Game Front’s Best of E3 2012
Here’s a game that resonated with everyone, and I feel like it’s worth noting that it’s telling about the current state of the video game industry that a game that just looks different has gotten so much widespread attention. Watch Dogs looks, for the most part, like a game that’s not another shooter rehash, Uncharted reimagining or Call of Duty/Gears of War clone. Its beautiful presentation helps a lot also.
We got a chance to actually sit through the narrated demo of Watch Dogs, and after getting hold of some actual information about how the game will play, it looks incredibly promising. Watch Dogs could provide some pretty awesome and fundamentally different ways to play your basic sandbox action game, and if the world is as full and engaging as the developers at Ubisoft Montreal claim, it’ll be a staggering thing. Unfortunately, we won’t know if it’s just developer bluster or the real deal until sometime next year — and it’s a current-gen game, which is almost certainly going to mean that hearts will break when we see that beautiful demo translated to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3′s lackluster capabilities. Start saving for some PC upgrades.
Natural Selection 2
Spending an hour or so talking with a few people from Unknown Worlds Entertainment got me even more excited for Natural Selection 2. I finally got a very brief taste of what the game is like, but I’m much more excited because of the people I’ve talked to about it. Our own Ron Whitaker is very positive on this team-based FPS/RTS hybrid, and what’s more, the developer support for the game is simply insane. Expect Natural Selection 2 to be incredibly moddable when it’s finally released around late August. Expect it to have an awesome community filled with people excited to play and improve the game. Expect it to have a healthy eSports scene. Expect it to be really fun to play. Natural Selection 2 is impressive not only because the game looks fun, but because there’s a huge amount of passion surrounding it from both the development side and the community side. Plus, when you play as the aliens, your viewponit is from inside their mouths. I love that.
I’ve heard a lot about Sleeping dogs, much of it from our own Ben Richardson, but despite tentative good news I expected to be confronted with a game that lived down to the terrible precedent set by the True Crime series of which Sleeping Dogs was originally a part.
However, grabbing 10 minutes with it convinced me that it just might be a surprise winner. The plot remains obscure, but it does indeed look like a faithful recreation of the heroic bloodshed movies invented by Hong Kong directors like John Woo. It helps that the game’s recreation of Hong Kong itself is fairly awesome. Even in the limited form at E3, the city in Sleeping Dogs seemed as alive and full of activity as any open world shooter I’ve ever played. Random citizens went about their business, reacted realistically when crazy things happened, and had the ability to actually impact your progress in a mission. The fight mechanics are easy but visceral, physics, particularly how NPCs react to being bumped into, were impressive, and even the voice acting, the little I saw, didn’t feel hokey in the slightest.
While I’ll have to see much more of this before issuing final judgment, I came away looking forward to playing it like almost nothing else I saw.
SimCity’s Glassbox Engine
This is a weird one for me, because I also have no desire whatsoever to play SimCity. The persistent internet requirement, the multiplayer from the ground up build, the lack of a single player campaign. These are terrible things to do to the SimCity series and I won’t be shocked if the game is a flop. At the same time, Maxis’ Glassbox engine is truly revolutionary. Capable of thousands of microsimulations (or so they say), the E3 demo showed off a game with tremendous complexity, beautiful animations, a gorgeous aesthetic. In short, everything needed to make a truly awesome simulation game. It’s too bad it’s being used in the service of nerfing one of the greatest series in video gaming history, but I have no doubt that other games built using Glassbox will blow our minds, and I can’t wait to see them.
I’ve always loved the concept of an MMOFPS, because it intrinsically improves upon what I feel to be the weakest aspect of most MMORPGs: the combat. Auto-targeting and cycling through cooldowns doesn’t make for engaging or rewarding combat, in my experience. I enjoyed Star Wars: The Old Republic as an MMORPG, but auto-targeting takes all the fun out of firing a blaster.
Defiance promises to offer some of the best aspects of an MMORPG — like collaborative boss battles and a persistent, open world — but in a skill-based combat setting. Four-player “Dungeons” will offer a co-op experience more akin to traditional FPS games, but it was the open-world activities that really sparked my interest. Trion has put to work mechanics it developed in Rift and has translated them into Defiance’s sci-fi universe, with random events like an alien invasion spontaneously cropping up to encourage collaboration.
Factor in the SyFy television show tie-in — a first in gaming history — and Defiance is a title to keep an eye on.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
We’re overdue for a good Aliens sequel — more than ten years overdue. Anyone familiar with the franchise knows a critical element in an Aliens game is capturing the feel of the horror genre, the ambience of the movies. Strangely, my experience with the game’s multiplayer left me feeling positive about the ability of its singleplayer campaign to draw me in.
Playing as a marine was a nerve-wracking experience, even knowing that death was only a minor setback — team deathmatch means you have an infinite number of respawns. I imagine the horror aspect in the multiplayer will wear off with time and experience — after all, those aren’t real Xenomorphs; they’re human gamers controlling a Xenomorph avatar. But the singleplayer campaign has the potential to retain that horror element throughout, as long as it keeps players on their toes and doesn’t let them settle into a routine.
Are we guaranteed that great experience? No; but what I’ve seen has given me reason for optimism.
So, what did you think? Tell us what your best of E3 were!