Category Archives: Live Event Coverage

Game Chronicles E3 2013 – Best of Show WINNERS

e3-2013

The 2013 E3 Show is over and with two new consoles and dozens of new and exclusive games headed our way the award competition has never been fiercer.  We had dozens of nominees; sometimes in a single category, and at times we had six and seven-way ties, but as the final votes from our staff started to trickle in the cream rose to the top and we have our winners.


Best PC Game

WINNER: Watch Dogs

RUNNER UP: Battlefield 4

This category was brutal with Watch Dogs taking an early lead and Battlefield 4 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt fighting back and forth for second place.  It was only the final vote that pushed EA’s shooter into the runner-up slot.


Best Xbox One Game

WINNER: Forza 5

RUNNER UP: Titanfall

With nearly a dozen “exclusive” titles coming to Microsoft’s new console the voting seemed to focus mostly on Titanfall and Forza 5 with the popular racing title nosing past the giant-robot shooter in the final hour to take the win.


Best PlayStation 4 Game

WINNER: Killzone 4: Shadow Fall

RUNNER UP: Infamous: Second Son

Another new console and even more exclusives, Sony was rocking the first-party launch titles, and despite some modest interest in Kingdom Hearts III, Killzone 4 narrowly squeaked past the super-powered open-world action game to snag the win.


Best Xbox 360 Game

WINNER: Grand Theft Auto V

RUNNER UP: Batman: Arkham Origins

Nearly every nominee in this category got at least one vote, but GTA5 and the new Batman game were locked in a tie of superhero proportions until the final vote when Rockstar’s much-anticipated open-world game sent our caped crusader running home to Alfred.


Best PlayStation 3 Game

WINNER: Beyond: Two Souls

RUNNER UP: Saint’s Row 4

Sony’s visionary new and exclusive game Beyond, might be the perfect sendoff for the PS3.  It certainly swept this award logging nearly three times as many votes as Saint’s Row 4.  Last year’s runner-up is this year’s winner, but only time will tell if it can surpass 2012’s Best of Show Winner, “The Last of Us”.


Best PlayStation Vita Game

WINNER:  Limbo

RUNNER UP: Batman: Arkham Origins – Blackgate

Rayman Legends and Killzone Mercenary tied for third but the portable version of cult-favorite Limbo took an early lead that even the caped crusader couldn’t surpass.  Regardless, we have a few good reasons to blow the dust off our Vitas this year.


Best Wii U Game

WINNER:  Mario Kart 8

RUNNER UP: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

The only thing more surprising the Mario Kart 8 sweeping this award was the fact that Bayonetta 2 and Pikmin 3 didn’t receive a single vote.  Donkey Kong Country slipped into an easy second place proving you can take the monkey out of the jungle but you had better put him behind the wheel of a kart racer.


Best Nintendo 3DS Game

WINNER:  Legend of Zelda. Link Between Worlds

RUNNER UP: Sonic: Lost World

Zelda swept this category while Sonic and Super Smash Bros. battled for second place with Sonic surging to victory at the final vote.


Best Mobile Game

WINNER:  Deus Ex: The Fall

RUNNER UP: FIFA 14

With only two nominees for this category both titles were assured a bit of notoriety but Deus Ex swept this award earning all but a single vote.  This was easily the biggest landslide in the history of our E3 awards.


Best Action/Adventure Game

WINNER:  Watch Dogs

RUNNER UP: Grand Theft Auto V

Watch Dogs easily won this category with over half of the votes but left behind a 5-way tie for second place.  Invoking my seldom-used executive override, I cast my vote pushing GTA5 just ahead of its competition that included; Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, Infamous: Second Son, Thief, and Kingdom Hearts 3.


Best FPS Game

WINNER:  Battlefield 4

RUNNER UP: Titanfall

Cheer up Call of Duty fans.  Even though Ghosts didn’t get a single vote I still have high hopes for the new Activision FPS, but the proven track record of the Battlefield franchise clearly overwhelmed the new contender, Titanfall, coming in second place with half the votes of EA’s military shooter.  Regardless of who we pick you’ll have plenty of things to shoot this fall.


Best Third-Person Shooter

WINNER:  Splinter Cell: Blacklist

RUNNER UP: Saint’s Row 4

High tech drones and stealth gameplay once again beat out purple dildos and open-world gang warfare.  In one game you serve the president and the other you ARE the president.  Both games promise to offer incredible yet completely different types of fun.


Best Multiplayer Game

WINNER:  Battlefield 4

RUNNER UP: Super Smash Bros.

Nothing could stop EA’s juggernaut from sealing this category; especially after the impressive 64-player live on-stage demo at E3, but the real surprise was when Nintendo’s party fighter snuck past Titanfall and Destiny to nail the runner-up slot, proving classics never die.


