E3 2006 Editors' Choice Awards

In this feature, the GameSpot staff brings its considerable amount of collective experience at covering E3 to bear, distilling all of our coverage down to its most important elements and showing you what the biggest names and events were at E3 2006.

By Gamespot Staff || Design: Collin Oguro || Video: Vincent Caravella - updated May 20, 2006

his year's Electronic Entertainment Expo was certainly one of the most interesting and exciting in the conference's 10-plus years of history. The three biggest video game publishers continued their bitter struggle for supremacy, even as the technology powering games continues to improve at a shocking rate, making for a spectacular show. But despite all the moving and shaking among the game industry's key players, E3 2006 was still all about the games, and we're here to recognize the most impressive among them.

It was all hands on deck at the GameSpot booth as we brought you 'round-the-clock coverage of the world's biggest event in gaming.

But first, a hearty thank-you to all of you who helped make GameSpot the number one source of E3 information in the world. During the course of the week, we brought you coverage of more than 1,000 different E3 games, producing approximately 700 stories and 700 videos, while also bringing you the first look at the Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft press conferences, plus more than 25 hours of exclusive live video broadcasts from the E3 show floor. As soon as we got back, we put our heads together to decide which games made the best showing. Our congratulations and best wishes go to the winners of our E3 Editors' Choice Awards, though we also wish to respectfully acknowledge all the finalists in each award category--in many cases, this was some of the fiercest competition we've ever seen.


About These Awards

Poor us. We had to spend a whole week wading through countless numbers of great-looking games to bring you these awards.

Like a fashion or auto show, E3 is very much about immediate impact. Exhibitors tailor their demonstrations to quickly and forcefully get your attention. Considering the cacophony of noise in a convention center full of people, with music blasting at full volume, publishers have to structure their trailers and videos to be as flashy as possible. So what does this mean in the end? The games that present themselves well aren't necessarily the best games out there. We must also remember that most games shown off at E3 are in early stages of development. So in a nutshell, a Best of Show award from GameSpot is no guarantee on the final quality of the game. That said, it's quite an accomplishment to impress us in the midst of so many other games and distractions on the E3 show floor, and that's certainly worth the recognition of an award.

Games that are eligible for GameSpot E3 2006 Editors' Choice Awards must have been shown in some form of playable state. Developer-led demonstrations in which we never touched the controls ourselves were still eligible. Games that were present at the show only in the form of trailers or prerendered movies were generally not considered, except for specific award categories. We also tended to favor original, never-before-seen games. While the long development cycles of today's gaming industry means that many games are exhibited at E3 for two or even three years, it's only natural that we'd be more impressed by games that were completely new to us.


With all that out of the way, we've divided our E3 2006 Editors' Choice Awards into four primary categories:

Special Achievement Awards

This category is for recognizing games and trends that don't neatly fit into any genre categories. You'll also find our picks for the best videos, hardware highlights, and top news of the show in this category.

Genre Awards

These awards recognize excellence within a particular genre. Note that some genres are inherently more competitive than others, and we do not subdivide our genre awards among platforms. In recognition of GameSpot's platform-agnostic stance, games across all platforms compete with one another for genre awards.

Platform Awards

With the transition to the next generation of gaming hardware under way, we saw plenty of games both for up-and-coming game platforms as well as the venerable standards. However, this year's E3 clearly emphasized newer platforms, and as a result, the platform awards we selected are purposely aligned with the platforms that had the greatest impact at the show.

Game of the Show

This category is self-explanatory. We give you our take on the game that impressed us the most at E3 2006, and we also recognize nine worthy finalists.

Biggest News

E3 is never without its fair share of news, but as tends to be the case, some of the most interesting and surprising information was revealed during the Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony press conferences. The news was in some cases shocking, and in others downright dirty, but all of it gave us a clearer picture of what the next year in video games is going to look like.


Nintendo


Solid Snake in Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Though Nintendo failed to announce the status of its signature fighting series during its press conference, and the game was conspicuously absent from the show floor, all secrets were revealed during a special event at the end of the first day of E3, in which attendees learned that Solid Snake would be a playable character. That's a far cry from looking down the barrel of his gun.

Resident Evil for Wii
Resident Evil 5 may only be in development for the PS3 and Xbox 360, but Wii owners need not fear (or more likely, should start being afraid), because Capcom announced a Resident Evil game of some sort is in development for the Wii. We hope it won't be like the Resident Evil light-gun games.

27 Wii games playable at E3
Reggie Fils-Aime's mantra at the Nintendo press conference was that people should concern themselves more with how games play than how they look. He and his company kept their end of the bargain by having 27 games playable on the E3 show floor.


Sony


PS3 price, date
At the pre-E3 Sony press conference, among a number of interesting announcements, the corporation finally slapped a price tag and a due date on its upcoming console, leaving people more stunned than surprised.

PS3 controller motion sensitive
Sony seemed to take Nintendo's console name change to heart by "borrowing" the company's formerly "revolutionary" design. They show off their unique controller mechanics, defined as having "six degrees of freedom" with a pretty interesting looking Warhawk demonstration.

PS3 specs tweaked, 20GB version stripped down
With what seems to be the final hardware in tow, Sony outlines all of the specs for its system, taking out a number of features in the 60GB version that were shown at E3 last year, and even more for their smaller package, the 20GB version.


Microsoft


M'soft nabs GTA first day
Microsoft frontman Peter Moore's favorite way to make big announcements is to showcase game titles and release dates with fake tattoos on his arms. So it was clear that Microsoft is more than a little excited to have Grand Theft Auto IV on its console the first day that the game is available. And you can see that in ink. The kind that washes off, of course.

Halo 3 announcement
We all knew it was coming, a barely minute-long trailer showing little more than the Master Chief back in action. But it was enough, and Microsoft knew it.


Everyone Else


Activision buys RedOctane
Following the success of critic's darling Guitar Hero, Activision made a serious investment in parent company RedOctane, just in time for Guitar Hero II and some other exciting possibilities. Cross your fingers for "Panama."

WOW movie
Just when you thought World of Warcraft couldn't get any bigger, it looks like they're trying to translate the addictive Azeroth to the silver screen. How on earth will that work? We don't know, but if precedent means anything, we know people will wait in queue for hours to go see it.

