Winners at E3 2012: Day One

Gaming fans and media alike all get in a clamor when watching E3 coverage. As Jack Tretton of Sony Computer Entertainment America said last night, “Every word that is said will be scrutinized years down the road.” He was partially right. Attacking the weak spots of giant crabs shall live in infamy. However, forget the future, the time is now. In our 24 hour news cycle, the very words someone speaks on an E3 stage are immortalized, ridiculed, and savored. Day 1 of E3 2012 brought us a whopping four (Ubisoft, EA, Microsoft, Sony) presentations that ran of the gamut of extreme highs and extreme lows. Let’s butter up the game industry if only for a brief moment before sinking our teeth in and ripping out throats.

Watch Dogs (360, PS3, PC) is a game that sold me on its high concept alone. The slow moving trailer allowed the game to breathe in order to take in the environment. It felt natural that the character moved at a casual pace in this world, giving that all too desired feeling of immersion in a game. Pedestrians all react dynamically to what’s going on around them. The game world feels alive as the POV character is just someone that exists in this space rather than having the whole world revolve around them (as is the case in many games).  The high tech futuristic approach works as the world looks to be still grounded in present time. Gameplay does get a little dicey once the cover shooting mechanic is introduced, most notably with the awkward and forced bullet time. Just on the surface the game reminds me of the Hitman games, requiring a calculated approach to achieving objectives mixed in with the sandbox nature of a Grand Theft Auto. The end of the trailer suggested a seamless transition from the single-player to the multiplayer. How this works is speculation at best, but something I hope Ubisoft explains more of at the show.

Far Cry 3 (360, PS3, PC) looks absolutely beautiful. I groan and complain a lot about how modern first person shooter games all look like they took place during the Dust Bowl in the 30s. Desaturated colors, drab and boring browns, beiges, and grays. Even if we are to assume these games take place in Afghanistan or Iraq, there’s still color to be found in those places. Give us a little light, not a Monty Burns sun blocker! Luckily, Far Cry 3 empties its Phthalo Blue, Turquoise, and Viridian Green all over the screen. The beauty stretches beyond skin deep as the game boasts some above standard FPS gameplay inside of an open world. The freedom to approach enemies from multiple vantage points or with different strategies is a welcome sight, allowing for the idea of having a different gaming experience than the guy sitting next to you. Couple this single player mode with a four player co-op (something most games are sorely lacking these days) and Far Cry 3 looks to be one that should stay on your radar.

The Last of Us (PS3) doesn’t hide that it comes from the same team that brought us the Uncharted franchise. The developer, Naughty Dog, wants the player to integrate themselves in the world around them. There’s plenty of eye candy to chew on as the characters traverse through the world. A little disappointing that the first video didn’t show a bit more openness, instead focusing on narrow corridors and tiny rooms. Something I’m willing to forgive as it’s just a small snippet of something bigger and largely unknown. Being as the game has an Uncharted feel to it, the same cover based shooter mechanic returns as per the standard in almost all third party action games. Chest high walls have been a bit of sore spot in gamers as cover based shooting is reaching unprecedented levels of fatigue. However, The Last of Us does enough things differently to keep things interesting. The gameplay sports an actual health bar without regeneration and a realistic inventory system with crafting abilities (the character is seen making a Molotov). Guns and ammunition aren’t magically picked up by the player’s feet and placed into their inventory. The main character has to interact with the object, making it feel like it actually exists in the world as a tangible thing. Naughty Dog has always been good at character animations and having dynamic events with the AI. The gameplay video obviously shows a more action approach, but players can also take a different way to their objective. Something I hope to see more of as the conference continues.

Forza Horizon (360) is a game that I’m taking with an extreme bit of salt. Being that it’s just a video trailer and no gameplay, it’s hard to judge what the final product will look like. I’ve always preferred the Forza line of games to Gran Turismo. The cars often feel more fun to drive due to the game’s physics and production values. Horizon suggests at a combination of a professional race circuit with the option to drive/roam more of an open road Cannonball Run type of game. If there’s a dedicated button to raising my headlights, I’m there.

Honorable Mentions: Assassin’s Creed III (PC/360/PS3), Enhanced PSN+ rewards (PS3), Need for Speed: Most Wanted (360/PS3), South Park: The Stick of Truth (360/PS3)