Game Informer's Best Of E3 Awards
After a week of game reveals, tech demonstrations, Cirque du Soleil freakshows, and a weekend of the deepest sleep us GI editors have ever had, E3 is over. Now that we've taken some time to separate ourselves from the madness, we've come up with our picks for the best that E3 had to offer.
Navigating through the crowded show floor, one can expect to be assaulted by military shooters, big-budget crime games, and other flashy franchises both gratuitous and gory in nature. This truth makes it that much more impressive, then, that the sequel to Valve’s surprise critical darling garnered our vote for Best of Show. Intelligent, innovative, and massively entertaining, Portal 2 is easily one of our top anticipated games of 2011.
In the original Infamous, you assumed control of a ridiculously powerful electric superhero that could throw lightning grenades and summon thunderstorms. We didn't think it could get much cooler than that, but Sucker Punch proved us wrong with Infamous 2. With a sweet new locale, an assortment of new powers (electric tornadoes!), and an intriguing story, we can't wait to see what's next for the electric man.
Gears of War 3
Bulletstorm may be the new kid on Epic's block, but that doesn't mean we don't have plenty to look forward to in the Locust-slaying Gears series. With more variety in its campaign, visuals that top even the series high standards, four-player co-op, and the new Beast mode, Gears is looking better than ever.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Everyone knew we'd be seeing a new Zelda title this year, but that didn't take away any of our excitement for it. After some unfortunate technical hiccups during the Nintendo presser, we were thrilled to find that the game handled like a dream. Considering the only other Zelda on the system is essentially a Gamecube port, it's great to see a built-from-the-ground-up adventure made just for the Wii.
While disappointed by the delay of Portal 2 to an undisclosed window in 2011, the announcement that Valve is rescinding their ban on PlayStation 3 development nearly made up for the agonizing wait. The time already invested into the game shows – improvements to the graphics, level design, and music were immediately apparent. Now that the PlayStation 3 is on the platform roster, more gamers than ever before will be able to enjoy Portal 2 come launch day.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta
Generally speaking, handheld games are awesome for reasons that are different than why console games are awesome. In the case of Ghost of Sparta (as with Chains of Olympus before it), we've seen a PSP title that looks like it will fully live up to the quality and style of gameplay of its PS3 brethren. Filling a gap in the God of War storyline between the first and second game, Ghost of Sparta will see Kratos hurting, maiming, torturing, and generally killing even more important figures from Greek mythology. A guest appearance from Midas and a first look at Kratos's new spear and shield combo made this the most promising handheld game at this year's show.
The PC-exclusive market has moved toward smaller releases and more independent development, while triple-A development has made its way toward the (generally) more lucrative console market. Firaxis Games is one of very few exceptions left, but the Civilization team's dedication to its craft hasn't suffered as its competition has fallen away. Civ V had an impressive E3 showing, answering doubts about whether Firaxis could pull off the drastic changes to Civ's roots that are such a huge part of Civ V. Games like this remind us why it is still good to be a PC gamer.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Unlike other first-person shooters at the show, Deus Ex: Human Revolution wasn't focused on the shooting itself. While the action looked good, what really excited us about this franchise revival is the focus on exploring, talking to NPCs, uncovering a shadowy conspiracy, and experimenting with all the different possible paths you can use to reach every objective. Sure, you could just shoot through a legion of bad guys if you want. Or you could use your verbal prowess to intimidate a thug, eavesdrop on a conversation that gives you a key piece of information, stealthily navigate some ventilation shafts...basically enough options to make every level an interesting playground.
Dead Space 2
When EA announced Dead Space 2 late last year, a few fans worried that the increased focus on action would dilute the game’s horror quotient. Thankfully Visceral Games put those fears aside by introducing us to a few new ones at this year’s E3. Dead Space 2 isn’t less scary because it has a more action-focused mindset; it just controls better. New weapons, new enemies, and a smoothed-over control system all make Dead Space 2 look like it’s going to deliver a horror thrill ride unlike any game before.
Portal 2 maintains the simple formula set by its predecessor. The player communicates with the environment by shooting a pair of portals. Easy enough. Still, Valve has managed to up the ante by introducing new gameplay mechanics. Physics now transfer through portals, and the addition of tractor beams, aerial faith plates, redirection cubes, and various gels have make for even more ingenious puzzles. Factor in a co-op campaign – where both brains will be needed – and we’re sold.
Much has been said about Peter Molyneux's tendency to over-hype his games, but he also has the honesty to admit when he's made a mistake. He has openly criticized Fable II's plot and pause-heavy gameplay, and he's addressing those complaints with Fable III. It looks to introduce regenerating health to RPGs, fix the broken co-op from its predecessor, and present gamers with the novel experience of playing as a king. From what we've seen so far, Lionhead is ready to present gamers with their most ambitious project yet.
