For the next four days, we're going to pretend like we're proper games journalists. Gamescom is Europe's biggest videogame convention - almost equalling the size, and importance, of E3 in America - and we're here in Cologne to see what's going on.
We awake at eight am with a hangover that could fell a tree. Cologne isn't overburdened with nightlife (well, the part we were in wasn't, anyway) but we managed to find an "all you can drink" joint that charged an hourly rate last night, and ended up drinking Jaeger and dancing wildly to Michael Jackson remixes on a tiny basement dancefloor surrounded by confused-looking German teenagers.
We're grateful for the fact that we don't have much to do today - just an EA briefing in the afternoon before the convention starts on Wednesday morning - and we stagger blearily through the day, surviving on a diet of black coffee, cigarettes, and nausea. We have definitely felt better than this. We're sure we've felt worse, but we're not sure when.
The EA briefing takes place twenty minutes out of the city in an industrial district, it seems - we pass rows and rows of pipes, warehouses and machinery and the Teutonic bleakness of it all makes us feel like we're in a late 90's spy movie. We keep expecting to see Sean Bean pop out from behind a pillar. He doesn't; instead, we meet around five hundred other people and cram into a concrete warehouse masquerading as a concert hall for the briefing.
EA are bringing a lot to the table this Gamescom but the most noticable thing they're bringing is THE NOISE. We're assaulted by a tooth-vibrating wave of noise as the opening trailer kicks off, and we seriously regret the concept of paying an hourly rate for drinks. Still. We struggle through, and here's the useful information distilled for your reading pleasure:
The big news from the event is the announcement of a new FIFA Street title to be launched early next year, which looks exciting (if you're into that sort of thing). With loads of locations all over the world, and a focus on individual styles, it's got a bit more to it than your bog-standard football title.
We watched Need for Speed: The Run played on the big screen - not the controversial quick-time parkour scenes, but instead a chase through a snowy mountain range that's in the process of avalanche clearing. Mortar shells streak over the car and smash into the snow, sending debris into the middle of the road - tense stuff. We thought it looked pretty immersive, but that might just be because it was so loud. We're not sure.
The new SSX title offers some more snowboarding excitement, and in addition to some pretty nifty modes ("Race it", "Trick it", and "Survive it" - quite what "it" is we're not sure) it's got more social networking features that the average Facebook page. Record "ghosts" of your top races (or tricks) and post them online so your friends can race against you even when you're not there - although half the participants not being there might take some of the fun out of multiplayer, we're not sure. You'll be notified on your smartphone when someone races your ghost, of course, because you care about that sort of thing. You can even "like" courses, and other ones similar to it will be recommended to you. Yes. Really.
FIFA 12 is coming out, obviously, because this is a year and therefore there will be a new FIFA game released in it. EA have done some nice stuff to make it as realistic as possible, with persistent injuries, storyline events inspired by real-world news sources, precision dribbling, active defence and - our favourite - a revolutionary new player collision system, where you can bump the overpaid nonces into each other at full tilt and they'll fall over in a particularly satisfying manner.
Finally, we were shown Battlefield 3 which looks damned exciting. The co-op mode (played live onstage by two guys who looked as though they'd be more comfortable in a boardroom than behind a joypad, with plenty of exciting, spur-of-the-moment dialogue such as "There is some ammo over there on the right if you need some. Wait. There is a man ahead of us. I will shoot him") looks great, although we're not sure if it's local or via online connection - we'll ask tomorrow when we get our first hands-on with the game. We're also hoping to be able to take part in the 64-player orgy of destruction they're demoing, too - complete with tanks, jeeps, helicopters and (yes!) jets to pilot around and crash into trees.
FHM, about to fuck up all the trees ever
WORDS: Grant Howitt