Gamescom 2014: Multiformat Roundup

The big hitters who won't be tied down.

by James Thomas Aug 21, 2014 at 5:19 PM

  • Congratulations, you’ve put up with my mixed bag of picks from the three platform holders and now you’ve made it to the big hitters. Up until this point I’ve chosen a smattering of games from the indie to the AAA with the only justification being that I liked the premise before I picked up the pad. Here, however, not only did I like the premise but I get the feeling that these are games we’ll be hearing an awful lot about before, during, and after their release.

    Alien Isolation

    Rarely have I felt so tense in a videogame. Crouched under a desk and watching a faint blip on a motion tracker I prayed that I was suitably tucked away. Across the room, through the darkness yet caught in the faint glow of a computer terminal, I could see the alien slowly making his way towards me. At one point I felt myself actually hold my breath as he skirted my hiding place. If Creative Assembly were after re-instilling a sense of terror and power into Giger’s alien then it’s fair to say they’ve succeeded.

    On the show floor they were showing off a challenge level, asking you to avoid the alien and escape your ship in the shortest amount of time. It channelled the core of Isolation into a compact area, showing off its atmospheric level design, its “lo-fi sci-fi” aesthetic, and what it felt like to be hunted. You soon find that simply pounding through the ship is a recipe for disaster and so, motion tracker in hand, you sneak through short sections, hiding under tables, in vents and tight corners all hoping the AI won’t pick up your scent.

    The AI’s a sod, too. The exact words of Sega’s producer as he walked me through a chapter from the main campaign. By this point the alien had killed him three times in quick succession showing that there was nothing scripted about his beast. Using a combination of flares and noise makers to distract him would only work for so long before he realised they were decoys, eventually ignoring them completely. With Amanda Ripley a resourceful engineer, scavenging the area for bits that can be built into such devices, the rule that’s reinforced to us time and time again is to use them sparingly.

    The team are intent on keeping the tension up throughout and told us that manual saves are a considered choice, forcing the player to have the time and wherewithal to seek out a checkpoint and not lose the alien’s threat through easy quick saves. It’s not just the alien we should be worried about, though; the story takes in other survivors which should round out an interesting looking package and offer a break from the deadly hide and seek we’ve seen so far.

    Anticipation rating: take my money!

    Dying Light

    Dying Light

    Clambering up buildings and using your agility as an advantage against the undead seems such a simple thing but it’s not always done well. In Dead Rising 3 you could scale rooftops but it felt ungainly. In Dying Light, however, the parkour is simple and effective, you just hold down the bumper after jumping and whatever you hit or fall past you’ll try and scale. The result is a far more open open-world as it’s easy to feel nimble and make the verticality work for you.

    Newly announced last week is the inclusion of co-op. With a buddy by my side we cleared out a block of flats as part of the main story mission, each swing of my makeshift cudgel introducing me to the mechanics. You have stamina that affects the damage you do, your weapons deteriorate with use, and that zombie blood doesn’t wash out even at high temperatures. As we continued, paint the walls red challenges would pop up offering us some friendly competition. Entering one room put tallies on screen for our zombie kills, whilst escaping the building later in the scenario triggered a race to be the first to reach the exit. It’s not a ground-breaking addition but a nice extra for those playing together.

    Outside the other new multiplayer was revealed as one of the dev team invaded our game. By night the zombies are more powerful and should one of your friends invade at this time they’ll turn into a powerful zombie who’s out to eat you. Hives will also spawn around the map and if you can destroy them before he can get you then you win. It’s a great asymmetric game that shifts back and forth as you try and keep tabs on him whilst also burning the hives.

    Zombies and open-worlds may have been done before but thanks to the extra touches and the fluidity of movement Techland are putting into Dying Light I am very excited to see how it turns out.

    Anticipation rating: take my money!

    Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

    Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

    No, this isn’t the Xbox exclusive, this is a follow-up to Guardian of Light as Crystal Dynamics’ isometric take on Lara Croft returns with four-player co-op. Whilst adventuring through Egypt Lara and her chum have disturbed the god Set who is now out to take over the world. Thankfully Osiris and Isis are gods of a more amiable demeanour and join with Lara to put an end to this threat. Cue trekking through a lot of tombs.

    Half of the game is a twin-stick shooter with Lara brandishing pistols as the deities alongside her wield light beams. These will carve through a multitude of foes that scuttle from the tomb’s depths but can equally be used to light torches or break open pots for gems. The other and more interesting half is definitely that of puzzle solving with whole rooms being set aside for the simple conundrum of getting from A to B. Using a combination of the human’s grappling hooks and the gods’ ability to shield themselves in a protective sphere that can both float and be jumped upon, rivers are spanned and cliffs scaled. With four of you they can be quite tricky as each may have to play a role but interestingly, when playing with fewer, the puzzles dynamically scale to cope.

    There’s friendly competition for gems when not joining forces to beat back Set and these can be exchanged for new weapons and skill-modifying trinkets. Though it is odd seeing an ancient Egyptian, worshipped by our generation, wielding an uzi.

    It may not have the wow factor of a fully branded Tomb Raider experience but it captures the typical Croftian adventure: shooting down waves of scarabs, facing giant mythical beasties, and tackling puzzles that if approached incorrectly will see you impaled on spikes. It’s a great complement to the brand and allows them to have a little fun.

