This week, what seems like the entire gaming industry has descended upon Cologne, Germany, for the annual Gamescom trade show. It’s similar in nature to E3, the Los Angeles megaconvention I attended back in June, except bigger and open to the public. While E3 is still a bigger event when it comes to making headlines, Sony and Microsoft appear to have held back a few big announcements just for Gamescom. But the biggest announcement of the show was from Electronic Arts. So, without further ado, here are a few highlights from the show, led off with EA’s bombshell:
“Mass Effect 2” is coming to the PlayStation 3: If 2010 were to end today, I’d have to give BioWare’s space epic serious consideration for Game of the Year. The way I’m thinking right now, “BioShock 2” wins it by a nose, but “ME2” had a fantastic, who-do-you-trust story, a cast of memorable characters and a big budget, blockbustery feel. The trilogy is truly shaping up as the “Star Wars” of video games. So when BioWare came out at Gamescom and announced that “ME2,” which had been a Xbox 360 and PC exclusive, would be coming to the PlayStation 3 next January, I got really excited for all those PS3 owners who’ll get to play one of my favorite games.
Of course, one of the best things about “Mass Effect 2” was how it accessed your save file from the first game and incorporated the way you played “Mass Effect” into its plot. Sadly, PS3 owners won’t get that thrill. (The original “Mass Effect” was published by Microsoft before Electronic Arts bought BioWare, which means Microsoft would have to agree before the first game showed up on Sony’s console.) But a partial “Mass Effect” experience is better than none.
There’s some kind of “Fight Club”-style game for the Xbox 360’s Kinect: Admit it, when you first heard Microsoft would be launching a peripheral that would let you play video games without a controller, your first thought was, “I can’t wait to kick someone’s butt by beating the snot out of some air.” Ubisoft’s “Fighters Uncaged” will let you do that. It looks fun and exhausting. For the first time, I’m glad a game doesn’t have local competitive multiplayer. Could you imagine the heated sessions between siblings that result in actual fights?
The two models of the PS3 are getting suped up: A PlayStation 3 with a 160 gigabyte hard drive has become the new $300 model, replacing the old model with the 120-gig drive. In September, a model with a 320-gig drive will hit stores, bundled with a PlayStation Move controller, an Eye camera and a demo disc. It’ll cost $400.
The next “Ratchet & Clank” game will feature four-player co-op: Subtitled “All 4 One,” the next title in Insomniac Games’ popular platform-jumping-plus-big-weapons series will let up to four players drop in and out of the action at will. And it’ll be cute and funny.
“Gran Turismo 5” looks like it’ll give “ModNation Racers” a run for its money: Sony’s ultrarealistic racing simulation will have robust track creation tools and, er, kart racing? Soebody tell United Front Games, the makers of the PS3’s wonderful “MNR” that it’s on!
Microsoft’s classic PC franchises aren’t dead, they’re just different: A lot of folks wondered what would happen to the popular “Age of Empires” games when Microsoft closed Ensemble Studios after the release of “Halo Wars.” Well, there’s been some good news. Ensemble vets have united under the banner of Robot Entertainment and have made a free-to-play online game that looks like a cartoonier version of the classic franchise, aimed at more casual players. Similarly, “Microsoft Flight” appears to be picking up the torch of the niche but popular “Flight Simulator” franchise, whose studio was also closed amid recent layoffs.