OCC E3 2012 AwardsClayMeow -
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Winner: ZombiU (Wii U)
Going into the best shooter category, I doubt many would have associated a Nintendo console to be anywhere near this award, especially when facing the likes of Call of Duty or Halo. While actual gameplay was not shown at the show, the trailer at Nintendo’s press conference won me over more than much of the other games shown by Reggie and the team. Taking full advantage of the Wii U’s new tablet GamePad, the second screen becomes just as important as the television. Walk up to a key pad; you enter the digits through the tablet screen. Scavenge a downed enemy; the items show up on the tablet. While seemingly trivial, it plays a huge part in creating tension for this horror shooter. In the E3 trailer, a section had your character trying to enter a key code for a door as zombies slowly got closer. While maniacally trying to remember the code, your attention is focused on the tablet, not the television. It creates pressure; how long can you look away from the television before a zombie pops up on screen? Will you be ready? Will you even see it coming? The same can be said with the gun mechanics; look down the sights through the GamePad controller and you're limited to the peripheral vision down the barrel, like a real gun. Gone are the days where you can stand still, hold down the sight button, and pick off enemies; you really need to put down the gun and examine your surroundings from time to time, like what you should be doing in a zombie apocalypse (I’m sure we all know from experience). ZombiU is shaping up to be a very nice concept; let's hope it reaches expectations.
Runner-Up: Far Cry 3 (PC, PS3, 360)
From Splinter Cell to Rainbow Six, Ubisoft definitely had the most to show at this year's E3. Originally announced in 2010, Far Cry 3 is definitely one of the big blockbusters from Ubisoft this year. Like its predecessors, Far Cry 3 is something of a free-roaming shooter. Every objective offers several ways of proceeding: snipe from afar, go in guns blazing, sneak around corners. However, what we find here is a greater emphasis on story; detailed motion-capture and bizarre cut scenes run rampant. The game starts off with the main protagonist, Jason, escaping from his kidnappers and devising a plan to save his friends. Proceeding through the isolated island, you'll come across a cast of unstable characters – maybe a sign of things to come for Jason himself. At E3, we also saw a glimpse of the co-op campaign, nothing too abnormal for the genre. As a whole, Far Cry 3 doesn't bring much in terms of innovation (and such the reason for the runner-up spot), but it's doing a great job at transitioning into something more cinematically driven; a welcome change for the Far Cry series.
Winner: Borderlands 2 (PC, PS3, 360)
I recently finished Borderlands (yes, I'm late to the party; sue me), so I am eagerly awaiting Borderlands 2. The PC version is being retooled to actually be a PC game this time instead of a working port, and all those new features look to rock. The main draw will be the new classes and characters we get to play as. I played the Hunter class in Borderlands and I am sure the follow-up class will be great. I recently tried the Siren and I have to say I am looking forward to that class in Borderlands 2 as well. Then there is the Gunzerker class that is capable of dual-wielding two weapons at once – even rocket launchers – which should open up a whole new field of killing. Of course, there is the virtually endless amount of weapons to acquire and you can see why this game will eat up the hours for anyone making the purchase. I cannot wait for September 18th and neither should you.
Runner-Up: Far Cry 3 (PC, PS3, 360)
I toyed with the idea of having Far Cry 3 as my winner for Best Shooter, but the allure of Borderlands 2 was hard to pass up. Still, that should not take anything away from Far Cry 3 as it returns to the island setting of the first game. FC3 looks amazing from the gameplay footage and adds in a unique class of characters, including an insane enemy. However, I do have some reservations about the game. I was not overly fond of the malaria aspect of Far Cry 2 and the doctor seen in Far Cry 3 footage makes it seem like a similar mechanic will be employed. The game also looks to be fairly linear and to me, half the enjoyment of the Far Cry series comes from being able to go where I want and do what I want. I still need to see more, but I am intrigued by what is shown.
Winner: Crysis 3 (PC, PS3, 360)
I'm a big fan of shooters and there were quite a few great ones at this year's E3. Crysis 3 impressed me the most after watching gameplay of protagonist Prophet on a mission to blow up a dam. The lush foliage and water effects were as spectacular as ever and the action was brutal, this time introducing a bow and alien weaponry to the mix. CryENGINE 3 is still as beautiful as ever and the PC version is sure to be one of the most visually stunning games in the next year. As always, Crysis 3 will allow you to tackle objectives in a variety of ways – and of course, the iconic Nanosuit makes its return. I still haven't played Crysis 2, despite very much enjoying the first game and its expansion, but the Crysis 3 footage has definitely made me want to fire up the sequel, which I already own, along with a hundred other games I own, but have never played – damn your relentless allure, Steam sales!
Runners-Up: Borderlands 2 (PC, PS3, 360), Far Cry 3 (PC, PS3, 360)
Part shooter, part role-playing game, Borderlands 2 is going to be one of the most enjoyable games later this year. The first game was known for taking the Action-RPG formula of randomized item drops, each with random properties, and applyng it to a first-person shooter. Mashing up genres is a tough chore and the only prior game to use this formula with any modicum of success was Hellgate: London; essentially a first-person Diablo. The original Borderlands featured nearly one million different weapons, from pistols to sniper rifles to rocket launchers. Upon killing an enemy, there was a chance that an item dropped. Using a "procedural content creation system", the item was generated with random attributes that affected damage, fire rate, ammo clip size, etc. Special properties like elemental damage (fire, shock, explosive, corrosive) or even unique properties like using no ammo were also possible – there were even shotguns that say "Holy crap! It shoots rockets!". Like Diablo-esque Action-RPGs, part of the appeal and addictiveness of the game stems from wanting to find the next big thing. The sequel promises more of the same, with four new characters, new environments, new enemies, and of course, a lot more loot. The other major facet of the game that sets it apart from other first-person shooters is its art style – one that resembles cel shading. The only major flaw of the first game was that the PC version was a direct console port, albeit a completely playable one. Gearbox, speaking through a claptrap, promises the Borderlands 2 PC version will not be a direct port – it'll feature a PC-specific UI, a FOV slider, and more. If those promises are kept, though Borderlands 2 may not have been my Best Shooter of E3 2012, it could very well be Best Shooter of the Year.
Far Cry 3, on the other hand, offers us a mature shooter with stunning, realistic graphics. The series is once again going back to a tropical island setting, with an overhauled stealth system and Batman-like melee takedowns. But what's really interesting is the addition of a co-op campaign with its own story and characters. Up to four players can join for what appeared to be a fast-paced, brutal experience. If you'd rather play some competitive multi-player, don't worry, there's that too. But Far Cry 3 promises to add some unique aspects to the tried-and-true multi-player FPS formula. One of the more interesting is a bomb filled with mind-altering gas, which as of now you have to earn via a killstreak. When the gas hits you, the world turns a yellowish hue and you cannot tell friend from foe. Do you shoot everything that moves or do you run and hide until the effect wears off? There's also a new game mode called Firestorm, which sounds like a welcome change from the rather overdone Team Deathmatch. Each nine-player team has two supply caches they're trying to protect. Once a supply cache goes up in flames, it starts a firestorm that advances the round to its second stage. During this second stage, both teams duke it out to control a radar dish when the timer expires. If the team that started the firestorm holds the dish, a plane packed with gasoline swoops in, winning the round. If, however, the other team holds the dish, a plane filled with water swoops in and douses the flames, and the match goes back to stage one, with all the supply caches intact. It should make for some intense close-range battles during the second stage. Lastly, like Far Cry 2, the game will include a map editor that promises to be "a lot bigger and a lot better." If you're an FPS fan, this is certainly a game you'll want to keep your eye on.