The Five Best Games I Watched at E3 2012
5. Tomb Raider
by Crystal Dynamics / Square-Enix for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
I’ve never really cared about the Tomb Raider franchise, and some of the early imagery from Crystal Dynamics’ upcoming reboot left a sour taste in my mouth. This year’s E3 demo has me cautiously looking forward to the game, though. It hinted at a dark third-person adventure with a potentially compelling narrative. An emphasis on survival and crafting makes this Tomb Raider look slightly deeper than the standard third-person shooter its demo at the Microsoft press conference indicated.
4. Beyond: Two Souls
by Quantic Dream / Sony for the PlayStation 3
I was an extremely vocal critic of David Cage’s Heavy Rain, but only because of its atrocious story. The user interface was the only redeeming part of that game, adding tension and suspense without ever feeling like empty button-mashing quick time events. Cage’s new game, Beyond: Two Souls, seems to use the same basic UI, along with the impressive motion-capture technology that made Heavy Rain look unlike any other game. Beyond, which stars Ellen Page in a supernatural story about a troubled young woman and an invisible presence that bonds with her, seems more action-packed than Heavy Rain, based on a demo Sony held in one of their private meeting rooms. If Beyond’s story is better written than Heavy Rain’s, it could be something special. If it isn’t, perhaps the action will make it more tolerable. I’m hopeful after what I saw at E3, but at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if Beyond winds up being amazing or completely awful.
by Maxis / EA for PC
The new SimCity expands Will Wright’s city-building classic into a network of conjoined cities with its online multiplayer. What you do with your city will have an impact on your friends’. Together you can share or trade resources, work together on such big projects as airports, and maybe get a better understanding of how our actions affect the well-being of others. SimCity has always been a very complex game with a simple and intuitive interface, and the newest iteration seems to expand on that in both directions.
2. Assassin’s Creed III
by Ubisoft for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and PC
With Ezio Auditore’s story finished, Assassin’s Creed III jumps from Renaissance-era Italy to Colonial America in the years before the Revolution. Based on the hands-off demo in Ubisoft’s booth, Creed III won’t play too differently from the last few games in the series, with similar basic mechanics and multiplayer modes. The new setting comes with beautiful recreations of late 18th-century Boston and New York and a slightly revamped combat system that factors in the increased importance of firearms during the period. Haystacks, vital for stealth, are now mobile, pulled along by horses. Certain buildings can now be entered through open windows as you’re trying to escape from the British, breaking up the Redcoats’ line of sight. Naval battles also make their series debut in side-missions that should excite any Patrick O’Brian fans. If the new half-Native American lead Connor Kenway is nearly as entertaining as Ezio Auditore, there’s no reason to expect disappointment.
1. The Last of Us
by Naughty Dog / Sony for the PlayStation 3
My excitement over Naughty Dog’s Uncharted follow-up was initially tempered by the demo at Sony’s press conference. What I thought would be a game about exploring and surviving in a post-civilization Pittsburgh instead looked like another cover-based third-person shooter. A closed-door demo reignited my interest, though, as Naughty Dog displayed a different and mostly non-violent way to play the same section of the game. The Last of Us looks like a smart and beautiful take on the post-apocalyptic genre, with Naughty Dog’s standard attention to character and dialogue. It’s also good to see a female character who isn’t just a plot point or a damsel-in-distress. She’s not a sidekick but an active participant who can find useful objects and help turn the tide of a shoot-out with a well-aimed brick. Between the striking environment, the open-ended play styles, and Naughty Dog’s great track record, The Last of Us might be the most promising game of E3 2012. Too bad nobody was given a chance to play it.
Honorable mentions: GameGlobe; Call of Duty: Black Ops 2’s Strike Force mode; Far Cry 3’s single-player campaign