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Gamescom 2011: Event Round-Up (Part One)

Here's part one of our Gamescom round-up, with some early hands-on impressions of some of this years biggest games.

Gamescom was the biggest yet, with thousands of people from around the globe flocking to the Koelnmesse centre in Cologne to check out upcoming games like Battlefield 3 and Skyrim. Unprepared for the sheer scale of the event, I arrived with a friend the day before it was to begin. Excited but tired, we checked into our hotel room and crashed in front of the TV in hope of finding something to watch. Sadly it was showing only porn (pick of the day was Anal Debauchery 2 - we hadn't seen the first) and movies like Sucker Punch at £10 a pop. We then decided to hunt down a HDMI cable to stream the only content we had on a laptop..... Two episodes of 80's cop show Miami Vice. A trip to a German Ikea and many meatballs later, we had failed to find a cable. However, we were probably the only two people to fly to Cologne for Gamescom and spend an entire evening attempting to watch Miami Vice.... I still don't quite understand why. Yet this adventure was mearly the calm before the storm, with the pair of us heading to Gamescom the following morning full of vigour. We joined the crowds of devoted gamers and journalists, all looking to play some of the best (and worst) games from around the globe. Featuring five gigantic halls full of gaming exhibits, presentations and even a retro-gaming museum - Gamescom is one of the biggest and best gaming events of the year. Here's part one of our Gamescom round-up, with some early hands-on impressions of this years biggest games.

GoldenEye 007: Reloaded

Activision Platforms: Xbox 360/PS3 Release Date: TBC Or Call of Duty: Daniel Craig edition. Activision€™s port of last years Wii title couldn€™t be anymore like its fellow shooter series unless Bond ran amok in an airport with a machine gun capping civilians. Comparisons were already made between the two titles on its release, but with a revamped 60fps glossy engine and a co-op mode unsubtly titled MI5-Ops, GoldenEye looks, feels and sounds exactly like Infinity Ward€™s blockbuster franchise. Potentially a disappointing change in tone for fans of Rare€™s less explosive original, GoldenEye still looks to offer an enjoyable FPS experience - complete with a robust multiplayer mode full of classic and modern characters from the series. Inspired by both the original 1997 game and the Brosnan film on which it was based, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is a modern retelling of the same story complete with muddy colour palate and hard edged Daniel Craig instead of the smug suit modelling Bond as portrayed by Brosnan. The game was presented as a video play through followed by hands-on, showcasing many of the games single player levels including Dam and Facility. It was interesting to see sections of Rare€™s 1997 classic revamped, such as bond€™s upside down incapacitating of a poor soldier trying to have a poo. Nothing mind-blowing or particularly new, but much like the Wii version this looks to be an enjoyable modern shooter, stuffed with new added content. Throw in the expansive multiplayer with classic four player split-screen support, this has the potential to be the best Bond game since Rare€™s influential original.

Saints Row: The Third

THQ/Volition Platforms: Xbox 360/PS3/PC/OnLive Release Date: November 18th 2011 Without any shadow of a doubt, Saints Row: The Third looks to be this years funniest and most purely enjoyable game, going completely out of its way to shock, offend and most of all impress gamers with a depraved and ridiculous open-world full of madness. An antidote to Rockstar€™s recent po-faced departure from immaturity, Saint€™s Row: The Third is a celebration of gaming€™s guilty pleasures. Sadly unplayable on the show floor, THQ€™s video presentation of Saints Row: The Third still managed to impress and shock in equal measure. The 15 minute play through began with a male character entering the games cosmetic surgery €˜Image As Designed€™ and transforming into a busty blonde through an instant sex change. Quickly showcasing the emphasis on player freedom, the gender reversal gave a glimpse into the complex character creation system, with players able to customise every aspect of the characters appearance. Instead of restricting players to creating a realistic character, Saints Row: The Third encourages the opposite. If you€™ve ever wanted to play as a green skinned nudist with reptile scales and a yellow Mohawk, here€™s your chance. It€™s also taking the series€™ reputation for ridiculous toys to play with to new heights. The Jet Bike had the character zipping through the air and shooting mounted machine guns at pedestrians on the ground below. New weaponry includes a portable air strike device, which can be used to call in missiles to obliterate enemy strongholds or any random area the player wants to see go up in smoke. The most bizarre weapon showed off was the octopi gun, which launches brain controlling octopuses onto the heads of enemies and forcing them to attack their own allies. The largest element of the presentation was the new mini-game Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax - A Running Man style game-show which sees players racing through a maze full of rabbit costumed enemies and deadly fire traps whilst also trying to shoot at special €™ethical€™ bonuses and seeking out the exit. Overshadowed by more eagerly awaited releases this year perhaps, but Saints Row: The Third€™s video presentation was easily one of the most enjoyable highlights of Gamescom. I can€™t wait to run around the streets of Steelport with a giant wobbly dildo while dressed as a cat.

