Published: 22 June 2012
Over the course of E3 2012, a theme circulating around my head was the idea of wonder and curiosity versus the concept of expectations, and how those two ideas factor into personal anticipation. As this relates to my ten best of E3, with one glorious exception, each title is defined by how much I don't know about it, and how the small bits and pieces I've come to understand feed my anticipation.
This doesn't necessarily imply that games I know (or could sense) a great deal about won't be great when they come out, but rather that those games are a known quantity. For example, I got the impression that Resident Evil 6 is probably going to be a streamlined version of Resident Evil 5 with some marginally successful horror elements tossed in, whereas Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is going to be Tekken Motherf***ing Tag Tournament v2.0, and I'm totally cool with both of those. They're likely going to be excellent games and I can't wait to play them, but I'm not necessarily anticipating their presence as much as the titles that seemed to keep most of their secrets safely tucked away. With that in mind, here are the ten games from E3 2012 that I am most looking forward to playing.
DmC: Devil May Cry (Ninja Theory)
Ninja Theory's interpretation of Devil May Cry is rubbing fans the wrong way for legitimate reasons. Dante's new look certainly doesn't help, but the bulk of the complaints lie with combat, or, more specifically, how it's been rendered in thirty frames per second. Again, I totally get that, but what impressed me about Devil May Cry wasn't necessarily its combat mechanics, but rather the world it's creating. Demon slaying had conceivably traveled to every end of the spectrum and left no stone unturned in regard to environment or theme, but there went Devil May Cry pitting Dante in a fake talent show rave combo arena thing complete with disco floors, pretty lights, and a seemingly infinite. El Shaddai proved that strong art could carry a game over and around tepid combat mechanics, and I hope Devil May Cry broadcasts a similar selection of surreal, weird shit for Dante to explore. And hey, maybe combat will turn out OK too. Read my impressions and play it January 15th 2013.
Dyad (Shawn McGrath)
Before I ever knew it existed, Dyad created a tractor beam to my brain. With about an hour before my next meeting, I found myself wandering aimlessly through Sony's booth just looking around to see what caught my eye. Tucked away in a corner with a couple other PlayStation Network games, an infectious onslaught of lights and colors appeared to be either an interactive kaleidoscope or a psychotropic illicit substance simulator - but in reality those spacey images were from Dyad, an alluring title that could sort of be described as mash-up of Tempest and Rez taking place in comatose Wipeout pilot’s brain. "Beautiful hybrid of racing, shooter, and puzzle genres" is another way to describe Dyad, but doesn't afford the same quantity of respect as name dropping those illustrious titles. That's kind of hyperbolic, sure, but Dyad desperately wants to be something special and it's all out assault on sensory perception might be enough to get it there. Read my impressions.
Hitman: Absolution (I/O Interactive)
Hitman Absolution is ostensibly part this year’s onslaught of hyper violent murder simulators driving all of the Steve Schardeins of the world completely nuts with their relentless bloodlust. I suppose it’s completely possible to brute force your way through Absolution guns blazing, but to do so would ignore its finer intricacies. Or, to put it blatantly, it’s not the point. The myriad of options for Agent 47 to engage in his environment is staggering, and wiping out your marks with efficiency and secrecy is a much more appealing end-game. Blood Money did this with reasonable success half a decade ago, and Absolution is looking to pick up where it left off and hit the ground running. Having seen or played three complete levels now, I have few doubts that it’s not, at least critically, going to dominate this November 20th. Read my impressions.
Dishonored (Arkane Studios)
Dishonored more or less inspired my angle on this list. Off all the games here, I don't think any has as much potential for unparalleled creativity (or crushing failure, I suppose) than Arkane Studio's Dishonored. I didn't really include this sentiment in my preview article, but I was shocked to find a person-person shooter that almost seemed to discourage shooting. Sure, you had a gun, but the limited ammo count was meant to encourage experimentation with Dishonored's myriad of magic abilities. Very few of these powers (possession, teleportation, bullet time, force-push, etc) are genuinely new, but there hasn't yet been a game that's truly allowed the player to use any combination of them as they see fit. In Dishonored, both the level we watched and the level I played seemed ripe with possibility. Perhaps the folks at Arkane have cleverly masked their series of scripts for potential actions, or maybe Dishonored actually is the legitimate sandbox we've all been waiting for. We’ll find out on October 9th, 2012, until then, read my impressions.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Criterion)
Need for Speed Most Wanted is the only exception on my first as I'm pretty sure we know exactly what this game is going to be. The folks at Criterion appear to be merging their open world design from Burnout Paradise with the Autolog features from their previous Need for Speed title, Hot Pursuit. Slicing Burnout's frame rate in half apparently made room for a much prettier game along with a new suite of multiplayer options. Specifically the ability to essentially grief your buddy's mid-race has potential to up the ante on craziness (a facet of which Burnout Paradise was in no short supply). As my demo ended and I struggled to put the controller down, I revealed that I was afraid of Most Wanted because Burnout Paradisesucked away hundreds of hours of my life. A gentleman from Criterion responsed, "Hundreds? That’s it?"