We've known for a while that Bulletstorm was going to be something special. After all, it rewards you for shooting a guy in the anus with a skillshot named "Fire in the Hole." While that on its own makes the game worthy of praise, it was nice to see that it also features tight controls, smooth visuals, excellent slide and kick abilities, and (most importantly) a ton of extremely fun ways to murder people.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, BioWare announced that their first MMO would be a return to the Star Wars universe, which they'd previously explored in the stellar Knights of the Old Republic. Leap forward a thousand years or so, and we're still eagerly awaiting this game. There wasn't much in the way of new info about The Old Republic at E3, but they did briefly show off player-owned spaceships and PvP Warzones. Even with a demo that's mostly the same areas that have been shown for a while now, we were still ecstatic for every second of hands-on play with this addictive gem. Now here's hoping it hits that spring 2011 release date so we're not stuck giving it this spot on the list every E3 for the next few years.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit
Hot Pursuit is back and it couldn't have a better developer at the helm than Burnout's Criterion a studio that knows how to make an amazing racing experience that you can jump into right away. Best of all, Hot Pursuit is more than just the hunter vs. the hunted, it's an open world that's being packed with features that'll have you keep coming back to savor.
In a year where sports titles stepped up their game across the board, NHL 11 skates away with the top honors thanks to its impressive real-time physics engine. With procedural animations generating every check, blocked shot, and broken stick, the latest hockey title from EA Canada looks to be raising the bar for the entire EA Sports game stable yet again. Whether you’re doling out punishment along the boards or in open ice, every hit looks different. A new faceoff mechanic, passing interface, and quick deke system also go great lengths to making sure every game feels unique. Bundle all of these features into one game, and you have our sports game of the show.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
It didn't take a psychic to predict that Kinect would court the casual crowd after the success of the Wii, and that includes exercise titles. While Wii Fit features a balance board and EA Sports Active requires the user to perform motions that the Wii remote kind of recognizes, they're not optimal for actual exercise. Your Shape seemed to be the first of its kind that could offer some serious results, with Kinect accurately tracking your body's actual motions instead of basic remote gestures.
Mortal Kombat made the move to 3D with a certain degree of success, but it always felt like something was missing. The MK we knew and loved was strictly on a 2D plane, and featured hilariously gory fatalities. With the latest title (MK vs. DC Universe), we lost both of those elements. Ed Boon and his team at the newly-minted NetherRealm Studios have heard the criticisms, and are responding with a 2D title that looks to up the gore factor to never-before-seen levels. Gruesome fatalities don't guarantee a great fighter, however, so it's a good thing the 2D action is fast and furious.
When it released in 2008, no one had seen user-created content on the level of the original LittleBigPlanet. The game came packaged with all the tools you'd need to make levels every bit as intricate as those made by Media Molecule themselves. Two years later, and the game features over 2 million community-made levels, some of which are arguably even better than the built-in story missions. From what we've seen of its sequel, LittleBigPlanet 2 will take that concept to unexplored territory. No longer will gamers be confined to the platforming genre...they'll now be able to create their own games. And of course, there's plenty of Sackboy charm to go around.
Rock Band 3
You’ve perfected the art of pressing colored buttons – now it’s time for the real thing. Rock Band 3 introduces real instruments into the mix, allowing players to step up from the standard difficulties into pro-mode. Whether on keyboard, drums, or an actual Fender Strat guitar, Rock Band 3 will offer the most authentic music game experience yet. Along with dozens of new on-disc songs, a wholly redesigned front-end menu system, and a library of over 2000 downloadable songs by launch, this is one stage performance you’ll want a ticket to this year.
Civilization V deserves the award for best strategy game of E3 no matter how weak the competition in the category is. Firaxis is making bold moves to push the gameplay forward even while incorporating a whole new level of community support. Civilization may be just about the last man standing when it comes to triple-A PC strategy exclusives, but the developers are doing anything but phoning it in.
The developer that brought us Flower and Flow is back with a fascinating new title that melds single and multiplayer exploration into an intriguing new amalgamation. Players wander a vast desert of deep mysteries, always seeking to reach the mountain on the distant horizon. At times during the lonely sojourn, a single player can encounter a second player online at the same time, and the two can seek to communicate, help, or continue the journey together. The beautiful and unusual game has a poetic grace about it that makes it different from anything else currently on the horizon.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
You walk the streets of Rome with your target in sight. He waits, unaware, just beyond the cart up ahead. Your victory is assured. Right until the player hunting you slips a blade into your back. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood innovates multiplayer in a brand new direction, challenging players to use deception and observation to best other players in the open world settings of Renaissance Italy. Every player has both a target and a predator, and careful use of special abilities stands between victory and defeat. Perfectly matching the tone of the campaign, Brotherhood’s multiplayer looks like just what the franchise needs.
Kinect and Move may have received more buzz going into the event, but Nintendo blew away these newcomers by proving once again why they're the best in the world at creating portables. The 3DS features a nice analog stick and some truly impressive power, but the real feat is right there in the name. We had never seen 3D visuals without the use of goofy glasses before E3, but sure enough, the 3DS had Mario, Kid Icarus, and even Solid Snake popping out of the screen just as advertised. With a release guaranteed by March of next year, we can't wait to get our hands on the finished product.