Best Trailer

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Publisher: Konami
Developer: Kojima Productions
Platform: PS3
Release Date: TBA 2007

While we'd like to be giving this award to the 15-minute version, the best trailer to be found on GameSpot from E3 2006 is the Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer seen at Sony's preshow press conference. Packed with a purity of fan service normally reserved for a Nintendo event, Old Snake's lamentation over future warfare is intercut with intense fighting and such familiar faces as Ocelot, Meryl, the Colonel, Otacon, and Raiden. Some look older, some haven't aged a day, and some have changed from effeminate and annoying main characters to wicked-sick cyborg ninjas that you hope are playable on the side.

We get no gameplay amid the mournful music, ominous voice-over, and lifelike visuals... Or do we? Until this game is available for playing, we can't be sure. And although we don't know when we'll see this in stores, Metal Gear fans will be able to fill the months with the questions raised herein. Whose grave is Snake saluting? Wasn't FOXDIE supposed to make him check out a few years ago? And what's with the "Liquid" before Ocelot? Then there's the ending of the trailer, where Snake appears on the verge of suicide. Were we really just offered a glimpse of the last moments of both Snake and his popular franchise so early in the game's development? From the Metal Gear diehards to those just looking for an excuse to drop $600 on a PlayStation 3, this trailer left you rewinding, freeze-framing, and most importantly, wanting more.


Finalists

Assassin's Creed (PS3)

At first glance, Assassin's Creed looks like an amazing game where you take down poor, overmatched crusaders among lifelike crowds. But then you notice the subtle digital-video effects and wonder...is there more to this game than the 12th century?


Coded Arms: Assault (PS3)

Mimicking our favorite trailer of E3, we first got a glimpse of Coded Arms: Assault at the Sony press conference, then later at Konami's official event we were treated to a full three minutes of stylish cyber-gunplay. The Matrix wishes it could look this cool.


God Hand (PS2)

We appreciate trailers that show off plenty of gameplay. This number for God Hand takes some solid, in-game combos and mixes them with surf rock, a laugh track, and of course, dancing. In the words of the trailer, its style is impetuous.


God of War II (PS2)

Kratos is still angry! Grrr! Again, great gameplay with epic music makes for a winner here. Honestly, this trailer could've been a two-minute loop of that griffin getting its wing chopped off and we'd be just as anxious to play the game.


Halo 3 (X360)

So when Cortana-gone-crazy says, "This is the way the world ends," that means this game will have an ending, right? Just kidding. Bungie truly delivered on one of the most anticipated trailers of E3 in stunning HD. And hey, no pop-in scenery!


Spore (PC)

Spore was first unveiled by Will Wright at GDC 2005, and our year-plus wait for the first trailer of the game was rewarded by this lighthearted tale of evolution reminiscent of the intro to Futurama.


Super Paper Mario (GC)

With the game nowhere to be found, this short movie listed with little fanfare on Nintendo's press site single-handedly won Super Paper Mario an E3 2006 People's Choice Award as one of the most heavily trafficked games on our site. Power to the Paper!


Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii)

Snake's in the game! Snake's in the game! And Zero Mission Samus, and the dude from Kid Icarus, and Meta Knight, and hey! Snake's in the game!


Best Stage Demo

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

Publisher: Mythic Entertainment
Developer: Mythic Entertainment
Platform: PC
Release Date: TBA 2007

You never know when an interview is going to get crazy, but when Mythic Entertainment's executive producer Jeff Hickman and design manager Paul Barnett brought by Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, we knew from the first handshake that it was going to be, at the very least, lively.

Combining a ton of new information about the game and an exciting enthusiasm for the property, they churned out an interview that has more than a few highlights and includes the following quotable phrases (among many others): "They're made from mushrooms, and they came from outer space," "hot-looking dark elf women," "pet classes, just not dull," "the naked-dwarf problem." Of course, you'll have to see it to believe it, but we guarantee that you'll have a new (or rejuvenated) interest in Age of Reckoning after catching a glimpse of their infectious enthusiasm about the game. We're going to do our best to bring you more of these two guys, and their game of course, in the upcoming year before its release.


Finalists

Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars (PC)

Mike Verdu, the executive producer on Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars, treated us to an exclusive world premiere of the latest trailer for his game. And yes, he talks about Kane.


Gears of War (X360)

We got tired of people talking about how Gears of War was "behind closed doors," so producer Rod Fergusson brought the game by for this bloody, chainsaw-bayonet-infused demonstration.


God of War II (PS2)

What's better than one developer talking about a game? How about two? David Jaffe and Cory Barlog brought by God of War II's massive E3 demo to talk about gameplay changes, the search for new mythology, and how awesome GameSpot is, of course.


Guitar Hero II (PS2)

Not one but two GameSpot editors rock out on stage with RedOctane's John Tam and Corey Fong. Guitar Hero II is always guaranteed to put on a good show!


The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)

Nintendo's Matt Atwood and James Sakshaug sing and play the DS version of Zelda along with Rich, recounting Zelda techniques of old and how this game plays up to the dual-screen functionality of the DS.


Mass Effect (X360)

We get a special visit from our favorite physicians, Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk, who are curing all our ailments with their latest ambitious RPG, Mass Effect. I've got a fever! And the only cure is...


Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (PS2, Xbox)

Ed Boon feels like family at this point, which must be why he came by to show us all kinds of stuff going on in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. He's pretty partial to GameSpot's E3 Reptile Run shirts, too.


Neverwinter Nights 2 (PC)

Feargus Urquhart and Chris Avellone drop by to talk about and play Neverwinter Nights 2, respectively. Of course, you're going to have a great demo when you bring out the big guns to not only talk about your game, but also to stand silently off to the side and play it. We couldn't have been happier!


Splinter Cell: Double Agent (PS3, X360)

Designer Chris Smith and producer Julian Garrity bring by the impressive-looking Splinter Cell: Double Agent, and Carrie totally ignores all pleas to wrap it up to make this demo as long as possible. Our apologies to whoever was organizing their schedules!


