E3 is done, we’re all tired and we’re counting down the moments when we land in the UK and start churning out the content. Actually, no, we’re dreading it, but we’re excited to bring you our opinions fresh from the world’s biggest gaming show. Since the show ended though, we’ve been locked up in a hotel room arguing who should win what for this year’s Best of Show awards… which in truth means, sightseeing and blowing off a bit of steam, while every so often going, “So, blah blah is blatantly Game of the Show.”
In short, E3 2011 was a glorious success from a games perspective, with many big guns bringing all that and more to the show, and proving that we really are in the golden age of gaming – despite what many others may say. It was tough for us this year to narrow down the winners and pick just one, but that’s what we’re here to do. So many great titles don’t get a look in, but we don’t call it the Best of Show awards for nothing. A big congrats to all the winners and commiserations to all the runners-up in advance, but without further ado, let’s lavish those winners (and losers) with praise. These, ladies and gents, are our winners of E3 2011!
Best Press Conference of the Show
The best press conference of E3 2011 was a bit of a no-brainer for us. Although Microsoft hit home and won the fans over with a few choice Halo announcements and EA was dropping jaws with its Mass Effect 3 and Battlefield 3 demos, it was Ubisoft that was hitting all the rights notes. With the Far Cry 3 live demonstration leading the charge and impressive showings from Rayman Origins, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, to name but a few, the French publisher really knew how to put on a good spread. There were even a few casual related Kinect announcements as well that will no doubt please others, including Raving Rabbids, Your Shape 2 and Just Dance 3 for Microsoft’s fastest selling electronic device. Now if only they could have got Joel McHale back on the books to lead the show, the press conference would have been nigh on perfect.
Winner – Ubisoft
Best Stand of the Show
If there’s one thing that THQ has nailed recently in years gone-by at E3, it’s their booth. Taking home the award for Best Stand of the Show for the second year running, THQ’s stand was not only grand and epic in scale, but was well organised, had plenty of good content and was always buzzing with excitement. With pods galore, theatres for UFC Undisputed 3, Saints Row: The Third and Metro: Last Light, to name but a few, but with 8 foot tall Space Marines, UFC fighters galore – including Jens Pulver – and so much more, there really was no better booth in terms of content and design anywhere in the two halls of LA’s Convention Centre. Plus they had the best booth babes to boot.
Winner - THQ
Best Looker of the Show
When we caught a glimpse at Forza 4’s “in-game” visuals at Microsoft’s press conference at the beginning of the week, we honestly couldn’t believe our eyes. Really. So much so that we scoffed at one another, remarking that there was no way that those visuals were indicative of the in-game quality. Turns out we’re super cynical and when we caught a glimpse of the game behind-closed-doors and at Microsoft’s Forza 4 event on Wednesday evening, we were left eating our proverbial hat. How Turn 10 has been able to create the best visuals on the Xbox 360 in not just any car game to date, but any game to date, still remains a mystery, but with its new image based lighting, meaning all aspects of the world affect how the car looks – from artificial light to the sun and clouds in the sky – and being able to see intricate details of the motors from a mere 6 inches away, well, to us, it’s completely astonishing. Turn 10 set the standard and wowed punters a few years back with Forza 3’s visuals and Forza 4 is set to knock your bloody socks off, so you may as well take them off now and get comfy.
Winner – Forza Motorsport 4
Disappointment of the Show
Just when it looked like EA had finally understood the nuances of keeping the Need For Speed franchise in the limelight, they came to E3 and spoilt that and knocked us back into our Need For Speed fatigue state. By releasing Criterion’s brilliant Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and proving they still knew why we loved the franchise, and even following that up by removing the Need For Speed from the Shift franchise, we were starting to feel confident that EA had learned the error of their ways. Boy, we couldn’t have been any more wrong! E3 for us marked our first glimpse of Need For Speed: The Run in action and after seeing that we leave the car to get involved in some frankly inane Quick Time Event sequences, we were left a little shocked. It would have been alright if the racing segments looked fun, but racing around desolate streets avoiding a chopper’s spotlight, whilst navigating corners that are indicated with those 1990-esque neon corner markers, we were ready to lift our seats up and throw them through the nearest window. We’re rock n’ roll like that!
Winner – Need for Speed: The Run
Surprise of the Show
Not only was Far Cry 3 a surprise announcement at Ubisoft’s press conference, it was frankly a surprise that it was looking so impressive already… you know, because it’s slated for a 2012 release. Halo: CE Anniversary was a front runner for this category, mainly because it looked stunning and evoked many memories that we’d encountered nearly 10 years ago – the switch to classic view is a real indication as to how much 343 and co. have done with it – but Far Cry 3 eventually came out on top. Correcting all the lessons they had learned from the gaming Marmite that was Far Cry 2, as well as heading back to the tropical islands was always going to win the franchise bounty points, but everything else they’ve thrown into the mix was just icing on the cake. Let’s hope that Ubisoft Montreal can take what they showed to the press and the fans – watching via the press conference – and build on this for our next viewing, which we assume will be at Gamescom this year. Can anyone say “Excited”? We can! Excited!
