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Game Informer's Best of E3 2012 Awards

by Matt Bertz on Jun 13, 2012 at 11:00 AM

While the 2012 edition of E3 may have lacked transformative ideas and trailblazing innovation, the polish of the games on the showfloor was as high as it has ever been. With most publishers playing it safe with sequels, a sense of steady iteration dominated most booths. However, that didn’t stop a few games from getting our adrenaline racing. Here are our 2012 E3 Best in Show Awards:

Best Action Game

ASSASSIN’S CREED III

Assassin’s Creed III showcased plenty of new locations, but the tight combat and world traversal impressed us the most. The new offensive-focused combat system looks thrilling, the ability to leap and clamber through tree tops and cliffs offers something new to platforming lovers, and the newly announced naval battles add an unexpected wrinkle into the excitement. We’re eager to find out more about the new protagonist Connor, but E3 made us equally interested in the moment-to-moment action of Assassin’s Creed III.

Best Adventure Game

THE CAVE

Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer practically created the adventure genre, so it only makes sense that The Cave, a game being created by Gilbert at Schafer’s Double Fine studio, takes home this award. The Cave incorporates many adventure game tropes, such as collecting odds objects like buckets of waters and hot dogs to solve unique environmental puzzles like apprehending a dragon, but it also evolves the genre by incorporating multiple characters, light platforming, and local co-op.

Best MMO Game

PLANETSIDE 2

Seeing massively multiplayer games before they're released is often a matter of sifting nuggets of potential through the grimy dross of unpolished, buggy gameplay. Not so with Planetside 2. The gameplay that show-goers got their hands on is the kind of pixel-perfect, fast-paced sci-fi shooting that action fans demand. The concept – three player-controlled factions battling across entire continents in endless war over precious resources – was already great. Now that Sony Online has shown off the reality of Planetside 2 and not just the dream, it's an easy pick for this award.

Best Multiplayer Game

HALO 4

We got our hands on both the competitive and cooperative game modes in Halo 4, and our brief time with each magnified our enthusiasm for the project. It may sound strange to call it out so specifically, but Halo 4’s sound design was amazing, filled with terrifying explosions, unique gun effects, and just the right mix of atmospheric music. Of course, the sound is the cherry on top of a fantastic gameplay experience that feels like a great mix of the classic Halo action with new weapons and enemies. We can’t wait to fight each other in the competitive War Games mode, and we’re already planning our teams for the ongoing episodic Spartan Ops cooperative adventure.

Best Music/Rhythm Game

DANCE CENTRAL 3

In the one-and-done world of Kinect games, Harmonix has brought its Dance Central franchise to a third installment through consistent quality, fun, and by being one of the few motion-controlled games that actually works like it’s supposed to. The new time-traveling storyline incorporates classic songs and moves like the Electric Slide, while the new freestyle dancing segments let you create your own new moves.

Best Platformer

NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. U 

Mario’s debut on the past two generations of Nintendo consoles came in the form of massive 3D adventures. For the Wii U, his first title more closely resembles the original Super Mario Bros. Jumping on goombas and tossing fireballs may not be earth-shattering new features, but Nintendo has a stellar track record with the series. From what we played at E3, we have every reason to expect New Super Mario Bros. U will do the name proud.

Best Racing Game

NEED FOR SPEED: MOST WANTED

Most Wanted combines Criterion Games' vaunted racing pedigree with arguably the most famous offshoot of the Need for Speed franchise. The game blends open-world objectives and freedom with torrid police chases, all of which occur in a blur of speed and spectacular damage. As the inventors of EA's Autolog feature that seamlessly compares and contrasts your accomplishments with those of your online friends, Criterion expands its multiplayer horizons in Most Wanted with playlists of events that also embrace free-form exploration. Criterion is beloved among racing fans, and Most Wanted looks like it will lay down some serious rubber for the developer.

Best Role-Playing Game

SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH 

THQ is going through some shaky times, from developer layoffs and plummeting stock values to executive staff shake-ups. Despite these hardships (including not having a booth on the show floor), the publisher still presented E3’s best RPG. Combining combat in the vein of Paper Mario and the distinct humor of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, The Stick of Truth looks like a hilarious love letter to classic RPGs.

Best Shooter

BORDERLANDS 2 

With millions of guns, constant weapon and ability upgrades, and a nonstop shooting gallery of skags and bandits, Gearbox’s sequel looks to be even more explosive than its predecessor. We’ve seen every class in action, and we’re still struggling to decide which we’ll wind up using first. It may come out in the fall, but Borderlands 2 should feature enough replayability to keep shooter fans playing well into 2013.

Best Sports Game

FIFA 13

Our 2011 sports game of the year did nothing to diminish its standing at E3. With the benefit of a new AI system guiding off-the-ball movement, a refined player physics engine, and a re-emphasis on dribbling and first-touch control, FIFA 13 is enhancing its already strong foundation in important ways that should positively affect the minute-to-minute gameplay. Since your performance on the pitch matters more than any off-field activity, don’t be surprised if FIFA 13 is once again angling for top honors at the end of the year. 