Best Surprise

Overlord

Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Triumph Studios
Platform: X360, PC
Release Date: Q3 2007

Every year we spend the weeks leading up to the Electronic Entertainment Expo meeting with companies and trying to make sure that there are as few surprises as possible waiting at the show. And every year there are a handful of games that manage to elude us, because the companies working on them are unfeasibly good at keeping secrets. The most surprising game for us this year, for a number of different reasons, was Overlord, which we found tucked away at the back of the by-invitation-only Codemasters booth. We visited Codemasters' UK headquarters shortly before E3, so the fact that we'd never heard of Overlord before was surprising in itself, but perhaps not quite as surprising as the fact that this promising Fable-meets-Pikmin adventure game is being developed by Triumph Studios, which is best known for its Age of Wonders turn-based strategy series.

What are you looking at?

The demo of Overlord that we were treated to during our meeting with Codemasters definitely ranks as one of the more enjoyable ones that we saw at the show, not only because the game looks promising, but also because the small army of minions being ordered around using the right analog stick had tons of personality. At the start of the game, all of the minions were naked and looked more or less identical as a result, but as they ransacked buildings and found items that they could use as weapons or armor they started to distinguish themselves from one another. The minion who found and equipped a chef's hat at one point, for example, reminded us of the evil Stripe in Gremlins, since he was easy to pick out of the crowd and was rarely up to any good. In short, Overlord came out of nowhere and showed a lot of promise--we can't wait to see how it turns out.


Finalists

Most Shocking

PlayStation 3 Sticker Shock!



There were plenty of shocking things going down at the Sony Press Conference at E3 this year. Solid Snake wrapping his lips around the barrel of a gun and appearing ready to take the coward's way out, for one. The PS3 controller, for two. And hey, Genji 2's real-time weapon switching for three, while we're at it. But the big bombshell for the game fans watching around the world came at the end of the Sony press briefing on the Monday before the show started, when SCEA's big boss, Kaz Hirai, dropped the bomb that cast its shadow over the entire show: the pricing of the PlayStation 3.

People might have expected it to be a bit more expensive than what's currently on the market. But $599? Twice as much as the PlayStation 2 was when it was first released? Boom. That moment created a shockwave that covered most of Los Angeles for the rest of that week. Suddenly it wasn't about "is Warhawk any good or not?" Now it's "is Warhawk $599 worth of good?" While we'll have to hold off until November for that judgment call, the price took what sounded like a sure thing and made it far less certain, helping to set up a console battle that seems much more open than it's been in more than a decade.

To add a little more confusion to the proceedings, the company also announced plans to offer two versions of the system. A less-expensive model will be made available for $499, offering a smaller hard drive, fewer built-in features, and an added layer of confusion for consumers around the world. Riiiidge Racer!


Finalists

Most Original Feature

Live Anywhere

Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Microsoft
Platform: X360/Mobile/Vista
Release Date: TBA

It's kind of a surprise when you think about it, considering the blitzkrieg Microsoft has mounted on the game industry over the past five years, but E3 2006 marked the first time that Windows kingpin Bill Gates showed up for the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Perhaps more surprising was what he had to say when he took the stage at Microsoft's pre-E3 press conference, which was nothing less than a bold vision of the future called Live Anywhere. The concept is simple, but the logistics are mind-boggling. Take the idea of Xbox Live--a unified, standardized interface for online-connected games--and bring it to the PC and to mobile phones. The profile you've already established on your Xbox(es) will persist through these other platforms in a number of significant, appreciable ways.

The demonstration of Live Anywhere given during the Microsoft press conference made us tingle all over. A person playing Forza Motorsport 2 on the Xbox 360 was able to send a car to their friend who was online using Windows Vista. The Vista user could create custom paint jobs for the car, then take that car over to their Windows Mobile-powered cell phone, where its stats could be tweaked. Other crazy features were touted, such as cross-platform online play in games like Shadowrun, but the coup de grace for the GameSpot staffers who have become hooked on Xbox 360 Achievement Points is the fact that you can now earn points for playing Windows Vista and Windows Mobile games. Kiss your free time goodbye! The Wii controller definitely has the potential to change the way that we physically interface with games, but Live Anywhere, as it was presented at the Microsoft press conference, has the potential to amplify the role that games play in our day-to-day lives.


Finalists

Most Disappointing Absence

Killzone (working title)

Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Guerilla
Platform: PS3
Release Date: TBA

Without question, one of the most memorable moments of E3 2005 was the unveiling of the PlayStation 3 Killzone trailer; a rollicking, raucous, action-packed two-minute clip that built up more buzz around Sony's then-fledgling PlayStation 3 than practically anything else at the show. For days after the clip first aired, the hype was practically palpable--was that in-game footage? Was this what the PS3 was capable of? Sony had knocked it out of the park with this trailer, and expectations were skyrocketing for E3 2006.

Yet here is the problem borne from great expectations: They often lead to spectacular letdowns. That's exactly the case with the conspicuous absence of Killzone PS3 from this year's E3. While the Killzone PSP game, Liberation, was on hand, its big brother was nowhere to be found, causing many to ask, "Just what is going on with Killzone?" The situation was made all the worse by games like Gran Turismo HD and MotorStorm, two other PS3 games that had strong showings in 2005--in trailer format--turning out to be playable on the show floor. The optimist might say that the Guerilla development team behind Killzone skipped creating an E3 demo simply because they wanted to put the development focus on the game itself. The cynic might say that Sony knew full well that a playable version of Killzone would bear little resemblance to the kick-ass trailer shown last year and subsequently decided to shelve its appearance in the hopes that other games would mask its absence.

Right now, we're trying real hard not to be cynics.


Finalists

Best Graphics

Crysis

Publisher: EA
Developer: Crytek
Platform: PC
Release Date: Q4 2006

It's hard to believe that a year ago we were wondering how the PC would keep up with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But thanks to Crysis, the PC looks to outdo its console rivals before one of them even gets out of the gate. There was simply no game on the show floor that graphically came close to Crysis. It's so good that Microsoft showcased it as a Windows exclusive during its E3 press conference, and the Crysis demo stations at the show had no shortage of admirers and gawkers.

We must note that Crysis had some frame rate issues, a result of EA and Crysis using dual DirectX 9 cards to simulate what the DirectX 10 version will look like to the best of their abilities. Still, even while it was stuttering, Crysis showed more graphical pizzazz than anything else at the show. The carrier deck battle against the alien Hunter was incredibly atmospheric, but the jungle level that was shown was jaw-dropping. Everything from the lighting, shadowing, and rich and deformable vegetation, to the little motion blur when you whip around, combined to create an incredible scene.

