OCC E3 2012 Awards
Reviewed by: ClayMeow
Reviewed on: June 17, 2012
Over the past two weeks, you may have noticed a lot of news posts and forum discussions revolving around the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). If you're not familiar with E3, it's an annual trade show for the video game industry, held by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Every year since 1995, video game publishers and developers, along with hardware manufacturers, gather in Los Angeles to show off their upcoming games and game-related technology. Many people complain that E3 has lost some of its luster over the past few years. It used to be that all major announcements were made during E3, but now publishers tend to make announcements year round, not to mention all the leaks that seem to constantly occur. Nevertheless, if you're a gamer, E3 is still a great time of year, and this year was no different.
OverclockersClub may not have had a physical presence at this year's E3, but that doesn't mean we didn't closely follow all the happenings. Throughout E3, we tried to bring you all the major announcements and juicy information on our front page. For nearly five days, our front page was flooded with new announcements, new trailers, and new screenshots. But what games really caught our eyes?
- Best Action-Adventure Game
- Best Shooter
- Best Platforming Game
- Best Fighting Game
- Best MMO
- Best Strategy Game
- Best Racing Game
- Best Role-Playing Game
- Best Free-to-Play Game
- Best Family Game
- Best New IP
- Most Innovative
- Biggest Surprise
- Biggest Disappointment
- Game of the Show
Whether you agree or disagree with their picks, as always, we welcome you to discuss these choices in our forum. They thought long and hard to come up with their winners and runners-up, even wavering back and forth and making some last-minute changes. There were so many great games shown off at E3, picking the best of the best was no easy task.
Best Action-Adventure Game
Winner: The Last of Us (PS3)
Hot on the heels of the very successful Uncharted trilogy comes Naughty Dog's new title, The Last of Us. Like the series before it, each showing of the game has the audience clamoring for more. It's no surprise; The Last of Us simply looks fantastic and not only in the graphical department. The post-disaster setting, the backstory of Ellie and Joel, the pure drama between other survivors; it only leaves me enticed to play through the game for myself. At E3 this year, the public saw the first official gameplay footage of the game, and few were disappointed. In true Naughty Dog spirit, the controls look tight and the action intense. The characters – even the enemies – seem more than just computer-generated images, but people with raw emotions of survival. You'll constantly hear rambling or small-talk of some sort, whether between Ellie and Joel, or enemies who are only trying to survive themselves. Best of all, cinematic camera angles leaves tension high, making you consistently wonder who or what is around the next corner. There is still much to see in terms of story and premise (why is the ruthless Joel saving the young Ellie?), but that just leaves me even more excited for Naughty Dog's next big franchise. The Last of Us is simply a game that I can't wait to get my hands on.
Runner-Up: Tomb Raider (PC, PS3, 360)
After nine games and over 15 years of history, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have finally decided to reboot the story of Lara Croft. Built with no correlation to previous games, the brand new Tomb Raider begins at the onset of Lara Croft's adventure. Shipwrecked on a tropical island to discover her travel-mates dead in ritual positions or hanging from the ceiling, the name of the game here is survival. Unlike previous installments of Tomb Raider, there is much greater emphasis on the dangerous surroundings of the island and its mysterious inhabitants. She needs to find food and water, killing animals and making use of the environment along the way. No longer is Lara Croft overpoweringly jumping all over the screen (we haven't even seen Lara's guns yet). Rather, every turn feels like the verge of death, whether from the vicious bite of an attacking dog, or the rocks rushing past as Lara uncontrollably rides down a speeding river. The new Tomb Raider seems to owe much of its cinematic experience to the Uncharted series; a trilogy that was ironically inspired by Tomb Raider. Although this leaves Tomb Raider as only a runner-up, the raw emotion of Lara Croft and gritty details of accumulating blood and dirt on her face are a welcome change in an industry that is seemingly moving toward a movie-like experience in characters and plot.
Winner: Dishonored (PC, PS3, 360)
For me, Dishonored wins the action-adventure category because it is everything I want in an action-adventure game. There are dozens of games from which to choose for this category, but Dishonored is the game where I can say it is a day-one purchase. Dishonored is set in a Victorian-style city enriched by advanced technology throughout. Your character was the bodyguard to the Empress, but when she is killed, you are blamed for her death. Your character is a master swordsman, marksman, infiltrator, master-at-arms, and even possesses some supernatural powers. You can engage enemies in direct combat or sneak on by and take them out non-lethally. The choice really is yours; plus, who can pass up the opportunity to take control of a rat and sneak into a building? Dishonored has a unique visual style that simply must be seen, and we will all get our chance on October 9th.
Runners-Up: Assassin's Creed III (PC, PS3, 360, Wii U), Star Wars 1313 (PC), Tomb Raider (PC, PS3, 360), ZombiU (Wii U)
Like I said in the previous part, there are a ton of action-adventure games to choose from, which is why I have four runners-up. I could have more because there are plenty of deserving games, but I do not think everyone wants to read pages upon pages about them. To begin, Assassin's Creed III sees the franchise arrive during the time of the American Revolution. Our new hero, Connor, is part British and part Native American, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out in AC3. The new ship combat sections are a departure from the standard Assassin's Creed gameplay, but I feel it is necessary to include them in a game about the American Revolution. Star Wars 1313 is a new mature entry in the universe, as it sees a focus on bounty hunters. The game takes place on the 1313 level of Coruscant, the capital planet in the Star Wars galaxy, and the little snippets of gameplay shown so far make me eager to get my hands on this game.
Tomb Raider is a reboot of the franchise as it sees a teenage Lara Croft learn how to survive. She is a passenger on a boat, which crashes on an unknown island, and has to develop survival skills if she wants to escape. We see a much different Lara than past games, but I think it will be fun seeing how her skills developed into the badass we know and love. Finally, ZombiU introduces some new ideas to the zombie genre and is one of the Wii U titles I am most looking forward to. There will be different characters you control for short amounts of time, and if one happens to succumb to the zombie horde, then another may run into the zombie of the other. ZombiU will definitely be one to watch whenever the Wii U launches.
Winner: Star Wars 1313 (PC)
The action-adventure genre enjoyed a strong showing at this year's E3, but none impressed as much as Star Wars 1313. Typically when you see a four-digit number in a title, it refers to the year the game takes place, but in this case it refers to the underworld level of Coruscant. Although the developers haven't divulged much, they're promising a dark, gritty, and mature Star Wars experience, and the gameplay demos we saw certainly showed that. The excellent atmosphere and extremely impressive graphics (running on a heavily-modified Unreal Engine 3) make this one title worth keeping your eye on.
Runners-Up: Tomb Raider (PC, PS3, 360), Splinter Cell: Blacklist (PC, PS3, 360), Assassin's Creed III (PC, PS3, 360, Wii U), Dishonored (PC, PS3, 360)
I wanted to stick to just one or two runners-up per category, but there were just so many great action-adventure games; that limitation didn't seem fair. If not for the allure of a mature Star Wars game, these four games surely could have battled it out for the top spot. Tomb Raider is rebooting one of the most famous gaming franchises, providing us a glimpse at how Lara Croft became the adventurer we know and love. Splinter Cell: Blacklist asks us to once again assume the role of covert operative Sam Fisher, introducing a new gameplay feature of planning a series of executions. Assassin's Creed III doesn't simply give us more assassinating and parkour-like gameplay, but adds something completely new to the series – naval warfare. Dishonored provides the player with so many different ways to tackle a problem (including possessing rats and humans), offering a truly unique gaming experience. With games like these, it's no wonder the action-adventure genre remains the most popular.
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.
Best Platforming Game
Winner: New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)
Another Nintendo console means another Mario game, right? With Nintendo touting this as "more of the same but better," it's no surprise to see another Mario 2D platformer being introduced. Does this make New Super Mario Bros. U disappointing? Not at the least. For every good platformer, accurate jumping mechanics and movement controls are definitely essential; unsurprisingly, New Super Mario Bros. U already perfects this in spades. Back is the 4-player co-operative feature from the original New Super Mario Bros., but now with the ability for an extra player to take control of the Wii U GamePad and manipulate the game environment. Simply tap on the tablet screen and place temporary blocks on the large screen, possibly saving a player from death or even open up new ways to reach previously unknown areas. We also find several new add-ons from the E3 showing including a flying squirrel suit, an inflatable Yoshi, and a bubble-blowing Yoshi. Pretty wacky stuff, but it is sure to bring about hours of fun, especially if you're playing with a group of people.
Runner-Up: Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (PC, PS3, 360, Wii)
Warren Spector's first project with Disney Interactive was quite a unique concept, with the infamous Mickey Mouse solving puzzles and interacting with the environment using powers of paint and thinner. For its sequel, Mickey is returning with even more features and will be available on several systems as well. Unlike the first installment, The Power of Two will also feature a second playable character, Oswald, in co-operative play. A friend can now drop in and out at any moment in the game and aid Mickey in his adventure; a unique dynamic to the Epic Mickey formula. Little is known this will affect how the game will play out, but if the creativity of the first game is any indication, the team at Junction Point Studios should be well-equipped to give gamers another unique experience.
Winner: Rayman Legends (Wii U)
The platformer category is not as large as it once was, with many classic platforming franchises switching to a pure action focus. Still, there are some fun titles to consider and the one that stood out the most to me is Rayman Legends. This is a Wii U exclusive so far, but it could appear on other systems. Rayman Legends is the sequel to the surprise Rayman Origins, which was a return to the series' side-scrolling platformer roots. Rayman Legends looks to continue the same formula but with even more challenges and puzzles to overcome. Multiple players can join in on the action as well. Plus, there are some Wii U GamePad specific actions to perform with one of the playable characters. I only hope there will be more systems in the future for Rayman Legends, though this is a must-have game either way.
Runner-Up: LittleBigPlanet (PS Vita)
LittleBigPlanet for the PlayStation Vita looks to capture the same level-building, platforming action as its PlayStation 3 brother, but in a portable fashion. This version of LBP expands upon the PSP version by adding in touch controls, offline gameplay, four-player online competitive or co-op play, and PS Vita-specific features. The reason this is my runner-up is because LittleBigPlanet requires many online players designing and uploading levels to be enjoyed once the base game is finished. I have no doubt that LBP for the PS Vita can accomplish that, but until it does, you have to rely on the provided levels and your own creations.
Winner: Deadlight (360)
Deadlight didn't receive as much of the spotlight as some other games – after all, it's simply an indie-developed XBLA title. In fact, when I first picked this category, I completely forgot about this game and rewarded Rayman Legends the win. Thankfully, I remembered this lesser known gem before this article went live. Few side-scrolling platformers can be classified as atmospheric – Limbo being one of the notable exceptions. Deadlight can now be added to that list. Deadlight is a side-scrolling 2D platformer immersed in a fully 3D world – think Trine. But unlike Trine, Deadlight is bleak and foreboding, reminiscent of the aforementioned Limbo. Deadlight is set in the American west coast in an apocalyptic world – it's a survival horror game in an action puzzle platformer shell. As I mentioned, the game is extremely atmospheric, with amazing 3D visuals, including fog and rain. As is the norm in most apocalyptic games, zombies are rampant. Playing as Randall, though you do acquire weapons like an axe, most of the game isn't about fighting, but rather escaping – these are your typical slow-moving, unintelligent, meandering zombies that can only walk forward, unable to climb obstacles. As such, instead of hacking or shooting your way through them (though both are viable options), gameplay videos have shown you typically running past them and hopping on top of cars or ladders to escape. This notion of escaping is what the game is about – you're simply trying to survive and not trying to save the world. Deadlight will be available this Summer on Xbox Live Arcade. Hopefully it makes its way to the PC as well, but as of now, it's one of the few, if not the only 360-exclusive worth getting excited about – sorry, Halo 4. What an excellent first game for developer Tequila Works.
Runners-Up: Rayman Legends (Wii U), Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (PC, PS3, 360, Wii)
It's hard to bring innovation to a classic genre like platforming, but Ubisoft has managed to do just that with Rayman Legends, thanks largely to Wii U's touch-screen controller. Like Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends is a vibrant, colorful, and goofy 2D platformer. What makes Rayman Legends unique is the introduction of Murfy, a character that can only be controlled via the Wii U's touch screen, offering a new way to experience the game. Unlike a game like New Super Mario Bros. U, the player using the Wii U controller actually feels like an integral part of the team. Furthermore, the game still supports up to four players using the traditional controls, allowing for up to five people to play the game at one time. Despite the unique GamePad feature, Ubisoft stated that we shouldn't necessarily rule out other platforms, which is certainly welcomed news.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two manages to combine 3D platforming and 2D platforming to create what seems like quite an enjoyable experience for gamers of all ages. Designed for two-player co-op with one player controlling Mickey and the other controlling Oswald, most of the gameplay seems to be 2D platforming, with boss fights being in 3D, and the graphics appear to be top notch in both. Mickey and Oswald control slightly differently (Mickey double-jumps, while Oswald uses his ears to glide), but they complement each other well and include unique co-op combos, like Mickey grabbing Oswald's feet as the latter glides across a gap.
Best Fighting Game
Winner: PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale (PS3, PS Vita)
So far, PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale has been on the receiving end of some pretty mixed reactions; some see it as a Super Smash Bros. clone while others are simply excited to see all their favorite PlayStation characters in one ensemble. I, being a big PlayStation fan myself, fit in the latter. I do see the resemblance to Smash Bros., but I have no problem with that; Smash Bros. is an amusing experience in itself. What makes Battle Royale different is the back catalog of PlayStation icons that will undoubtedly make up the bulk of the character selection screen. I mean, who doesn't want to see Kratos battle it out with PaRappa the Rapper or Ratchet and Clank? Like Smash Bros., they will each have their own unique abilities, which makes it even better that the goal of the game is to kill off enemies by unleashing these special attacks. Sony is also known for an expansive third party library and this clearly shows in PlayStation All-Stars, especially with the announcement of Bioshock's Big Daddy as a playable character. I would not be surprised if Sony snags a couple Final Fantasy characters into the game. Stage selection is also a big focus in the game, as each level basically involves a clash of two PlayStation franchises interacting with the fighters. In one, you'll find Hades inflicting damage to the stage as a flood of Patapon takes over the giant. In another, you'll navigate through LittleBigPlanet platforms while Buzz quizzes the fighters mid-match; answer wrong and face death. PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale definitely looks to be a familiar, yet unique experience that PlayStation fans should keep their eyes on.
Runner-Up: Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (PS3, 360, Wii U, Arcade)
More than ten years after the original Tekken Tag Tournament, the direct sequel is back and better than ever. Slated for release this Fall and Winter for PS3, 360, and Wii U, the series returns with its infamous 2 versus 2 matches, allowing players to switch between partners at any time in a bout. New to the series is the inclusion of true environmental shifts. In certain stages, parts of the environment will break once an enemy is slammed into it, transitioning both characters to a new section of the stage – a feature familiar to whomever has played the Dead or Alive series. That aside, we also find new characters and a fighting system that stays deep, yet easy to get into. It doesn't bring anything revolutionary to the genre, but it should be a solid inclusion to the series.
Winner: PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale (PS3, PS Vita)
I only have one selection in the fight game category because there is only one thing that really interests me: PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale. This is Sony's take on Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. franchise, where four players duke it out using various game characters on unique levels. All-Stars: Battle Royale differs from Smash Bros. by not having a visible score or remaining lives on the battle screen. Instead you have to keep a tally going in your head, but that can easily be forgotten with the sheer insanity of the fighting. Your character builds up a charge meter that unleashes a powerful attack, which is the only way to actually "kill" another character. There are three levels of the charge, each more powerful than the last, but there is a risk involved if your attack does not hit. There are several confirmed characters so far (Kratos, Nathan Drake, Big Daddy, Sweet Tooth, and more), and based on Sony's rich history, I am sure many more will be added before launch. The PS3 and PS Vita versions of the game can even play against each other without issue, which means you will never be far from the action at home or on the road.
Winner: PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale (PS3, PS Vita)
When PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale was first announced, people started complaining that it was a Super Smash Bros. clone. My answer to them is, so what? This brawler clearly takes a lot of inspiration from Smash Bros., but adds its own flavors to give it a unique feel. Aside from featuring Sony characters, your regular attacks aren't used to hit opponents off the screen, but rather to build up a Special meter. You then use those specials to send your opponents flying off the screen for the kill. As if worrying about your opponents isn't enough, you also have to contend with the environment (though that can be turned off), and one level even has you answering trivia questions by trying to stand on the platform containing the correct answer when time expires – as you can imagine, fighting over a small platform can lead to some intense battles. Only a handful of characters have been unveiled thus far, but Sony has a long, rich history to reach into. The recent confirmation of Bioshock's Big Daddy is a great sign that the cast of characters won't be limited to Sony's first-party games, making the possible launch roster endless. Throw in Cross-Play between the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, and Sony may have a real winner here.
Runner-Up: Dead or Alive 5 (PS3, 360)
Fighting games seem to be enjoying a surge of late. I've never been a fan of the 2D fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat – for me, the 3D fighting games like Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive are so much more enjoyable. The 3D environments and movement add a lot more tactical depth to the combat and typically offer a plethora of different moves. The Dead or Alive series is known for its interactive environments and Dead or Alive 5 has ramped that up even more. In addition, it introduces a new move type called the "cliffhanger", which adds interactivity when a player is knocked off an edge, instead of simply falling to the level below. Exact details are a little sketchy, but it seems to add a quick psychological game to the mix, where each player must quickly choose a particular move and different combinations have different results, like the fallen opponent actually hanging on to the ledge and countering the attacker, or both characters falling to the level below. Cliffhangers will not be possible on all stages, so it should be rare enough where it feels like a nice change of pace, even if for a short while.
Winner: The Elder Scrolls Online (PC)
I'll be honest; I'm not the biggest fan of massively multi-player games. Personally, I prefer digging myself deep in single player RPGs, feeling as though the story revolves around my character only. So when the Elder Scrolls Online was announced, I was interested. I have played previous Elder Scrolls games in the past, including Oblivion and Skyrim, so I was keen on knowing how the single player experience of those games would translate to a massively-multiplayer world. Set in the fictional continent of Tamriel – the same one featured in many of the Elder Scrolls games – players are able to choose between three factions and a number of classes. Freedom is key to the game here; the continent is open to roam and players are able to use any weapon from any class, even being able to somewhat mix classes. Want to be a mage with a sword and shield? You can do that! As well, abilities grow as you use them, naturally morphing you into a specialized character as you play. At this time, there's still much to be shown from the game, but so far, it seems that the team at Zenimax Online Studios are taking Bethesda's lore very seriously and it shows. Tamriel is still fully intact and I'm excited to see how it translates to a living, breathing, MMO world.
