E3 2011 is just around the corner, and we'll be bringing you plenty of news coverage and juicy games previews from the expo next month, but before everything kicks off we thought we'd share our personal picks for the proceedings and let you know what we're excited about. If there's something in particular you're psyched for, let us know in the comments box below, and we'll try to make sure we cover it while we're out there.
It's time Sony slapped a name on this little fella if they expect it to be on anyone's Christmas list instead of a 3DS. I'm surprised they've left it this long to be honest. In fairness if it wasn't for the recent PSN crisis, the NGP might have had some more details revealed by now.
The successor to the PSP is going to be packed with features, but the one I'm still most excited about is the second analogue stick which will remove any limits for the top names in gaming. Action games will get better camera and aiming controls and the FPS genre will be immediately dominant. We've already seen two huge names running on the machine, in Uncharted and Killzone. Graphically, the NGP is going to smash the competition, as it's much closer to the PS3 and 360 in terms of raw power compared to Ninty's gameless 3DS and more importantly, the iPad.
The features we've seen so far have been impressive if not a little familiar thanks to Apple's dominance. The rear touch-pad could be interesting if developers get their thinking caps on. Hideo Kojima has something planned for the device and we're pretty sure he'll want to use the camera, motion-controls and touch screen/pad elements to create something unique.
Hopefully Sony will finally give us some details on the release date and how much the different versions (3G or just Wi-Fi) will cost. The word is that we'll see a November release, which would be ideal for the all-important Christmas market. It's vitally important that they get some decent marketing behind it at launch too. Remember the 'This is living' PS3 ads or the novel approach of not really marketing the PlayStation Move throughout the Christmas period? How many Dance Central Kinect ads did you see on TV compared to anything Move related last year?
On another note, if a new game was to be announced at E3, I've got my fingers crossed for Kingdom Hearts 3 on PS3. Existing games I'm looking forward to are: The Last Guardian, Tomb Raider, Uncharted 3, Dead Island, Bioshock Infinite, Rayman and Wahammer 40k: Space Marine. It's going to be a belter of a show that's going create a very expensive wish-list for gamers.
Felix: Halo's Next Step
Gears of War 3 is Microsoft's premiere title this year, so I expect much of the blockbuster attention to be spent on Epic's admittedly excellent title. That said, I can't see Microsoft letting a year go by without some form of Halo news. It's now been eight months since Reach, and those of us who didn't stick around for the multiplayer might be forgiven for having their love for the franchise dulled by time.
So announce a new Halo game, Microsoft! Let us know our most beloved franchise is in safe hands. 343 Industries has been slowly but surely amassing a team of considerable talent, assembling a studio worthy of Bungie's mantel. Reach was an enormous commercial success, but its critical reception was decidedly mixed. It's no secret Halo's design is beginning to show its age, admittedly in a stagnating genre.
If I am right, and Microsoft do decide to unveil the next Halo game at E3, I imagine it'll be similar to their past announcements, such as Halo Wars or ODST. We'll probably be treated to an elusive teaser, with no in-game assets or much to go off. Microsoft is in no rush; Gears 3 has the year locked down, so they're not about to let every cat out of their squirming bag just yet. It'll probably conclude their conference and send the assembled crowd into rapturous applause.
I love Halo. It defined a generation for a lot of us, single-handedly ushered in a new era of first-person shooters on home consoles, and is a universe rich in imagination and excitement. But ever since the third game, I have found my interest in the series waning. Too often it falls back on the same tired ideas, too often it's eschewed modern solutions for a more familiar approach. Halo is in dire need of a reinvention, and I hope Microsoft and 343 are up to the task.
Josh: Bioshock Infinite
Well I hate to be the guy that plumps for the obvious, but I personally cannot wait to see more of 2K's Bioshock: Infinite. The original still holds a firm place in my top five games of this generation, thanks to the beautifully realised world of Rapture, the sublime exposition, and some of the most breathtaking set-pieces since the first Modern Warfare.
The airborne metropolis of Columbia seems like an organic step on (or rather, back) from the subterranean art-deco dystopia we all grew to love, and the heavy steampunk element hasn't been lost in translation. The recently released 'propaganda posters' have piqued my interest, showcasing yet another example of Ken Levine and co's fantastic ability to capture and at the same time reinvent the poignant imagery of significant historical periods.
At the risk of sounding like a tweed-coated university ponce, I submit that Bioshock's philosophical depth was what set it apart from the crowd. It used Ayn Rand's objectivism as Rapture's moral cornerstone, and introduced us to Andrew Ryan's Great Chain; a noble, yet flawed and ultimately destructive ideal. What then, might Bioshock: Infinite have to say? There's a definite 'Great War' vibe running throughout the footage we've seen of Columbia so far, but how will this tie in to this seemingly independent fly-away city? Whatever the case, it seems as though 2K are aiming to make a more political than philosophical statement this time.
All snobbery aside, Bioshock: Infinite looks set to deliver on the high standard of quality we've come to expect from the series. Enemy encounters look as intimidating as ever, despite the plethora of awesome looking plasmids at your disposal. And lets not forget the graphics. Oh, the graphics. Columbia stretches out for what seems like miles, its lush vegetation and dreamy blue and white backdrop contrasting starkly with the gold and brick excesses of its buildings. Sunlight pours through the windows of dusty, musky bars and illuminates the Norman Rockwell-esque portraits that adorn the walls. Every single aspect of the environment has been lovingly tailored to the era in which it exists.
Eagerly awaiting details regarding what will surely be one of the biggest AAA releases of next year might not win me any 'cool' points, but when faced with the prospect of delving into the world of Columbia and unravelling its mysteries, I'll take the hit and wade in like the geek I am.