E3 2008 Our Final Thoughts on the Shows Best Games
July 22, 2008
Fable 2, Resident Evil 5, Gears of War 2, Banjo-Kazooie 3 -- which game is number-one?
Now that the 2008 E3 Media & Business Summit is over, it’s time to leave the show’s craziness behind and remember what matters most: the games. There were many great titles at this year’s show, but only a select few could make it into our Top 5.
Dakota Grabowski: They’re back! Banjo and Kazooie are ready to steal the hearts of gamers nationwide and they plan on doing that with a whole new adventure. This isn’t like any adventure from the past, Banjo and Kazooie are out to beat Gruntilda once and for all, and they plan on doing so with the use of a variety of vehicles.
Many fans fear the inclusion of vehicles in their favorite platformer will change the dynamics up, but I can honestly say that Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is coming along nicely. Not only was I able to jump out of the vehicle and platform a little, but the game’s gorgeous world was breathtaking to behold. I wanted to explore every nook and cranny of the world since the visuals were more than inviting.
Beyond the beautiful worlds that Rare has beset for its fans to explore, the driving mechanics for every vehicle is unique. Having the ability to create your own vehicles within Banjo-Kazooie is going to be an in-depth element that will provide a crazy upside in terms of replay.
Tinkering around with the toolset hidden within the demo, creating a vehicle can be quite simple or very complex depending on the player. The toolset delivers a heaping amount of parts to combine together to create your dream vehicle. I could truthfully spend over two hours in the vehicle creator alone mixing and meshing parts to somehow create a super-powered Mini Cooper S that could fly. Yes, the toolset is that intuitive – I could seriously recreate the Deathstar on wheels if I wanted to.
Louis Bedigian: Like a kid in a candy store, I was drawn to this game the moment I saw it. After years of waiting and wondering what would become of the bear and bird combo, and after a decade of questioning and doubting Rare’s ability to create a second epic masterpiece, the truth is finally revealed and it is breathtaking.
Nuts & Bolts has been hyped as many things, to the point where many gamers are under the impression that it’s not a true action/adventure. But don’t be fooled by the marketing hoopla that is merely being used to attract those who wouldn’t normally be interested in a Banjo game. Like the first Banjo-Kazooie, released a little over 10 years ago, Nuts & Bolts is every bit the game – the only game – that threatens Mario’s throne.
The single-world demo was enormous, far too huge and packed with too many jiggies (four showed up on my radar screen, but I’m betting there were others I couldn’t see) to conquer or fully explore in the few minutes I could spare to play this game. You see, E3 is the most jam-packed video game event of the year. And in one five-minute window, I could go to the bathroom, grab a drink or snack, or play a game that was on my mind long before it was even announced. I made the right decision. (For me and for you. I don’t think my bathroom escapades would have made a very interesting read.)
But beyond the praise for the fact that Rare got it right and designed worlds, game controls and graphics that border on perfection, the developers added a new element that could solidify Nuts & Bolts as the most innovative action/adventure of the year: vehicles. Again, don’t be fooled by the ridiculous hype that speaks of mini-games and other less exciting features. These vehicles are much more than that. They’re used as an extension of Banjo’s maneuverability. In the first game, players could run faster and fly with Kazooie to seek areas that were otherwise out of reach.
Now that the worlds are several times larger than any from the Nintendo 64 adventures, you’re going to need something more powerful to explore them in a timely manner. Rare took this concept one step further by adding puzzles/jiggie challenges that couldn’t be solved without the help of a vehicle. One of many examples: When an ice sculpture is too large and too heavy for the little brown bear to carry, he’ll use a helicopter to get the job done.
2. Fable 2
Dakota Grabowski: Peter Molyneux is putting 110 percent into Fable 2 and it shows. His world of Albion is growing into one of the best worlds to traverse through within a video game and, on top of all that, he’s allowing a friend or family member to cooperatively join you through your journey.
Fable 2 could be the game that finally allows boyfriend and girlfriend to play cooperatively together on the Xbox 360. Sure, Halo 3 is sometimes fun for the boyfriend to whoop on the girlfriend, but that is only fun for so long before the girlfriend puts the controller down and quits. What Fable 2 is going to offer is an experience that puts the girlfriend in a role where she can create her own character, buy her own house(s), and own her very own pet all within a fantasy world rich of character and personality. Come this October, Fable 2 should see a lot of time within my Xbox 360 tray as my girlfriend and I will adventure through Albion together to become the ultimate good-guy heroes.
Louis Bedigian: Nearly four years after first experiencing the genre-defining gameplay of Resident Evil 4, Capcom will release the next chapter in their leading survival/horror franchise. Based largely on the last game’s mechanics, Resident Evil 5 has yet to show signs of innovation. But the larger levels, increased number of zombies and insanely realistic visuals (this could be the first game to beat Metal Gear Solid 4) could be everything Capcom needs to deliver another mega-hit.
However, it is still unknown just how far the developers will go in their efforts to scare the player. The daytime setting is gorgeous but not as spooky as the grim scenarios of the last game. Could darkness be in RE5’s future? That’s what I’m hoping for. That and a cornucopia of hairy spiders, grotesque bugs, and other creepy-crawlies that will jump off the screen and make the players jump out of their seats.
