Saturday, 23 June 2012

My E3 2012 Round-up!

This post was originally published on Forces of Geek just over a week ago. Hence why it's only here now. Enjoy.

It might sound like a co-ordinate in a game of Battleship or an ordinance survey reference number but for the masses of loyal geek enthusiasts, E3 is the most important combination of a single letter and number (I challenge you to think of another that isn't a bra size). As a self confessed gamer and geek, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is one of my highlights of the year; Queen's Jubilee... 2012 Olympics... pfft, whatever. I have yet to attend the expo but last week my online world revolved around the live streaming announcements. Getting involved in live-tweeting, conversing with other gaming writers and journalists and of course watching the videos and updates through my Xbox and online gives a great feeling of community.

Over the years, one can start to predict a certain formula with regards to the announcements. Many of the big titles and sequels are already well underway so there's little surprise when they are officially announced but the new footage is always welcomed. In addition to new titles, we will be sold the latest peripheral update. This was in fact the subject of E3 2010 with the 3DS, Playstation Move and Kinect. The next big logical surprise is the announcement of a series of next generation consoles (though Microsoft claim there's a few years left in their Xbox 360 yet). Despite this, there were a few moments this year that left me genuinely open-jawed.

I knew the Halo 4 trailer was due to be announced and up until I saw it, I felt quite anxious. Halo is one of my favourite game franchises and I was fearful and sceptical when Bungie handed the reigns over to 343 Industries. That, and the news that series composer Martin McDonnell would not be returning to score the game. Many of the aspects that made Halo what it is today were gone so I was understandably nervous.

Best Space Cowboy Ever!
It was the live action sequence the trailer began with that reignited the same excitement I had when Halo: Reach was announced and it also reaffirmed my belief that a Halo film would be awesome (Remember ODST and the voice acting from Nathan Fillion?! - that's when I first thought about a Halo film!). After the rather impressive live action sequence, we were treated to some gameplay footage accompanied by music from the new composer who is a co-writer and producer of Massive Attack. After hearing what he's created so far, I was blown away... all my doubts faded and my confidence in the continuation of the Halo saga was restored. The score felt exactly right and knowing it was Neil Davidge mightily impressed me.

The footage illustrates new enemies and multiplayer game modes to look forward to (though, admittedly - and I did tweet about this - some of them do look a little Gears of War Lambent-y!) but ultimately, Halo 4 feels like it's injected new life into the franchise as 343 have definitely made their mark without completely removing the definitive Halo feel. Furthermore, critics and naysayers of the franchise will no longer be able to say "It's just the same game again." When a game sequel promises to deliver something new whilst remaining grounded enough in the already established universe, it's an absolute joy to behold and November can't come soon enough!

L-R: Probably a member of the Carmine family, Baird, Cole, Carmine? 
Something which raced by during the Xbox briefing was a rather short Gears of War trailer for a new game called Gears of War: Judgement.

Just when I thought the franchise had ended we're treated to a prequel title!

This game focuses on the character Baird which means we'll probably be in for a lot of comic relief as well as some interesting back story for this fan favourite secondary character. Personally though, I'm more excited to see the Cole Train again!

Of course, there was plenty of news about various sports games but as I still maintain that they aren't really fit for video game adaptation (yeah, bring on the complaints) I shan't be commenting on those titles. If I want to play sport I will go outside and play it for real. And why would I do that when there are Brazilians to shoot in Max Payne 3?

Crazy Two-Wheeled Sentient Vehicle
Then there was the rather brief teaser trailer for LocoCycle: a game which didn't give anything away including what the hell it was about, leaving many of us to speculate wildly that it might be about a sentient, female, motorbike thing... yep... weird Yet the lack of anything whatsoever in this trailer was strangely compelling. I'll definitely be looking out for more on this.

Another trailer which ultimately showed very little but had me intrigued was for a game called Matter - which appears to be the lovechild of Tron and Portal and therefore one of the coolest concepts ever. Please note, I have no idea if either Tron or Portal are adequate comparative reflections of this game... just the trailer. Judging from the footage, it seems to be a puzzle game - a genre which is massively under-represented these days save for small arcade releases and downloadable mini games. Another one to add to my list of things to watch out for!

Ubisoft were definitely the stars of E3 this year, partly due to other publishers leaking information early and having very little to actually show/announce at the expo. The majority was co-hosted by Aisha Tyler who had an insanely difficult task of trying to simultaneously keep up with and sedate the aptly nicknamed Mr Caffeine (Toby 'Tobuscus' Turner). However, their briefing was incredibly good. I love the concepts, look and feel of all the Assassin's Creed titles; though, rather strangely, I've never actually played them, despite the fact that my house is littered with Ezio and Altair figurines and the mark of the assassins is everywhere - thanks to my fanatical boyfriend and I don't wanna end up a mental mess like him. But I digress, Assassin's Creed 3 looks fantastic though and rather than repeating the same game in a different period of history, there's more to it than that. There's new multiplayer modes, hunting animals (which they've been working on way before Rockstar introduced it in Red Dead Redemption apparently) and due to the spread out nature of houses back in Revolutionary America, the protagonist now utilises the natural surroundings to leap, jump and climb up, making the gameplay more varied and dynamic. As for the title's aesthetic, it's essentially a recreation of HBO's critically acclaimed John Adams and knowing Ubisoft, I'm sure we'll meet some influential historical figures in the game.. and maybe murder them. I'd take on Washington for his dislike of British children but this cautionary video explains why I should not [NSFW]:

The biggest surprise of the expo and another Ubisoft game to look out for, is Watch Dogs. At first, the trailer explained what "ctOS" was, leaving many games journalists and fans referring to it thusly on twitter. After searching on Google, there was literally nothing about this game online - an absolute achievement to keep something so huge, so secret. It also led to the very brief belief that this was in fact the first title for a new next-gen console, owing to its superior graphics. The trailer was innovative and so immersive that it felt like it was advertising a real product as opposed to a game, either that or basically informing us that Skynet was real. Absolutely fantastic concepts and execution, not to mention how refreshing it is to see a new intellectual property on the horizon, in this era of rehashing and endless sequels.

So, how to summarise my opinion of this year's Electronic Enhancement-y Eaglenest Expiration.. thing? AWARDS! That's how!

The award for Best Publisher of E3 2012 goes to Ubisoft for their entertaining on-stage program, great sequel unveiling and being one of the only publishers with new content.

The award for Biggest Surprise goes to Ubisoft's Watch Dogs - hard to believe there's a new original release coming out!

The Hardware award goes to Ninendo for their WiiU updates - no contest really considering Sony and Microsoft have no need to release a next gen console yet. It was also nice to see the tablet utilised well with ZombiU, let's hope this isn't like Twilight Princess (the only game to really explore the potential of the Wii controllers).

Most Pointless award goes to Microsoft's connectivity announcements. SmartGlass, Xbox Music (inspired name and just yet another musical app to clutter up the Xbox dashboard) plus a handful of other too little too late concepts that will no doubt pass most gamers by.

Granted, there are countless titles that I haven't explored here, such as Resident Evil 6, Tomb Raider, South Park: The Stick Of Truth, so let me know your thoughts about these and those games I've mentioned, in the comments section below.

So, there you have it. My E3 2012 round-up. Maybe next year I'll be there in it's shiny new location getting all the news as it happens, until then I'll be making wishes and crossing my fingers!

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