The 2011 E3 Expo has come to a close and a slew of forthcoming games, systems and assorted gaming-related knick-knacks have been announced to salivating gamers across the globe. Whether watching from the comfort of your desk chair or the chaotic Los Angeles Convention Center, E3 remains the mecca of the gaming world. If you’re a gamer, E3 is an exciting time.
While last year’s show announcements were primarily software-related along with the intriguing (though so far underwhelming game-wise) Nintendo 3DS, this year brought Sony’s new portable PSP replacement the Vita (could it possibly challenge Nintendo’s portable stranglehold?). Nintendo also threw its hat into the hardcore gaming market ring (or so they say) with the Wii U, which drew applause and head scratches alike with its massive touchscreen-based controller. In person it looks something like a cross between an iPad and Sega’s old portable The Game Gear. The jury’s still out, but as usual Nintendo’s hype machine has succeeded in making the big N the talk of the show yet again. Bloody-Disgusting entered the halls of the Los Angeles Convention this week to get the lay of the land and have a first hand look at all the new systems and the latest horror-related offerings. As usual, it took just a moment to get acclimated to the retina-bursting color schemes and the ear-popping sounds of explosions, laser fire, robots stomping and endless chants of “It’s-a-Mario.” I decided to submit, swallowed the blue pill and headed down the rabbit hole for the full experience.
First stop was Konami’s booth to check out the eighth installment in the Silent Hill series, Downpour. Once I’d finished wiring myself to the tethered 3D glasses, picked up the controller and slid on the big headphones with attached microphone, the atmospheric score from Dexter composer Daniel Licht quickly melted away the chaos around me and pulled me into Silent Hill’s new world. Downpour’s protagonist Murphy Pendleton was trapped in a warehouse on fire. I tried turning on the fire alarm and activating the sprinklers, but that only achieved electrocution as water rose towards the breakers. Oops. Lucky gamers have infinite lives. The game looks great and the 3D really adds to that classic, creepy experience Silent Hill fans know and love. Downpour is slated for a late 2011 release on PS3 and 360.
Last year Konami announced an odd little game called NeverDead featuring an un-killable protagonist named Bryce Boltzmann. This time we got a chance to control Bryce. Well, part of him, anyway. As the character sustains damage and loses limbs during the game, he just keeps on trucking along. When we came upon Bryce at E3, he was little more than a severed head. Actually nothing more at all. Just a noggin, rolling and bouncing around the demon-laden world. As you might imagine, you aren’t particularly threatening in this form. You can roll fast and head butt though. Eventually Bryce regenerates to full form with double machine guns and a trench coat, ready to resume his demon hunting. NeverDead is unique and has a dark, twisted since of humor. Definite potential here. It streets quarter three on PS3 and 360.
Last up on the horror front at Konami is Zombie Apocalypse 2, a sequel to the “meh” 2009 over-the-top zombie shoot-em-up. A few minutes playing this one got old fast. It doesn’t seem a whole lot different from the first. A lot of zombies, a lot of shooting and running around. Maybe there’s something I missed, but otherwise I’m not seeing the point to this sequel.
But never fear zombie fans, Square Enix’s Dead Island looks like it just might live up to the high expectations. Only a portion of the game was playable at E3, but it was a lot of fun. As you already know from the trailer, Island looks great. The paradise settings are gorgeously rendered and, I have to admit, while it may not be the first time we’ve seen it, there’s just something fresh about the vacation locale and daylight bloodshed. Blood on sand has a nice visual pop. My character wielded a machete, successfully laying waste to a gym-toned, bikini-clad stalker (such a shame) and a flaming surfer (I mean, like, on fire). When a muscle bound jock-type in board shorts raced towards me, I took his head off with a nice, clean swipe. Got some nice hang-time on the head too. Can’t wait to play this one from start to finish. The release date of September 6th, 2011 was also just announced.
