The top five E3 2012 surprises: Nintendo Land, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, SmartGlass, Watch Dogs and more

  • @MikePlantGC

Following on from our list of E3 2012 no-shows we cast our eye over the show’s surprises, those game’s and features which had – shock of all shocks – managed to avoid being leaked before the show, or else were so left-field as to entirely unpredictable anyway. Without further ado we give you Nintendo Land, PS3 Wonderbook, SmartGlass, Watch Dogs and more.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist

A rumour had been doing the rounds on Twitter of a brand new Splinter Cell unveil just before this year’s Microsoft press briefing kicked off, so its presence wasn’t of particular surprise (perhaps more so that it appeared at Microsoft’s briefing, Ubisoft’s own following on a few hours later).

The real surprise was the shape that the game has taken, with Sam Fisher inevitably returning, but this time in a guise which melds the more action-based Splinter Cell: Conviction with the more considered approach of the franchise’s origins.

Fisher’s signature moves – from night-vision goggles to his split-legged ascents – all return, while the freedom that he has to set-up tactical advantages for himself take the game almost into Hitman territory (a facet, it has to be said, shared by more than one game demonstrated at this year’s E3, check out the below Watch Dogs for more of the same).

Perhaps more impressive was the fluid combat system which enables players to use Fisher’s experience on the battlefield to plan the order of attack and unleash pinpoint head shots at the push off button – messy. But not as messy as the Jack Bauer style torture scenes sure to draw the attention of the more alarmist press outfits out there once the game’s release nears.

PS3 Wonderbook

Clever chaps over at Sony aren’t they? With their PlayStation Eye video camera finding into obscurity, and the PS Move wand peripheral was not far behind, they’ve somehow created a product to tempt us back to both, and even tempt us to part with yet more cash to buy a whole other peripheral to go with them.

That peripheral is "Wonderbook", a sturdy… well, book, which rather than being filled with words as you might suspect (or even wonder) is filled with barcodes after a fashion. The trick being that through those barcodes the book provides a platform for what is known within the business as “augmented reality”, the merging of your real-life surroundings with virtual content, the subsequent mix of which is displayed on your very own TV.

You might well have played EyePet in one of its many iterations, and if so you’ll not be far wrong in imagining something similar, but Wonderbook immerses you (or more likely your lucky child) in a what is perhaps best described as a digital, interactive pop-up book, in which PS Eye, Move and Wonderbook combine.

Why are we going to buying it you ask? Only because Sony have gone and gotten Harry Potter scribe JK Rowling involved, her first release for the platform, The Book of Spells, giving your child a tour through Harry Potter’s magical world, complete with spell casting and dragons. Sony even talked up similar treatment of a world atlas, and Walking With Dinosaurs spin-off, in what could prove a very lucrative move in the world of Sony’s PlayStation accessories.

Xbox 360 SmartGlass

SmartGlass what? Never heard of it, or that was the case until it was unveiled at Microsoft’s E3 press briefing, deflating the sails of Wii U, to some extent at least, as it did so.

SmartGlass is, or will be, an app released across all mobile and tablet stores which will enable your Xbox 360 to happily converse with all of your favourite handheld devices, basically allowing for total integration of media across your phone, iPad and Xbox 360 – there’s even confirmation that Windows 8 will support the same.

Not only does this mean that the media you’ve downloaded on to your Xbox will resume where you left off on your tablet, but also means your tablet becomes a further extension of your console, so that (in the best example provided) a show such as Game of Thrones can display a real-time map which shifts from location to location as dictated by the whereabouts of the current scene. None too shabby.

Interestingly the same technology can also allow you to use your tablet or phone as an ad hoc touch interface, so allowing you to guide a cursor across the freshly announced Xbox Internet Explorer for finely-tuned control and accuracy.

We’ve only got two issues with the technology, first we’ll be curious to see just how far the likes of Sky push SmartGlass’ functions (despite Microsoft announcing they’re talking to all their media partners) and second we’re a little worried that the integration detailed in Game of Thrones won’t be taken up by a great number of television producers. Still, we await further news with an open mind.

Watch Dogs

We had our booth tour of Ubisoft’s up-and-coming titles on the final day of E3 and as such had already heard amazing things of the incredible looking and ultra-ambitious title that is Watch Dogs; a game which, like Star Wars 1313, has “next generation” stamped all over it.

We’ll be detailing the game’s specifics from our behind closed doors look in a full preview later this week, but for now let us consider but one of the title’s most impressive features: an app for the iPad which lets players from across all and any platforms keep track of each other’s movements across the game’s virtual city, and even interact together within it – either helping or hindering others as takes their fancy.

Finally, a way for developers to get around the whole Xbox Live/PlayStation Network divide. Hats well and truly off.

Nintendo Land

Sadly not a real-world competitor to Disney Land, but rather a digital theme park, filled fill of mini-games which take particularly great use of what Nintendo have brilliantly dubbed “asymmetric gameplay”.

What does such a buzz phrase actually mean? Chiefly that the player – or players now that Nintendo have confirmed that two Wii U GamePads can be used in conjunction – wielding the Wii U GamePad can experience gameplay from a different perspective to those viewing proceedings vi the more traditional route of the TV.

Variations of hide & seek from the 'Luigi’s Ghost Mansion' and 'Animal Crossing: Sweet Day' minis, games which place the job of sneaking up on your friends in the hands of the GamePad player, while those using the familiar Wiimote and nunchuk do their best to avoid. Enough to put a smile on anybody’s face, but here’s hoping Nintendo see sense and bundle Nintendo Land with the Wii U when it ships.