This year’s E3 was very much the calm before the storm. With so many publishers demoing console titles on high-end PCs, I can’t help but be a little skeptical that everything we’re seeing is as current gen as the marketing teams would like us to believe. But even if the industry is holding its collective breath in anticipation of new console announcements next year, there was still a lot of great stuff to love on the show floor. From indie darlings like Unfinished Swan to licensing juggernauts like Lego Lord of the Rings to promising franchise revivals like Star Wars 1313, this E3 offered plenty to tide us over until next year’s announcements.
Here are my personal picks for the best games I saw at the show.
5. Tomb Raider – I am not a Tomb Raider guy. I appreciate its value in the industry and I understand why people love it; it’s just never been for me. But this new Square-Enix game is simply one of the most complete and engaging gameplay experiences I’ve ever seen. It has the open feel of Far Cry, the flexible mechanics of Assassin’s Creed, and the emotional intensity of Heavy Rain. This game, which promises to tell Lara’s origin story, delivers exactly what I want, an action-packed story of survival with a character who actually matters all rendered in a world that looks beautiful.
Tomb Raider is due out March 5, 2013 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
4. SimCity – SimCity has taken a lot of missteps over the years, particularly with the recent SimCity Societies, but things seem to be back on track now that Maxis is working on a full reboot of the series. With full simulation of nearly every aspect of the city infrastructure and a charming Tilt Shift graphic style, the new game is everything a franchise fan could want. The addition of multiplayer, where my city’s neighbors are being controlled by real human beings whose decisions about crime, pollution, tourism and such all have an impact on my city, makes the series’ next installment even more attractive.
SimCity will arrive in February of 2013.
3. Assassin’s Creed 3 – There’s nothing about this third chapter in the Assassin’s Creed series that doesn’t excite me. First, you’ve got the backdrop of the American Revolution, which is one of the most attractive and underutilized settings in the action adventure genre. Then you’ve got thrilling game play, which takes the concepts of the series’ previous urban heroes and translates them to the unexplored wilds of the American frontier. Finally, you’ve got an end to Desmond’s story. He’s been getting overshadowed by Ezio lately, but I’m anxious to see where all this business with the Templars and Assassins is finally leading.
Assassin’s Creed 3 is set to arrive in October 2012 on Xbox 360, Wii U, PS3 and PC.
2. The Last of Us – Having sat through dozens of demos full of explosions, demons, and laser pistols, it’s nice to see a game that achieves just as much tension and drama on an entirely human scale. The story of two survivors making their way through the ruins of what, in gaming terms at least, amounts to a rather ordinary apocalypse is one of the most arresting and instantly engaging stories of the show. The stillness and silence of the ruined world pulled me in far more deeply than the toppling skyscrapers in Call of Duty or the flying terrors of Metro Last Light, and did it all simply by showing people acting like people.
The Last of Us is due out in 2013 for the PlayStation 3.
1. XCOM: Enemy Unknown – I didn’t quite know what to expect from Firaxis’ remake of what I consider to be one of the greatest games of all time. Not only had I been imagining this remake in my head for nearly 20 years now, but Firaxis has also proven it’s willing to reinvent core franchises as needed. So when I sat down to see the game, I really had no idea what was coming. Lucky for me, and for thousands of XCOM fans around the world, the developers delivered a game that’s faithful to the spirit of the original game, but also strikingly unique and original. Yes, there are plenty of changes to the game design, but this is a game that takes the turn-based tactical essentials that made XCOM great and puts them in a modern context. No one’s really scored a bit strategy hit on the consoles, and I’m hopeful this is the game to do it.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown arrives October 9th, 2012 for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.