Best Platformer Game

WINNER:  Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze

RUNNER UP: Ducktales Remastered

Wii U is the undeniable home of platform gaming with five of the seven nominees for this category being Nintendo exclusives.   While the PS3 got some minor support for games like Knack and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, nothing could stop classics like Donkey Kong and Ducktales (sing-a-along…you know the words) from taking the top two spots.


Best Role-playing Game (RPG)

WINNER:  South Park: The Stick of Truth

RUNNER UP: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

South Park seems to have survived the demise of their publisher and is back and better than ever, snagging this award two years in a row.  All I can say is they had better release this game soon because you’re automatically disqualified from the 2014 awards.   Meanwhile Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition rolled the dice and Wild Hunt emerged victorious.


Best Fighting Game

WINNER:  Super Smash Bros.

RUNNER UP: UFC 2014

If you’re wondering where Killer Instinct is, rest assured it did come in third place, losing to UFC by only a single vote but still only earning a sixth of the votes of Super Smash Bros.  I can only assume this means more people already own a Wii U than those planning to buy an Xbox One.


Best Sports Game

WINNER:  NBA Live 14

RUNNER UP: FIFA 14

EA’s new Infinity Engine looks amazing and sports games are truly leaping into the next generation.  While FIFA took an early lead, the return of the NBA Live franchise quickly double the amount of soccer votes and obliterated the single vote for Madden 25.  But no matter how you slice it, EA Sports dominated this category.


Best Music Game

WINNER:  Rocksmith 2014

RUNNER UP: Just Dance 2014

Apparently four times as many of our staff would rather play (or learn to play) guitar than shake their booty in front of their TV.  Rocksmith crushed Ubi’s dancing franchise by a 4:1 margin.


Best Racing Game

WINNER:  Need for Speed: Rivals

RUNNER UP: Forza 5

We had two ties in this category with NFS and Forza locked for first and Mario Kart 8 and The Crew battling for second.  Sadly, when I invoked my executive tie-breaking vote to put NFS Rivals into first place I had no other choice than to give the runner-up to Forza 5.  Keep your eye on The Crew.  Not only is this game releasing on multiple systems to reach more gamers; it promises to deliver up a new style of racing action unlike anything we have ever played before.


Biggest Surprise of the Show

WINNER:  Mirror’s Edge 2

RUNNER UP: Star Wars: Battlefront

While new announcements like Kingdom Hearts 3 and The Division earned audible gasps during the various press events it was nothing compared to the cheers when new reboots for Battlefront and Mirror’s Edge were announced at EA’s press briefing.  Our staff agreed and EA sweeps this category.


Best New Franchise

WINNER:  The Division

RUNNER UP: Watch Dogs

Even though it was announced last year Watch Dogs continues to show improvement and easily took the second spot while Tom Clancy’s new game, The Division earned the extra votes to make it the clear winner for best new franchise.


Best Innovative New Tech

WINNER:  Tablet Integration into Console Gaming

RUNNER UP: Oculus Rift VR Tracking

While Microsoft insists that Kinect is the wave of the future, Sony wisely sidestepped the whole PS Move issue.  And even though the nominated new Kinect can now read facial expressions and your heartbeat that wasn’t enough to earn even a single vote.    Our staff clearly thinks tablet integration into games like Battlefield 4 is the future of gaming, and if you aren’t using a tablet you can at least immerse yourself into your games with the new Oculus Rift VR headset.


Most Anticipated Game for 2014

WINNER:  The Division

RUNNER UP: Titanfall

While sequels and franchise favorites made up the majority of nominees for this category it was new games like The Division and Titanfall that stood out with a 2:1 split on votes between the two while Bethesda’s new title, The Evil Within came in a very close third.


Best Game of Show – E3 2013

WINNER:  Battlefield 4

RUNNER UP: Titanfall

This was the most brutal of categories with Watch Dogs and The Division tied for runner-up while Battlefield 4 and Titanfall were tied for first.  Invoking my final deciding vote for 2013 I had to give the award to Battlefield 4 based on its wider appeal and accessibility to gamers across multiple platforms.  While Titanfall will almost certainly come to the PC it is an Xbox One exclusive when it comes to consoles, and FPS games, especially multiplayer FPS games need the largest possible audience.


Well, that sums up our picks for the best games of the 2013 E3 show.  With two new consoles and dozens of new games on the horizon, it’s never been a better time to be a gamer.   In parting I would like to mention a few other titles worth of “Honorable Mention”.  These didn’t make the final cut but you definitely need to keep your eye on them:

  • The Evil Within
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order
  • The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
  • Thief
  • The Crew
  • Dying Light
  • Dead Rising 3
  • D4
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts
  • Sunset Overdrive
  • Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • Destiny
  • HALO

STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC – RISE OF THE HUTT CARTEL PREVIEW

 
STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC – RISE OF THE HUTT CARTEL
Hands-on Preview Event Coverage by Mat Houghton

I arrive in Texas the week after all the musicians have left town, or just rolled up the blankets and finally gotten to sleep, and the crisp seems an equally welcome respite to me after the swelter of Florida. I’m not here chasing the next musical wave or trying for the smooth vibrations of Hollywood buzz. No, here I’m after more ephemeral prey. Chasing the ever expanding field of pixels and time spent in front of them that any MMO chair jockey knows so well. New content.

