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E3 Round-up

The Good, The Bad, and The Weird

E3 only comes around once a year, but during this week long extravaganza, the press and public alike get a small taste of what's on the horizon in the gaming world. From new hardware to new software, from advancements in technology to idiots making fools of themselves on stage. E3 has it all, and some years have certainly been better than others. I'll sound off on the various highs and lows of this year's event, highlight a few of my most anticipated games coming later this year, and give you my thoughts on which of the Big 3 console developers had the best showing at 2011's E3.

The Good

For about 95% of those that attend E3 or watch it via live streams, the games are the most important part of the show. Whether it's a game you knew was coming out and wanted to learn more about, or one that catches you in complete shock, you care about the games. I know you do, because I'm the same. And at this year's E3, there sure were plenty of games announced and discussed that make waiting until the end of 2011 such a painful ordeal. We learned a significant more information about Skyrim, saw some gorgeous looking gameplay demos and trailers for Uncharted 3, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, and Battlefield 3, and were delighted with the possibility of Mirror's Edge 2 (well, at least I was) using EA DICE's Frostbite 2 engine, currently used in Battlefield 3. The point is, if you like games, this year's E3 had them in spades. Without fail they are almost always the most exciting part of the annual event.

The Bad

Microsoft.

The Weird

Okay, that was a bit harsh of me to dig into Microsoft that bluntly. But honestly, if you watched their press conference, you'd agree with me. And if you don't agree with me, then it's because you were the target audience of that show – Kinect gamers. Microsoft devoted nearly all of their almost 2 hour press conference to demonstrate the voice and body recognition features of Kinect being adapted by upcoming games, and to reveal new games for Kinect that no one cares about. A Sesame Street game by Tim Schaffer? Seriously, Tim? What was even more painful was watching all of the stage demos of the various Kinect games by the children. Kids are cute, I get it. And I also get that these games are aimed at kids. But it's several kinds of painful to watch them try to look like they're having fun up there playing something that obviously isn't working as intended.

The few actual games they did show off (and of those, only a handful were not Kinect-ready) fell flat. Modern Warfare 3's demo looked visually impressive, but lacked anything that really made me want to see what happened next. War-torn cities just aren't interesting anymore. There was a co-op demo of Gears of War 3 with Cliffy B and special guest Ice-T, but I can't recall what happened in the game. All I can remember is a brown screen with lots of loud noises and people yelling. The Halo Anniversary Edition is nice for nostalgic Halo fans interested in going back to play the only decent game of the series, or those who never got sucked into the hype, and while the Halo 4 announcement at the end might've caught a few by surprise, in all honesty it shouldn't have. If it did, need I remind you how many Final Fantasy games there are?

My Top 3 Most Anticipated Games of E3 2011

3. Resistance 3

There wasn't much new content revealed about Resistance 3 at this year's show, but I remain excited for it nonetheless. Hoping to bring the series back to its more traditional roots, Resistance 3 will feature a radial weapons menu allowing your character to hold more than just 2 firearms at a time, and will hopefully feature an improvement over Resistance 2's class-based cooperative mode.

2. The Darkness II

The direct sequel to one of my favorite games of all time, The Darkness II looks to be a more visceral and action-oriented title. I remain skeptical about Starbreeze's lack of involvement (the developers who manned the first game), but the promise of quad-wielding gameplay and a fresh art style keep me coming back wanting to know more.

1. Dark Souls

The spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed action RPG will feature more of the same dungeon-crawling, hair-pulling, controller-breaking, patience-testing gameplay in an effort to weed out the men from the boys. With vast improvements made to the multiplayer, a slight overhaul to the graphics engine, and the promise of an even harder game, any fan of Demon's Souls should salivate at the mere thought of Dark Souls.

The Big Three

Microsoft

I don't want to be too harsh on these guys, but sometimes they make it so easy. There's really nothing more I can or want to say about them, so if you're interested in reading my thoughts, check out my column specifically about their E3 press conference.

E3 2011 Grade – See me after school

Sony

I wasn't able to watch their conference live when it aired because of work, therefore I refrained from putting out a piece particularly about their show. But now that I have some time to talk about them, I'll highlight a few things: first, it was good of them to come up front and acknowledge their recent plague of PSN problems, and the way in which it was handled was better than what most people were predicting. Had Kevin Butler come on stage and done his usual annoying shtick, I think that would've angered the thousands of people who had their information compromised. As far as the games go, Sony had the strongest line-up, even if most of it were titles we already knew about. With their announcements about 3D and the Playstation Vita, Sony hopes to have a stronger end of the year than they did a beginning.

E3 2011 Grade – B

Nintendo

I was most excited to watch Nintendo's conference because of the promise of the new console. After seeing it, I'm a little less enthused. The potential and possibilities of the much-talked about Wii U and specifically its controller are certainly going to be hot topics for debate in the next coming months, at least until we learn more at TGS. But the news following E3 that the Wii U console can only support a connection from one Wii U controller has many people scratching their heads. What kind of platform only allows one controller? Granted, players will still be able to use the Wii remotes for various features, but exactly how all of this will come together in the end remains one of the biggest questions coming out of their E3 press conference. That, and the price tag. Otherwise, the rest of the show focused on various 3DS exclusives and a decent chunk of time talking about the 25th anniversary of Zelda.

E3 2011 Grade – C+

Closing Thoughts

Where the hell was The Last Guardian?

Nintendo at E3

I, Me, Wii, U

I don't know who's in charge of naming Nintendo's products, but I'll be damned if they don't have one of the best R&D divisions in the world. The unveil of their new home platform, the Wii U, seems to have thrown many people for a loop, even those who were half-expecting everything we've just seen, myself included. But the console itself did not appear to be the focus of Nintendo's show: it was the revolutionary controller that everyone will be talking about. Essentially, they have turned a tablet into a true and traditional gaming device. With the ability to stream games in and on your console to the controller's 6.2 inch screen while someone else watches something entirely different on the TV screen, a fully-functional touchpad, online web browsing, and direct interaction between controller screen and television, there's so much about it that just begs further discussion. In addition to this, Nintendo talked about some 3DS games and something about Zelda's 25th anniversary, but who the hell cares - I want to see more of that controller.

Round-Up

  • The show opens with a symphonic rendition of many famous Legend of Zelda theme songs and a collage of the franchise throughout the years to announce the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. Shigeru Miyamoto takes the stage to reveal that a Zelda game will be coming to all current Nintendo platforms: Link to the Past via virtua console for the Nintendo DS, Ocarina of Time 3D for the Nintendo 3DS, Four Swords as a free downloadable game for the DSi, and of course Skyward Sword for the Wii, set for launch this year which will be released simultaneously with a special gold Zelda edition remote.
  • Miyamoto also announces a worldwide Zelda orchestra tour to commemorate the 25th anniversary, and two special Zelda soundtrack CDs to be released at a later time. 20 minutes into the show and we still haven't seen any new games.
  • Satoru Iwata comes out to tease their new console and says they will go into greater detail later. He explains that the two key factors in its development were "deeper game experiences" and "wider audiences." 30 minutes.
  • The 3DS portion of the show kicked off with five trailers showcasing four games we already knew were coming, and one new title: Mario Kart 3D, Starfox 64 3D, Super Mario, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Luigi's Mansion 2.
  • Reggie Fils-Aime takes the stage and tells us what we all want. We obey like sheep, because he is Reggie. He unveils a montage of clips of the previously announced games and talks a little about the 3DS as a platform. He reveals future game demos, virtual console games, and a new Pokedex 3D which will take advantage of the 3DS's augmented reality feature. It will be a free download to all users and will allow them to compile their pokedex by finding AR markers in the real world and scanning them, by trading with other players, or via the 3DS's link mode.
  • Reggie now officially reveals the name for Nintendo's next home console: Wii U. Yeah, I made that same face too. Why do you pick such silly names, Nintendo? But then I forgot about the name when he revealed the demo trailer for the controller. Sweet gaming gods, that has a lot of potential.
  • The first official Nintendo property announced for the console, although not currently in development, is a new Super Smash Bros. game which will be made simultaneously for the Wii U and the 3DS and will be cross-compatible in some fashion, as yet to be determined. Here's hoping the console has better online this time.
  • A new Lego game is the first exclusive in development for the Wii U. Who cares?
  • A montage of well-known developers share their thoughts on the Wii U controller, including Ken Levine, Warren Spector, and Peter Moore.
  • A series of clips announce games that are going to be on the Wii U: Darksiders II, Batman: Arkham City, Assassin's Creed, Dirt, Alien: Colonial Marine, Metro: Last Light, Tekken, and Ninja Gaiden 3.
  • Reggie and Iwata bring out CEO of EA, John Riccitiello, to announce a new partnership with Nintendo. And here I thought they'd talk about actual games in development, instead of just saying "We like it!"

Closing Thoughts

The big questions coming out of this show are of course the price tag for the Wii U, but specifically, how much can this controller actually do? If not for this portion of the show, it would've been an otherwise passable experience.

Microsoft at E3

Holy Voice Recognition, Batman

The title sums up Microsoft's press conference which opened this year's E3, but if I may consolidate the show itself into another word, it would be "painful." For two years now Microsoft has distanced itself from traditional controller-based games in favor of the hands free Kinect, and while technologically speaking this may be a good thing, while the hardware is still in its budding stages, it remains a laughing stock. Voice and gesture recognition were the two bullet points that Microsoft focused on during their show, but even when it worked, there seemed little need for them to even be included. When they didn't work, the response delay was noticeably detrimental, and the poor lab rats up on stage being forced into showcasing the tedium could only laugh nervously about it and pretend like they were having a good time. So yes, painful is how I would describe Microsoft's 2011 E3 press conference. So painful in fact, that part way through the show, I simply put down the notebook in which I was taking notes and jotting down important information, and stopped caring about what else was being said. So painful that I am pre-maturely calling Microsoft's show the worst of the big three at this year's E3. That makes two years in a row.

Show Round-Up

  • The show opened with a demo of Modern Warfare 3, a game which caught no one by surprise. The demo itself was flashy, the stuff of Michael Bay's "finest," but at its core, it appeared to be the same game everyone knows: snap targeting, cheesy dramatic sequences, and big explosions.
  • Next the world premier demo of Tomb Raider, the reboot of the ****c action franchise. The game stars a young Lara Croft on her first adventure. Conceptually and visually it's a title to keep a close eye on, but all that we saw from the demo were a hand-full of quick time events and some anti-climactic chase sequences, so don't get too excited just yet.
  • The divas-equivalent portion of the show now with EA Sports revealing that four of their top franchises will feature Kinect support from hereon out: Madden, Tiger Woods PGA, Fifa, and a fourth unnamed series.
  • Bioware representative comes out to reveal Kinect support for Mass Effect 3 in the form of voice recognition, as well as a short demo of this in action. Players will be able to orate dialogue choices in game as well as verbally issue squad tactics to your party members in battle. The former just sounds downright silly; if a gamer isn't self-conscious enough sounding like they're talking to themselves when chatting over Xbox live, how much worse will it feel when you're literally talking to the game? As far as the squad tactics go, this begs the question - Can I do this with a just normal headset? Do I have to buy a $100 piece of hardware just to use this feature?
  • More voice recognition revealed for Tom Clancy's Future Soldier as well as gesture recognition. The unveiling of the "Gunsmith" feature allows players to fully customize their weapons in up to 20 million different combinations, using both recognition features of the Kinect.
  • Some Xbox live announcements: introduction of Youtube and Bing to all Xbox users, as well as streaming of Live TV. UFC president Dana white came out on stage to announce a deal with Xbox that will allow users to purchase and watch UFC pay-per-views through their console.
  • Gears of War 3 demo with Cliff Bleszinski, or as he's more affectionately known Cliffy B, and his guest rapper Ice-T. All I can say about this demo is, "WHY SO MUCH BROWN?" Ice-T also announces that he is reviving his former band Body Count to perform a song about Horde Mode. Okay...
  • Crytek reveals a first-person action game set in ancient Rome...using Kinect.
  • Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, fully remastered maps, online, campaign, and fans. That last part was a joke. Release date November 15, 2011.
  • Forza Motorsport 4 with Kinect functions. I'm sensing a pattern here.
  • Fable: The Journey, a new adventure into Albion where Pete Molyneux promises that "YOU CAN DO ANYTHING." Okay, he didn't really say that (this time). Guess what else? It's a Kinect game. Bet you didn't guess that, huh?
  • Minecraft set to launch on Xbox in 2012 without Kinect functions...oh, wait, sorry, I typed that wrong. WITH Kinect functions.
  • The rest of the show was literally dominated by Kinect games, ranging from Disneyland Adventures (an interactive tour of Disneyland...yes, really. I'm not making that up), Star Wars Kinect, and more children forced into slave labor by demonstrating these awful games. It's at this point I wrote in my notes, "KILL ME," just like that, in all capital letters.
  • Tim Schaffer comes out, and finally a bright spot in this whole -- wait, what? Seriously? He's making a Sesame Street game? FOR KINECT?
  • Something about Kinect Fun Labs for all Xbox users that's launching today. I don't care anymore at this point.
  • Microsoft closes the show with a trailer, teasing that it is the start of a new trilogy. And just when I finally started to get excited, I hear the words, "John, wake up!" and then see Master Chief. Oh great, Halo 4. And there's going to be a 5 and 6. Didn't see that coming.

Closing Thoughts
Do I really have to say anything more about this show? I truly don't want to.

A Decade of Gaming

2010 is drawing to a close. As the New Year rings in soon enough, gamers anxiously await the influx of new and improved titles to their beloved franchises or anticipate the release of something new and exciting. These passed 10 years have arguably offered us some of the best - and worst - of gaming history, and as we get ready to look forward, let's first take one final look back and talk about my top 10 games of the last 10 years.

2000 - Chrono Cross



Perhaps one of the most divided sequels to have ever been released, every person you ask who has played this game is likely to give you either one of two possible reactions: one of the best games ever, or one of the worst games ever. Obviously, I fall into the former group. Not only do I think Chrono Cross is a vastly superior game to the already outstanding Chrono Trigger, but on every level that it surpasses its predecessor, it does so by boasting tremendous heart and enthusiasm. The changes it makes to the traditional formula still make it one of the most genuinely unique games of its kind, and while it never achieves that level of continuity that many Trigger fans had been hoping for, it tells its own story with more passion and drive than most games can even begin to dream about.

2001 - Max Payne



Writer Sam Lake is a genius at his craft, and those in need of proof need not look any further than Max Payne. This is amongst gaming's elite as far as presentation and storytelling goes, and its titular character will go down in history as one of the most heroic and tragic of the medium. This game was the standard bearer for third-person shooters and set the pace for crime dramas for years to come. Forever will these words of Max Payne be ingrained into my mind: "Life was good. A house on the Jersey side across the river. The smell of freshly cut lawns. The sounds of children playing. A beautiful wife and a baby girl. The American dream come true. But dreams have a nasty habit of going bad when you're not looking."

2002 - Metroid Prime



The panic surrounding the release of Metroid Prime only made its subsequent critical and commercial success all the more sweet. For its first game ever, Retro Studios had been entrusted by the powers that be to reinvigorate the Metroid franchise. When early reports had shown the game to be a first-person shooter, fans went wild with betrayal and fear. Both feelings subsided upon the game's launch as all the world once more fell under the spell of interstellar bounty hunter Samus Aran.

2003 - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time



"Most people think time is like a river, that flows swift and sure in one direction. But I have seen the face of time, and I can tell you, they are wrong. Time is an ocean in a storm. You may wonder who I really am, and why I say this. Come, and I will tell you a tale like none you have ever heard." The Sands of Time combined brilliant platforming, ingenuous gameplay mechanics, smart and witty dialogue, and a remarkably touching story to create a wholly fulfilling package worthy of endless praise.

2004 - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater



My personal favorite of the franchise, Snake Eater told the long-overdue story of the legend behind the man known as Solid Snake. Big Boss, as he later became known, stars as the same kind of wise-cracking, grizzled special ops we'd come to know Snake as, but he possesses within him an unrivaled sense of patriotism and pride; that is, until, we learn the story of his mentor, The Boss. The journey that both characters endure is a heartbreaking one at worst, and a truly inspiring one at best.

2005 - Shadow of the Colossus



How can a game with only 16 bosses, no normal enemies, and excessive amounts of traveling be good, let alone fun? By offering a rich, beautiful world fully realized of its forsaken context that to explore it would not only be a journey of discovery, but one of understanding, and by making each boss fight a mix of synergistic elements resulting in something so brilliant and ingenious, that it has since been unsuccessfully duplicated to the same degree of quality. Shadow of the Colossus is not a game. It is beauty.

2006 - Okami



If Shadow of the Colossus is beauty, then Okami is bliss. These two games are the poster children for the "Video Games As Art" debate, and rightfully so. Each one exemplifies the very best that this medium can achieve as far as an artistic sensibility is concerned. Okami was traditional in its structure, but combining the elements of the celestial brush with outstanding art direction, the game achieved something much more than mere visual or virtual entertainment. It transcended boundaries to become a cornerstone of gaming history.

2007 - The Darkness



This is, hands down, my favorite first-person shooter of all time. The effort that went into making this game feel pure and authentic was something that developers still have trouble achieving. The city truly felt alive and evolving. Developments in the story were constantly reflected in the game's world, immersing the player into the tale of heartbreak and revenge. Phenomenal voice acting and outstanding writing help give this the edge over its competition, but it's in the game's first shocking and brutal turn of events that will forever stay with me, and to this day, is the absolute saddest moment I've ever experienced in a video game.

2008 - Penumbra: Black Plague



Frictional Games are masters at horror and suspense, and as we'll soon see again on my list, they love to absolutely terrify us. And we love them for it. Black Plague was the follow-up to the cult success Penumbra: Overture, a legitimately frightening and original horror game on its own. But with the sequel came improvements that set new standards in how horror is meant to be played, standards that were unmatched until this year, when Frictional set out to not only capture that same essence, but shatter our expectations about what horror really is.

2009 - Demon's Souls



Relentlessly old-school and shamelessly punishing, Demon's Souls reminded us that games don't have to always hold our hands, nor do they have to beat us over the heads with often-needless and nonsensical dialogue, story, and characters. What we got was a straightforward and remarkably complex dungeon crawler with an impeccable sense of atmosphere and dread. This is not a game that goes easily recommended, as those expecting a lesser beast will surely fall prey to its might; but for those demon slayers who know full well what they're getting themselves into, this is an absolute one of a kind experience.

2010 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent



The new-new standard in survival horror. Frictional dethroned themselves when they released Amnesia: The Dark Descent in the latter half of 2010, a horror experience that is defined by its oppression, gloom, and feeling of desperation. It is an unmatched and genuinely engrossing nightmare; a twisted fantasy of oozing castle walls, practices of the occult, and a terror that feeds on your sanity. There is a darkness hunting you, a shadow without form. But it is in that very darkness that you find your safety.

And just for kicks, my overall game of the decade is....

Demon's Souls

Demon's Souls Joins PS3's Greatest Hits

Atlus has just announced that the PS3 exclusive and winner of many RPG of the year/Game of the Year awards of 2009 will be receiving a Greatest Hits edition set to be released later this month. Whether this will be for all regions or just the US is unconfirmed. The Greatest Hits version will be released at a price tag of $29.99, and knowing Atlus, the game will likely have a Tendency event to mark the occasion. This also bodes well for the extension of US online servers come next March.

Own a PS3 but still don't have this game? Do yourself a favor and sell the PS3 to someone who will use it properly.

Post-E3 Reactions



This time of year is often referred to as the new year's of gaming. The most important week in the industry where everyone seeks to impress the sponsors, media, and fans with the next wave of hardware and software in the gaming world. In the past, major announcements have been made here regarding the fate of a product license: just last year we were witnesses to the shocking revelation that the flagship Final Fantasy series would finally make its departure away from Sony's platform exclusivity to join Microsoft's library with Final Fantasy XIII. This year's shocking announcements were few, but focused and powerful. The week-long gaming extravaganza kicked off with Microsoft's press conference, followed by the other two industry giants Nintendo and Sony the next day, and then two consecutive days straight of hands-on demos and live gameplay footage. There was excitement, there was disappointment, and there was absolute stupidity.

Microsoft's Press Conference

Microsoft started out strong with a barrage of gameplay videos and trailers for Call of Duty: Black Ops, Metal Gear Solid: Rising, Gears of War 3, and Halo: Reach. But it slowly degenerated into a miserable mess when the Project Natal - now officially known as Kinect - demonstration occurred. There was nothing inherently wrong with the hardware itself, but the entire event was awkward to watch and incredibly insulting to the fans who found the first half of their show exciting. For those who did watch it, all I have to mention is "Skittles" and you know exactly what I mean.

Pros: Strong start to the show; ESPN announcement

Cons: Kinect might be exciting for some people, but that live demonstration did nothing for me and in fact turned me even further away from the product

Microsoft's press conference is what Nintendo's conference has been in recent years: a dramatic shift away from a focus on the hardcore market in an attempt to capture non-gamers. The news about ESPN does absolutely nothing to entice me personally, but I can understand it being very big news. The whole Kinectimals segment was pure, unadulterated torture. I'd rather be water boarded.

Grade = D

Nintendo's Press Conference

If that was Nintendo's past, then what is their present and future? One word: reclaimed. Nintendo has reclaimed their position as the premier first party developer and publisher in the industry with a single conference. How on earth did they do that, you ask? By doing exactly what they've neglected to do the last four years; exactly what their competitors neglected to do this year. They talked about games. Not just some games - every game. From the reveal of the new Zelda, to revamped iterations of Donkey Kong and Kirby, to footage of Epic Mickey and Metroid: Other M, and to perhaps the biggest thing to come out of this year's E3 - the Nintendo 3DS. Oh, I also forgot to mention there's going to be a new Kid Icarus game. For the 3DS. And a Goldeneye 007 remake. For the Wii.

Pros: Nintendo was relentless this year and brought Christmas early to gamers who have been waiting four years for the king to reclaim his throne; showcasing the 3DS which has received unanimous praise from the E3 show floor

Cons: The stage demo of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword performed poorly for Mr. Miyamoto during the conference due to infrared and wireless interference (but incidentally, hands-on reports from those who played it on the show floor have been mostly very positive)

Nintendo was easily the best thing about this year's E3, and hands down took home the crown that has eluded Mr. Iwata for so long. They didn't need flashy stage presence, elaborate set design, or rousing motivational speeches. Why? Because they had games, lots of games. And that's what people really care the most about.

Grade = A+

Sony's Press Conference

Sony seemed to be following the Microsoft route, but in reverse. They opened the show briefly with a look at Killzone 3 in 3D and then spent a good portion of the middle talking about the Playstation Move and Playstation Plus services, but ended on a rather positive and game-heavy note, which is why they get the leg up over Microsoft. The biggest announcement of their show was a new Twisted Metal game, but for those who scour the internet reading rumors and leaked information, this was not as big a shock to you as it was to others. The biggest letdown of the Sony conference was that it just went on too damn long. Add to that the majority of games they showed were titles fans already knew were coming out, and there was nothing truly memorable about the conference.

Pros: Twisted Metal reveal and demonstration; Kevin Butler's speech was kind of funny, but…

Cons: Kevin Butler's speech served no real purpose except to excite the audience and get them ready for game news, only so the show could drag on another 30 minutes before they actually talked about any games; PSMove is way too expensive considering the competition

Sony not only killed the horse and beat it post-death, they cut it up into little pieces, ground it, then burned the remains. To say it was just boring would be a severe understatement. Patches of excitement near the end saved it from being as poor as Microsoft's, but a lack of real excitement and memorable news holds it back from being as good as Nintendo's.

Grade = C+

Final Thoughts on E3


Nintendo easily came to E3 this year with a mission to reclaim the hardcore audience it was once believed they had forsaken. And they did just that. Most of their game announcements were shocking and exciting, and while few of them were actually original ideas (Epic Mickey being the only original IP showcased during the press conference), what's been seen each of each offers enough to whet the appetites of gamers wondering what the next adventure for their beloved franchises will be. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, they say. But you can teach that dog how to perform those old tricks perfectly. Let's see if Nintendo does just that.

The following are my top five most anticipated games post-E3 2010:

5. The Last Guardian (PlayStation 3) - This is a surefire mainstay on my list until it is finally launched, and would have been number one had we seen anything about it. But alas it was completely neglected both at Sony's conference and on the show floor.
4. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii) - A reboot of the series starring one of the industry's oldest icons. The use of foreground and background depth shown in the trailer looks great and the game's colorful design fantastic.
3. Epic Mickey (Wii) - One of the most interesting games announced in recent years, Epic Mickey's presence at E3 2010 brought us gameplay footage and pre-rendered cut scenes, both of which look exciting and the latter being a very stylized and beautiful approach.
2. Metroid: Other M (Wii) - I'm eager to see if Team Ninja satisfactorily blends the traditional series' side scrolling action/platforming with third-person and first-person gameplay. If they do for Metroid what Retro Studies did with Prime, I anticipate nothing but success.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) - I grew up playing Zelda. I will die playing Zelda. You cannot overstate the impact of the one of the industry's most renowned franchises. When Nintendo means business, ain't nothing in the world that can hold them back.

APB - All Promises Broken?


Realtime World and EA's much-anticipated MMO APB (All Points Bulletin) is scheduled for release in just over two weeks, but the official closed beta has launched today. 10,000 free beta keys are being given out every day until June 19, and you can receive those here. Having had a little time to test out the game, I thought I'd give my thoughts on the shape it is currently in just prior to its launch. A mini-review of the beta, if you will.

I must warn you, for those who had high hopes for the game, the following may be heartbreaking.

An Open World With Closed Doors
First and foremost, APB is an MMO, a genre synonymous with World of Warcraft. But let me tell you that the two games could not more different than they are now. Frankly because one of them is at least worth the money you might put into it. Care to take a guess at which one? (Hint: The one that has over 11 million subscribers). So let's cut to the chase with APB. What the hell happened? How did such a game, with so much potential and promise, bellyflop at the last minute? I'll run down the reasons:

Gameplay
- Gameplay largely consists of objective-based missions which require you to do one of three or four things over and over and over again, many times forcing your into areas of pvp against other players with superior firepower than yourself.
- There is no level or weapon restriction that prohibits people of higher skill and equipment from attacking you.
- Some of the worst driving mechanics I've ever had the misfortune to try out. Cars have an unbelievably delayed reaction time which makes handling turns, or even driving in a straight line, a bit of a pain.
- Gun variety is very limited in type and even more limited in usefulness.
- On-foot mobility is very basic and stiff

Sounds like a lot of bad, and it is. But let me offer a tiny little, warm ray of sunlight.

- The character creation is one of the best I have ever seen. If you have never made yourself aware of how deep the creation process is, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WhOTrc5554

Bait and Switch
EA is publishing the game. If that alone doesn't make you cringe with worry, you are unfamiliar with EA's track record. The long-thought rumor once perpetuated by Realtime World's own developers that APB would be a free-to-play game outside of the initial purchase price was shattered a few months ago when EA's pricing plans were released. Turns out there is a fee to play this game, but here's the catch - it isn't monthly. So whether they were being evasive due to the terminology or they didn't decide on this until more recently, who knows. The fact is, for extended play time, real world cash must be used. For further details on this, check out http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3179070

The article suggests an alternative way to earn time with the game instead of paying for it, which is through micro-transactions, or player-created content. But the entire concept of that is inherently silly. Let me explain: Say I create and upload a cool music theme as my "kill theme." I can put it up on the game's auction house and charge a certain amount of points. Those points translate into real life cash that someone else has to pay for if they want it. Should someone buy it, I get points of my own that I can then redeem for subscription time. The thing is, if that person wants a theme so badly, they can create one themselves. Otherwise in the end, SOMEONE is paying.

In Closing
I had high hopes for this game. I've been in the market for an MMO to play with my friends for a while now. Having given up WoW two years ago with never an intent to return, and having last tried Warhammer: Age of Reckoning at launch, that genre has been void of anything I found remotely interesting. With The Old Republic and Final Fantasy XIV the next major original MMO launches, I might give them a shot, but after the incredible kick in the gut that was APB following its massive amount of advertised potential, I may be a bit more cautious in the future. (Thankfully, no money was wasted on this).

Final Thoughts: Try the beta for yourself. This is by no means a way to say that you are not allowed to play this game. Everyone should be able to form their own opinion. If you like it, fine. If not, at the very least you'll be able to check out the fantastic character creator. And lastly, as I said in the opening, this is a beta review. With patches in the future, many of these problems can be fixed. But given the game's imminent launch, I don't expect a major overhaul in two weeks suitable enough to warrant a day one purchase.

Greatest TV Promo - Ever?

At the conclusion of last night's episode of Lost, they aired, as they always do, the promo for the following week's episode. What made this one of particular interest was its quick-cut editing and the audio sample track of Gene Wilder's eerily psychological Wondrous Boat Ride song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, set to some bizarre and haunting background music courtesy of the song "Through the Loop" by Pendulum, which features Wilder's song as its intro. The gentleness of the words contrasts with the rough and heavy images shown in the promo until the song builds to Wilder's infamous screams. Suffice it to say, the pairing was brilliant. See for yourself:

Lost 6.13 Promo

Persona 5 Announced

Persona 4

A bit of old news, but I just found out about it now:

"Persona fans rejoice! Katsura Hashino, Director of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, has confirmed that a new game in the Persona series is on the way. In fact, his team is preparing to start work on the game as we speak! Hashino confirmed they were about to begin development in a recent Dengeki PlayStation interview.

"No platform or details were released. All we know is that Persona 5 is definitely a thing that is happening. Until now, we'd heard plenty of rumors about the game, including that it will be a PlayStation 3 release. That's very reasonable to believe, since Persona can't exist on the PS2 forever. In any case, this is exciting news for series fans."

http://www.destructoid.com/persona-5-confirmed--168781.phtml

Color me very excited.