OCC E3 2013 AwardsClayMeow -
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Best Action Hack-and-Slash Game
Winner: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (PC, PS3, 360)
It almost seems weird for me to consider a Castlevania game in the hack-and-slash category, but lately the series has been revived as one with Lords of Shadow. The sequel, Lords of Shadow 2, was announced last year, but at E3 2013 is where we really got to see a lot more of it. Visually the game continues what we saw in the first, just with more refinement. The camera is now free instead of locked, which should give all of us a much greater look at the incredibly detailed environments. It's also set in the "modern times," which is quite a bit removed from the setting of the first game, yet it makes perfect sense given how LoS 1 ended. Your character is the Prince of Darkness himself, and that means all the sweet, sweet vampiric powers are now at your disposal. Lords of Shadow 2 is supposed to have a far longer story than the first game, as well as no loading times, so it already sounds like a game you won't want to miss.
Runner-Up: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (PS3, 360)
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z may bear the famous series' name, but this is a standalone affair with much more of a comedic focus. You take on the role of undead ninja Yaiba out to avenge his death at the hands of Ryu Hayabusa. Yeah, the traditional Ninja Gaiden star is now the enemy in Yaiba, but there are a multitude of zombies to slice and dice on your way to that final confrontation. The game itself is brutal, which is to be expected from something bearing the Ninja Gaiden name, but like I said it has some comedy to it. Zombies can be defeated by slicing them up, or they can be used as weapons to go after more undead. It's a different spin on zombie games, but one that looks absolutely bonkers. And in this case, that's a good thing as I'm looking forward to seeing how this zombie-fied Ninja Gaiden spin-off ends up.
Winner: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (PS3, 360)
Have you ever wanted to fight a giant two-headed zombie baby? That's just one of the insane enemies in Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. Most hack-and-slash titles are insane, but Yaiba takes it to the extreme, combining brutal hack-and-slash action with dark comedy. The game also uses cel-shaded graphics to really give it that dark graphic novel feel. As you may have guessed from the name, Yaiba is a spin-off of Ninja Gaiden with zombies. It's a classic revenge story – Yaiba Kamikaze, a ninja killed by franchise protagonist Ryu Hayabusa, is ressurected as a cyborg to squash a zombie plague. In return, he'll be given the power to get his revenge on Ryu. While most of the game seems to be about dispatching zombies and various undead monstrosities in various brutal ways, the zombies can also be used as weapons. Kamikaze can toss zombies, trigger traps, or even use various body parts as makeshift weapons. A perfect example of this was no more apparent than when Kamikaze faced off against a boss simply referred to in-game as "Fat Flaming Fuck" (did I forget to mention this game was for mature audiences only?).
When Kamikaze finally defeats FFF, he employs a finishing move that rips off its giant head, with the words "Rigor Mortar" briefly appearing on screen. Kamikaze now carried the head on his back and could use it whenever he wanted in one of two modes: as a mortar or a flamethrower. It was after a brief killing spree with said head that the giant two-headed zombie baby stumbled into view. Sadly, that was where the E3 demo ended, so your guess is as good as mine how a creature of that sort fights or if Kamikaze acquires a new weapon from defeating it. Ninja Gaiden purists may scoff at the game, but it seems like a rather entertaining experience. It is clearly a spin-off and not the direction the franchise is taking, so there really shouldn't be any worry. If Quentin Tarantino created a video game, it would look remarkably like Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. It might not be for everyone (and clearly not for children), but for me... bring it on!
Runners-Up: RYSE: Son of Rome (XBO), Killer is Dead (PS3, 360), Dragon's Crown (PS3, Vita)
While Ryse: Son of Rome is a third-person hack-and-slash, it's as far from Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z as possible while still being in the same genre. In fact, it's far different than practically every hack-and-slash game to date, priding itself on realism rather than over-the-top violence. On the flip side, Killer is Dead has more in common with Yaiba, featuring a protagonist with a cybernetic arm that can be transformed into various weapons, while he wields a sword in his human hand. Lastly, I was very impressed with the side-scrolling beat 'em up Dragon's Crown, coming to PS3 and Vita later this summer. It may not be a true hack-and-slash like the other titles, but its unique combination of brawler plus RPG has me intrigued.