Last week’s massive Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles filled the entirety of both West and South Halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center, including the space in between and out in front, where those unable to obtain booth space hired scantily clad women and DJs to lure visitors away from the relative safety of the convention hall. This isn’t about them. It’s what’s inside that counts, and what was inside delivered this year like no year prior.
Big news! In the next few months, you’ll be forced to make a choice between rival gaming consoles. It’s been eight years since the release of the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, and a lot can change in eight years. What hasn’t changed is the massive battle between the two giants of the industry.
With “features” such as requiring an Internet connection to play even offline games (in the interest of anti-piracy, of course), the not-so-warmly welcomed Kinect (an accessory with a camera used to pet virtual animals that can hear and see you) required to function and a price point of $499, the XBox One took a firm whoopin’ not a few hours later when Sony introduced the Playstation 4 at a cost of $399 with none of the Big Brother-esque requirements.
It didn’t help that the Sony booth in the South Hall looked as though it was designed to devour the Microsoft booth. Despite the obvious winners and losers at the console level, both publishers had their highs — and there were numerous highs.
GNB’s Best of E3 2013 Awards (In which the prizes are made up and the points don’t matter.)
This was the year for immersive story-driven gameplay. An English major’s wet dream. Narratives took center stage and attention away from first-person shooters. Take for instance Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs, a hack-and-shoot spy meets vigilantism title set in Chicago. Ubisoft demonstrated the open world environment, allowing you to peer into the personal lives of characters via their mobile devices.
Ubisoft surprised everyone with the announcement of The Division, a future-gen multiplayer online title under the Tom Clancy series. With a trailer that seemed better suited to cinema, The Division shows society crumbling around the spread of a virus through the use of money, specifically focusing on greed and capitalism.
There can only be one GNB Best of E3 Overall Winner, and that title goes to CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 3. Never before has a demo moved me so — 45 minutes in the meeting room with the developers from Poland showed Geralt of Rivia (the game’s namesake) exploring a world massive in scale and absolutely gorgeous by design, battling epic monsters (more than 80 species in all) and interacting in ways unseen before with locals and quest givers.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the third in a series of immersive role-playing games that have, in the past, set standards for the genre. This installment is 35 times larger than the second and loses no depth in expansion. The demonstration showed a side quest in which a village is under attack by a bizarre creature and Geralt must decide who to trust. Needless to say, with more than100 hours of gameplay, The Witcher 3 will have many choices to make.
Runners-up are many, and the choices were difficult. Best Original Title goes to the Xbox One exclusive Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment, which dredges up memories of the old Japanese animation Patlabor. Titanfall is a mix of giant-robot action and jet-pack shooter. The massive mech-suit in the South Hall commanded attention.
Supergiant Game’s follow-up to the incredible Bastion is Transistor, which wins for Best Concept. Red is a young singer who comes into possession of a talking sword, and as a consequence is wanted by a baddie known as The Process. Incredible colors and beautiful voice acting make this a must-have for the Playstation 4 and Windows upon launch.
Zombies are still a massive presence in video games and there was no lack of zombie titles on the show floor. Out of the many, only one can take home GNB’s Mmm Brains award. Capcom’s Dead Rising 3 and Atlus’ Day Light commanded attention via fancy booths, but it was the quiet competitors that stole the award in a tie for first: Telltale’s The Walking Dead: 400 Days downloadable content to coincide with Season 1 of The Walking Dead and DayZ, an open world zombie survival MMO. Both showed the best of both worlds — 400 Days for its morality and story-driven gameplay (five different stories for five different characters!) and DayZ for its sandbox perma-death guts and customization.
If E3 2013 taught us anything, it’s that innovation within the industry is far from dead. There’s a lot to be excited about. If you’re stuck deciding which console will be your next, ask yourself this question: Why not both?
The Xbox One will be released in November ($499); Playstation 4 in December ($399).
Chris O’Neal is. Follow him on Twitter @agentoneal.