If you can remember back to where I left you all the other day – I had just been told that the hotel room I had booked over two months previously had been unceremoniously cancelled and that I would probably have to look for a room in the neighboring city of Düsseldorf, over 30 miles away from Koeln Messe where Gamescom was being held and without a car to get me there. Without going into too much tedious detail, just let me tell you that I did not take this news well and insisted the hapless guy on reception duties call his manager and sort something out for me. Luckily after a bit of ringing around they managed to find a room in another hotel run by the same company, only it was located on completely the opposite side of the city.
Grabbing some public transport directions and the telephone number of the other hotel (although if you can recall, my phone had already run out of battery which made a bad situation worse), I made my way back to the tram stop as the sun started to go down. Following the route back into the city center and then out the other side I eventually got the bus stop I was supposed to use to catch my final connection to the hotel. At this point it was about 10pm and I was starting to get a bit panicky that I either wouldn’t be able to locate the hotel or they would not have a reservation for me. These feelings continued as the bus arrived and I waited, and waited, and waited for the stop I was supposed to use to get off.
After about 30 minutes or so of being on the bus and watching the built-up areas slowly start to change into much more rural settings, I decided to ask the bus driver when the stop was coming up. In perfect English she then explained to me that I had been traveling in entirely the wrong direction! In my panic I had caught the right bus, only from the bus stop on the wrong side of the road! At that point I had to get off the bus, wait at a bus stop in what was basically a small German village in the middle of the night for about 30 minutes, before finally catching the bus going back the correct way. All of this after I had been awake and either traveling or being on my feet for about 28 straight hours….
Anyway, I wont bore you with any more of my troubles as I’m sure you are keen to hear more about the games! Suffice to say that I did locate the hotel when I managed to get on the correct bus route and my reservation was waiting for me at about midnight. I pretty much fell into bed exhausted and got up early enough to prepare for a full day at Gamescom. After taking a bit of a detour using the bus to locate a supermarket in order to stock up on deodorant that was confiscated at London Gatwick, and to grab a coffee (with milk!) and cake from a fantastic bakery chain called Kamps, I made my way back to Koeln Messe.
I knew that I had to spend most of the day queuing if I wanted to check out the really big games, but I started off by checking out PlayStation All-Stars, as Sony had plenty of consoles available for the game and a pretty speedy queuing system for the game. I have to admit I was pretty impressed with how much fun the game was and I returned to it several times over the day to check out several different characters. Yes, it was a blatant Smash Bros rip-off, but it’s no less fun to play because of that and I actually found it easier to control and to keep track of your character than the Nintendo game.
By this time I felt I had spent enough time in Hall 7 and wandered next door, to check out Black Ops II and the EA stand. The latter was very impressive, with Need for Speed: Most Wanted the clear focus, and several very nice sports cars on display to set the scene. Of course the queue for Black Ops II was fairly enormous, and misleading as once inside the structure it winded around some more, in total I think I waited about 90 minutes to play the game. Was it worth it? Well I have to admit I’m not the world’s greatest COD fan (sorry, shoot me now) but I did have a lot of fun in the 10 minutes I had with the game, particularly after I found my groove again. There were a couple of new multiplayer modes on offer which I will tell you all about in a couple of days in more detail. Oh, and Activision also had a model drone outside the stand which came down on a pulley and flew over your head as you waited in line which was pretty cool.
With Black Ops II covered, I took the time for a well-earned Bratwust sausage from one of the vendors but resisted the urge to take a cool beer with it, as I figured that I would regret the decision once I was an hour into another line. Next I opted to check out the Wii U which was something I was very much looking forward to. Regretfully Nintendo were not in attendance, but luckily Ubisoft were present showing off ZombiU and Rayman Legends. I enjoyed my brief hands-on with both titles but I have to say that neither blew me away, with the graphics on ZombiU in particular seeming a little bit rough around the edges and certainly not as impressive as many PS3/XBOX games on display at the show. Stay tuned for much more info on those later this week.
By this time I had an appointment in the rather swish business area of the convention center with a developer keen to show off a couple of new games. I can’t say much more at this stage, but look out for much more on these titles at the end of the month. Anyway, following this I took the chance to explore a little bit more of the other halls, where there were displays covering everything from retro gaming to 3DTV’s, and incorporating massive skateboarding areas and double-decker buses. Seriously you could spend every day at Gamescom for a week, and even with no crowds at all you still wouldn’t be able to see and play everything on offer. It is just like the best theme park you have ever been to, but solely based around gaming. I have unfortunately never been to E3 and I understand that is awesome, but Gamescom has it beaten hands-down as the biggest games show in the world.
Making my way back to Hall 7, my next stop for the day was the Capcom stand. During the day many famous names from the publisher had been in attendance including the crazy Yoshinori Ono of Street Fighter fame, and Hiroyuki Kobayashi, the director of Resident Evil 6. Unfortunately I wasn’t brave enough to battle the throng to obtain an autograph, so instead I queued for another hour or so to get into the Capcom enclosure to check out Lost Planet 3, DMC and Resident Evil 6. As impressed as I was with all of these titles, I spent most of my time with them grappling with the non-inverted controls that were imposed on me as the demos didn’t give the option to change the set-up (or if they did I couldn’t understand enough German to find it!) and so this marred my experience a little. What I did manage to play however was great, particularly in Resi 6 as the difference between the classic style of Leon’s mission and the action oriented segments of Chris’ mission were like playing two different games.
By this time the throng was beginning to clear and the various stands were starting to clear. I made sure I stayed until I was literally kicked out in order to get you guys some photos of booth babes and the like (I know you appreciate it!) but finally it was time to go after a couple of crazy days at the show. As I said earlier I could have stayed for many more days but ultimately I felt pleased that I had checked out every game for you that I had intended on seeing, at least as far as the games that were actually playable.
Later that night I made my way over to Rudolfplatz which is the nightlife heart of Cologne. I hadn’t realized before, but the entire area was set up as a kind of giant Gamescom party, with a Gran Turismo simulator, bouncy castles and several bands playing and a fantastic atmosphere. I finally got to sample some German beer and took an hour or so to happily wander around the area which was really bustling and friendly despite the amount of people. It was one more example of Cologne really welcoming Gamescom and gamers in general which was great to see.
The next morning was my final day in Cologne with just time enough for a little sightseeing and another beer before heading back to the airport. In hindsight, deciding to climb the 535 steps to the top of Cologne cathedral in 32 degree heat after standing non-stop for two days wasn’t the best of plans, but the view from the top was certainly worth it!
I had an amazing few days in Germany and want to thank the ZKG crew once again for sending me out there. If you guys have any questions about the trip or if your thinking of going next year please hit me up, otherwise look forward to plenty of in-depth previews and hands-on impressions about the games I played over the next week or so. Now check below for some more great photos.