The best way to describe this year's E3 was, well, average. There were lots of competent games that I might want to buy at some point, but few of them wowed me. Similarly, few games were horrible enough to make me go "what the heck were they thinking?" Still, there were a couple games and products out there that really impressed me, and a couple that still made me scratch my head in confusion, though I admittedly had to search long and hard for them. These are my picks for the top best and worst products shown at E3.
People are giving Resident Evil 6 an unfairly hard time in my opinion. Yes, the game has become more action oriented, but that's partially the point. The game's three protagonists represent three different phases of Resident Evil's life. Leon is all about the dark oppressive horror or Resident Evil 1 and 2, Jack is all about the adrenaline pumping "run from something bigger than you" horror of Resident Evil 3, and Chris is all about the overpowered action of Resident Evil 4 and 5. It's an artful tribute to Resident Evil's history, a tribute that is lost on people who reflexively whine about anything even remotely innovative.
Simply put, Resident Evil 6 was some of the most fun I had at E3 this year. It felt like playing three completely different games, and being told that each campaign is about as long as Resident Evil 5 only sweetened the deal. Not only that, but the campaigns will intersect causing protagonists to meet up and be controlled by other players online. It's like Journey, but with Zombies! Honestly, I think Resident Evil 6 might be one of the best games to be released in the upcoming year, as long as people keep an open mind about it.
Out of all the fighting games showcased on the E3 show floor this year, Persona 4 Arena had to have been the best. It takes the iconic Persona 4 cast from Atlus' award winning Persona RPG series and converts them into fighting game characters in ways that only Arc System Works could. The game is ludicrously deep and sports numerous systems that give you so many options you might feel like you are in a chess match. Between short hops, dodge rolls, universal overheads, launchers, bursts, cancels, ex moves, and more, this is shaping up to be one of the most technical fighters on the market.
At the same time, it isn't one of the hardest to learn fighters on the market. The game only has four buttons, the special move lists are limited, and we get to see perhaps the single most interesting evolution of the fighting game genre: the auto-combo button. This teaches newbies the basics of hit-confirming, meter management, and combo theory without actually requiring them to memorize an actual combo. From there, players can start building their own combos and learning new strategies slowly, in a way that other fighting games simply don't allow you to. This is probably the first fighting game ever that allows newbies to have damage output on par with veterans from day one, and that goes a long way toward opening the fighting game genre up to a bigger audience.
I have always been a fan of SimCity, and the latest in the series looks to be the best one yet. Players can now micromanage their buildings, design new structures, build curved roads, and even mine for natural resources in the vein of Civilization. Each city occupies a space in a persistent universe that is constantly updated through asynchronous multiplayer play. You can view your neighbor's cities, make deals with them, benefit from their success, and even work together to create great masterpieces. The sheer number of options in the new SimCity is staggering.
But the coolest part of the whole game is the new GlassBox simulation engine. You can follow every single Sim in the game; you can watch them get up, go to work, go to a ball game, and more. Each Sim has his own wants and needs, and if he can't fulfill them in your city then he will seek them elsewhere.
What makes this quite revolutionary is that for the first time ever your Sims can commute to other cities to do their jobs, just like people do in real life. This means you can build a city entirely focused on industry, commerce, or even entertainment without worrying about leaving your Sims unsatisfied. The new SimCity is the most powerful and most accurate city simulation game we have seen yet, and it's sure to be a big hit when it drops next year.
Sometimes all you want is a hyperactive hack and slash action game. Metal Gear Rising is all that and more. Stylish stealth kills? Check. Crazy combos? Check. The ability to cut your opponent into tiny little pieces before ripping out his spine in order to fuel your own nanotechnology-based superpowers? Check, check, and double check. Sure, it's a big departure from the Metal Gear we know and love, but it's a fun departure that pumped me full of adrenaline in all the right ways.
Not only is Metal Gear Rising a solid game, it's an innovative one as well. Everything in the game takes location-based damage. Cut off someone's arm and they can't use that arm. Slash a pillar in half and it will crumble in the direction you slashed. The way you wield your blade is just as important as how powerful your blade is, making the game an awesome mix of frantic button mashing and pinpoint precision cutting. It really does make you feel like an awesome cyber samurai, and I would venture to say it was the best action game on the E3 show floor.
I can't rant enough about how awesome ZombiU was. Who would have expected that a random Wii U zombie survival game from Ubisoft could redefine the survival horror genre? Heck, it's the first survival horror title to actually get the survival part right.
ZombiU asks you to create a character, then catapults that character into the zombie apocalypse. One bite, one scratch, one death and you become a slobbering undead corpse. You experience real paranoia as you double-tap each corpse, conserve your ammo by using melee weapons and crossbows, and constantly watch your back whenever you hear the slightest noise. You only have one life to live, and if you lose it you only make the undead horde even stronger. Should you die, you start again as another random survivor, but this survivor isn't your original character. In fact, this survivor might find your zombified body in its travels, and can even loot it!
ZombiU was also the game that best used the Wii U's innovative controls. The Wii U touchscreen is a scanner, a scope, a radar, and a GPS. It is your inventory, which you have to access in real time; your communicator, which you listen to in real time; and a menu, which shows all your mission objectives. It's completely integrated into the experience in every way, and it only serves to increase the powerful sense of paranoia you get from having only one life.
Long story short, ZombiU was the best thing to come out of E3 this year, and it was totally unexpected. Keep a lookout for this game when the Wii U launches later this year.