E3 2011

e3 titlesEvery year, I have looked forward to E3- not to the show itself, but to meet with friends who come in to the city for the show and hang out with them- it’s been the tradition for close to four years now. But this year- I got the chance to go to the show itself, to check out the games inside. While I’ve been to plenty of other conventions (Comic-Con, for example), E3 is an entirely different beast. The sensory assault on every last one of your senses can be overwhelming, even maddening- from the blaring sounds of the music from each booth, to the giant panel screens to the overall electricity that filled the west and south halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Even some of the… smells can be rather… rancid, but that’s due to the fact that some nerds have never heard of deodorant. (As for taste- I made a mistake to eat some of the overpriced food at one of the stands there. Never. Ever. Again. I was desperate! And hungry).

I figure this would be a good place, if any, to talk about some of the games I saw, including some of my favorites.

The best (that I played.)

1. Uncharted 3: So… I was looking forward to this game already. I’m jonesing for it like a bad addict- I need me my adventure game. I’ve beaten Uncharted soundly, and I’m incredibly close to beating the sequel 100%. The multiplayer was the only part of the game that was being on the show floor- parts of the single player was being shown to the press only. That was only slightly disappointing to me at first, because I wanted my time at playing the single player element of the game, the strongest point of the whole Uncharted experience. But the multiplayer shows a distinct level of polish I hadn’t expected- the maps shown, were impressively detailed. One took place in some sort of broken down church- parts of it were on fire. Running through the map, I had gone into part of the church, only to have the fire break the wooden floor underneath me in the middle of a firefight. There’s even a map (I didn’t get to play it, but I wish i did) taking place on a plane trying to take off- one team starting on the plane, the other, on trucks driving alongside the plane. I don’t do it justice, to be honest- watch some of the on the floor videos to see for yourself.

2. Aliens: Colonial Marines: I went to this line originally because I was trying to find someplace comfy to sit (shuttup, I was walking ALL DAY)- and being an Aliens fan, I wanted to give this game the benefit of the doubt- being burned by the mediocre performance shown by Aliens vs. Predator last year, I was reticent to accept anything in this license overall.

And jeebus chrieeest, I was so wrong. Fans were packed into a small room for a demo of the game, given by a visibly nervous producer- He stuttered from time to time as he professed the fandom the developer, Gearbox Software, had on the game as a company. He presented the game as a labor of love, and it shows. Presenting what seems to be the opening of the game, the player takes control of a silent space marine sent to investigate the ruins of LV-246, the planet to which Aliens was set upon. When the control center from the original film appeared- half exploded and derelict- that labor of love showed. The game played without a HUD- relying on items in game to provide what once littered the player’s screen. The pulse rifle has the ammo count in an LED on its side (true to the mythos), and the player pulls out a motion detector, almost like the flashlight from Doom 3, to find the aliens quickly approaching the once quiet marines as one by one, the other marines were picked off around you.
The team also showed off drop in, drop out co-op as another member of the team joined in to a maddening firefight within a large warehouse, ending in the main character being picked up by a giant xenomorph before cutting to darkness.

It captured the atmosphere perfectly- I had my doubts, but this game has now become one of the games I look forward to next year.

Weird note: The producer also mentioned that the game was already running on the development systems available for the Wii U. The producer brought this fact up on his own- no one asked- divulging that information voluntarily. He then hesitated bringing up why that version wasn’t shown- he made it seem that Nintendo didn’t want to show it off just yet, and proceeded to ask for no more questions to be brought up on it.

3. Starhawk: In the same small block where Resistance 3 and Uncharted 3 had its multiplayer, the team from Starhawk was presenting a game of capture the flag. I had been a fan of Warhawk, so I had to see if this game had continued the style of the original. Controls remain largely the same, as well as the overall… feel of movement, design, etc. New to the Battlefield-esque gameplay was an RTS element- players in field were able to create walls, turrets, and buildings out of “rift” energy- basically, materials they could collect by hanging out at their base, completing objectives, or killing enemies. Being able to build a couple of walls, turrets, and then a garage for jeeps, it became apparent on how much team effort would have to go to defences. As buildings were dropped out of the sky, dev team members present commented on the ability to kill enemies by simply dropping buildings on them. There’s a definite influence from Section 8 here- even using dropods to enter the map. I want to see what the development team can pull off in terms of story, however- as much fun as warhawk was, I’d love to see how much fun a single-player campaign is with these mechanics.

4. Saints Row The Third: Another game I dismissed, shook off for being a GTA clone. Their prescence at the show was everywhere– ads all over the convention were always around the corner, and there was a free car wash and parking by scantily clad girls advertising the game across the convention hall ( I, for one, was uh… hesitant to do it. I parked around the corner, my wallet lighter, but uh… some of my dignity still intact.). Either way, I hadn’t had much hopes for the game, but after seeing the hands off demo of the game, I immediately bought Saint’s Row 2 off of the Xbox marketplace in anticipation of this game. I have beamoaned before the loss of Grand Theft Auto’s humor, giving in to a more serious storyline.

Saint’s Row already looks like what the successor of the PS2 GTA games should have been, while not taking itself too seriously. The standard animation for the playable character to enter into a car is jumping with both feet in through the window. It looks ridiculous- almost insane to how much of the game is designed. I watched the demo with glee, cackling like a little schoolboy when someone was punched in the nuts, distracting my friend Dali from Sidequesting. The same demo shown at the show was given to the people over at IGN- <a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecQXBq06t4s” ontarget=”_blank”>See it for yourself!

Saint’s Row the third is being advertised as a “guilty pleasure”. And I’m looking forward to it. There were some disappointments, however. I honestly wanted to see something interesting to be done with the remake of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater on 3DS. It would actually give me a game I would want to buy for the handheld. I got to play it for about thirty minutes, which I spent mostly trying to figure out the controls. It suffers from the same fate many of those PSP first-person shooters had- the lack of that second joystick kills you. Having to aim with just your face buttons was an excercise in utter frustration, especially when there are people shooting at you in the midst of many alarms I tripped as I referred to the sign showing the controls to figure out which button let me crouch (it was up on the d-pad, I think.). Maybe. something could be made of this game before its release- but at this point, that excitement I once had for the game has now dried up. Another game I was just…. ambivalent about was the new Need For Speed game- Need For Speed: The Run. Now I applaud EA for trying something new for this game series- it’s been in a cycle that it hasn’t been able to shake itself from, the fatigue of sequelitis bringing fans like myself to pure frustration. I really did hope they could have pulled something off in terms of story here, but it feels… flat. At least from what I saw. There’s apparently parts of the game that took place on foot- one to which a producer quickly… pulled back by saying “Don’t worry, it’s only like, 10% of the game!”. The game itself runs on Frostbite 2, which makes it look spectacular, but apart from that, the story just kept me… ambivalent. The story is about some guy named… Jack? He’s on the run for doing… something. (They didn’t specify what was going on when we played it). And the mafia has a helicopter chasing you for some reason. Do I want something better? Yes, of course- I’ll hold off judgement until the game comes out. But for the most part, it feels like NFS is getting a new shine on the series by a tepid story campaign filled with a linear story and Heavy Rain-esque QTE moments. There was a variety of other games that probably escape me, or have been espoused time and time again on various sites on their quality. For me, I’m happy to see the videogaming industry pumping out more quality games for everyone to enjoy. If you want more coverage, I’d recommend checking out SideQuesting.com or Joystiq.com for complete coverage from what I consider to be the best journalists in the biz.

Although I am slightly biased on that.

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