need for Speed games it didn”t appear to have any real defining qualities of its own. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to go back to it over the next few days to see if it can impress us.

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Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Multiplayer (PS4)

As with any multiplayer modes it’s hard to get a sense of the game from a single round where no-one knows what they’re doing, but it was interesting to see that graphically it wasn’t too far away from AC3, despite runnng on next-gen hardware. It’s at a higher resolution and framerate, but I feel we’ll be waiting for AC5 to get our true next-gen Desmond adventure.

Kinect Sports: The Rivals (Xbox One)

Everyone’s waiting for proof that the Kinect 2 can live up to Microsoft’s claims, and Kinect Sports will be that proof. It worked flawlessly on the show floor, with no noticable input lag and  a fairly spectacular character creator that scans you in. While many may pine for the day Rare returns to more mainstream games, they are undoubtedly masters of the Kinect technology and it shines in this title. It’s also a lot of fun.

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Call of Duty: Ghosts (Xbox One)

As a word of warning to anyone attending Gamescom this weekend, the queue for Call of Duty is much longer than it originally appears. They have the signs up for five hours waits already on standby and I get the impression that they’ll need them. At one point in the queue you sit in a cinema to watch a trailer you’ve been watching on repeat through most of the rest of the queue. Bring a 3DS or something. Thankfully, the games is worth the wait. With a brand new mode (Blitz), a new character creation method, plenty of new weapons and killstreaks as well as some interesting new maps, Call of Duty is going through its biggest change since Modern Warfare. It feels more action-movie-esque than previous entries but that might not be a bad thing.

The Elder Scrolls Online (PC)

I was thoroughly surprised by TESO. It doesn’t feel like a WoW clone, it feels like an Elder Scrolls game. Specifically it feels like Skyrim but with other players and a slightly less interesting combat system serving as the requirement for being an MMO. The quests were interesting, the locations were spectacular and coming across other adventurers felt natural and organic. Definitely one to keep any eye on as it moves towards release.

Need for Speed Rivals (PS4)

Not to be confused with Kinect Sports, the newest Need for Speed game takes the best bits from Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted (the recent one, EA need to find a better way of naming games) and merges them into a coherent whole. The handling felt better and more arcadey than in previous entries and the open world allowed for seamless transition into races and pursuits. A brilliant Need for Speed game in the making.

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

Sadly this just felt like Mario Kart. While Mario Kart is amazing in its own right, some iterations feel like a real revolution and a move forwards. The gravity-bending tracks do nothing to change up the gameplay and while the crisp graphics will make the definitive Mario Kart to have, it’s sad that Nintendo haven’t been braver and changed things up more.

The Hardware

Xbox One

Firstly, I was stunned at how large the console is. Although every one we saw was behind a glass case, it looked huge. The materials all appear high grade and give it an impression of value and the light on the front is much more subtle than the notorious ring of light on the 360.

The controller was smaller than we’d imagined and although it felt solid, it was definitely lighter (possibly due to the absence of a battery pack on the demo units). Despite being in slightly different positions, accessing all of the buttons is easy and they are all of a higher quality than the 360 pad’s. The analog sticks felt a little odd, being too thin and too tall making it surprisingly difficult to get used to during a round of Call of Duty. They’re also much more sensitive, which may be a plus in many peoples’ eyes but it’s going to take some practice to make it feel natural. Of course it has the massive advantage of those triggers. The force feedback is incredible in Forza, and the actual feel of the triggers in general is a leap beyond the 360’s springy bits of plastic. They appear to slide inwards with just enough tension to make every movement deliberate and responsive. They’re perfect basically and the slight wing-shape effect they have simply gives you more of a choice of how to grip them.

Performance wise everything we played appeared to be running at 1080p60 but my eyes could be deceiving me, there wasn’t a glitch or issue but loading screens were long on every single title. These are early units still so that might be due to their debug nature, hopefully it won’t translate over into the real thing.

Playstation 4

We haven’t actually seen a PS4 yet, hopefully that will come tomorrow. So far we’ve simply been using the controller, and it seems like many of the games using the controller are actually running from a PC (Need for Speed for example). The controller is a huge improvement over the Dualshock 3 which I hated with a passion, and where it not for the odd stick placement (I prefer the staggered 360 pad approach) I may even prefer the feel in the hand to the Xbox One’s slight lack of mass.l The light on the top is going to get annoying (it’s very bright) but other than that it’s a great mad that might convince us to buy multi-platform games on the PS4 for once!

In terms of hardware, it’s hard to judge as we don’t know what many games were running on. Some look exceptionally plain (Knack and Driveclub) but this could be the game’s fault rather than the console’s. We’ll do some analysis once we find something that is definitely running on the console and get back to you.

 

Game of the Day

Although Forza impressed me a great deal, that was possibly more due to the amazing triggers than the game itself so instead we give the award to The Elder Scrolls Online where Bethesda have proven that the impossible is possible. They’ve translated the Elder Scrolls into an MMO and it doesn’t suck, it’s actually really good. Well done to Bethesda!

So that’s it for today. We’ll be bringing full previews soon and over the next two days we’ll be seeing TitanFall, Destiny, Dead Rising 3, Ryse, Knack, Infamous: Second Son, Killzone and much more so keep checking back for more hands-on impressions.

 

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