OMGN: Online Movies & Games Network

E3 2011: Our Final Thoughts

The four OMGN staffers that made it to E3 2011 give their final thoughts about the expo
Los Angeles, CA, USA

This year, OMGN took four of our staff to E3 2011 in Los Angeles, Calif.: Robert F. Ludwick, Kyle Hovanec, Jenner Cauton, and Ryan Goodman. The four of us frolicked and cavorted in video games' biggest expo and survived to tell the tale. We left the show with sore necks, sore feet, and sore shoulders (from all of the free swag!), and now that we've had some time to reflect, we'd like to offer our opinions of the show as a whole.



What less heralded game really stood out to you and why?

Robert: BloodRayne: Betrayal. Honestly, I wasn't even fully aware that a new BloodRayne game was coming out, aside from the scantily-clad BloodRayne model at the expo. Ryan was supposed to have a booth tour with Majesco, but he got held up in the Nintendo booth checking out the Wii U, so I went in his place. BloodRayne: Betrayal was a very pleasant surprise. The game's animation style is really solid and very, very smooth thanks to a high framerate. The graphic novel-feel works really well for the somewhat-less-sexy BloodRayne. The scoring system and game play in general looks like a lot of fun. And with a reported $15 price point and 7 to 8 hours of game play, I'd say that's a big bargain, especially for an XBLA/PSN game.

Kyle: In a sea of almost overwhelmingly awesome games and triple A titles on display, one of the games that probably got the least amount of press and yet made a big impact on me was Frogger 3D. Featuring more than 60 levels that go beyond the simple highway/river scenery and into crazy stages such exploding city streets and a group of F-18s in the middle of a mid-air firefight, the game blew me away. There's even a Tempest-inspired 3-D stage! This is one I'll be picking up for sure.

JennerRise of Nightmares. Surprisingly, the booth for this game had virtually no lines, but because console was behind a jail cell prop, access may have been more limited than what I had seen. The game is a survival-horror genre in a first-person perspective, which is all well and good, but two things stood out. The first was that it was a Kinect game, which is a first for the genre. The second -- and probably the most important feature for me -- was that it wasn't on-rails. Putting one foot forward or back moved your character forward or back respectively, while twisting your torso to the left or right turned him. For me, this is the freedom of movement currently lacking in most, if not all, Kinect games out there, preventing it from being used in more than casual gaming, and it seems games are all designed around this limitation. Granted, Nightmares was slow paced, often involving melee combat with zombies, but there shouldn't be any reason future games can't adapt this further.

Ryan: I didn't get to play as much of it as Kyle did, but I was really impressed with Frogger 3D. Tak Fuji seems to have taken the classic Frogger formula, and completely retool it for a more modern gaming experience. I look forward to playing the full version, when it comes out.


What highly touted game disappointed you the most and why?

Robert: The Darkness II. It just didn't seem like much of a leap at all from its predecessor. It was visually very appealing, but it really just seemed like a run-of-the-mill sequel. Not that it seemed like a bad game, but of the ones I was able to check out, it stood out the least. Sadly.

Kyle: Modern Warfare 3. In the amount of time I got with it, it played nearly exactly the same as previous titles, looked the same as previous titles, and featured nothing new or innovative to move the series forward. With the upcoming release of new and innovative shooters like Alien: Colonial Marines, Battlefield 3 and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, MW3 looks paint-by-the-numbers in comparison.

Jenner: Probably Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. It's not that the game itself was bad, but its main highlight wasn't the game itself -- rather, it was its separate gunsmith mode. Being able to use the Kinect to manage, alter, and test-drive millions of combinations of guns was very exciting. All that excitement, however, dropped when I saw the actual game was using the standard controller. The Kinect use seems to be a market-selling gimmick, especially when you consider that using your own body gestures to test your new gun's accuracy and feel will fall short when you realize you have to use two analog sticks when it comes to the real thing.

Ryan: I don't know if it's that highly touted, but Snake Eater 3D was a bit of a disappointment. The 3-D effects didn't look that great, and it feel to me that the game moved much slower than its PS2 older brother. I hope it gets some retooling before its release.


Which new game announcement got you excited the most?

Robert: Halo 4! What else?

Kyle: I would have to agree with Rob. Halo 4 was an unexpected, and at the same time, not surprising announcement. As a fan of the games and the fiction, I'm curious to see where the series goes next. 

Jenner: I have to break the mold here and say Tomb Raider. (Seriously, that's what it's called.) It's a bit of a shocker to see Lara so weak, fragile, and generally not kicking ass in her traditional acrobatic and sexy ways. The QTE that had Laura pulling out the spike from her leg was just brutal and is definitely a different tone that what we're used to seeing. I'm interested in what new approach this game will take.

Ryan: It's the two words everybody, including yours truly, was hoping to hear at E3: Smash Bros. The Wii U opens up a whole new plethora of possibilities for this franchise. Add in a 3DS version that will have some sort of compatibility with the console version, and the always fun speculation of which characters will be in it, and you have a hotly anticipated game. I can't wait to play this!


Which booth gave you the best experience? How and why?

Robert: Barely edging out Activision, I'd have to go with 2K Games. They were very accommodating in getting me to see Bioshock Infinite, despite it being a massively popular title at the expo with nearly everybody wanting to see it for themselves rather than reading all of the hyperbole floating about.

Kyle: Konami. Super accommodating. Super friendly and polite. Didn't treat me like a reporter or just some person in line, but rather as an old friend eager to show off their newest, coolest stuff.

Jenner: Tera. I was able to sit down in a big giant hollow tree that buffed out most of the noise in the background. (Technology!) Being able to sit down with the developers and talk about the intricacies of the game's political system (something not too many MMOs have and would no doubt require heavy explanation), as well as participating in a brief-but-informative play session with the team was definitely a treat.

Ryan: I don't want to sound too much like a fanboy, but I was blown away with Nintendo's booth. All of the employees were very nice to talk to and completely professional. They also come off as very knowledgeable.They did a lot to make the time pass quickly on the line to play the Wii U by having their booth girls walking around with the Wii U controller to try out beforehand, as well as 3DSs to try other games. One of the booth girls even went and got some of us ice cream while waiting in line! Overall, complete first class experience!


Which company least impressed and why?

Robert: As much as it pains me to say this ... Sega. Sonic Generations, on the 3DS at least, just didn't impress me. Binary Domain seems like an interesting game, but again, it didn't stand out. Sonic All Stars Racing for the iPad seemed a bit bare. However, the visual impressions I got from Captain America on the 360 and PS3 seemed pretty good, and Renegade Ops looked like a fun game. But for a company with a history like Sega's, I was disappointed.

Kyle: Activision. Nothing really stood out to me as impressive or interesting in its line up. MW3 was more of the same. Prototype seemed way to similar to the original, the Marvel and Transformers title looked underwhelming as well. I didn't get the chance to see everything at Activision, but what I did see left me uninterested and wanting to see something else. 

Jenner: Immerz wasn't all too great. (A pair of vibrators that cling to your chest that simulates any sound its hooked up to.) The concept was sound (pun not intended), but the game they were using to demo the product, which was Resident Evil 5 on the 360, probably wasn't the best choice, as they barely did anything at all.

Ryan: On a games standpoint, Capcom. It only had a handful of games on the floor, one of which was a rehash of one of its big games last year, and it was missing some key things (Where's Megaman?! ... or at least, MML3?). On a presentation standpoint, I will go with WB. The insane lines to play Arkham City were very unecessary. They should've had more than six machines running the game. Add TWO seperate lines to those six machines, and it leads to a big mess. More focus on the games than the set advertising your game next time, guys.


Who won out of the "Big 3" press conferences?

Robert: Honestly, I would have to say Microsoft. I'll probably get shellacked for not saying Nintendo -- I understand that. Everybody knew Nintendo was coming out with a new console, and the Wii U certainly looks like an intriguing system with boundless capabilities. The orchestra playing Zelda was also a nice touch. But if we're talking about the press conferences themselves, I thought Microsoft pulled its off pretty well. It showcased quite a lot of excellent, iteratively better uses of the Kinect sensor and really only lulled when Disneyland Adventures and the Sesame Street game were shown. The Kinect technology continues to impress me, and Microsoft didn't disappoint there. Sony, on the other hand ... It was very uptight and corporate. It wasn't what I was looking for.

Kyle: Microsoft won with all of the cool uses for Kinect for its big franchise games, but from an audience perspective, Nintendo won. The Wii U has gotten everyone's attention, and a few days after the show, the video game community is a-twitter about all of the game play possibilities. 

Jenner: This is a tricky question, and I don't really have a proper answer. I feel that Microsoft got the most “ooohs” and “wows” with all the new games coming out for the Kinect, and especially using the Kinect's camera to scan real life images into in-game objects or characters. (Something the PC has been able to do for years, but never done before on a console -- and quite efficiently too.) For me, Microsoft wins for having games that I would want to play the most, and I guess that would be a winner. Nintendo, on the other hand, still deserves some mention and wins for presentation of the conference itself. The orchestra playing Zelda tunes in the beginning showed that Nintendo understands that gamers are not only touched by game play and story, but by music as well. Also, it had an interesting trivia slideshow before the showing.

Ryan: In a close call, I have to go with Nintendo. Sony didn't even come close. While the Vita itself looks promising, hardly any of the games on it looked that intriguing, and several of the presentations at the presser were a mess. The PS3 lineup didn't impress much, either. Microsoft did eactly what it needed to. It got people excited about Kinect and showed some games that people will want to play. The Halo 4 shocker at the end also helped. However, I believe the Wii U could change video games forever. Just playing a simple demo of it, I could see a whole new world of possibilites open up. Pair that with a very stellar 3DS lineup, and you have a winner.


