So Gamescom has come and gone once again and this year I was sadly unable to attend, however that didn't stop me watching every frame of video and pouring over every scrap of news while at mission control in the UK. We are entering such an exciting time in the games industry and with so many developers pushing games in new directions and breaking down barriers to explore concepts never visited before. In addition to traditional games we are also mouthwateringly close to Virtual Reality being with us once again. It's true enough that it could all be a flash in the pan but from what we've seen from the front runners it's looking increasingly likely that this time around VR is going to be a success. Expect an article soon looking at the current state of play for VR and what we can expect in the near future.
So after a fantastic week watching my favourite game convention here are the gems that caught my attention and which I think we need to keep our eyes on for 2015/2016:
Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain
So as you may have seen I have already written an article on this game and, as I suggested I might, I am currently playing through the prelude (Ground Zeroes) on PC thanks to the preorder deal on Steam. I will be doing a small review for Ground Zeroes this week in the build up to Phantom Pain which releases on the first of September. In case you missed it, this new date is due to the publishers moving the release date from the fifteenth and bringing it in line with the console release on at the start of the month. I was over the moon at this move as now I don't have to purchase the PS4 version and instead can focus on getting a review out for PC faster. The online element of the game (similar to GTA online) won't be released on PC until January 2016 but given the size and scope of the main game I'm sure we will be ok. As far as I can tell the FOB system will be active as soon as the game launches and this aspect of MGS:PP looks very promising indeed. Indeed this part of the game was demoed in a more fleshed out way at Gamescom; here's the video:
Mirrors Edge 2
While Mirrors Edge never set the world on fire it has gathered somewhat of a cult following over the years since its release in 2008 (2009 on PC) and while the plot was weak the actual gameplay and parkour elements were pretty revolutionary. Faith, who is the games central character, is a 'runner' and in this quasi-futuristic cityscape information is no longer sent digitally but by hand to ensure it is not hacked.
The developers have stated that this new game is not a prequel but in fact a reboot where they have taken all the elements they loved (obviously Faith) and moved them over. From what I've seen so far it looks great, with not only a notable improvement in the visual fidelity of the city but also what looks like a new set of moves to take on adversaries in hand to hand combat. I get the feeling that we are not going to see anything that changes the script too much but alas EA would never push too much innovation at the risk of losing fans of the original. One to watch for sure and I cannot wait to put my running shoes on again and free-run across the city skyline as Faith.
Deux Ex: Mankind Divided
Did any of you play the original Deux Ex? It was revolutionary for its time and was one of those games that made you excited for the future. It gave players choice and well-crafted systems to make them choices within. With a sub par sequel the third game (Human Revolution) had something to prove and by all accounts did a great job. Now we are set to receive the latest offering from Eidos Montreal and it's looking mighty fine. I recently went back to play the previous game and the graphics have not held up well, however to be fair they weren't great at the time of release but the classic gameplay was intact and shines through. It's great to see the developers are using the same engine (Glacier 2) as they used for their last Hitman game and so far it's looking as pretty as we could expect from a modern game.
Here's hoping this new game not only maintains the high standards fans and critics have come to expect but elevates the series to where it truly deserves to be.
As luck would have it I've just finished porting my XCOM review over to the Rigged website, which is awesome because now you can go and read up on this most excellent game series. The original X-com is my favourite game of all time and holds a special place in my heart. When Fireaxis picked this up Jake Solomon lead the team to a wonderful reboot: enough of the old magic and a decent dollop of new tricks.
I was surprised but equally thrilled to hear this new game (which follows the events of the last game) will be exclusively for PC. Even more exciting is the reason behind this extremely brave move. The team at Fireaxis see the PC as their home platform and so are most comfortable here. Not only that but being on PC only this allows them to push the game in directions which console just could not follow. For one the UI will not be some hybrid effort that works for both mouse and keyboard, icons won't have to be super sized so again people playing on a TV can see them and just the overall quality of base assets will be stellar. However the most exciting part of this PC exclusivity is the fact that they are soaking the gameplay in lots of procedural goodness, making replayability and tense gameplay core to the experience.
This game is at the forefront of PC gaming ambition and is an ambassador for what the PC is capable of when not tethered to console limitations. Chris Roberts has been very clear about his vision for this game from the start but recently some gamers (even hardened backers) have begun to doubt this gargantuan project was going to see the light of day. With tens of millions now pledged/donated expectations are ridiculously high, I truly hope Chris can fulfil his dream because if he does it stands to be one of the best games ever conceived
At Gamescom this year we were treated to a wonderful video showing off multi crew ships and some ship to ship combat with various players manning turrets in the same ship. Whilst it's clear there are still some rough edges no one could deny the scope and scale shown in this demo is incredible. I will be writing a compare and contrast article soon regarding Elite Dangerous, No-Mans Sky and Star Citizen.
