We saw a lot of video games this week at E3 2013. While we will have several individual posts including previews and interviews from all around the video game world, we wanted to start by telling you what was the best of the best.
Awards this year were tough, genuinely. We found ourselves wishing we could have five, maybe even ten nominees for some of these categories. Games like Rain and Beyond: Two Souls are keeping the current generation alive, and Super Mario 3D World and Pikmin 3, among many others, should give Nintendo fans a lot of hope. Comic book fans have games for current and next gen on the way, and no matter who your favorite developer is, chances are you’ll be able to play their next game on the PS4 or Xbox One.
But we had only three nominee cards and one winner for each category, and here’s what we settled on.
Best Jaw-Dropping Moment
Nominees: Sony Addresses Used Games, Destiny’s “Public Event” launches, an AT-AT Foot Drops
Winner: EA/DICE’s Star Wars: Battlefront teaser – the AT-AT Foot Drops
It all starts with the press conferences. These are the opportunities for game companies to come out and wow their prospective audiences, from gamers to press to the retailers who will buy their games and advertisers who’ll want to be involved.
And they came out swinging. Many parts of each of the four big press conferences from Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and Sony had people talking long after they’d left the stage well into the week – but nothing had quite the explosion of applause as the revelation of the first new Star Wars game under Disney and EA’s new agreement: a brand-new Star Wars: Battlefront is on the way from Battlefield developer DICE. While the teaser (you can see it below) is about 30 seconds long, and mostly just a first-person-view of a lone person walking through a snowy wasteland, when the blaster bolt sound fires, the snow speeder comes spinning through, and that AT-AT Walker foot drops, it is impossible not to be intensely excited for the future. When Disney closed LucasArts, many Star Wars fans started getting worried – while this doesn’t erase that entirely, it certainly gives them something to ponder.
Most Kick-ass Hero
Nominees: Batman (Batman: Arkham Origins), Garret (Thief), Aiden (Watch Dogs)
Winner: Aiden Pearce from Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs
Now look, in virtually any situation, if the question is “who would win in a fight?” the answer is “Batman.” But this week, we saw a young, in-training Batman, a master thief with trick arrows that would make Oliver Queen jealous, and a modern hero whose mastery of technology lets him control the entire city of Chicago and even leave his own game to screw with your friends.
Watch Dogs got a lot of buzz when it was revealed at E3 2012, and this year saw much more come from Ubisoft about the game, including more of a focus on the hero, Aiden Pearce. While we don’t know much about his background or motivation for hacking the world, we do know just how powerful he is. As Aiden unlocks districts in the city of Chicago, he begins to gain control over everything from closed circuit cameras to the very infrastructure that supports day-to-day life – oh, and your friend’s games. That’s right, Aiden isn’t just so powerful that he can hack into random citizen’s iPhones to get their ATM information, no, that’s child’s play for Aiden. When he wants a real challenge, he can leave his own game and jump into a friend’s copy of Watch Dogs, hacking their Aiden to steal secrets and resources. It makes for one of the coolest open-world minigame mechanics ever seen in a video game, and makes Aiden the most kick-ass hero of E3 2013.
Most Addictive Game
Nominees: Skylanders: Swap Force, TitanFall, Disney Infinity
Winner: Disney Interactive’s Disney Infinity
Many fans see the collectible figurines that are part of the Disney Infinity model and immediately think of the successful Skylanders franchise. After all, you have toys that come to digital life through a portal from the real world to the video game one. And that part of Disney Infinity, enhanced by extras like power discs and environment, vehicle, and more extras, will definitely be addictive on its own. People love Disney collectibles – just look at the pin trading and Vinylmation industries. But the real addictive fun comes from Infinity’s toybox mode – which is closer to LittleBigPlanet than anything else that’s hit videogames. In toybox, players can take objects, environments, and characters from any of the Disney environments, movies, or shows they’ve played in the game, and they can make their very own play area. Add in a racetrack and scenarios for victory, a couple of soccer goals for a mini-game on the pitch, even paintball guns for a family-friendly shooter, and suddenly you have full new game modes all your own. The best part? You can save your own level, upload it to the Infinity servers, and your friends, family, or total strangers can download and play – even across different platforms. With plans to bring toybox to iPads as well, the addiction factor will only increase after Disney Infinity’s initial release in August 2013.
Best Comic Book-Related Game
Nominees: LEGO Marvel Superheroes, The Walking Dead: 400 Days, Batman: Arkham Origins
Winner: Batman: Arkham Origins
For those worried about the Arkham franchise changing hands away from Rocksteady and into a new studio – you can breathe easy. Batman: Arkham Origins doesn’t reinvent the wheel, they use the engine and assets that Rocksteady customized, but it still feels fresh enough to clearly be a new game. Whether it’s the outside-the-norm villains for Batman to fight like Deathstroke and Deadshot alongside now-standards like Joker and Bane, new gadgets, or huge new sections of Gotham City that are now available to explore, this is clearly the next chapter (or is it first chapter?) of the Batman: Arkham saga. Taking what worked, adding some new flash, and as WBIE promises this is only the beginning, lets Arkham Origins keep the franchise as the gold standard of comic book video games for action fans.
Best of Show
Nominees: Thief, Watch Dogs, Destiny
There are some truly awesome new games doming out, both for the current generation and for the newly fully-revealed PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. We had some major surprises that narrowly missed the nominee list, including a second from Square Enix, two titles from JAPANStudio that are keeping the PS3 alive, and more, but when it came time to choose a winner, it was clear: Bungie is at the top of their game with Destiny.
It’s tempting to make some kind of cheesy pun with the name, admittedly, but in the gameplay reveal of Bungie’s next epic, it seems they have reached theirs. The fifteen minutes or so of footage was packed with major news on the game. We saw three classes of guardians, the player characters. We saw a companion “pet” character “Ghost,” (whose voice sounds an awful lot like Tyrion Lannister), we saw some insanely cool looking powers, and customizable weapons trees. We saw massive new enemies and we saw a single player game become a co-op campaign become a massive multiplayer survival match.
It was a truly modern videogame (like both of our other nominees), not just one with shinier graphics or some new guns. If you’re an RPG fan, chances are you saw role-playing elements you were excited about. If you’re a FPS fan, you saw Bungie doing what they’ve done best for decades. If you like single-player, you’re covered. If you like multiplayer, the combination of modes will change the way you think about either.
And that’s what a “best of show” has to do, it has to make you think differently about video games. This has shades of Halo, sure, but it just as much as hints from Fallout or Star Wars. It brings in the fun of a Guild Wars 2 style world with the established storytelling genius of the studio making it. It looks beautiful, sounds incredible, and just had a sense of palpable excitement packed into fifteen minutes that some games don’t figure out in entire 6-hour campaigns. Bungie is doing game development right with Destiny, and 2014 will be a very fun year for PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, and Xbox One fans.