Best Strategy Game

XCOM: ENEMY UNKNOWN

Bringing a beloved PC strategy franchise to consoles is always a dicey proposition, but Firaxis’ take on XCOM fills us with confidence. The game isn't afraid to maintain tension by punishing bad tactics with permanent death for the player's beloved soldiers, nor is XCOM's vaunted environmental interaction and destructibility dumbed down. The most astonishing aspect of the hands-on demo from this year's show, though, is how quickly and fluidly it plays on a gamepad. Though the turn-based structure lets players pause and think, the interface is so fast that it rarely feels like you're waiting for the game to catch up to you.

Best Tech

UNREAL ENGINE 4

The three platform-holders’ big technological announcements – Microsoft’s SmartGlass, Sony’s Wonderbook, and Nintendo’s Wii U – left us with more questions than answers. Meanwhile, Epic Games’ public unveiling of its newest game engine left us intrigued by the possibilities of the as-yet-unannounced next-gen consoles. With streamlined tools that free designers to iterate on the fly and impressive graphical game-changers like real-time global illumination and the ability to produce rendered particle effects in the millions, Unreal Engine 4 should enable its users to create fantastical worlds with a fraction of the workload. 

Best Downloadable Game

THE CAVE

The downloadable market is home to plenty of side-scrolling adventures with quirky art styles and endless creativity. Double Fine’s latest adventure, The Cave, is poised to trump the lot of them. A cast of seven unlikely companions – ranging from a hillbilly to a time traveler – embarks on a quest to find personal fulfillment in a sentient, talking, puzzle-filled cave. The expressive animations, colorful presentation, and multiple character combinations could keep gamers spelunking long after downloading.

Best Multiplatform Game

ASSASSIN’S CREED III 

Too often, the best games at E3 are exclusive projects headed to the Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo console du jour. That’s why the presence of Assassin’s Creed III on all major home platforms (Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC) is so welcome. With a new protagonist and an American Revolution setting, Assassin’s Creed III is a great jumping-on point for new fans, no matter what system they play on. 

Best Handheld Game

PAPER MARIO: STICKER STAR

Nintendo and developer Intelligent Systems have been cooking up the latest Mario RPG for over two years and the long development cycle shows in the game’s quality and imagination. As the title indicates, stickers play heavily into both combat and puzzles. In addition to classic hammer and jump attack stickers, players can also summon more powerful attacks like a flock of flying scissors to slice and dice paper foes. Why didn’t Paper Mario ever think of this ultimate weapon before?

Best PC Exclusive

PLANETSIDE 2

As much as some may lament the growing influence of free-to-play games on the PC platform, in Planetside 2's case at least we're getting more than a lame frontend enticing us to spam our friends and spend more money on microtransactions. The gameplay available to E3 attendees this year was as good as any shooter, MMO or otherwise, and the continent-spanning battles were as impressive in scale as advertised. Sony Online is well on its way to bringing a full-on shooter/MMO with no compromises into the mainstream with Planetside 2.

Best Wii U Exclusive

NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. U

The Wii U may boast a wide variety of novel features, but Nintendo’s best game at the show was one that barely utilized any of them. Other than the ability to play the game on the controller or on the TV screen, the only hardware-specific function the Wii U provides in New Super Mario Bros. U is the ho-hum “assist mode” that lets friends create platforms by tapping the controller. It may not show off the capabilities of Nintendo’s shiny new console, but it’s fantastic to see Mario and friends in HD for the first time. More importantly, the gameplay feels as solid as any title in the stellar series. We can’t wait to don the new flying squirrel suit and embark on Mario’s new adventure with three friends.

Best PlayStation 3 Exclusive

THE LAST OF US 

At its core, Naughty Dog’s latest project doesn’t do a whole lot that we haven’t seen before. There’s cover mechanics, stealth play, shooting, melee attacks, and platforming puzzles. Where The Last of Us breaks new ground is the stunning humanity brought not just to leads Joel and Ellie, but also every enemy you encounter. Blasting a man in the face with a shotgun after he pleads for his life signals a consistent theme of dealing with the weight of sickening, realistic violence that’s necessary to survive in the gorgeously destroyed, post-apocalyptic world. 

Best Xbox 360 Exclusive

HALO 4

Fans have been wary of new developer 343 Industries ever since Microsoft handed them the keys to the Halo franchise after Bungie moved on to its still-under-wraps new franchise. The team at 343 came out swinging at E3 2012, ready to prove that this rookie fighter is ready to take up the mantle. By placing the focus on the integrated experience between single-player, cooperative, and competitive multiplayer, Halo 4 looks to offer something for everyone, and gives players a good reason to cross back and forth between modes. Perhaps most importantly, Halo 4’s strong showing helped Microsoft prove that the 360 still has some untapped power. 

Best In Show

ASSASSIN’S CREED III

Plenty of games showed beautifully at E3 2012, but none created more buzz amongst our staff than Assassin’s Creed III. If anyone had doubts about the ability of this franchise to make another leap forward with a new hero and setting, those fears were systematically dispelled. With three separate single-player demos, Ubisoft convinced showgoers of the wide array of activities the game offers players. The playable multiplayer and brand new trailer were icing on the cake. The visually stunning environments of the game were enough to catch our attention – add in some of the most intense action sequences we’ve seen in a video game, and we’ve got a winner. 

Which title earned your game of show? Share your thoughts below.