E3 2012: The Review

It is that time of the year again. E3 has come and gone, and all those melodramatic gamers are at this very moment in time still in a state of shock and awe (and mild dampness in their trousers) having been given a preview of how they will be spending most of their waking hours over the coming years. As the resident bird in anger, I must endeavour not to be stunned into silence at the epicosity of this year’s conference, but report up on what went down and why. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to a poor man’s attempt to condense the infinite awesomeness of the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo into a single blog post.

E3 2012 kicked off with green smoke and the new trailer for Halo 4. The 7 minute trailer, mixing live-action with gameplay footage, certainly followed the trend of seriously epic that has made the Halo series one of the most successful for Microsoft’s Xbox platform. That said, it looks like the game is turning a bit darker and scarier with glimpses of forerunner technology and new enemies. The gameplay seemed familiar and both Halo fanatics and newcomers alike will have no trouble getting used to the controls. The interface was nice and the graphics were certainly on par with the latest flagships, so no surprises there. The video gave just enough perspective to get us interested in the game, revealing that it is set four years after the end of the war on a distant planet that Master Chief landed on after the end of the Halo 3. The trailer and gameplay also told us that the ancient forerunners will be playing a big part in the game, and if the weapons that Master Chief is using are anything to go by, this is definitely a good thing, as well as tying up a story that has spanned the best part of eleven years. Halo games have always been a staple of sci-fi shooters, and this next installment certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to disappoint.


Following shortly after came the announcement of another cross-platform sequel from Ubisoft in the shape of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist. This trailer genuinely made me want to get this game and start increasing the atmosphere’s lead content. I am a fan of tactical cover shooter games where a little bit of planning is required before all hell breaks loose, and the latest Splinter Cell seems to offer this. The gameplay footage showed a fluid and deadly combat system that no gamer will have trouble causing havoc with, as well as a plethora of stealth options and target marking which allows you to take out large numbers of hostiles quickly, quietly and above all awesomely. This being a cover shooter, the movement mechanics looked seamlessly fluid allowing you to be very efficient. As expected from a Ubisoft title, I even noticed a hint of Assassin’s Creed in the climbing mechanics, but either way it looks to be brilliant. Furthermore, Sam Fisher has been promoted to the head of the newly formed Fourth Echelon, meaning you now have many more support systems at your disposal as well as highly advanced intelligence which can be easily accessed through the Kinect integration on Xbox 360 meaning you don’t even have to look up from combat. This is definitely one of my top 3 games of the expo, and I am looking forward to its launch across PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in spring 2013.

Another big title to be announced by Microsoft was a fourth installment for the Gears of War series, entitled Judgment. Despite its original name, the trailer certainly had me curious as to what was going to happen in the game. I am not a big Gears man myself, so the fact that it even got into this post is a credit to Epic Games. The trailer showed only snapshots of action and was set to the daunting soundtrack of an American military reading a list of charges against the main protagonists, showing dark corners of a ruined courtroom, a rocket and many artistic angles of the lieutenant’s backside. What we can expect is lots of impossible missions, plenty of action and miles of locusts. This may not be quite my kind of game, but certainly one that fans will spend many hours enjoying.

The game I have really been waiting for is next on my list, and easily makes it into my top three games of E3 2012. It is of course Forza Horizon, the latest edition to Microsoft’s answer to Sony’s phenomenal Gran Turismo series and pretty much every racing game aside. Up until now, Forza has been a dedicated racing simulator similar to GT and arguably the best of them al. The immense driving mechanics and physics involved were always brilliant, and, as gaming progressed, so did the graphics until it looked faultless in last October’s Forza Motorsport 4. Up until now, the Need For Speed crew held pole position for street racing and more arcade style racers that I enjoyed as much as the serious Forza titles of the day. Now, developers like Playground Games have decided that as EA crossed the border and released more sim-heavy games such as NFS: Shift, they should return the favour and bring some of the Forza magic to the streets. Forza Horizon is based around a massive music festival in Colorado, and you as the driver are racing to get there in time for the start. As with any game, things are not as simple as they may seem, as along the way you shall encounter some interesting problems. This is starting to sound a little familiar, but my worries have been set aside by the trailer unveiled at E3. It doesn’t quite have the same challenge aspect as NFS: The Run, and nor does it come close to the sprawling islands of Test Drive Unlimited, but is showing undertones of Burnout, a series that has been largely untouched since the TDU­-esque Paradise met critical acclaim in 2008. The amalgamation of all these genres added to the precision and reputation of Forza in an open world setting means that although this is far from what I was expecting, I am still very excited to see what the end result will be. I have high hopes that maybe, just maybe, this will be the be all and end all of street racers.