Winner: PlanetSide 2 (PC)
I remember having several friends try to get me to play the first PlanetSide, but seeing as how I was in high school at the time and could not afford a monthly fee for an MMO, I had to pass. That is not to say I wasn't interested in PlanetSide, because an MMOFPS sounded simply fascinating in a time of countless EverQuest clones. I just did not have the means to enjoy it. Enter PlanetSide 2, which is effectively a remake of the first game, but this time with a narrative written by Marv Wolfman to add a deeper story. The territory system is also more complex than the original game and has a bigger role to play in shaping the game's battlefields. Up to 2,000 players can deck it out at once on land or air, but this game is still a first-person shooter so player skill will determine the outcome of fights. You can unlock skills, but Sony Online Entertainment plans for those to make only a 15 or 20% difference in the outcome of fights. Skills will take time to learn, but you do not have to be online constantly for progress to be made. PlanetSide 2 will have a day/night cycle to affect the fighting methods, but how long the cycle lasts is not known at this time. The best part of PlanetSide 2 and the reason it is my winner in the MMO category, is because it is free-to-play. Unlike the first game, it looks like I will be able to enjoy the sequel.
Runner-Up: The Elder Scrolls Online (PC)
I struggled with the idea of The Elder Scrolls Online being my winner in the MMO category, but I had to put it as runner-up for a few reasons. The main thing is there is not a ton of information about the game, aside from the setting in The Elder Scrolls timeline (Second Era), the factions, races, and how much of Tamriel is playable. ZeniMax Online is handling development duties and managed to keep TESO a secret for five years before a reveal earlier this year. There will be three factions to choose from, with different races in each and nearly all of Tamriel will be open to explore, but there just aren't a lot of details on much else. The graphical style so far is another concern, as it does not quite have the distinct The Elder Scrolls look. It resembles most other MMORPGs currently on the market, which to me is a bad thing because I do not want just another MMO. I want The Elder Scrolls Online to look like a new entry in the series instead of World of Warcraft Part Deux. Right now TESO is on my radar, but it is not high enough to warrant winning the MMO category.
Winner: Defiance (PC, PS3, 360)
There have been several video games based on movies and television shows, and vice versa. Trion Worlds and Syfy are taking that to the next level with Defiance. Defiance is an MMO. It'll also be a TV show. Not only may events on the show impact the game, but events in the game may impact the show, meaning players can actually play a significant role in Defiance's future. Unlike your traditional MMO, Defiance is a shooter and also multi-platform, being developed not only for the PC, but the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as well. However, each platform will be independent from each other - Trion Worlds doesn't want PC gamers dominating its console brethren.
Defiance takes place in the near future, where aliens known collectively as Votans (there are multiple species) have come to Earth seeking a new home after their solar system was destroyed. After six years of negotiations, no agreement was reached and a war began between the two sides. During the war, Votan alien ships containing terraformers are destroyed, resulting in Earth being transformed when they crash to the ground. Vast chasms open up and layers of dust and debris cover the surface, burying major cities. Eventually, both sides come to the realization that neither can win and their only priority should be survival, leading to a ceasefire. The television series takes place a few decades after the ceasefire and focuses on a refugee camp called Defiance. While the show takes place in (what used to be) St. Louis, the MMO takes place in San Francisco and its surrounding area. You may come upon the remnants of the Golden Gate Bridge, but due to the terraforming, Defiance's Earth will feel very different than our own. It's a huge undertaking on an epic scale, but if Trion Worlds can pull it off, it could be something amazing.
Runner-Up: Elder Scrolls Online (PC)
A massively multi-player Elder Scrolls game? Um, yes please. Very little has been revealed about the game, but we do know that you'll be able to choose amongst the nine classic Elder Scrolls races and align with one of three Alliances, battling over Tamriel's throne in the Imperial City. In my opinion, no MMO has been able to top the PvP of Dark Age of Camelot's realm-vs.realm combat. Though it's too early to tell, it sounds like Elder Scrolls Online may offer similar three-faction battles over castles and forts. If so, this is certainly an MMO you want to keep your eye on, even if you're not obsessed with Skyrim. The only major negative is that Elder Scrolls Online doesn't look anything like Skyrim and although it's still early in development, I have a hard time believing it ever will, simply because it's an MMO.
Best Strategy Game
Winner: SimCity (PC)
Full disclosure: I don't play strategy games, so analyzing this category was very tough. (You'd be crazy to let me control hundreds of troops; I'd just go brute force with them)
My lack of experience aside, one strategy game that really caught my attention at this year's E3 was SimCity. Since I first laid my hands on gaming, Tycoon titles have always been one of my guilty pleasures. There remains something rewarding about starting with nothing, building gradually more complex roller coasters, aquariums, and shopping malls along the way (depending on the specific Tycoon game of course), and eventually ruling over my creation like Big Brother. No, it's not Starcraft or the next Battle for Middle Earth, but it's surely got my interest going. Using the new GlassBox Simulation engine, the city will look and feel more realistic than ever. Traffic jams will actually involve a congestion of cars on the street, the city will go pitch black at night if the electrical grid is down, and each Sim will have its own lifestyle routine in the city. New and probably most exciting for SimCity is the inclusion of online connectivity. The world is split into regions, each inhabited by groups of cities. What makes it special is that each of these user-controlled cities directly influence one another. If one is flooded with industrial buildings, the pollution may move to an adjacent one. Goods and even citizens can travel between cities, while material prices will depend on supply and demand in the region. What it all comes down to is something of a living, breathing world where the actions of one player may affect the outcome of several others. It's quite an exciting concept for a game in such a genre. Little is known about the rest of the gameplay at the moment, but I'm looking forward to finding out more in the coming months before its release in 2013.
Winner: XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PC, PS3, 360)
You would be hard pressed to find an older gamer who has anything bad to say about the classic X-COM series. Sure, there may be a game that wasn't that great, but overall the series is one of the most beloved of all time. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a re-imagining/remake of X-COM: UFO Defense (UFO: Enemy Unknown) being handled by Firaxis, which makes the Civilization series, if you've ever heard of that. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is one of two XCOM games in development, but the other is an FPS and does not count in the strategy category. This new Enemy Unknown is a classic strategy game through and through, and even though it will release on the consoles as well as the PC, the console version will not be dumbed down. You are in command of XCOM, the most elite scientific and military force on Earth, and it is up to you and your team to repel the alien invasion. The battlefield is viewed from an isometric 3D perspective, the game's menu shows the XCOM headquarters (only one this time), and the global "Geoscape" view allows for strategic positioning of troops around the world. The battles are turn-based, but there are no grids to move on or specific firing angles to use. Your squad can have up to six members on a mission and are able to make use of cover, suppressing fire, stealth, and different abilities to win the fight. The enemy can also make use of these tactics, so you will have to be on your toes to make sure your troops do not die. Death is permanent in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, so plan your actions carefully! XCOM: Enemy Unknown comes out on October 9th this year, and I cannot wait to see Firaxis' take on the classic series.
Runner-Up: Company of Heroes 2 (PC)
I love the first Company of Heroes and its expansions, so I was delighted to hear a sequel is on track to release next year. Company of Heroes 2 focuses on the Eastern Front of World War Two and adds the Red Army as a playable faction at last. Players will get to experience the Nazi push into the USSR during Operation Barbarossa, the Red Army fighting them at every turn, and end up with the Battle of Berlin. The new Essence 3 engine is powering CoH2 and includes snow and "true sight," which means the player sees whatever the unit sees. The reason I have this game as a runner-up is because not much information has been released on it, but I eagerly look forward to more news.
Winner: Company of Heroes 2 (PC)
Company of Heroes is the highest rated strategy game of all-time. So one has to wonder why it took Relic so long to make a sequel. Maybe the studio was just waiting for technology to catch up with its ambition. Company of Heroes 2 will feature the USSR's Red Army as a new faction and uses the new Essence 3 engine to render realistic snow that has a very real impact on your troops' movements. Snow in Company of Heroes 2 isn't just a white ground texture – it has depth, will spread procedurally, and will compact when rolled over by tanks, though tanks can get bogged down if the snowdrifts are too high. Something as simple as snow adds a whole new level of strategy to the game. For example, infantry can use deep snowdrifts as cover for flanking maneuvers, but can move faster on thinner snow coverage. Company of Heroes was known for its cover system and the sequel takes that to the next level, introducing what's being referred to as "true sight". What this means is that the player can only see what the units see, flipping the RTS concept of fog of war on its head.
Runners-Up: SimCity (PC), Pikmin 3 (Wii U)
Some of you may be too young to have played SimCity 2000 or at least appreciate how great a game it was at the time. There have been several SimCity games since, but none have come close to capturing that magic. Maxis is rebooting the franchise with SimCity, due out next year. Aside from capturing that SimCity 2000 magic, what's really impressive about SimCity is the capabilities of its new game engine, GlassBox. Glassbox replaces those boring charts with a unique graphical interface, visually representing things such as resources, traffic, construction, etc. In addition, the multi-player aspect of trading resources and services with your friends sounds like a very interesting and unique addition to the simulation genre. Whereas SimCity attempts to simulate realism, Pikmin 3 is anything but. Arguably the most exciting Wii U exclusive, Pikmin 3 brings back the colorful, zany pikmin after a rather long hiatus, offering up a unique strategy experience not often found on a console. Pikmin 3 will offer single-player, multi-player, and a new Challenge mode.
Best Racing Game
Winner: LittleBigPlanet Karting (PS3)
From the team that brought you ModNation Racers comes a joint venture with the Media Molecule of LittleBigPlanet, titled LittleBigPlanet Karting (creative name, right?). What may initially seem like a shameless rip-off of Mario Kart is a title that extends beyond a kart racer with weapons. Continuing with Sony’s line of 'Play, Create, Share' games, the focus here is creation and customization. Like ModNation Racers before it, players can create their own tracks and characters for local and online play. What makes the game special are the tools that come built into the game; every level has been and can be built with the same tools available from the game's Creation Mode. Coming from the enormous user community of LittleBigPlanet, there's no question that we'll be seeing some very creative user levels after its release. But races are only half the game; a great emphasis is on Battle Mode. Like Mario Kart, weapons are placed throughout tracks and stages; anything from heat-seeking missiles, electrical shocks, and bombs that fall from the sky. From what I've seen in E3 demos, the battles are fast and frantic on relatively large stages. With all that's said and done, the charm of LittleBigPlanet is still here at heart; like the original, you start off in a spaceship hub made of cardboard and can still slap your opponents if they get too close. If anything, I'm most excited to see what the community does with this game. LittleBigPlanet saw a simple platformer transformed into classic arcade games, racers, and even music boxes; there's no telling what the 3D world of LittleBigPlanet Karting will bring to the table.
