Gamescom 2012 diaries: Day two’s heroes and monsters

Day two of the Gamescom video games expo in Cologne was another huge day, so let’s get straight into it.

First up was a visit to Capcom and some hands-on time with Resident Evil 6. I was very negative in my coverage of this title at E3, but I am mellowing toward it. Every Resident Evil game is grown in a vat from the same pool of DNA, so one has to accept that some game features are an inextricable part of the franchise and simply deal with them.

With that in mind, I played Resident Evil 6 for an extended period this morning and let myself fall into it. I played two demo sections controlling classic franchise characters, first a survival horror sequence featuring Leon Kennedy, and then an all-action military shootout with Chris Redfield.

Leon’s section worked better, as it was more classic Resident Evil, with lots of creeping down darkened corridors and jumping at zombies lunging out of shadows. The part with Chris was strange, an apparent attempt to fit a Call of Duty level into the Resident Evil universe. Trying to duck behind cover and fire an assault rifle at Plagas-infected militia, all using a control set-up that has barely changed since its slow-paced survival horror days, didn’t feel very natural.

Still, if a sceptic like me could have fun with it, existing fans of the series are probably going to love it.

Next up was a trip to the Activision booth to check out Dead Pool and The Walking Dead. Comic fans around the world love Dead Pool, so the recent announcement of a dedicated game built around the smart-mouthed, gun-toting, clinically insane antihero was cause for celebration. Voice-performance star Nolan North taking on the titular role was also good news, and the early previews of his characterisation have been spot on.

The game itself is an action platformer, switching quickly between platform-style 3D brawling and over-the-shoulder gunplay. The real star of the game, though, is its humour. I laughed out loud as Deadpool cracked bad puns, broke the fourth wall, and argued with the voices in his head. I suspect that when gamers get their hands on the finished product, it will be the plot and the jokes that keep them interested, even more that the actual gameplay.

Unlike the Walking Dead adventure game that was released recently, Activision’s upcoming game is a spin-off of the TV show based on that comic. The story is a prequel, centring around redneck brothers Daryl and Merle and their struggle to survive in the early days of the zombie apocalypse.

While the bulk of the action takes place in a first-person shooter style, overall the game promises to be a gruelling survival simulator. Players will be forced to make tough choices, to take on more survivors or leave them behind the save food, to stay relatively safe or to take on risky missions to potentially find rich rewards, and more. Combat will be frantic and deadly, with zombies able to hear and smell characters, in addition to seeing them, and players having to choose between quiet melee weapons that risk getting close, or safer firearms that make far too much noise.

Next I had the opportunity to finally gets hands-on with Injustice: Gods Among Us, the one-on-one fighting game that pits DC Comics’ most famous heroes and villains against each other in some of the most iconic locations in the superhero universe. In one brief session I controlled or fought against Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Nightwing, Cyborg, Harley Quinn, and Solomon Grundy, with their arenas being the streets of Metropolis, the Batcave, and Superman’s frozen Fortress of Solitude.

Fans of fighting games such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat should be satisfied with the controls. A relatively small number of buttons and stick motions are combined to launch a wide variety of attacks, and the action is fast, brutal, and occasionally very funny. Each character has one over-the-top super attack, with one example being Superman punching his opponent into orbit.

The colossal forces unleashed by these battling behemoths causes the battle arenas to gradually break apart, and players can even use some elements of the environment in their attacks, launching missiles from the Batmobile, or clobbering an opponent with a parked car. Each level has at least two rooms, with combatants literally punching each other through walls to access new areas.

I then watched a demo of the new PlayStation Move horror game Until Dawn. Based on the Scream school of teen horror filmmaking popularised by director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson, it features the usual tropes of the genre: a group of young pretty people in a remote cabin in the woods, being stalked and picked off one by one by an unseen assailant. It seems fun enough, but I doubt it will shift a lot of Move units.

Next was a bit of hands-on time with Crysis 3’s fun multiplayer. Two new multiplayer modes were announced at Gamescom, and I got a taste of both. First was Hunter, in which a group of crash-landed have to survive for a few minutes while they are stalked by two invisible attackers in nanosuits, armed with silent bows. As soldiers are picked off, they return to the game on the other team, so the balance of power shifts quickly. The other mode was called Capsule, in which alien capsules are dropped randomly into the field, and two teams fight for control over them, essentially a domination mode where the goal keeps moving.

Finally I spent some talking to small independent publisher Paradox about their upcoming titles. A Game of Dwarves feels like a more accessible version of the super-difficult cult title Dwarf Fortress. Players will excavate a multi-storey underground complex while feeding their population, fending off attackers, and discovering powerful new upgrades.

Impire is a strategy title reminiscent of cult favourite Dungeon Keeper, but set in the universe of the Majesty series of games. An evil but incompetent wizard has summoned a powerful demon, but it is stuck in the form of a tiny imp. The wizard and his imp must build a dangerous dungeons stronghold, fill it with traps and monsters, defend it from heroic adventurers, and send out raiding parties to raze the countryside.

Finally I had a look at Europa Universalis IV. A classic Paradox PC strategy title, EU4 is sprawling, deep, and utterly baffling for a first-time player. Starting in the early fifteenth century, players will take on the role of one of the tiny dark age kingdoms of Europe, and expand it into a wealthy, powerful empire. Screen Play’s many fans of Crusader Kings will probably love it.

That’s all from day two of Gamescom. My final update and wrap-up will becoming next week. Have a great weekend, everybody.

- James "DexX" Dominguez

twitter DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

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