The final game to go on my top three games of E3 this year is of course Assassin’s Creed 3, another title from the guys at Ubisoft Montreal. I wrote an article a couple of weeks back expressing my hope that the Assassin’s Creed series hadn’t peaked too early and that AC3 would live up to expectations and more, and what we saw at E3 means that it most certainly will. The game takes place during the American civil war, and gamers take control of a new assassin who goes by the name of Connor Kenway. Connor is half Mohawk, half English and half angel, and somehow that makes perfect sense. The story takes place across thirty years across New York, Philadelphia and Boston, as well as the high seas and the vast frontier. From the various videos I have seen, Ubisoft has continued to innovate to make the original AC formula seem fresh and exciting. Little details such as horse drawn hay bales that you can jump into as well as the static ones are the kind of thing I was hoping for, and the little things like that will continue to make this game just as good as we are hoping. New combat mechanics such as hiding round corners and the Mohawk axe replacing the sword combined with refined assassination techniques exclusive to this new assassin were shown in the gameplay footage, as well as continually stunning graphics which have been upgraded to include weather changes and seasons. Assassin’s Creed has provided the combination of mind games with sheer awesome combat that was serious and yet bags of fun for many years now, as well as a story that has always had me craving more. From what I can see, this latest installation shall continue this trend and will probably become the best AC yet, and for that I’m thankful.

I have been saving the best pair of games for last, and despite the fact neither made it onto my top three, they are probably the most significant and impressive from this year’s E3. I refer of course to Watch Dogs and The Last of Us.

Watch Dogs had me intrigued from the moment I first saw the trailer. I was genuinely perplexed at what this game was about. To me it looked like a campaign against internet information and only at the end did I realize it must have something to do with the ability to control the ctOS system. The gameplay footage shown at E3 confirmed this, as it showed a guy in an oversized coat controlling various electronic elements of his environment to achieve his goal, which turned out to be killing someone named Joseph DeMarco, a guilty man who was nevertheless acquitted for soliciting murder. I am very curious to see what Ubisoft has come up with here. It may well be the next big hit and is certainly unique in its own right which is why it is so important could this become the next Assassin’s Creed as the final installment is set for later this year. The gameplay also gave us a bit more to try and piece some logical plot together. The main protagonist Aiden Pearce seems to be well acquainted with killing, but his interaction with civilians during the firefight suggests some kind of anti-hero. Either way it seems to be open world, set in a city modelled closely on Chicago, the graphics look so phenomenal that everyone thought they were from the next-generation of console gaming until Ubisoft confirmed to Joystiq that the game would make an appearance on at least the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, and it is very new, with a launch expected next year, so I will be following intently developments in this new title. It is exactly what makes E3 so good – we talk in depth about the games that we are looking forward to hearing about, and then someone like Ubisoft comes out and stuns everyone with a brand-new IP.