Mass Effect 3

EA/Bioware Platforms: Xbox 360/PS3/PC Release Date: 6th March 2012 Mass Effect 3 will conclude Bioware€™s epic trilogy, this time bringing the war between the Reapers and the Alliance to Earth. Much like EA€™s other offerings at Gamescom this year, mounting anticipation for Mass Effect 3 led to extensive queues of fans itching to get their hands on the game for the first time. Those willing to brave the queues were treated to both new and exclusive trailers for the game as well as a hands-on demo which featured several of the new features and improvements. Mass Effect 3 doesn€™t look to be as large a shift in gameplay and tone as Mass Effect 2 was to the first game - instead Bioware have listened to fan feedback to make this game more of a blend between the two games looking to try and find a balance to please everyone. The combat heavy demo had us controlling Shepard as he led a team of Liara T'Soni and Garrus into a mission to free Mordin and a female Krogan whilst under attack from Cerberus. The combat is immediately comfortable for fans of Mass Effect 2, with the player still jumping to and from cover and using a range of powers to eliminate waves of enemies whilst progressing through the level. The additions we glimpsed during the demo are looking awesome, starting with a refined Omni-tool now transformed into the Omni-blade - A holographic stabbing tool which Shepard can slash at enemies whilst melee attacking. Weapons can now be upgraded using a workbench in a similar way to Dead Space, a feature which I used to tinker around with my assault rifle adding improved damage and a different scope. Powers are easier to use than before and experimentation with the different squad powers was more satisfying than ever. Utilizing a mix of Liara€™s singularity power and Shepard€™s frag grenade, resulted in a satisfying slow-motion cascade of floating carnage. It€™s also now possible to upgrade every single power, in a system closer to that of the original Mass Effect. Voice commands have been added via Kinect, yet the feature wasn€™t implemented during the hands-on and generally sounds a bit silly. The demo ended in a confrontation between Team Shepard and a gigantic Cerberus Mech called the Atlas, hinting towards frequent encounters with the machines which will force the player to utilise the right powers and team abilities to take down the imposing threat. From my brief time with Mass Effect 3, I felt that Bioware€™s attempt to add further depth and re-introduce some absent RPG elements from Mass Effect 2€™s could result in the best game of the series yet.

Sonic Generations

Sega Platforms: Xbox 360/PS3/3DS Release Date: November 4th 2011 Sega has a lot to prove with Sonic Generations, with the hedgehog struggling to dash his way past a reputation of increasingly messy games. Sonic 4: Episode 1 marked something of a return to the glory days of the series, with the emphasis back on just Sonic and side-scrolling levels in the classic style. Sadly, the game was short on content and suffered from unbalanced difficulty spikes and floaty controls. Celebrating the 20th anniversary, Generations looks to create a nostalgic mix of classic and modern Sonic, with both levels akin to the 16bit days of old and some inspired by the 3-D Dreamcast titles. Both of these styles of gameplay were on show at Gamescom with two levels from the game playable - Green Hill Zone and City Escape. Sega also had the game playable in 3D for those with compatible televisions and lots of money to burn. The 3D does work well, particularly when the perspective changes to Sonic speeding towards camera - But it€™s a shame to lose the bright crisp visuals with the blury overcasting of 3D. Green Hill Zone remains the iconic Sonic stage after all these years, and speeding through the level is still fun. The look and feel of the game is a marked improvement over Sonic 4: Episode 1, with colourful graphics and fluid controls. The levels based on modern Sonic, sadly retain many of the problems with previous 3-D titles. The camera is irksome and occasionally nauseating, whilst the fluidity of the 2-D gameplay is somewhat lost. Yet, the demo was undeniably fun and fans should look forward to a game which looks set to finally bring Sonic out of his slump this November.

