Monday 28 June 2010

E3 Announcements To Get Excited About

So E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is finally over for another year. There were plenty of announcements made by publishers, and this week I've decided to go through some of the games that drew our attention and will be available on your console of choice.

Codename: Kingdoms (Xbox 360: Crytek)

Announced within Microsoft's E3 keynote as the short trailer shown above only, Codename: Kingdoms is a previously unannounced title exclusive to Microsoft's console.

What's interesting about the game right away is the setting. The trailer only shows a brief glimpse of what to expect, but at the same time we have enough to know that the game follows some sort of Gladiator-style setting, and is published by Crytek. For those who aren't familiar with the developer, they have in the past been responsible for Far Cry and Crysis, two highly-regarded first person shooter games which were also known for pushing the limits of the PC. To put it in perspective, Crysis, in particular, has only just had processors released that will handle it on "Very High" settings comfortably, the new Intel Core i7 series.

So what do we know about this game for sure? Undoubtedly, it will make the most of the Xbox 360 hardware, which as we've seen is capable of some extraordinary things when pushed properly. However, the style of game that we can expect is still completely unknown. Knowing Crytek, the game is likely to be a first-person game, possibly a melée game with swords and whatnot. However, one thing that intrigues about the game is the following possibility that doesn't seem to have been thought of in great detail. Microsoft no longer has a real-time strategy division on consoles, with their Ensemble studio closing after Halo Wars. The game is called Codename: Kingdoms, which has an element of RTS to it. Unlikely though it is, could we be looking at Microsoft's next big strategy franchise?

Rage (Xbox 360, PS3, PC: id Software)

Remember id? They were the makers of Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D. Their previous game before this was Doom 3, a big budget production that despite its hype really didn't deliver much more than a series of 'monster cupboards' that didn't really make for the most exciting gameplay experience. Despite this, everyone knew that id were capable of, and in Rage they seem to be attempting to reclaim that reputation of greatness.

Significant jumps have been made towards a post-apocalyptic environment in gaming as a staple part of shooters, with games such as Fallout 3 or Borderlands gravitating towards that Mad Max type of environment. It seems to be a popular thing as well to make the enemies realistic with elements of the surreal as well, with mutants and so forth usually appearing within the otherwise realistic setting.

Rage is no exception, but takes the familiar corridor shooting that the studio is known for and blends in some driving sections as well as some elements more commonly found in role-playing games such as the aforementioned Fallout 3. What's most impressive based on journalistic impressions and play testing is that the AI of the game's enemies is nothing short of impressive. A particular highlight from events was an incident where the guy playing the game set up sentries and turned to talk to the audience, only to find that the enemies had flanked him and dismantled the sentries while he was talking about something he'd be doing next. It's just a sure-fire sign that if nothing else, the game will attempt to break some new ground in the shooter genre.

Epic Mickey (Wii, Disney Studios)

I know exactly what you're thinking. Why, Rob, why? It's a Disney game, for a start, and your love of Castle of Illusion notwithstanding, what possible reason could there be for getting particularly excited about this game?

First things first, let's get one thing clear on this: I think that for their mileage, Nintendo had a much better E3 press conference than the other two companies. Sony and Microsoft revealed far too many of their top level titles before their keynote, and as a result a few of their announcements really felt like old news. Granted, I think the Internet is one of the worst things to happen to the element of surprise, but in this case I feel I'm justified. So Nintendo released a few new announcements, many of which I feel would deserve their rightful place in this list of upcoming titles. Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the first Wii-exclusive title in the franchise, their announcement of the 3DS console, which according to early impressions is excellent, and the one I'm pretty damned excited about, the new instalment of Donkey Kong Country.

Why then is Epic Mickey the one I'm excited for? Well, the answer is simple in this case. Firstly, as I previously stated, I like the Mickey Mouse games I've played, and I find them to be immensely playable. Secondly, there's a personality attached to the game that I feel suggests a certain level of quality to the project. Warren Fucking Spector.

For those who aren't familiar with his work, Spector is responsible for such classic works as Wing Commander, games from the Ultima series, System Shock, Deus Ex and the first two games in the Thief series. In terms of profile, Spector is among the greats. Now, I have some vague experience with Deus Ex. Granted, my experience was limited to blowing both my legs and one of my arms off in the tutorial level, but I enjoyed the game nonetheless simply for the depth involved in the game.

Epic Mickey looks like a sleeper hit, with Spector's attachment a further demonstration of the quality that we can expect in the development of this game. Furthermore, the idea of going through classic film reels as levels has a suggested level of fun to it along the lines of the Lego games. Making it for the Wii seems like a good fit, as this year's theme for Nintendo seemed to be making the announcements that 'hardcore' gamers hadn't been forsaken like they seem to think.

Ultimately, the winner in this year's E3 was the gaming community. The Wii has a few extra 'hardcore' games on the way to keep the dedicated Nintendo fans happy. The Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 have their own motion controllers on the way to attract new gamers, while at the same time are busy on new franchises and instalments to the great franchises that gamers have come to know and love. Even the advent of 3D gaming seems to be on the way, though it's difficult to say whether Sony's 3D support for PS3 or Nintendo's 3DS will prove to be more successful at it. Life has never been sweeter if you're a gamer. Enjoy it, because things can only get better.

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