Technically, I shouldn't be considering day one of E3 to be over - I still have appointments this evening, so there's more mayhem to come, but I doubt I'll get another time to write up today. And what a day!
I was only on three booths, but two of those were Electronic Arts' small gaming city and the almost as big Ubisoft stand. There are some heavy hitters from both brands, and we even spent some time in Take 2's always welcoing backstage area to see Borderlands 2. It was fun, and so were the many of other games I saw or played today. But three stand clear of the crowd.
Even better, these are games that are PC exclusive, or were demoed on PC.
3. Medal of Honor: Warfighter
I'm happy to report that the next Medal of Honor is truly looking like something special. Today's demo was mostly hands on, and I could have gladly skived off every other appointment to keep playing. We engaged in some four on four multiplayer, and had al six classes on offer, and six of the national units that make up the game's global operations tag.
I couldn't resist not playing as the Australian SASR, with the Point Man class. Aimed as a more nimble and alert version of the Assault class (there's recon, sniper, support, and spec ops), and armed with a Steyr AUG, he was a mess of fun.
Each class has unique weapons, and a unique ability to use in battle. The Point Man was one offensive and one defensive ability, a mortar air burst and a recon drone respectively. These air well-balanced little perks that can be decisive if used well, but do take some care to properly employ.
The heart of the game, though, is the shooting, and it is sharp, precise, and brutal - everything you could would want from a Frostbite 2 powered game. Much closer engagement distances mean encounters are fast and furious, but great level design means the game can change very fast. The mode we played was a three objective domination match.
One interesting feature of the game that works surprisingly well is the Fireteam. You are automatically paired with another player, and you then always know where they are, thanks to an always visible silhoutte. This is to model the intense training that real fireteams have, and actually works really elegantly. You can spawn on your partner, and even share intel with them, if that's your class ability.
If Warfighter can deliver a solid campaign, it's going to be a shooter to watch.
Does it surprise anyone that Maxis is going to damn well NAIL IT with SimCity? The developers have promised to take back the city-building crown, and based on today's hands-off demo, I'd say they're on track.
The game looks amazing. Not only is the Glassbox engine really pretty - especially with a hint of tilt shift manipulation to make your city look like a delightfully complex model - but the way it models data is very clear and intelligent. It's obvious Maxis has been watching the likes of Cities XL, but SimCity delivers a much clearer and far more focused experience.
But it's the multiplayer part of the game that looks particularly neat. Other player's cities aren't just abstract concepts - they are literally your neighbours. In the three player game we saw today, players were sharing resources, pooling together to build a large airport that would service all their cities, and even dealing with rampant crime as the criminal element robbed a bank - but the robber came from one city and commited the crime in another.
Of all the demos I saw today, none made people smile like SimCity.
1. Watch Dog
What... the... hell?! Seriously, where did this game even come from? Wherever it did, it looks like it could have Game of the Year written all over it. I still have little idea of the larger story and plot for the game, but in terms of graphical execution, gameplay, and depth, Watch Dog has it in the bag.
It looks amazing, and was demoed on PC. I have never seen a game look this good on any platform, and while I'm sure it's probably not going to run like that on every system, it may just be the frame-rate pushing game we've been waiting for. Watch Dog is pretty much the ultimate open world game, set in Chicago, and I've never seen a city or its inhabitants rendered with such detail, and such amazing physics.
In terms of gameplay, it's like a roided up combination of Grand Theft Auto, Deus Ex, and a bit of Battlefield 3 thrown in. It's a third person game, but the combat is visceral and nasty, and the collateral damage to the environment staggeringly detailed.
But the real 'killer app' is the premise. As you have access to the vast AI controlling the city, you can hack anything and any one, from controlling cameras or blacking out traffic lights, to learning people's secrets and disovering who they know. Amazingly, there's a whole other layer to the game you can enjoy on iPad, too where you can explore the city map. continue ongoing investigations into people you've hacked, and see how your friends are playing the game.
There's also a distinct touch of US TV show Person of Interest - which is in no way a bad thing.
There's nothing really new in the game, but that fact that it's all been combined together into such a seemless and polished package is breathtaking.