OCC E3 2013 AwardsClayMeow -
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Winner: Tom Clancy's The Division (PS4, XBO)
The shooter category is one where any number of games could win, but for me that distinction goes to Tom Clancy's The Division. When this game was being announced and set up during Ubisoft's press conference, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. It looks like a third-person shooter, yet there's this persistent MMO quality to it that sets it apart. It also has RPG elements, Ubisoft is even calling the game an "open-world online RPG," with skill trees and classes that players can utilize. However, for me The Division is very much a shooter, albeit a tactical one that requires a lot of voice communication with your team/guild/squad. Players can even make use of their smartphone or tablet to jump into a game with their friends, as the E3 demo featured a player-controlled flying drone that zipped in to help out before leaving again.
Visually The Division looks stunning. If you've seen the gameplay footage from E3, you may have thought the opening minute was a CG sequence of New York. Well, it wasn't, as once it focused on the player you saw this was actually the game. Snow was falling and swirling around, water reflected everything around it, smoke and steam billowed properly, and the characters themselves just looked right. The UI elements look very minimalistic, with a brief squad menu displayed next to your ammo count. Pulling up the skills, world map, or other menus are done on the player's watch, and the world map displays this really snazzy holographic affair. There's still a lot more to be shown on The Division, but it's definitely one I can see myself playing a lot of once it arrives.
Runner-Up: Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (PC, 360, XBO)
Plants vs. Zombies is one of the most popular tower-defense games around, so what's this Garden Warfare version doing in the shooter category? Well that's because this game is a third-person multiplayer shooter where you get to control the plants or zombies as you wage war against the opposite species. It's an interesting take on the series, and one that somehow looks like it belongs. No longer are the characters presented in a cartoony, 2D style, as EA and Popcap have turned Garden Warfare into a 3D game that still captures the original design of the title characters. Like I said, PvZ: GW is a multiplayer shooter, which in this case means four-player co-op or 24-player online battles. Excited? You better be!
Winner: Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)
I have not played a Wolfenstein game since 2001's Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but Wolfenstein: The New Order has me super excited to get back to killing Nazis. Wolfenstein takes place in an alternate history where the Nazis won World War II. In The New Order, players take on the role of William "BJ" Blazkowicz in the 1960s. But unlike previous Wolfenstein games, The New Order isn't simply a run-and-gun popcorn shooter. In fact, developer MachineGames isn't calling it a shooter at all, but rather a "story-driven, first-person, action-adventure" game. That's not to say shooting won't play a predominant role, but it's all put into context by a compelling story. The gameplay demo shown at E3 takes place in London. An ally suicide bombs a Nazi facility in order to help you infiltrate it and steal a stealth helicopter. Immediately after the bombing, as you're making your way through the rubble, you're introduced to one of the more unique enemies in a shooter – a robotic dog, of sorts. MachineGames is going for a retro sci-fi look and feel to everything – a futuristic version of 1960s technology. Shortly after the encounter with the robotic dog, the player comes face-to-face with a Nazi mech-like war machine.
While story is the main focus, the shooter aspects is certainly well-refined and you'll be utilizing your fair share of super weapons. In addition, almost every weapon can be dual-wielded – though you can't mix-and-match. Later in the demo, after dual-wielding some machine guns, the player mans a turret, which provided a glimpse into the level destruction present in the game. The player also ducked and leaned behind the turret to avoid gunfire, which was something I hadn't seen in a shooter before. As for the health system, The New Order marries the old school and modern shooter approach. Like the original games, the player can have up to 100 health and 100 armor. When out of battle, health regenerates to the nearest 20%, so if you escape a situation with a sliver of life, you'll at least have a fighting chance at the next encounter.
Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the game looks absolutely stellar. The New Order is the first game since 2011's Rage to utilize the id Tech 5 engine. Rage had its share of launch issues, but after a few patches and hotfixes, it turned out to be one of the prettiest games I've ever played and is certainly one of the most underappreciated shooters. With id Tech 5 having two years to mature, I have high hopes for the visuals of The New Order.
Runners-Up: Tom Clancy's The Division (PS4, XBO), Destiny (PS3, PS4, 360, XBO), Titanfall (PC, 360, XBO)
After action-adventure, picking my top shooter from E3 was the toughest decision because so many shooters were damn impressive. Even though Ubisoft is calling it an "open-world online RPG," I just couldn't leave out Tom Clancy's The Division. Though it may feature RPG elements such as a skill tree, The Division is very much a tactical third-person shooter and it looks quite good. Being billed as a "shared-world shooter," Destiny injects some traditional MMO elements into the usual first-person shooter – and thankfully it still feels very much like an FPS. The gameplay trailer shown during the Sony Press Conference gave us a glimpse at strange alien ninjas and large robotic enemies amongst a huge open world. I go more in depth on both games later on, so stay tuned.
Titanfall is quite different than the previous two games – a fast-paced shooter featuring free-running, double-jumping human pilots and giant, agile mechs called Titans. Players can choose to battle on foot or hop into their own personal Titan at any time, with advantages and disadvantages to both. It certainly seems like developer Respawn has done a great job at balancing both sides, which will be crucial to its success. Titanfall is a multiplayer-only shooter, though Respawn is promising single player elements, such as a plot and NPCs. This is Respawn's first project, but the studio consists of former Infinity Ward employees, so there is plenty of online shooter experience to go around. One of the most surprising things of all is that the game uses the Source engine, albeit a modified one. The game looks damn good though.