Crysis is the next game from Germany's Crytek, makers of 2004's excellent Far Cry, and the great thing about the team is that if you compliment them for the awesome technology in Crysis, they almost get defensive about it and explain that they developed the technology to allow for better gameplay. Indeed, the demo showed how you'll continually make tactical decisions, so this isn't a brainless run-and-gun shooter. Do you sacrifice firepower for speed? Or will you use stealth rather than brute force? Yet perhaps the bigger question is, how long will we have to wait for the game to ship? Crytek says they're aiming for this winter, and while you'll be able to play the game using existing DirectX 9 hardware, you'll have to wait for Windows Vista and DirectX 10 video cards in order to see the game at its absolute best.


Finalists

Best Hardware

Wii

Manufacturer: Nintendo
Platform: Wii
Release Date: Q4 2006

Nintendo had some ridiculously high expectations to meet at E3. Up until the show, only invited journalists could play with the system, under highly supervised conditions where PR hawks monitored every movement and click, making sure the controller stayed within strict usage parameters. E3 was the first time that the general public--well, the general gaming industry--could get their hands on the new controller.

We can only imagine the potential problems a prototype Wii controller, one that lets you play a game by waving the controller around in the air, could encounter. However, Nintendo did a remarkable job putting together solid prototype machines for the show. While not completely flawless, the Wii-mote performed well enough to turn several GameSpot editors into believers. With fully functional hardware, it's no surprise that the Wii was the hit of the show. Attendees queued up in four-hour lines just to get into the Wii display area, and waited in even more lines to try out various games in development.

We were also impressed by the Wii Virtual Console and new Wii Classic controller. Nintendo had a couple of Wii Virtual Console demo units on the floor running classic games including Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, and Super Mario 64, as well as Sonic the Hedgehog from the Sega Genesis and Bonk's Adventure from the TurboGrafix 16. All the games played great on the Wii Classic controller, making the Virtual Console a fantastic old-school complement to all the new Wii-enabled, motion-sensing games. The Virtual Console will give you something to do while you sit down and rest in between all the arm-waving sessions.


Finalists

Best Action Adventure Game

BioShock

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Irrational Games
Platform: X360
Release Date: 2007

BioShock is part first-person shooter, part role-playing game, and part adventure game--it doesn't fit neatly into any conventional genre description. But what's particularly important to note about it is that it looks extremely promising, indeed. Though the broad-by-definition action adventure category is always competitive at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, BioShock stood out to us as the most inspired and overall most promising example of this style of game. That's not to say that the decision was easy, since this highly competitive category included other very promising games, particularly the highly impressive Assassin's Creed for PS3.

We eagerly anticipate getting shot all to hell by this genetically mutated freak in a diving suit while constantly worrying about drowning to death. Seriously.

Though shown exclusively behind closed doors, BioShock's ambitious design and artistic quality quickly spread among GameSpot editors covering the show. The game takes place in an undersea utopia-gone-mad, filled with genetically mutated freaks apparently resigned to face an imminent watery grave, as the whole underwater station threatens to collapse on itself. That such a grim setting could come across as visually beautiful is a feat unto itself. But what's just as compelling about BioShock is the seeming open-endedness of its gameplay. It will be up to the player to decide how to approach any given situation, whether through force, guile, diplomacy, or something else.

Developer Irrational Games announced BioShock as the spiritual successor to its cult classic System Shock 2, but from what we saw of the game at E3, we came away with the sense that BioShock has the potential to be much greater. And considering how great of a game System Shock 2 is in the first place, that's an exciting prospect, indeed.


Finalists

Best Fighting Game

Tekken Dark Resurrection

Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Platform: PSP
Release Date: 07/25/2006

Dark Resurrection started life as an arcade-only upgrade to Tekken 5, but now this great fighting upgrade is coming to the PSP. A Tekken release all by itself wouldn't automatically win this award, but what floored us was the quality of the conversion. Save for a few background details here and there, this portable Tekken looks just about as faithful as the PS2 version was, which of course makes it a superimpressive handheld game.

With the release of the game only a couple of months off, there was plenty to see in the playable demo shown at E3. All of the characters are present, including the two new combatants, Lili and Dragunov. This game also marks the return of Armor King and will contain a mess of modes, including one that lets you download ghost data from the Internet and fight against profiles based on real-life players. Tekken games have always included a ton of crazy modes, and this one appears to be no exception.

While the modes and the classic Tekken gameplay ensure this one will at least be somewhat satisfying, the quality of the visuals really sets it apart from the rest of the games available on the PSP. At times, the great-looking graphics just seemed difficult to believe, but seeing as how the game's already playable and already packs the same sort of punch that you'd expect from the Tekken series, this is one portable fighting game that has us awfully excited.


Finalists

Best Massively Multiplayer Game

Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures

Publisher: Funcom
Developer: Funcom
Platform: PC
Release Date: Q4 2006

It's kind of cute when a massively multiplayer game lets players create a new character by adjusting height, facial features, and the size of his or her "arse." It's a lot more interesting when a massively multiplayer game lets players build a huge town and defend it against an army in a massive, real-time strategy-like battle. But it's impossible to ignore a game that draws on the lore of author Robert E. Howard's Conan universe for brutal battles that involve goring enemies with lances while charging on a horse, or taking their heads clean off while swinging a sword.

Aside from letting players savagely kill their enemies, Age of Conan apparently will have plenty of other intriguing features, like a substantial single-player game that will let players bring their first character from level 1 to 20. Players will also be able to ride a fully controllable horse who won't just act as rapid transportation--these mighty steeds can be riding into battle while players use mounted weapons to crush their pitiful pedestrian foes. Players can even join advanced character classes that can do things like lead armies into battle and take control of huge siege engines to bombard their enemies back into the Stone Age.

But let's face it--one of the game's main attractions is its brutality. Developer Funcom makes no bones at all about how the game will likely receive an M rating for its graphic violence. Rather than fear the dreaded descriptor, the studio has embraced the mature themes set down by Howard in his novels--stories of dark, lush jungles hiding armies of savage warriors, rather than impoverished beginners killing rats in the hopes of one day purchasing a rusty dagger. Age of Conan made an impressive showing at the show this year and based on what we saw, it's the most promising massively multiplayer game in development today.


