Coming from the comparatively down and dirty TGS, Gamescom’s attitude to press had a great many advantages. There was one disadvantage however, which was that a great many games I DIDN’T get to play, that I was only allowed to watch. Of course Tokyo had its own fair share of ‘game theatres’ for upcoming games still early in development but with no appointments I rarely saw them.
On only one occasion, early on the first day of a TGS did I ever attend one of these demo reels, ushered in by an over enthusiastic Japanese PR member before the lines formed. Yakauza 4 was the title and I realised quickly how little I was going to glean from the experience. Watching someone else play and worse a montage of tightly produced footage, revealed little of what the game would be. None of the intricacies of play could be seen and coverage was reduced to bullet points as bland as a bad press release.
Of course for me in Japan the ‘theatre’ experience ran in to the double issue of the presentation being in Japanese. Struggling to keep up with (or understand at all) what was being said was an issue. This at least I assumed would be better at the English speaking Gamescom (strange as it was in Germany). To an extent it was more useful; I understood the narration and games were active played in front of me rather than just shown off in a flashy sizzle reel.
Issues only arose at the end of a demo when without fail we were was asked, “Are there any questions?” There were, inevitably, from a room full of press and bloggers eager to report all they could back to their audiences yet with no real feel for how the game was played. The problem was that really each event was a highly practiced exercise in controlled information flow. Nearly all questions were met with a “we aren’t talking about that yet” to the point that part of me wondered why they ever opened the floor up to questions.
I know why of course, because these were rooms filled with enthusiast sites alongside mainstream media. Diehard fans always ask something that can’t be answered but mainstream media may want to clarify larger overarching points for their uninformed (larger) audiences, rather than the minutia of hit detection or balance.
Every side played their role beautifully, but it is hard to please two such different masters. Almost without fail however I found myself in a room filled with enthusiast bloggers. So as questions about armour sets and shots to centre mass filled the room, I was left feeling awkward as the response came back again and again, “no comment”.
Below are (some of) the games that I saw bet never got to ‘touch’. Interesting to a point, and displayed in ways far superior to a simple rolling demo, but still lacking.
F1 2011 (Playdevil)
I have to be honest here, I have no real frame of reference for F1 2011. Developed by Codemasters the game is, by all accounts, as close to photo realistic as I have seen. With many years developing racing games under their belt, and now three iterations of the very well received F1 licence, it should come as no surprise that the 2011 release of the franchise is looking good.
Metro: Last Light (Playdevil)
Demoed on the PC Metro Last Light looked amazing. Shadows and light played beautifully over the textures and the whole aesthetic remained as confining and evocative as ever. Alterations being made to the stealth also seem to fit well with the experience, but as a fan of the original I find it hard to ignore the possibility that improved combat, and a heavy reliance on it, will rob Metro Last Light of the desperation that I used to feel when fighting the horrifying mutants of future Russia.
Darksiders 2 (Playdevil)
With such a short hands off demo it is hard to comment on just how many of the developer’s promises will bear fruit. The series unique style certainly seems to have endured, with the added pleasure of the artists having more freedom in the more fanciful landscapes and customisation of Death. Combat also still looks like it will retain the original’s high standards, with changes simply offering a slightly faster pace to the action.
Darksiders 2 (Gamepeople)
Darksiders 2 appears to be expanding the original in all the right ways. Where a faster pace to the already fluid combat looks like a simple upgrade, the extra freedom given to both the character customisation and story structure will be the real draw.