New Review: Critics: Games: Superheroes and a Spark of inspiration: Sony and Microsoft both impress at the massive Gamescom fair, writes Matt Kamen
(Observer (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Held annually in Cologne, Gamescom is more than mere trade fair for the global games industry. Doubling as a public convention, it attracts more than 280,000 fans eager to go hands-on with hardware and software yet to hit the streets. This year's conference, concluding today, has proven to be one of the most important in recent years, with both Microsoft and Sony revealing more information on their impending new consoles, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4.
Following several policy reversals, the Xbox One will no longer require mandatory online verifications or enforce complicated trade-in rules - and Microsoft was keen to move on and focus on its courting of independent developers. Abandoning certification costs and the need for an established publisher, the newly open platform will welcome innovators from all tiers, providing a home for some of the more creative titles being made today.
The company also revealed a strong software lineup. Fable Legends, the fifth in the action role-playing series from Lionhead Studios, introduces four-person co-operative play as a franchise first, while Ubisoft's Fighter Within utilises the enhanced Kinect camera to map actions into a fighting game, promising a hearty workout. The previously announced Project Spark also impressed, delivering a completely open world game that the player creates. It's a powerful yet accessible title that ought to appeal to fans of Minecraft or LittleBigPlanet
The real coup for Microsoft, however, was the announcement of a partnership with EA's Fifa franchise, whereby pre-orders of the Xbox One will include Fifa 14 free. As one of the world's biggest sports games, that will be a considerable incentive.
Sony was slightly lower key, having already backed indie developers. With another strong roster of titles forthcoming, among them superhero romp inFamous: Second Son and alternate history adventure The Order: 1886, and family-friendly platformers such as Knack, the PlayStation 4 is in fine shape. Going one step further than Microsoft, Sony revealed that its next generation hardware will be released on 29 November in Europe alongside immediate price cuts for its PS Vita.
With Microsoft having addressed its greatest criticisms and Sony reinforcing an already strong debut, both consoles are shaping up to be essential purchases. As the two behemoths square up in the final months before launch, a promising future looms for fans of either format.
Microsoft announced at Gamescom that anyone who pre-orders an Xbox One will receive a free copy of Fifa 14, above.
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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