E3 2011
The Escapist's Favorite Games of E3 2011

The Escapist Staff | 17 Jun 2011 23:00
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BioShock Infinite

imageI have a strong emotional connection to BioShock that far exceeds the game's actual quality. It's really just a solid shooter that has some exceptional writing and a great location, but it holds a nearly sacred place in my gaming experiences. Its sequel wasn't a bad game, but it failed to recapture the awe with which I first encountered Rapture, and I expected Flyoshock - sorry, BioShock Infinite - to be much the same. Whee, we're in the air now, yippee, tell me again why I should care? Because this isn't just Big Daddies with wings, this is the spirit of BioShock reborn in the sky. This is acknowledgement that you can't step into the same river twice, so we're ditching the water entire.

Infinite embodies the feeling of BioShock, but adds enough of its own personality to avoid feeling like the weak tracks from Andrew Ryan's Greatest Hits. The shift to a voiced protagonist, as well as whatever the hell is going on with Elizabeth's ability to manipulate the fabric of time and space, blends with the combat mechanics to create something familiar, but new enough to keep you wondering what will happen next.

And then there's Songbird.

Songbird, the giant mechanical jailor who's kept Elizabeth prisoner for the past 15 years, is absolutely terrifying. His shriek makes me cringe. I dread seeing his eyes change to red. When Elizabeth cowers behind a table to avoid his gaze as he looks through a window, I cower right along with her. By the end of BioShock, I felt like a gunslinging, plasmid-flinging god on earth, but Songbird makes me feel vulnerable and afraid all over again. Fantastic.

Catherine

imageWhen Atlus USA first announced that Catherine would be getting a North American release after launching in Japan earlier this year, I was excited. Sure, I had absolutely no idea what the gameplay was like, but it looked sexy and was developed by the same team that handled the brilliant Persona 4, so my Atlus fangirlism quickly took over.

After seeing Catherine in action at E3, I finally have a solid idea of what the game will actually play like, so I'm even more convinced that it will be right up my alley. I'm not going to lie: this is not a game for everyone. Some gamers will ignore it, some will hate that it doesn't have the RPG gameplay of the Persona series, and some will just be utterly confused by what appears to be a cheating-on-your-girlfriend simulator. However, I love puzzle games and story-driven games, and Catherine seems to be the perfect mix of both.

With the majority of gameplay consisting of puzzles that force the main character, Vincent, to rearrange blocks with ever-increasing hazards into a stairway to safety, I do have some worries about whether or not that mechanic will remain interesting enough to support the entire game. That said, even in the chaos of E3, where it's easy to forget where you are, what time zone you're in, or even your own name, I was still thinking about Catherine long after I saw it. It didn't get lost among the dozens of other games I experienced in Los Angeles last week; it stayed with me after I left the show floor, and I hope that the full game will be equally memorable.

Dark Souls

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I knew I'd be buying Dark Souls within minutes of playing it. It has controls that are about the same as spiritual prequel Demon's Souls, but it looks much better and is apparently incredibly harder. My character spawned wearing tattered clothing, wielding an axe and shield. After awakening in some sort of castle at a campfire, I took the path to the left. A dragon was ahead. I advanced on it and was incinerated by the massive creature's fire breath. I awakened at the campfire again and tried the path that led forward. A skeleton popped out of a hidden tunnel and whacked me in the skull. After taking him and a twin out, just ahead on the path was an armored warthog. It quickly rammed me to my next death. On successive tries, the warthog seemed invulnerable to all my attacks, and was so fast I could hardly get my bearings to form a strategy. But I still wanted more.

Why is it a good thing that Dark Souls might be even harder than Demon's Souls? It's all about the campfires. Players will spawn at these checkpoints instead of going back to the beginning of the level after a death. This means that the game can throw tougher challenges at you because you can respawn closer to the area where the challenge occurs. The difficulty in Demon's Souls led to a great feeling of victory once each section was overcome, and Dark Souls looks to multiply both the difficulty and feeling of victory by 10 times, but not unfairly so. In addition, it has a new world and dark storyline, and I can't wait for what will hopefully be more memorable voice acting as heard in Demon's Souls ("You have a heart of gold."). Bring on more warthog!

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