(Pocket-lint) - Gamescom is Europe's answer to E3. Held annually in Germany, it is a similarly huge event for gamers, with the biggest forthcoming titles on display for press, trade visitors and the public alike.
This year's event is now underway, so here are the games and hardware we have seen from multiple companies so far.
- Best upcoming PS4 games to look forward to
- Best upcoming Xbox One games to look forward to
- Best upcoming Nintendo Switch games to look forward to
- Best upcoming PC games to look forward to
What is Gamescom and when does it run until?
Gamescom started in 2009 and is held annually at the Koelnmesse convention centre in Cologne, Germany. It generally runs in mid to late-August.
This year it started with a press and trade-only day. However, the public can now enter with the main show running from 21 - 24 August.
Here are the show opening times for each day:
- Tuesday 20 August 2019: 7am to 8pm CEST (press and trade visitors only)
- Wednesday 21 August 2019: 9am (press and trade), 10am (public) to 8pm CEST
- Thursday 22 August 2019: 9am (press and trade), 10am (public) to 8pm CEST
- Friday 23 August 2019: 9am to 8pm CEST
- Saturday 24 August 2019: 9am to 8pm CEST
Games 2019 press conferences
While several companies traditionally held press conferences and showcases at former Gamescoms, they were few and far between this year.
Xbox hosted a special Xbox Live from Cologne presentation on the Monday prior to the show opening. It didn't hold a press conference as such. You can watch the special Inside Xbox show again below.
EA abstained from hosting a press conference this year. As did PlayStation and Nintendo.
Another company to stream an online announcement video rather than an actual Gamescom press conference was Google. Its second episode of Stadia Connect unveiled some of the key titles coming to the cloud gaming platform. It too is available to watch below.
The biggest livestream to have appeared this year, however, came from the show organiser itself. Gamescom: Opening Night Live was a jam-packed announcement stream hosted by The Game Awards' Geoff Keighley and included a look at a star-studded games line-up, including titles from 2K, Activision, Bandai Namco, Bungie, Capcom, EA, Epic Games, Google Stadia, Koch Media/Deep Silver, PlayStation, Private Division, Sega, Square Enix, THQ Nordic, Ubisoft and Xbox Game Studios.
There was also an appearance by Hideo Kojima, who presented new footage of the PS4 exclusive Death Stranding.
You can rerun it below.
Gamescom 2019: The highlights
We are currently making our way around the show, going hands-on or seeing some of the biggest games and devices on display. These are our particular highlights to date and we'll be adding more games and companies regularly.
Asus ROG at Gamescom 2019
Asus held a dedicated Republic of Gamers event on the Monday evening before the show itself. It unveiled a few new products in the gaming monitor and motherboard areas. Plus, the Asus ROG Chakram gaming mouse that includes a small analogue thumbstick on the side that can be used for flying or driving sections in games, for example.
However, for us, it's most intriguing announcement was the Asus ROG Strix Go 2.4, a mobile gaming headset designed specifically for phones, tablets and the Nintendo Switch. Not only does it have decent audio tech inside, it comes with a USB-C dongle, which plugs into your mobile device and therefore ensures a more stable, lower latency connection to the wireless headset that through Bluetooth.
Bandai Namco at Gamescom 2019
Bandai Namco had several games playable on its show floor booth (and in the private press area), including the spiritual sequel to Until Dawn, Man of Medan. We also got some time with Dragon Ball - Kakarot, Code Vein and RAD.
Unfortunately, as the Man of Medan demo was extremely dark (in tone and lighting), while the show lights were bright, we could barely see anything happening on the screen. However, what we can say is that the story and interactivity on show puts this high on our radar.
Of the other games, Dragon Ball - Kakarot looks like it will more-than satisfy every fan's needs. And, Code Vein needs more playtime before we can draw a significant conclusion as it seems to have so much depth that there's no way you can see enough in 15 or so minutes.
RAD is interesting though, with its top-down isometric gameplay and 80s-influenced audio and visual style. It's a Double Fine game and actually out now, so you can check it out for yourself.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Activision didn't attend the show itself this year, but Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was playable on the PlayStation stand for the public.
