Best of E3 2011: Sequels, Story Reign Supreme

Best of E3 2011: Sequels, Reign Supreme

Hello there folks! As you've seen at our E3 2011 topic page, we have been bringing the E3 coverage fast and furious. We have a few more roundups for you with some more previews, both hands-on and developer walkthroughs, with some real stand-outs left.

But for now, we tease you a bit with our Best of E3 2011. With three people providing coverage, each of us, Seth Robison, Lucas Siegel, and Courtney Woods provided nominations for every category. One person was then chosen to make the final call and explain why their game was the winner. We all provided our choice for Best in Show, and you can join in the fun by choosing which of our choice wins in the poll below.

 

Best New Tech

Nominees: Wii U (S), PlayStation Vita (L), PlayStation Vita (C)

Winner: PlayStation Vita (Lucas)

The PlayStation Vita, formerly known simply as the "Next Generation Portable" was a surprisingly big reveal, for something that had actually already been revealed. With a vast array of inputs, this portable system will quite literally change the way games are played on the go. The initial suite of games looks to be reaching into a wide variety of existing franchises, showing off PS3-level graphics, and the controls actually work. With ease of use, presentation that is nothing short of shocking, and a value-driven price-point of $249, the PlayStation Vita was the best new tech shown off at E3 2011, and should be on a lot of wishlists next year.

 

Best Shooter

Nominees: BioShock: Infinite (S), Battlefield 3 (L), BioShock: Infinite (C)

Winner: Battlefield 3 (Lucas)

Modern what-fare? I've never been familiar with the Battlefield series, and when I saw early screenshots of this didn't think there was much reason to start. Then I saw it in person. This is one of the best looking games our there, for starters. Some of the graphical fidelity they showed off both in trailers and gameplay made everyone watching oo and ah. The game itself, having played on PC, just feels more real than any shooter I've ever played. There are little things, like the fact that when you vault over cover, your character actually puts his hand on it and lifts himself over. It makes for a more visceral experience, and keeps you that much more in the action. Controls were smooth and fast, and the game looked as gorgeous in-motion, if not mores, than in still shots or pre-rendered trailers. The BioShock: Infinite demo definitely left a lot of people speechless, and was amazing to watch, but getting hands-on time with Battlefield 3 put it over the top. This is a shooter that will renew fans' faith in shooters, and is the definitive war game to buy in Fall 2011.

 

Best RPG

Nominees: Mass Effect 3 (S), Mass Effect 3 (L), Mass Effect 3 (C)

Winner: Mass Effect 3 (Courtney)

This was the only category where the nominees were unanimous. The Mass Effect franchise has proven over the years that BioWare knows how to make not just good games, but fantastic ones. The improvements in combat, storytelling, and graphics made in ME2 from the original were outstanding and it looks like they have done it again for Commander Shepard’s final chapter. There were many strong candidates for Best RPG, butME3 was chosen because it is clear that the team is listening to the fans by bringing back familiar faces, including more RPG elements, and diversifying the combat, while still making this a game that new players to the franchise will be able to play and enjoy. That, and the omniblade.

 

Best Action Adventure

Nominees: Batman: Arkham City (S), Uncharted 3 (L), Uncharted 3 (C)

Winner: Batman: Arkham City (Seth)

The Dark Knight returns in Batman: Arkham City and he’s back with a vengeance. The gameplay that made Batman: Arkham Asylum perhaps the best superhero game ever made. Freed from the confines of the island and linear progression, the open world of Arkham City will up the ante with new villains and an expanded role for the members of Batman’s rogues gallery that have already appeared. Paul Dini’s pen, Kevin Conroy’s Batman, and perhaps Mark Hamill’s last performance as the Joker, a playable Catwoman, complete with her own move set and her own take on ‘Detective Vision’ (which in and of itself has found a way to be improved) are all just icing on this green and purple, probably explosive cake.

 

Best Press Conference

Nominees: Nintendo (S), EA (L), EA (C)

Winner: EA (Lucas)

Electronic Arts came to play at E3 this year. They brought games like Mass Effect 3, Battlefield 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and more franchise favorites. While they didn't launch any new properties at this show, they just plain didn't need to. From the wow of Battlefield 3's graphics to the excitement of seeing old friends in Mass Effect 3, the previews shown during EA's conference came fast and furious, and had the crowd cheering. Like Microsoft and Sony before them, EA did wind up trotting out some "celebrity guests" in the form of three football players (Boooo. Go Bears!), but aside from that, they kept it all about the games. It was fun, it was exciting, and it made everyone in the audience want to skip through time to play the new wares they're peddling.

 

Best Booth

Nominees: 2K (S), Sony (L), Sony (C)

Winner: Sony (Courtney)

While some booths at E3 were visually impressive, complete with dragon sculptures, or massive ceiling to floor posters, what makes a great booth comes down to three key features: organized booth tours, a large area for hands-on demos, and impressive closed-door presentations. While Sony’s booth might not have been as visually satisfying as some of its competitors, they soared when it came to those three features. Broken up into sections, there was plenty of space on the floor for hands-on demos, while the actual booth tours were on a private raised platform. It was one of the few times, outside the closed-door presentations, that you could easily hear what the developers and PR people staffing the booth had to say. The tours were extremely well organized and quick – just what the press needs during an event like E3. Naughty Dog’s Uncharted Theater was built to look like the inside of a cargo plane, complete with cargo boxes for seating and bullet shells on the ground! Only Bioshock Infinite’s presentation had the same attention to detail in the theater itself. The copper espresso machine just outside was also a nice touch.

