Posted Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM PDT by Trevor Ruben
There are two ways to look at Gamescom: like a gaming conference and like a horrific, to-the-death battle between competitors, all in the name of some good virtual fun.
Drama, humor, absurdity and bloodthirsty competition all raged in the hall this year. Here's the most exciting news of Gamescom 2014:
The Great Exclusivity War Rages On
Not a new game nor a new console feature took hold of the headlines in the opening days of Gamescom. No, it was Lara Croft and her terribly rude decision to raid tombs for Microsoft and no one else. 'Rise of the Tomb Raider,' announced at this year's E3 and widely assumed to be a multiplatform release, is going exclusively to the Xbox One. This is one of those situations where the words "vocal minority" get thrown around by the PR people, while that vocal minority makes itself sound like the masses. PS4 owners are pissed and Xbox One owners quietly smile in online comments while not-so-quietly screaming at their Kinect.
Microsoft wanted this to happen. 'Rise of the Tomb Raider' is different from all those other exclusive titles, different even from its Playstation relative 'Uncharted,' in that it is a sequel to a multiplatform release. There's an installed PS3 and PS4 fanbase grown from the 'Tomb Raider' reboot and its HD-upgrade on the latter console, frothing for 'Rise of the Tomb Raider, now frothing for the lack of it. Everything from the PS4's 'Uncharted' and 'Bloodbourne' to the Xbox One's 'Sunset Overdrive' and parade of 'Halo' titles never allowed for hope on the opposite console. 'Rise of the Tomb Raider,' of a series originally exclusive to Playstation consoles, switched sides swiftly and abruptly. Microsoft wrote some sort of check. Crystal Dynamics cashed it. Surprise, this is a business after all.
And surprise, in a roundabout way, gamers asked for this. In all those years and months leading up to the Xbox One release, they cried for Microsoft to focus on one thing: games. This is how a behemoth company with cash to spare reacts to that outcry. They make it about the games, Xbox One games, to be exact. What did you expect? An influx of new IPs? Silly you.
If anything, it's great theater. But remember, it's only a timed exclusive, according to Microsoft. Holiday 2015 belongs to the Xbox One. Sometime later the unsalty PS4 owners will get their due.
The Best Thing at Gamescom Was in Your Living Room the Whole Time
Hideo Kojima is an asshole, but a likeable asshole who makes all of our lives a little more bearable for his assholery. I take it back. I love Hideo Kojima, even when he's making me scream like I did when everyone thought I was a little girl.
'P.T.,' or 'Playable Trailer,' as we came to know, uploaded to the PS4 PSN during Gamescom without anyone knowing what it was, who was responsible for it or what it meant for the future. As people played, shivering their way through a horror sequence unlike just about anything before it, we soon discovered this was Hideo Kojima's next project, and one he had been teasing for some time on Twitter. This was 'Silent Hills,' sequel of the dormant horror series, in collaboration with Guillermo del Toro and staring 'The Walking Dead's' Daryl Dixon, otherwise known as Norman Reedus.
On paper that's pretty awesome. According to all the walkthroughs and Let's Plays of P.T., at least this small sample lives up to the collaboration. It might be hyperbolic to say only Kojima could have come up with this kind of reveal. Maybe that's true, but be damn sure more stuff like the P.T., with the relative programming accessibility of the PS4 and Xbox One, is going to hype up future games. Just don't expect it to ever be as new and surprising as the first time. That's just how it goes.
Indie Soldiers Do Small Battle for the Big Boys
Sizzle reals are all the rage these days. It's not only convenient to throw together only the most exciting bits of every little game you've got in the pipeline, but it convinces people there's a shear, demanding density to this season's releases. Microsoft, rolling deep with its ID@Xbox program for indie developers, shows no bashfulness in its mad dash to catch up with Sony. Keep an eye out for 'Cuphead' and the continually impressive 'Ori and the Blind Forest.'
On the Playstation side of things, the feel was more of accomplishment than future goals, with both 'Journey' and 'The Unfinished Swan,' two PS3 highlights, making their way remastered to the PS4. 'Tearaway' too, a PS Vita hit, is headed to the PS4. If you thought marketability and indies didn’t go so well together, Sony has found a way to make it work. Proven indie titles, instead of a long list of upcoming shots in the dark, can be just as effective.