Finalists

Best Platformer

Super Mario Galaxy (working title)

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Wii
Release Date: TBA

For years there have only been whispers of Mario's forthcoming console platformer, so the appearance of a full-fledged demo of Super Mario Galaxy (working title) at this year's E3 came as a bit of a shock. Having gotten barely a mention in the years following Super Mario Sunshine (which many consider to be the series' worst entry), including at Nintendo's own press conference at this year's E3, the 10-minute gameplay demo available on the show floor spoke many more volumes than a teaser and a few bullet points ever could.

Using the Wii controller almost to perfection, the demo let you guide Mario around the outside of a number of planets and jet set between them. The screen's sensor is used to pick up jewels found floating in space, and the motion detector, when jiggled, sends Mario into a twirl. Even showcasing the freshly announced speaker-in-the-controller functionality, players could hear the coos of Mario, as well as other sound effects, coming from their remotes. And somehow, this demo managed to both open our eyes to all of the possibilities of the Wii controller and also look and feel exactly like a Mario game. Considering the pedigree of the franchise, we consider that to be quite a feat.

For years the platform genre has been said to be dwindling or fading, but arguably, it's only been the years since the last time we were treated to a Mario game. As Mario helped to create and develop the genre, we turn to creator Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo to rejuvenate and innovate it. If what we saw of Super Mario Galaxy at E3 is any indication, the platform genre still has many places to go, and we can't wait to be there when it does.


Finalists

Best Puzzle/Rhythm Game

WarioWare: Smooth Moves

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Wii
Release Date: TBA

The puzzle genre saw a number of unique and familiar entries show up at E3 2006. However, the brightest light at the show was Nintendo's WarioWare: Smooth Moves. The game is the fifth entry in the original puzzle franchise starring Mario's nemesis, Wario. The manic series has been captivating players since it first appeared on the Game Boy Advance in 2003. Subsequent entries on the GameCube, DS, and a gyroscope-enabled follow-up on the GBA have kept the games feeling fresh. The newest entry on the Wii maintained the manic pace the games are known for, while making smart use of the fledgling console's unique new controller.

What was shown at E3 followed the same surreal presentation as the GameCube game and used an elevator door as your portal to the minigames. Each stop on the elevator's ascension posed some new timed challenges to be assessed and cleared within seconds. The implementation of the Wii's controller stands as one of the best examples of the unit's potential. The core of all the minigames revolves around how you hold the unit, which highlights the versatility of both the controller and the development team's imagination. Whether it's wielding the controller like a steering wheel, pumping it like a barbell, using it to slash like a sword, or turning it like a key, WarioWare: Smooth Moves shows that you can get a lot of mileage out of the Wii's seemingly simple remote.

Though its visuals were modest in scope, WarioWare: Smooth Moves appears to be one of the best embodiments of Nintendo's philosophy on gameplay over graphics. The game manages to feel fresh and familiar at the same time. As far as puzzle games at this year's E3 go, WarioWare: Smooth Moves topped the competition with its unique control scheme and fresh take on the now classic minigame premise.


Finalists

Best Racing Game

Motorstorm (PS3)

Publisher: SCEE
Developer: Evolution Studios
Platform: PS3
Release Date: TBA

The trailer for MotorStorm that debuted at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo was arguably every bit as impressive as the one for Killzone 2, and the fact that neither game put in an appearance at Sony's pre-E3 conference was definitely disappointing. Evolution Studios' off-road racer was mentioned in the press pack for that event, though, and while its appearance at the show in playable demo form was undoubtedly in question at some point, it ended up having one of the strongest showings of any PlayStation 3 game there. The demo featured only a single track and one playable vehicle, but very few of the attendees we saw playing the game were content with playing just one race--ourselves included.

Although it might easily be mistaken for a garden variety off-road racer at first glance, MotorStorm does a number of things that distinguish it from the competition. For starters, there are very few racing games that can pit radically different vehicles against each other without using artificial speed inhibitors or boosts to balance their performance. MotorStorm's seemingly excellent vehicle balancing is achieved, at least in the E3 demo, through the alternate routes available to each vehicle in the game, allowing bikers to use ramps and narrow ledges to stay high above the track being churned up by larger vehicles, for example. The fact that the track conditions alter with every lap is also a great feature for a racing game because, lets face it, lap-based racers invariably feel a little repetitive at some point--it's in their nature. In MotorStorm the tracks get more slippery when mud is thrown onto them and the surfaces get more uneven as larger vehicles plough them up. Oh, and did we mention that MotorStorm is also fun? That's a quality sometimes overlooked in the genre that seems increasingly concerned with realism.


Finalists

Best Role-Playing Game

Neverwinter Nights 2

Publisher: Atari
Developer: Obsidian
Platform: PC
Release Date: September 19, 2006

While there were many role-playing games at E3 2006 that looked terrific, it was Neverwinter Nights 2 that showed the most potential as a great sequel, a great toolbox to create custom content, and as a great role-playing game overall. The game is in development at Obsidian Entertainment, the creator of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, and also consists of veteran RPG designers that helped create such classic games as Planescape: Torment and Fallout.

However, what was shown at E3 looked impressive on its own; a role-playing game with what will hopefully be a deep, engrossing, story-driven single-player campaign given added depth by the game's use of the modernized 3.5 Edition rule set for Dungeons & Dragons. The game will let players bring deep gnomes and dark elves into battle with a full complement of character skills and heroic feats, along with all-new character "backgrounds" that will help players further customize unique, powerful characters.

In addition, the game will include expanded adventuring party options that will allow for groups of up to four characters at once, with control options that in some ways resemble the classic Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale games. It doesn't hurt that Neverwinter Nights 2 will also ship with a comprehensive and powerful tool set that should let players create even bigger adventures, with larger menageries of evil monsters and larger treasuries full of completely customizable treasures. At E3, Neverwinter Nights 2 proved that it has a lot to offer as a role-playing game and distinguished itself as the RPG of the show.


