Hot on the heels of our part 1 E3 article, we're back to bring you the skinny on the next three titles that are going to grace our consoles sometime in 2009 (as long as the developers stick to the release schedules)
First up then: Assassin's Creed 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC). This was a pretty big show-stopped at the E3 Conferences and gameplay demos proved that Ubisoft have been listening to their fans and the complaints from the first game. Set in the Renaissance period of history there's no Altair in sight, instead the new antagonist and next in line of Desmond's ancestors is Ezio, a young Florentine nobleman who begins life, not as an assassin but as a normal nobleman. We don't fully know much about the whole story yet; expect things to happen, someone to be killed and a young man to be set on the path to awesome revenge.
The big criticisms of the first game were that it was too repetitious, too hard to actually do any kind of stealthy killing and the combat was good, but lacked a deeper system to it. Ubisoft have already said that the repetitious mission structure is gone, so too is the Kingdom: a huge empty and fairly boring area where nothing much happened except constant harassment by annoying guards, knights, templars and bloody archers. Now we're going to undertake missions as we travel from city to city. We know for certain that Venice has been included as a city, as well as Florence.
The mission structure for the side-quests in the cities is supposedly more free form now, with challenges that will evolve as you play the side quest. This is a welcome addition along with the new acrobatic parkour moves as well as the ability to actively engage your opponents with a wide variety of weapons, stealing enemy swords and so on to turn them against their wielders. You can use two hidden blades for a sneaky stealth kill and the air assassination has been made easier. Ezio can kill from virtually anywhere now and whilst there's a new Seeker AI, it can be countered thanks to the previously mentioned kill system.
A guard giving you troubles near a ledge, no problem just pull him to his doom. A guard comes to search your haybale hidey-hole? Just stab him and drag him inside. There's also Leonardo Da'Vinci and his inventions, the wrist-mounted gun, his famous flying machine which was shown off in the demo and many more toys await you in Assassin's Creed 2. The developers have also included swimming and a bunch of new escape options to make it easier for Ezio to evade and dispatch his pursuers.
Graphically, the game is looking stunning already and with a November 20th release date... it's definitely one to watch!
Since I did my inFAMOUS review, I picked up Uncharted on the PS3 and I'm really glad I did. I can't wait for Naughty Dog's newest game now I've nearly beaten this one. Uncharted 2 looks to blow the first out of the water right from the get-go and made an absolutely awesome impact at E3 with an extremely strong showing, not only of the single player component but of the cooperative multiplayer and the adversarial gameplay too. Nathan Drake looks more fluid than before and the PS3 is rendering up some amazing vistas.
The game looks much more epic with some tight set-pieces and some issues that have been addressed already. Chief amongst those was the gun-combat system from the previous title. Uncharted is all about player skill, there's no auto-aim or lock on. If you aim and shoot, you're aiming and shooting on your own. Headshots are the most reliable method of dispatching your foes and using cover usually means you don't get your head blown off. However the baddies take a huge ammo count of bullets to put down if you're not used to the game and it can be frustrating for some players.
Uncharted 2 has evolved the gun combat system. It remains in essence the same but the use of cover is better, the use of firearms is better and the enemies come in different classes now. So you'll be facing the mook-like grunt types that will go down easily and then there'll be some heavy duty damage dealers who will take a bucket-load of ammo to down. There is far more detail in the new environments and the set pieces are adrenaline charged, sure to test your gunplay as well as your Tomb Raider-esque navigation skills.
Again, Drake's Fortune (Uncharted) refined Tomb Raider's legacy and built upon it. I could only wonder what a Tomb Raider game would be like under the ministrations of Naughty Dog - I would play it for certain.
As for the multiplayer component, the beta began at E3 and those lucky enough to get inFAMOUS from participating stores in the US (and some Euro) managed to get their hands on the downloadable beta. Multiplayer is fast, it's frenetic and it's full of fun. Death can come from all directions and the key to survival is to move around the maps, make use of hanging cover and keep on evading.
In cooperative mode you're working with up to 3 other people to accomplish various things, as well as navigate the environments. You have a variety of cooperative moves at your disposal and you can give a boost up to players needing to climb to higher places. In combat you'll need to watch each other's backs and make sure you pick the right areas to defend and draw the enemies into a trap.
Uncharted 2 is shaping up really well and looks to be on course for a release hopefully this year. Xbox 360 owners will have to go without; Uncharted 2 is a PS3 only game.
Lastly for this round up, we're looking at another E3 PS3 Exclusive and a true show-stopper with an amazing demo that went on for over 13 minutes. We're talking about Kratos' return for the amazingly visceral and bloody: God of War 3. When I first played God of War on the PS2 I was blown away with how much the developers managed to get out of the console, it looked good and it had controls that felt intuitive and responsive. The sequel took what they had and refined it, added even huger boss fights (and Quick Time Events) and the first running boss-fight with the Colossus was incredible.
Now God of War is back and this time it's the turn of the PS3 to chronicles Kratos' desire for revenge against the Greek Gods who betrayed him. God of War 3 looks utterly stunning with the same mix of brutal responsive combat, epic-scale boss battles and definitely deserves the rating for scenes like Kratos tearing off Helios' head and using it as a lamp to navigate dark tunnels.
There are all new weapons and old favourites. The amount of detail in the environments, the level design and the characters is truly excellent so far. Ancient Greece has never looked so good with tonnes of eyecandy and mouth-watering animations. Fans of the series are not going to be disappointed and this looks as though 2009 is the start of a pretty good year for Sony and the PS3 in general with God of War 3 acting as a front-line killer app.
God of War 3 also features the awesome film-quality sound track that graced both previous titles and the voice work of Kratos is just as gravelly and dark as ever. This looks to be a pretty brutal sequel and could well be one of the most violent games yet created for any console, even more so than the previous Conan title that modelled spilled entrails just for the hell of it.
There's even more to look forwards to on all your favourite platforms and this E3 has been a showing of some of the best of the best. Games Xtreme isn't finished yet but join us Wednesday when we review Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood for the Xbox 360.