Journey to GamesCom 2017, Truly the “Heart of Gaming”

When you think of the summer, visiting a conference where you’ll be inside 90% of the time might be the last thing on your mind. However, that is exactly what has been on my mind for the last month, month and a half as GamesCom was coming closer.

GamesCom, the biggest European gaming conference for consumers – although GamesCom prefers to just call us gamers – was opening its doors to thousands of people who wanted to experience the latest games. To quote an Inside Xbox persona: “I was there.” And with me was Kenny, my brother (in arms).

This was our fourth time we visited GamesCom. You could call us veterans at this point. So we came prepared this year.

  • Lazy “cosplay” for the first day? Check
  • Lots of water? Check.
  • Cash for the GamesCom shirt and some other gear? Check
  • Tickets for two days? You bet!
  • Foldable “fisherman” chair? Sure thing!
  • Mind set on gaming while preparing some (or a lot of) waiting? Check!

Day One – We’re on a scouting mission

We headed to GamesCom on Thursday. Getting there is easy enough. Unfortunately, we couldn’t repeat our “mistake” of last year where we took a wrong exit ended up parking on top of the conference center, but as it turns out that wasn’t even a bad thing.

After hopping on the bus we arrived at the Gates Of GamesCom. We were a bit “late” but there was still a line to get in. We decided to spend our time wisely by getting our bracelets. Yes, we heard you info lady. We can get those bracelets inside. But if you’re waiting, you might as well be waiting for something useful!

I almost forgot an important part. Let’s roll back a little and explain how entering GamesCom works.

First we passed the German police protecting the area. Thanks, dudes! Then we were asked to show our tickets. Since they were all sold out, they wanted to filter out people that would try and get tickets still (which, on most days, isn’t going to happen.) After that, our bags were checked. Me and Kenny were both carrying backpacks (to store the water and the likes) so we had to pass the checkpost. It went really fast, though, as there were at least a hundred security people checking bags. They seemed okay with the contents, so we moved on.

Things were a little more complicated on the second day, as they removed a suspicious item from our bag. They took a look at the cannister, and when they read the words “Coca Cola” they probably thought “Huh.” Well, it’s better to be safe and sorry. Those cans do actually kind of look like IED’s if we are getting sinister…

After that, there was the checkpost to enter, another queuee and then you had to scan your tickets. And you’re inside!

Our game plan was the same as last year. We decided to walk around and see everything that GamesCom had to offer. As we passed stands we got an image of games we wanted to see, and merchandise we wanted to buy.

When you are heading to GamesCom, be prepared. Bring comfortable shoes. I wore my hiking shoes on both days, and for a good reason: walking all across the conference halls took us a good four and a half hours. At the end of the day we’d walked 9.5 kilometers. GamesCom isn’t for the faint of heart that prefer to sit down 24/7!

The thing is, you really want to know what you can see. Of course you can also use the app which lists both developers and titles but we prefer doing our scouting manually. This would pay off big time the next day.

After wandering around – and some expensive GamesCom food – we decided to try and get some gate time in.

Battlefront II and it’s cool booth awaited us

There is little point in telling you which vendors and games were there. All the big names are present and if a game is upcoming or highly expected, then you can probably play it in some form. Some games could be played at multiple stands – often at the stands of the many hardware suppliers that also attend GamesCom. Because it’s not just video game developers. Alienware, Alternate, Samsung, MSI, Intel and even Lenovo came to praise their products. Services like Twitch and Mixer were demonstrating their technical ability live. And some companies saw the value of reaching a new audience.

Not only was the Germany army and (what I assume was) their Secret Service present (The army had a slogan saying “Even if you dislike us, we are protecting your right to do so), along with some other companies. Ford was also there, challenging gamers to beat the track record in a racing game and showcasing their two cars that would fit right in at any racing game, the Ford Focus RS and the Ford Fiesta. Their presence didn’t even feel out of place for a bit.

 

 

But I’m losing track of where I was heading. Games. Tons and tons of video games.

The first game we decided we’d give a shot was EA / Dice’s Battlefront II. The booths of EA are always big and impressive, and allow a lot of players to play at once. If my math isn’t off they were able to host 2×100 gamers at once.

Queueing is never super pleasant, but we were prepared. As we got near the entrance, a mystery was solved: “Why am I hearing the theme song of the Empire every once in a while?” It seemed out of context.

Until we got close, and saw that the song was played when the door opened to allow gamers entry. The entrance was modeled after a Star Wars “port” and inside it, Storm Troopers pointed you into the right direction. If I had awards to hand out, I would give Battlefront II the award for the booth that sticked best to the theme.

We got to play the new game mode, the space fights. First, we got an introduction in a short movie. After that, we rolled out for 10v10 space battle goodness.

The gameplay was really solid. The controls felt great (even though it was a Playstation 4 controller), the game looked good and the space battles were fun and exciting. I would almost dare to say that they could make a stand alone game out of it. But I don’t want to give Dice any ideas. All in all, it looks like this game mode is going to be pretty cool and we were happy that we took the plunge.

The only one downside was that one of the hosts was a bit stressed out, to say the least. Yes, lady. We know how to get up and orderly exit a room. Thank for the reminder, though.

Cuphead and the feeling of shame

Next, we went to the Microsoft booth to see what game we could put our hands on. In the meanwhile we were given a code for GamePass (we ended up getting three in total over the two days). Damn you, Microsoft and your goodies. Now I have no excuse not to try it. Microsoft was rather generous this year. Oh, and their booth looked amazing as well. I’ve tried to take a picture but there is no way you can cover their entire booth in one shot.

Microsoft had brought the Xbox One X, Recore, Super Lucky’s Tale, Sea Of Thieves, some indie games (including PUBG), Forza 7, the Design Lab and more to the show. And they had a stage where something was going on non stop. Music, dancing, dance battles with prices, constantly letting people know that Spotify is now on Xbox – it was all there. It seems odd for Microsoft to celebrate the arrival of a competitor to Groove Music but they seem to really be putting the gamer first – and the gamer has been asking for a way to listen to Spotify for a long time.

Our eye landed on Cuphead, a game that netiher Kenny or me was planning on buying. In the E3 trailer, the game seemed too… chaotic and unpleasant for my reason. Maybe seeing the trailer one time too many made me dislike it, but we gave it a shot anyway.

And truth be told, we were wrong. Very, very wrong. Cuphead is actually a very entertaining platformer with an old school vibe. The theme stops being “weird as hell” once you are actually experiencing it. The use of an overworld made me think of Super Mario Bross III for a bit.

The level we played was pretty straight forward. We had to fight our way through the woods. However, that took us longer than we wanted. It took us a while to understand the movements of the enemies and find a strategy that works. Even when there were two of us we still let the bad guys surprise us. We are already thinking of strategies should we (or one of us) buy the game when it comes out.

When we finally managed to finish the level, we got the score of D-. At the bottom, we noticed that one of the reasons was the difficulty modifier. We had been playing the game on the normal mode and the game had kicked our ass! Cuphead is going to be an interesting, unique and challenging game for sure. And next time we’ll be prepared for your anthics, bad guys. Mark my words.

Heading back

The first day of GamesCom is always a bit more challenging for us than the second because of all the walking. So we left around 6.50 and headed back home, tired but satisfied and knowing that we would have a whole second day to experience GamesCom and what it had to offer.

More about that in part two, since this blog post is getting out of hand!

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