GamesCom 2009: Our Top 10 Titles
Written Sunday, August 23, 2009 By Dan Webb & Lee Abrahams
GamesCom is now officially over and the doors have closed after its debut year, and boy what a start. Whilst we're packing our bags and travelling back to some sort of normality, we'll leave you with our Top 10 Titles of GamesCom 2009, in alphabetical order. These are games that stood out of the pack and actually presented new content that we didn't see at E3 - Assassin's Creed 2, Splinter Cell Conviction, Brink and Mass Effect 2, we're looking at you!
Alpha Protocol may not have the photo realistic visuals that seem to be cropping up more and more these days, but with the title looking to deliver with deep RPG elements and a strong story, who can ignore Obsidian's upcoming spy, espionage title? Not us, and that's a fact. After being impressed when we first set eyes on it last year at Leipzig, Alpha Protocol continued to impress behind closed doors in Cologne this year. Obsidian used their time to show the game's many gadgets, their ability to successfully pull off a stealth mechanic and further show off its DDS system (dynamic dialogue system); where no decision is technically right or wrong. We have high hopes for the title this coming October and we can't help but think it's Mass Effect, but set in a modern world environment. That's probably why we like it so much.
Bad Company 2
The direction the Battlefield series took in Bad Company was a real page turner for fans of the franchise. Not only did DICE actually deliver a story with the Battlefield franchise, but it also added in a ton of humour and introduced us to a new level of destruction in the first person shooter genre. Bad Company 2 goes not only one better, but two. Shipping next March with 4 multiplayer modes - rather than the 1 that Bad Company shipped with in June 2008 - and a new level of destruction which allows you to flatten buildings and alter the terrain accordingly. The title is shaping up to make waves like the original, and we for one are excited to see the title coming along so strongly.
From the same creative team behind games like Devil May Cry, Okami and Viewtiful Joe, you would expect something a little bit special and Bayonetta does not disappoint. A sultry demon witch who is battling angels was never going to be a tough sell, but the level of polish on show already is impressive. Everything looks absolutely stunning; with lush visuals, silky smooth animations and jaw dropping enemies – with even the smallest of the games bosses taking up the vast majority of the screen. The developers have done all they can to make the game accessible for traditionally non-action fans, while at the same time putting in the usual sadistic difficulty levels for the hardcore crowd. With a neat learning curve, as many combos as you can dream of and gameplay that demands just one more go, this game is looking like it will deliver in every respect.
Borderlands had a strong showing at this year's GamesCom and it's partly down to its new fairly unique art style, although that being said, cel-shaded/illustrative art seems to be becoming the new black in gaming industry terms. It really does gives the title a second wind though and fits in with what Gearbox are trying to achieve. We got chance to check out a few of the missions on Pandora's surface with a co-op crew loading up armoured buggies and terrorising the local wasteland bandits with plenty of fast action and cheap thrills. Big ass monsters, check, lots of loot, check, strong RPG spine, check, and a ton of weapons to take advantage of, check. We're hoping that come this October the game delivers on its story and immersion, as it looks to have done with its fantastic visuals, strong RPG roots and fast paced first person shooting.
Have you ever played Gears of War and wished for the ability to fly over your enemies head and rain down death from above? What do you mean "no"? In either case, Dark Void is looking like it might be the game to fill a Gears sized hole in many people's hearts. Sticking to single player only, and looking all the better because of it, this game is a wonderful mix of genres and styles. Set during the 1930's, but full of ingenious devices and weaponry, the game is delightfully old school whilst also having plenty of innovative ideas of its own. Foremost amongst these is the ubiquitous jetpack, which will be your best friend throughout the game, as you can hover over ground based enemies and take out aerial threats with ease. At present the game looks and plays pretty much flawlessly, and should be offering a superb solo experience come the beginning of next year. Bring it on.
Since the announcement of DJ Hero some time ago now, we've found it hard to drum up a nice word to say about the title. Why you ask? Simply because it didn't really appeal to us and just seemed like a bit of a cash in - new franchises with "Hero" in the title are all getting that treatment these days believe it or not. Having spent some time with the title at this year's GamesCom, we can happily report that the game is actually a lot of fun and offers a very unique experience. Getting to grips with the durable, and well crafted decks does take some getting used to but stick with it and you'll be tearing up the dancefloor with the game's 94 tracks in no time whatsoever. The game's only problem? Its relatively steep price tag, but it's not enough to deter us - not after we went hands on with it, that is.
Illusion Softworks did a great job with the PC version of Mafia 7 years ago, and whilst their Xbox port was pretty poor; after seeing Mafia II at GamesCom this year, we are confident that under their new studio name (2K Czech) and with the new hardware at their disposal, the console version of Mafia 2 stands a good chance of delivering where the original didn't. We got to see the game's great attention to detail, the beautifully detailed city, strong customisation elements and its engaging side missions in action this year. Everything from the look and customisation, down to the voice acting and accompanying audio makes the title feel like a 1940's Mafia film, and that's fine by us. In fact, it makes us incredibly happy. It has a period piece, GTA feel to us but don't expect the sandbox scope that GTA delivers. Instead, expect a “cinematic gansgta' storyline” in the fictional, but realistic Empire Bay.
Modern Warfare 2
Modern Warfare 2 had an impressive showing at E3 and continued that good form at this year's GamesCom in Cologne. We moved away from the single player experience this time around and focused on the Spec Ops, which is equally impressive. If you weren't a fan of the Mile High Club in the original, this mode might not be for you. Spec Ops throws you and a friend (or alone if you so wish) into short scenarios with varying objectives that take place in a whole different set of really beautiful looking environments. Some may see you breaching and clearing a room, and others … well, we don't know yet, but we're told that the objectives vary greatly. Good news though, you won't always be against the clock like the Mile High Club, so don't panic too much.
Easily one of the most impressive games at this year's GamesCom; Rage is id Software's new franchise and is looking to be shaping up to be every bit as influential as their other long standing franchises have been to date. Rage is set in the near future, amongst the post apocalyptic wastelands of Earth following a devastating asteroid collision. The title is full of plenty of Mad Max style off road combat, a ton of action sequences, and a once unique, but still fantastic cel-shaded look, Rage is shaping up to be an impressive shooter - at least on PC anyway. Let's hope the 360 version does the PC version justice when it ships some time next year; from a visual standpoint anyway.
Resonance of Fate
The RPG genre has enjoyed something of a renaissance on the 360, though at times the quality has been fairly questionable. What we saw of Resonance of Fate (End of Eternity in North America & Japan) was anything but dubious and strayed into the outright impressive territory. The visuals are a delight with beautiful character models and full 3D backdrops that look amazing and actually allow you to see the entire world. The unique unlockable hex map system looks like it may well be a very neat twist on a stilted genre, with players encouraged to battle enemies and complete quests in order to unlock new sections of the map. Throw in a matrix style battle system, with a number of novel twists on the old turn based formula including the ability to use cover should you have the time to do so and a clever day/night cycle that can dramatically alter the appearance of locations, enemies and NPC characters, and Resonance of Fate is shaping up to be some RPG.
Europe's stellar games event may be over for another year, but the coverage on the show has only just begun. Through out the next few weeks we'll be bringing you the previews of the biggest games at the show plus plenty of show floor footage, and interviews to boot. Stick with us and you'll see a truck load of GamesCom 09 footage and highlights. So much so, it's the next best thing to actually being there yourself.