Posted on June 15, 2012, Ron Whitaker GameFront’s Best of E3 2012
Now that E3 is behind us, it’s time to look back and see what we were most excited about. At large shows like this, there are a ton of games, and no one person can see them all. Still, each of our E3 away team has picked their two favorite games of the show. Check them out, see what you think, and tell us what your favorites were!
It’s hard to beat a game where the player can shove a man’s face into an industrial fan blade during combat. For this reason, my first pick has to be Sleeping Dogs. The brutal melee combat is immensely satisfying. The enviormental hazards are numerous and range from exposed wiring to a metal security gate that the player can slam down on a man’s sternum. The game also has a great story which is important because there needs to be a good reason for doing all these horrible things to people. The protagonist is an undercover cop trying to infilitrate China’s most ruthless gang, the Triads. To this end, he hangs out with some old criminal friends to gain street cred and winds up elbow deep in a vicious turf war. It’s kind of like that movie “The Departed,” only with more martial arts and slow-motion gun fights.
Sleeping Dogs takes the best parts of many games I love and mashes them together into a Frankenstein’s Monster of awesomeness. It’s got a GTA style open world, Max Payne’s bullet time, and Arkham City’s counter combat. In addition to playing the demo, I also got to check watch a hands-off demo where the main character leaned out of a car window and dispatched pursuing vehicles with a machine gun. Blowing out the wheels of the car would cause fantastic crashes and beautiful slow-motion pile ups. This is definitely a game I’ll be picking up as soon as it hits shelves.
My second pick is a tough one, I was very intrigued by what I saw of both “The Last of Us” and “Watch Dogs.” Both games look beautiful and both claim to allow the player an unparralled amount of freedom in how they go about completing their objectives. However I think I’m more excited about Watch Dogs. I’ve long been afraid that the information companies gather about people online would someday be put to some sinister purpose and Watch Dogs feeds directly into that fear. The player assumes control of
an assassin that can access a disturbing amount of information on any target in the world. He knows whether someone has credit card debt, or is HIV positive or knows martial arts. I’m assuming the focus of this game is to use this information to manipulate people into doing the player’s bidding. Given all the debate that’s been going on about how much info a company can collect on a person, the game is tackling an extremely relevant topic.
The player can also cause traffic accidents by tampering with stoplights. After one such crash, the passenger in one of the vehicles tried to wake up the slumped-over driver. This was not a cinematic but rather something that was happening in-game. It was amazing. The voice acting in the cut-scene I saw is phenomenal and the writing is excellent as well. The future painted in Watch Dogs seems ridiculous yet believeable. For instance, at an art exhibit, waiters with tv’s for heads offer drinks to patrons. It’s silly, but I also know that some pretentious artist somewhere has probably wanted to do this at an exhibit. I think Watch Dogs is going to show us a future that’s scary yet probable. It’sa unique concept that will hopefully make for an amazing game.
I really dislike giving my personal “best in show” award to a game that I wasn’t actually able to play, but Watch Dogs was something so special that I just can’t help myself. The game is easily one of the most visually stunning games I’ve ever seen, showed off some very well written and clever dialogue that immediately sold me on the characters in just a short demo, and most importantly, it’s actually a brand new IP that took us all by complete surprise.
I can’t wait to see what kind of interesting scenarios the developers at Ubisoft Montreal can come up with that utilize Pierce’s ability to hack into anything in the Windy City. Personally, I think the idea of being able to randomly hack a pedestrian’s phone, find out about some sort of secret plot going down somewhere in the city at a certain point during the game, and then having that turn into its own side-mission sounds awesome. Now I don’t know if that’s something that they’re actually planning on doing, but it’s one example of why I feel like the gameplay possibilities available thanks to the game’s premise have so much potential.
Playstation All Stars Battle Royale
To be honest, it took me a couple of rounds of Playstation All Stars Battle Royale before I finally started to warm up to it. I’m still not a fan of the fact that the only way to defeat an enemy is by utilizing a super move, but the core gameplay is a lot of fun and I found myself continuously coming back to the booth whenever I had some free time to try and learn more of the ins and outs of each of the characters.
And there really is a lot to learn about the characters. Each time I used a new character, I generally found myself fumbling around trying to figure out which attacks should be used from a distance, which attacks generated the most special meter and when I should use my super attacks. It definitely has that Smash Brothers quality of being easy for anyone to pick up and play, while also having enough depth for the more hardcore to really sink their teeth into some of the more advanced aspects of the game.
The Last of Us
Smart studios know how to play to their strengths, and Naughty Dog is nothing if not smart. The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic adventure defined by its gorgeous environments and its strong characterization — the two elements that made the Uncharted series such a joy.
Drawing on influences like Children of Men, City of Thieves, and The Road, the game shows the end of the world through the eyes of Joel, a hard-bitten survivalist with mysterious past, and Ellie, a teenage girl too young to remember what life was like before a zombifying fungus destroyed civilization.
The demo on display at E3 impressed with its smart writing, which used sharp, believable dialogue to convey a budding father-daughter relationship that was affecting without straying towards maudlin. Players take charge of Joel, scrounging for supplies and fending off roaming gangs of hostile survivors. Ellie is controlled by a meticulously designed AI that will prevent The Last of Us from becoming an onerous, game-length escort quest.
As the pair pick their way through the flooded, collapsed ruins of America, Naughty Dog’s mastery of detail, lighting and color produce moments of uncanny beauty. Combat, on the other hand, is satisfyingly mundane, based on scavenged, unwieldy weapons that quickly run out of ammunition. When they do, Joel must improvise and make tactical choices on the fly — a loose brick can be both a weapon and, when thrown, a timely distraction.
Little is known of the game’s zombie-like “Infected,” but that’s for the best. What is clear, however, is that The Last of Us could be one of the best titles of 2013.
Though each of their specific E3 offerings is impressive in its own right, Bohemia deserves a nod for their overall accomplishments. Thanks to their PC focus and their assured defiance of industry conventions, the Czech studio has some fascinating products in the pipeline.
ARMA III is the most straightforward. A cutting-edge military sim that has endured a torturously long development process, the game offers a combat sandbox filled with uncompromising detail — a welcome antidote to the dumbed-down, Hollywood-style shooters produced by big-name publishers. Whether it’s an individual piece of brain coral on the seabed during a scuba mission, or the empty slots that crop up in your rocket pod after a helicopter-based barrage, Bohemia simply refuse to cut corners.
Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is a little stranger, and definitely a labor of love. Due out this fall for XBOX and PC, the game is a technologically sophisticated remake of a 1988 Atari classic. Blending RTS gameplay with first-person shooting and vehicle piloting across gigantic 3D maps, Carrier Command will keep players frantically multitasking — anyone who masters will be justifiably proud of their ability.
Most fascinating is Day Z, the cult mod for Bohemia title Arma II that has enjoyed a surge of popularity in recent weeks. Taking the studio’s distinctive realism and adding zombies, the mod offers a tense, thought-provoking, alternative to the swashbuckling endemic in other shooter and zombie games. Designed by Bohemia employee Dean “Rocket” Hall, Day Z now has official backing from his employers — yet another sign that the company is worth rooting for. Look for an interview with Rocket on Game Front later this week.