Gamescom 2014: Our Top 10 Games of the Show
Written Monday, August 18, 2014 By Richard Walker and Lee Abrahams
Gamescom always seems to be E3’s naughty little brother, offering many of the same attributes but with just enough subtle differences to make it stand on its own. This year was no different with a bevy of games that we had seen already at E3 supplemented by a few genuine novelties and curios.
Despite lacking a deluge of new IPs and ideas there was still plenty to whet the appetite for the upcoming months, and well into next year, as a plethora of big hitting games finally make their way to the newest generation of consoles after a fairly barren few months. We discounted games that were almost upon us (namely Destiny, which admittedly looks superb) and repeat demos from E3 (like The Witcher 3, which also still looks outstanding), focusing on titles that were a bit further down the line.
Without the presence of Webb heckling us from afar and telling us how rubbish our opinions were, Rich and Lee were able to sit down, have a brew (for him) and hammer out our top ten titles that will tease, tantalise and generally take your fancy. Plus, we barely hurt each other at all while doing so.
10. Dead Island 2
It's still early days for Dead Island 2, with Yager's latest build of the game still in pre-alpha. Yes, there are a few bugs we encountered while we played, but at this stage, it's to be expected. What's important is that the game is bearing up well at this relatively early point in development, offering the same brand of zombie mashing combat from the original games.
Dead Island 2's mechanics are more robust, and the real-world setting of California makes the game something more relatable and grounded in reality. And with support for 1-8 players and a new cast of characters, Yager's first crack at the series looks to be on the right track.
9. Dying Light
Last year, Dying Light inhabited this very same spot in our Gamescom top 10. It was the second time we'd seen the game in action, but this year, we finally got to play Techland's spiritual successor to Dead Island. Where Yager is now custodian of that particular franchise, Techland is striking out in another direction, incorporating parkour and a far more aggressive class of zombie.
The result is one of the most intense first-person experiences we've ever played, with the advent of nightfall being something truly terrifying. Cast aside memories of Dead Island's glitch-riddled island of Banoi; Dying Light is shaping up to be a far slicker and tighter zombie head-smashing affair, and we can't wait to get stuck in.
8. Forza Horizon 2
Where Forza Motorsport 5 dazzled with its oh-so shiny visuals, Forza Horizon 2 is breaking down the crash barriers and tyre walls to offer total freedom, as well as a much-vaunted dynamic weather system and day/night cycle for the first time in the series.
It's a slice of unfettered open-world arcade racing that Forza Horizon 2 promises, backed up by a legacy that extends to seminal Xbox classic Project Gotham Racing, and it looks every bit as glorious as you'd hope.
With an emphasis on a seamless, connected social experience, Forza Horizon 2 also has its own take on PGR's Kudos system and the beautiful climes of Southern Europe to explore alone or with friends. Without a shadow of a doubt, Forza Horizon 2 is our most anticipated racing game this year.
7. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
We admit we were initially rather sceptical about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Upon its announcement, comparisons were drawn with Assassin's Creed's animations, and the past history of Tolkien-based video games has been patchy at best. Knives were out, and we were ready to sharpen them up.
And yet, Monolith has managed to demonstrate something that could be one of the most intriguing elements we've seen in an action game for some time in the form of the Nemesis System. Generating enemies randomly, no two games will be the same and Talion's run ins with each Orc will stick in their memory should they successfully flee.
Add to this Talion's Wraith powers thanks to his bond with elven spirit Celebrimbor, and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor could be a far more ambitious open-world action title than we'd ever anticipated.
6. Batman: Arkham Knight
Getting the chance to go hands-on with what we saw at E3, it's heartening to see Rocksteady's Arkham trilogy closer in such fine, fighting shape. Up-close, The Dark Knight has never looked better, with Gotham and the Bat himself drenched in rich detail that demands to be ogled.
With the Batmobile and Batman's freeflow combat, gadgets and other wonderful toys working in concert, Arkham Knight promises skull-cracking and puzzles aplenty as you strive to uncover the identity of the mysterious, eponymous antagonist himself.
Batman: Arkham Knight looks poised to be the explosive end to Rocksteady's tenure with the series that we've all been holding our collective breath for. February 2015 seems like a lifetime away. Arkham Knight can't come soon enough.
5. Assassin's Creed Unity
Controversy about the lack of female protagonists be damned, Assassin's Creed Unity is looking like it could be the shot in the arm we've been wanting for the franchise. Putting co-op gameplay front and centre, Arno's journey through French Revolution Paris in turmoil is full of potential.
Our hands-on session with the game proved that Ubisoft isn't resting on its laurels for Assassin's Creed's new-gen debut, boasting immersive locations bristling with activity and incidental details, and shaken-up free-running gameplay and combat systems.
It's refreshing to play an Assassin's Creed game that actually feels different from the deluge of previous titles, and we're desperate to play more of Arno's French Revolution.
4. Life is Strange
Episodic adventure games are fast becoming the cool new thing, helped in no small part by Telltale Games and The Walking Dead. Life is Strange, from Remember Me developer Dontnod Entertainment, could be the game to top even their best efforts.
A nostalgic trip into life at school, old friends, new friends, adolescent angst and growing pains, all wrapped inside a missing person's case and supplemented by time altering powers this game seems to be trying to do too much.
But it looks like it might just work, and work beautifully to boot. The beautiful, hazy visuals evoke your best teenage memories and it’s hard not to identify with some of the personal issues the characters encounter, with a wonderfully evocative soundtrack to drift away on as you play, this could well be the next cast iron digital hit. More please!
3. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Stunning visuals, a vast open world, exploration and the best stealth action around all combine to make for what could be the best Metal Gear game yet. Of course, you can expect a few ideas from left field too.
Want to distract a guard with a sexy box? Abduct a goat? Kidnap another player's guards online? Go for it. Of course you can still expect a convoluted plot taking in an array of villains and diverse locales, all set in a landscape packed with hidden secrets.
The Phantom Pain promises to be a very different type of Metal Gear while still retaining the elegance and quirky humour that has made the series what it is. We can't wait.
Following on from Left 4 Dead - one of the best co-op games of recent times - was always going to be a tall order, but the folks at Turtle Rock Studio seem to have come up trumps.
Evolve sees you take on the role of a disparate team of hunters as they attempt to track down an ever evolving prey. The trick being that your opponent is controlled by another player, and will require clever management of all of your skills to take down.
Embracing wonderful environments, clever design and pitch perfect abilities Evolve promises to test your skills to the limit, no matter if you’re the hunter or the hunted. Release the Kraken!
1. Quantum Break
Remedy is a developer known for attempting to push at the boundaries of what's possible in video games, and Quantum Break won't be the first time the Finnish studio has blended live-action sequences with in-game action. Alan Wake was but a dry run for the ambition on show in Remedy's time-bending third-person shooter, however, which takes the concept of an episodic transmedia IP and promises to run with it to a whole new level.
While the gameplay sections will explore the journey of protagonists Jack Joyce, Beth Wilder and Paul Serene, as they master their burgeoning time manipulating powers, the live-action episodes will depict the machinations of the nefarious Monarch Solutions, whose experiments in time travel have caused time to break down.
As both an idea and a gameplay device, Quantum Break's notion of broken time, momentary stutters in the fabric of time itself and the implications that these phenomena will have in what could have otherwise been a conventional cover shooter, make Remedy's latest shooter a tantalising prospect.
Stay tuned to XBA for all the previews, impressions and interviews from this year's Gamescom line-up. There's a ton of good stuff coming your way, folks!