[16 June 2009]
This year’s annual E3 Expo gathering of video game developers, publishers and players brought with it an unprecedented look at the games we’ll be playing over this year and next as well as the technology that will shape the games to come.
Here are the staff of Kotaku’s picks for the best of 2009’s Electronic Entertainment Expo:
Best Console/PC Game
After three years in hiatus, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell returns with a stunning new look and style of play that is sure to reinvigorate a flagging franchise.
Splinter Cell Conviction (PC and Xbox 360) is Ubisoft’s fifth installment of the Clancy-inspired secret agent stealth game, streamlined to make sure players never have to leave the game for instruction, objectives or back story.
Instead of wasting gamers’ time with mission briefings or cut-scenes, the game projects everything into the world as you play. Mission goals appear as giant text painted across buildings, or splashed across the scenery as Conviction’s Sam Fisher passes through it, cut-scenes are delivered in real-time black and white movies projected on the walls of the rooms he is standing in.
Embedding objectives into the scenery of missions isn’t the only change Conviction delivers. Other new features including the ability to put Fisher on autopilot and have him take out a room full of “marked” enemies, a more stylized look for the game and interactive “interrogation” scenes.
Runner-up: Star Wars The Old Republic (PC)
Best Portable Game
In Scribblenauts (Nintendo DS) players work to navigate child-like Maxwell through a hand-drawn world on his quest to collect Starites. The side-scrolling puzzle game does have a significant twist. To aid Maxwell on his journey, players can drop items in the world simply by writing the word on the DS screen. Developers boast a substantial dictionary of words that include everything from guillotines to robot zombies, all of which players can interact with.
Runner-Up: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (Nintendo DS)
Best Downloadable Game
In Q-Games’ PixelJunk Shooter (Playstation 3) you have to rescue miners trapped underground by piloting a spaceship through the maze of tunnels. Miners aren’t the only thing you’ll find underground, some areas are also filled with pockets of lava or water. Blasting holes under these pockets allow the liquid to spill out. If the lava mixes with water it forms rock, if it mixes with miners, you have less miners.
Runner-Up: Shadow Complex (PC and Xbox 360)
Best Original Title
Brutal Legend (Playstation 3, Xbox 360) gives players control of epic-roadie Eddie Riggs who has been sent to a fantasy heavy-metal world to do battle alongside headbangers and musicians. The game’s fiction is all pulled from the sort of art you’d expect to find on bad heavy metal record albums, and its humorous story is backed by a hefty cast of voice actors including Jack Black, Lita Ford, Rob Halford and Lemmy Kilmister.
Runner-Up: Alan Wake (PC, Xbox 360)
Ubisoft’s willingness to reboot their stealth franchise and turn it into something different will go a long way in making Splinter Cell Conviction (PC, Xbox 360) a hit.
Runner-Up: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PlayStation 3)
Best New Hardware
When Microsoft unveiled Project Natal (Xbox 360), their controller-free motion controller, during E3 earlier this month the reaction was almost incredulity. Not that Microsoft would be able to garner any attention with another motion controller, but that a high-definition camera could let you interact with games without the help of anything else. Using just the camera and the 360, Project Natal can let you drive cars, swat balls or even interact with a virtual child.
Best New Gameplay Mechanic
Scribblenauts’ ability to turn your written word into a little cartoon version of the item is astounding, add to that the ability to blend these items so they interact with each other or can be wielded by the hero and you have the best new mechanic to hit a video game since Nintendo perfected the waggle.
Runner-Up: Invizimals’ (PSP) monster-catching camera.
In the weapon-centric world of action video games, swords, guns and tanks are all played out. Enter Bayonetta (Playstation 3, Xbox 360). The eponymous heroine with the Sarah Palin glasses can quad-wield her guns, carrying two pistols in her hands and two more strapped to her ankles, and unwind her black hair, which she wears as a jumpsuit, to turn it into giant fists, high-heeled feet and even a dragon.
Runner-Up: Left 4 Dead 2’s frying pan.
Best of 2010
It has been four years since Team Ico released Shadow of the Colossus to critical acclaim. The action adventure game delivered an emotional story and reinvented the way people thought about game design, turning the titular Colossus into living levels that had to be tracked down, climbed and destroyed.
During Playstation’s E3 press conference, the team unveiled their latest work: The Last Guardian (Playstation 3). The game appears to revolve around the relationship between a boy and a giant feathered creature. Not much to go on, but fans of Team Ico know the developers will deliver.
Runner-Up: Mass Effect 2 (PC, Xbox 360)
Biggest Game Changer
Sony’s $250 PSPgo is more than just another portable, it’s the first time a major gaming hardware company has jumped entirely into the realm of digital downloads . Its success could blaze the way for digital only gaming, its failure could set the movement back by years.
Runner-Up: Wii Vitality Sensor (Wii)