Winner – Far Cry 3
Best Action Title of the Show
One millisecond. That's exactly how long it took for us to fall in love with Rocksteady's take on Batman all over again following the pure comic book awesomeness that was Arkham Asylum. Arkham City is set to turn the franchise right up to 11 for the sequel, and after our hands-on with the game, we can confidently report that Bats is looking better than ever. With a captive Catwoman being held by Two-Face in the demo, we got to sample the game's speedy city traversal and the seamless interplay between the combat and stealth that was so resolutely compartmentalised in the first game. Now, with the Dark Knight feeling like a far more flexible hero than before and with Catwoman getting her claws into the action too, there was really only ever going to be one winner of the best action game accolade at E3, with the caped crusader fighting off stiff competition from the likes of Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Pow!
Winner – Batman: Arkham City
Best Racer of the Show
Granted, Forza 4 didn’t really have much competition to face-off against at this year’s E3 – Driver: San Fran was as expected and Need For Speed: The Run was a huge disappointment – but even if there was, it’d probably have taken home this award anyway. Yes, we like to make sweeping and presumptive statements like that… it’s what we get off on. Boasting 16-player online, an improved career mode, incentives for Forza 3 players, the Kinect-heavy Autovista mode and easily the best rendered cars we’ve ever seen, it was a clear winner. As they proved with Forza 3, Turn 10 really know what they’re doing with the Forza franchise and their latest first official unveiling of Forza 4 had fans giddy with excitement. It’s beautiful, plays like a dream, has something for everyone and even has more car porn than an episode of Top Gear, what couldn’t you like about it?
Winner – Forza Motorsport 4
Best RPG of the Show
Although Skyrim was all guns blazing at this year’s E3, the fact the 95% of the demo was what we saw in Utah a month or so back was a tad disappointing. We’ve still got plenty to talk about there in our preview though, but Mass Effect 3 and its more RPG grounded roots and emotional demo was hard to beat. After seeing three short demos and listen to Casey Hudson, Mass Effect’s Executive Producer, gush on about all the new things they’ve added, we were as confident we’ve ever been in a Mass Effect title. The fact that they’ve extended out the RPG elements after they streamlined them a tad too much in Mass Effect 2 will please fans, and whether it’s the new weapon upgrade system or the more in-depth character growth systems, players of all skill levels will be bouncing with joy. The fact that Shepard can jump, roll, switch cover and act like a general badass all round will resonate with shooter fans too, so the new improvements will no doubt please everyone. Watch out folks, the Reapers are coming and they want to take your children! Well, that, or just kill them… *gulp*
Winner – Mass Effect 3
Best Shooter of the Show
Although Battlefield 3 was in the running for our Best Shooter of the Show for E3 2011, it eventually became a one-horse race rather quickly, basically because while Battlefield came to the show with the PC-only build and one multiplayer map, BioShock Infinite had a good 20 minute hands-off demo which like its Gamescom 2010 debut showing, was just as awe-inspiring. The fact that it was fast-paced, confusing as hell, but as fluent as an ecstasy-fuelled elf dancing on a rainbow of love and energy was why we loved it. With some suspense filled sequences, plenty of off-the-cuff combat, some insane rail-track exchanges and more confusion than an episode of Lost, there is no doubt in our mind that Irrational’s new BioShock title will evoke the same emotions– and maybe even then some – that we got from the original BioShock back in the day. It looked stunning on a PS3 as well, which will no doubt shut the “consoles suck” purists up for at least a minute or two. 2012 already has a beast of a game lined up and we couldn’t be anymore excited. No, really, we couldn’t.
Winner – BioShock Infinite
Best Rest of the Show
It’s been a while since we’ve had a truly decent platformer that places more emphasis on camaraderie than anything else, but after playing Rayman Origins at this year’s E3, it’s clear that this is a platformer whose essence is exactly that. Playing a bit of 4-player co-op through a couple of the game’s levels really showed to us that the platformer genre, contrary to popular belief, wasn’t dead. With an added emphasis on teamwork, some cool set-pieces and more than a laugh a minute, we’re happy to see that Ubisoft held back the originally planned episodic adventure and crammed all that content into one retail disc. It’s simple controls will allow newbies and the less experienced to step in and play, while the general trickiness of a few of the game’s set-pieces will resonate with hardcore Rayman fans, so as far as we’re concerned, all should be happy with what Ubisoft have been able to do with the once-thought-dead franchise. If you love co-op, platforming and general random shenanigans, then Rayman will be right up your alley. That’s for certain.
Winner – Rayman Origins
Best of Show
Ask anyone who attended this year’s show and ask them their Best of the Show and they’ll either say, Mass Effect 3 or BioShock Infinite. For us though, the Mass Effect 3 demo – which actually moved one journalist to tears with its emotional journey of Shepard and a young boy (more on that later) – won by a nose length. Sure, BioShock Infinite was as crazy and awe-inspiring as it’s always been, but Mass Effect 3 showed that BioWare still knows how to carry their new number one franchise and finish the trilogy in style. With epic battles against humongous Reapers, mixed with a quick look at the new RPG-elements – which have been extended from 2, to the delight of fans – and possibly one of the most emotional and heart-string pulling demos I’ve ever seen at a trade show, there was only one winner. For Pete’s sake people, Shepard has the old band back together, and we couldn’t be happier!
Winner – Mass Effect 3
That’s it for this year’s awards, but keep close to X360A and we’ll bring you our opinions on all the games from this year’s show.