So E3 is over and the next big game convention is probably just around the corner, if you are a gamer like me, you might get lost in the hoo-hah that follows every convention like this. The numbers from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo never matter to me, I just want to see the games and pick a few to keep an eye on. This E3 was no exception in that respect, whilst Nintendo arguably had the weakest conference and the weakest showing of games. Microsoft and Sony pretty much blew the doors off with some really good showings.
Games Xtreme has taken some time out to shine a spotlight on several of these games for the various consoles, some are multiplatform and some are just exclusives. However one thing is certain, these are the games that will really rock the boat come the time of their release either this year or in 2010. It's not the platform that matters but the game itself, fans will flock to their console of choice, or the PC.
So without further ado, and in no particular order, we present the E3 Watchlist part 1!
Slated for release this year, Borderlands is set on the planet of Pandora and promises to bring several interesting innovations to the FPS genre. First of all it's developed by Gearbox and Randy Pitchford seems just as excited as we are about it. Pandora is a huge open world roleplaying shooter sandbox that is packed with missions and quests. Whilst you can't customise your character fully, you can change the name and certain things about it. What you can do is play split-screen with a friend, play locally or online with up to 3 other people. A four player co-operative game is right up our alley and we love the idea that you have an expansive skill tree and character upgrade system.
There are numerous vehicles in the game and you can customise your Runner with weapon upgrades and paint jobs. The character that you play from sp can enter anyone's game, its true drop-in/drop-out co-op and the character is also persistent across the game. So you can leap into anyone's game and continue to level up, gain loot and cash. You'll come back to your game and take everything back with you. Borderlands biggest innovation is the procedural manufacturers that can create over 1.5 million guns, perhaps even more now since the developers have expanded on their original idea. Every manufacturer in the game can offer various weapons and items, these are built from a list of things, properties and materials for instance that only that manufacturer can use.
This allows the developers to create a set of guns that have a unique visual look as well as other elements via the CPU. So a developer doesn't physically make the weapon, the game's in-character manufacturer makes it. So if you have say, 2 million guns in Borderlands, the chances of seeing the same weapon twice will be slim indeed.
Borderlands features a new art style since E3 2008, Gearbox's artists have elevated the game from the usual grimy Quake-style colour palette and given it a Concept Art kind of look which is similar in many ways to Crackdown. What they have delivered so far is a fun--packed fps/rpg hybrid shooter experience that has lots of mileage already and we can't wait to explore the Borderlands with the rest of the gamers come later this year.
Up till now we've only really seen the 'challenge' rooms of Eidos' new Batman game. So far, so good, we thought, but there's been something missing. Until this E3 and several new videos as well as various hands on Batman has been a game that looked nice, but we feared it might be a shallow brawler set in the cavernous halls of Arkham Asylum. We were wrong, Batman Arkham Asylum is set on Arkham Island, another open-world style of game with more to do than just beat on Joker's goons. Batman being the World's Greatest Detective can use numerous detective abilities to solve the many puzzles and quandaries on Arkham Island. He has all the abilities and gadgets that you'd expect from the Dark Knight and most of all, the game looks and feels the part.
Batman's cape is incredible and it flows and moves with the Dark Knight. The freeflow combat system is shaping up nicely and adds an extra layer of realism to the combat. You can tailor the feedback on the harder difficulty levels to actually require you to watch for the visual cues in the various attacks, rather than have a special indicator on the easier difficulties. Batman can attack, dodge, block and use his batarang in combat just as well as he can quickly escape with the grapple or hide and ambush enemies for various stealthy takedowns.
The game also looks the part, it's hard to tell from movies and videos but it looks gorgeous on the move. Arkham Island is created to painstaking gothic detail and the level of design for the Dark Knight himself is staggering. Add to this the fact that most of the original Batman cartoon voice cast is involved and you have a package that could well be the best Batman game ever made, period. It's not hard of course, since most have been based on movies and have been sub-par efforts.
Kevin Conroy reprises his role as the grizzled Dark Knight and Mark Hamill is the manic Joker. Batman ships later this year and there's a special place on my shelf reserved already.
A few years ago I lost faith in Splinter Cell when I saw the E3 footage of the 5th game in the series. I was one of the few people who quite liked Double Agent though like many fans, i mourned the loss of cooperative play from Chaos Theory. I was ready to give up on the series until this E3 when Ubisoft rolled out Splinter Cell 5 to a shocked and awed crowd of journalists. Their presentation was sharp and their product showed no signs of the Hobo Fisher Simulator that Straybolt had coined for the previous showing of the game. No, this was a fresh new Splinter Cell and most of all it was exciting.
The key factor here with ConViction is that Ubisoft listened to their fans; they listened to the murmurs of discontent when they showed off the previous iteration. So they went back to the drawing board and redesigned the game. Whilst it still provides answers over Sam's daughter's death and focuses on that story of Fisher's revenge, there are many twists and turns in store for the player. What Ubisoft have done with this iteration is to turn the game's immersion dial up to 12. You never once leave the game to see a briefing screen; all of the information is presented in sneaky ways, projected upon the game's environment in a new kind of storytelling technique.
Sam has a whole new range of moves, he navigates the environments much faster now and he's more like a predator than a slow moving Stealth Sloth. He has numerous options to navigate the levels and each level is a small sandbox for the player to use their various tactics. There's a last known position indicator that shows where the enemy will come to, if you break their line of sight. A de-saturated screen lets the player know when Sam is hidden and there is a new technique called: Mark and Execute that looks extremely interesting indeed - the mechanics behind it aren't fully known yet.
Visually, ConViction now looks pretty stunning and with the addition of hands-on interrogation sequences and other surprises, the game has now become one to watch very closely indeed before it ships later this year.