MTB’s E3 2011 Favorites

MTB team members recap their favorite games from this year's big show.

Last week, tens of thousands flocked to L.A. for the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo.  Millions more watched online as the various presenters promptly began, well, whatever it is that they did.  In all seriousness, just about everyone was somewhat disappointed by the press conferences lacking in surprises.  Nonetheless, the staff at Mash Those Buttons saw a number of titles that impressed us in major ways.  Without further ado, here are just some of the games that managed to separate themselves from the pack in the eyes of our writers.

Jason Bond: When it comes to this year’s E3, out of everyone that presented and demoed some of their upcoming games, I personally have to say that EA definitely stole the show.  The largest game headlining — and one that I have been waiting years for — is Battlefield 3.  I wasn’t even at E3, but you could definitely tell that there was a palpable energy in the air when the FPS was put on display; especially when it was shown in action.  Watching the Thunder Run gameplay and seeing the visuals of the actual in-game footage was just incredible.  The graphics are simply astonishing, and getting a peek at the multiplayer footage, the destruction of buildings, and knife take-downs, was also just an incredible experience.  The whole thing was pure eye candy. I simply can’t wait for October 25th to roll around so I can get my hands on this game; though the open beta in September will suffice for the mean time.

On the other side of things, I’m very much looking forward to Bioshock: Infinite.  The screens are amazing, the rail system seems incredible, to say the least, and it will surely take you for one hell of a thrill ride.  The new systems for Bioshock — which include having a partner actively work with you — also show promise of fantastic elements that we’ve never before seen in a Bioshock game.  Perhaps the title will go even higher with a story that looks even deeper.  One can only hope.

Jason Wersits: Out of all the games shown off at this year’s E3, nothing stood out to me more than Bioshock Infinite.  While the game is still slated for release sometime next year, and is far from finished, just the cross-section of game play shown last week is still incredibly compelling stuff.  The game is coming along quite nicely from its debut last year and the attention given to the game’s incredible world and combat dynamics is thrilling, to say the least.  What could easily be just “another Bioshock” title is really a creature all its own, as Ken Levine and the team at Irrational Games continue to add in unique touches, such as the sky-line transportation system.

It’s difficult to really emphasize any particular element of Bioshock Infinite as being what makes the title stand out.  As it stands, it’s really the sum of its parts which make it so striking.  The beautiful world, focus on player choice in combat and without, and the sheer kinetic nature of the game play are really captivating.  Bioshock Infinite still has a ways to go until we finally have it in our hands, but the next year holds plenty of promise that Irrational Games will continue to flesh the game out as they have been.

The Elder Scrolls games are a time-honored series and the previous installment, Oblivion, is considered by many Xbox 360 owners to be one of the system’s best games.  Although Oblivion is definitely a fantastic game, there’s no denying that it was not without its issues.  Some clunky design behind the combat and inventory management hinders the title, and the game’s reliance on the Gamebryo engine led to a bevy of glitches. In fact, Bethesda has been using the Gamebryo engine for the Fallout series as well –- and it’s certainly showing its age.

There’s a lot of promise in Skyrim.  For one thing, Bethesda Game Studios has finally rolled out a brand new engine which looks great, and will hopefully make for a more polished experience altogether.  In fact, the changes don’t stop there, as the entire combat system and leveling structure have been retooled.  Dual-wielding blades, a more visceral focus on finishing moves, and a total of over 150 dungeons set over a sprawling Norse-style landscape are all being promised for the title’s November release.  For all intents and purposes, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim looks to be a title worthy of being the next installment in the Elder Scrolls franchise, and is a very ambitious game to boot.

When From Software’s Demon’s Souls came out, the one thing that gamers took away from it was the reputed brutal difficulty the game held.  While there is a certain truth to how relentlessly tough the title could be, there was an underlying logic to it which really rewarded skill with success.  Most games released in today’s market are chock full of checkpoints and hand-holding, but Demon’s Souls really require players to rely on exercising caution, discovering important NPCs and system mechanics, and learning from their mistakes in order to progress.  For some gamers, the initial learning curve was an impregnable barrier; but, those who braved the world of Demon’s Souls ultimately found a wholly unique and challenging experience.

With the upcoming Dark Souls, the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, From Software will be bringing back a lot of what made their last game great, while adding in more player options and making some changes to the basic mechanics.  Optional checkpoints and a focus on larger areas should make things a little less stressful to players who may feel overwhelmed.  Multiplayer has been reworked as well, as From Software has included new ways for players to cooperate and compete.  The series’ unorthodox approach to player interaction still remains intact, as players will recruit nearby allies and have to constantly worry about world invasion from crueler gamers.  At the same time, players will have new ways to impact the tendency of the world; they can now either make it more difficult or less punishing.  According to one developer walkthrough, a nearby player had an item on their person which was making the enemies more difficult to kill as a result.  The only way to counteract this sinister sabotage was to invade that player’s world and take them out.

If it is anything like its predecessor, Dark Souls should be a unique experience that has no real parallel to anything in the current gaming market.  The untraditional multiplayer, demanding difficulty, and focus on personal skill over character progression really set it apart from even other RPGs.  In a glut of cut-and-paste shooters and character action games, Dark Souls stands alone.

Nick Santangelo
Nick Santangelo
Nick Santangelo

MASH Veteran

Nick has been a gamer since the 8-bit days and a member of the MTB editorial team since January of 2011. He is not to be interrupted while questing his way through an RPG or desperately clinging to hope against all reason that his Philly sports teams will win any given game he may be watching. Seriously folks, reading this acknowledges that you relieve MTB of any and all legal liability for his actions.

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