Watch Dogs (Ubisoft)
Watch Dogs is an even riskier bet than Dishonored. Ubisoft's twenty minute demo either offered an insanely dynamic world full of potential and possibility that's ultimately determined by the actions and choices of the player, or a flashy series of canned sequences that everyone will eventually experience. Much to its credit, what was most impressive about Watch Dogs was that it actually seemed to be doing something new in the gaming landscape. The tasks and actions of the lead character were likely only possible in the advanced level systems of high end PC's and yet to be announced consoles. Yes, the visuals were awesome and the dynamically generated car crash was neat, but I think the act of doing something new is more of a next-gen concept than looking pretty. I didn't care for the end when it broke down into a tepid shooting sequence, but, other than that, Watch Dogs was one of the most promising games of the show.
The Unfinished Swan (Giant Sparrow)
The Unfinished Swan is practically defined by what we don't know about it. In a game all about discovery, the first level drops the player in a solid white 'level' and only allows him or her toss out globs of black paint. If the paint hits a surface it becomes appropriately splattered, allowing the player to traverse shades of the newly-visible area. Even if the landscape was essentially pre-defined, it felt neat to "build" the world from scratch with a single crude tool. What's more exciting was Giant Sparrow’s mission to encapsulate the first fifteen minutes of a game, the traditional discovery period when one plays a new game for the first time, as a theme for the entire experience of The Unfinished Swan. In this regard every level is said to be wildly divergent from the last. This provides an opportunity for imagination to run wild, and, if execution properly, transition into a cool little game along the way. Read my impressions.
Sound Shapes (Queasy Games)
My appreciation for Everyday Shooter knows no bounds, so it's not surprising to see Queasy Games' follow-up hitting some of those same notes (almost literally). Sound Shapes'platforming mechanics were solid, but what pushed the game over the edge was how the wonderful music not only expanded an added to a level's soundtrack, but also worked in tandem with the necessary timing for avoid particular pratfalls. Additionally, a nice surprised lied with the level from Superbrothers and Jim Guthrie which not only incorporated the surreal art direction that defined Swords and Sworcery, but fundamentally changed the type of game I thought Sound Shapes could be by accommodating its mechanics to a puzzle paradigm. Neat stuff for sure, and suggestive of more surprises in store when it finally drops August 7th, 2012. Read my impressions.
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance (Platinum Games / Kojima Productions)
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance is sold on concept alone; Metal Gear. Raiden. Platinum Games. Character action games are Platinum's specialty, so when Kojima Productions couldn't produce satisfactory results with Rising's "cut everything" motif, there were perhaps not better studios than Platinum to move over and take the reins. The brief demo was also impressive, or at least in terms of the ease in which it let me slice the living hell out of some cyborgs, as was the frame rate that seemed appropriately smooth at sixty-frames-per-second. A follow-up roundtable interview I participated in with Platinum and Kojima Productions' staff left little doubt that Rising aspires to join Vanquish and Bayonetta as another masterpiece from Platinum, no doubt aided by the narrative influence from KojiPro. I just wish it was coming out sooner.
Hokra (Ramiro Corbetta)
Visiting the IndieCade, a literally off-to-the-side collection of independent games, was my saving grace on the last day of E3. Hungry and uncaffeinated, I stumbled into the small IndieCade area in between appointments and was instantly invited by a kind stranger to play a "minimalist sports game." A few minutes later I was sitting on a comfy couch with three other people, looking at a giant television featuring primitive blocky graphics, and being told vague rules of the game we were about to play. Hokra, as it turns out, is a two on two competitive game where each player, represented by a small square, tries to get the ball (an even smaller square) into their team's respective goals in each corner of the map. Winning is achieved by keeping the ball inside your goal area for a cumulative amount of time. The first match was clumsy and bewildering, but eventually we all got the hang of it and I ended up spending an hour playing with and developing insane strategies for Hokra.
Honestly Hokra, (and really the entire IndieCade environment), was some of the most fun I had at any E3. It's laid-back, inviting atmosphere was a welcomed change from the hilarious bullshit competing for my attention on the show floor. In any case, Hokra really is a great game and I have no idea if it will ever come out on anything, but it was an experience I'll not soon forget.