Runner-Up: Need for Speed Most Wanted (PC, PS3, 360, PS Vita)
For years and years, the Need for Speed franchise has gone through more iterations than I can count. From its initial run as a pure racing series, to a free-roaming underground street racer, to something of a simulator, to an action racing game, Need for Speed has been through it all. Although the original Need for Speed: Most Wanted was released several years ago, probably the only resemblance with this new game is the inclusion of the police. Developed by Criterion Games – known for their highly acclaimed Burnout series – Most Wanted combines the adrenaline-pumping speed of Burnout with the drawn-out police chases of Need for Speed. Put the two together and you get one of the more intense racing games that I've seen. The whole map is available for you to explore; a playground with shortcuts and landmarks to run through or crash into. To put it simply, Need for Speed: Most Wanted is Burnout: Paradise with the police chases of the original Most Wanted game. Not the most original idea (hence the runner-up), but it’s sure to please anyone who's looking for a tight racer with a splash of adrenaline rush.
Winner: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (PC, PS3, 360, Wii U, PS Vita, 3DS)
There was not a huge showing of racing games at E3 this year, so picking a winner and runner-up for this category was a little hard. Still, I liked what I saw of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed to make it my winner. This is a kart racer, similar to Mario Kart, but with a variety of new mechanics and improvements to the familiar. The main thing is the karts can now transform into sea and air vehicles while racing, and the tracks will terraform during a race that will require a transformation. The game handles the transformations for the most part, as you pass through colored gates or enter water to transform, but there will be multiple paths requiring a certain transformation. You can choose the path to take and in a way the transformation, but for the most part it is all automatic. There are also multiple characters to unlock in single player and friends to race in online multiplayer, so it looks like Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed will be one to get.
Runner-Up: Need for Speed Most Wanted (PC, PS3, 360, PS Vita)
No, you are not suddenly transported back to the early 2000s. There is a new Need for Speed: Most Wanted coming out this year and it was shown during EA's E3 conference. The new Most Wanted is being handled by Criterion and once again features a Blacklist of racers to take down. However, unlike the 2005 game, this new version has a Blacklist of only 10 racers (instead of 15), but the premise remains the same otherwise. Certain races will have the cops on your tail, who will deploy a variety of tactics to try and stop you. The car selection for the new Most Wanted is described as the largest yet and the physics are more simulation than arcade, but I still remain a little skeptical of this new game based on the graphics. It just doesn't look like Most Wanted, but maybe that will change by November.
Winner: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (PC, PS3, 360, Wii U, PS Vita, 3DS)
Sonic & All-Stars Racing was generally well-received. The sequel, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed, ups the ante with transformable vehicles to conquer not only the roads, but the waters and skies as well. The transformations are done automatically when you come to sections that require a change, but it's still an interesting aspect. The game will also employ a "fair weapon system", allowing players to block or evade if they have the skill. Typically in racing games like this (I'm looking at you, Mario Kart), taking an early lead isn't always a good thing, as you'll often be the target of unavoidable attacks. Being able to actually block or evade attacks may change all that, and that's exactly what developer Sumo Digital wants – aggressive racing from start to finish.
Runners-Up: Need for Speed Most Wanted (PC, PS3, 360, PS Vita)
Need for Speed Most Wanted is a reboot of the 2005 game of the same name. Aside from the impressive graphics and assortment of cars to choose from, Most Wanted's world is completely open, allowing you to simply cruise around as you please, until you're ready to compete in a variety of challenges. As in the first game, you'll not only have to compete against a "blacklist" of racers, but also against a plethora of police cars that will employ various tactics to take you down. The Need For Speed franchise has had its share of ups and downs, so I'm not completely sold on Most Wanted just yet, but it certainly has promise.
Best Role-Playing Game
Winner: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
Many of you probably haven't heard of Ni no Kuni before. Originally released on Nintendo DS in 2010 and then remade from the ground up for the PS3 in 2011, the title seemed to be one of many that wasn't going to see the light of day outside Japan. Thankfully, developer Level-5 is bringing the PS3 version to the US and Europe for an early 2013 release. Now, don't let the history of the game detach you; one look at the game and you'll see why I'm excited for it. Co-developed by Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, the game instantly feels like classic Dragon Quest VIII – one of Level-5's highly acclaimed JRPG games. What goes above and beyond for this game, however, is Studio Ghibli's legendary experience with art direction and story. Although this is the first game by the studio, it holds a long history of award-winning animated movies such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. With a music score composed by Joe Hisaishi – a man who has found great success working with Studio Ghibli – it's no surprise that the game has already earned massive critical-acclaim in its home of Japan. At its core, Ni no Kuni follows the journey of a young boy in search of his mother, who died rescuing him from drowning years ago. In traditional Studio Ghibli fantasy storytelling, the boy is soon joined by a fairy companion, who teaches him of a world parallel to his own where his mother could still exist; Ni No Kuni. Cliché as it may seem, neither Studio Ghibli nor Level-5 are strangers to introducing dazzling worlds of fantasy and highly stylized characters; something that we've already seen in the English version (this was the version shown at E3 after all). When this releases in North America next year, I'll be waiting in line to enter the colorful and fantasy world of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.
Runner-Up: South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC, PS3, 360)
I had a difficult time choosing the best RPG at this year's E3. While I am a big fan of Level-5 and Studio Ghibli's work, a show that I've followed since its beginning is South Park. So when it was announced that Obsidian Entertainment was developing a South Park RPG, I was thrilled. Although very few details have been released so far, the game seems to directly mimic the art style and comedy of the show, which is a big plus. With word of Obsidian working directly with South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, I won't be surprised if the game plays out like an extra-long episode of South Park, filled with pop-culture humor and hilariously-enacted plot scenarios. What I am worried about, is the actual gameplay. From the brief glimpses shown by released trailers, the game seems to play like a beat-em-up; fairly rare in the world of RPGs. At this point, though, there is still much information to be released, so maybe it's nothing to worry about. Given the seemingly fantasy-like plot of the game so far, maybe there will be magic to play around with – I can only hope.
Winner: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard (PC, PS3, 360)
As if there was any question what my best RPG was going to be from E3 this year. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard is an expansion to the 2011 Game of the Year, but that does not put it any lower in my book. Dawnguard will allow you to join a vampire faction that seeks to cover the world in darkness or the Dawnguard who wish to extinguish the vampires from Skyrim and perhaps all of Tamriel. Joining the vampires will allow you to become a Vampire Lord able to transform at will, hover above the ground, and feed on any unsuspecting villager. The Dawnguard have access to a variety of armor and weapons, including the new crossbow, so it looks like the DLC will require at least two playthroughs to see everything. Bethesda is also adding vampire and werewolf perk trees, the ability to become a Vampire Lord if a werewolf, new creatures and enemies, and a host of other content. The only downside to all of this is when Dawnguard arrives at the end of June, it will do so on the Xbox 360 first. The PC and PS3 will receive it about a month later, so hopefully you can hold out if you do not own the 360 version.
Runner-Up: Cyberpunk (PC)
Cyberpunk is a pen and paper RPG created in 1988 by Mike Pondsmith. There are thousands of pages that describe the world and its technology, and it is up to CD Projekt RED to transform some of that into a video game. CD Projekt is best known for The Witcher series, but Cyberpunk eschews fantasy, swords, and elves for science fiction, guns, and implants. These two worlds could not be more different, but I have high faith CD Projekt can adapt another story into a terrific video game. Not a whole lot is known about Cyberpunk currently, not even what systems it will appear on, but I eagerly await more information on the game.
Winner: South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC, PS3, 360)
South-Park: The Stick of Truth is probably not a game for everyone. Despite its cartoon graphics, it's certainly not a game for young children. If you've never heard of South Park, where have you been over the past one and a half decades? South Park is an animated sitcom for mature audiences, featuring crude language, satire, and dark humor. South Park: The Stick of Truth is an upcoming role-playing game based on the series and is the first video game to truly allow players to enter and interact with the town of South Park and its many quirky characters. You play as a "new kid" that shows up to town and in true South Park fashion, when asked to enter your name, no matter what you choose, Cartman will simply call you "Douchebag". That one instance shows the cleverness of co-creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker – they avoid the problems of addressing a player in a fully voiced game, while insulting you at the same time. Those sly bastards!
Runner-Up: Cyberpunk (PC)
Announced just prior to E3, Cyberpunk is a role-playing game being developed by CD Projekt RED, based off the pen&paper role-playing game of the same name. Cyberpunk takes place in a rich, futuristic world with ultra-modern technology and a decadent and degenerated human society. CD Projekt RED made six "promises" to gamers, from offering up a "gripping non-linear story" to "setting a new standard in the futuristic RPG genre". Lofty goals, but if any studio can accomplish it, it's CD Projekt RED, masterful developer of The Witcher series. I've never heard of Cyberpunk before, but it apparently dates back to 1988 and features 4700+ pages describing the game world in 44 handbooks. That is a whole wealth of information for CD Projekt RED to expand upon.