Finalists

Best Shooter

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Splash Damage
Platform: PC
Release Date: Q3 2006

In terms of fast-paced, explosive, exciting shooter action, nothing grabbed our attention more than Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, the team-based shooter from Splash Damage (the developer of the original Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory) and id Software. While we had heard a great deal about the game and even had seen its impressive graphics technology in action, we never had a chance to try the game out ourselves.

To be honest, it was easy to be skeptical of Quake Wars; it seemed to be cut from the same cloth as EA and DICE's highly popular Battlefield 2, from the team-based objectives to the huge overland maps to the drivable, multiperson vehicles. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Quake Wars was more than just "Battlefield with aliens," and instead offered some of the most engaging shooter action at the show. Even though the game is being developed as a team-based shooter, and is succeeding another team-based shooter that appealed strongly to highly skilled, hardcore shooter fans, the demonstration version of Quake Wars we sat down and played somehow managed to evenly split the difference between sophisticated team-based strategies and knock-down, drag-out shooting action. Basically, every skill we'd ever picked up playing online shooters, both in deathmatch and team-based games, paid off beautifully in our play session. As the game's medic classes, we were able to keep the front lines guarded by constantly reviving and healing teammates; as antivehicle classes, we were able, with a little luck and skill, to tear enemy vehicles apart; as snipers, we were able to provide highly effective covering fire from remote spots--yet while all these roles seemed highly accessible, none seemed unfairly overpowered.

Every weapon in the game, including handheld infantry weapons and mounted vehicle weapons, had an appropriately powerful, satisfying feel to it, and unlike other vehicle-based games we've played, vehicles weren't almost completely impervious to most weapons. This made infantry seem much better balanced against vehicles, but the map we played on offered vehicles (such as the Strogg's "Icarus" personal jetpack) that were at once very unusual, but also very useful--yet very vulnerable to ground fire from infantry rocket launchers or from antivehicle turrets that could be deployed by engineer characters. Basically, we came away from Quake Wars at E3 feeling as though we'd played a game that was at once easy to pick up, highly deep and strategic, rewarding for skilled players, and very satisfying overall. Even though there were some extremely impressive shooters on hand at the show this year, making Enemy Territory: Quake Wars our shooter of the show was an easy decision.


Finalists

Best Sports Game

Table Tennis (X360)

Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: May 22, 2006

It's just about the last thing you'd expect to see the Rockstar Games logo on. Seriously, a table tennis game? Where's all the "underground cool" of Midnight Club? Or the terrific, biting satire of Grand Theft Auto? Nope, forget it. Sincerity is the new irony, and Rockstar has a compelling and seemingly gag-free sports game on its hands with Table Tennis for the Xbox 360.

You've seen all those wicked fast-paced table tennis matches on TV before, right? From what we've seen so far, this Xbox 360 game appears to be well-equipped to handle that same sort of high-speed action, while delivering a similar experience to what you'd find in a more traditional tennis game. On top of that, it looks great. The character models and animation are really impressive.

While the only options available to us during the show were single-player and local two-player matches, the game will have online support, as well. If the game can maintain that crazy pace over the Internet, this one could be a pretty exciting Xbox Live game, too. While it may not have been the most traditional sports game on the floor, and it certainly comes from a surprising place, Table Tennis stood out to us as the most exciting sports game at E3 2006.


Finalists

Mario Hoops 3 on 3 (DS)
Madden NFL 07 (Wii)
Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 (PS2, X360)
World Tour Golf (PS2, Xbox, PC)
Best Strategy Game

Supreme Commander (PC)

Publisher: THQ
Developer: Gas Powered Games
Platform: PC
Release Date: 2007

There were many great strategy games at E3, from Will Wright's mind-bending Spore to the wicked World War II devastation of Company of Heroes. But the game that elicited the most excitement was Supreme Commander, the next real-time strategy game from Total Annihilation creator Chris Taylor.

Now imagine this taking place on a map that's thousands of square kilometers in size, and you have an idea why we're so excited.

Recall the frenetic space battles of any of the recent Star Wars films, and that's the feeling you get watching two armies meet in Supreme Commander. Tanks and mechs clash, fighters and transports scream overhead, and missile trails and laser beams litter the skies. It's simply awesome to behold. Yet that's not even the coolest part of Supreme Commander. That moment is when the camera pulls back to show you the battlefield, all 400 square kilometers of it! And that's a "small" map for Supreme Commander, as the largest ones are up to 6,400 kilometers in size. That sense of scale is unheard of for a real-time strategy game, but Taylor is giving you the room now to really feel as if you're waging war.

The sheer size is so audacious it's exhilarating, but you also get you a feeling that it's also long overdue. For too long, real-time strategy games have taken place in small sandboxes that don't give you any room to maneuver. With Supreme Commander you have battlefields that are 50 miles across, which should give your inner Patton plenty of room to play with. It's no wonder that strategy fans everywhere are eagerly looking for 2007, because that's when Supreme Commander will ship.


Finalists

Best Nintendo DS Game

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Genre: Fantasy Action Adventure
Release Date: Q4 2006

When Nintendo's new Legend of Zelda game for the DS was announced some months back, everyone marveled at the game's use of the graphical style found in the GameCube Zelda title, The Wind Waker. However, nobody paid much mind to how the game played. Looking similar to the types of top-down-viewpoint Zelda games found on previous Nintendo handhelds, everyone likely expected the game to just use the button controls and D pad, with some ancillary touch-screen functionality. Imagine everyone's shock after playing the E3 2006 demo of the game, when they learned that nearly every function in the game is handled exclusively via the touch screen. Perhaps even more shocking than that, it's handled really, really well.

Lots of games have tried to rely on touch-screen control as the primary source of action, but few have managed to do it well. Phantom Hourglass seems like it could be the game to finally bring it all together. Simply using the stylus to move Link around and execute his various attacks is incredibly easy and intuitive, from what we've seen. Every aspect of combat, item collection, and character movement simply relies on taps of the stylus, and every action seemed fully responsive. Combine the cool new controls with a full-on new Zelda quest that's chock-full of puzzles and cool enemies to dispatch, plus a really excellent graphical style, and Phantom Hourglass just about blew us away with its showing at E3 2006. There just isn't any other DS game on the horizon as exciting as this, and we can't wait to play more of it.


