Gamescom is the European equivalent to E3. This year’s show was even bigger and more important than ever before with the next-generation systems just on the horizon. Sony and Microsoft went head-to-head again, vying for everyone’s dollars this holiday season when they launch the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One respectively. Electronic Arts was also at the show with more to reveal about all their next-gen offerings.
Indie Ana Jones
Microsoft has been the subject of heavy criticism and scrutiny since E3 thanks to the huge 180 it has turned in regards to Xbox One’s features and policies. Due to the extreme industry backlash towards Microsoft and the Xbox One, they opted not to stream their press conference, but that didn’t stop them from revealing new exclusive games for Xbox One and reveal even more details about their system.
One area that Sony has unarguably been besting Microsoft in is the indie space. Microsoft used to be the king of the indies with their Xbox 360 featuring hugely influential indie titles such as Braid and Castle Crashers. Their digital promotions throughout the years has kept the spotlight firmly on their Xbox Live Arcade services, until Sony has made serious strides in the indie scene.
In an attempt to focus back on indie developers, Microsoft has announced the Xbox Initiative. Approved indie developers will be able to get free access to specialized Xbox One tools and hardware to aid them in developing games for Microsoft’s Xbox One system.
A new indie game from Mojang is on the way for Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It’s tough to say if the new game, Cobalt, can even be considered “indie” now considering the massive success Mojang has had with Minecraft, but that’s how it’s being pushed by Microsoft right now.
Legends are born
Microsoft isn’t exactly known for its roster of first-party exclusives, but one of its major franchises since the original Xbox has been Fable. The franchise hasn’t been in the proper spotlight in recent years, with Fable III releasing to mixed response and spinoffs such as Kinect-enabled Fable: The Journey and the poorly received XBLA game Fable Heroes. Fable Legends is an Xbox One exclusive that is looking to bring Fable back into the spotlight.
Peter Molyneux is gone from Lionhead, so Fable Legends isn’t being hyped to high heaven like the other entries in the series, and that’s probably a good thing. Fable Legends is not Fable IV, so its yet another spinoff in the series, which is probably for the best because the gameplay is way different than other games in the series.
Fable has dabbled in co-op before, but Fable Legends is the first entry built entirely around co-op. Fable Legends is an online-only experience, using Xbox One’s Cloud services to beef up its online capabilities. Four players will take control of their own customizable hero of varying classes, with combat playing out similarly to the other Fable games. And yes, heroes can be around because this game is set 400 years before the first Fable, when heroes were still in abundance.
Oh, but there’s a twist.
In Fable Legends, a fifth player joins the game. The fifth player takes the role of the villain, using RTS style input and changing the quests of the heroes in order to defeat them. This makes Fable Legends seem like a video game version of D&D that is far truer to the actual concepts of Dungeons & Dragons than other licensed Dungeons & Dragons video games. One player essentially gets to be the Dungeon Master, and that is really cool.
Ryse to the top
Ryse: Son of Rome is a polarizing Xbox One exclusive. It was first revealed as an Xbox 360 Kinect title years ago, but since then, Crytek has shifted development from Xbox 360 to Xbox One and has chosen to go with a traditional controller for the majority of the gameplay input.
I was really impressed with what I saw of Ryse at E3, but there were plenty of people unimpressed with the game, calling it a QTE-fest. As it turns out, Ryse: Son of Rome will only have those executions as optional finishing moves. Instead of the buttons appearing above the heads of enemies, enemies will instead be highlighted in a color that corresponds with the button on the controller required to perform the execution.
Ryse: Son of Rome could very well be the birth of a brand new exclusive franchise for Microsoft. I’ve always been impressed with the game’s incredible visuals, and Crytek is a trusted developer. Ryse: Son of Rome is a launch title.
While there’s a lot to be said about the partnership between Electronic Arts and EA, Ubisoft and Microsoft also have made a few deals here and there. Before getting into that, Ubisoft announced a new Xbox One exclusive called The Fighter Within.
The Fighter Within, a spiritual successor to Fighter Uncaged on Xbox 360, uses Xbox One’s Kinect device. The Fighter Within uses 1:1 motion tracking for fighting. It supports local split-scree multiplayer as well as real-time damage to the fighters. The Fighter Within is releasing this fall for Xbox One.