Super Mario 3D Land

Nintendo Platforms: 3DS Release Date: November 2011 Expectations could barely be higher for Super Mario 3D Land, potentially resting the fate of 3DS on its shoulders. With poor sales, a lousy launch line-up and many games being cancelled for the system, it€™s crucial for Nintendo that their own titles build interest and hype for the fledgling console. None the less, a recent price cut and imminent titles including Mario€™s first 3DS adventure, it seems the handheld has more than a fighting chance of following in the successful footsteps of previous DS consoles. Gamescom marked the first appearance of Super Mario 3D Land, with Nintendo offering a playable demo as well as several presentations including an appearance by the voice of Mario himself, Charles Martinet. A sort of hybrid of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy the game features all of the classic Mario charm fans come to expect and the resurgence of classic features including the Tanooki suit. I€™ve never been much of a platform gamer, spending most of my time with the demo falling into the deep dark abyss of death, to join the piles of dead Mario's, Sonic€™s and Pitfall Harry€˜s. The game features some of the best graphics on the 3DS thus far, with the game world looking colourful, bright and unique with the chubby plumber looking his very best. Controlling Mario does seem somewhat slower than usual, and the 3-D visuals of the device continue to struggle proving their worth, often making the platforming even trickier. Still, there€™s no doubt however that this is another classic Mario game in the works, likely to continue Nintendo€™s reputation of still being able to create some of the best platforming games of all time. Could it bring the portable console out of its funk ? There€™s certainly a good chance.

Kinect Star Wars

Lucasarts/Terminal Reality Platforms: Xbox 360 Release Date: Despite the negative press surrounding Kinect Star Wars and its laughable reception at E3 earlier this year, we wanted to get our hands on it to see for ourselves. Awkward to control, irritatingly unresponsive and overall unenjoyable to play, Kinect Star Wars is unlikely to live up to the high expectations for many fans who have seen this as an alternative to prancing around in front of the bedroom mirror with some tubing and a John Williams CD. A two player demo had us fighting clone bots and using the force to clear obstacles in your path whilst on Bespin from Episode II. Controlling your character is tedious and frustrating, draining most of the potential fun out of the game. Your left hand is used for force powers whilst the right is used to swoosh your imaginary light sabre. These both work adequately with occasional problems and few would argue that swinging your lightsabre to slash bots in two is anything but fun. Sadly, moving forward by arching forward repeatedly to rush towards enemies barely works and quickly becomes uncomfortable. On the basis of the demo, fans of Star Wars are likely to find much more enjoyment in Bioware€™s The Old Republic. But maybe the geeky potential of Kinect Star Wars along with a limited R2-D2 console is set to have fans salivating at the mouth and penis if the flaws are ironed out in time before release. _________________ Check back for further Gamescom coverage, including part two of our round-up including hands-on with Batman Arkham City and Battlefield 3 and an in-depth look at upcoming cloud-gaming console OnLive. (Thanks to my good friend Lewis - A Gamescom veteran who helped with gameplaying, photography and bouts of queueing)
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Cult horror enthusiast and obsessive videogame fanatic. Stephen considers Jaws to be the single greatest film of all-time and is still pining over the demise of Sega's Dreamcast. As well regularly writing articles for WhatCulture, Stephen also contributes reviews and features to Ginx TV.