The months leading up to E3 2011 had gamers jump from being ritualistically interested to overwhelmingly excited. What were Microsoft going to show? And what of Sony? Can they really ignore the month of PSN troubles and upset? Nintendo has a brand new console to show off plus games for their 3DS, or at least that’s what we hope.
So E3 has barely even begun and the highlights are already vast in number. Microsoft officially kicked things off with their Press Conference and did so with the wealthiest franchise, Call of Duty. Yes, Modern Warfare 3 was demoed live on an Xbox 360, a point made even clearer when the “please reconnect controller” error popped up on screen. Deliberate? Probably. But hell, Modern Warfare 3 did look really rather good and ran incredibly smooth on a five year old system. The gameplay shown still had that Call of Duty game style and execution which has become more of a criticism than complement but with the last two titles selling like crazy – both on release and the years after – it’s not a huge surprise that Sledgehammer Games and Infinity Ward, the co-development team, are sticking to a tried and tested formula.
After the shooting was over, Crystal Dynamics took to the stage to debut gameplay from next years Tomb Raider reboot and boy, does that look good. Graphically it’s more impressive than previous iterations as both the environment AND Lara have a realistic quality about them. Since Lara is on her own, she was constantly talking to herself, saying things like “I need to get out of here” referring to the cave she was imprisoned in by some scrappy-looking vagabonds. It added a great feeling of tension and fear without coming across as contrived but we only saw it for a limited time. Continuous chatter from a frightened teenage girl can go from dramatic to annoying very quickly I’d imagine. That being said, I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a Tomb Raider game as I have been for the reboot and the demo just underlined that fact. The Tomb Raider reboot is said to be coming some time next year.
Next up for my personal highlights just so happened to be the next game in Microsoft’s line up. Mass Effect 3. Big boss Ray Muzyka spoke of ME3 being the beginning of something big and that it’s the perfect time to jump into the franchise. A little late if you ask me seeing as there’s been two awesome games before it. Nevertheless, ME3 adds something extra to all the sci-fi shooting and sexual tension. It adds Kinect. Inclusion of motion controls has been rumoured for a while after the game’s box art featured a Kinect logo on it and thankfully hands-free gaming won’t hinder what has so far been a brilliant controller-based series. Because strictly speaking, it isn’t the motion camera ME3 uses. It’s the microphone. Kinect will allow players to issue strategic commands to team members by telling them where to go and what to do on the battlefield. Not only that but conversations can be had by actually talking to the characters, saying the responses shown on ME‘s conversation wheel instead of selecting them with the right stick. I really like both those ideas, a lot, though am slightly sceptical as to whether it will feel a bit gimmicky. But I have faith in BioWare. For now.
The will they won’t they drama of a Halo 1 remake came to an end with an official announcement of Halo Anniversary doing exactly what you’d expect, remastering Halo. The original campaign has been spruced up considerably for the Xbox 360 with classic multiplayer maps and online co-op to boot. One thing I really appreciated about the recent Halo games is the omitance of the Flood. I hate that enemy type. I mean really hated them. Now they’ll be back in HD to annoy me all over again. Joy. But that aside, I’m quite looking forward to reliving my time as a 20 year old gamer playing Halo for the first time and thinking how a relatively unknown game can be so important to the industry.
E3 just wouldn’t be E3 without Peter Molyneux making an appearance in a Microsoft’s press conference telling us about the next big Fable game. This year won’t be any different with the announcement of Fable: The Journey which looks to be a prequel using Kinect to do things like control the reigns of a horse and carriage as well as the combat of the game. The demoer was raising his hands to ready magic, jolting them forward to release it onto the hobbes that needed eradicating. Varying hand movemens and gestured seemed to launch different kinds of spells so my initial fears of Fable: The Journey being no more than a Kinect shooting gallery maybe unnecessary. I can’t but wonder how the game will be received after Fable III ended with not so much a bang but an unhappy whimper from the audience. Can Kinect bring the series back to a happy place in our hearts?
Remember the announcement of Star Wars Kinect last year and how staged it looked? This year sees another dubious demo but at least there was more footage that represented what will be in game. Things like waving your hands to swish a lightsaber around or raising obstructions using the force by lifting your hands in that air. All this set in the prequel era of Star Wars which, admittedly, isn’t the best time for fans of the films but makes the most sense for games. That way there can be numerous Jedis and locations known by more than just the hardcore. Events like Pod Racing look to also make an appearance no doubt similar to Kinect Joy Ride in its controls. I really liked the Pod Racer game a few generations ago so welcomes another dip into that particular sport. I just hope it and the rest of Star Wars Kinect lives up the the hype.
I’ll end my first lengthy article about E3 with a game Microsoft closed their press conference with; Halo 4. Coming Christmas 2012 is the start of another trilogy of Halo games staring Master Chief and Cortana as they do battle with, well, I don’t actually know. The reveal was short but very sweet and looked to be set directly after Halo 3, when the Chief was frozen cryogenically on board a distant space ship. Something disturbed his slumber forcing him to burst out his pod, grab the holographic honey and see where all the noise was coming from. It didn’t look good. His ship was being destroyed by some unknown force that looked a little like Unicron from Transformers but obviously isn’t. Thought how awesome would it be if it were?! That was pretty much all Microsoft and 343 Industries showed but it was more than enough to arouse the audience and left me wondering what else E3 has in store after such an eventful beginning. I can’t wait to find out!