 

Best Portable

Nominees: Uncharted: Golden Abyss (S), Dynasty Warriors Vita (L), Uncharted: Golden Abyss (C)

Winner: Uncharted: Golden Abyss (Seth)

I’d like to be a little cheeky here and give it to the Wii U, even if the portable part is just the controller, but the new tech of the PlayStation Vita pushes Uncharted: Golden Abyss over the top. Nathan Drake’s miniaturized adventure looks small only in the sense that you can carry it around with you. Visually it looks to be the rare piece of launch/near-launch software to push a new hardware’s capabilities right out of the box. The touch and drag climbing interface, allowing you scale walls and make jumps in sequence by dragging a path with your finger using the Vita’s dual touch pads, might be the ultimate solution to the sometimes frustrating task of lining up a jump. Finally, although Golden Abyss is not being developed by franchise founder Naughty Dog, their promised supervision (and the voice of Nolan North) will all but guarantee a great Uncharted experience.

 

Best Downloadable Game

Nominees: Jurassic Park (S), Gotham City Imposters (L), Renegade Ops (C)

Winner: Renegade Ops (Courtney)

Sometimes it’s the little things that surprise you the most. In this case, it’s little tanks. Renegade Ops is everything that a downloadable game should be: easy to start, fun to play, and extremely addictive. It’s a basic game: four players drive around in tanks, each with a specific “special weapon” and blow enemies sky high, and that is what makes it a pleasant surprise. Instead of burdening the game with too many features, the developers at Avalanche Studios realized that for this kind of game simpler is better. This simplicity of the game allows for you and your friends to focus on the explosions and, of course, getting the highest score. For the record? I completely annihilated Lucas in our demo.

E3 2011: New STAR TREK Game Announced
E3 2011: New STAR TREK Game Announced
 

Best Closed Door (hands off) Presentation

Nominees: Star Trek (S), Uncharted 3 (L), BioShock: Infinite (C)

Winner: Star Trek (Seth)

The game with the tightest security was also one that was worth the paperwork and the legally binding promises. As a fan of the classic point-and-click Star Trek games from the early nineties, I was wary about the switch to a seemingly ‘un-Trek like’ third person shooter title. Thankfully I was wrong, as the kinetic pace of the renewed franchise is matched with an original story and a clever use of the character’s personalities (Kirk, impulsive/Spock, contemplative) to influence the gameplay. The wait for the next move just because irrelevant, grab a member of your crew and play this game instead.

 

Best in Show - Seth

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

For fans of old school gaming, if the year 2000 could be considered old school, the long awaited Deus Ex: Human Revolution looks to bring back the kind of true ‘personal choice’ gameplay that has often been imitated, but never truly duplicated. This new entry in the series also brings with it a new visual take on the cyberpunk genre and the same kind of deep, filled out world that only a game dedicated to the single-player experience can have. The challenge and the choices available (like going the entire game without killing a non-boss character) will have gamers coming back to Deus Ex: Human Revolution for years to come.

 

Best in Show - Lucas

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Back in 2009, I called Uncharted 2 "the best game on this generation of consoles," a statement that can still be argued today, despite some amazing games in the meantime. The fine folks at Naughty Dog say that Uncharted 3 is meant to surpass the game-of-the-year many times over, and everything they showed at E3 2011 supported that. Their presentation in the Sony press conference shocked people with the moving boat that actually turned over in the midst of the level. The closed-door presentation showed another moving level, an exciting brawl, and a cliff hanger (cause cargo strap hanger doesn't roll off the tongue) of an adventure. Their new trailer teased possible marriage, new/old alliances, and a sinister new villain that is sure to cause copious amounts of trouble for Nate and his friends. On top of all that, they had two different multiplayer modes playable at the show that each gave reasons for you to log hundreds of hours playing this title, not just whipping through the story and calling it quits. In an amazing suite of games, and a very crowded second half of 2011, Uncharted 3 soared above the competition as the Best Game of E3.

 

Best in Show - Courtney

Star Wars: The Old Republic

So many great games were presented at E3 this year. Every day it became harder and harder to choose which one was the absolute best. For me, the deciding factor came down to which of these amazing games is going to revolutionize the industry. Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to change MMORPGs forever. BioWare is taking everything that fans love about online games, but adding the features that already make their single player games great: strong storytelling, player decisions, and consequences. Add Star Wars to that equation and you truly have something special. SWTOR is giving Star Wars fans the chance to step into the shoes of some of their favorite characters, but also tell their own personal story. The playable demo gave players a chance to see the iconic “Force Choke” and “Sith Lightning” working together to obliterate Sand People. You won’t be fighting battles on random planets or kingdoms, you will be walking through the deserts of (what will be) the home planet of Anakin and Luke Skywalker. It’s also not just about choosing a side. SWTOR allows players to join the Sith Empire, but that doesn’t mean they always have to be evil. In the same way that Anakin became Darth Vader, your character could make similar or reverse choices. SWTOR is bringing MMORPGS to a level of polish and storytelling that has never been seen before. It will change the video game industry forever, which is why it is my number one pick for E3 2011.

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