The best and worst of Gamescom 2018

Commentary: It's not all fun and games at a gaming trade show.

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Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
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Andrew Lanxon
5 min read
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Europe's biggest gaming event, Gamescom 2018, is drawing to a close and after almost a week of trawling the show floor looking for things to write about, our feet are sore and our ears pulverised by the blaring music coming from most of the stands.

Here then is our rundown of the best -- and worst -- things we've found from this year's Gamescom.

The good

Nvidia's screaming-fast RTX 2080 GPU

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It's a new flagship graphics card so of course it promises glossier PC game graphics. But it's a bit more than that.

The headline feature is really around something called ray tracing. In short, ray tracing simulates how light behaves in the real world and allows for actual reflections. Previously, reflections could only reflect what was already on screen but now a shiny surface can reflect anything in the environment as you move around it.

But this isn't in pre-rendered cutscenes, this is all in real time. Real time ray tracing has been the holy grail of gaming for a long time and it is legitimately a big deal that it's here. Better reflections and shadows might not seem like a huge step up in graphics, but when you see it side by side against the old version it really does make a huge difference.

Ray tracing does various other things with light too, all of which comes together to produce much more realistic-looking scenes. We saw some great demos from games like Battlefield 5, Metro Exodus and more that looked really impressive. You don't realise how much improvement there can be in graphics until you see that next step.

Read: How the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU will make your games look badass

Read: Where to buy a gaming PC with the new Nvidia RTX 2080 first

Life is Strange 2

Playstation/Square Enix/Screenshot by Andrew Hoyle

Announced at E3, we've finally seen a lot more about Life is Strange 2. We now know that it's going to follow the story of 16-year-old Sean and his little brother Daniel as they escape from Seattle to Mexico. We won't say why they're escaping in case you want to avoid all spoilers, but it looks to be a really great game. It's still totally story-driven and the choices you make along the way will determine how the rest of the game plays out.

Read: Life Is Strange 2: Everything you need to know

Cyberpunk 2077

We've seen more of Cyberpunk 2077 too -- but unfortunately, just like at E3, we can't capture footage or screenshots, so there's nothing new to show right now. What we saw though is really intense gameplay, stunning graphics, biomechanical upgrades and a heap of cool-looking weapons.

More importantly than the game though are the promotional beers they had in their media area. We did of course drink every one of them. For journalism.

Read: Cyberpunk 2077: Everything we know from Gamescom

Elder Scrolls: Blades


We got another hands-on with Bethesda's mobile-based RPG and we're just as keen as we were at E3. The gameplay looks fun, the graphics are amazing for a phone and we're pleased as punch we'll be able to hack away at those giant spiders with swords all while riding the bus to work.

Blades is due out before the end of the year and, best of all, it'll be free to play on iOS and Android. We're keeping our fingers crossed it's not spoilt by pesky microtransations.

Read: Elder Scrolls: Blades -- everything you need to know

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

While not much new was announced for Smash Bros. at Gamescom -- apart from a couple of new characters -- it didn't stop us from thoroughly enjoying having another go on the game against a bunch of other press.

Smash Bros. is a great example of what Nintendo does so well; local multiplayer. While most games on other consoles offer multiplayer for racing games and such, it's almost always online. We thought the days of having your friends round for some beers and handing out controllers were behind us, then Nintendo brought out Mario Kart 8 on the Switch and we breathed a sigh of relief for our parties.

And now we have Smash Bros. which is bound to be a multiplayer smash hit. Four people, in short, high-intensity bouts, all in the same room, all laughing and moaning as they perform ridiculous fighting moves on bonkers floating platforms. It's tremendous fun and we really can't wait to invite people round to play.

Read: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Everything we know after the new Nintendo Direct

Fortnite's assault course

Fortnite's bonkers Gamescom 2018 booth has to be seen to be believed

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Biggest game in the world Fortnite might not have had anything to say at this year's Gamescom, but it's booth sure made one hell of an impact. It was massive, for one, and featured an assault course, a zip line, a bucking bronco in the shape of a missile and a whole host of other entertaining treats.

There was a live stage too, which featured everything from dancing bears throwing out t-shirts to demonstrations on how to craft in-game weapons. Throw in various giveaways too and it's no wonder the crowds were lining up in the hundreds to get in the booth.

Read: Fortnite: The complete guide to the biggest battle royale game

The bad

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The crowds

Okay, this is nothing new, but the crowds really do seem to get bigger and bigger at these shows. Because Gamescom is open to the public, eager gaming fans flock to Cologne, Germany, in hopes of being among the first to try new games and even chat with the people who created them.

It's all very positive and everyone is clearly here for a good time, but the result is a seething mass of people in the halls and connecting corridors that makes it almost impossible to get around. Want to get from one side of the venue to the other? Set aside an hour. And good luck queuing for food at lunchtime. It's no wonder so many people arrived with their own portable chairs.

Not much we didn't see at E3 

Gamescom always tends to play second fiddle to E3 -- the mega-conference that takes place in June in LA. This year that point seemed to be really driven home, as high-profile launches were few and far between.

In fact, it was only Nvidia that hosted a major conference at the show. Microsoft's launch took place simply as an online stream, in which it announced very little beyond a PUBG-themed controller, while none of the major developers held conferences at all.

Sure, we got hands on with some of the biggest titles, but we'd seen most of this at E3 already and we were hoping for a bit more meat to sink our teeth into. 

The weird world behind the scenes at Gamescom 2018

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The best and worst of E3 2018: A look back at the ups and downs of June's big gaming show

Gamescom 2018: CNET's complete coverage

Gamescom 2018: GameSpot's complete coverage