While gamers continued to swoon over the announcement of Watch Dogs, Sony’s conference began, but they stole the show at the end of theirs with the unveiling of the first gameplay video of the other of the important games, Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. From what we know so far, it seems to follow an I Am Legend-esque theme with an over run city and few surviving humans each willing to kill the other at the drop of a hat. The infected that stalk the land run fast and are agile but can’t speak. They certainly aren’t your conventional zombies, but they will do the job and they are a nice change from the stereotype, perpetuated by Ubisoft in the trailer for ZombiU. The initial idea came from the cordyceps fungus which attacks only one type of ant, driving it insane before killing it by growing out of the ant’s brain. The idea for these infected is similar, only applied to humans. Check it out on the BBC’s Planet Earth if you want more info, but despite the sci-fi nature of the infection, it is real, and kudos should go to Naughty Dog for staying true to science. The character you play is an aging man with a beard accompanied by a teenage girl who never experienced what the world was like before the epidemic. The game is certainly as juicy as Watch Dogs and the short gameplay footage available shows a cover system, intense and brutal combat and limited supplies. This looks to be a heart-pumping game that might follow a familiar formula, but will be delivered in a way never seen before that will make one hell of a game. Naughty Dog, despite their pedigree of success with the Uncharted series, has shocked the gaming community with the quality of this release, so I have no idea what will happen when we actually get round to playing this. The graphics look very pretty, and although I can’t quite work out if it is open world yet, the ways in which you could tackle any one building look numerous. The developers say that they want this to be about the emotional experience between humans in this terrible post-apocalyptic city of Pittsburgh and beyond in the journey across America, and I am sure that we will be treated to a cinematic experience that will leave us empty at some points as we connect with the characters and what they must do. Either way, it looks awesome and will definitely become the next Alan Wake, if not more.



At this point in time, the letters on the keys of my keyboard have been rubbed away by the repetitive keystrokes required for this article, but little else can be expected when one is asked to sum up E3. For those few who have not died or fallen asleep, I commend you and I shall continue to fly straight on with the last two major events of this year’s E3.

Another awesomely humbling game is the long-awaited reboot of Tomb Raider. From what I saw of the new Crossroads trailer, it looks to contain a Far Cry-esque island with a very sinister side. In contrast with the previous games’ emphasis on open world decision, the new game is about as linear as you can get without it being Mario. As you would expect from such a major title, the graphics are magnificent and an action packed fighting mechanic with plenty of weapons and a seemingly half-decent plot line added into the mix should make a fun third-person shooter. It might not be ground breaking, but it is nice to see the old game revived in such a nice way, and it will certainly be a title to play and have fun with after I have finished everything else at least twice.

Another very important game is the latest installment in the Call of Duty series. Black Ops 2 is taking a very different tone from its predecessor, as it is controversially taking place in the future. The opening caption of the trailer asks what happens to one’s highly sophisticated and deadly army of unnamed drones when the enemy can control them. I have a sneaking suspicion we might just find out, as the gameplay footage shows a grizzled soldier accompanying the president through a war torn city with drones flying overhead blowing everything up. After the comparative disappointment of Modern Warfare 3 compared to Battlefield 3, does this latest title deserve a chance? The gameplay looks very identical to all previous CoD games, but the new weapons and potentially interesting plot produces a compelling argument. The graphics were on par, and at the end of the day we all know it will sell better than probably any other game at E3 so why not. CoD games will always be good even if they’re not always great. The new technology will be fun to explore, and using unmanned drones to reduce obstacles to dust and smart jets as well as new age combat arms mean that I will definitely give it a chance and hope that CoD will get back to being good. I for one don’t want to put money on another wet fish.

Last and most definitely least for me was the announcement of Xbox SmartGlass. This allows you to connect to your Xbox through your Windows, Android or iOS device allowing you to play music, surf the web and get interactive with movies and games through more than one channel. SmartGlass will certainly add to existing games and activities and is certainly a good idea, but by no means groundbreaking. It is simply an improvement to a system which is expected as technology becomes more and more accessible. The system will help games like the upcoming Madden and FIFA games, where voice and motion integration are the next improvements, as well as giving you another stat channel to immerse you fully in the gameplay. Before long it will be like playing real sport. It is good to see that Microsoft is still innovating because the Xbox has been serving gamers true for a very long time now and improvements like this could help shape the future of gaming consoles which, once the mould is broken, could provide gaming at a depth never before imagined.

