July 19, 2007

Which titles were tops at E3 2007?

GP’s reviewers give their views on the titles they saw at E3 2007

Michael Lafferty:

The E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) Media & Business Summit has come and gone and in its wake are the memories of games seen and some even played. That the show was hectic is a bit of an understatement. But while there was not the one, or even two, stunning game announcements – everything was pretty much known – the game did have some very good titles.

GamingPolo was at E3 and while the three writers there did not see the games that each saw, we decided to create our own personal “best of” column, broken down into platforms. It would be almost impossible to select a best-of-show winner, but as individuals we can share the titles we thought were outstanding.

Here are my picks based on the games I saw and, in some cases, played:

PS3: Folklore is a title that combines some unique graphical concepts, an involving and evolving story with stunning graphics. There are role-playing elements, an adventure and murder mystery, monsters, transcended powers and a solid story to pull the players through the game. I was misdirected and actually ended up playing a demo of the game and missed the first 20 minutes of a presentation, but while there were some elements that did need to be explained, the game seemed easy enough to jump into and play, while treating the eyes. This was the first time I got to see Folklore, and the experience was wonderful.

360: The game going under the working title of F.E.A.R. 2 is a devastating bit of first-person shooter, the kind of game that will give the feint-of-heart nightmares. The idea was to flesh out the role of Alma, and how truly terrifying she can be. Throw in some new game mechanics, and next-gen graphics power and you have a title that will challenge and scare at the same time. The developer on hand to demo the game stated that Monolith was ” trying to create the best first-person shooter ever, while incorporating a “solid mix of combat and tension elements.” The demo, with its intelligent AI system that all but guarantees an unpredictable experience, showed the Monolith was achieving what they had set out to achieve.

PC: There were games I wanted to play (Age of Conan and Neverwinter Nights 2) but didn’t get the chance to, and there were games that I got to play (Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars, Fury) or saw (Hellgate, MoH: Airborne) and while they were all solid games, there just didn’t seem to be a lot of PC loving going on at this year’s event. Sure, there are solid titles coming up for the PC, but nothing that is an absolutely must-own game; or, to put it another way, nothing that will sell new video cards or even new gaming rigs. It won’t be a lackluster year for the PC, by any means, but it’s going to be a year with good titles, but nothing that sets the world of PC gaming on fire.

NDS: Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck is precisely the kind of game I would want to play. Interactive with an old friend (Daffy Duck) who is true to character while giving typical reactions to all the mischief you create for him. And Warner Bros. has done a great job in bringing interactivity to waking the game out of hibernation while playing the game. This was an experience that didn’t leave me on the edge of my seat but certain had me smiling broadly and enjoying every moment I had the stylus in my hand.

Most Anticipated: Heavenly Sword was a playable demo in the Sony arcade area and the experience left me wanting more. That game is only a month and a half from release. Rock Band will be a must own on a console as well (likely the PS3, which is hooked up to a 42-inch Sony Bravia HDTV), and the demo for Metal Gear Solid 4 was remarkable. The upcoming year will truly be the year of the next-gen console system, marked by stunning graphics and stellar gameplay mechanics.

Steven Hopper:

360: BioWare’s upcoming 360 exclusive, Mass Effect, just keeps getting better and better every time I see it. The game’s deep story elements and engaging action-RPG gameplay make it one title that no Xbox 360 owner will likely want to miss this year.

PC:  After changing hands from Atari to Sierra, TimeShift gained a second chance and another year added to its development. However, this delay certainly has been for the better, as TimeShift’s graphics have been greatly improved, its storyline completely changed, and it’s time-related gameplay mechanics added to. While it was on track to be just another lousy FPS that bit off more than it could chew, TimeShift really could be a top contender on the PC.

PS3: Whereas there is much debate concerning the PS3’s ability to pump out the revered Unreal Engine 3, but Unreal Tournament 3 will certainly quell those arguments once it releases. The game looks gorgeous, comparable to the PC version, and runs along very smoothly. Not only that, but the gameplay will also be a blast for online play with the brand new Warfare mode.

