Tag Archives: gamescom

For Honour Hands On Preview (Gamescom)

There’s something unusual about being asked if you’re a knight, a samurai or a viking while you’re sitting on the floor of a convention centre in Cologne, but without thinking twice I replied ‘Viking’. Really this was just so they could give us a little wristband and a free t-shirt, but it started to get people a little excited for the demo. Sadly we were only going to be playing as knights vs knights in a 4v4 game of domination. But what a game it was.

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Much like domination in other games, there were three points and you could capture them by standing in a circle on the ground. Unlike other games, there’s also a war going on while you’re trying to do this, specifically the siege of a castle. Hundreds of AI infantry and piling into each other at B, with the attacks trying to break a door down and the defenders trying to stop them, while at A and C reinforcements were coming in and you could get a good overview of the central battlefield. The sound production and visuals were spectacular and it really felt like this was a dynamic battle. Your main opponents are always the other players, but sometimes you need to clear out an objective and wading into the ranks is entertaining and relatively safe. My character also had an ability that inspired the other soldiers MOBA-style, letting them surge forwards and take the objective for good.

Unlike other games, the way to win wasn’t simply to get more points. Once you reduced your enemy to less than a 1000 points (gained by killing players and holding points) they went into retreat, and if you kill the players, they’re dead for good. This means once a side goes into retreat it’s a mad rush to track the players down and end their lives before they can rally up and capture a point, gaining more points and allowing their teammates to respawn.

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The controls are worthy of note as the first time third person melee combat has been done well in this kind of game. You lock on to an enemy with the left trigger. You then choose your stance by moving the right stick in one of three directions, corresponding to left, right or top. If the enemy attacks while in the same stance as you, you’ll block them. If you attack when they’re in a different stance, you’ll hit them. There’s fast and strong attacks, as well as a kind of throw where you shove an enemy away, breaking their block altogether for an ally to strike them before they recover. If you hit them enough you open them up for an execution, which wins you some more points and looks pretty cool.

In our game (we only had one as the queue was possibly the most ridiculous in all of Gamescom) we absolutely destroyed the enemy, with me getting 18 kills and not dying once thanks to me getting to grips with the combat system before the others. Once you have built up a certain score you can use extra abilities, from heals and the aforementioned inspires, to a full blown bombardment from off-map catapults.

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We can’t wait to play more of ‘For Honour’ and will bring you more news and impressions as soon as we get a chance!

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The Curious Expedition Hands On Preview

It feels like during the early PC/Amiga days there were plenty of games about arriving in a new and unusual place, exploring it, and managing your camp. For a long while that genre was lost, with only occasional jokes about dying of dysentery in the Oregon Trail to mark it’s existence. With the indie revival of the last decade there’s definitely been a resurgence in interest in this kind of procedural strategy-heavy game, and The Curious Expedition is one of the most interesting we’ve seen so far.

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In a strictly single-player affair, you choose an explorer (from a cast of famous faces including Darwin and Marie Curie) with their own unique perk, and then you choose to go off and explore a location. At it’s heart, this is exploration for exploration’s sake, although you do often get offered extra missions like finding a deserter or delivering a missionary to a village. You pack your bags (buying things like dynamite, whisky and marbles) then you set off.

Every game is essentially the same in terms of set-up. You’re on a hex grid and spawn in the middle of nowhere. Around you there might be jungles (hard to cut through), mountains (impassable without dynamite), hills (hard to climb but giving you a good view) and interesting features noted by question marks. They might be villages, old camps, caves, shrines, or even the golden pyramid which is your goal in each stage. You click on a hex to move and can set up a route, and you will see how much sanity it will cost you. You see sanity is the main resource in the Curious Expedition. Money is useful, but you’re always going to end up running out of sanity eventually. Every movement costs some, and fights or making bad decisions might cost more. Walking through fires or being chased by villagers or animals is devastating, and the only ways to get some back is to rest somewhere safe or use some of your resources, like whisky or chocolate, to make your group feel better.

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On your trip to find the golden pyramid (which lets you leave) you are trying to do things like capture butterflies, paint locals, collect artifacts, or simply learn more. Obviously some of these things, like stealing artifacts from temples, comes with a cost. Villagers will grow wary of you or even violent, sometimes even more radical things happen like causing devastating climate change or starting a flood or fire. Rather than being a game about finding the best strategy, this is a game about decisions, and being the kind of explorer you want.

