June 16, 2012

I04 Picks: Highlights of E3 2012

|Assassin's Creed 3| I'm Not a fan of the Assassin's Creed series. I bought the first game and it didn't impress me. I found the repetition boring and the setting even more boring. Plus, the main "plot twist" was revealed at the very beginning. The whole "epic assassin game throughout periods of history" was ruined by it, well, not being that. It's just a dude hooked up to a machine who's "reliving" the history of his ancestors who are apparently all assassins. Yes, Desmond has one of the most multiculturally diverse family trees in the history of... ever. And while it doesn't necessarily make sense for Desmond to be Syrian/Italian/British/Native American, I really do like where they took the series. See, I foolishly bought Assassin's Creed 2 because the word on the street was that the sequel was much improved. It didn't do much for me either. Maybe it's because I've been taking Latin since high school, but I found the Italian Renaissance setting to be even less historically interesting than The Crusades. And those goofy Italian accents... And then they made that game into its own trilogy. When it concluded last year, I (and everyone else, no doubt) wondered where the series would go from there. Rumors pointed to the American Revolution. This instantly piqued my interest. It was uncharted territory for video games, and a really interesting creative decision. The more I learned about the game, the more I liked it. Then E3 happened and I got to see it. Oh my, does this look great.

First, there's that lovely CG trailer, which is one of the things the series has always done best. They're always extremely well done and hype-inducing. But more importantly, three gameplay demos came out of the show. There was the infiltration of a Redcoat compound in the snowy wilderness that was shown at the Ubi press conference. It looked fantastic. Leagues above the previous games. And the setting was gorgeous. But then Sony had the exclusive reveal of naval combat. What!? At this point I was double sold. Finally, I saw a floor demo of Boston. It had moving haystacks. Day one purchase. DAY ONE.

|Project P-100| Unveiled after Nintendo's press conference on Spike TV's live coverage was this Wii U exclusive from Platinum Games, and it looks like one of the console's best exclusives. Nintendo was crazy not to include this in their press conference. The premise is that you control a group of heroes that can form together into all sorts of crazy shapes in order to defeat alien invaders. It's a bit hard to explain in writing, but luckily there's a nice video walkthrough! The game is being directed by Hideki Kamiya, who's resume includes such games as Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe, Okami, and Bayonetta.

|Watch Dogs| This was the biggest surprise of the show. Nobody expected Ubisoft to end with the announcement of a brand new IP. Ubisoft Montreal is one busy studio between this, Assassin's Creed 3, Far Cry 3, and Rainbow 6: Patriots. Nonetheless, this game was a huge, awesome, surprise. It's a cleaver premise that makes the game sort of a modern-day cyberpunk adventure. Of course, then speculation started running wild. Is this a next gen game? Will it really run this well on current systems? Despite the demo running on a high-end PC, Ubisoft swears the game will come to Xbox 360, PS3, and PC next year. More curious? It's also coming to "we'll see". Now what could that mean? Personally, I think the game would be perfect for the Wii U. Ubisoft has even outlined possible features that could be added with the addition of a second screen. With one built right in, the Wii U seems perfect. And Ubisoft seems really dedicated to the system, already announcing AC III, the console-exclusive version of Ghost Recon Online, plus Rayman Legends and ZombiU as exclusives. I'd bet it's coming, and it'll be the best console version.

|Metal Gear Rising| E3 brought us the first real look at Metal Gear Rising's gameplay. Holy crap, does it look awesome! It might just be Platinum's best action game yet. Surprisingly, they kept Kojima's original "bullet time slice"mechanic and added just about every other kind of slicing you could imagine. It's as ridiculous as I wanted it to be and I'm very pleased.

|ZombiU| Yep, another surprise game by Ubisoft, this time exclusively for the Wii U. ZombiU (the name's not as stupid as it sounds) was formerly Killer Freaks From Outer Space. Not sure why they went with the more generic zombie route, but it's actually not the disappointing change I originally thought it was. For starters, Ubisoft kept the interesting asymmetrical competitive multiplayer where one person controls the zombie horder while the other tries to survive it. Second, in a year where all the survival horror games a turning into action games, ZombieU is a hardcore survival horror. It's so hardcore, in fact, that one bite from a zombie will kill your character permanently. This will cause you to wake up as another character in a safehouse who will have to hunt down your old zombie self (zombie-you, if you will) and kill him to regain your supplies. There are no game overs and no reverting back to checkpoints with your old character. The catch here is that if you die, you lose all the experience you gained with your previous character. It also uses the Wii U gamepad in unique ways to heighten the sense of tension. You must you the screen to unlock doors, look through inventory, snipe, or scan for items. Every time you do so, your character becomes immobile but the game doesn't pause so you really have to be aware of your surroundings.

|Dishonored| This is the first the public has really seen of Bethesda's new first-person action stealth game. The world looks fantastically original and the gameplay looks very interesting. Apparently, the game is designed to be played a number of ways and every scenario has multiple solutions. Despite how it may look, however, this is not an open world game. But it does have a hell of a lot of face stabbing.

|Dawnguard| Skyrim's first DLC is not just a mere dungeon or piece of armor. No, it is a full $20 expansion that adds so damn much to an already fantastic game. You've got new characters and locations, new enemies, troll followers, a undead horse that can be summoned at any time, the ability to turn into a vampire lord, skill trees for vampires and werewolves, crossbows, mounted combat, and more. Bethesda said there was going to be less DLC for Skyrim but it was going to be more substantial. Dawnguard looks to keep up the tradition of excellent expansions started with the previous two games, Morrowind and Oblivion. Can't wait!

|Rayman Legends| You can't say that the Wii U don't have an excellent launch lineup. The Wii U exclusive has a co-op mode for up to five players, with one person playing as Murphy who can assist the other players by stunning levels, opening passages, rotating stages, and more. Most interesting of the demo shown at E3 was the final level which turned the game into a rhythm platformer. The person controlling Rayman must run and jump his way through the level, while the person with the gamepad rhythmically taps certain portions of the stage to clear the path. I was blown away when I first saw it. It looks unique and very fun, not the mention that they made the already excellent Rayman Origins look even better somehow.

|Agni's Philosophy| Not a game, but definitely a highlight. Agni's Philosophy is a tech demo created by Square-Enix to highlight their next-generation Luminous engine. It looks pretty damn good, especially the characters. This demo impresses me a bit more than the Unreal Engine 4 demo does, but both of them prove to me that we've reached a point technologically where the visuals in games are only going to get incrementally better over a longer period. It's no longer a huge leap like it used to be, but more of a subtle improvement. Square is actually trying to measure consumer interest in this demo being fleshed out into a full game. If they do it, I hope they remove any association with Final Fantasy.

In conclusion, Ubisoft, Platinum, and Bethesda killed it this year.

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