It was also one of the games to feature at the Nvidia GeForce RTX event ahead of the show opening, so we got to play a few 2v2 PVP matches with ray-tracing fully in effect.
While we didn't get much of a feel of how the campaign might turn out, the few matches we played gave us the distinct impression that weapons and the overall ambience of the game will be more tangible and grounded than in recent iterations. It still feels very much like a Call of Duty game, but with more of a focus on realism.
The graphics, too, were grittier and lit superbly - thanks to Nvidia's ray-tracing, which you can read more about below.
As is now the norm, Cyberpunk 2077 has a good shout as having stolen the show and the one-hour demo we sat through at Gamescom reinforced why; it is not only looking superb, the gameplay we've seen so far just makes us even more excited. Not only do you get a digital ghost of Keanu Reeves effing and jeffing guidance when you need it, the stunning, dynamic game world and depth of character customisation could well ensure that your gameplay experience is tailored just for you.
What's more, it was revealed at this Gamescom that Cyberpunk 2077 will be coming to Google Stadia, as well as the previously announced PS4, Xbox One and PC versions. It will be later in 2020, however, with the conventional editions hitting stores first, on 16 April next year.
PlayStation at Gamescom 2019
PlayStation no longer hosts any specific media events at Gamescom, but it still has a massive booth on the show floor.
Death Stranding is its biggest title this year, but the PS stand was the only place for the public to get hands-on time with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
In terms of secret, special stuff from PlayStation, there really wasn't much. It doesn't tend to use the show for new announcements these days
Private Division at Gamescom 2019
Private Division is a relatively new publisher but is already making some waves in the industry thanks to a great line-up of upcoming games.
Among those will be The Outer Worlds, Obsidian's new FPS role-playing game written by the original creators of Fallout. We also got to see footage of Kerbal Space Program 2 - a new announcement for Gamescom - and Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, which see you start as a basic ape and then takes you through many steps of evolution as you strive to survive.
But, perhaps, the most exciting new title on show was Disintergration - a new shooter from one of co-creators of Halo. It has a similar look to other popular sci-fi FPS games around these days, including Destiny and Halo itself, but a unique concept that strikes it apart from pretty much everything else we've played recently. You control a character who rides a grav-cycle that floats in the air, while AI ground forces do much of your dirty work in battle. This cross of shooter and real-time strategy worked well in our PVP demo. It will be interesting to see how it translates to the campaign too, when it arrives in 2020.
Nintendo at Gamescom 2019
Nintendo has a whole raft of Switch games available to play on its show booth.
These include Luigi's Mansion 3, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Astral Chain, the Switch version of The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt, and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
There will also be a livestream of the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate invitational tournament on the afternoon of 22 August - shown on the Nintendo UK YouTube channel.
Nvidia at Gamescom 2019
Nvidia hosted a special hands-on event on the Monday ahead of Gamescom where we could play or see any of the 10 available titles that have embraced the ray-tracing technology afforded by the latest GeForce RTX graphics cards.
Ray-tracing will be a big deal in gaming going forward, not just for PC gamers, but in the Project Scarlett and PS5 next-generation consoles. It completely changes the way light can be used in games, making them far more realistic in look. You can read much more about ray-tracing here.
Supporting games on show at the event included Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 and Synched: Off-planet. However, the one that blew us away the most (for its use of ray-tracing) was Minecraft. The technology just about transforms the game entirely. It's only cosmetic but the mood and tone of the game is different once light pours into your builds realistically.
Square Enix at Gamescom 2019
Of the games Square Enix was showing at Gamescom, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Trials of Mana and Marvel Avengers were the main attractions.
We got to play some of FFVIIR and were suitably impressed by the ground-up reinvention of one of our favourite Final Fantasy RPGs yet, but it was Marvel Avengers that was more interesting this time around.
That's because, unlike at E3, the entire prologue was playable, so gave us a much better idea of how the final game might play. Developer Crystal Dynamics was at pains to stress that the A-Day section played was just the tutorial for the main game, so was more on rails than actual missions will be, but we still enjoyed battling with Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor and Black Widow. Each have their own individual power types and special moves, so feel different even with the same button presses and combat situations.