You might start with high principles, never stealing and never angering the locals, trying to be morally righteous in your peaceful exploration. But then what if you’re running desperately low on funds to the point where you know you can’t afford another expedition, and there’s a gold statue right there next to the golden pyramid. Stealing it couldn’t hurt. Could it? Or if your team has been savaged by a tiger and you need more people to carry things back, but the only option is a nearby slaver’s camp. Is it ok to bring slaves back?

Every expedition turns into its own story and we haven’t had many dull ones in all our time with the game. From finding ourselves lost in prehistoric lands to causing a flood that destroyed an entirely peaceful region, it’s always exciting, which is saying something for a turn-based pixel-art game. The graphics are more than functional, they’re reminiscent of the exciting worlds of Monkey Island and the early settlers game, dripping in charm and information at the same time.

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At the moment The Curious Expedition is available on Early Access and we’d say there’s already plenty enough game to warrant the £10.99 asking price. If you’re fond of strategy and happy to face the possibility of permadeath when your expedition is picked apart by bears, starvation and forest fires, we say get it.

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Call of Duty Black Ops 3 Hands On Preview (Gamescom)

It’s almost become an annual ritual now, spend the first hour of one day of either Gamescom or Eurogamer Expo (EGX) to go queue up for whatever the new Call of Duty is. Knowing the queues will be much longer later, never expecting much from the game, then being pleasantly surprised. This year was no different, we can’t wait to play Black Ops 3 again.

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The demo we were treated to was a simple match of Kill Confirmed followed up by a Team Deathmatch. We could select from a small choice of operators (Call of Duty’s new classes that have a special ability each that charges up to be used at various points in the game) and we got to play on two separate maps. I used one operator who could launch nanobot mines, they would latch on to any surface and then kind of deny an area, if you went too close to them the nanobots would swarm and attack you. Another had a bow and arrow. This has a ridiculous amount of autoaim so as long as you are vaguely looking at an enemy you will find them and kill them. This allowed for some amazing looking shots where people would leap into the air, spin around and kill two people before landing, but I get the impression this might end up being nerfed somewhat.

Gameplay wise it was very similar to Black Ops 2 crossed with a little Titanfall. Movement is less chaotic than Advanced Warfare and much more ground-based, but you can still do a little boost to climb up somewhere higher or even wallrun for a surprisingly long time. This means you still need to be aware of more verticality than we were used to with older CoD games, but you don’t have people bunny-hopping all over the place. The new weapons all had weird names but very quickly you could identify them as the new SCAR, the new AK, the new M4. Time to Kill seemed exactly the same as Black Ops 2 to us, it wasn’t instant, but if someone got the drop on you, you’d probably be dead before you could turn around.

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Killstreaks were mostly the same as in previous games, a lucky care package scored me a carpet bomb at one point which seemed devastating in the tiny map we were playing (it killed the whole enemy team) and UAVs and anti-UAVs were rampant. The little remote control cars also make a return, but it seems they can now jump to get to better vantage points.

The most striking thing about the game was the colour. This is the polar opposite of Homefront with it’s muted greys and browns. Black Ops 3 is unbelievably colourful and bright and every element of the map was detailed and interesting. The map design itself was curious, with some bottomless pits in the center of the map that could be traversed with some clever wallrunning. They definitely haven’t strayed too far from what makes CoD great, but they’ve brought in enough innovation to keep it fresh.

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We’ll bring you more after the beta which launches next week so stay tuned! (Or favourited, whichever you prefer, leaving a window open all weekend is a bit weird).

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Homefront: Revolution Hands on Preview (Gamescom)

We liked the first Homefront. The story of North Korea uniting Asian countries and going on the offensive was a little silly, but fighting a guerilla war on the streets of the USA was an interesting twist and the multiplayer was refreshingly creative and had some great suburban maps. So we were excited to play the new Homefront at Gamescom. The booth was one of the more lavish at the show, with barbed wire fences, a destroyed building, and armed guards patrolling the queue. The guards pushed anyone who stepped out of line and occasionally stuck their guns up at people when provoked. Sadly, this was the most exciting part of the whole experience.

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The demo we were ‘treated’ to was a little odd. First of all, we had to sit in a small cinema and watch the demo all the way through, from beginning to end, with somebody using all of the abilities. We saw you’d get to ride a motorbike, throw a hacking grenade that turns drones and turrets friendly for a while, drop traps that released exploding barrels onto the enemy, and that’s about it. We then got to go in and play through exactly what we’d just seen. Ever been at a friend’s house and watched them play a single player game? Ever been tempted to then play through the exact same level? No? Neither have we.