It’s the one thing that makes all those hours of jumping around the auction house and grinding dailies seem worthwhile. Suddenly it’s like adventure exists again rather than the slow wear of normal digital life. Your Cheetos seem oranger, the Mt. Dew just that much sweeter.

As I sat in the cab from the airport, low Ethiopian music coming from an expensive stereo and an enthusiastic cabby talking over it, I wasn’t really watching the surprisingly green hills roll by, I was wondering how it would feel when my Juggernaut set his boots on Makeb. Would it be like that first time I walked out onto the dusty rocks of Korriban? I wouldn’t find out that night, but I would find the best gas station BBQ imaginable and ice cream with vodka in it, so it wasn’t a completely wasted evening.

The next morning, I’m collected with a bedraggled, and generally bearded and bespectacled, lot and lead to. . . a building. Somewhat nondescript it looks like all the other one-story office space spread around; corporate normal and forgettable. Not what you’d expect from a company that takes you to a galaxy far, far away, but then dreams usually come in plain packages too (unless they have a good marketing department).

Once inside, I had to get past security, which was intimidating but turned out to be mostly for show. After that. . . pictures were discouraged, at least of all the interesting things. I could have snapped shots of all the murals of concept art for Old Republic, or the old TSR books that lined a shelf in the break area, or the internal leaderboard posted, but they would have seemed tame. Not the intrusion of reality that we were, but merely recorded things from the world we know so well. The most interesting picture I can’t tell you about though is. . . well I can’t tell you about it. Not because I’ve been sworn to secrecy, but because it was a painting much like the others, only wrapped closely in white paper like a neatly stored steak in butcher paper.

The setting we were finally led to was just a conference room. Sure there were stations set up for all of us with grinning helmets or scowling faces (the Sith are not a happy people), but those were windows which we wouldn’t get to pass through until first facing the Information.

The Information was disbursed through some obviously passionate presentations by Jeff Hickman and Bruce Maclean (who shall from here on out be referred to as Darth Angral, mostly because it’s on his office door). What you want to know? April 14th is the launch date, but those who pre-ordered early enough get access on the 9th. It’s being sold for $9.99 if you’re a subscriber, or $19.99 if you’re free to play. Makeb, the new planet, will have it’s own unique plot for both the Empire and the Republic, and level cap will be raised to 55. The expansion will also introduce Seeker Droids and Macro Binoculars, new daily quests, new crafting quests, and new gear sets. In addition to the launch of Rise of the Hutt Cartel, patch 2.0 will also be released on April 14th. The “Scum and Villiany” update will have new operation content, as well as a Legacy Achievement system and armor set bonuses will be tied to mods rather than the actual piece of armor.

After all of that wrapped up in the neat bow of skillfully planned and executed marketing speeches, a video that you all have probably seen by now, and I was finally getting out into the Galaxy again. Fortunately I was fortified with a level 50 character with insane gear and had a tag team partner in the form of another journalist riding Operative to my Marauder.

We logged in and after a little briefing drop down to Makeb. It was. . . well it was a new planet. What stood out wasn’t the visuals, because honestly Bioware has done a very good job unifying it’s look, so Makeb doesn’t really look “new”. It looks like a planet in the Galaxy, not like Taris or Hoth or Corellia, but like the same civilizations that touch those other planets also inhabits this one. What’s more interesting is how close Makeb is compared to all the other planets. Pathways tend to be hemmed in by towering spires of rock or steep drops. It’s a vertical planet whereas the rest of the Old Republic tends to exist on vast plains and wide valleys punctuated by the occasional spike of a mountain. This tightness is carried through everything I played. The side quests were fewer and more focused. There weren’t any distracting jaunts to level appropriate Flashpoints. It was just a straight run through, facilitated by two people stomping on single player content.

Despite the speed with which we cleared content (I made 51 in under three hours and while we didn’t quite clear a four-man heroic, there were teams who did), I could see how single player this expansion would amount to the advertised 35 hours of content. Especially when you include the Macro Binocular and Seeker Droid quests. Areas are much more restricted so avoiding fights becomes a more creative activity, but despite this it doesn’t feel like you’re being herded anywhere. Bioware has also gotten sneakier with mob placement and difficulty. While you can still clear groups of enemies and feel like the heroic character that is typical of Star Wars, the enemies have gotten stronger. . . and sneakier.

I would go into the plot, but really, it’s a bit forgettable. At least from the Empire side. Blah, blah, secret element that will give ultimate power, blah blah, Hutts, etc. etc. What makes Rise stand out is it’s continued use of excellent characterization through dialogue, superb voice acting and an inclusive return to form in “flirting”. Since launch, Old Republic has done what no other MMO is capable of doing, which is create a visceral connection with your character through interaction in the world. