A Look Back at E3 2011's Biggest Disappearing Acts
We cast our gaze on a few notable games that have gone radio silent over the past 12 months.
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You can always count on E3 to deliver an onslaught of flashy game demos and new game announcements, but whether or not those games arrive on store shelves within the next 12 months is a different story. Sometimes publishers don't like the reaction a game gets at E3 and decide to spend some time tweaking it, while in other cases a game has just been announced too soon and there's nothing much to show of it until the following year. Whatever the case, there are always a handful of games that completely fall off the map after E3. Let's explore a few such titles from 2011:
How it looked: The demo Crystal Dynamics used to introduce the world to the new Tomb Raider was an interesting departure from the series' roots. A young Lara Croft is captured in a dank cave and sets out on a desperate attempt to flee her terrifying confines. The resulting adventure was a slick, cinematic journey through the cave's winding tunnels and caverns. While exciting to watch, it was a journey dominated by quick-time events and tight scripting--hardly the same free-form platforming that made the series a household name in the '90s.
The reaction: Not everyone was a fan of the abundance of predetermined "wow" moments. As GameSpot user node1011 commented in our first-look preview, "Timed events? Scripted button press gameplay? So far this title is not sounding good. I get the impression that the story came first and the gameplay was molded around the story."
What now?: Gazing into our crystal ball, we expect to see a slightly reworked Tomb Raider that still emphasizes the tension and spectacle of young Lara's journey, but with that tight scripting we saw last year loosened up a bit. The premise of the game and its sense of style were great to begin with; it just needed to remember that not every game has to be Uncharted to succeed.
How it looked: While Microsoft and Crytek didn't show any gameplay footage of this upcoming gladiator combat game, the CG trailer released during E3 was certainly enough to grab our attention. Besides being developed by the shop that brought us Crysis, Ryse looked like the polar opposite of every other Kinect title: grim, bloody, and not for the squeamish. It was, in other words, one of the most intriguing case studies for the Kinect as a platform for hardcore action games.
The reaction: "Cautiously optimistic" would be one way of describing the response to Ryse. Fans seemed eager for a Kinect game that would offer something besides dancing, fitness, or tiger-petting. As GameSpot user burnettajj commented, "If they can pull this off, this game could be darn good. I am going to keep watch on this one."
What now?: Poor burnettaj never got the chance to keep watch on anything, because Ryse promptly went into hiding for the next year. One of the dominant rumors suggested that Ryse has been moved to the next-generation Xbox, skipping the current Xbox 360 hardware in favor of a more powerful platform.
If that's the case, we won't be seeing anything else about Ryse until the next Xbox becomes official. Will that be at E3 this year? It seems more and more unlikely by the day, but it's certainly not outside the realm of possibility. But one thing's for certain: the Kinect still hasn't established itself as a destination for hardcore action games, making Ryse's absence that much more pronounced.
How it looked: Last year showed that Gearbox is ready for a tongue-in-cheek World War II game. Furious 4 was revealed as a bloody, stylized, and deeply unserious co-op shooter. As our own Jane Douglas wrote in her preview last year, "Though it may not feel much like the Brothers in Arms series with which players are familiar, those who weren't hoping for more of the same from the series may get a kick out of Furious 4's irreverent bravado."
The reaction: While there were plenty of Gearbox fans itching for more Borderlands-style silliness, many fans were left confused as to why this game bore the Brothers in Arms moniker. GameSpot user chopsticksoup took a very pragmatic stance in the comments of the aforementioned preview: "They shouldn't use the Brothers in Arms brand, since it's not a Brothers in Arms game. Its Inglorious Basterds: The Game. And that is f@%king sweet."
What now?: As Borderlands showed, Gearbox is a studio that knows how to do ridiculous, over-the-top shooters. But a lot of people were put off by the Brothers in Arms branding attached to it. After the recent trademark snafu, we wouldn't be surprised to see this game reintroduced to the public under a new name, perhaps something as simple as "The Furious 4."
How it looked: We really liked what we saw of Prey 2 last year. The E3 demo revealed a dark and stylish first-person shooter set in a cyberpunk world of criminals and bounty hunters. It had a lot of things going for it: a gorgeous art design, an open world with the freedom to take on missions at your own leisure, and a focus on first-person platforming reminiscent of Mirror's Edge. While all of the above have certainly been seen in other games before it, Prey 2 looked to be a game that combined all those disparate elements into one slick package.
The reaction: The original Prey was never a massive critical or commercial success, so while there was certainly an outcry from those who wanted something more in line with the first Prey, that type of response seemed to be the minority. GameSpot user tefaPS3 summed it up thusly: "Completely different from my expectations, but I think it's a good thing. I liked the original, but I think this will be better."
What now?: Oh dear. This is where it gets complicated. Prey 2 was originally rumored to be canceled by publisher Bethesda, but it was later revealed that the game would be delayed beyond 2012 due to "quality concerns." Yes, the same company that published Rogue Warrior now had cold feet.
Is this a case of Bethesda developing a newfound sense of quality standards, or did Prey 2 really stall that badly in development? Most likely, it's some combination of the two. We're just hoping that this game maintains what we liked so much about it at E3 last year--the open-world setting, the sci-fi noir aesthetic--while still being commercially viable enough for Bethesda to avoid canceling it. Who knows what sort of changes that might entail, but we've got our fingers crossed for the best.
How it looked The Last Guardian looked great at E3 last year, except for one small problem: it wasn't at E3 last year.
The reaction: The sound of gentle sobbing from millions of PlayStation 3 owners.
What now?: Anything, Sony. Anything at all.
What games caught your eye at E3 last year that went totally silent after the show? Let us know in the comments!'