This year’s biggest gaming event has come and gone. As ever it proved to be a frantic week of new game reveals, tech demos, shiny new hardware and endless trailers. Now that the dust has settled we’ve come up with our selection of the best that E3 had to offer.
BEST IN SHOW
On paper, Rage sounds a bit like a post-apocalyptic cliché, with elements of Borderlands’ arid open-world deserts and Fallout’s vault-dwelling, post-nuclear narrative, but the truth is, it has the potential to be so much more. It’s very much an id FPS, and being from the studio that practically invented the genre, Rage looks characteristically hardcore in the same vein as Doom or Quake. Rage’s extraordinary visuals look like concept art brought to life and with it all running at an ultra-smooth 60-frames per second, it really does look unlike anything FPS-wise we’ve seen in recent years. There’s added depth to be found in the upgrades and other details, but more importantly, those core shooting mechanics that make id such legends in the FPS genre look to be intact.
BEST PLAYSTATION 3
If you managed to miss the original PS3-exclusive by developer Sucker Punch, inFamous was a surprisingly fun third-person sandbox game which cast you as the recently-super Cole McGrath. Cole has reappeared for the sequel, moving to a new city based loosely on New Orleans and no doubt gaining a shed-load of exciting new electrical (and apparently ice) powers.
Word is that you will retain your amazing powers from the end of the last game and build yourself into a truly epic superhero. The new Cole seems to have undergone a radical makeover, with the gruff, bald courier now looking like a Calvin Klein model. No sign of any garbage-coated hobos yet.
BEST XBOX 360
Gears of War III
While Xbox fans wait for the next instalment of their beloved Halo franchise they were comforted by another equally action packed sci-fi shooter. Developed by Epic (Unreal) Gears of War sees a team of human ‘Gears’ led by the hulking Marcus battling to overwhelm hordes of the Locust who years earlier had emerged from below ground and nearly wiped out humanity. The sequel upped the action and the numbers with Epic promising the same again with the closing chapter of the trilogy. Add in Mech suits, 4 player co-op and an all new Beast Mode for multiplayer where you can control the Locust in action against their better armed enemies. Single-player or multi – we can’t wait to get out hands on this. GOW 3 is due out in April 2011.
So the title doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence, but Epic Mickey is shaping up to be a stellar title for Nintendo’s little white box. Mischievous mouse Mickey has royally screwed up and unleashed hell on The Wasteland, an alternate dimension for discarded Disney characters. Now he has to clean up the mess with the aid of a magic paintbrush. The game will allow you to paint in new objects with your brush or erase (with paint thinner, of course) things you don’t want, including enemies. Surprisingly, Epic Mickey will also have a moral choice system, letting you lead Mickey to the path of light or towards more diabolical actions. Most promising of all is that Warren Spector is in charge, who you may know as the man behind Deus Ex.
Rock Band 3
Rock Band 3 is poised to do something unseen in the music genre, something that has not happened for years: be genuinely innovative. Adding keyboard, strong song lists, better interfaces and drop-in-drop-out multiplayer isn’t what makes Rock Band 3 exciting. Rather, it is the developer’s vision to be more than a game. Harmonix is attempting to bridge the gap between entertainment and education with its new Pro Mode. Rock Band’s note-for-note gameplay with the new Fender Squire Stratocaster takes large progressive leaps forward in a genre that has been hopelessly entangled in convention.
Sid Meier’s’ Civilization V
Anybody who has played a Civ game in the past knows what a time suck this franchise is. Constant late nights of city building, exploration and all out warfare have caused many to label the series as the most addictive ever. Civilization V, like its predecessors, starts you as a single city, where over the course of thousands of years you must use a clever mix of expansion, building, trade, diplomacy, research, espionage and of course battle to expand your empire to (hopefully) dominant the world – achieved by various victory types such as military or a space race. Many game rules have been re-worked from the ground up and we can’t wait to see how this improves the core game. Civilization V is due to be released in September on the PC.
At last year’s E3, awareness for 5th Cell’s Scribblenauts became a viral phenomenon as it charmed the public with its ability to host a fight to the death between Cthulhu and an army of vampires. But as the game shipped later that September, the game suffered from a myriad of problems – primarily in its controls. 5th Cell returned this year with a sequel, Super Scribblenauts. The game showed well with its cleaned up and refined platforming controls. But what made Super Scribblenauts so special is its new adjective mechanic that can dynamically create modifiers and variations on the already expansive amount of nouns.
People Can Fly, the studio behind the frenetic Painkiller series on PC, debuted their new shooter that has as much trash talking as it does dismemberments. Despite being overseen by the watchful eye of Epic Studios, People Can Fly manages to keep the studios over the top sense of humour and visual sensibility. Bulletstorm’s sense of pacing and tone is in a lot of ways a love letter to old school first person shooters of old – games that would celebrate and revel in its excess and overindulgences.
Legendary designer Peter Molyneux’s latest love child is about to enter it’s 3rd iteration and things are looking bigger and better than ever. Set some decades after the events of Fable II, the land of Albion has changed – with an Industrial Revolution taking place the architecture of the land is swiftly changing to a style more akin to Victorian times. As an all new hero you must first overthrow a despotic tyrant, and then in a big change for the series take the thrown for yourself. This means that your actions, be they good or ill won’t just affect yourself (and your appearance) but also the land. Tax the people too much and things start to look run down, don’t tax them enough and so will your castle – and your family’s grumpiness at not taking care of them. This is just one example of many world altering effects which have been promised.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
It would seem as if the fighting game genre is going through a bit of resurgence. Last year, Street Fighter 4 came to market and showed the strength of the franchise as well as the genre’s resilience. This E3 was a continuation of the genre’s comeback. Of the fighters to be shown at the show, none impressed more than Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. Powered by Capcom’s proprietary MT Framework engine (the same amazing looking engine behind Lost Planet 2 and Resident Evil 5), Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is proving to be the best looking fighter coming out next year. The frantic pace of combat, the colourful and vibrant backgrounds, and character models are a joy to witness – incredibly, all of which was rendered with little to no drop in frame rate.