The big change for this game is that it takes place in an open-world city. There are armed patrols, weapons caches, and plenty of secondary objectives to find and liberate. We did manage to go a different route to the way we were shown, where they found an injured soldier and gave him cover, we instead crept around the back and got the drop on the guards using a crossbow and then a shotgun when things got a little scary. We can only assume that cheats were turned on for the demo because we felt nigh-invincible, rampaging through outposts and past armed convoys, destroying everything with grenades and our machine gun. In terms of gameplay it was about as generic as any FPS we’ve played. There were elements of Far-Cry-esque stealth with the crossbow but it seemed wholly unnecessary. The tone of being a desperate resistance fighter was completely destroyed by how overpowered we were. We could mow down legions of troops, then duck for a few seconds until our health came back before massacring another squad or five. Although you did have a couple of fun tools, there was no need to actually use them.

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The city itself looked great in the distance, with a sprawling skybow and buildings fading into the haze, but up close everything was grey, brown, and murky. Perhaps we were just in an industrial complex and that’s why it all looked so dull, but if that’s the case why not set the demo somewhere more interesting.

Overall Homefront: Revolution strikes us as a very by-the-numbers FPS game in a world that’s grown very tired of those. It’ll have to do something impressive to convince us to buy it on release.

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Battleborn Hands-On Preview (Gamescom)

A couple of weeks ago, we felt like Battleborn was at risk of being overlooked. The art style isn’t a million miles away from Blizzard’s Overwatch, it’s not free to play, and Gearbox aren’t exactly the name they used to be after the disappointments of Aliens: Colonial Marines and Borderlands: The Pre-sequel. It’s easy to forget that the spectacular Borderlands 2 only came out three years ago, it just so happens that Gearbox is an incredibly productive studio.

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Around Gamescom though there was a definite buzz for the game. It had a large booth, but no larger than most others, it wasn’t giving anything away that was amazing or enticing, it didn’t have the longest queue, but people were talking about it loads. You’d hear it in the queues, in the restaurants, people whispering about how amazing this game from 2K was and how you needed to go try it. So when we got an invitation to 2k’s booth for a presentation and chance to play through a level, we jumped at the chance.

Battleborn is a first person co-op shooter. There are definitely PvP modes (not being shown just yet) but at it’s heart you and three friends will fight through waves of enemies to complete objectives while levelling up and collecting loot. The story goes that there is only a single star left in the universe and every civilisation to survive this long has converged to try and survive around it. That inevitably leads to clashes and we guess battle is erm… born?

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There’s going to be 25 playable characters for launch and there’s a huge amount of creativity inherent within them. From hawks with prosthetic wings to mushroom people and gentleman robot snipers, Gearbox have clearly let their imaginations run wild in coming up with new ways to play. The characters themselves feel as different from each other as the characters in Borderlands did, and similar to Borderlands over time you’ll level up and make skill choices that refine the way you play even more. For example, I was playing as the mushroom man; he was part healer and part poisoner. As I progressed through the levels I could always make a decision that would either buff damage or healing. You level from 1 to 10 in every single match so the choices don’t have a long-term effect, it’s more like Heroes of the Storm where you will quickly get used to playing certain ‘builds’. The levelling is incredibly fast and it’s fun to gain new powers and use them immediately. To avoid slowing down the action Gearbox have made levelling up as easy as anything, you just press up on the d-pad and then either press the left or right trigger to make your choice. Then you’re levelled up and ready to use whatever your new abilities are.

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The level we played had us escorting a giant robot across the map to break down a huge door. There were gold crystals dotted around (mostly away from the main path) and by smashing and collecting these we could build turrets or shields on the robot, or even build turrets near the end for a defence set-piece. There was a lot of strategy involved and playing as a healer was immensely rewarding, bouncing around the battlefield throwing down healing mushrooms and using a beam whenever I could. At the end of the level you could see there was the chance to get loot. There’s only three slots for this and everything comes with a drawback, so you might do more regular damage, but get less crits, or do more healing, but have less health yourself. These are somewhat procedurally generated a la Borderlands so there always the possibility of finding something better or more specific to what you want.

We had a great time with Battleborn and we’re looking forward to the release on February 9th 2016.

