E3 2013: X360A's Game of the Show Awards
Written Sunday, June 16, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
This year's E3 felt more significant than it actually was, thanks to the arrival of the next-generation of consoles at the show. Bigger in terms of actual announcements during Monday's press conferences, the E3 showfloor itself was somewhat lighter on actual games than we expected, although it was still enough to garner the attention of Steven Spielberg, who we spotted being mobbed as he visited the Watch_Dogs booth.
Whether you end up with an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4 come November, there's a lot to look forward to as we look ahead to the first crop of next-gen games and enjoy the final years of current-gen gaming too, because there's a hell of a lot to get excited about there too.
As ever, we've picked our best and worst of the show for you to chew over and discuss in the comments, and as usual, feel free to tell us how off the mark you think we might be in the comments. This year, we think we're on the money. See if you agree with us.
Best Press Conference of the Show
We're sorry to have to break the news, but Sony ran away with E3 this year, blowing the roof off its press conference venue with some fantastic game reveals and some perfectly aimed barbs that hit Microsoft square in the nuts. While Microsoft had some stunning exclusives of its own and some fantastic announcements, Sony knew exactly how to take the wind out of its next-gen rival's sails, hitting them where it hurts: right in the DRM. With Microsoft remaining bullishly steadfast on its always-online stance, Sony decided to keep things as they are. You buy a game disc, you own it, and you can do what you like with it. That alone made a lot of people very happy. Add to that the fact that always-online is not a feature you'll find with PlayStation 4, and Sony's position is starting to look enviable. Couple that lot with a gameplay premiere for Bungie's sublime-looking Destiny, a slate of gorgeous indie games (Octodad looks hilarious), new first-party exclusives like 1886: The Order and another look at franchises like inFamous and Killzone in action, and you have all the makings of an almost pitch-perfect press conference. Then there's that PS4 price point... There's no disputing that Microsoft came away bruised.
Winner – Sony
Best Stand of the Show
There's really no contest with this one. No other stand on the showfloor managed to generate the kind of buzz and excitement that Ubisoft's did. It had more new IPs than any other too, with The Crew and The Division rubbing shoulders with Watch_Dogs and new instalments in established franchises like Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Assassin's Creed IV. It even managed to attract Mr. Steven Spielberg who we saw checking out Watch_Dogs, and featured a central podium where dancers danced and developers gave live demos of their games periodically. You could also play The Crew on an awesome driving rig (provided you waited in line long enough) and soak up all of the games on enormous screens. Square Enix was last year's winner, but they had the exact same stand with less games this year, leaving Ubisoft as the undisputed winner. This is how it's done.
Winner – Ubisoft
Best Looker of the Show
With next-generation visuals being touted all around E3 this year, a lot of games could have quite easily snapped this one up. From The Witcher 3 to Thief, to The Division or Watch_Dogs, E3 2013 showed us an early taster of what next-gen consoles are capable of. But it was Turn 10's expertise in crafting gorgeous lumps of automotive loveliness in Forza Motorsport 5 that really caught our eye, with the stunning Prague track caressing our eyeballs as sunlight bounced off the shiny paintwork of our Pagani Huayra. Yes, it's still missing weather effects and night racing (and it really shouldn't be missing those things in this day and age) but screw it. Forza 5 looked fugging majestic.
Winner – Forza Motorsport 5
Disappointment of the Show
Oh dear. Just when we thought Crytek would bring Ryse back with a bang, Ryse: Son of Rome looks like it could be a massive waste of space. Once upon a time, the game in which you play as a Roman Centurion was supposed to be Kinect's great white hope, but based on its big reveal at E3, we could be looking at a very pretty, but ultimately vacuous button-mashing extended quick-time event in which you don't even have to press the right buttons – or any buttons for that matter – to win. Ryse: Son of Rome in its current state is a pathetic excuse for a game, devoid of any sort of meaningful gameplay whatsoever. It had more potential as a Kinect title, which is really saying something. A hack and slasher with zero depth, Crytek is going to have its work cut out convincing us that Ryse: Son of Rome is a worthwhile Xbox One title. A major disappointment.
Winner – Ryse: Son of Rome
Surprise of the Show
Last year, Ubisoft pulled Watch_Dogs out of the bag and blew us away with an original open-world IP utterly packed with potential. And as Ubi is hard at work on delivering with Watch_Dogs, it didn't kick back and rest on its laurels for this year's E3, pulling another pleasant surprise out of the bag. The Division might be a new entry in the Tom Clancy franchise, but it's anything but the usual military shooter, packing in more than a few new ideas of its own in a near-future crisis situation that's hit the epicentre of New York City, threatening to destroy the world's society infrastructure. A dark story, spectacular visuals and some neat co-op gameplay marked out The Division as this year's clear surprise of the show. Ubisoft scores the hat trick then; first Far Cry 3, then Watch_Dogs, now this. Nice.