Besides that, Ubisoft and Microsoft have reached an exclusivity agreement in regards to the much-talked about next-gen game Tom Clancy’s The Division. The Division is going to have some of its content exclusive to the Xbox One version of the game. Furthermore, it has been confirmed earlier this week that The Division is also coming to PC.
Ghosts and soccer in your Xbox
Didn’t get an Xbox One pre-ordered in time? Well, hopefully you live in Europe. It was announced at Gamescom that Microsoft and Activision are teaming up for a new Xbox One bundle for Call of Duty: Ghosts. Not only that, but the Xbox One version of Call of Duty: Ghosts will have dedicated servers thanks to the beefed up power of Xbox One’s Xbox Live servers.
Another bundle was announced, but this one is probably more enticing. Everyone that pre-orders an Xbox One in Europe are going to come with FIFA 14 for free. Speaking of FIFA 14, the Xbox One version of the game will feature an exclusive game mode called Ultimate Team Legends Mode.
Xbox One Launch Titles
EA and Microsoft have pretty much been in bed together (so to speak) for years now, and that relationship continues through to the next-gen. Peggle 2 and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare are both coming to PlayStation 4 and PC in the future, but both games will be timed exclusives for Xbox One.
Oh, and Peggle 2 will be a launch game for Xbox One! For the full list of Xbox One launch titles, just check it out:
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Dead Rising 3
Forza Motorsport 5
Just Dance 2014
Lego Marvel Super Heroes
Madden NFL 25
NBA Live 14
Need for Speed: Rivals
Ryse: Son of Rome
Skylanders: Swap Force
The Fighter Within
Zumba Fitness: World Party
Quite the crazy amount of high quality launch titles if I do say so myself.
Killer Instinct will have two different versions when it releases on Xbox One. The game will only come with eight characters at first, with more characters and content planned to be released in 2014. There will be a $20 version of the game as well as $40 version of the game. The latter version will include all eight characters as well as the entirety of the original version of Killer Instinct.
Plants vs. Zombies
EA was the next company to take the stage at Gamescom. While they don’t have their own eighth gen console in development or anything, EA is the largest gaming publisher in the world, and they plan on continuing that fact as they move into the next-generation of gaming.
The reason EA has managed to be this successful is that they have managed to create, cultivate, and grow numerous franchises. The most recent success under their belt is Plants vs. Zombies 2, which released as a free-to-play iOS game last month to rave reviews from critics.
Plants vs. Zombies 2 has already been played excessively since it launched. EA and PopCap Games have announced that new content for the game is on the way in the form of an update entitled Far Future.
In other Plants vs. Zombies news, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare will have an exclusive mode when it comes to the Xbox One version of the game. This mode is called Boss Mode. In it, players will be able to use SmartGlass to issue orders to their plants like a general to fight the zombies, turning the game into more of a real-time strategy title.
Sports and stuff
In addition to all the Plants vs. Zombies news that came out of Gamescom, EA also took the time to showcase their upcoming sports game offerings. They revealed some of the first footage of UFC 2014, which will benefit from highly advanced next-generation technology to offer full-body deformation systems.
By and far EA’s most popular sports franchise is FIFA. FIFA 14 was talked about a bit during Microsoft’s press conference when it was announced that everyone in Europe that pre-orders Xbox One will get a free copy of FIFA 14 with their purchase. Those that can’t wait to play the next-gen version of FIFA and want to play the current-gen one don’t have to wait long. FIFA 14 is getting a demo on PS3 and Xbox 360 on September 10th. It was also confirmed that stats and everything else accrued on the current-gen versions of the game will transfer to the next-gen versions of the game.
Like a Battlefield
Battlefield 4 is poised to be the biggest entry in the franchise yet. The game made huge waves at E3 with a highly impressive gameplay demo that showcased the epic multiplayer that is finally coming to consoles in true form, with 64 player battles. Of course, EA didn’t leave Gamescom without talking about Battlefield 4 some more.
Battlefield 4 is getting a beta for the current-gen and PC versions of the game that will launch in October, shortly before the game actually releases on October 29th. In addition, there will be numerous expansion packs released for the game over its lifetime, with Premium Subscribers having access to all of them as they release.
