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E3 2011 – The Best Games Shown So Far

E3 2011 – The Best Games Shown So Far

Naturally there has been a great deal of discussion regarding E3 in the Play office this morning, with the staff of all magazines dissecting and discussing the news that has surged from the LA show thus far. The majority opinion seems to be one of disappointment. A lack of truly momentous reveals and a disheartening focus on motion control has left many feeling short changed and wanting more.

Personally, I’ve been hugely excited. The wash of announcements about PlayStation Vita, PlayStation TVs, PlayStation Move, 3D gaming, Microsoft’s dreary insistence on making its entire show about Kinect, Sims Social and more may not have been the kind of earth shaking announcements that have made E3 such a glitzy and glamorous event in the past, but for me a lack of massive reveals does not make E3 a bad show. It’s the games, and the promise of new experiences in the future, that really excites me.

And what games. First off, we have Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception:

I’ve heard it said today that Uncharted is good by default, and as such doesn’t deserve the attention it’s getting. Watch the above gameplay demo and the ridiculousness of such a statement is evident. Uncharted 3 looks sublime – rarely before has a game so closely intertwined the grand gestures of cinema with interactive gameplay. Some may label this a bad thing – games should be games and not take their cues from the films their inspired by – but Naughty Dog has such talent in making its gameplay feel cinematic, involving, unexpected and spontaneous that such criticisims feel moot. Everything in this gameplay demo is absolutely stunning, from the superb lighting to the set pieces and scripted moments of action that wouldn’t feel out of place in a modern summer blockbuster.

When watching the gameplay demo for the next game, one spectator commented that the title in question looked like an Uncharted rip off except with less gameplay. I can see why someone would initially think that, but scratch a little deeper and you’ll find there’s much more to Tomb Raider than meets the eye:

Nathan Drake is a competent, quick-witted, Han Solo-ish rogue, always prepared with a quip and able to get himself out of even the most tricky of situations. Lara Croft is hurt, frightened, unsure, anxious – she’s fighting for survival, not rolling with the punches. Crystal Dynamics has made a reboot in the truest sense, breaking Lara down and rebuilding her from scratch. The action scenes look fantastic and the physics-based puzzles a part of the world rather than being ancient and unlikely contraptions left behind by ancient civilisations. It’s a beautiful looking game too. Not half as beautiful-looking as this, mind:

Battlefield 3 is easily one of the best-looking games we’ve ever seen, if not the best-looking game. The above video is simply stunning – the world full and believable and dense and detailed. Yes, it’s another shooting game, and yes we’ve played plenty of tank sections before, but it’s such a meticulous recreation of the scenario in terms of both visual and acoustic design that you can’t help but feel this is something altogether more…important. But we’re not biased here at Play, and we think that Modern Warfare 3 had plenty going for it too:

It’s not as beautiful a game as Battlefield 3, and it’s certainly less restrained, but this doesn’t immediately make it a bad videogame. It feels more like Michael Bay to Battlefield’s Ridley Scott – an explosive and set piece driven experience that’s more about pulling you into the action than about setting a scene. We’ll be playing both this and Battlefield, because we’re gamers and that means we love games. We don’t discriminate out of a misplaced loyalty to one series over another.

Although, we must admit that after seeing the following demo, we might be just a tad biased towards it on account of how bloody awesome it looks:

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim could very well end up being our game of the show. There’s not a single Play member who hasn’t stated how impressive this game looks. Bethesda is a studio that doesn’t seem concerned with the impossible. A huge world that supports up to 300 hours of gameplay, unscripted AI characters, hundreds of locations, and a level of detail that’s as impressive up close as it is in the distance? Yeah, that’s no problem for Bethesda – those guys just get on with it. From the dank interiors of hidden dungeons, to the open plains inhabited by giant trolls and mammoths, to the customisable and dynamic combat experience, to the new animation systems and built-from-the-ground-up engine, Skyrim looks to be something special indeed.

As does BioShock: Infinite, a shooter that’s colourful, imaginative and – shock horror – emotionally effective.

Unfortunately the gameplay that was shown had already been demonstrated earlier in the year. However, the new gameplay trailer shows off a little more of the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth, as well as the sky rail gameplay and the expansive aesthetic of Columbia. It’s a full, plump looking game that exudes creativity from every texture. In the original BioShock you played as an archaeologist discovering a dystopia years after its fall. In BioShock Infinite you’re entering in medias res, seeing the war occurring around you. But it’s the relationship formed at the centre of this carnage that Infinite will really play off – BioShock was about your interactions with a city, Infinite is about your reactions with another person, and how the relationship between those two characters develops and evolves throughout the course of the game.

You can probably tell with all the yammering I’ve done around these videos that I’m rather excited. Sure, there have been no massive annoucements yet, but the thing I love most about E3 – the games – have not failed to disappoint. I don’t see how anyone can watch the above videos and not be excited about the future of games. These are some of the most impressive videogame sequences I’ve seen. I’m not saying they’re important or ground breaking or landmark moments – but they are hugely impressive works of art, design and mechanics. They point towards a very exciting future for games – one I truly can’t wait to be a part of.

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