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E3 2011 – The Games Blast

E3 2011 – The Games Blast

So E3 in 2011 is done and dusted. We’ll have a huge round-up of everything that happened in Play magazine along with input from fellow Imagine crew Dave Cook (NowGamer) and Simon Miller (X360) who saw some of the other titles on show – Mass Effect 3, Far Cry 3, Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Ruin, Resistance 3, Dark Souls, BioShock Infinite and others.

As for what I saw, here are quick summaries of the games…

Skyrim: Incredible. I’ve already mentioned it in another blog post but it’s simply incredible. I expected a scrubbed up Oblivion, what I got was a game that almost felt like it belonged on a newer console. Modern UI, streamlined gameplay and set-pieces that aren’t scripted. It’s pretty much my dream game as of right now.

Batman: Arkham City: Brilliant. By moving the action to the city, Batman: Arkham City feels completely different almost by default. It’s packed with lots of brilliant moments from the large touches (Riddler death trap rooms) to the small stuff (Penguin’s monocle is a smashed glass bottle bottom). Rich, vibrant and looking very, very good.

Aliens Colonial Marines: Scarily good. While Aliens vs Predator always reeked of tough production values and inspired more caution than confidence, this is the complete opposite. It’s focused on the marines vs aliens angle, it’s already incredibly slick and the co-op is an exciting thought. Bonus points to Randy Pitchford, Gearbox boss, for being genuinely enthusiastic about the project. A real breath of fresh air amongst the corporate speeches and fence-sitting talks you tend to find at these things.

Spyro: Skylander: Weird. Not bad, just weird. You have small figurines which you place on a ‘portal’ (a plastic circle which is attached by USB) and this calls up your character. This is baically a memory card which can then be taken to friend’s houses and used on their portal to transfer your character. Yet underneath that innovation is a standard kids platformers. Hence why i’ts weird. It’s an odd mix.

Modern Warfare 3: Unreal. The series has attracted its fair share of criticism and going by the E3 demo, the gameplay will definitely play it safe but no-one can argue that Modern Warfare games don’t look good. The hyper-reality shown off here, with New York under missile attack from subs and a jeeps-chasing-the-tube sequence, is just incredible to watch.

Dead Rising 2: Off The Record: Hardcore. It’s a shame that Dead Rising 2: Off The Record was never the type of game to command acres of floor space because this was one of my personal favourites on show. The new theme park area was shown off plus new weapons. Best one is Cyro Pod, a funfair pod with fire extinguishers which fires a trapped zombie into the sky.

Dragon’s Dogma: Made redundant? Although it was much improved from its Capcom Captivate showing, it was in an awkward position with Skyrim just down the hall and looking infinitely better. Granted, they’re two different types of games but the emphasis on swords-meet-dragons in ye olde times isn’t a war Dragon’s Dogma is going to win.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City: Getting better. It’ll struggle to shrug off its SOCOM–with-Resi-skin complaints but it’s smoother than before, the visuals have been buffed up and there’s a much beefier feel to the weapons. It’s still lacking that classic Resident Evil atmosphere though and it’s questionable whether its intention is even to capture it. So still a bit unusual.

Street Fighter x Tekken: Much improved.┬áIt’s been massively reworked since Capcom’s Captivate event and it now makes a lot more sense. Having Street Fighter characters chain into moves as well (light, medium, heavy) increases the flow while the new tag mechanic (light, medium, heavy, heavy) makes thins easier for genre noobs. Good fun. And Julia’s in it!

Asura’s Wrath: Insane. Not much to say here except they took the insane ‘god finger’ boss shown off at Capcom Captivate and found a way to make an even crazier boss. Great bunch of guys too, genuinely the nicest developers I’ve interviewed.

3rd Strike Online: At last. I hated the look of the game – the filters are awful and the default is far too pixellated – but 3rd Strike is one of my favourite games and the challenge to recreate the famous Daigo vs Justin Wong parry moment is genius.

Prey 2: Disappointing. There are some good ideas in there, such as the mechanic for threatening any NPC you find, while the art style remains fairly distinct. Even so, it seems like a step in a weird direction, if not necessarily the wrong one. It almost feels like an open-world Brink. Given Prey made noise for its gravity and portal gimmicks, it seems as though we’re still waiting to see what will grab our attention for this one.

Rage: Old school. It’s fast, it’s simple, it’s violent, it’s what Quake/Doom would be like today if they took place in the desert rather than moody sci-fi corridors. It’ll be loved for the same reason it’ll be hated but old school purists of the genre will lap this up. Also seems like it’ll be a real challenge on the higher difficulties – the enemies are relentless and although I didn’t have time to properly check, it wouldn’t surprise me if enemies had infinite respawns either.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception: Awesome. It’s almost criminal to describe Naughty Dog as ‘ticking the boxes’ but they do everything you’d want them to do in a dream sequel wishlist. More moves, more drama, co-op, 3D, better multiplayer… it’s a lesson in how to do sequels.

Soul Calibur V: Disappointing. Mostly because, as the producer admitted, it used old assets it felt a bit… well, old. The super moves are interesting though and having recently gone back to Soul Calibur IV, I think its distinct gameplay will serve it well in the fighting game genre revival.

Ridge Racer Unbounded: Surprisingly good. The guys at Bugbear Entertainment have added destruction to the Ridge Racer series and it doesn’t seem like a Ridge Racer game yet there’s something familiar about it. Fast-paced, destructive, chaotic, one of the surprises of E3.

Tomb Raider: Brilliant. This was the other surprise of the show. You often hear the word ‘reboot’ being thrown about but this is one time it’s actually believable. Vulnerable Lara makes a change from confident Lara and the subtle shift from hunting enemies down to scrambling for survival instantly makes her engaging again.

Hitman: Absolution: Intriguing. Io Interactive demoed a level which showed Hitman escaping from a tricky situation, rather than engineering it, which is a different change of pace to what we might expect. Io said classic Hitman levels are in there too, so it’ll be curious to see how the two styles mesh together.

Sonic Generations: Not shit. Which for a Sonic game post-Dreamcast is pretty amazing. It’s mostly because Sega has taken the good bits from Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 and the good bits from Sonic Unleashed (ie: any bit where you’re not a wolf) and meshed it into a single game. The 3D works well with Sonic as well. Don’t know how good it’ll be but it definitely won’t be another god-awful Sonic game.

Anarchy Reigns: Exciting. It’s very reminiscent of Sega cult classic Virtual On, with humans taking the place of mechs. Four players fight in an enclosed arena and the system seems to have a lot of depth to it while all of the characters have a lot of personality. Keep an eye on this one.

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