E3, the biggest games industry event of the year, will always have its detractors; a sizeable crowd of people who are destined to be disappointed by whatever the ‘surprise’ announcements are for that given year.
But when you consider that the highlights of last year’s E3 were Microsoft and Sony’s gimmicky attempts at motion controllers - intended to pry gamers away from the more family-oriented Nintendo Wii - then this year’s event, with its unveiling of two next-generation games consoles, has to be seen as a resounding success.
Such was the buzz created around the Nintendo Wii U and the dubiously named Playstation Vita (hopefully soon to be abbreviated to ‘PSV’) that you could be forgiven for overlooking the strong host of games featured this year. As such, below is a list of the five most eye-opening exhibitions - of both hardware and software - to emerge from E3 2011.
Nintendo Wii U
In what could be seen as a revenge attack on Sony and Microsoft’s motion controller projects, Nintendo’s new console will have hardware power comparable to that PS3 and XBox 360, and is designed to attract the hardcore gamer as well as the casual one. The Wii U will be able to run games at 1080p resolutions, and will also feature an innovative touch-screen controller. Aside from its self-explanatory function as a controller, it will act as a secondary screen for players, much like on the Nintendo DS. It even features an in-built phone to communicate with fellow gamers. A price has not yet been revealed, but the announcement that it will be released in ‘less than 10 months’ was certainly a welcome one.
Determined to reclaim the hand-held market from Nintendo’s strong-selling DS, Sony made a strong case with the Vita. It is four times more powerful than its predecessor, offering a ‘PS3-like’ game experience. It will feature dual micro-analog sticks, motion-sensing and, most intriguingly of all, touchpads on both the front and rear of the device, which promise to give a ‘3rd dimension’ to handheld gameplay (though hasn’t the 3DS already done just that?). The PSV will have both Wi-Fi and 3G models, which will be sold at the pleasing respective prices of $250 and $300.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (Playstation 3)
Arguably the most impressive games footage seen at E3 came from this latest installment in the Indiana Jones-style adventure series. Sony showed off a 10-minute gameplay clip in which hero Nathan Drake must escape a ship sinking in the middle of a stormy ocean. The amazingly rendered water effects, trademark sense of humour and gripping sinking-ship scenario were the perfect formula for dazzling the E3 crowds. The footage confirmed that Drake’s Deception will continue the series’ tradition of gorgeous graphics, an engrossing storyline, and Hollywood-style presentation, making it an inevitable front-runner for Game of the Year.
Mass Effect 3 (PC, Playstation 3, XBox 360)
Apart from the giddily-received news that Mass Effect 3 will allow same-sex relationships, little was known about Bioware’s latest sprawling, space-faring adventure. Now, after some impressive E3 footage, it’s known that the action elements of the game have reached a whole new level. The footage suggested that fans’ calls for more upgrades and weapon customisation have been heeded, as we see Shephard and his squad use air-strikes, among other space-age hardware, to blast through their enemies. Furthermore, the way the crowd engaged with a sequence involving a terrified little boy running for a departing spaceship suggests that ME 3 will continue to engage players through narrative as well as action.
Battlefield 3 (PC, Playstation 3, XBox 360)
After a mouth-watering gameplay clip released a couple of months ago, people have finally begun to believe that the Battlefield series may have caught up with the money-making behemoth that is Call of Duty. E3 footage continued to show off the new ‘Frostbite 2’ engine across a variety of brutally realistic environments. Whether it was tanks steaming across a flat expanse of desert, or tightly-contained, bottleneck action in the streets of Paris, the footage never let up in intensity. The combination of trademark crisp sound-effects and a new graphics engine makes Battlefield 3 stand out from every other shooter out there, including the upcoming Modern Warfare 3.