We also saw that the final game will be huge. A private presentation showed us the mission map, which will offer main story missions and many more side missions - the latter of which available as co-op.
Basically, any fears that might have been felt during E3 that the end game (pun entirely intended) would be basically and linear seem to be unfounded.
Train Sim World 2020
The latest outing in the Train Sim franchise is available for PS4, Xbox One and PC now and we got to chat to the development team during the show.
You'll be able to read all about in the coming days, with some really interesting stuff about the rapid rise in popularity of simulation games. For now though, we can safely say that there is finally a train simulator that appeals to both real enthusiasts and newbies alike.
A new, almost campaign mode has been added to stream line the scheduling of different routes and help take newcomers through the game without needing the deep knowledge of the subject first. While a tutorial now guides players into the game more gradually and intuitively.
Turtle Beach at Gamescom 2019
Launched a couple of weeks before Gamescom, the Turtle Beach Atlas Aero wireless headset for PC was available to check out.
Costing around £130 in the UK ($150 in the States), it is a well-built, very comfortable headset with cooling gel in the earcups and a direct link to the computer via a tiny USB dongle. As we discovered, the headphones really come to life when you launch Turtle Beach's dedicated desktop app, with all manner of sound signatures and finely tuned virtual 3D surround options.
Also announced was the Turtle Beach Atlas Edge - a 3.5mm to USB lead that will enable any of the company's wired headsets in the Atlas range to also be customised through the app.
Ubisoft at Gamescom 2019
The main focus for Ubisoft this year was on two games: Watch Dogs Legion and Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. We got to play around an hour of both and came away suitably impressed. They both have great potential.
The Watch Dogs Legion demo was very similar to the gameplay walkthrough shown at E3 in June. However, getting to play it ourselves gave us a better outlook on the mechanics of the game. Choosing and recruiting new agents from literally anyone in the game is a great concept that works very well indeed. And, being from London, we also feel the city is well represented and feels authentic.
While we only got to play four versus four multiplayer, our time with Ghost Recon: Breakpoint gives us plenty of hope that the single-player experience will also be greatly improved over Wildlands - something we've been looking for. The character differentiations work well and the duck-and-cover shooting mechanics are fine tuned enough to be intuitive. We'll be very much looking out for this one come its release in October.
In terms of other new games, etc, many of the bigger announcements are expected for the weekend as it will be running its own community event in Birmingham, UK, across 24-25 August.
Xbox at Gamescom 2019
As well as a massive show floor booth, Xbox is hosting an off-site Open Doors event at a theatre up the road. It is free to enter and gives visitors the chance to participate in tournaments, view panel discussions and much more.
Its biggest game this year is undoubtedly Gears 5 and, while there is gameplay available on the show floor, we also got to see the new Horde mode in action behind closed doors. Regular Gears players will know much of what to expect from the co-op survival mode, but the biggest addition this year is the ability to play with different characters, each with their own unique abilities. Even Sarah Connor from Terminator: Dark Fate.
But, perhaps our favourite thing we saw at Xbox was the second edition of the Xbox Elite Controller. With plenty of extra flip switches and modes, Xbox gamers can really fine tune their gaming experiences. It's pricey but feels great in the hand and we can't wait to get one in for a full review.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War
Zombie Army is back and bigger and better than ever. One of our most welcomed announcements during E3, we finally got to play a 20 minute or so section of the game and it's looking splendid.
As fans of Sniper Elite 4, the familiar gameplay mechanics and weapons have transferred well, while new elements have been borrowed from Strange Brigade too. Traps, for example, can be triggered from a distance to perform multiple zombie kills. A warning though, they can also take out your co-op chums (or yourself) as we discovered to our cost during the Gamescom demo.
It will be coming in early 2020 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Other companies at Gamescom 2019
Here are the other big brands at Gamescom this year:
- Electronic Arts
- Epic Games
- Focus Home Interactive
- Koch Media
- THQ Nordic