Best Free-to-Play Game
Winner: DUST 514 (PS3)
When someone mentions free-to-play multi-player shooter, what do you imagine? Aside from rare exceptions such as the excellent Team Fortress 2, I wouldn't be surprised if what you had in mind consisted mainly of browser-based or translated Asia-made games. Enter the world of DUST 514. Ever heard of Eve Online? With over 400,000 subscribers and a grand galaxy of star systems inhabited by communities of players, Eve is definitely one of the more robust massively multi-player games available. DUST 514 is a first-person shooter set in this persistent world. Probably one of the more ambitious games shown at E3, the actions and outcomes of DUST 514 will directly affect players of Eve Online. Set on giant maps akin to Battlefield, the goal of your team is to take control of the same territories and planets of Eve in real time. Winning means immediate success for the Eve Online players whose side you're fighting on. What's special is that the persistent world also works in the reverse way; Eve Online players can send resources, hire extra DUST 514 players, or even summon airships in the midst of battle to turn the tide of the war below. It's definitely a unique concept and will probably change the way developers look at future cross-platform games. I will be keeping my eye on this one, especially with an awesome price tag of $0.
Runner-Up: Hawken (PC)
Made with the ever-popular Unreal Engine 3, Hawken is probably one of the most beautiful free-to-play games I have seen. It only took one gameplay demo for me to notice a level of polish akin to a full-priced title. Possibly because it was originally developed as a retail game, Hawken is now free-to-play and that's what matters. At its heart, Hawken is a first-person mech game, combining the realistic style of the West and the arcade style of the East. The standard modes are there – deathmatch, team deathmatch – but the developers at Adhesive Games are promising several unique ones, including the base-destroying Siege mode. Like other F2P games, customization is a focus here; Hawken features three mech classes and the ability for the player to mix and match armor and weapons between them. Best of all, each class will have its own skill tree, which allows the player to progress as they play a certain way. The number of maps have not be announced yet (although the developers are promising varied locales), but what is shown has been impressive so far. It doesn't bring much new to the table for the genre, but for a free-to-play title, it definitely stands out among the rest. Open beta begins on 12/12/12, so it's not long before everyone can get their hands on this impressive shooter.
Winner: Hawken (PC)
The free-to-play market has exploded like no other gaming segment has over the last year or two. Plenty of subscription MMOs have switched or will soon switch to an F2P model, but other games will be using the same idea. My free-to-play winner has to Hawken, but it was a tough choice between this and the runner-up. Hawken sees you fighting in fully customizable mechs from a first-person perspective, with no two mechs looking or behaving exactly the same. The game is being built on Unreal Engine 3 and looks simply stunning. The action is fast-paced, the movement of the mechs actually looks like you are in control of many tons of destruction, and what person can resist a mech game? Hawken will release on December 12th this year, so I think I know what I will be doing to escape during the holidays.
Runner-Up: MechWarrior Online (PC)
Like I said, it was a tough choice between Hawken and my runner-up in the F2P category, but I had to put MechWarrior Online just below Hawken. That is not a slight on MechWarrior Online by any means, just that I had to choose only one winner. MechWarrior Online is one of two MechWarrior games in development (the other being MechWarrior Tactics), but this one looks to capture the essence of the past games perfectly. It is built using CryENGINE 3 and should look absolutely stunning when it launches, but there is not a whole lot known on the game yet. We do know you can form a lance (four-man squads) and customize your mechs however you like, an upgrade system is present just like the past games, and it will be from the first-person perspective, but I just need to know more about it and how it will handle compared to the past games.
Winner: PlanetSide 2 (PC)
PlanetSide 2 is a massively multi-player online first-person shooter set in a persistent world featuring three player-controlled factions. Players battle for control of various battlegrounds using a variety of weapons and vehicles , with up to hundreds of players battling at any one time. There are a ton of different stats that are tracked and leaderboards, along with a variety of customization options, not just for characters, but for vehicles as well. But most importantly for a free-to-play game, though items can be bought for real money, all items that affect gameplay (such as weapons) can also be purchased using in-game currency. In other words, this is not one of those dreaded pay-to-win games. The other appealing aspect is that the game is running on an in-house, built-from-scratch, PC-exclusive engine, designed specifically to handle PS2. Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) is still working on optimizing the game, shooting for a solid 60 frames per second even with hundreds of customized player on the screen at once (no small task), but an engine built for that purpose is certainly the right step. SOE also has a long pedigree of MMO development, so network and server stability should be of little concern.
Runners-Up: RaiderZ (PC), Hawken (PC)
If you're looking for a free-to-play game that's more of a traditional MMO, look no further than RaiderZ. Many people cringe when they hear "F2P MMORPG", with visions of horrible, poorly translated Asian MMOs from back in the day. But the free-to-play landscape has drastically changed over the past few years, offering up Triple-A quality titles without a mandatory price tag. RaiderZ is visually stunning, with varied environments and over-the-top monsters and weaponry. Combat is very active with dodges and parries, and monsters can be quite brutal, throwing you or even eating you alive. PlanetSide 2 may be more unique, but RaiderZ is certainly shaping up to be a quality F2P MMORPG.
Maybe you're not looking for either a MMOFPS or MMORPG? Don't worry, developer Adhesive Games has you covered with its upcoming free-to-play mech combat game, Hawken. Being developed on Unreal Engine 3, what sets Hawken apart from other mech combat games is its fast pace and accessibility. These aren't your slow-moving monstrosities with complicated control systems. Even then larger mechs are extremely fast and Adhesive Games has worked hard to make it accessible to everyone. As of now, the maps have been designed to be optimally played 5v5 to 8v8 (this is not an MMO). It should be noted that that limitation is not a tech limitation, it's simply the number of players where the pacing of the game matches what they're going for. It's quite possible, if demand is there, that larger maps are created for more massive battles. Like PlanetSide 2, anything affecting gameplay can be earned by playing the game, with most micro-transactions focusing on aesthetics. If you have any interest in mech combat or are simply looking for a slightly different shooter experience, you'll definitely want to keep you eye on Hawken. The open beta will begin 12/12/12.
Best Family Game
Winner: Wonderbook: Book of Spells (PS3)
For better or worse, Sony made quite a splash this year at E3 with a new concept called Wonderbook. Basically, it involves a physical hardcover book that the player "reads" in front of the Playstation Eye camera and the Playstation Move controller. While hardcore gamers may cringe at the thought of playing through a book, this may open up a great entrance for younger gamers and the way they interact with games in general. This E3, the first Wonderbook was shown, titled the Book of Spells. Written by J.K. Rowling – the author who wrote the popular Harry Potter series – the adventure has you following a journey as a student at Hogwarts as you learn spells along the way. All the while, players are enriched in J.K. Rowling's lore onscreen. In my opinion, the direct interactions with stories could open up a multitude of new players to the great educational tool of reading. J.K. Rowling is quite possibly one of the more influential authors for young readers, so Sony's partnership with Pottermore is definitely a good way to go. As for the E3 demo, it came off as impressive, with realistic effects and a high level of interaction; you'll find yourself setting the book on fire (on screen of course), only to be forced to put it out with your hands and clean off the dust. Magic spells look bright and powerful, and the tracking accuracy with the Move controller (a wand in this case) and your hands are very well done. It's truly wonderful to see Sony open up to younger gamers in a new way, similar to how Nintendo was able to get people off their seat with the Wii.
Runner-Up: Scribblenauts Unlimited (PC, Wii U, 3DS)
In 2009, the original Scribblenauts brought forth a brand new concept in puzzle games; the ability to write down whatever object you want and having it instantly appear on screen. Come across a weaponless knight that needed to kill a dragon? Spawn him a sword or better yet, give him a monster truck and run the dragon over. The options were virtually limitless. Each subsequent iteration had the number of options grow, as adjectives were included; a plus for anyone who wanted to spawn an enraged winged blue panda. This E3, developer 5th Cell announced Scribblenauts Unlimited, an entry that promises to offer even greater depth in vocabulary choice. Going one step further than the adjective system, you will now be able to combine multiple objects together into one big creation. Judging from the E3 trailer, a dog with wheels, exhaust pipe, and Mohawk is no longer a dream (yes, you read that correctly). Objectives are also less structured, with the player able to talk with NPCs for new tasks rather than choosing from a menu like past games. With all that's said and done, this is the same Scribblenauts structure that we've seen, though it's not necessarily a bad thing. I'll be looking forward to seeing what else is announced for this game.
Winner: LEGO The Lord of the Rings (PC, PS3, 360, Wii, PS Vita, 3DS, DS)
I love The Lord of the Rings and I love LEGO. What better combination than to have Traveller's Tales combine the two into LEGO The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game? Unlike past LEGO video games, The Lord of the Rings features all the voices from the movie trilogy to better immerse the gamer into the action. There will still be some of that trademark Traveller's Tales humor present in the game, but the company is taking this one seriously as well. It is not every day a company gets the chance to work on a video game adaptation of one of the most beloved book and movie series of all time, and Traveller's Tales wants this The Lord of the Rings game to be the definitive video game adaptation. It just so happens it will be with LEGO minifigures, but hey, what better way to get your children interested in a true classic?
Runner-Up: Project P-100 (Wii U)
Platinum Games may not exactly be known for family games, but I feel its upcoming Project P-100 is just that. The game is designed for the Wii U and features an ensemble of superheroes trying to repel an invading alien menace. These superheroes must join their powers in order to defeat the aliens and can morph into a variety of shapes to accomplish their goal. If a gap is too far to form a bridge, you can make a hangglider out of the superheroes to get across. You can form them into a sword to battle aliens or turn into gelatin to block an attack. The graphical style is pretty cartoony and it looks perfect for the whole family to enjoy once the Wii U launches.