Gran Turismo 5
At long last Sony confirmed a November release date for their long awaited flagship racing title Gran Turismo 5. During the press conference Sony advised that GT5 would support 3D and showcased some impressive footage of what they expect the end product to look like. There will also be a Collector’s Edition which includes a 1:43 scale die cast model of a Nissan GT-4R Spec V. The competition for best racer was tight with the other main contenders being NFS: Hot Pursuit and Sony’s other exclusive title MotorStorm: Apocalypse. However it was the painstaking attention to detail that sets the GT franchise apart, and has us counting down the days till release.
Media Molecule is giving Sackboy a lot more to do – and in turn, the player. Little Big Planet 2 is cleaning up its act in giving the game a more reliable platform mechanic and feel. But what makes LBP2 so special is its depth to gameplay and creation through the new logic system. Objects can be programmed with behaviour and conditions, giving the player the power to create more complex AI and advanced game mechanisms – allowing for a larger breadth of game types. By giving the end user a more sophisticated tool set, the potential for creativity and ingenuity within a LBP2’s gamespace is unmatched.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Finally, a chance to see exactly what would happen if thousands of Star Wars nerds all got to play out their fantasies at the same time. The Old Republic is set in the Old Republic universe (obviously) familiar to those who have played the Knights of the Old Republic games. TOR is an MMO like World of WarCraft, but with a story like Bioware’s other space-based opera, Mass Effect. Pick a class (Jedi, Sith, bounty hunter, smuggler, etc) and compete with the entire world to save or destroy the Star Wars universe. With over 10,000 lines of spoken dialogue and the prospect of permanent moral decisions, there could be a disturbance in the force of many lives come next year.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
While some of the long-time fans lament the day the Castlevania franchise went 3D, we all have to accept that 2D action/adventure titles will never again be big-budget blockbusters on home consoles.
The spectacular hack and slash gameplay will no doubt remind gamers of God of War III and Dante’s Inferno but Lords of Shadow should still be easily recognizable as a Castlevania entry.
Developer Mercury Steam has decided to include a number platforming elements and puzzles to help flesh out the game a little. And with a stellar voice cast combined with beautiful sets, the game could very well be one of 2010’s best when it releases later this year.
By day two EA Sports had dominated this category at E3, with several of their development teams (including Tiburon and EA Canada) recognised with nominations for Best Overall Game and best Sports Video. No less than five EA sports titles began fighting it out for the grand best sporting award; NBA Jam, Madden NFL 11, NHL 11, EA Sports MMA and of course FIFA Soccer 11. Now back here in Aotearoa the only sports title that carries any true weight is of course FIFA — it is, after all, the “year of the beautiful game”. Before the day was done the FIFA franchise received the Guinness Book of World Records award for the highest sales in a franchise pushing out 60 million copies in its lifetime.
EA has gone through an interesting cycle within the public eye. The publisher has been demonized in the early 2000’s for its seemingly disinterest in new IP. Now with current CEO John Riccitiello at the helm, EA has seen a turnaround in company culture – one that showed through at E3. Through some smart publishing partnerships (as well as the mentioning of partnerships that will be huge next year) and new IP, EA managed to show games worth being excited for – a far cry from what the EA of old. EA is dead. Long live EA.
Despite the huge Motion gaming push from Sony and Microsoft it was Nintendo that generated the most hardware buzz at this year’s E3 with the 3DS, the newly introduced handheld that lets users view three-dimensional images without wearing special glasses.
The top screen of the 3DS offers a 3.5-inch screen that is packed with extra pixels and microscopic slits layered over a traditional LCD screen to deliver images in three dimensions. It also features twin cameras on the lid for taking 3D photos (viewable on the console).
Valve had publically stated that they were going to make a surprising announcement at E3. The Internet went into a geekgasm and started to wildly speculate what it could be. Half Life 2 Episode 3, Half Life 3, Source Engine 2, Counter Strike 2, Half Life: Black Mesa were all thought of plausible scenarios. What never was thought as a possibility was Portal 2 on the PlayStation 3. Given the famed remarks Gabe Newell had made about the console clearly disqualified Portal 2 as a viable possibility, right? Right? Well, not quite. Not only did Gabe Newell announce Portal 2 at the Sony Press Conference, he also announced that Steamworks would be coming to the PS3 as well. While it still may not have been the Half Life announcement that so many people were asking for, a passive aggressive GLaDOS on PS3 will suffice.
BIGGEST SO WHAT
It was difficult not to get swept up in the overblown hype of it all. Sony and Microsoft were pushing their motion control credentials in the lead up to E3 this year, making sure everyone knew it was the future of video games and human society. In one corner was the PlayStation Move, a Nintendo Wii with a squishy coloured ball. In the other, Project Natal (horribly renamed “Kinect”), a full-body scanner with all the buttons replaced with body parts.
Sony kept things relatively low key, showing off a trailer and a few of the launch titles before thrusting a reasonable price point and release dates at the audience. This turned out to be a safe option considering what was happening across the show floor.
Microsoft brought an elephant and enough bitter disappointment for everyone. Behind the coloured ponchos that lit up, Cirque du Soleil performers, group dance sessions and completely convincing “real gamers”, Microsoft literally had nothing up its sleeve. They showed off cheap-looking copies of every piece of casual shovelware on Nintendo’s console, leaving everyone to hotly anticipate Kinect and the chance to wave their arms about like a complete wang.