Here I am, stuck in the wifi tent again as it buckets down outside. I couldn’t believe that after such a ridiculously hot day we would get a rain storm this bad. The lightning is pretty cool, but the thought that our tent is on the brink of collapse or flooding is plaguing my mind. Only three more days to go! But otherwise the day was good. Getting off the bus and walking to Koelnmesse the crowd started to mass, like a human Katamari. By the time we reached the entrance there were gamers everywhere, and this was an hour before the centre was supposed to open. The excitement was building quickly and after about 30 minutes the gates opened to a massive cheer. Shortly after this it was revealed that this was just to ease the crowd and there was still some time to go before the halls opened. Here are my impressions of the day.
The first hall we were crowded into was 10, which had only a few exhibitions including Team Acer and some non-gaming related things such as BMX ramps and a free running course. We were waiting at the main door to the rest of convention centre, but due to the stupidity of some individuals leaning on the rolling shutters they refused to open, so there was a mad rush for the other door. I really have never seen so many people squeezed into one huge location. There really were thousands, and by the time we reached hall 6 where the big players were located (2K Games, Activision, EA Games, THQ, Blizzard etc etc.) there were already huge lines forming. We met up with a few people from the Gamescom camp and assembled our Battlefield 3 team (yes I know I said I wouldn’t wait, but everyone who plays gets a T-shirt!). And then we saw the line. It was so long they couldn’t let anyone else in, and closed it off. This was a bit of a setback, and I was quoted a three hour waiting time for the next session. I did get to play the iPad game though which had surprisingly good graphics, though a bit of a crazy control system which requires about three hands to master.
I have to say Gamescom is a sight to behold. It’s my first games convention and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I was blown away. The huge game logos and posters, the game systems set up everywhere and even stages where game events were taking place. THQ had a very good set-up, complete with a live space marine and orc, and there were stormtroopers and various sith walking about from Star Wars: The Old Republic. It’s hard to put into words; you really have to be there to experience the atmosphere. Despite Thursday being the quietest day the lines were still huge, so most of the day was spent wandering about the halls collecting free stuff and trying the odd game. There were a few pro-gaming tournaments going on as well; Starcraft 2, League of Legends and DOTA 2 (with a $1 million prize!) on various stages. A mention goes out to Jagged Alliance 2 also, just because of their hilarious recruitment scenario. Now to the actual games I got to play.
Ninja Gaiden 3
There was a demo level available to play in THQ’s booth, which was pretty good. The visuals were pretty much the same as in NG2, just polished slightly and with some new camera work, and the gameplay was the usual fare. One thing I didn’t like how much quick time events were used, disconnecting the player from the game. It was impressive initially, but became tiresome and just annoying at times. At one point a truck came flying towards me, but instead just stepping out of the way I had to endure a slo-mo-quick-time slide underneath the truck. Overall enjoyable, but someone really needs to tell developers that QT sucks unless the game in question is Shenmue. Then it is always good.
Warhammer 40000: Space Marine
I really enjoyed this one. The computers were set up for a 16 player team deathmatch, playing as the space marines. I went straight for the Devastator loadout with the heavy bolter, and dominated my first match. This I didn’t mind, but the Devastator really is overpowered. The third-person format was a nice change after playing a lot of FPSes over the last while, but I would need to play a few maps to get a better feel of what it’s like. It also didn’t help that for my second match all my team mates did was shoot their own teammates. Otherwise it was pretty awesome because there were no real queues for the PCs so you could play as much as you wanted.
This one I really only played to get a Blizzard lanyard, and because Alan was going to play it. I have no WoW experience whatsoever, so it didn’t help giving me a level 85 character straight away with only a tutorial in German to “help” me. This is not a game that plays well at a convention, and really just there so Blizzard could show off all its games. The German thing was a bit of a pain, because despite the UK being official partner country of Gamescom, most of the games were in German. Hopefully this will be better in the future.
The Secret World
Wow. Just wow. Who would have imagined there would be an entire stall, and about twenty decent PCs committed to a click through flash quiz in German. Basically it sucked, and told me nothing about the game.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
This is coming out pretty soon, but I thought it would be worth a look. The queue was around an hour long, but felt far too long and wasn’t really justified. I wanted to play the PC version, but instead was given the Xbox 360 version in German which was definitely a challenge. Trying to use a very limited German vocabulary to decrypt German tutorial text didn’t work out too well (especially figuring out hacking) but what I did get to play was pretty fun. Most of the demo was spent hiding, sprinting, and running out of ammo but still quite fun. I liked the old school grid inventory system, with different items taking up different amounts of space, and the augmentation system seemed detailed, but the lack of German language really was a barrier here. I’m still interested in the game, and looking forward to playing the demo in a language I can understand.
Today was really a day for figuring out where everything was and soaking up the atmosphere. I did get playing some other smaller games, and I’ll mention them when I remember. For now though, it looks like I’ll be sleeping in the wifi tent. Hopefully the tent will dry out a bit tomorrow otherwise Plan B will have to be set in motion.