Winner: LEGO The Lord of the Rings (PC, PS3, 360, Wii, PS Vita, 3DS, DS)
There are many games that could be considered family games, but how many games truly appeal to gamers of all ages? The LEGO games do just that. LEGO games are extremely easy to play and offer a cutesy and funny experience with no blood, making them perfect for children. But then there are all the optional hidden secrets that offer up some challenge, appealing to the older gamers out there, while the younger gamers can safely ignore them. If you want to "100%" the game, it'll take time and patience. I love the LEGO games. I also love The Lord of the Rings (yes, I read the trilogy and The Hobbit well before the movies came out). Is it any wonder then, that I'm eagerly awaiting LEGO The Lord of the Rings? LEGO LOTR promises the same fun gameplay and varied characters like previous entries, but this time adds actual voices instead of the typical incomprehensible babbling. In the (slightly altered) words of Gandalf, YOU SHALL NOT PASS! ... on buying this game.
Runner-Up: Project P-100 (Wii U)
If it didn't seem a bit too complicated for younger kids, Project P-100 may have beat out LEGO The Lord of the Rings. A Wii U exclusive from the minds of Bayonetta and Viewtiful Joe, Project P-100 features up to four-player co-op, as opposed to LEGO LOTR's two-player co-op, making it more playable in your typical family environment. One of the best games to be shown off for the Wii U, Project P-100 seems similar to Pikmin, giving players the control of a handful of characters, rather than just one. As you fight, you charge up a meter that allows you to use Unite attacks. To pull off a Unite attack, you sketch a shape on the Wii U screen or trace it out with the thumbstick, if you're not using the Wii U GamePad. Project P-100 may provide some unique gameplay in a colorful environment suitable for gamers of all ages.
Best New IP
Winner: Watch Dogs (PC)
Announced and shown in playable form at E3, Watch Dogs is definitely the new IP to look out for. Part of Ubisoft's strong lineup of games at the show, Watch Dogs is an open world game taking place in present day Chicago. Visually, the game looks amazing; realistic pedestrians, particle effects, lively animations. But you soon realize there is much more underneath; the moment you walk by a person on the street, a white ray connects you and the NPC, allowing you to read their identity and past. The main focus on this game is our reliance on technology; in this game, phones, city lights, and majority of the city has become connected to an ongoing ctOS (Central Operating System) network. Watch Dogs is about being able to hack into these devices and manipulating the people who use them. You play as a skilled hacker, Aiden Pearce, who has the power to control the city's trains, instantly view profiles of citizens, and hack into cell phone conversations, just to name a few. As such, the game provides a wide variety of options to complete objectives. In the E3 demo, the mission involved assassinating a man accused of murder. After jamming mobile communications outside and sneaking into a night club, Aiden hacks into a phone conversation to find the location of his target. At this point, the game opens up further ways to kill; chase after the target car, gun him down, or crash his vehicle. It's not long before Aiden manipulates the traffic lights and causes a multi-car pileup in the middle of the intersection, with his target trapped in the thick of it. This is where Ubisoft Montreal touts the game's dynamic environment. The moment the crash happens, nearby NPCs run up to trapped civilians in concern and help them escape from the wreckage. A rare feature in such a game, Aiden can even save trapped civilians in the middle of the impending firefight. Quite simply, Watch Dogs brings a unique game experience unlike that of other free-roaming games such as Grand Theft Auto. So far, little is known about the plot, such as Aiden's backstory or his motives. Is he a good guy or bad guy? Whatever the case, this game is sure to be on peoples' radar for quite a while.
Runner-Up: BEYOND: Two Souls (PS3)
After the success of the cinematic experience that was Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream is back with a psychological thriller titled BEYOND: Two Souls. As the first announced game at Sony's E3 Press Conference, the game follows Jodie Holmes (played by Ellen Page), a strange young girl who seemingly possesses supernatural abilities with the help of an imaginary companion (at least, that's what it looks like so far). Very little is known about the plot at this point, other than what was shown by the trailer, but if Quantic Dream's previous games have shown, this may prove to be another blockbuster in video game story-telling. I'm still anticipating on seeing how the gameplay itself will pan out, and whether it will be different than that of Heavy Rain. Much more information is yet to be released and thus, it earns a runner-up for Best New IP.
Winner: Watch Dogs (PC)
Watch Dogs is a very interesting and different game coming from Ubisoft. It is set in the present day but with a lot more technology connecting everything. At the heart is the Central Operating System (ctOS) that controls everything inside the game's take on Chicago, and it looks like your character can hack into it at will. You can hack into practically everything to help you on your way, which can open up a ton of possibilities. Watch Dogs is an open world game where "everything is connected and connection is power." This is an important aspect of the game as single player and multiplayer seems to become one, with another player able to ensure a meeting with your character. There is an interview to watch with the explanation of the online experience and it is something to look forward to. The only problem is Watch Dogs will not be shipping this year, so it is anyone's guess as to when and which systems it will launch on.
Runner-Up: The Last of Us (PS3), Star Wars 1313 (PC)
Choosing a runner-up for new IP was a little tough as I feel there are two worthy contenders. You could also say there are several others to look at, but I have decided on The Last of Us and Star Wars 1313. The Last of Us is the latest title from Naughty Dog and it is exclusive to the PlayStation 3. The world is falling apart after an apocalypse and you control grizzled survivor Joel. Helping you try to survive is 14 year old Ellie, who remembers practically nothing of how the world was before the apocalypse. The Last of Us is a survival horror game that should have you on the edge of your seat as you try to keep Joel and Ellie alive. The Last of Us will not arrive this year sadly, but I look forward to when it does. My other runner-up is not exactly a brand new IP since it is in an established universe, but it is a new series. Star Wars 1313 takes place on the 1313 level of Coruscant and focuses exclusively on bounty hunters. There is nothing at your side but a good blaster as the bounty hunters you encounter may not always be looking out for your best interests. Star Wars 1313 is being billed as a mature Star Wars game and that is something we have not had in a long time.
Winner: Sacrilegium (PC)
"A dark, thrilling tale with captivating atmosphere, full of twists and turns, surprises and rewards", "breathtaking graphics", "ultra-realistic motion-capture", "unparalleled animations" – those are just some of the features being touted for Reality Pump's brand new IP called Sacrilegium. Developer Reality Pump, famous for the Earth and Two Worlds franchises, is taking on the survival horror genre with Sacrilegium, putting the player in control of 20-year old female protagonist, Alex, as she battles against the vampiric Moroi. The survival horror genre has been severely lacking over the past few years, with established franchises like Resident Evil moving closer and closer to the pure action genre. There is no gameplay or even cinematic video currently available, only a few screenshots and concept art, so it was tough choosing this over the runners-up, but it's highly promising. The game is being developed on the new GRACE 2 engine, a follow-up to the highly acclaimed GRACE engine used in Two Worlds 2, so it should look quite good. It's also a PC exclusive, at least for now, which is always a plus in my book. That typically means the developers won't have to make concessions – they can make the game they truly want to make, with all the graphical fidelity they can muster.
Runners-Up: BEYOND: Two Souls (PS3), The Last of Us (PS3)
There are really only two things you need to know about BEYOND: Two Souls: it's being developed by Heavy Rain's Quantic Dream and it stars Ellen Page. Sold yet? Quantic Dream used performance capture technology to place Page in the game as protagonist Jodie Holmes, who happens to be haunted by some mysterious entity that she calls Aiden. Personally, I view Heavy Rain more as an interactive story than a game, but BEYOND definitely seems to have a bit more action. The Last of Us, on the other hand, is most certainly a game - an upcoming post-apocalyptic third-person action-adventure game from developer Naughty Dog. You control Joel, while the AI controls a 14-year-old orphan named Ellie, as you escape a quarantine zone and fight for survival against infected humans, other survivors, and even law enforcement who aren't happy you escaped. The game essentially looks just like Uncharted with a female AI companion, but that's not surprising considering it's the same developer and same engine. That's also not a bad thing, since Uncharted is arguably one of the best looking series on the PS3.
Winner: Wii U
Say what you will; Nintendo's new console will change the way we interact with our games. Similar to how the original Wii was able to turn motion controls into a mainstream phenomenon, the Wii U will definitely be a stepping stone to a multi-screen console experience. Now I know what you're thinking; "hey, but the DS already has two screens!" While that is true, the integration of a handheld screen in conjunction with the television screen will open up the game development community to numerous creative possibilities. No, I'm not saying that we're going to start seeing large screens integrated into future Sony and Microsoft hardware (though we never know!), but it may open the potential for handheld systems, tablets, and phones to directly affect console gameplay; more than the simple cross-game save files and leaderboards we have currently. It will be the first time that such a controller will be featured as a main controller; practically a mandatory feature for game developers. And the great thing is that we're already seeing the competition make use of Nintendo's concept. A quick look at Microsoft SmartGlass and LittleBigPlanet 2's PS3/Vita Cross-Play functionality reveals developers' effort to integrate the functionality of various devices into a single game. Nintendo's new console itself may not be a revolution, but it will be sure to bring innovation to the industry.
Runner-Up: The Unfinished Swan (PS3)
Have you ever wondered how the concept of Portal came about? The game was actually based off Narbacular Drop, a college senior game design project that involved navigating through levels using portals placed by the player. The developers were soon picked up by Value and the result was the critically-acclaimed Portal and Portal 2. This year at E3, one game that caught my attention was The Unfinished Swan. Originally a graduate student project, this game starts off with a simple white screen; buttons and sticks seemingly having no response. It's only until the player pushes on the left trigger that a black blob of paint flies into view. The more paint is shot, the more of the environment you see. It is then that you realize it is now actually possible to navigate through the level. This is exactly what is so unique about The Unfinished Swan; you carve your own path through the environment. Whatever you shoot is whatever you uncover; it is a giant game of exploration and creating something out of nothing. But of course, the developers are planning to do more than simply letting the player run without objectives. In the E3 demo, a hint of contrasting yellow duck footprints were found near the middle of the stage. Maybe it's a clue to the use of colors in future levels? Nevertheless, this is definitely a game to watch for; a unique experience like no other.
