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.
Last time, Brendan, Felix and Josh shared their hopes for what next week's busy treasure trove of info will yield. Check it out here.
Jon - Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
This console generation has marked the death of the arcade flight simulator. In an age when first person shooters and third person action platformers are fast becoming the only safe bet for mainstream publishers, flying awesome military hardware is fast becoming extinct... but there's one beacon of hope.
This legendary studio is the driving force behind the epic Ace Combat series, and their latest entry is set to be an absolute monster from a raw technical standpoint. Assault Horizon will continue the photo-realistic visuals championed by Ace Combat 6: Skies Of Deception whilst adding the awesome metal carnage dynamic into the mix. Opponents can now be chewed up into oily smoking splinters at point blank range while pilots engage in insane aerial manoeuvres. Project Aces are the masters of their craft, and Assault Horizon could well be thrie most visceral, fist-pumpingly awesome effort to date.
Just watch the trailer. Watch it and know true joy.
My love for Ace Combat is both powerful and earnest, but it's no hopeless schoolboy crush. Assault Horizon will trade the fictional Strangereal universe for real-world grit, and this path is liberally strewn with potential pitfalls that are causing me to lose a fair bit of sleep. Yes, I know I need to get out more. Enormous Sci-Fi floating fortresses and futuristic weapons systems, two of the franchise's most beloved aspects, will almost certainly be biting the dust (and replaced by helicopter rail shooting sections? Uh oh)... and from what we've seen, Assault Horizon will be breaking another important tradition. Past Ace Combat titles refused to name the player character, allowing you to put yourself into the cockpit behind a cool callsign. Their storylines concerned the peripheral characters, meaning that cutscenes could be merrily skipped without impacting the action or context in any way (or enjoyed to their fullest if you so choose).
But from the looks of things, we're now we're going to assume the role of the grizzled Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop. Along with any potentially poor voice acting, questionable decisions and obtrusive exposition that he might bring to the party. HAWX 2 (and Front Mission Evolved, to a certain extent) taught us that poor storylines can get in the way of the all-important gameplay, and Project Aces will need to do their utmost to ensure that the exposition is handled with the lightest feather touch.
You see, Assasult Horizon isn't my most anticipated game because I know it's going to be good. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm looking forward to getting involved, grilling the dev team and discovering whether its new direction is going to pay off in spades and revitalise the genre... or crash and burn. I'm hoping and praying for the former, but either way, I can't wait to see the result.
Also, I happen to love jumpin' off the track and shovin' into overdrive. Give yourself a manly ass slap if you get the reference.
Tom - Hitman: Absolution
For a long time now I've been sitting around between games thinking "When are they going to bring out a Hitman game for this generation of consoles?!". I simply couldn't understand why year after year I wasn't able to feed my Hitman addiction, surely there's a huge market for Agent 47's return, especially if people can experience his missions in glorious 1080p!
Then very slowly a few rumours started circulating on the interweb, followed by a couple of quick publicity snaps, before finally the new game was confirmed and named as Hitman: Absolution. Shortly after this, the 27 second teaser trailer went live, which ends on a barcode that clearly highlights a 47 along with six other numbers that form the date of the game's reveal at E3.
To say I love the previous Hitman games would be a huge understatement! Whilst running into an enemy stronghold, silver ballers blazing, is pretty good fun, the real challenge of course, is silently infiltrating the location your target's hiding out at and taking them out without so much as a whisper, before disappearing into the night like a shadow, thus earning yourself a Silent Assassin rank.
I'm hoping the improvements that have been made technology wise since the last instalment came out, will allow bigger and better environments to be presented to us, with some spectacular lighting, slick gameplay, improved kill animations, hand to hand takedowns, and one or two nice weapons that are capable of taking out enemies silently whilst still being able to cause havoc should things hit the proverbial fan.
It'd also be nice to have a few options when it comes to disposing of bodies you've created, rather than just hiding them round a corner, or stuffing them into a conveniently placed garbage dumpster. Finally, I'd love to be able to construct elaborate traps and distractions for guards, in order to take out a few of the pesky blighters or silently slip past them having caused a gap in their perimeter.
Well, I guess I'll just have to sit back like everybody else and see what's going on with Agent 47 once things have been made clearer at this year's E3!
Carl - Project Cafe
While I am looking forward to seeing what E3 reveals, and what surprises emerge for us (I love a good shock announcement) I’m actually in a position this year where I have nothing I’m eagerly awaiting news on. Sure, seeing more information on Uncharted 3, Skyrim, Deus Ex: HR, Gears 3, Mass Effect 3 and every other big title will be good, but as we already know about their existence it’s hard for me to truly anticipate the next round of information.
That said, I’m probably still coming down from L.A. Noire, which if you read my Gaming Round-up of 2010 was my most anticipated game of this year (and has more than met my expectations) so I’m guessing I’m just feeling the blues over finishing that one. Hell, even Duke Nukem Forever will be upon us before the magical event in L.A, so most of my personal heavy hitters of the year will have already been unleashed upon me.
So I guess my most anticipated moment for E3 is more of an exaggerated curiosity than anything, and that is Nintendo’s announcement for Project Café.
I’ve been burned by Ninty before. The promises that the Wii would revolutionise the core gaming world ultimately fell flat, and I returned my launch copy of Red Steel in with a week of getting it. Since then, I’ve tried a few times to get back into the console, Super Smash Bros. Brawl being such an attempt, but it has always returned to the same position in my gaming life; the party piece for when my friends and I feel like playing something stupid (and considering we usually opt to play Call of Duty or even slap each other on LittleBigPlanet it’s quite low on the pecking order) and collects dust the rest of the time.
It’s much like the inflatable gladiatorial equipment I own. It seemed like a good idea at the time but after the initial flash of entertainment it is left on one side. That and my friends broke the damn things through aggressive combat (yeah, THANKS FOR THAT YOU LOT.)
So it will need to take something utterly special for Nintendo’s big reveal to win me over, but if there was an opportune time to do so this would be it. The rumours of it being a console to rival the power of the heavyweights from Sony and Microsoft, and the whispers that a tablet controller is involved, intrigue me significantly, if only because we may see an end to the waving of plastic wands (temporarily.) Of course we will see the usual regurgitation of classic franchises for the new device, but I’m hoping we will see something new emerge with the promise of re-capturing the core gaming audience.
Nintendo have already proven they can capture the casual markets, both in the home and on the move, and E3 will be the best chance for them to impress, and more importantly regain the trust, of the avid gamer.