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Warhammer: Vermintide Hands On Preview (Gamescom)

Before our meeting in a hotel room in Cologne we did a little research into Vermintide, a game we hadn’t heard much of before. It’s set in the ‘classic’ Warhammer universe, rather than 40K, it’s a 4-player co-op melee-focused first person ‘shooter’ and it looks a lot like Left 4 Dead. To be honest we weren’t overly excited. Then we played it.

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Vermintide suddenly makes you ask the question, why haven’t many other games tried to emulate was made Left 4 Dead so successful and make it their own? Killing Floor kind of succeeded, but that’s more of an arena survival game, Left 4 Dead’s strength was it’s story-based progression and a sense of a journey while constantly being besieged by the undead. Vermintide takes that formula but adds some RPG elements into the mix as well as a great engine and an interesting new enemy, the rat-people Skaven.

In Vermintide you get to select from one of five characters. For the purposes of our demo the two of us were sat on one side, with another journalist on the other and one of the game’s devs taking the remaining place. I was cast as a kind of assassin character who had a bow (with limited arrows) and unlimited knives to throw, other characters included a kind of healer, a knight, and more of a mage character. While getting ready for the game, the lobby is an actual environment where you can run around and try out your abilities. Once we were ready we ran through some doors and into the level. We spawned into a city with the task of finding out what was going on. The tech used to build the city is very impressive, with landmarks stretching off into the distance and a real sense of place, despite being pushed down certain streets through blockades. The areas where you tend to fight are surprisingly open and unlike you, the Skaven are incredibly mobile and can climb over roofs and down walls to get to you. The first few fights were very simple affairs, we’d spot a skaven and dispatch it brutally, often dismembering limbs or heads (apparently you can cut off their tails but we didn’t see it happen in our playthrough). We went through buildings, found chests (you can find items to sell but they take up precious inventory slots, this means you might have to go without a first aid kit just so you can get something to the end of the level) and discovered the recently-deceased population. From then on we were almost constantly set upon by hordes of Skraven. The number of bodies flying around really was impressive and it was satisfying to wade into a large pack of them and send them flying. Physics-based ragdolls are working well and the battles felt appropriately bloody and brutal. At times certain ‘special’ Skraven come to attack ,such as one who throws poison bombs, blocking access to an area, or one who grabs you and drags you off to hang you from somewhere unpleasant.

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We fought through these hordes until eventually we reached a tower where we had to blow a horn to alert the townspeople. This led to a wave-based horde mode style defense, with us all up on some stairs trying to block off the legions of monsters that came to kill us. It was interesting how quickly we developed strategies of blocking off the stairs with the more tanky character while I picked off any who tried to climb up the walls. By the time we prevailed it really felt like we’d been on an adventure and we were eager to play more. At the end of the level you get to roll for some loot (everyone gets their own, the roll is for quality) and the items you have carried with you to the end give you a modifier to your roll. We got our loot (weapons mostly) and prepared for the next level. Sadly the next lot of journalists were ready to have their turn and we had to leave..

We were impressed with Vermintide. There’s a lot of fun to be had fighting through waves of rodents and we can’t wait to sink our teeth into the full game when it launches.

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Forza Motorsport 6 Preview (Gamescom)

Forza 5 was slightly rushed to meet the deadline for the Xbox One launch. This was evident at the time with a limited selection of cars and tracks and no real new features other than the (admittedly amazing) ‘drivatar’ system. This was later basically admitted by Turn10 but now they’re looking to set things right with the first ‘real’ Forza game to come to the current gen.

Forza 6 features over 450 cars and 26 unique tracks, which is a huge number by anybody’s count. On our demo we got a selection of cars and various races that show off the different new systems at play including night-time races and races in the rain.

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Straight away the handling model feels subtly different. Maybe it’s from being used to Horizon and Driveclub’s 30fps but the handling feels much more precise and we were weaving in and out of the pack effortlessly from the get go. The suggested driving line seemed more subtle (and blue instead of green for some reason) but I’m sure this can be tweaked in the settings as always. Visually the game looks great and while the vehicles themselves are unsurprisingly authentic and detailed (each one is individually laser scanned in so basically 1:1 with the real thing) but now the new lighting system makes the environments look much more interesting.

The big new gameplay system is the rain. Rather than simply lowering your friction with the road, the rain actually creates puddles in the lower areas of the track, the depth of which is controlled by the amount of rain there has been. These rains aren’t simply ‘slippery patches’, they are real 3D entities that your car can react with in a multitude of ways. At high speeds you’ll often aquaplane over them, particularly in lighter cars. This will ruin your steering and braking completely. Heavier vehicles might have a single wheel dip into the puddle and have that effect the handling, good drivers might be able to put their wheels either side.