Winner: Unreal Engine 4
Neither of my innovations count as games, though both will impact the gaming world. My winner in the category comes from the team at Epic Games and its new Unreal Engine 4. Past Unreal Engines have powered a great number of games and Unreal Engine 3 is still one of the most widely used around. Unreal Engine 4 seeks to push the boundaries of what is possible in a game engine and the footage shown so far makes it look downright realistic. Accurate lighting, shadows, fire and smoke effects, and environmental destruction are just a few of the new tools being added to Unreal Engine 4, but the best part is something else. Epic is designing UE4 to allow developers to cut production time in half. A shorter development cycle will mean more games can be created and will still look amazing with all the features of Unreal Engine 4. We may not have any UE4 games for a couple more years until the engine is finalized, but once we do, oh man, I can only imagine how great they will look.
Runner-Up: PlayStation 3/PS Vita Cross-Play
Like I said, neither innovation is a game per se, but the runner-up will sure to be employed in many PlayStation titles. Sony is expanding the cross-play between the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita in grand ways, starting with PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale. Currently PS3 and PS Vita owners can share save data between games on both systems, but All-Stars: Battle Royale will allow you to play opponents on either system. No longer will you have to be at home to battle your buddies as the PS Vita will allow you to jump into the action anywhere with an Internet connection. Sony demonstrated this setup on the E3 stage, and I have to say the action looked seamless. The PS Vita players had no trouble holding their ground against those using a PS3, so you should not be concerned about getting in a few matches on the go. This Cross-Play will only be the start for the Sony systems, as upcoming titles will be sure to take advantage of it. We just have to see to what degree the Cross-Play ability is utilized.
Winner: Unreal Engine 4
It's not a game, but it may have the biggest impact of anything shown at E3. The fourth iteration of Epic Games' Unreal Engine truly impresses and I can't wait to see games using it. The demo shown off at E3 features "real-time, dynamic, global illumination and glossy, specular reflection", which basically translates to the amazing, realistic lighting and shadow effects. The demo showed direct and indirect lighting sources, various particle systems, and day-night cycles. As someone currently getting his Master's in Digital Game Design and Development, I must say I was highly impressed with its capabilities. Lighting has become such an integral part of gaming, especially with all the stealth-based gameplay prevalent in so many games. It's also such a crucial aspect in creating a sense of realism, or more accurately, plausibility. I still remember the first time I turned on HDR lighting in the original Far Cry (a brand new technology at the time that had to be turned on via a console hack) and was immediately blown away.
Runners-Up: The Unfinished Swan (PS3), Soul Sacrifice (PS Vita)
When it comes to actual games, no game at E3 was as innovative as The Unfinished Swan. You play a young boy, in first-person, searching for a swan. The game starts you off with a white screen with no instructions. Eventually you discover you can shoot balls of black paint and slowly uncover the environment around you. There are often arguments about whether video games are art. The Unfinished Swan is most certainly a work of art. Then there's Soul Sacrifice. Whereas The Unfinished Swan seems like it would be a serene, relaxing experience, Soul Sacrifice is the exact opposite. Soul Sacrifice is the PS Vita exclusive from Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune. Soul Sacrifice uses a simple premise – nothing in life is free. Instead of a mana system, you make sacrifices, often to the detriment of your health, such as sticking your hand down your throat, pulling out your spinal cord, and using it as a sword. Sacrifice parts of your body too often and you'll slowly lose your human form. What repercussions this will have and whether or not body parts will grow back has not yet been unveiled. But there will also be multi-player, where players can actually sacrifice their life to aid teammates. It's a unique and gruesome take on the action genre, one that Inafune is coining "true fantasy".
Winner: Agni's Philosophy - Final Fantasy Real-time Tech Demo
With Final Fantasy XIII and the disappointing massively multi-player Final Fantasy XIV finally released, eyes were on Square Enix to release information on the highly anticipated Final Fantasy Versus XIII or the next console Kingdom Hearts game. Instead, we were treated to an impressive tech demo titled Agni's Philosophy. As Square's way of showing off their next-generation engine for upcoming Sony and Microsoft consoles, we were graced with hyper-realistic environments and faces, as well as breathtaking particles effects – probably the best I've seen in a while. While many are arguing about the greater focus on guns and lack of Final Fantasy "feel" to the demo, it surely gives us an idea of what developers can still do with more powerful hardware. After all, this demo was not meant to represent an upcoming game (though I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case). It was certainly a feast on the eyes to view a battle seemingly between the modern weaponry of soldiers and the spell-casting lore of the mages – possibly Square Enix's way of expressing their battle against the Call of Dutys and Battlefields of the world?
Runner-Up: Sleeping Dogs (PC, PS3, 360)
Going into E3, few people had Sleeping Dogs on their radar. Having been in development for years, moving from one developer to the next, and going through several name changes, Sleeping Dogs was finally ready to be shown to the public and it delivered. What was seemingly an unknown game is now something of a sleeper hit as we look back at E3. Taking place in Hong Kong – an unfamiliar locale for most – Sleeping Dogs initially plays like a Grand Theft Auto game; steal cars, shoot enemies, work your way up in a battle for power. It only takes a short while, though, to realize that it's more than another GTA clone. Developer United Front Games is taking a focus on seamlessness. Like Assassin's Creed, your character can free-run and climb through the environment. This makes chase and getaway missions all the more interesting. When it comes to combat, there is a similar system to that of Batman: Arkham Asylum; attacking enemies light up and with a well-timed button press, you can enable deadly counter-attacks. Again, environment takes a huge part; you're able to drag your enemies over to environmental hazards for massive damage. At its core, Sleeping Dogs looks to be a mishmash of popular game mechanics into a single packaging taking place in a unique environment for gamers. While some may find it too similar to GTA, I'd say there's something to be had here that shouldn't be missed (especially getting to drive on the wrong side of the road).
Winner: BEYOND: Two Souls (PS3)
Quantic Dream likes to think far outside the box when designing its games. Well, if you can call them games. Quantic Dream specializes in interactive stories and the latest is called BEYOND: Two Souls. Quantic unveiled the game during Sony's E3 conference and I have to say, it looks absolutely stunning. The main character of Jodie Holmes is played by Ellen Page and is captured perfectly in the game. BEYOND is the story of Jodie and her extraordinary powers provided by an invisible entity she calls Aiden. We do not know what role Aiden will play in the game, but we will be able to see Jodie grow throughout the story. Quantic wants us to experience a deep emotional connection to Jodie and her story, and I am sure the team can deliver. BEYOND: Two Souls shows off the full power of the PlayStation 3 and it already looks like a great CG movie. Unlike some past Quantic Dream titles, there will actually be a good deal of action to keep everyone engrossed. There is no release date yet, but I hope Quantic Dream takes its time perfecting BEYOND before we can play it.
Runner-Up: Watch Dogs (PC)
Watch Dogs very well could have been the big surprise of E3 for me, but BEYOND: Two Souls took the cake. Still, Watch Dogs has a very interesting premise and I love the idea of being able to hack into anything in Chicago. I just wonder how accurately the city will be portrayed. I grew up just a couple hours south of the Windy City and I still have family there, so I am pretty familiar with the area. Chicago is a massive place, but even getting just a part of it correct will make me smile.
Winner: Watch Dogs (PC)
It was tempting to award Watch Dogs Best Action-Adventure Game and Best New IP, but Biggest Surprise truly fits it best. In an industry where leaks are the norm, it's unbelievable that Ubisoft was able to keep this game's development a secret. It has been in development for over two years, but nobody knew anything about it until the end of Ubisoft's 2012 E3 Press Conference. Watch Dogs is an open-world, action adventure game taking place in modern day Chicago. You play as Aidan Pierce, who has the ability to hack into the Central Operating System (ctOS) that controls everything in the city, providing centralized control over subway lines, traffic lights, surveillance cameras, cellphone networks, and electricity grids. In Watch Dogs, "everything is connected and connection is power." In addition, the game will offer a unique online experience. As Producer Dominic Guay explained, they "want to blend in multi-player online and single players in ways that haven't been done before." I'll definitely be keeping my eye on this one as more information comes out. Watching Ubisoft's Press Conference live, I was certainly surprised.
Runner-Up: PlayStation Vita Assassin's Creed III Liberation Bundle
It may not have received as much press and excitement as Watch Dogs, but I was just as pleasantly surprised by Sony's announcement of the PS Vita Assassin's Creed III Liberation Bundle. It wasn't because of the limited edition "crystal white" PS Vita, nor the addition of Vita-exclusive Assassin's Creed III: Liberation. It was because the Vita that was included in the bundle was the Wi-Fi only model. A Madden NFL 13 Bundle has since been announced as well, but the Liberation Bundle was the first announced bundle to include the Wi-Fi only model instead of the 3G/Wi-Fi model, which is certainly welcome news to many people, myself included. I personally think the PS Vita is a great device, but have been holding out on buying one, hoping for a Wi-Fi bundle to come along. It seems I'll finally be picking up the system this Fall.
