Any person into video games has undoubtedly been glued to YouTube or their favorite gaming site in hopes of absorbing anything related to E3. This year’s extravaganza is strictly in the rear view mirror now, but times like this allow us to reflect on the insanity of the past week. Games were at the forefront of this show, making for one of the best expo I’ve ever seen. So what were the biggest names in my humble opinion? Funny you should ask…
Assassin’s Creed III
Simply put, I was so burnt out on this franchise last year, as evidenced by the final sentence in my review of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Assassin’s Creed III‘s mere announcement and period change were more than enough to get me back aboard the bandwagon, but the new footage shown at this year’s show had me downright giddy for October 30th. Movement controls seemed to be much less awkward, as jumping and climbing about looked smoother than ever before. Connor also looks to have a better handle on killing than his ancestor Ezio because he can move while assassinating and do other new things like murder from cover and seamlessly grab new tools while in locomotion. The demos showed off the combat and naval warfare, both looking extremely bombastic and impressive. You can just tell they’ve been working their fingers to the bone for the past few years. Given the setting, focus on nature, new toolset, the vast amount of climbing improvements, and overall polish the game gives off, ACIII has me more that back on board, making it the game to look forward to this fall.
The Last of Us
Naughty Dog’s impeccable pedigree had me sold on The Last of Us even though the game’s mechanics were a mystery when it was first unveiled. The Dogs didn’t spoil this goodwill; they had the most impressive demo at the show, completing dominating every other studio. The Last of Us‘ focus is solely different from other games, especially Uncharted. There isn’t a barrage of happiness or an army’s worth of soldiers, but it creates an immeasurable amount of tension because of the survival-like nature the game’s combat and mechanics show off. Only a few thugs can warrant strategy and thinking. Stealth and catching the enemy off-guard can tip the battles in your favor, but doesn’t make the rest of the fight a cake walk. Counting bullets, watching your non-regerating health, and trying to keep the smart foes at bay made for a game that is not only different, but compelling in this uniqueness. The shift in tone is incredibly apparent because of the mass amounts of gratuitous violence showcased by both Ellie and Joel. My inner “‘Murican” fist pumped every time a chump’s head got slammed into a wall or when the demo climaxed at some poor sap’s face met the business end of a shotgun. It all was slightly horrific but gave off a different feeling, something I haven’t really ever felt in a video game. I heard the Naughty Dog employee spiked the Dualshock in a “drop the mic” kind of way upon completing the demo at Sony’s press conference. Given how impressive the demo was, that was the perfect reaction.
Beyond: Two Souls
Quantic Dream has been far too quiet in these past few years since Heavy Rain‘s release. This agonizing silence was broken at Sony’s E3 press conference, immediately starting the show with a show-stopper. Everything was incredibly detailed in a way that was immediately striking. Everything that animated and everything that didn’t move, just off pure technical prowess, made the demo worth watching but it was so much more. In a show where explosions happen roughly every thirty seconds, the quiet, somber approach Beyond took was refreshing and so well done, creating a mood that made it impossible to look away during the long demo. Ellen Page, the actress of the game’s main character, gave a convincing performance (even though she actually didn’t say much) along with everyone else shown and it all molded together to make a demo that will undoubtedly be unique game. Whether or not we want to break down the tedious semantics of what was actually playable or not (even though it was all in-engine), the cutscene and trailer that was shown was easily one of E3’s most memorable moments and has consequentially made Beyond one of my most anticipated games in an incredibly crowded 2013.
God of War: Ascension
Out of all the games I will write about here, God of War: Ascension seemed to have the most divisive reactions. Some only spouted pure vitriol at the mere fact of its existence, failing to look past that and see what the game really was: an incredibly titanic God of War game with fast combat. To some degree I am still a tad bit skeptical, but I don’t know why. I shouldn’t be. Sony Santa Monica has always delivered a God of War game that was worthy of hyperbolic praise and this looks to continue the tradition. The gameplay demo was undoubtedly God of War, but that is a good thing. Besides the gorgeous and viciously detailed visuals, I spotted an array of additions to the core combat, ones that look to further enhance systems in play and introduce new ones. An average or non-fan won’t notice such nuances in a seven minute demo, but rest assured, they are looking at systems and adding what they see fit. I will undoubtedly have the game’s March 12, 2013 release date etched into my calendar.
I feel like I write about this game every couple months due to its unpredictable delay schedule, but Tomb Raider continues to be impressive. Although, truth be told, I was always writing on the faith that I had in the game because it didn’t ever show in a fashion that knocked my socks off. The promise, however, was so deep that I could tell it just needed more time. This E3 was that time and it finally lived up to the promise I saw in it because it looks like an actual game now. The parts shown demonstrated explosive moment after explosive moment, something very reminiscent of something we would find our dear friend Mr. Drake doing. No platform is too stable and the constant action always kept me on the edge and worried about Lara. Interactivity within the environments further sold this feeling because of how they never seemed static. Something that could be interacted with was always in sight, with almost every piece of cover crumbling as shots pelted against it. Lara’s signature collective demeanor has taken more of a backseat to her vulnerability, which is a welcome touch. She still dabbles in badassery, but she seems like she is always on her last breath of consciousness. Her prevalent sense of danger and constant dirty face makes these action scenes that much more intense. The survival aspects and different take on the genre coupled with familiar tropes of gaming might meld together to make the best Tomb Raider yet. Chalk this one up on the large “Quality Q1 2013” list.