While it’s unrelated to the Battlefield franchise, EA also focused on another “war” game that is releasing under their banner in 2014. It was announced that the new Command & Conquer will see the return of campaign missions, this time focusing on the APA faction.
PS3 still alive
After a fantastic E3 presentation, Sony had a lot to live up to for Gamescom. While I wouldn’t say that their Gamescom presentation was as good as their E3 one, Sony still put on a pretty good show.
Sony has a history of supporting their consoles long after their lifespans, and that tradition is continuing with the PlayStation 3. It was revealed at Gamescom that Gran Turismo 6 is launching on December 6th, 2013, which is actually after the launch of Sony’s eighth gen system, the PlayStation 4.
In addition, a new free-to-play LittleBigPlanet game is in development for PS3 called LittleBigPlanet Hub. There will even be a Grand Theft Auto V PS3 bundle that is releasing on September 17th with the game.
Don’t forget Vita
While it is still suffering hugely by poor sales, Sony used Gamescom to give some attention to their fledgling handheld PS Vita. They first announced that the hugely popular RPG/FPS hybrid Borderlands 2 is releasing on Vita in 2014, with Sony teaming with Gearbox Software for the port.
Furthermore, it was announced that the PS Vita is getting a price cut worldwide, as are the memory cards that are pretty much required to enjoy the Vita to any extent. The Vita will now be priced at $200.
Numerous Vita exclusive indie titles were announced during the show as well. I will admit, it’s a little disappointing that more first-party high budget Sony games aren’t being made for Vita, but the indie offerings are nice, too. Among the announced titles were quirky games such as Murasaki Baby, Starbound, Fez, Gravity Crush Ultra, and Velocity 2X (also coming out for PS4). There’s also a fun-looking music festival management game called BigFest coming out for Vita. As strange as the concept sounds, it looks like a blast.
Indies hitting it big
There are plenty of other big indie titles coming out not only for Vita, but for PS3 and PS4 as well. Among them are Hotline Miami 2, Rogue Legacy, and The Binding of Isaac. These games should be available across all Sony platforms simultaneously.
Everybody’s Gone to Rapture is a new game that is releasing exclusively for the PS4 from the creators of Dear Esther, retaining that game’s look and style. Rime is a new game from the creators of Deadlight that features a colorful open world environment. A new tactical shooter called Helldivers is also on the way for PS4, though expect this game to release on Sony’s other systems as well.
A new shoot ‘em up called Resogun is coming to PS4. War Thunder is also a newly announced indie launch title for PS4. It is a World War II aerial-based MMO that will be free-to-play.
Minecraft, a game that was previously only available for consoles on Xbox 360, is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita later this year. Specifically, it is going to be available on PlayStation 4 the first day the console is available for purchase on November 15th.
Shadow of the Beast
A reboot of the classic Amiga title, Shadow of the Beast is being completely re-imagined for PlayStation 4. I was totally blown away by the trailer, so I thought the game deserved its very own section in this article. Check out the trailer right here:
But wait, there’s more!
Sony announced that the Augmented Reality based Playroom will come pre-installed on every PS4 system. That being said, it actually requires the PlayStation Eye peripheral to function, and the PS4 does not come bundled with the device. The device will retail for about the price of a full game, and will be offered separately from the system.
In addition, PS4 will also feature a PS Plus trial program. Players can get two weeks of PS Plus to test out the service after purchasing a PS4. PS4 will also include a variety of apps right out of the box at launch.
Those that purchase PlayStation 3 versions of cross-generational games will be able to upgrade to the digital PlayStation 4 versions at a “highly discounted price”. Plus, there will be red and blue controller variants. They will be available in Europe at launch, though those in North America have to wait until “later this year”.
Finally, Ubisoft and Sony announced a partnership to develop the Watch Dogs movie together.
PlayStation 4 will be available on November 15h, 2013 in North America.
* * *
So, there you have it. Those that are going the PS4 route this gen can pick up their system on November 15th. For some reason, Microsoft declined to announce a release date for their Xbox One system, but rumors indicate that the Xbox One will be available on November 21st to coincide with the release of Need for Speed: Rivals.