Winner Loser: Nintendo Press Conference
Heading into E3 this year, all eyes were on Nintendo. With Sony and Microsoft not expected to announce a next-generation console, Nintendo had the most to gain and lose in showing off its new Wii U console and the future of its current platforms. And what did we get? A press conference explaining the potential of the system; the key word here is 'potential'. Sure, it's nice to know that the Wii U GamePad can be used with the TV off or that a new Mario game was coming, but we already knew that. There were announcements for some big third-party games – Ninja Gaiden 3, Batman: Arkham City, and Mass Effect 3 – but many of these have already been released on current consoles; some for months. Sure, it was nice that the next Assassin's Creed game and new IPs such as ZombiU are coming, but it didn't hide the fact that there was no real "killer app" shown for Nintendo's new console. Some argue that New Super Mario Bros. U could do the job, but where is the blockbuster that fully makes use of the tablet controller? For a conference that Nintendo insisted on being about games, it was a tad disappointing. And the games that were present – Pikmin 3, ZombiU, New Super Mario Bros. U – where were the onstage demos? Fans have also been clamoring for a dedicated online service. What did we get? A hub-like service called Miiverse. Structured like a 3D online chat room, it's far from ideal, especially compared to services offered by its competition. No mention of trophy/achievement support or persistent user accounts doesn't help either. I won't even say anything about the lack of pricing or release date information. Personally, I can't help but wonder how successful Nintendo's new console will be when it releases. At this point, Nintendo seems to be following the same strategy as the original Wii; market the innovation of the console and almost solely use that momentum to push units. While it did work the first time, with the Wii selling like hotcakes, the recent decline of sales and drought of high-profile games shows the flaw in this strategy. I don't know if consumers will go for this a second time, but thankfully, Nintendo still has time to make up for its shortcomings. Hopefully at the Tokyo Game Show later in the Fall, Nintendo will show some more games and prepare some momentum going into the launch of the new Wii U – I'll be waiting.
Runner-Up: The Last Guardian (PS3)
Since its first debut at E3 in 2009, The Last Guardian has left its audience breathless with an art style reminiscent of a watercolor painting and pure voiceless emotion. And voiceless it has been; the game has been nowhere to be found since early last year. With its apparent release date slated for Fall 2011 (yes, Fall of last year), many were expecting at least some news or an update about this hyped game title. And what we did get? Nothing; no news, no announcement, nothing. It may come as no surprise, with Team Ico apparently having team management troubles and pressure by Sony. It's still quite disappointing to know that the talk of the gaming industry a bit more than a year ago has seemingly fallen off the map and into depths shared by games such as Gran Turismo 5, Duke Nukem Forever, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Like the Wii U, I'm hoping for some momentum to be returned at the Tokyo Game Show; there's definitely still time.
Winner Loser: Nintendo Wii U and a Lack of Information
This was a tough category for me, because I feel like there are several worthy candidates but I can pick only one. Unfortunately, that distinction falls to Nintendo and the utter lack of information on the Wii U. Sure, we got a look at some games and a few features, but there are more questions that were never answered during the show. We know nothing on when to expect the Wii U, how much it will cost, what kind of hardware it is running, or anything like that. Nintendo did release a specifications list, but the processor and graphics are pretty vague. An IBM PowerPC processor and AMD graphics chip is pretty much all that is shown, but what exactly is being used? IBM mentioned the same processor technology as Watson, which would indicate a POWER7 processor, but how many cores does it have? What is the clock speed? The cache size? As for AMD, all we know is it a Radeon HD GPU, but that could be anything made in the last several years. Is it a brand new Radeon HD chip or an older one? We have no concrete details about much of the Wii U, and with a system supposedly launching this year, Nintendo dropped the ball at E3.
Winner Loser: Nintendo Wii U
Where do I begin? No release date? No pricing? Technical issues? Lackluster multi-platform titles? Well when I put it like that, it's no wonder the Wii U is my biggest disappointment of E3, right? Nintendo is still shooting to release the Wii U by the end of the year, yet no mention of a price? That's a problem! The other major problem? Framerate issues when using two GamePad controllers. At last year's E3, Nintendo naively announced it would only support one GamePad. That has thankfully changed, but if the technical issues aren't fixed, that could be a major problem. But going back to the lack of pricing again, we also don't know what a system purchase will include – one GamePad or two? Wii U exclusives like Pikmin 3, Project P-100, and ZombiU all look like great fun, but are they enough to warrant a console purchase? The multi-platform titles announced for the Wii U have already been available on other platforms for awhile (eg. Batman: Arkham City and Mass Effect 3), or will be coming to those other current-gen consoles and PC alongside the Wii U (eg. Black Ops 2). Nintendo has never been about producing the best graphics, but it's still a disappointment that it's merely on par with the competition's offerings from over five years ago. In the end, there are still way too many questions and concerns for a system that's supposed to ship at the end of the year.
Runner-Up: The Last Guardian (PS3)
At this time, you're probably wondering where The Last Guardian was at E3. Exactly. The Last Guardian was first announced at the 2009 E3 and the game keeps getting pushed back with very little word on its development. Being developed by Team Ico, the studio behind Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, early footage showed a young boy and a giant creature resembling a griffin. Both of the studio's previous games offered unique gameplay experiences and it certainly seemed like The Last Guardian would do the same. The only news we've heard about the game since that initial unveiling has been about technical issues delaying the game further. Sony promises it's still in development, but at this rate, Team Ico may want to start developing for the PS4.
Game of the Show
Winner: Watch Dogs (PC)
I had a difficult time deciding on the Game of the Show for this year's E3. While the number of surprises did not stand up to that of previous years, there were several games that really caught my attention. What it ultimately came down to, was a choice between The Last of Us and Watch Dogs. I decided on the latter. With everything taken into account, The Last of Us – while impressive – feels a tad familiar to those who have played Uncharted (Read below). Say what you will about Watch Dogs, but in seemingly one big swoop, it went from an unannounced project to one of the most hyped games coming out of E3. As a high-profile hacker in a city reliant on a supercomputer running the show, the environment is yours to toy around with. Need to sneak into a building? Jam all cameras and phones, cause a vehicle pileup, or pick up clues by listening in on nearby conversations. The options are all there at your disposal. Best of all, pedestrians and other NPCs will dynamically react to your actions. Cause a car crash and you may find good Samaritans help the injured from the wreckage. Little more is known about this system, but if what Ubisoft Montreal touts is true, gamers may see completely different experiences with every play-through. Above all else, it's wrapped up in a varied package featuring driving, gunplay, and in-depth story. Watch Dogs is much more than a simple GTA clone; if the E3 demo is any indication, this can prove to be one of the biggest games of 2013 and set a new standard for the term "sandbox game". Watch Dogs truly earns the award of my E3 2012 Game of the Show.
Runner-Up: The Last of Us (PS3)
Don't get me wrong, The Last of Us is definitely one of the most impressive games that I have seen in the recent months. Compared to many titles such as Assassin's Creed 3 or Tomb Raider, few can trump Naughty Dog's pure skill level of bringing cinematic gameplay, deep realistic characters, and immersive story into one unbelievably polished package. The problem is, Naughty Dog might be doing this too well. E3 2012 was the first time that an actual gameplay demo was shown off to the public and while impressive, I found it somewhat familiar to Naughty Dog's previous franchise, Uncharted. Like Nathan Drake, Joel is accompanied by a female companion and even offers a similar character build. Some animations, while very impressive, almost seem recycled from Uncharted 3. I understand that gamers would dream of having all their games to the same level as The Last of Us (myself included), but it would be nice if Naughty Dog attempted a different game concept. Maybe I'm waiting for more details on the story (what I'm most excited for) or additional game features. Ultimately at this time, I can only give it a Runner-Up spot for the Game of the Show – a great award on its own. The Last of Us is set to remain one of my most-hyped games this year and I cannot wait to find out more.
Winner: Dishonored (PC, PS3, 360)
Game of the Show is always a tough category to pick just one title, but a choice must be made. I am only talking about a winner here because there is not much more to be said about any others that I did not say before. Nevertheless, my Game of the Show for E3 2012 is Arkane and Bethesda's Dishonored. Ever since I first heard about Dishonored I was intrigued. The graphical style, the plot, the character, the design of the game, everything screamed out to me as a must have. I love the ability to sneak through Dishonored without having to kill a single NPC, including bosses, if I so choose, but I can also go in guns-blazing and swinging a sword to slay whatever I want. That kind of option is not present in many games, and I will relish the opportunity to try it in Dishonored. There is not that much of a wait to go before release, and come October 9th you will know where to find me.
Winner: Watch Dogs (PC)
Like I said before, Watch Dogs could have easily earned Best Action-Adventure Game and Best New IP to go along with its Biggest Surprise win. In fact, when I first posted the unveiling here at OCC, I proclaimed that "Watch Dogs is already a strong contender for Best in Show." I don't really know what else to say that hasn't already been said. I guess the one thing I didn't mention was the graphics – they're good, quite good. In fact, many have said it looks "next gen", which may be why Ubisoft hasn't come out and confirmed the platforms, other than PC. The game looks stunning, the premise sounds intriguing, and the open world gameplay looks varied and enjoyable. It's like Grand Theft Auto, Assassin's Creed, and Splinter Cell had a hot, steamy threesome. Go watch the trailer and gameplay video if you haven't already.
Runners-Up: Star Wars 1313 (PC), Defiance (PC, PS3, 360)
The runners-up, Star Wars 1313 and Defiance, also happen to be my Best Action-Adventure Game and Best MMO, respectively. Star Wars 1313 brings us the dark, gritty Star Wars game the series deserves and does so with stunning graphics. The gameplay demo at E3 show off some of the best lighting I've seen outside of a tech demo. Defiance brings us a multi-platform shooter MMO that can affect and be affected by a Syfy television show of the same name. It certainly has the capability of garnering a strong cult following. I'm super excited to get my hands on both games – just slightly less so than Watch Dogs.