Winner – The Division
Best Action Title of the Show
Netting our Surprise of the Show award last year, Watch_Dogs did a fine job in making us sit up and pay attention, and based on this year's showing of the game, we're still listening. Not only is Watch_Dogs looking like an incredibly ambitious action game with enormous scope in its open-world rendition of Chicago, but it's promising innumerable options and flexibility in the way you approach its missions, as protagonist Aiden Pearce has the ability to hack electronic systems at his fingertips. Need help from a friend? They can pitch in via their tablet in real time, or they can attempt to hack you while disguised as an anonymous pedestrian. You can do the same to them too, meaning you'll need to watch your back in Watch_Dogs. Anyone and everyone could be an enemy. If that's not exciting, we don't know what is.
Winner – Watch_Dogs
Best Racer of the Show
Close call. On one hand, Forza Motorsport 5 looked pretty but it's a 'business as usual' kind of racer, going from point A to point B. That's no bad thing, but The Crew is pushing the envelope massively. Strictly speaking, it's not exclusively a racing game, it's more of a driving experience, but there's no ignoring just how massive The Crew's potential is. Our hands-on highlighted that the handling model needs some attention, but it's early days yet, and given the head-spinning scale of The Crew, offering some 2000-square miles to drive through the USA's biggest cities, there was only really going to ever be one winner in this category. The Crew wins by a country mile.
Winner – The Crew
Best RPG of the Show
The Elder Scrolls Online is coming to consoles, South Park: The Stick of Truth still looks side-splitting, and both Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIV look exciting, but none of them can possibly hold a candle to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. With CD Projekt RED showcasing a demo in which an older, wiser Geralt embarked upon some monster hunting shenanigans, The Witcher 3 couldn't have possibly looked any more appealing if it tried. Take an already sublime RPG series, then add monster hunting and stellar next-generation visuals to the equation; and CD Projekt RED, you have yourself a sale. Damn, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looks good. Can we have it now, please?
Winner – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Best Shooter of the Show
We were somewhat spoilt for choice in this category, and so heated debate was bound to ensue. We think Battlefield 4 beat Call of Duty: Ghosts in terms of spectacle, and thought that Destiny displayed an absolute ton of potential. We managed to narrow it down to a fight between EA's two biggest shooters, but which is more deserving? DICE's Battlefield 4 or Respawn's Titanfall? Halo for Xbox One might have been announced and Star Wars: Battlefront is on its way back to consoles, but we saw nothing from either game. Titanfall's fluidity of movement and moments of Battlefield-esque scale marked it out as the ultimate winner in our eyes, with the seamless transition from ground troop to hulking mech and back again the icing on the cake. You feel truly powerful in Titanfall too; the fact you can snap a man's neck when stealth killing him, and then turn his head 180-degrees just clinches the awesome.
Winner – Titanfall
Best Rest of the Show
Like Borderlands 2 last year, we decided that Destiny doesn't really belong in the Best Shooter category given that it's also embracing RPG and MMO elements, as well as a deep progression system. Therefore Destiny bags this here award for a number of reasons. Firstly, the sci-fi world that Bungie has crafted looks gorgeous and the characters that inhabit that world look cool as hell. Visually, Destiny wasn't the best game at E3 this year, but holy crap, some of the lighting and other visual effects blew us away. Destiny wholly deserves this award and more. Hold on a sec...
Winner – Destiny
Best of Show
This was a fairly close-run thing this year, with a whole bunch of games managing to wow us. Whether it was Techland's rather impressive Dying Light, Avalanche's Mad Max, Respawn's Titanfall, Ubisoft's The Division and The Crew, Eidos Montreal's Thief or Battlefield 4, there was a lot to choose from. Had we got to see some of the games announced but not actually shown at E3 (we're looking at you Mirror's Edge), it might have been a different story, but there was one game that really stood out in terms of its sheer scale and sense of ambition, taking robust first-person shooter gameplay and MMO-style progression, marrying it to some of the most jawdropping next-gen visuals we've seen to date. Bungie looks like it's on to a real winner with its first multi-format title post-Halo, meaning one game at E3 this year proved worthy of not just the Best Rest of Show award, but the Best of Show award too, which is a bit weird. Destiny looked completely, unapologetically, unashamedly stunning, putting a lot of other games like it to shame. And that's why for us, it stood out from the crowd, head and shoulders above the rest.
Winner – Destiny
And that about does it for another year. Think we're blithering idiots who've got it completely wrong? Sound off in the comments. Also, don’t forget to check out our previews of E3's biggest games as we update the site in the coming days ahead. Keep abreast of it all in our E3 2013 hub here.