Finalists

Best PC Game

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Splash Damage
Genre: Sci-Fi First-Person Shooter
Release Date: Q3 2006

Like last year, the PC made a very strong, very respectable showing at E3. Some of the most exciting games on and off the floor were for personal computers only. And certain games were extremely impressive--particularly the highly ambitious and awe-inspiring Supreme Commander from Gas Powered Games and THQ. But it was Enemy Territory: Quake Wars that stole the show on the PC for us.

A common misconception about the PC is that it's a good platform for only a few different kinds of games--online shooters being one of them because of their long history of appearing on the PC and taking advantage of the PC's inherently stronger graphics technology, inherently stronger infrastructure for online games, and many more years of experience on the PC, both for game developers and for players who often look for sophisticated team-based games over the simplistic deathmatch of yesteryear. While we saw plenty of other remarkable PC games in highly varied game genres (Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Spore, Age of Conan, among others), we have to admit that in this case, the best PC game of the show fit that PC mold--it looked fantastic, it played extremely well in multiplayer, and from what we can tell, it built itself on all the success and lessons learned by many different shooters over the years.

PC games get a bad rap for being hard to get into because of their high system requirements and for sometimes not being easy enough to pick up and play. We can't comment on the game's system requirements (which haven't been officially announced), but we can say that Enemy Territory: Quake Wars seemed to somehow split the difference between enjoyable, accessible gameplay and real strategy that rewards skill. This is a very rare combination indeed, and we hope to see more of it in the final game--but what we saw and played at E3 this year helped seal the deal to get Quake Wars the Best PC Game award.


Finalists

Best PlayStation 2 Game

God of War II

Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCEA
Genre: Fantasy Action Adventure
Release Date: February 2007

It seems likely that just about anybody who knows anything about the original God of War knew going into E3 2006 that what Sony would show of the game would at least be pretty cool. What people most likely didn't expect, however, was a nearly half-hour-long demo of a seemingly complete level, with lots of new enemies, puzzles, and abilities to check out. The God of War II demo at E3 ended all speculation on exactly how different it would be from the first game--the answer being, not terribly--but it also ended any speculation as to whether the series was headed in the right direction. The answer, in this case, was a resounding yes.

God of War II at E3 2006 showed us that Kratos, the not-so-friendly protagonist of the first game, is every bit the bastard that he was before. God of War II looks to retain the exact same style of Greek mythology-infused high fantasy with heavy metal underpinnings, pitting you against plenty of horrible creatures and letting you dispatch them gruesomely. The game plays very much like the original God of War, with similar combo moves and contextual kill maneuvers for bigger enemies. You'll also find yourself with a morbid array of puzzles, such as the one we found that involved using corpses of fallen heroes as weights to hold down switches. Another thing that hasn't changed is the fluidity of the action. Kratos moves effortlessly, destroying everything that comes into his path, and the quality of the animation, character models, background environments, you name it, is all top-notch stuff.

God of War II made a very impressive showing at E3 2006--so much so that it could be counted as the biggest reason you should still care about the PlayStation 2 amid all the PlayStation 3 hype. There's no bigger PS2 game in the foreseeable future, and if the demo we played was any indication, we expect a top-flight experience from this one.


Finalists

God Hand
Guitar Hero II
Persona 3
Yakuza
Best PlayStation 3 Game

Assassin's Creed (PS3)

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Genre: Action
Release Date: 2007

A number of interesting game trailers were shown off during Sony's E3 press conference, but the one that really made us gasp and stare at the screen agape was Assassin's Creed from Ubisoft. As it turns out, it was also the one PlayStation 3 game that still had the biggest impact on us after the show ended. Brought to you by the same team who made Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the game puts you in the shoes of a cold-blooded assassin named Altair.

Do not adjust your monitor--the actual gameplay does look this sharp.

The closed-doors demonstration we saw of Assassin's Creed was set in the same bustling, walled 12th-century city from the trailer. We watched as Altair exhibited some athleticism with the ability to climb walls and jump from roof to roof. He also showed off some nice fighting moves with the ability to deftly riposte and instantly kill enemies that attack with swords or other weapons. We were also impressed by the vast size of the city, as well as the detailed textures and lighting used in the graphics engine.

What really wowed us about the game, though, was the depth with which you can interact with people and the environments. The city Altair explored was full of civilians, who react to you in a realistic way. To get by them, you don't just clip through them, nor do they just walk out of your way--you'll see Altair actually use his hands and arms to nudge people aside just like any person who's trying to wade through a thick crowd. If they see you climbing a wall or engaging in other "socially unacceptable behavior," they will become alarmed or afraid of you. You can actually cause a panic with your actions, which can be detrimental or work to your advantage depending on the situation. If you take a more subtle approach you can also blend into the crowd cleverly, by mimicking the behavior of a roaming group of monks, for example. This can allow you to sidle up to your targets undetected while still in plain view and broad daylight; Assassin's Creed isn't just about hiding in shadows like typical stealth gameplay.

No longer are climbable walls shaded strangely or called out to you in obvious ways. Instead, Altair can Spider-Man his way up any wall that has big enough protrusions to make for logical hand- and footholds. Physics-based gameplay also came to the forefront, with Altair being able to knock over scaffolding to block off a road as he makes an escape. These aren't just scripted, though--if you knock over the wrong support, the scaffolding might not fall over in the manner you expect, and not block off enough of the road. The level of interaction you can have with the people and environments gives the game a truly open-ended and organic feel and potentially allows you to take some very creative paths to assassinating your marks.

The end of the demo was a bit of a mystery to us and left us wanting even more with the way the screen fuzzed out with computer-like scan lines and a "system down" message after dying. Is there more to Assassin's Creed than just the medieval setting? Was it all just a simulation? The brief teasers we got at E3 left us wanting to see and play a lot more, which is why Assassin's Creed was the best PlayStation 3 game of E3 2006.


Finalists

Heavenly Sword
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
MotorStorm
Resistance: Fall of Man
Best PSP Game

Tekken Dark Resurrection

Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Genre: 3D Fighting
Release Date: 07/25/2006

Dark Resurrection started life as an arcade-only upgrade to Tekken 5, but now this great fighting upgrade is coming to the PSP. A Tekken release all by itself wouldn't automatically win this award, but what floored us was the quality of the conversion. Save for a few background details here and there, this portable Tekken looks just about as faithful as the PS2 version was, which of course makes it a superimpressive handheld game.