Just Cause 3
I own Just Cause 2 on Steam and remember having some fun with it but in the end the combat got a bit samey. I have to say after watching a few videos on the third instalment of this IP I'm totally onboard. The combat looks over the top, the physics look better than ever and the potential for just messing around on the 'what if?' train is unlimited. There will also undoubtably be insane additions from the PC modding community which will also spawn a whole raft of YouTube videos that would put Evil Knievel to shame.
I do hope there is more to the game than just blowing stuff up, for example missions which require you to use your destructive capabilities in a more thoughtful way.
Assassins Creed Syndicate
So maybe I'm not the best person to be objective about this IP, because I'm a little bit of an AC fan. I have played every game to date on PC and managed 100% sync, despite this becoming less important in recent games. AC 2 and Black Flag were stand out points in the series but I even found the steaming mess that was Unity enjoyable on some level. Given how much Ubisoft have let us all down in recent years I feel almost guilty about my love for the series, but love it I do.
So with this latest outing on the horizon I'm watching with a careful and yet optimistic eye. 'Optimism?' you say. Yes and here's why: I can't conceive any development team that would release another crap game after the public flogging Ubisoft got over Unity; more than that, it's set in my own neck of the woods (London) and set at a time I have a great interest in (the Industrial Revolution). We also now have a fully playable female character which I'm very happy about; as a married man I know how deadly a pissed off woman can be. If nothing else it might shut up Anita Sarkisian for a while.. or maybe not.
You know them games you want to love, no matter the flaws and problems? - you just need this game to work. I feel this way about Elite Dangerous and when it released I played the hell out of it for a month. After this time it became obvious to me that while the size of the game was almost beyond what you can imagine the actual core gameplay was lacking. Not that there was a lull in quality; no, everything that was in the game was beautiful, but I felt like we needed more elements to keep us busy because very quickly it became a trading game for me; one which had no foreseeable end.
At Gamescom this year we have heard that there are now a string of small expansions heading our way starting with Horizons in December. This will allow players to enter the atmosphere of planets and land on the surface: there is even a new vehicle that can be driven across the surface. Details are still scarce but this is what I was waiting for, I just hope the landings have some fun elements, challenges and worthwhile activities attached. The price being charged has been a bone of contention that has divided the community; many feel charging for content which should have been in the base game is a step too far but it all depends on your point of view I guess. I personally feel that while the price may be a little too steep we don't know what we're getting for that price and also this game is subscription free. Either way I'm really excited to see more about this first expansion and you can bet your back teeth I'll be covering it here.
I've not got much to say on this one expect that from what I saw it looks a little generic and almost arcade-like in the way you drive your car. I do like the setting and think the change of pace from your standard 'Goodfellas' yarn could be great. For me this game will rise and fall on the strength of what happens between the action scenes and how you can develop your criminal empire.
All my life I've seen Star Wars games come and go, some good but most average efforts resting on the fact that "it's Star Wars yo". However the idea of a Battlefield game set in the Starwars universe has been getting many gamers hot under the collar for months now. After seeing very scripted gameplay video I have to say as far as looks and sounds go this is looking incredible. The fact there is no campaign however screams 'get it out the door for the film's release' so I am worried about that being a reality.
At Gamescom this year we finally saw some of the ship to ship combat and again, it does look epic. I guess there really isn't any way for us to know how this game will fare until we've got our sweaty mitts on it. Here's the video for your perusal.
Blimey we are getting spoilt in gaming at the moment and it seems no IP is safe from sequels, although if you ask the developers of the latest Hitman game this one has a new element to it, namely that the game will be receiving constant missions for players to take on but here's the twist; these extra missions will not be around forever and if you miss that particular target it's gone forever. One problem that jumps out to me here is that if they are going to make a big effort with level design it seems such a waste to then only use it for a month.
As a lifelong fan of this IP I am very interested in what they can bring to the table and if they pull it off we could be seeing a bright future for 47; I don't have the same hopes for the film.
So there we are ladies and gents, some of the more interesting games that were shown at Gamescom this year, I'm sure I've missed a few so please feel free to comment and tell me your favourite games for the coming year and beyond.