CNET's gaming experts racked their brains and sorted through countless demos to bring you the best 20 games from E3 2011.
#20: The Wii U possibilities
We'd be lying if we said we thought the Wii U's collection of mini-game demos was overwhelming, but there's no denying how intrigued we are with the console's potential. Our hands-on time with the console had moments of sheer joy as our minds raced to predict what the big N would do with its new tablet controller. For a better idea of how these games played, check our initial impressions.
NBA 2K12 makes our list simply because of how great it already looks four months out. When a game runs unopposed to any competition we usually see a trail-off, but with 2K12 the team is still hard at work addressing some of the comments and concerns with last year's title. Already running at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, 2K12 shows off better player animation flow, a new free-throw mechanic, and dynamic audiences and pregame montages. Presentation is still king here, as we even saw a lower-third promo in-game for the NBA Finals currently taking place!
We had first heard about ITSP a few months ago, but our hands-on time with it convinced us that Microsoft's now-annual "Summer of Arcade" event is once again in good hands. A visual triumph, ITSP might look a bit like PixelJunk Shooter, but features tons more of varying gameplay and innovative ideas that encourage exploration.
Super Mario 3DS feels like Galaxy, but without the planets and gravity-play. We're really excited to see how clever the level design will be in the game, and judging from our hands-on we need not worry. Best of all? Super Mario 3DS will see a release before the end of the year.
Another title that has been able to generate some E3 buzz is Far Cry 3. Sure, it won't be out until next year, but the demo we watched had us believing Ubisoft Montreal is definitely on the right track. Our hands-off time with the game was gripping as we got to meet one of the game's insane villains, a crazy wide-eyed man who simply kills for pleasure. If these performances and action scenes continue, Far Cry 3 could be the best the franchise has ever produced.
#15: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii - Late 2011)
It's a good thing Skyward Sword was on display at E3 because we can't recall another Wii game that made a bang at the show. What's not to love about the next Zelda game? It has a gorgeous art style, inventive controls, and looks to create a Zelda adventure unlike any of its predecessors. We'll really need to stretch our play with Skyward Sword, because judging from Nintendo and the show floor, there don't seem to be any more blockbuster Wii titles planned.
Somewhat of a surprise, XCOM really looks like it has potential. The team at 2K Marin has crafted a game that pays homage to the original but still implements many modern-day elements. It's a sort of action-first-person-shooter-RPG in the way Mass Effect is, so we're confident it'll appeal to wide variety of gamers. The game's enemy--an alien race known as the Outsiders--are a geometrical race of cleverly styled beings that can alter terrain and objects as they see fit.
Our favorite 3DS game of the show, Resident Evil Revelations feels like it'll be able give gamers Resident Evil 4 in their pocket. It's a totally new game with its own storyline, but we think RE4's precedent-setting control style lends itself perfectly to the 3DS. Its graphics were amazing and the 3D effect felt like a seamless implementation. Revelations should hit sometime in 2012.
It's been a long time coming, but Bethesda and id Software's shooter will finally see the light of day in North America on October 4. We really like the game's tight control, enemy variation, art direction, and implementation of RPG elements. There were no shortages of shooters at E3 2011, but Rage does enough to keep it unique and separate from the rest of the pack.
#11: Saints Row: The Third (November 15 - 360, PS3, PC)
Sometimes it's a great demo that can really catapult a game into new level of hype. For us, Saints Row: The Third's E3 demo did just that. It's very clear that the latest title has gone completely off-the-rails bonkers, totally void of any sort of desire to take itself seriously--and we respect that. We're sick and tired of a game trying to claim it's something it's not and the farcical anything-goes universe Saints The Third has crafted is exactly what we're excited to experience.
It wouldn't be fair to place these two games further apart, so right after Battlefield 3 we have Modern Warfare 3 which currently sits at the top of online multiplayer experience in our book. Our hands-on time with the game at E3 also got us excited for a new survival mode (think zombies but with soldiers) and the demo of the attack on New York scene easily trumps any Modern Warfare storyline we've ever seen before.
There certainly was no lack of military shooters at E3. Whether or not that genre is getting a bit tired, there's no denying that Battlefield 3 is certainly a technological achievement and one of the E3 show floors' must-see attractions. We're definitely looking forward to see how it goes up against Modern Warfare 3--it has a head start too, releasing two weeks before Infinity Ward's veteran shooter.
The biggest star at Sony's E3 press conference had to be the PS Vita (Yes, we know Kobe Bryant was there too). It's powerful, lightweight, and clearly has a bright future with tons of developers standing behind it. We've had some time with a handful of impressive titles like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Gravity (working title), Sound Shapes, Super Stardust Delta, Wipeout 2048, Little Deviants, LittleBigPlanet and more. If all goes according to plan, we'll be enjoying most of these games before 2011 is over.
Though some might say the Gears of War franchise has outworn its welcome, we couldn't find too many longer lines for a game at E3. The newly revamped Horde Mode is totally insane, and the series still continues to be one of the best-looking pieces of software on any platform.
At EA's E3 press conference developer BioWare said Mass Effect had been planned as a trilogy all along. The third iteration looks smoother than ever and conveys a sense of size that few titles can match. Now that the battle has been brought to Earth players must once again take on the role of Commander Shepard to defend the home planet.
We were really impressed with Uncharted 3 at Sony's E3 press conference, and after having played a few multiplayer rounds, we're really excited for the added value the game will pack in. At a show packed to the brim with sequels, Uncharted's is easily one of the few we still can't get enough of.
Bethesda Softworks knows how to create addictive action-RPG games, and Skyrim looks to improve on an already winning formula. Our hands-off demo with the game showed off some epic battles with dragons, tons of combinable spells, and a landscape that oozed with character and detail.
The new Tomb Raider game is not only much more brutal, but also highly dramatic. Behind the wheel is once again Crystal Dynamics--the team responsible for every Raider title since Tomb Raider: Legend--which is attempting to retell the origin of Lara Croft. In the game--set for a 2012 release--a young and inexperienced Croft must take on her first trip abroad without the know-how of the Croft we're used to playing. Voice acting also appears really strong, with the actress successfully conveying Croft is young, scared, and vulnerable.
It's gritty, dark, gorgeous, and five times the size. Batman: Arkham City is shaping up to be an untouchable superhero game that will easily surpass the stellar original. The team at Rocksteady has turned Batman's combat system into an artform. We love the introduction of alternating play with Catwoman and new villains like Two-Face and The Penguin.
Without a doubt the most talked-about, inventive, silky smooth, and generally impressive piece of software of the show is BioShock Infinite. This high-concept and story-driven title literally had us going back for seconds. Watch the game's latest trailer and then read why we cannot wait until 2012.