With the release of the game only a couple of months off, there was plenty to see in the playable demo shown at E3. All of the characters are present, including the two new combatants, Lili and Dragunov. This game also marks the return of Armor King and will contain a mess of modes, including one that lets you download ghost data from the Internet and fight against profiles based on real-life players. Tekken games have always included a ton of crazy modes, and this one appears to be no exception.

While the modes and the classic Tekken gameplay ensure this one will at least be somewhat satisfying, the quality of the visuals really sets it apart from the rest of the games available on the PSP. At times, the great-looking graphics seemed difficult to believe, but seeing as how the game's already playable, it's safe to bet that this will have a pretty large impact when it's released in July.


Finalists

Best Xbox 360 Game

BioShock

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Irrational Games
Genre: Sci-Fi First-Person Shooter
Release Date: 2007

By now, even some of the most vocal skeptics ought to have noticed that the Xbox 360 is making good on its promises of delivering extremely impressive visuals and remarkable gameplay experiences to match. To that end, Microsoft's corner of E3 2006 was packed to the gills with great-looking games coming to its new console. However, no single Xbox 360 game at the show got us worked up quite like BioShock, which was tucked away behind closed doors at publisher 2K Games' booth. Its stunning art direction, remarkably creepy and compelling premise, and intriguingly open-ended design served as a powerful demonstration of what the 360 seems capable of. And, poignantly enough, developer Irrational Games opted to show off BioShock on the 360 in particular, even though it's also headed to the PC and PlayStation 3.

Though BioShock is coming to multiple platforms, the developer showed off the Xbox 360 version, and it wasn't hard to see why. The game looked amazing.

On one hand, it seems strange that a game as impressive as this wasn't shown publicly for all to see and experience amid everything else playable and on display at Microsoft's booth. On the other hand, Irrational's carefully controlled demonstration of BioShock effectively got the job done, providing us with a clear sense of the flow of the game while accentuating some of the remarkable details from both a visual and a thematic standpoint. Key questions linger: Will there be a substantial Xbox Live component? What will the unlockable achievements be like? For now, though, we can safely say that no other Xbox 360 game at E3 2006 got us collectively more excited by what was shown than BioShock.


Finalists

Crackdown
Dead Rising
Gears of War
Mass Effect
Best Wii Game

WarioWare: Smooth Moves

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Genre: Party Game
Release Date: TBA

Nintendo's upcoming Wii console had a lot to prove to the world at this year's E3. In the wake of the console's unveiling in the days leading up to last year's Tokyo Game Show, the biggest unanswered questions about the console revolved around how games would play on it, and what titles the veteran developer would show off for it. The highlight of the show lineup was, surprisingly, not Super Mario Galaxy, but rather WarioWare: Smooth Moves, the minigame sensation starring Mario's nemesis.

The Wii games on display at E3 faced lofty expectations. Not only did the titles have to showcase the console's processing power, but, by Nintendo's own promise, they had to usher in a new way of playing games that was like nothing that had come before. While many of the games succeeded on one level or another, there was no better showcase for the system at E3 than WarioWare: Smooth Moves. Though its visuals were modest in scope, the game embodied Nintendo's philosophy of gameplay over graphics. More importantly, it was an excellent testament to the potential of the controller. While many had assumed that the lack of the "nunchaku" attachment, which adds an analog stick to the Wii remote controller wand base, would mean limited uses for the controller, WarioWare showed how much mileage you could get out of it without any attachments. The core of all the minigames revolves around how you hold the unit, which highlights the versatility of both the controller and the development team's imagination. Whether it's wielding the controller like a steering wheel, pumping it like a barbell, using it to slash like a sword, turning it like a key, or even resting it on your hip while you do a hula dance, WarioWare: Smooth Moves shows off the potential Wii games have to offer as a totally unique experience.


Finalists

GAME OF THE SHOW

BioShock

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Irrational Games
Platform: X360
Release Date: 2007

How many bad puns can we incorporate into the following paragraphs? By the time you finish reading this, you'll be drowning in them. But all the cleverness we can muster up from the depths of our being still isn't enough to adequately express just how original and tantalizing BioShock came across to us at E3 2006. It left us deep in thought, wondering why such a visually impressive, profoundly interesting game would be tucked away beneath the surface of all the agitated excitement on the show floor. BioShock stunned us only behind closed doors at publisher 2K Games' booth, as developers from Irrational Games demonstrated some of the game's finer points in a working demo. There's little to show for it besides some pretty-looking still images (that are, in fact, suggestive of how the game looks in full motion) and our own tall tales about how well the game seems to be coming together. So take our word for it when we say that, of all the 1,000-plus games we saw at E3 2006, BioShock stood out the most vividly in our collective memory.

BioShock's disturbing, claustrophobic world seems to be full of thought-provoking themes, but beyond that, it's just interesting to look at.

While we don't exactly need to fish for good reasons to explain why this game sailed away with our top honors, a lot of the credit must go to BioShock's artistic design--it's more than just pretty graphics, though it's got plenty of those. The game takes place in an alternate-reality 1950s, in which some segment of humankind nestled itself far underwater in some utopian sea lab. However, the sea lab begins to crumble, even as genetic mutation brings the populace of the place to the brink of extinction, or at least, complete metamorphosis. The object is simple: to escape. Seeing the game's disturbing and fascinating world, the purpose of getting out alive is instantly clear. Yet the curiosity to soak up all the mysteries of BioShock seems all too difficult to resist. The game's premise grabbed us right away--how could such a suffocating atmosphere seem so much fun to play around in?

From a gameplay standpoint, BioShock seems to offer a level of open-endedness along the lines of the recent highly acclaimed role-playing game, Oblivion, and that's a pretty reassuring frame of reference. However, when you add in the boldly original presentation and some similarly unusual characters, weapons, and abilities, the result is a game that's got us anxiously holding our breath to find out if it can truly live up to this great impression we took away. We'd like nothing better than for developer Irrational to take every moment it needs to get this one just right. [Editor's Note: We've included only the 360 version of BioShock because this was the only version on display at E3. The game is scheduled to arrive on the PC and PS3 as well.]


Finalists

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