    Anticipation rating: watching with interest.



    “Play your role!” Over and over the advice was given. “Play your role!” Whether the team I initially faced heeded this or were simply strangers to one another I know not, all I do know is that the monster on his day is devastating. Levelled up to his greatest the Goliath can devastate his human adversaries with a massive ground pound attack, through spitting fire, and dishing out huge blows with his claws. Against an uncoordinated team it’s just not a contest.

    It starts off very differently however as you begin weak and ripe for being picked off. In these early stages you must run away from the quartet and instead feast on the local wildlife, creeping so you are neither seen nor heard by either. It’s tense as you skulk into the forest to strengthen up and even more so when you have to cocoon to transform into your next stage. At those moments you’re incredibly vulnerable so it’s vital to choose the timing and the location.

    On repeat plays it was clear that when a human team gets its act together they can be formidable. With the hunter containing, the assault dishing out damage, and the medic supporting you can ensnare and take down even a fully pimped out monster. This game lives and dies on team work.

    As much as I am looking forward to Evolve, I also know where it will sit in the scope of my gaming evenings. Just like Left 4 Dead this is a game that will thrive in short bursts. The lack of a campaign means that this isn’t something you can play all evening but for those hour-long spells when you do get a good team together, then I can think of few things better.

    Anticipation rating: take my money!

    Dead Island 2

    Unfortunately for Dead Island 2 I saw it right off the back of having a grand time with Dying Light and whilst it’s unfair to compare the games directly their approach to zombie slaying couldn’t be more different. Whilst Dying Light tryies to remove the boundaries with free running, Dead Island still relies on a well-worn formula.

    The world is rich enough with gas stations, stores, and homes packed with lootable items but it is the comparatively cumbersome way you get about that’s less attractive. I felt very locked in. The area we explored had many fences and barricades, none of which my puny jump could scale. Rather than clamber over I had to beat my way through a crowd of zombies which, whilst the combat is pleasing enough, left me disappointed.

    Different classes add some variety as I played a nimble minx who could dash forward and stab zombies through the neck and a tank of a man who could hit the undead so hard they’d fly through the air. Also in its favour is the seamless multiplayer, dragging up to eight players into the same world to band together or just to add some extra colour to your single-player campaign. The team were most excited however about the scripted world events that could then happen to further strengthen the bond between players or enforce a little PvP, using the example of a crashed helicopter being raided for supplies.

    The objective person inside me tells me I should say “well I liked Dead Rising and this is kind of the same” but it doesn't hold true. I did have fun setting fire to grass and watching the undead amble through setting themselves alight but on first impressions Dead Island 2 doesn’t have the outlandish nature of Dead Rising or the open world wow of Dying Light.

    Anticipation rating: we'll wait and see.



    Not content with producing Dying Light, Techland also have also unveiled combat-focused fantasy game Hellraid. Starting off staring at a very gorgeous mountain range the producer began to make his way into the foothills telling us that fighting is at the very cornerstone of everything they do. Some skeletons then came to help him prove his point.

    Every weapon is capable of a quick and slow attack for light and heavy damage respectively, plus is imbued with different qualities. Hacking at the skeletons with a sword we saw he was doing a reasonable amount of damage but as he switched to the blunt mace it was clear that the bludgeoning force was far more suitable against their fragile form, their bones flung across the surroundings with the impact.

    Interestingly there are no classes in Hellraid but instead players play specific classes by wielding those weapons. Pick up a sword and shield and you can become a warrior whilst those wielding wands are mages. It’s a very flexible approach that strengthens when combined with an interlinking tech tree that looks more like a spider web handing you the chance to customise your character’s skills to fight how you want.

    It looked promising at this early stage but the most curious titbit was the revelation that this isn’t an open world project but a series of carefully built levels. No doubt one expansive game is enough for any one studio and at least it will offer a far more focused experience.

    Anticipation rating: watching with interest.

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

    The scope of this game is staggering. The opening preamble of the presentation took a good five minutes but throughout the QA guy at the controls treated us to Geralt on his horse riding first through countryside and then town, taking in fields covered in sunflowers right up to brothels and the ladies that dwell inside. Every person we rode past had a name and a voice and there’s a commitment to ensuring that each has a schedule and reacts to the time of day and the weather.

    Of course we’re not here to be social, we’re here to slay monsters and out in the swamps we go and activate the Witcher’s equivalent of Detective Mode to stalk our prey. Following footsteps and blood splatter we find it. When attacked, combat has been redesigned to be more fluid yet as rich as ever with a collection of weapons and runes to beat back your opponent with Geralt casting fireballs and wielding his silver sword ably. Once again it is the combinations that will make it so inviting, linking together the traps and buffs available in real time with the potions that he can brew at night whilst meditating.

    There are a huge number of monsters in the game, some acting as quest targets and others simply lumbering around the environment for you to stumble upon. These hidden wonders are probably the best part of the huge open world CD Projekt Red have created. It offers a very tangible reason to explore, to put your fighting skills to the test and come back a hero.

    For those wanting to progress to the true tale of The Witcher, the main story arc holds the same set of choices that it’s ever done. Our demo ended with a question being asked of us that could dramatically alter what we see and which path we would follow. I still find it incredibly brave for such a game to effectively lop off large portions of content but equally it’s only then that most players fully appreciate the weight of their decision.

    Anticipation rating: take my money!

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