Of course, plenty of indie titles are multiplatform, and plenty of those games are ripe with potential. 'Geometry Wars' and 'Toy Soldiers' are both making a return (with sequels, not remakes), though now undiscriminating to Sony fans. The indie battle, with Microsoft plunging in, is going to get a lot messier in the days to come. You can bet that, behind closed doors, 'Rise of the Tomb Raider'-like deals are being thrown around with abandon.
The New Top-Ten, Thanks to Gamescom 2014
As with any conference, coming out of Gamescom requries a reassesment of one's anticipations, and I'm happy to say a few games have replaced others on my top-ten list for the next year or so. That said, some games remain as strong as ever, including number one.
In the convergence of maximum hype and close proximity to release, not even a "more of the same" Gamescom showing can dampen my anticipation for Bungie's massive return. Nothing can live up to the expectations Bungie has set out, but that opening day on Sept. 9 sure is going to try,
This might paint me as a fanboy, but I see the game's exclusivity as a good thing. It means Microsoft saw the product and believes in its success. The first of the reboot series, simply 'Tomb Raider' was an excellent, polished and well-written adventure game, putting it toe-to-toe with Naughty Dog's 'Uncharted' series. As with Nathan Drake, it may be Lara Croft's sequel that topples its compeition. Or not.
A Victorian 'Dark Souls.' From the first real gameplay shown in Gamescom, that's the best way to describe it. I'm calling that a good thing, for now. Also, I felt a little compelled to throw up a PS4 exclusive after that last one, but this is a worthy title indeed.
4. 'Super Smash Bros.' for 3DS/Wii U
Similarly to 'Destiny,' 'Super Smash Bros. might not have had the greatest Gamescom presence, but that's because it didn't need to. The boilling inside me for some four player, five stock rounds using the ever-growing roster subsides not.
5. 'Quantum Break'
Another game getting the gameplay blowout treatment at Gamescom, 'Quantam Break' is another blending of highly polished narrative and third-person shooting with a vital twist from the guys who made 'Alan Wake.' Instead of spirit-cracking, though, now you're using time bubbles and, um, quantam breaking, to fell your science fiction foes.
6. 'Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions'
With just a few screenshots circulating the web, it might seem presumptuous to assume 'Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions' to be one of the greatest games ever made, releasing this holidy season. But I played 'Geometry Wars 2' and have been waiting for this moment for years upon years. Activision is reviving Sierra, who in turn is reviving 'Geometry Wars' for all platforms, not just Xbox. 'Dimensions' takes some lessons from the PS4's 'Resogun' and throws the shape-shooting twin-stick gameplay onto a three-dimensional wrapping plane. There's also online multiplayer.
It might be a return to classic 'Assassin't Creed,' but then it might be a return to form as well. 'Assassin's Creed III' and 'Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag' each tried some new things, with the latter a far greater success, but it's 'Assassin's Creed Unity' that has me turning my head towards the prolific series once again. The gameplay shown at Gamescom was just a simple stealth mission, but the advances in the engine, granted by our new generation of hardware, makes it all so pretty once again. It reminds me of just how much better 'Assassin's Creed II' was than the first one.
8. 'Hyrule Warriors'
Movie critics like to excuse their enjoyment for certain films by calling them "summer popcorn flicks." I'm planning on doing that for 'Hyrule Warriors,' which is likely to make up for the average 'Dynasty Warriors' gameplay with an onslaught of 'Zelda' nostalgia and charm. Good enough for me.
There's something to be said for unadulterated beauty. The focus in 'Ori and the Blind Forest' might be expected, but the execution, not faltered in any gameplay shown from E3 to Gamescom, is powerful and breathtaking. Oh, and the platforming seems pretty spot-on too.
Because it featured in Microsoft's indie sizzle reel and I was reminded of this:
The louder the news gets, the busier Gamescom and E3 become, the more vital and alive this habit is at the end of the year. May the fires of war scorch our wallets upon the snows of holiday season.
The latest news on all things 4K Ultra HD, blu-ray and Gear.