Gamescom 2010 report: 3/4

Hall number 6 at gamescom was filled to the brim with major publishers showcasing off its A-list titles. The biggest area was reserved for EA, and came complete with stands where the audience could sit to watch EA’s trailer videos, a setup which tied in nicely with one of its most prominent titles at the show: Fifa 11. EA had invited numerous (former) professional football (or soccer) players to help boost interest in the title, which had gamers manning the demo stations non-stop. Going head to head with Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 this October, it will be worth seeing which developers managed to improve most on their solid offerings from last year. Fifa had a head start with last year’s superior offering, but Pro Evolution Soccer looks set to close to the gap.

EA was also keen to show Dragon Age 2, the sequel to the very successful Dragon Age: Origins. Tucked away in a corner of its expo area was what turned out to be the ‘best pc game of the show’: Crysis 2. With the original game (and it’s sequel Crysis: Warhead) known for its display of visual splendor, it is no surprise that this game definitely looks the part. What will be interesting to see is how this game will fare on PS3 and Xbox 360, as the series is abandoning its ‘pc only’ roots and now coming out across all three platforms. Another major difference from the previous installments is that the jungle setting has been completely left out in favor of the extremely urban setting of New York City in the year 2023. This will allow for a completely different storyline approach, and opportunities to improve on the oft-critized storytelling aspects in the first game. We’ll find out if Crytek managed to merge its technological marvels with a compelling gameplay experience when it comes out in March of 2011.

We won’t have to wait that long for Need for Speed Hot Pursuit though, which is out in November. This sequel in the long running series (or is it a remake instead?) was being heavily promoted with opportunities to playtest the game alongside expensive sports cars and female cops ready to ‘arrest’ you. Looking at what was happening on the show floor, it seemed like being arrested was no longer the kind of thing people would rather avoid… Will the game have the same appeal? The original Hot Pursuit was one of the best in the series, and with Burnout developer Criterion Games at the helm this could turn out to be one heck of a ride.

Take 2 has brought NBA 2K11, Civilization 5 and Mafia 2 to Germany. NBA looked very similar to last year’s version, but has a few additional modes. In many of them, Michael Jordan features prominently, where you recreate many of the defining moments in the iconic player’s career through a series of goals and challenges. The addition of many classic teams from the 80s and 90s were also a nice touch which will no doubt be appreciated by the fans but also by more casual followers of the game like myself who are still familiar with all the big names of the past.

Mafia 2, which can be found in stores right now, recreates the 50s mafia atmosphere that we know from movies like the Godfather in stunning detail. I’m a fan of the original game and will definitely pick up the sequel at some point, but despite all the shine and polish, it all seemed a little too familiar at times to be able to draw me in like the first game did. If you’ve played it already, why not drop us a line in our forums and tell us what you thought?

To me, it was odd to see how little attention Civilization 5 got from people attending the expo. The game looks great, builds on the foundation of what is one of the great classics in strategy gaming and follows the well-received Civilization 4. 2K had even hired people to dress up as various figures from world history to draw people to the demo stations, but somehow it wasn’t happening during my visit. A reflection on the game’s quality? Doesn’t seem likely, because I got majorly excited at the thought of once again spending countless hours striving for world domination through trade, war and smart politics. Granted, this isn’t the type of game that proves its worth during a short playing session, but it definitely deserves more attention in the month or so we have left until it is released.

Hall number 6 also featured plenty of rolling demos and samples of major titles we have all been hearing so much about, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops, Diablo 3 and Rage (which won major awards at E3 but was overlooked here). Online gaming saw some major exposure in the form of Square Enix’ Final Fantasy XIV which was seen right next to its MMORPG rival Star Wars: The Old Republic (which actually playable at the show as well).

As a nice quiet break in between all the loudness of these giant booths, hall 6 had been given an area dubbed “the art of games”, meant as an homage to the visual work done in videogame. Many original (concept) drawings could be seen here, all set up around the big centerpiece, which was a lifesize statue of Zelda’s Link. I also happened to run into Joanna Dark and Lara Croft models there, but I’m still undecided as to whether they were to be considered part of “the art of games”…

Check back here tomorrow for the concluding part on what could be seen on the show floors of gamescom 2010, featuring not only a look at some hardware developments but also an appearance by Germany’s Playmate of the Month….

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