Another promising E3 standout is Arkham City, the sequel to the now classic Batman Arkham Asylum. I didn’t get my hands on this one (long, lone line) but the screens looked great and the gamers that played the demo were quite impressed. The world is much, much bigger and it might even be prettier than the first game, which is no small feat. WB is certainly pulling out all the stops on this one, showcasing a full line of merchandise tie-ins at their booth that included hats, t-shirts and some great looking action figures. I need that Joker figure. So creepy. During a cinematic between Batman and Catwoman, the game made no bones about its mature aim with a less-than-subtle focus on the feisty feline’s nicely rounded posterior. Arkham is out October 18th for PS3, 360 and PC with a Wii U version to follow in 2012.
WB was also showing off its first downloadable character for their acclaimed next-gen Mortal Kombat reboot named Skarlet, a redhead who does battle in a thong and appears to be able to morph into a puddle of blood. Cool. No word yet on the release date for the download.
Sega showed off their near-complete Rise of Nightmares with the Kinect, which looked quite fun even if you do look pretty silly holding your hands out in front of you pretending to wield an imaginary chainsaw. Its developed by the same team behind House of the Dead and hits 360 next week. On that note, Sega was also showing off House of Dead Overkill: Extended Cut for the Playstation Move. It’s basically a spiffed up version of the original Wii shooter. Good, blood-soaked fun for the multiplayer crowd and, along with improved graphics, the Playstation Move guns look much cooler than the Wiimote guns, you know, with those glowing colored golf balls on the end and all.
At the Capcom booth, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City showed promise. Set between parts 2 and 3, this time gamers get to see things from the dark side as a member of Umbrella Security Services. Your task is to destroy evidence of the outbreak and kill all survivors, so you might want to tap into your dark side before you load this one up. It looks pretty cool, a little twisted and should be (fingers crossed) in line with the solid series entries it falls between. Raccoon city is slated for late 2011 on 360 and PS3.
While roaming the floors I passed by a large ship housing the demo of Aliens: Colonial Marines, the first person shooter from Sega. Armed marines (armed with plastic guns anyway) guarded the entryway to the display. This one is set after the events of Alien 3 (forgetting part 4, just like we all tried to) where a Marine rescue team has been sent to search for Ripley. It’s high time Alien had its own game, so hopefully they don’t F it up. The screens look great and the action is pretty intense. We’ll see come Spring 2012.
Three upcoming part 3’s show promise. Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden 3 should be another solid entry in the series. Stepping into the shoes of Ryu, I battled a giant robot spider boss. Seems I’m a little rusty on this one. I cracked under the pressure and let the great ninja down. I’ll need to pull out part 2 and practice up before 3’s release first quarter 2012. BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 pulls few punches with an opening set-up that will tug at the heartstrings of even the most hardened gamer. Intended as the final chapter in the series, it promises to conclude the compelling sci-fi storyline. Also first quarter 2012. Finally, Insomniac’s first person shooter Resistance 3 hits PS3 September 6th. Like the first two, part 3 looks gorgeous and adds support for the Move and 3D.
Always a sucker for nostalgia, my favorite part of this year’s E3 Expo was the Video Game History Museum. They really outdid themselves on this one. In the back of the booth were a host of classic arcade cabinets including Asteroids, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Punch-Out, Altered Beast, N.A.R.C., Area 51 and Dig Dug. But the coolest part were displays of just about every home console you can think of, boxes and all. There was Colecovision, the original NES, Atari 2600’s and 5200‘s, the Sega Master System and just about everything in-between. They even had obscurities like the Atari Lynx (in a rare “his” and “her” versions) and the even more obscure Virtual Boy (a rare bomb from the folks at Nintendo). The set-up brought back some memories and will likely have me trolling Ebay to build my own home history museum pretty soon.
Alas, that wraps up another trip into the high octane world that is the E3 Expo. Lots to be excited about and, in the case of announcements like the Wii U, some new questions for next year. It’s also quite likely that, just as the Wii U gets into gamers hands, rumors of the PS4 and 360 follow-up (the 720?) will start to heat up. There’s a lot to be excited about in the gaming world for the rest of 2011 and well into 2012, particularly for horror gamers.
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