GameFront’s Best of E3 2011

E3 is over. We survived the flights, traffic, crowds and lack of food and water for the week. Now we’re back home, and we’re looking back over the week that was. If you missed any coverage, feel free to look back with us.

We were all over the place at E3 this year. In fact, we were so spread out that we’ve decided to do our ‘Best of E3′ list a little differently this year. Since almost our whole away team saw different games, we’re going to have each of them tell you what their personal ‘Best’ game was, why they liked it, and also give you a list of everything they saw, so you can see what they’re comparing it to.

Without further ado, let’s get this started.

Mark Burnham

Best of E3: Tomb Raider

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, XBox 360
Release Date: Q3 2012

What? Why?!?:

Shock value, and amazing presentation.

I went into the demo expecting…all the things you’d expect from a Tomb Raider game: tired platforming, awkward combat, gigantic boobs. My preconceptions proved cynical, and ultimately wrong. Crystal Dynamics have hit the “reset” button on everything you know about Tomb Raider.
Tomb Raider (2012) is an origins story, featuring a 21-year-old Lara Croft at the very start of her tomb raiding career. When she’s shipwrecked on an island off the coast of Japan, she’s brutally thrown into an adventure story she isn’t physically or mentally prepared for. You can hear it in her panicked voice as she crawls through a flooded passageway. You can see it in her face when she tells her shipwrecked companion that she doesn’t think she’s meant for this.

Croft really doesn’t seem equipped to raid tombs initially, either. But as she gains confidence in herself throughout the story, she also gains new abilities. For instance, when she accepts a new dangerous mission to reach a radio tower, she gains the ice pick item—which unlocks a new mechanic.

The voice acting, characterization and gameplay all seem to fuse together into a nice cohesive whole in Tomb Raider. This is definitely one to watch, and for the first time it’s not for Lara’s double-Ds (she’s like a B-cup in this it looks like).

Everything I saw at E3:

  • Tomb Raider
  • RAGE
  • NeverDead
  • Silent Hill: Downpour
  • Ninja Gaiden 3
  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss
  • Super Stardust Delta
  • Dead Island
  • Modern Warfare 3
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic
  • Gears of War 3
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2
  • Darkness 2

Mitchell Saltzman

Best of E3: Batman: Arkham City

Publisher: WB Games
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Platforms: PlayStation 3, XBox 360
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2011

What? Why?!?:

Because unlike Mass Effect 3, Tomb Raider, Prototype 2 and a bunch of the other really big titles at E3, I was actually able to play several different parts of Arkham City in addition to being treated to a pre-planned E3 developer demonstration. So I got to experience first hand just how amazing Arkham City is going to be. The game seems to have struck a perfect balance of retaining the gameplay elements that made the first game such a resounding success, while still finding a way to totally re-invent how the game is structured. A way to keep things familiar, yet still feel very fresh.

The humongous open world of Arkham City provides players with a fascinating place to explore; there are new Riddler challenges that look to really test the mental meddle of those who choose to seek out the hidden Riddler trophies; Batman’s new tools and abilities for getting around the city are extremely fun to use and do even more to firmly plant the player into the boots of The Dark Knight; and the combat system that was already the best free flow combat system in video games has been made even better thanks to cool new abilities and an easier way of incorporate gadgets into the battle.

And that’s not even mentioning the addition of Catwoman as a playable character in the single player campaign, the brand new story that’s once again penned by acclaimed comic book writer Paul Dini, and the return of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker. If the gaming world can accept the fact that a game can exist in this day an age without a AAA multiplayer experience, I truly believe Arkham City will be a strong nominee for Game of the Year 2011.

Everything I saw at E3:

  • Ninja Gaiden 3
  • Prototype 2
  • Tomb Raider
  • Metal Gear Solid 3DS
  • Sonic Generations
  • Super Mario 3DS
  • Mario Kart 3DS
  • Kid Icarus Uprising
  • Kirby Wii
  • Luigi’s Mansion 2
  • Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City
  • Resistance 3
  • Bastion
  • PixelJunk LifeLike
  • Anarchy Reigns
  • Captain America: Super Soldier
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2
  • Deus Ex Human Revolution
  • Ms. Splosion Man

Ben Richardson

Best of E3: Dark Souls

Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: From Software
Platforms: PlayStation 3, XBox 360
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2011

What? Why?!?:

Dark Souls is a faithful continuation of its predecessor, cult favorite Demon’s Souls. As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Demon’s Souls was far from broken. The wonderful, deep combat system is back in Dark Souls, and I cautiously traded blows with a number of canny, deadly opponents, making sure to be patient and wait for my opportunity, rather than rushing in, sword swinging. The scale and scope of the gameworld has been expanded, providing more content that is simultaneously enticing and intimidating. In order to better survive these new, massive levels, a redesigned system of “bonfires” provides some succor to adventurers.

Judging by the deadly bosses I encountered in the demo, you’ll need every bonfire you can find. Also returning is the series’ distinctive, creepy atmosphere, best exemplified by the uncanny jigging of a caster enemy (an undead priest) as he buffed his shambling acolytes, or the wet “thwack” of a corpse hitting the ground after you destroyed the barrel that was propping it up. Standard RPG improvements like new spells, skills, classes and equipment also abound, but, like the improved graphics, they are a formality compared to the promise of more deliciously dangerous medieval combat. Are you afraid of the Dark (Souls)?

Everything I saw at E3:

  • Torchlight 2
  • Witcher 2 (Xbox 360)
  • Inversion
  • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
  • Prototype 2
  • Skylanders
  • Tropico 4
  • XCOM
  • ARMA III
  • Ninja Gaiden 3
  • Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
  • Star Wars Kinect
  • Once Upon a Monster
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic
  • FIFA 12
  • Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

Phil Hornshaw

Best of E3: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: Bethesda
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, XBox 360
Release Date: Nov. 11, 2011

What? Why?!?:

I had a weird E3, in which I was forced to watch developers run through carefully scripted and rehearsed demos of every game I covered. Games I got to actually play were few and far between, which makes picking a game as the best of the show is a hard thing to judge. That said, of every demo I got to watch quietly in the dark, it was the very first one that got me the most excited: Skyrim.

Dragons, real-time conversations, a lush world — all those things are cool. But more than anything, I’m excited for the phenomenally well-thought-out dual-wielding capabilities Skyrim brings to the table. The combat Bethesda has going in its next big RPG seems like it could be game unto itself, free of all the other great features undoubtedly being baked into Elder Scrolls V. Character progression is based solely on how one plays, and the capabilities of switching strategies for every situation means players will really get a lot of mileage out of every battle and every decision. Out of everything I saw, combining spells, staffs, swords and shields in each hand just looks like a helluva lot of fun.

Everything I saw at E3:

  • Bioshock: Infinite
  • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines
  • Hitman: Absolution
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Fruit Ninja Frenzy
  • Fruit Ninja Kinect
  • Machine Gun Jetpack
  • The Darkness II
  • Prey 2
  • Dead Island
  • Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • Silent Hill Downpour
  • Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
  • Call of Duty: Elite

Jordon Justice

Best of E3: TERA

Publisher: En Masse Entertainment
Developer: Bluehole Studios
Platforms: PC
Release Date:“When it’s Ready” (Oooookay Blizzard…)

What? Why?!?:

TERA was the surprise hit of the show for me for two reasons. One: I don’t care about MMORPG’s. Two: I didn’t think anyone could make me care about MMORPG’s. But man have I started rethinking those qualms. That’s not to say that I’ve been completely swayed, I’m just a whole lot more excited about TERA than I had planned to be.