Louis Bedigian:

Most Anticipated Game: I didn't believe the hype. "Assasin's Creed is a new franchise," I remember thinking. "It could go either way." It wasn't until the morning of Friday, July 13 that I remembered why it couldn't go either way – why it was destined to be a classic. You see, I had forgotten how much I loved Prince of Persia. But as I ran through one of the game’s crowded city, hopped across rooftops, and tackled a thug after a deadly setup, I was overcome with amazement. Some of the elements have been seen before (sneaking, stealth kills, etc.), but there were several diverse and original gameplay aspects that reached a new level of immersion. The way you have to blend in with the crowd to avoid detection, how the crowd interacts, and the way you can use your powers to detect potential threats – it will blow your mind.

This is the kind of game that caters to experimentation. It was the greatest E3 surprise for me, because like I said, I was a fool going into the show – I had forgotten what these developers were capable of producing. Consider this my last mistake. I won't forget again.

Xbox 360: An enormous and highly involved game that’s set to redefine what it means to be “open-ended.” I spent 30 minutes with the Assassin’s Creed demo, finished it, and wanted to start all over again. It felt like there were an infinite number of possibilities. Every character you see has to be considered in each mission. Do you kill a civilian that holds you up or merely push him out of the way? If you do neither and run into him, you’ll stumble and be forced to recover for a second before running at full capacity.

Assassin’s Creed’s battles are not a hack-n-slash-fest. The combat is simple and cinematic. You can time your attacks and reversals to kill enemies with style and sophistication. Most of the enemy death sequences involve your sword, their flesh, and a realistic amount of blood – all presented from changing camera angles and with multiple attack animations to keep the game looking gorgeous in all its next-gen glory.

PlayStation 3: Dante in more polygons. Dante in high resolution. Dante in another action game that mirrors its own style while injecting additional enemies, larger worlds, and a movable camera system. The Devil May Cry 4 controls are just slightly above PS2-quality, which was fantastic, and the camera is Capcom’s best since Dead Rising. Devil May Cry fans will be in awe of the overpowering buildings – they’re made up of individual, 3D structures that show signs of interactivity. If we’re lucky, this will eliminate any of the restrictions found in the past DMC titles.

The E3 demo wasn’t made by a rocket scientist, but it showed promise as the series’ first next-gen offering, and is on track to becoming one of the year’s best action games.

Nintendo Wii: Wii Fit's hardware is innovative, but Nintendo's Italian plumber stole the show with Super Mario Galaxy. Mario’s controls, his likable aesthetic and pack of beloved villains and power-ups are the only things that resurface in this long-awaited sequel. The worlds, though inspired by the visual style of past Mario adventures, are like nothing the world has ever seen. Dozens of spherical platforms have been trapped in space to form mini planets for Mario to explore.

That wouldn’t be overly groundbreaking if he tackled them as usual, and that’s precisely why Galaxy is such an exciting game. Instead of jumping from one flat surface to the next, Mario can actually grip and completely walk around each sphere as if he were experiencing the effects of gravity on a tiny Earth. The camera changes accordingly (with stunning results I must add), keeping the “oohs” and “ahhhs” coming without any grumbles. The worlds you see in the screenshots are (thankfully) just a sampling of what the finished game will contain.

Nintendo DS: Music madness on an unlikely platform. Ontamarama challenges you to tap several key points on the screen to acquire music sounds, and later regurgitate those sounds by pressing buttons in-sync with scrolling icons. It might appear to be a quirky handheld edition of some dance pad or guitar controller music game. But Ontamarama was actually one of the most entertaining DS games at the show. It’s one of those titles that, if you like music and enjoy games that can manipulate cool beats, will turn you into an addict in less than five minutes.

PSP: The creepy, atmospheric PS2 survival/horror series comes to Sony’s handheld in the form of a PSP-exclusive prequel, Silent Hill Origins. Graphically and musically, Silent Hill Origins is an astonishing conversion. The light and shadow effects – where shadows bend and twist in real-time – are far ahead of the PSP games you’re used to playing. There were a lot of great-looking games at the show, but Silent Hill put them all to shame.

The gameplay is equally impressive, mixing the series’ traits (disturbing notes, desperate escapes, and the most sickly creatures known to man) with new, single-use weapons that encourage the player to grab whatever, whenever and never stop running. Thus far the gameplay speed and enemy frequency is on par with the previous games. Enjoy the monster-free moments while they last, save often, and stay guarded at all times – Silent Hill Origins could be the first handheld game that shouldn’t be played with the lights out.