What is your best-of-show game?

Robert: Bioshock Infinite, hands down. That game impressed the hell out of me. I wasn't expecting to be anywhere near as blown away as I was. It is a very visually striking game, far surpassing its two older brothers. The ranging battle demoed for us had a very grand feel, and the tactical usage of Elizabeth's powers to impact the battle in one way or another was a nice addition to a franchise that usually had a very, very linear feel. The atmosphere was set up excellently, bringing me back to when the original Bioshock's atmosphere kept me tied to my chair. I am excessively excited for this game.

Kyle: Aliens: Colonial Marineswas the best game I saw at E3. The use of atmosphere and sound conjured up some of my best memories of Dead Space and Bioshock. The game play looked like a chaotic mix of the frantic firefights from the most intense FPSs on the market. I expected nothing from this title, and in only a short demonstration of game play, I was convinced that this would be the cinematic FPS to own.

JennerSkyrim. Having put more than a hundred hours into Oblivion, I was very excited to see that the next Elder Scrolls was improved in almost every way possible, from the combat, magic, skills, and even the scale of the game. I'm looking forward to spending another few hundred hours of my social life on this title.

Ryan: Not counting the Wii U tech demo, I'm going to give it to Gears of War 3. Epic has clearly listened to what the fans want, and it is giving us the Gears game we all want to play. The multiplayer looks to be phenomenal, as the horde mode felt completely fresh in the demo I played. Add that with the nail-biting conclusion to the storyline, and you've got quite the experience waiting for us this September.


What is your best-of-show hardware?

Robert: Well, it would be easy and obvious to pick the Wii U here ... Or the PSVita ... However, I shall go with (drumroll please) the Nyko Zoom for the Xbox 360's Kinect sensor, coupled with the TriMount from dreamGEAR. Everybody else is going to pick the Wii U and PSVita across the interwebs for this kind of an award, so I'm striking a different path. I think Nyko's Zoom will be a boon for all of those who have smaller living spaces where their Kinect sensor is located, such as myself. dreamGEAR's TriMount makes it easy for gamers to have all three motion-sensing home consoles set up without having to muck around with things to switch between the three -- quite nice.

Kyle: 3DS for a second year in a row. The games, the e-shop, and the mostly excellent use of glasses-free 3-D makes this a must-own system for gamers. Heck, just with the title selection alone, it's already a system that is a juggernaut in triple A titles. 

Jenner: I was never really impressed with the line-up of games the Kinect came with upon release, but I suppose Microsoft wanted to see how the smaller casual crowd would take it. It came on like gang-busters, so it was probably time to up the ante for the hardcore crowd. And up it they did.

Ryan: As much as I want to give it to the Wii U for what it could do to the future of gaming, I am going to go with the 3DS. Before E3, I had only played the 3DS a handful of times and was left fairly unimpressed. But at E3, just about every game I got to try out blew me away. The 3-D effects on most of them were top-notch, and the game play was solid on most of them, too. I left E3 wanting to go out and buy a 3DS, which I ended up doing shortly after.


What was your overall E3 experience like?

Robert: I had a very positive expo this year. This is my second one, clocking in a massive five years after my first in 2006. The atmosphere was upbeat and positive, much like every NFL offseason. Aside from a small handful, the exhibitors were as accommodating and friendly as possible. I am the perpetual optimist on OMGN's staff, so E3 has made me very hopeful about the upcoming "E3 year" of the video game industry. I want to thank all of the public relations people, exhibitors, developers, and anybody else who assisted me during E3 this year. It wouldn't have gone on as well as it did without the tireless people in our industry.

Kyle: Exhausting, tiring, chaotic, and utterly exciting at the same time. Having the chance to see some of the coolest games on the planet and meet the talented developers behind them was an experience I will never forget. Even the experience of standing in a three-hour line was made better by the pleasant discussions about the one hobby we all share and love: video games. That is why we play games. Not for the hype or the lights and sounds, but the experience we share gaming together and the people who work hard to bring us these experiences.

Jenner: Dang it, Kyle, you took the words out of my mouth, and now I have to come up with something else cool to say. For my first E3 experience, it has been simply mind-boggling. The games, the presentations ... everything was grand. While I can't account for all booths, the atmosphere was friendlier than I expected it to be. It was exhilarating to see some famous faces, developers, and being able to give some input of my own. Gaming has never been treated as serious in the entertainment industry as much as movies and music, but for a mere three days (four if you include the conferences before), it felt like the world's opinion on video games did a complete 180.

Ryan: This was an experience I would not trade in a lifetime. Even though it was very exhausting, and many of the lines were long, I had a blast. I was thrilled to be able to attend all of the big three pressers, as well as Ubisoft's presser, and I was in awe of just about everything around me. I hope to go again someday.