In this special edition of First Impressions, we review the four big press conferences of Day 1 of E3 2012. We’ll sieve out the most exciting announcements and the biggest disappointments. Note that this is only a first impression of what has been presented during the conference and may not be a fair representation of the actual game that is shown at E3, which we unfortunately do not have the privilege of getting our hands on. We will go through individual games in-depth separately based on more footage and interviews.
You can replay the entire Microsoft press conference here.
1. Tomb Raider
Crystal Dynamics showed off new gameplay footage and it looks absolutely stunning. Lara Croft looks much more vulnerable and human as a game character but still retains her athletic abilities, and she is also able to interact with her environment, for example shooting a shotgun at a stack of barrels to make them fall and roll towards the enemy. For a linear level, gameplay looked pretty varied too as Lara goes from shooting enemies to fighting against the rapids and then parachuting her way down to safety.
2. South Park: The Stick of Truth
Not much gameplay was revealed at the conference, but the art style looked exactly like what we have seen in the TV shows, a key feature which creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were keen to enforce. It’s interesting to know that this is also the first time that the town of South Park is properly mapped out, like Springfield in The Simpsons. The highlight of the game was the fact that players, as the protagonist of the story, would be able to fully customise the appearance of their South Park characters. The highlight of the conference, however, was the duo poking fun at Microsoft, at their own conference mind you, for the ridiculously unnecessary connectivity to be implemented on the Xbox 360, mobile and tablet devices known as Xbox SmartGlass which was also announced at the conference before the South Park presentation.
1. Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Hours before the Microsoft conference, we talked about how the franchise could redeem itself. Seems like Ubisoft decided to troll and ramp up every feature which we disliked in Conviction. The game looks amazing graphically, but one wonders why a daytime mission was chosen for a Splinter Cell game. Sam is much more aggressive in combat, especially when armed with a knife, and he’s also able to perform ‘Mark and Execute’ while on the move this time. A Kinect voice function allows the players to actively whistle and attract enemies, a throwback to Chaos Theory. But other than that, it seems the stealth that defined Splinter Cell is truly gone. Even veteran voice actor of protagonist Sam Fisher Michael Ironside has been replaced by young actor Eric Johnson.
2. Resident Evil 6
The first trailer released a couple of months back suggested that the game had taken a very cinematic action route, and the first gameplay footage proved just that. Shooting mechanics look to have been improved from RE5, with the addition of new melee attacks. While the combination of both Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy in the game provided an opportunity to blend both action and survival horror gameplay, Capcom seems to have ignored that as the Leon level demoed looked like yet another action-oriented game with quick-time events, only set at night this time.
On The Fence:
1. Halo 4
Beautiful jungle environment and new alien enemies. But 343 Industries didn’t show us anything we haven’t seen in the Halo franchise in the gameplay demo.
2. Gears of War: Judgment
No gameplay was shown in the announcement trailer, so the verdict is still out.
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
A generic on-the-rails level with a much more cinematic feel, and ten times the explosions and chaos in Modern Warfare 3‘s New York level. The surprise was the ability to actually pilot a jet – a first in a Call of Duty game.
The Big Joke:
Microsoft’s focus on the Kinect was surprisingly underwhelming at this year’s E3, but you would have thought that they would have least rolled out one or two solid announcements. This was one Kinect-only game that was shown at the conference, and it’s just plain ridiculous. Really, would you pay for a game like this? Hey, I know a very similar game and it’s free. It’s called Angry Birds.