Day three of the Gamescom video games expo in Cologne, Germany kicked off with one of my most anticipated games of the show, Star Wars 1313. Billed as Star Wars for grown-ups, 1313 promises a darker, nastier take on George Lucas’s universe, featuring a pair of ruthless smugglers on a perilous journey through the galaxy’s most wretched hive of scum and villainy.
The setting is a legend among readers of Star Wars expanded universe fiction, level 1313, lying thousands of feet below the surface of the glittering city-planet of Coruscant. Unlike the world-spanning paradise of steel and glass above, 1313 is the most lawless place in the galaxy, a neon-lit underworld ruled by criminal lords.
LucasArts is promising a game without any sign of The Force - the action will be entirely conducted with blasters, and when those fail, fists. The live demo I saw was most reminiscent of Uncharted, with big action setpieces punctuating third-person platforming and cover-based shooting.
The visuals are achieved with an extensively overhauled Unreal Engine 3, programmed in-house by LucasArts, and the results are simply breathtaking. The sound and music are also pure Star Wars, and Skywalker Sound was involved in development. If LucasArts can stay on course, Star Wars 1313 looks set to be a huge hit.
Next stop was my second opportunity to play Call of Duty: Black Ops II multi-player, and it’s still fantastic. Treyarch has redesigned the Create-a-Class feature to allow a ridiculous degree of customisation. The new system is called “pick 10”, and works exactly as described: primary weapons, secondary weapons, weapon mods, and perks are all worth a point, and your class build can use a maximum of ten. This system allows millions of combinations and an incredibly deep level of customisation, and loadouts can be saved and shared with friends.
After that, it was time to slow down the pace and little and check out Company of Heroes 2, Relic’s highly anticipated sequel to their strategy classic. This time the setting moves away from the often-seen Western front, with its familiar D-Day invasion, Utah Beach, and so on. Company of Heroes 2 instead turns its attention to the Eastern front, the unimaginably bloody theatre of war in which Russians fought Germans, and the highest military casualties of any war in history were suffered.
Troops not only battle each other, but the very elements around them. Tanks can be lost when the river ice breaks under their treads (perhaps with the help of an enemy grenade) and the frigid weather slowly saps soldiers’ body heat, strength, and life. In this game, a bonfire may be just as vital as a fuel dump or ammo store.
Relic has achieved amazing things with the technology behind the game. Rather than a typical fog of war, pushed back in a circle by advancing troops, the game uses true line of sight. Troops can flank enemies and attack from the rear unseen, and line of sight is blocked by buildings, vehicles, or even smoke. This is a seriously deep strategy game, and fans of the genre are sure to love it.
A quick play on the newly revived Doom 3 BFG Edition, which brings the PC classic to consoles for the first time, revealed that it might have been better left buried. Despite the updated visuals, this is a game that feels old. Doom 3 was criticised for its shallowness when it was new, and almost a decade later time has done it no favours. Still, it’s an important piece of gaming history, and fans of old-school shooters might want to have a look.
I got some more hands-on time with Dishonored, my “best of show” for E3, and the lustre has not worn off. The level Bethesda brought to Gamescom was much longer and much harder than what was shown at E3. I died a lot before I finally worked out the controls an progressed through the level. That combination of cool steampunk world, methodical stalking, frantic swordplay, and clever use of magic is as addictive as ever.
I finished of the show at the Electronic Arts booth, playing Medal of Honor: Warfighter multi-player and a lengthy section of the opening of Dead Space 3. Warfighter is just as great as it was at E3, and it’s going to be a tough choice this Christmas for military shooter fans. Black Ops II seems to be appealing to a love of customisation, while Warfighter is highlighting teamwork and national pride, with its range of real-world tier 1 operators. They’re both fantastic multi-player experiences, so fans have a tough choose before them.
Dead Space 3 is growing on me. While I have been bemoaning the loss of the game’s horror roots, as the franchise commando-rolls into a more action-oriented style, the gameplay is still solid and fun. While not s frightening as the original, the section I played was very tense and got my heart rate up. I have much higher hopes for this sequel now that I’ve played it for myself.
That’s it from day three. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experiences in Cologne. I’ll soon be back in Australia and normal service will resume.
- James "DexX" Dominguez
DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez