The Games Guru travels to the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, Calif., to report on the latest and greatest that’s happening in the gaming world.
MOST PROMISING GAMES OF E3
E3 has come and gone, and one thing is clear: The next generation consoles and games will transport you to a level of realism you’ve never seen before. Of course, no one has played these games through to the finish. But from my Guru’s eye view, here are the nine most promising games of E3.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes
WBIE for various formats
Whoa! A mammoth 200 Marvel Comics heroes and villains appear in this open-world game. Traveler’s Tales, the game maker, always puts a lot of puzzles into their Lego games. When I saw stretchy Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four fighting baddies outside of New York’s Grand Central Station, I knew Marvel Heroes was one of the most promising.
Sony for PSN
In this sweet and striking downloadable game, a young boy spies a mysterious girl in the rain. As he follows her, he also encounters various ghosts — but only when raindrops fall. Otherwise, ghostly people and animals are invisible. Really ingenious game design.
Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
EA for various formats
Plants Vs. Zombies as a console game shooter? Will it still have the cheeky charm and humor of the PC game? Garden Warfare sure looks like it will impress from what I was shown at E3. And who wouldn’t want to take full control of a pea-shooter or garlic bulb for the first time?
Tearaway is the new game from the people who made LittleBigPlanet. Imagine having an adventure game in a crazy world of detailed, elegant paper flowers, people and more. It’s both wondrous and unusual.
Disney for various formats
If you read Boys’ Life magazine, you know that Infinity is Disney’s take on Skylanders. It needs some tweaking, but games like the Pirates of the Caribbean adventure are engaging. I can’t wait until they make a play set for The Good Dinosaur, out next year from Pixar.
Sony for PSN
Ever play Bastion, one of the great downloadable adventure games of the last few years? Transistor comes from the same company. The music in this puzzle game is amazing, and it stars Red, a singer who comes into possession of a mysterious sword called Transistor.
Sony for PS4
Knack has an advantage over the onslaught of Goblins he faces. He uses metals, ice and other materials to give him fantastic abilities. This is one game that I’ll be looking forward to playing as soon as I get it this fall.
Mario Kart 8
Nintendo for Wii U
Everyone looks forward to the latest Mario Kart, and this one, in HD, not only looks good. It lets you race upside down for fun – and to get ahead of your rivals. Nintendo’s slate of games wasn’t that amazing this year, but this fun game full of powerups is the best.
Microsoft for Xbox One
You control Project Spark with Xbox One’s Kinect 2 sensor and your voice (or the controller). It’s free to play, which is a bonus. But this daring game has a difference: You can build your own world from the ground up. You can even make a rock into your superhero. Or a cherry, for that matter.
DAY 3: DISNEY, ACTIVISION, UBISOFT AND NAMCO BANDAI
When you walk the floor at E3, you get jostled around a lot. That’s because people are exploring the sights and sounds in the big booths — and not watching the people in front of them. You take it in stride because sometimes you’re caught doing the same thing.
Take the Disney booth, for instance. Gamers crowded around what was one giant homage to Disney Infinity, the riff on Skylanders with Disney characters. A massive Disney castle stood in the foreground behind which was a huge mural highlighting Disney favorites. Most of the game stations featured Infinity, so I took a look.
I played a Pirates of the Caribbean section as Jack Sparrow, rowing a boat through waters in which some pirate tried to sink me. Instead, I sunk him. Later, I helmed a big schooner and defended the ship from marauders using cannons. The Pirates area was a giant world and pretty nicely animated, but the controls needed tightening up. I’m sure they’ll get it right by the August release date, though.
Over at the Activision booth, they’ve kicked Skylanders up a notch, perhaps due to the heat from Disney. You can switch the tops and bottoms of the new action figures to get a mashup of powers. I was shown a level in which you have to climb up the side of a tower that’s also an obstacle course. It was very inventive and made be believe that Skylanders still is one of the great series in videogames today.
At a UbiSoft press event, I saw the new Rabbids Invasion game. The fascinating part of the latest in the humorous, mayhem-filled series is that the game supports a new Rabbids TV show on Xbox One. While you watch the TV show, you’ll be able to play the game — and it looks like what you do has an impact on the story line. These aren’t the most complex games in the world, but at least you won’t be a couch potato as you watch. Pretty cool — if they can pull it off.
UbiSoft also debuted a free-to-play multiplayer online game called The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot. Here, you have your own castle where you store your treasures. You protect them with traps and kooky but powerful beings. But you can also raid other players’ castles and leave them with next to nothing. Thing is, they can raid yours, too. All’s fair in love — and loot!
Namco Bandai is re-introducing their epic chomping hero in Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, which is based on a new Disney XD animated series. Here, you get to explore a futuristic world in which a young Pac-Man needs to rid his world of alien ghosts. You’ll get lots of power-ups, too, like one that turns Pac-Man into a chameleon with a long, sticky tongue.
That’s it for now. I’m off to see LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes (which is supposed to have 200 characters!).
DAY 2: MICROSOFT AND NINTENDO
It happens. There were good things and bad things about Microsoft’s press event.
The good news is that the next generation graphics on the Xbox One really are stunning.
In Forza Motorsport 5, Microsoft’s racing simulation, the artwork is wonderful and the world’s sleekest cars perform better than ever. I thought that the Xbox 360 got pretty close to reality with some games. But Xbox One really is a lot closer to reality than anything on the 360. (Later, at the Microsoft booth, I was told that One is 10 times more powerful than the 360. You’ll definitely be able to see the difference.)
You’ll also be able to play Minecraft on Xbox One, but not many details were revealed.
Microsoft didn’t present many kids’ games for One. But there was a game that got me excited. Project Spark, inspired perhaps by competitor Sony’s LittleBigPlanet, lets you really change the game your way.
It’s almost as if you are the game’s programmer. On stage, the game makers mentioned a simple rock nearby. By adding various elements from an easy-to-use menu, the rock becomes animated and follows you to help you out. Then, they added some powers to the rock, and the rock became a strong superhero. It was very impressive.
And Project Spark will also be free to play with Xbox One (and even the 360). But you might want to buy some extra downloadable content, which will be available online.
What did Microsoft get wrong? They didn’t show much of Kinect 2. Later at the booth, I found that some of the games at the press event used the new camera, which supposedly can figure out a human’s subtler moves. But that wasn’t explained to the audience. That’s because Microsoft wants to have yet another press event to talk about Kinect 2.
Worse, Microsoft didn’t address the question on everyone’s mind: Why can’t you freely play used games on Xbox One? You can only pass your used game on to one friend, and then you or your next friend may have to pay a fee to get it to work again on One.
Also, Xbox One has to be always on because a lot of the games you play are loaded into the Cloud (basically, these are Microsoft computer servers). They say One needs to be on because your virtual world is always evolving, and the game makers want to surprise you with cool changes when you check out the game the next day. But who knows how much power it will take to remain “always on”?
Nintendo Stumbles, But Has Some Cool Games
Of the many years I’ve been going to E3, I’ve never been to a press event as poorly put together as Nintendo’s. Hundreds of writers were packed into a small space. We all had to stand for hours. And I couldn’t even see the great Mr. Miyamoto because of the teeming throngs.
While we waited, we saw Mario on a monitor, and he kept saying the same things over and over — like he drank way too much coffee. Mamma Mia — enough already! Whoever played the voice of Mario backstage really needed a script.
There were two games that stood out. I didn’t get to play them because of the crowds, but from what I saw, Mario Kart 8 looked really sweet. One of the cool features is an anti-gravity function that lets you race upside down. It makes you feel as if you are on a really wild amusement park ride!
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a delightful new platformer in the long-running series. Vikings are the crazy enemies this time. You’ll also deal with wild owls, walruses and penguins as you’re sometimes shot through this world through tubes and cannons. It looks like it will be great fun to play.
I actually thought I would see something completely new from Nintendo, and by that I mean a new character in a completely new game. Everyone loves Mario and Donkey Kong, but wouldn’t it be great if we got a brand-new personality that rocked our worlds? It certainly would have made standing around for hours more acceptable.
DAY 1: HOW SONY IMPRESSED AT E3
There was a brilliant light show, and cameras were everywhere. And once or twice, the audience went as wild as I’ve ever seen for the launch of a new PlayStation.
It’s always exciting to report on a new console. And it’s even more satisfying when there are what seem to be great games to support the system. That’s the case with Sony’s PlayStation 4, which will be released this November for $399.
The PlayStation 4 itself is a sleek black box. It’s not rounded at its edges like the PS3. Instead, it looks like it was cut at an angle, kind of like a trapezoid. There’s power inside the PS4 that will make game graphics seem more real and thrilling than ever before.
Microsoft said earlier in the day that Xbox One won’t allow you to freely trade and pass on your used games to more than one person (more on this tomorrow). So when it was announced that the PS4 will have no restrictions on used games, the audience loudly yelled and applauded. It was a big deal for everyone in attendance.
Also, when you become a PlayStation Network member, you’ll get one game to download for free — every month.
But what about the games?
There were some amazing ones, and Sony didn’t forget the family-friendly games. Knack is a platformer featuring a being with mysterious powers who fights against Goblins to save the world.
If you’re a fan of cars and racing, Gran Turismo 6 will make you drool. The cars look more true to life than ever before. It will have 33 tracks and more than 1,200 cars, so you won’t get bored.
There was something for the fan of indie games (which is my favorite kind of game). Sony will have a special indie section on the PlayStation Network. And one of the most impressive games was Transistor, an upcoming strategy game from SuperGiant Games. These talented people brought you Bastion, and the music, story and gameplay for Transistor are sure to impress. Transistor is actually a sword with many powers that you can use to defeat something called The Process.
Ray’s The Dead, a zombie action game, looks like it will be really fun to play around Halloween. Ray is a zombie and you can amass an army to help him figure out some crazy puzzles.
The most stunningly beautiful game was Rain for the good ol’ PS3. Here, you play a boy who gets lost in the rain. He meets a young girl and they find some unique creatures in the storms they encounter. The music and the environments are very haunting.
Overall, Sony’s two-hour E3 press event wasn’t just impressive. It showed that with the right games, the PlayStation 4 could be a very popular console when it’s released this fall.