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E3 2012: Games to Watch For

Over the years, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, known to laymen as E3, has gone from being a celebration of revolutionary advances and innovations to a familiar collection of slowly-advancing technology and constantly proliferating sequels.  Yet from time to time, there are some real jewels amongst the samey proceedings, some big and small-name releases that might seek to shake your world or just give you a good experience…but they always manage to be entertaining and they are certainly worth monitoring.

So without adieu, here are some of the titles put on display at this year’s event that I, speaking as a gamer and as a critic, view as being important or interesting enough to warrant attention in the coming and distant months:

Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Developer: Treyarch

Publisher: Activision

Release Date: November 13, 2012

Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox 360, PS3

For those who follow this site, you will know that I think very highly of Black Ops, having given it a 9 out of 10 score in the review.  Out of all of the games in the series, it felt like Black Ops embraced the idea of entertainment value the most, with a strong character-driven conspiratorial plot and a cheesy yet well-developed and well-scripted Zombies Mode.  Therefore, my expectations for Black Ops 2, and by extension Treyarch, are much higher this time around.

Although this clip only addresses the 2025 portion of the single-player campaign, which is notable since Activision has confirmed both returning features (Zombies Mode – hurrah!) and new modes (non-linear Strike Force missions – very nice), it does show the familiar intensity and high-octane action of Call of Duty old while spicing it up with some high-tech weaponry (standouts are the Wrist-Launched Remote Mines and the Drones), the return of a speaking protagonist (hint: Mason’s been a busy man) and some truly outstanding visual detail.  To say I’m excited is an understatement.

Dishonoured

Developer: Arkane Studios

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Release Date: October 9, 2012

Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox 360, PS3

This game intrigued me the moment I heard what forces were driving its creation.  Take Harvey Smith, one of the minds behind Deus Ex and System Shock, throw him in a boardroom with Viktor Antonov (the art designer of Half-Life 2‘s City 17) and Raf Colantonio (founder of Arkane, key producer of Arx Fatalis and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic), have them cherry-pick and rearrange the best parts of this past decade’s classic action-RPGs and action-adventure games, and essentially you get Dishonoured.

A new IP, this first-person stealth action game has roots in everything from Assassin’s Creed to Thief, but its Victorian-meets-steampunk visual style definitely sets it apart, and as the footage above shows, its gameplay is definitely not generic.  Controlling a famed assassin-turned-fugitive, you must seek out and assassinate various conspirators who plotted your character’s downfall.  Combining highly kinetic platforming segments, a good balance of weapons and magical powers (yes, there is magic and conventional weaponry), truly brutal assassinations and a well-implemented non-linear structure to the announced mission system, this game is setting itself above the pack even before it goes gold.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Developer: Criterion Games

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Release Date: October 30, 2012

Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox 360, PS3, PSVita, iOS, Android

Being a gamer who was raised by a borderline fanatic racing game enthusiast, I would naturally have to latch to a certain series and/or sub-genre of racing games.  For me, that special category was arcade racing, specifically Need for Speed, and 2005’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted in particular.  I thoroughly enjoyed the cheesy acting, the stylized cutscenes, the simple rags-to-riches, climb-through-the-ranks plot and the balance of tense street races and liberating police chases.  That brings me to Most Wanted, EA’s latest attempt to grab at our cash…and the temptation to give in is so overpowering.

Acting as a reboot and “modern” reimagining of the 2005 hit, Most Wanted serves as EA’s apology for the insult that was The Run by giving us a mixture of new and old tropes.  In this installment, gamers will get fixed police chase segments in between competitive races for the ten slots of the Blacklist, while exploring an open world environment and playing around with the updated Autolog online competition system.  In short, this is intriguing and it’s worth observing.  Just know that EA is somewhat cheap and uncreative in its methods, hence this remake.

Star Wars: 1313

Developer: LucasArts

Publisher: LucasArts

Release Date: TBA

Platforms: TBA

After the last five years of disappointing sequels, lackluster spin-offs and blatant cash-ins, it’s good to see that LucasArts is learning from its mistakes and is changing focus for its next installment in the Star Wars games collection.  This time, they are dropping the mysticism and over-powered nature of Force users, in favor of the more cinematic, high-adrenaline shooter action that makes up Star Wars: 1313.

Pitched as a mature, “Star Wars-meets-Uncharted” experience, this first look both reveals several key details and leaves certain aspects to our imagination.  The lead character is a bounty hunter venturing into the depths of Coruscant, specifically to Level 1313, only to be ambushed by mysterious forces.  The resulting shootout and action sequence certainly feels like Uncharted, yet the appearance of flashing blaster bolts and alien mercenaries is classic science-fiction.  As the trailer ends with increased anticipation of the “hero’s” fate, so too does our anticipation for this game increase.

Halo 4

Developer: 343 Industries

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Release Date: November 6, 2012

Platform: Xbox 360

Halo’s return to the spotlight has been anticipated since Bungie handed Microsoft the reigns of the franchise.  As it stands, all that has been shown, which has increased from minuscule details to palm-sized chunks of information, indicates that 343 Industries intends to take the series in a very different direction.

