A precise summary of all the good games on show at E3 would require far more space than the average person would have any interest in reading. The footage that trickles out of the LA mega-show represents a fraction of the exhibited products. Turning off of the beaten path will often lead to innovative ideas from ambitious studios that lack the money and clout to justify their own press conference, or snag a place in that of a different company.
Games like Bastion, a wonderful action-RPG that features a procedural voiceover that describes your actions, whether it's slaying a boss or randomly smashing every box in sight. Or Dead Island, which grabbed the industry’s attention a few months ago with an emotionally manipulative trailer that revealed nothing about the actual gameplay. For the record: the game looks nothing like the trailer, but it does look pretty damn good.
Then there are the also-rans: games made or supported by larger companies that will never quite be marquee names; games like Journey, which challenges virtually every assumption we have about online multiplayer gaming; or Overstrike, the new IP from novelty weapons-specialist Insomniac Games; or SSX, the long awaited new instalment in EA’s superb snowboarding franchise; or Rayman Origins, a game so delightful that it made Ubisoft’s largely dull press conference almost worth watching.
But the very best, worst and most surprising games of E3 are listed here, a miscellany of products that will delight and frustrate you over the year to come.
Other corners of the videogames press expressed some concern over the tone of the Tomb Raider demo. Evidently, Lara Croft’s cries of struggle and fear struck some as gratuitous, even vaguely misogynist. These sensitive souls need to lighten up, because the Tomb Raider I saw was atmospheric and visually splendid, reminiscent at times of both God Of War and Uncharted 2, with the least sexualised heroine in the series’ history. I have a few reservations, not least of which is the generous number of quick-time events, but I also have great confidence in Crystal Dynamics, whose Tomb Raider: Underworld deserved wider attention.
Irrational Games is taking on a lot of new challenges with Bioshock Infinite, chief among them the burden of following a game as highly regarded as its predecessor. The city of Columbia is brighter, more prosperous and open than Rapture, its single-track skylines allow a greater speed and freedom of movement. The protagonist, Booker DeWitt, is a defined character with a voice, his mysterious companion Elizabeth the most complicated non-player character Irrational has ever attempted. Oh, and she can rip holes in the fabric of time. Everything I know about Bioshock Infinite is legitimately exciting, and I get the feeling that there’s a lot more to come.
Batman: Arkham City
Rocksteady’s brilliant Arkham Asylum was so well constructed, so free of fat and spurious ideas, that I feared the jump to an open-world might undermine the whole experience. In the end it still might, but my experience with Arkham City was overwhelmingly positive. The world is five times bigger, but Rocksteady has clearly thought the connotations of that through very carefully, leaving us with all the benefits of sandbox environment and none of the problems. Expect the same splendid art direction and a menagerie of Batman’s most iconic villains.
Uncharted: Drake’s Deception
It says a lot about Naughty Dog’s audacious and brilliant Uncharted 2: Among Thieves that Sony’s demo of the third game did not exceed my expectations: Nathan Drake staggering around a vast boat being battered by the waves of a raging storm, the sea, the boat, and the objects on deck all moving independently of each other. Most people don’t stop to pull apart the ambience for flashes of technical brilliance; they get the show-stopping moment where the boat slowly tilts and capsizes, instead. Uncharted: Drake’s Deception is as beautiful and exciting as we all knew it would be.
Too Obvious: Bethesda jumped the gun and let the world know precisely how sensational The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim looks back in April. If it isn’t named game of the show I’ll be very surprised.