Finally I have come to an end of a battle that has raged for an entire day of my life. The Electronic Entertainment Expo this year was as massive as ever, and I have only managed to scratch the surface of what the industry brought to the table at the Los Angeles Convention Centre this week. Other notable mentions should go to Microsoft’s implementation of a strange singing being called ‘Usherto launch Dance Central 3, LocoCycle, Resident Evil 6, Matter for Kinect, South Park: The Stick of Truth and a game for Kinect called Wreckateer that looks to be some kind of voice and motion controlled Angry Birds rip-off which I can actually imagine having loads of fun with, especially if with friends. This looks to be a great year for gaming, and if this year’s E3 was anything to go by, video gaming will continue to blow our minds away. If anybody is bored this summer, it is because they are truly insane, and I am already looking forward to next year because to be honest I can’t even begin to comprehend anything more spectacular than this. After a good six hours writing this, I am the Angry Bird signing off until next year.

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Why Battlefield 3 is awesome

Since October last year, half of my life has been devoted to one amazing creation that is Battlefield 3. Getting mostly 9’s from the critics, the only real competitor to this huge FPS is obviously the CoD series. Since both series have been going on for over half my life, they both certainly have the experience and knowledge to nick £40 out of your pocket and make you feel good about it, but Battlefield 3 does it in a way that nobody would’ve ever imagined before. Using the Frostbite 2 engine and the multiplayer element of the Medal of Honor reboot as a warm-up, DICE made this game the most epic and awe-inspiring game of, well, ever. With 5 million sales in the first week, I am going to explain to you why you should get this game if you haven’t already.

I will start with the part of shooters that is dying a slow and painful death: the campaign. Having completed it in a day on hard difficulty about 4 months ago, it remains a sweet memory in the heart of my mind. You start off as a foot soldier in the middle of some war-torn Iranian city as part of a small squad of soldiers. After a short while of the atmosphere consuming you, quick fire-fights and realistic situations begin to steal your mind and eyes from the real world. You are quickly shown the amazing destruction engine and realistic sounds as well as things like suppressive fire which makes killing the enemy a lot harder. With all the realism intact, you are still left feeling like you are a super soldier, until of course you get cocky and take a bullet to the face. Skipping on a bit as, although I’d love to, I can’t take you through the whole campaign, you are put in the shoes of an F-18 pilot, an M1A2 Abrams (i.e. a big tank) and a Russian guy trying to help the world – for once. After the mind-blowing good lengthy missions that lead up to the finale, some good twists and revelations give that grin a widening and leave you feeling as if you’ve just completed the BF3 campaign because there’s nothing really that compares to it.

The next part of the game to explain is the ground-breaking multiplayer that wins most people. The multiplayer has been patched and tweaked and added to constantly to maintain its beauty. From DLC’s to sounds that literally are real, I bow to DICE for giving this brilliant game the upkeep it needs, as any good game does. Analogy alert: nice cars cost a lot to run. The multiplayer is for pretty much anyone. If you are an adrenaline junkie crazy guy you can enter the close quarter maps and game modes which allow simple quickly changing games, but if you like a tactical teamwork inspired game that includes vehicles for land, sea and air then jump into Conquest. As well as the game mode you’re looking for, the type of player you are is taken into account as well. From mounting bipods and massive scopes and keeping your gun on semi-auto to using nothing but your fully auto side-arm and fear to kill your enemies, you can pretty much do anything, use anything or be anything you want to. With plenty maps, weapons, attachments and vehicles the multiplayer is almost flawless. However every game has its bad points and Battlefield 3 is no exception. On large maps against a skilful enemy you may find yourself spawn-trapped with no escape apart from the AA gun that’s being hogged by Brian Peppers’ downy brother. Another problem that may occur which has happened to me twice in total (in my 100+ hours of game time) is when your guns or menu do not appear so you find yourself useless and stuck. The last problem is that you find hours of your day vanish in front of your eyes, although I’d rather that than watch parts of your controller sprinkle across the room after your latest venture on to Modern Warfare 3. Another small part of the game for extra fun is a co-op mission strand consisting of 6 missions that you complete with your friend to unlock some extra guns for online games. The co-op does not need much explaining apart from that it is fun and fulfilling.