Louis Bedigian: This is no remake. Capcom is doing that – Bionic Commando Rearmed will re-envision the beloved franchise. But the game simply titled “Bionic Commando” is an entirely new experience from a world you may have never expected to see evolve.
Upon playing this game for the first time, Spider-Man came to mind. Not the games but the comic book, the movies, the whole world that Peter Parker explores. It’s that seamlessness he has in the way he swings that was brought to Bionic Commando.
Dakota Grabowski: Never enjoying the two sequels to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, I am glad to see the reinventing of the Prince of Persia series. Not only are they bringing back more adventure traits that I adored with The Sands of Time, but the combat actually doesn’t look over the top as it did with the sequels. Another interesting aspect that I approve 100 percent is the drop dead gorgeous graphics that convey color rather than darkness. Not related to the Prince of Persia of last generation, this next-gen iteration is shaping up to be a must-have title for any adventure fanatic who can’t wait to make death-defying leaps from cliff to cliff.
Prince of Persia
Other E3 2008 Favorites
Louis Bedigian: Grand Theft Aerial. Gears of Vertical Warfare. Boba Fett Wars. There are a lot of words you could use to describe Dark Void, but only one will suffice: original. This Gears of War-style shooter incorporates an amazing vertical cover mechanic, impeccable flight controls, and the ability to steal alien ships while soaring through the air.
Dakota Grabowski: Gears of War is back and not only is it more gruesome than ever, but Epic Games is including a five player co-op mode called Horde which will allow players to tear through waves of Locust troops. If Gears of War 2 turns out as good as Cliff Bleszinski promises, then Epic Games and Microsoft are slowing making Gears of War into one of the elite franchises to be remembered for years to come.
Louis Bedigian: This game terrified me. As a diehard Mortal Kombat fan, how could I not look at this title – which reduces the series’ blood content and put a limit on fatality gore – with anything but leery eyes? But once the controller was in hand, the comic book additions felt like a natural inclusion. They aren’t brilliant – this decision came from marketing, you can be certain. But the developers have done all they can to make the characters relevant, as proven by their special features (ex: Flash can perform Kabal’s famous paralyzing spin move).
Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe
Dakota Grabowski: Relaxing and peaceful, Flower is out to prove that games don’t always have to be about guns and violence. The symphonic music will almost put you to sleep with how effective it is able to capture the serene environment players will play through as flower pedals. This is why I’m nominating Flower to be the game to be played before everyone goes to bed; it’ll no doubt calm you down and help you rest.
Dakota Grabowski: Hooray for Mega Man! Not only is Capcom returning him to his roots in a side-scrolling 2D platformer, but the same level of difficulty is coming back. Having visited the demo three times at E3, Mega Man 9 will prove to be one of the most addicting games this year.
Louis Bedigian: Destroy everything your heart desires. No structure is too massive. No polygon is too polished. That philosophy to game design has allowed the developers to produce a shooter/melee action title with few restrictions. To top things off, they added great vehicle controls (yeah, you’ll use them too, just like GTA), stellar character controls, and a graphics engine that’s very impressive.
Final Fantasy XIII
Dakota Grabowski: The surprise announcement by Square-Enix at the Microsoft Press Conference alone puts Final Fantasy XIII on our list. In fact, the video shown didn’t reveal anything new nor did any of the public relations representatives at the show. So why does Final Fantasy XIII make our list? I can tell you one reason why – more gamers will now enjoy this beloved franchise and it may one day help change the Xbox 360’s image as a “shooter-box.”
Final Fantasy XIII
Louis Bedigian: When is a remake more than a remake? When it’s Bionic Commando Rearmed. This tougher-than-tough, oh-no-I-just-died-again shooter is ripe with retro gameplay. When a second player enters the game (for co-op), boss battles are instantly more difficult. If the two players separate, the screen splits in two with a cinematic flair that’s usually reserved for television shows, namely 24.
Dakota Grabowski: From the hands-on demonstration at the Microsoft Press Conference to actually getting our own hands on Fallout 3, it’s evident that Fallout 3 is in the running for the prestigious title of “Game of the Year.” Fallout 3’s immersive post-apocalyptic world is stunning to see with your own eyes and with the hybrid gameplay being implemented with traits of a shooter, adventure and role-playing title, Fallout 3 should light the world on fire this holiday.
Louis Bedigian: Among the graphic-intensive, severely hyped games of E3 2008 was a small title that will undoubtedly be reserved for “niche” publicity that corresponds with its “niche” status – Bangai-O Spirits. But make no mistake: this side-scrolling mech shooter is a hardcore gamer’s game. Your reflexes will be tested, your endurance will be challenged, and you will wonder if the developers themselves can beat these stages.
Note: The preceding list was based on our personal experiences at this year's E3 Media & Business Summit. Due to time, meeting and working constraints, no one journalist is able to see and play every game on display. Therefore we wrote this list based on what we saw or got our hands on. Not all exclusions are intentional – some highly anticipated games are missing by default because we didn’t have the time to see them ourselves.
Also Check out Hop's Top 10 picks he had from E3 2008