The top 5 highlights from Sony's Gamescom showcase

Germany’s annual gaming shindig proved to be yet another belter this year, with the industry’s most prolific companies taking to the stage, before oiling themselves up and flexing their triple-A guns for all to see. Whether you’re cocked and locked for Battlefield 3 or preparing to face the Reapers head-on in Mass Effect 3, Gamescom had something for everyone, reaffirming our belief (not that we weren’t already convinced after E3) that the rest of 2011 will unequivocally boast one of strongest line-ups in gaming history.

Sony in particular had a pretty strong showing, whetting our appetites for the impending release of PlayStation Vita, while shining the spotlight on some of the PlayStation 3’s biggest games in preparation for the holiday season. With an event of Gamescom’s magnitude however, where hype and expectation flood the system like a caffeine addict gearing up for an all-nighter, there are invariably an equal dose of both surprise and disappointment to be had. This year was no different, and as such, we’ve cobbled together our Highs and Lows for Gamescom 2011 for your viewing pleasure.

For our first article we shine the spotlight on the highlights of Sony's action-packed presser. Be sure to let us know what your highlights (and lowlights, for that matter) were from this year’s show in the comments section below this article.

THE HIGHS

Escape Plan looks mighty impressive

One of the biggest surprises of the show for us (and from the look of things, everyone else) was the announcement of Escape Plan: a quirky platform/puzzler for PlayStation Vita. Boasting a striking aesthetic and highly intuitive control mechanics (you hardly use the face buttons at all, instead relying on Vita’s flashier touchpad input), Escape Plan focuses on two cartoonish chaps, Lil and Laarg, who are attempting to extricate themselves from an elaborate stronghold filled with death-inducing traps. Each character has their unique abilities. Li, for example, is a scrawny bloke who can inflate himself with gas, while lumbering Laarg can use his extreme bulk to smash objects. It’s early days yet, but the gorgeous graphics combined with some clever puzzles and the use of Vita’s more elaborate control options gives Escape Plan quite the unique look and feel, and we can’t wait to tilt, jab and poke our way to victory when it hits Sony’s new pocket brick next year. This is the stuff we want to see, new IP making the most of the latest hardware and above all, a PlayStation brand exclusive.

Uncharted 3 could well be THE game to own this year

If you want guarantee your presser goes down a storm with punters, then bring along the latest Uncharted game, show off a visually stunning set piece and listen out for the jaws hitting the floor. It worked for Uncharted 2 back in 2009, it worked at E3 for Uncharted 3, and guess what? We had a repeat performance once again at Gamescom last week. We’ve all seen the teasers of the appropriately titled ‘Drake’s on a plane sequence, though Naughty Dog wisely reserved the whole sequence for Sony’s press conference for maximum ownage. Unsurprisingly, Nate and chums stole the show;the footage was quintessential Uncharted eye-candy, combining stunning set-pieces with scrumptious visuals and stellar voice work. Indeed, if ever your Xbox 360-loving mates needed convincing of the PS3’s technical prowess and Uncharted 3’s credentials for GotY material, then this gameplay segment is sure to do the business. Highlights include Elena and Nate engaging in a touching chinwag prior to their attempt to board the plane, the simmering tension between the pair conveyed via some stunning facial animation; Drake stumbling up obstacles and scrapping with foes in frighteningly realistic fashion thanks to some meaty mo-cap; and Nate’s mid-air punch-up with a resident thug paths the way for some incredible draw-distance as the cheeky chappie clings on for dear life to a cargo next, clothes rippling in the wind and clouds zipping past below. It is, quite frankly, one of the most technically mesmerizing games we’ve seen running on any format to date, and dispels any lingering doubt that Naughty Dog won’t be able to top the rollercoaster ride that was Uncharted 2.

PlayStation 3 gets a global price cut

A bit of a no-brainer this one, but still something worth championing for obvious reasons. This year has already proved a stonking year for Sony’s black box thus far, and with copious amounts of triple-A titles – both of the third and first party variety, we might add – on the way, a price cut is sure to mix things up nicely for the impending Christmas console war. New adopters never had it so good, frankly; not only do you get a shiny new 160GB PS3 for a mere 200 quid, but there’s heaps of wallet-friendly games out there in the Platinum range begging for a place on your shelf, not to mention plenty of recent blockbusters primed and ready for a spin in your brand-spanking new console. Sony really came up trumps here though, as its flagship console has been crying out for a price snip for some time now. Plus, with Xbox 360 turning up big numbers across the pond lately, cutting costs should give lagging PS3 sales the kick up the backside they need. With plenty of games on the horizon and PS3 oozing value for money out of every ventilation hole, there’s every chance Sony’s bulky telly box may enjoy its most lucrative holiday season yet.

Resistance Vita is in safe hands

I’ll admit that I took the news that Insomniac Games had passed the buck to Nihilistic for its PlayStation Vita Resistance title with some trepidation. However, after seeing it in action at Sony’s Gamescom presser last week, I am totally convinced that the handheld Chimera-slaying shooter is in safe hands. The footage was merely a quick gameplay demo lasting a couple of minutes, but managed to pack in all the bread-and-butter components that a Resistance title needs to impress. The weapons look meaty (getting to chop up Chimera into chunks with a fire axe was a particular highlight), the gunfights seem to be a nice mix of proximity encounters and intuitive, cover-based shenanigans and the environments are suitably chock full of carnage, with crumbling structures and raging fires depicting a once-bustling metropolis on the brink of collapse. Sure, the animation was a little dodgy in places, but the groundwork was clearly evident. Visually it’s not quite the jaw-dropping that Uncharted: Golden Abyss is, but it’s certainly not too shabby, with some impressive draw-distance and particle effects doing the rounds. I’m looking forward to seeing how Burning Skies shapes up in the next few months.

Vita’s social features are beastly

By now everyone knows that PlayStation Vita is packing some meaty innards under its pint-sized hood in terms of visuals, but up until last week little info had been divulged regarding its social connectivity features. Fortunately, Sony used its presser to unveil a host of juicy features that looks set to make Vita a portable social powerhouse. Staples such as Twitter and Facebook are in, as is the ability to have a natter with your mates while you’re busy playing a game. You can also flex your Trophy muscles to your friends for all to see, as well as utilize bread-and-butter services like PlayStation Network, PlayStation Store and PMs on your chunky PS3 before transitioning to Vita in a heartbeat. Casual gamers may scoff at this in a social landscape dominated by iphones and tablets, but for the hardcore gamer, Vita looks set to pack a mighty punch.

Tune in again same time tomorrow for our Top 5 lowlights from Sony's Gamescom showcase

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