Dishonored was one of the strongest titles on show at E3, mixing swordplay, assassination, and magic in a dingy steampunk world.Never mind the critics, there were plenty of good games on show in Los Angeles last week.
In my final piece on the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, today I list my highlights and lowlights. I also look forward to hearing about the games that got you excited in the comments section below.
The following list is in no particular order, and is made up of the games at E3 2012 that made the strongest positive impression on me.
Dishonored (Bethesda) – With its blend of stealth, exploration, methodical planning, fun swordplay and varied magical effects, this dark steampunk fantasy is probably the closest I am going to come to naming an official “best in show”. Everything is well-designed, from the beautiful environments with multiple paths to victory, to the diverse and disturbing special abilities. This was the game I came away from E3 most wanting to play right now.
NintendoLand (Nintendo) – Believe me, nobody is more surprised about this inclusion than me. Before E3 I was a Wi iU cynic, but I am now a convert. Some of the activities in NintendoLand are fairly pointless, but a couple of the mini-games with asymmetric play are going to be the viral word-of-mouth system sellers that Wii Tennis was for its predecessor. Luigi’s Ghost Mansion in particular is going to be a hit at parties.
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation (Ubisoft) – While Assassin’s Creed III is looking like something very special, especially after the series stagnating with too many Assassin’s Creed II sequels, I am most excited about its small-screen cousin, exclusive to the PS Vita. Ubisoft’s replication of the big-city exploration that is core to the Assassin’s Creed experience on a handheld is simply astonishing, and it adds new gameplay concepts to keep things fresh, too. Finally, after so many requests for a playable female assassin, it is great that Ubisoft has delivered a heroine who is also dark-skinned, something we see far too rarely in games.
DmC: Devil May Cry (Capcom) – After this series got bogged down in stale ideas, Capcom decided to take a risk and ask Western developer Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword, Enslaved) to reboot the series. Their gamble seems to have paid off very well. DmC pulls off a remarkably juggling act, injecting fresh gameplay ideas and a gorgeous design aesthetic without breaking the series’ signature fast-paced combat.
Tomb Raider (Square Enix) – The decision to reboot and thoroughly re-design Lara Croft’s flagship franchise was a risky one, and its showing at E3 2011 was worrying, showcasing little more than a series of quicktime events. This year Tomb Raider had a much stronger showing, with its unusual new open environment on display. Lara now has a simple skill tree, and must earn new skills as she struggles to survive in a hostile environment. The combat is also surprisingly dark and brutal, without being gratuitously nasty.
Watch Dogs (Ubisoft) – So little of this game was shown that it seems almost wrong to include it in a best of show list. Still, what we were shown was very exciting, a third-person shooter in which the player can use a multitude of hacking technologies to hijack mobile phones, control traffic lights and peek through security cameras. While the combat looked a little mundane, the technological trappings are intriguing, and if it delivers on its early promise it will be a very exciting new property.
Scribblenauts Unlimited (WB Interactive) – The brilliant Scribblenauts series finally comes to the big screen, thanks to the Wii U. As I said on Wednesday, if you were to write a wishlist for everything you would want to see in Scribblenauts, practically every item on it has been included in Unlimited. We have a large, interactive, open world to explore, a new object editor to create almost anything you can imagine for use in the game, and excellent use of the Wii U controller.
Honourable mentions – Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Borderlands 2, Lost Planet 3, SimCity, Project P-100, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Hitman: Absolution.
Any kind of “best of E3” list always feels inherently dishonest to me.
First of all, the controlled demos and brief hands-on sessions rarely represent the experience of playing a complete game. For example, I was unimpressed when I played the demo for what would turn out to be my game of the year for 2011 – Driver: San Francisco. On the other hand, I loved Id Software’s Rage at the Bethesda booth, but hated it a few short months later when I played it from start to finish.
Second, E3 is a gigantic event, so it’s impossible for a single journalist to get a good look at everything on the show floor. It could well be that the very best game of the show was one that missed due to a lack of time. Here are some of the games I sadly missed out on seeing at the show: Naughty Dog’s exciting new title The Last of Us, which mixes post-apocalyptic survivalism with nerve-wracking survival horrorLucasArts’s innovative Star Wars 1313, a dark crime drama in the usually glossy Star Wars universe, shown behind closed doors to only a very small number of journalistsNamco Bandai’s new Star Trek game, based on the rebooted film franchise, which seems to have been built from the ground up for co-operative playSleeping Dogs, a fun-looking journey through the criminal underworld with enjoyable brawling mechanics and bone-crunching martial artsUbisoft’s Zombi U, a dark and nasty zombie survival epic exclusive to the Wii U, which uses the new controller for lock-picking, computer hacking, and more.
Among the titles I did get to see, only one of them was genuinely disappointing: PlayStation exclusive Beyond: Two Souls, made by Quantic Dream. The core concept is a fascinating one: you play both a tough young woman on the run and the invisible spirit that alternately protects and torments her, travelling cross-country to evade sinister government agents.
Unfortunately, when I got to see the game in action, the gameplay looked largely identical to that of Heavy Rain, the Quantic Dream’s earlier title, with very little freedom, and actions consisting primarily of following on-screen prompts. Its only departure from this formula is the potentially interesting spirit character, but the gameplay demonstration I watched was sluggish and dull, with the invisible character moving slowly from one interactive point to another, triggering pre-set events.
I was also deeply unimpressed by Resident Evil 6. Its story and level design are ponderous, its AI is among the dumbest I have ever encountered, and it still fails to fix the persistent design flaws that have dogged this series for years. After all these years, I was really hoping for some substantial improvements in this stodgy old series.
Another franchise that seems to have lost its way is Dead Space. The third instalment appears to be a depressingly mundane shooter, with a handful of “Boo!” moments unable to maintain the façade that this is still terrifying survival horror. The moment I saw Isaac do a commando roll while firing an assault rifle, I knew that Dead Space was, in a word, dead.
Over to you, readers. Which titles at E3 have piqued your interest? Do you have any disappointments? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
– James “DexX” Dominguez
If you want more DexX, you can listen to the GameTaco podcast or follow him on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez
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