On our race around we tried approaching the puddles from as many different angles as we possibly could and all of Turn10’s claims rang true. It’ll be interesting to see how well this works in multiplayer online.

Overall we enjoyed our time with Forza Motorsport 6. It’s very similar to past Forza’s, but with much more content and improved visuals, so not a revolution but definitely a worthy entry to the series.

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Cuphead hands-on Preview (Gamescom)

We played Cuphead at the Xbox Fanfest in Cologne and despite playing in co-op with a newly found German friend, we died over and over again against a single enemy. We died perhaps 12 times in less than five minutes. We loved it.

 

Cuphead is side-scrolling shoot-em-up that’s old school in more ways than one. Yes it’s difficult, a single shot is enough to make you lose a life, waves of enemies flood the screen and projectiles do crazy things like bounce back after they have passed you and split into three parts, and bosses are bullet sponges with no visible health bar, but the most striking aspect are the visuals. Visually it looks just like an early Disney cartoon, complete with over-exaggerated animation loops and grain filters. The colours are just right the sprites are all hand-drawn and the backgrounds are simply gorgeous. This is a game not only or people who love old arcade shooters, but anyone who can appreciate the artistry that goes into animation and gaming.

The section we were playing featured characters in small planes fighting against a giant bird in a birdhouse that fired eggs. The eggs would hit the back of the screen then split into three and come back to hit us again, while more eggs were coming and waves of spear-wielding birds flooded across too. Every single object and projectile looked perfect and entertaining, so we didn’t mind the constant cycle of life and death.

Without a doubt we can say that this is the most striking game we’ve seen all weekend at Gamescom. Unfortunately we need to wait until next year to play the finished title.

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Rock Band 4 Gamescom Preview

Early this morning we got to sit down with some of the fine folks from Harmonix and Mad Catz to talk about – and play-  the upcoming Rock Band 4. For those who haven’t heard, Rock Band 4 is coming at the end of the year and not only will it work with your old wired peripherals but it will also carry over all your DLC within the same console family (360 to Xbox One or PS3 to PS4). The game builds on the core structure of Rock Band with co-operative takes on the rhythm genre, letting you play guitar, bass, drums and vocals in a bid to feel like a real rock star. In some ways this is an edition to bring the series to the current generation, but make no mistake, they haven’t rested on their laurels and there’s plenty new to see here.

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The most striking thing is the instruments themselves. An expensive investment (around £220 for the full band set) they are the hardest thing to justify when considering this game, but these are the same ones you shelled out for last generation. The guitar’s buttons are much firmer with a surprising amount of travel and slightly firmer response. The drumkit in particular is much improved with stronger pads that not only lack that horrible plastic ‘clack’ sound the old ones made but are also (apparently) designed to avoid pitting. They want these to last as they see Rock Band 4 as a platform to build on for the future so it’s nice to see some thought gone into problems with the old instruments. The microphone is where the biggest changes have arrived, even though you wouldn’t know to look at it. N0w much more sensitive and picking up more information about your voice, the microphone allows for a more refined vocal performance and whispering to hit the higher pitches won’t cut it anymore.

In terms of gameplay the big headline is the new freeform solo mechanic. At times throughout the song where a solo would come you have a choice whether to play the original solo or to go into a freeform mode. This turns each button (all ten, there are five low and five high) into a small midi sample button, playing notes or even little riffs which you can combine into some breathtaking solos. By only producing sounds in the right scale and with the right tone, it’s impossible to sound bad, but there’s definitely enough control to pull off something really cool and feel some ownership of it. To keep your score going you need to follow prompts on screen. The notes you play are up to you but the structure might involve a tapping section, or long sustained notes, or perhaps a fast rhythm. Holding down combinations of buttons and strumming with play a variety of riffs and single notes can be strummed up to make a bend. You can even create feedback using the whammy bar.

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When we saw this feature on a video we weren’t overly impressed, but getting to do it in real life is something else entirely. We had a load of fun playing along to Hysteria by Muse and add some riffs that sounded distinctly Bellamy-esque even though we had no idea what we were doing and kept messing up the rhythm. Some will be annoyed with the hand-holding but Rock Band isn’t competitive (yet!) and sounding like a rock star is your only goal, so why not make that easier?

We were thoroughly impressed with the demo and can’t wait to play more when the game is finally released. Look out for the full review then!

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