2K and Bethesda exemplified the contrast between the two sides of my encounters with companies at Gamescom. Both had a good selection of high profile release and were relying (primarily) on hands off demos, but the way I felt inside each of their areas was notable different, especially back-to-back as I experienced them.
Entering 2K’s area there was a sense of relaxation. In fact PR had a very tight handle on me, but before my first demo I was able to chat happily with various representatives and catering staff as I waited for my first appointment. I was even brought a cup of tea to drink as I played The Darkness 2, but more out of a sense of solidarity for also being English. None of that really matters to the games of course, but the feeling of comfort and confidence in the order of proceedings was clear to all around me. For the record, 2K also had the best lollypops.
Conversely Bethesda felt slightly austere. This could easily be a result of the buzz surrounding Skyrim, and a distinctly smaller fleet of PR reps, who were clearly carefully picking their battles. I, with three other bloggers, stood around a table waiting for our Prey 2 demo, wondering if we were even in the right place as we waited for it to begin. The strange sense of uncertainty soon dissipated once lead in to the small room to begin the demo, but the were an uncomfortable few moments.
You may be asking why I feel this is important, well there is a psychological theory known as misattribution of emotion. Basically the idea is that a feeling can bleed in to an opinion experienced around the same time without conscious thought or control. Fortunately the quality of the games on show spoke volumes louder than any feelings created before going in. But were an audience member more highly-strung and the game being shown less impactful, such situations could have an affect on their coverage, however much they tried to avoid it. This is of course the reason for PR and the huge events that companies sometimes hold, it is not buying people off but instead a subtle attempt to sway opinion. There is nothing wrong with this per say, but you do have to know you can trust your writers.
Personally I didn’t feel the difference I perceived of each company during my brief time with them was in any way meant to be manipulative. It could have be down to any number of reasons; ethos, focus, recourses or time to name but a few, but the was a window there for manipulation. Both were certainly professional and ran their booths expertly, but to have two such different experiences so close together I admit was fascinating.
If there was a game at Gamescom I wanted more of it was Prey 2. Following the plot of alien abducted US martial, Killian Samuels, the short demo only served to wet my appetite as I watched it played in the dark room before me. Developed by Human Head, this FPS promises a range of organic RPG elements that have me desperate to learn more.
Still early in production Dishonored shows huge promise, it was just a game hard to get excited about seen back to back with Prey 2. With a good gap between the releases of the two titles however I am sure I have room in my heart for both freeform action adventures. I will certainly keep an eye on Dishonored moving forward and I am excited to see just how it will develop as it nears release.
Rage is a game whose appeal really does lies in its world and visuals, and while the gunplay was satisfying what was on display of the mission structure I saw did little to excite.
What Gearbox is hoping to do with Borderlands 2 is to create something that feels distinctly different to its predecessor, which is a hard thing to demonstrate in a hands-off demo. As play slowly unfolded however, it became clear that they might have a point, as the snow covered look of the world was clearly more than just a palette change.
The Darkness 2 is set to continue the story of Jackie Estacado, a possessed member of the New York mob. With the story and voice acting the most interesting elements or the original, The Darkness 2 looks set to improve on the formula, continuing its dark narrative and introducing quad welding to spice up the combat.