More than once I accidentally typed Sleeping Dogs instead of Watch Dogs, but all of that changed once I saw footage of each. Not to say that Sleeping Dogs is bad (it actually looks surprisingly great), but Watch Dogs was far more memorable. I can’t say that it is directly original or that it will be a great game, but it showed well. It looked a lot like Grand Theft Auto IV mixed with Hitman and Syndicate due to the individual parts shown. The setting was a beautiful open world, but the main character had a more interesting agenda than to jack every car in sight. He had a target in mind, but drawing him out became a task. Using his hacking abilities, he was able to get into a nightclub and silently lure this soon-to-be-dead guy out. This devious plan worked and using his hacking, he made all the street lights outside go green, resulting in a massive pile up. The target was in said wreckage, showing off some solid, if standard third-person cover shooting. I was left with plenty of questions but this early footage showed a hefty amount of promise. A fresh IP coming from Ubisoft is also a good sign.
Devil May Cry
Good hack and slash combat games are few and far between and Devil May Cry‘s last outing wasn’t much that could bring the genre up again. Devil May Cry had something going and has since gone stale, but Ninja Theory (developers of Heavenly Sword and Enslaved) hopes to bring the series back but with a fresh twist. I’ve been both hotly anticipating and anxiously curious about this release. Now, after the demos, I’m just hotly anticipating it. Combat looks deep and flashy, a reminder of old games while adding some new things as well. Switching weapons and styles on the fly made juggles and combos go on for extended periods of time and looked so fluid in the process. I didn’t know if Ninja Theory had the chops to actually make good combat, but the folks at Capcom seemed to awakened the beast. Of course, the game looks phenomenal, carrying Ninja Theory’s talent of making colorful, vivid environments and characters. This has a high chance of being the reboot this series needed.
It might be summer, but let me do some math. Deus Ex spiced up with some Thief, tossed in with some Bioshock, with a hefty dose of Assassin’s Creed may actually be the best game ever. I literally just proved it with math. Okay, that is a slight bit of hyperbole, but with all the games that Dishonored borrows from, it will surprising if this game isn’t awesome. Dishonored is a steam punk game set in a 1984-like world where you play as malleable assassin capable of morphing his powers into something fits your playstyle. The demos shown gave different methods of tackling the same task of assassinating key figures within a building. One could go in with surgical accuracy of Hitman‘s Agent 47 (with way cooler powers) or someone else could go in loudly but still get the job done. Or you could do a mix of both (I am not your mom, so I can’t tell you what to do). Choice, when done correctly, can make a game like this replayable for years, something I’m sure is somewhere in the design document in big, bold letters. Stabbing with choice and powers may actually be the secret success for this game.
Not many first-person shooters get me as excited as the Crysis series. Crysis 3 looks to take the overwhelming open nature of the original Crysis and mix it in with Crysis 2‘s slightly linear approach, making something different that will hopefully make both parties even happier. In the demos shown, stealth and armor were both present and allowed for the different playstyles to collaborate, resulting in what Crysis does best. The collapsing dam was awe inspiring, the hybrid jungle city looked interesting (and stunning), and the bow looks to open up even more stealthy possibilities making Crysis 3 my favorite first-person shooter of the show.
One-Sentence Honorable Mentions:
Methodical games like this are hard to show in a ten minute demo, but I have confidence the final product will deliver a wide choice of killing methods.
Count me in when someone takes the best parts of ModNation Racers and LittleBigPlanet 2 and creates a whimsical kart racer.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
If more was shown of this sharp looking fighting game from NetherRealm, it would have been on the real list.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Various improvements and a bigger scale added to an already solid shooter makes this a licensed game to actually anticipate.
An RPG like this doesn’t show well at these trade shows, but with all the improvements to the combat and RPG mechanics, this one may make a bigger splash than its successful prequel.
Far Cry 3
If you could look past the gratuitous breast groping, a neat psychological shooter and open jungle world were shown and shown well.
With an interesting respawn mechanic and new hardware, this zombie game might actually be something this genre hasn’t seen before.
The Amazing Spider-Man
Meshing Batman: Arkham City‘s combat and stealth mechanics with Spider-Man’s inherent web-slinging traversal in the open world of New York could result in the best Spider-Man game we’ve ever seen.
I honestly could go on and on detailing every game I liked at the show, but that would probably end up being something like a novel. Like I said, this E3 had such a quantity of impressive games and seemed to dwarf every of the preceding shows in comparison. I had my disappointments of the show, namely Resident Evil 6, Dead Space 3, and Splinter Cell: Blacklist (all three were too action oriented, rejecting what once made them special), but I found it to be more effective to focus on the nigh overwhelming positivity that the show emanated. I guess there never really is a thing as too many games.
What were your games of the show? Let me know in the comments below!