Blog: E3 2011 Round-Up

The world’s biggest annual videogame event, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, was held from June 7-9th this year and revealed not only what some of the most exciting upcoming games will be but the newest hardware we may well be playing them on. Here is Games’ take on the event…

 

The Good:

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim looks set to provide an even vaster role-playing experience yet with more focus and less menus!
  • BioShock Infinite will be moving the action from below the sea to a cloud city, providing a whole new and exciting environment to explore. The behind closed doors demo wowed the press with its time-rippling twists, vertical combat and dense, engaging fiction. This looks to be as special as the original Bioshock
  • Resistance 3 could well be taking 3D to the next level, allowing different players to each see a separate full-screen image on one TV
  • Mass Effect 3 marks the final chapter in the series, offering lots of large-scale epic action with beautiful graphics to boot. Bioware also announced that they would release a trailer featuring Female Shephard as the protagonist – about time too, we say!
  • Despite the series showing little promise for some time now, going down the reboot route with everyone’s favourite tank-top wearing badass archaeologist may well have been just what the franchise needed, with Tomb Raider providing visceral action sequences, a greater focus on puzzle-solving and quick reflexes, and Lara fighting for survival on a mysterious Lost-like island
  • Halo 4 was announced with a CG trailer that reminded us of the Master Chief and Cortana’s tender relationship. It was also great to see the Chief once again after he descended into sustained hibernation back in 2007. One interesting point to make about Halo 4 is it’s the first mainline Halo game to be developed free from the control of Bungie, instead being developed by 343 Industries, a super-group of developers set up inside Microsoft’s Redmond campus to control and create all things ‘Halo’
  • Battlefield 3 finally took its shades off with a playable multiplayer demonstration at this year’s show and boy, did it impress. Whilst they did focus on the Bad Company lovechild Rush Mode, the demo finally showed that Battlefield 3 was a true sequel to the 2005 masterpiece with a series of intelligent class tweaks, the re-introduction of prone and jets, and a new cutting edge development engine that finally takes advantage of modern PC’s and their technical prowess. It’s about time someone did
  • Skyward Sword. It’s Zelda, you probably already know how the game will play out, but the art style is more beautiful than ever and quite frankly the sky travel on the hind of a colourful bird looks stunning. Take me back to Hyrule
  • Journey. Words can’t describe this game. Google it
  • Sony Playstation Vita is the upcoming replacement to the PlayStation Portable which so far seems well-equipped to convert even particularly beautiful and challenging games to a handheld format without compromising them in any way. With a large touchscreen, extra analogue joystick, cameras and a rear touch panel, this may well be one to look out for.

 

The Bad:

  • The complete and utter focus on sequels is a tad disappointing; developers clearly fear the potential loss in revenue if an original idea were to flop and sequels are a far more bankable business but with wonderful original games of the past few years including the likes of Portal, it certainly seems a shame that a few more risks aren’t being taken
  • Modern Warfare 3 was demoed at the show, which lo and behold looked not far removed from Modern Warfare 2. How long can the series keep releasing annually with minimal change or improvement without its vast audience beginning to look elsewhere for real innovation?
  • Fable: The Journey. On-the-rails Fable powered by Kinect. For anyone who’s played games outside of the Kinect device this game looks frankly terrible and shows just how obtrusive the Kinect could become in the future. Rest in peace Fable
  • Hitman Absolution is the latest franchise to undergo some form of reboot, although this time it seems to be forgetting what made the series so well-loved in the first place. A cover system? Check. A vision mode that allows for additional tactical information? Check. Cinematic scenes free from player control? Check. An increased focus on accessibility? Check. Such a rebooting is even more of a shame as this follows the magnificent Hitman: Blood Money, a game that may well be remembered as the high point of the franchise
  • Microsoft’s Kinect may be moving controller-free gaming forward, but doesn’t seem to be adding a great deal to the player’s experience, currently being more than a little awkward-looking and stilted, and, if anything, may well be taking some of the fun out of it. Only time will tell…

 

The Ugly:

  • The current focus on ‘realistic’ wartime environments translating to dull greys and muddy browns continues, with stills from all manner of shooters being almost indistinguishable from one another. Watching the demonstration of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier at Ubisoft’s press conference made me want to fall asleep, genuinely
  • The was a strong focus on 3D gaming, despite complaints that this can cause headaches or worse and the diminishing cinema sales for 3D films suggesting the craze may be over before it had even begun
  • Nintendo’s Wii U may have HD graphics and a 6.2 inch touchscreen, but it looks more like an iPad than a conventional controller, suggesting the company are trying very hard this time round to hold onto their casual gamer market whilst hoping to lure in hardcore gamers
  • Subsequently there was a great lack of focus around the Wii U’s unveiling in general. Best summed up by the text I received not long after the Nintendo Press Conference had concluded saying “This Wii U looks bad. It’s just a new controller”. Well in fact it wasn’t, it was a new console too but you wouldn’t blame anyone for not realising that after Nintendo’s woefully muddied messaging at the event
  • All three big press conferences. The highlight of each E3 is usually witnessed at one of the big three publishers’ press conferences in the form of a closely guarded announcement but this year such a moment was lacking. The contents of Microsoft’s conference leaked the night before, taking the sting out of its Halo 4 announcement, which wouldn’t have made too much of a difference to the overall quality as they chose to spend far too long demonstrating gimmicky and frankly insulting Kinect titles. Sony’s conference started well with an impressive showing of Uncharted 3 but descended into tedium as they wheeled out unconvincing stage demos such as the long forgotten Dust 514 and Ruin. Not only that but they wheeled out industry luminary Ken Levine to frankly say not much at all in a rather bizarre and insulting act of nothingness. Lastly they did announce a competitive price for the PSVita but they still seem to be focussing on the strategy that failed for them last time, to make console experiences in the portable space. Meanwhile Apple continue to cannibalise the market share in the portable space with their iOS devices. Finally Nintendo showed some interesting 3DS titles such as Luigi’s Mansion 2 and Super Mario 3D but under delivered on their much-hyped Wii U. What was expected to be a system blowout was in fact a rather tentative announcement that offered little exposition on the system other than an oddly hypothetical demonstration of its 6 inch touchscreen controller.

 

Arnold Bennet

Ellen Jurczak

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