The campaign, taking place after Halo 3’s cliffhanger, brings in new conflicts for John-117, as warring Covenant and human forces collide with the ancient secrets of a Forerunner world.  Furthermore, the integration between multi-player gameplay and single-player progression with a side-story told through weekly installments of an in-house serial make for an interesting experiment that will hopefully pay off.

Star Trek: The Game

Developer: Digital Extremes

Publishers: Namco Bandai Games, Paramount Digital Entertainment

Release Date: Q1 2013

Platforms: Windows PC, PS3, Xbox 360

If my feelings about science-fiction were not clear before, I love the genre.  I particularly love the franchises that consist of high-concept intellectual drama, most of all Star Trek.  So a game that represents the very best of the hit 2009 film, while also looking like a balanced and entertaining product in its own right, will definitely appeal to the fans in all of us.

Its pitch is “asymmetrical multi-player”, which translates as similar but distinct controls and abilities for playable characters and fan favourites Kirk and Spock.  They work as a team, dividing and reuniting to combat foes, which will include the Gorn as the primary antagonists.  Besides that, it seems to have the weapon functionality and balanced controls of a typical third-person shooter, but seeing Spock and Kirk walk across the bridge of the Enterprise and use tricorders for interacting with alien environments is certainly heart-warming.

Aliens: Colonial Marines

Developer: Gearbox Software

Publisher: Sega

Release Date: February 12, 2013

Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, OnLive

Another example of science-fiction in this list, Aliens: Colonial Marines represents Sega’s latest attempt to improve its reputation by bringing back beloved franchises.  This one just happens to look like it will be the impressive Aliens follow-up we have been waiting for.

Set after Alien 3, this installment follows the Colonial Marines as they investigate the U.S.S Sulaco to determine the fate of its crew, only to be faced with an all-new Xenomorph outbreak.  Gearbox, the power behind Borderlands, is promising a simple user interface with no HUD, new Xenomorph subspecies, universal weapons and armor upgrades across all modes, and the return of classic gadgets such as the motion trackers and flamethrowers.  Simply put, this looks to be an atmospheric first-person shooter that will hopefully be as entertaining as it is terrifying.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

Developers: SuperBot Entertainment, SCE Santa Monica Studio, Bluepoint Games

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Release Date: October 23, 2012

Platforms: PS3, PSVita

Four years after Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl more or less dominated the crossover fighting game market, Sony decided to jump on the bandwagon with its own attempt at mash-up glory, inspired by the “Michael” ad from last year.  However, All-Stars Battle Royale is definitely setting itself up to be the fan-pleaser to end all fan-pleasers.

Despite clearly being inspired by Smash Bros., it does have a key difference in its combat system: there are three tiers of special attacks for each of the characters, powered by orbs gained from damaging opponents.  Of course, the roster is the other big distinction: so far, such iconic characters as Nathan Drake, PaRappa the Rapper, Kratos, Big Daddy, and Sweet Tooth have been confirmed, with others hinted at either through press leaks or the presence of certain franchise-oriented stages.

Hitman: Absolution

Developer: IO Interactive

Publisher: Square Enix

Release Date: November 20, 2012

Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox 360, PS3, OnLive

Aside from the controversy over Square Enix’s “Attack of the Saints” trailer, my excitement for this installment is unabatted.  Absolution is IO Interactive’s attempt to widen their fan base, while still retaining the classic hardcore nature associated with Hitman.

Set solely in the United States this time around, Absolution sets up Agent 47’s fall from grace as he completes a complicated and deeply personal mission.  The non-linear nature of the environments returns, mixing with an “Instinct Mode” which allows 47 to detect enemy patrol patterns to create complex scenarios that will be different for each player.  It has a grounded yet distinct visual style, and its story appears to be moving towards fleshing out 47’s ideals and motivations by challenging his emotions, making this an important game to monitor.

Watch Dogs

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

Release Date: TBA

Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox 360, PS3

Last, but certainly not least, we have Watch_Dogs (as stylized in its debut trailer), a game no one saw coming.  Its appearance at E3 was unexpected, especially considering how much at the conference was leaked before-hand, so its presence on this list is partially because of its mysterious nature – and partially because it looks so impressive.

Set in an alternate Chicago, the player will primarily control Aiden Pierce, a hacker fighting the corrupt operating system that has control of virtually all technology in the city.  The demo showed off complicated mechanics that allow Pierce to use any of these devices for his own purposes (tapping phone calls, controlling traffic lights to cause a pileup at an intersection), as well as on-screen displays of NPC data – such as their health and probability of violence.   There were also hints of stealth gameplay, intense third-person shooter gameplay and even some co-op mechanics near the end.  To think that Ubisoft was able to keep this under wraps until E3 is surprising.

Conclusion

True, there were other notable games at E3, and several of them might have deserved to have a place on this list.  However, to keep things concise and focused, the games I listed are the ones setting themselves up to excite gamers everywhere the most, and I highly recommend keeping an eye on them as they approach their respective release dates.

Keep coming back for more info, and keep reading, gamers.

-Kurt Hvorup, Admin and Founder

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