A problem however that people have with the game however is that it constantly wants your money to rent a server, buy a new map pack or get access to online features. First of all, most of these are avoided if you preordered or bought a limited edition (which costs no more than a regular copy), both of which give you codes for online play and free DLC. Secondly, you cannot blame DICE or the game for this as all the previous stuff was originally going to be free until EA stuck their big, money sucking noses into it and persuaded DICE to let them charge for it. No wonder they’re the worst company in America.

Overall Battlefield 3 is a great game and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone that is a new gamer, an FPS fan or just anyone with a PC or console. With things like a never-ending achievement list, upgrades to get, people to shoot and wallet-melting DLC combined with other things like dozens of maps, completely customisable weapons and orgasmic sounds and graphics, for me this game couldn’t be better.

Cue epic BF theme tune.

Birdwatching: Is Assassin’s Creed starting to dull?

Birdwatching is a column by Eddie King. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

The first time I ever played Assassin’s Creed was in Germany many years ago. I spent a full half hour navigating the tutorial trying to figure out what it trying to tell me to do in German. Despite the difficulties in this, I fell in love and when I got my first Xbox it was the first game I bought. Needless to say I got bored fairly soon.  The first Assassin’s Creed definitely deserves the title of a classic game, but at about the halfway point in the plot it requires the determination of a donkey hell bent on avenging his mother’s second cousin’s murder to finish. Five years later much has changed, so how has the memory mooching megalomaniacal man in a dressing gown been getting on?

After the revolutionarily intriguing first episode, Assassin’s Creed was well known but not perfect, but then came the sequel Assassin’s Creed 2. If you have not played this game then you should be taken out and shot in front of your families. It was the second coming and it had nothing wrong with it at all. It set the standard for any game that wasn’t racing or shooting. The aspects that made it so successful were the fact that you could climb just about anywhere you could see, the fighting looked absolutely insane, the plot was brilliant and had you wanting the next piece of the puzzle and all of this was in a manageable package that didn’t require ultimate gamer reflexes to operate. At the same time it wasn’t easy either and it certainly wasn’t boring.

If Assassin’s Creed was to Assassin’s Creed 2 what Call of Duty 3 was to Modern Warfare, then Assassin’s Creed 2 was to Brotherhood what Modern Warfare is to Modern Warfare 2. Anal analogies aside, Brotherhood was perfection with every little bit being a little bit better. The introduction of the multiplayer was all that was needed to keep me glued to the screen for a very long time. Even Red Dead Redemption took a back seat at this point. The choice of things to do became more in depth and the graphics were just getting sharper; much like Ezio’s blade, maybe a little too sharp. The first signs of problems had begun to emerge. I had trouble dying. Apart from the occasional stumble and misjudging the occasional free running stunt was all that ever stopped my heart beating. I was becoming worried that Assassin’s Creed was slowing to a crawl so far as new developments were concerned. Admittedly Brotherhood was nicknamed Assassin’s Creed 2.5 but as a new game I was expecting more and certainly more of a challenge.

Revelations again wasn’t quite Assassin’s Creed 3 but more Assassin’s Creed 2.750861 and it was the same story yet again, with the same easy combat systems in which one button push could dispatch six guards stunningly enough to make Qui-Gon Jinn’s bottom jaw hit the floor and the same fleet of efficient friends who could remove any threat in front of you without even having to draw your sword and the same ability to defy gravity as effectively elephants’ ears when jumping from building to building. Yes, the story has set the stage for a grand finale and pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place that you couldn’t have added otherwise, but it could have been so much better if Ubisoft had injected a little of the original Assassin’s Creed elbow grease and grunt.

Despite all this, I still have the bottom half of Ezio’s face staring me down from behind my desktop and Ubisoft will undoubtedly continue to relieve me of extortionate amounts of money for the privilege of finding ever predictable ways of killing people. I really love the Assassin’s Creed series and I will continue to play it because it is one of the most fun and unique games available today. That being said, I hope that when I hear the gentle rip of plastic that indicates I have Assassin’s Creed 3 in my grasp I will not give a sigh of sadness as I realise I have already played this very game before only with a man with a different accent, but rather a gasp of excitement as I am grabbed by the balls and dragged to a new world of tomahawks and tea into a new experience.