Best of the Network: Heavy Rain
For the Best of the Network award, each site in the massive Eurogamer Network was given an equal number of votes, and their choices compiled into a top game and four nominees. It's the way we figured out the local choices, but on a broader scale. And there's no accounting for taste in that, which is why Heavy Rain is apparently the network's game of the show.
Don't get me wrong, I think Heavy Rain is fascinating and ambitious, and there is no one at Eurogamer.net who doesn't want to play it and find out whether David Cage and his colleagues at Quantic Dream can deliver on their stated aim - to get you emotionally involved in a vast whodunnit with four playable characters. But the gamescom demos were lethargic and rather forced, especially the evening at home with Ethan Mars looking after his son.
Positives? This is the natural evolution of the point-and-click adventure genre, allowing you to walk around and probe your environment, and offering no end of possibility in terms of outcomes. It's as far away from a quick-time event as Quakeworld or PGR. The quality of the character design, too, and motion capture-driven animation, is peerless. If Quantic Dream can find the drama to match the technology and design framework, this will be extremely special. For us though, the jury's still out on that part.
FIFA 10 - Aha. Clearly we haven't thought this through, because here we are trying to summon another paragraph on FIFA a page later. Then again, it's a game that offers much to discuss. gamescom saw the unveiling of Virtual Pro mode, where you can customise a player to your liking, download your Game Face, complete training regimes and then use him in 10v10 matches and other modes. There's also the first in what will be a succession of yearly steps toward revamping Manager Mode, beginning with a quest for greater base-level authenticity - probably a good thing, judging by Portsmouth's Premier League-topping exploits in my ongoing FIFA 09 session and Man United's impending relegation.
Diablo III - Again? Alright then. The Barbarian is a juggernaut of rage, tabbing between right-click cleaves and slams to keep the damage optimal and the fury high. The Witch Doctor's a midfield general of undead critters, daring to get up close and personal, dashing and retreating like a one-man Zerg (well, one man and his zombie dog). The Wizard pulls, freezes, retreats, sends in a spectral self and bombs from afar before closing in to destroy with the merest touch. And the Monk? He makes monsters explode just by punching them and has an attack that's a blizzard of 2D Street Fighter cutouts... It can't come soon enough, and it definitely won't.
Mafia II - 2K Czech's Jarek Kolar told me that the Mafia II team doesn't really speak to Rockstar North, despite what you would imagine are similar technological goals. Perhaps it's because 2K Czech's vision of an open-world organised crime adventure is a very real adventure into organised crime of the 1940s, thick with sexism, disproportionate violence and cars that drive slowly and can't handle rain on the road. It's grim, quite tense and uncompromising, like the sharp end of The Sopranos or a Scorcese film. Should be very interesting.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Ignored in the Eurogamer.net list on account of a frustratingly brief two-minute demo, for our European brethren there was clearly no denying its charms nonetheless, and in a sense they were right: the Spec Ops demo may have been over quickly, but everything between breaching the wall and the end-of-level stat screen was fantastic. Laser sights slashing through the air from enemy vantage points, bullet impacts on the riot-shield visor, the weight of the atmosphere, and the consistency of the frame-rate. Plus, it reminded us of Alcatraz flick The Rock, which has John Spencer in it, and we loved John Spencer. At least bring one developer next time though, Activision, please?
It's all over...
...until gamescom 2010, which takes place in Cologne from 18th to 22nd August next year. We'll be there.