Originally developed (and currently released) by a Korean development team, TERA is seeing a lot of changes and renovations as it gets “Westernized” for those of us in this hemisphere. Fortunately, this means more than just easing back on the ungodly lengths of swords or hair spikes. The game is being completely rebalanced to accommodate Western gameplay styles such as increasing the practicality of soloing and removing the tedium of raids. I felt highly optimistic as I got a feel for the great communication and connection that the Korean and American development teams have forged.

But even at its core, TERA is worthy of being my personal favorite at E3. Using real-time, direct input combat TERA maintains action and control unlike any other MMORPG. Connecting with a hit is about more than just locking your character to an enemy and letting the dice-rolls play out. Players must position themselves and their reticles wisely if they want to succeed.

Real clipping collision, chainable skills, console-like controls (mapped for the 360 controller), and gorgeous visuals make TERA the only MMORPG truly worthy of the “action” prefix as well as the Jordon Justice Best-Of E3 with Special Consideration for Being Totally Unexpected Award 2011.

Everything I saw at E3:

  • PSVita
  • Sony 3D Monitor w/ split vision glasses
  • Uncharted Vita
  • WipeOut 2048
  • ModNation Racers Vita
  • Magicka (PvP)
  • NeverDead
  • Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
  • Driver: San Fransisco (multiplayer)
  • Wakfu
  • J-Dome / UniVisual software
  • Skulls of the Shogun
  • Desktop Dungeons
  • Deep Sea
  • El Shaddai
  • Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2
  • Combat Wings: Great Battles of WWII
  • Crusader Kings 2
  • Of Orcs and Men
  • Tactic3D Headphones
  • Recon3D Module

Ross Lincoln

Best of E3: Prime World

Publisher: Nival
Developer: Nival
Platforms: PC, Mac, Facebook, iOS, Android
Release Date: TBA

What? Why?!?:

Jim Sterling was right. This year’s E3 was ridiculously skimpy on the actual playable content, at least on the big titles. I was blown away by the demos I saw but considering how close we are to the release of so many of them (Mass Effect 3, Uncharted 3, Skyrim are out in November), the fact that we mostly had to take their presenters’ word on how great they are was kind of galling. There’s also the problem that a huge number of this year’s slate of games were either licensed properties, or sequels. Some of those sequels are of course going to be incredible, but their sales are a foregone conclusion: More to the point, Mass Effect 3 is going to sell millions of copies whether or not I gush about it to the stars. I’ll buy it too, and love it, but it doesn’t ‘need’ me to get you to do the same.

Which is why I found Nival’s goofy fantasy RTS Prime World so refreshing. I covered most of what I loved about it in my hands-on : I loved the ‘terraforming’ feature, functionally similar to territory acquisition in games like Saint’s Row or San Andreas but aesthetically unique in that the game’s actual terrain changes as you gain territory; the level up and attribute purchase system; best of all the hilarious playable units like the Frogrider. Prime World isn’t the most elaborate, spectacular technical achievement, but it’s a wonderful change of pace from super serious war simulators and the endless parade of sequels, it’s genuinely fun and funny, and with even a few original concepts thrown in for good measure it looks to be one of the unsung gems of 2011.

Everything I saw at E3:

  • Prime World
  • Mass Effect 3
  • World of Tanks
  • DC Universe Online
  • Spider-Man: Edge of Time
  • X-Men: Destiny
  • Star Trek: Infinite Space
  • Risen 2
  • Two Worlds 2
  • Scivelation
  • Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (Multiplayer only)
  • Driver: San Francisco
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
  • Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One
  • Bodycount
  • Saint’s Row: The Third

  • Battlefield 3

Obviously, you may not agree, so tell us what your personal ‘Best of E3′ was for this year, or ask us what we thought of something else, in the comments below.

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2 Comments on GameFront’s Best of E3 2011

Brandon J. Clark

On June 16, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Great article! I’m really looking forward to Skyyrim because I know pretty much nothing about it.

Brandon J. Clark

On June 17, 2011 at 7:45 am

Oh, and the new Lara is WAYYYYYYYY hotter. Is there a model she’s based off of?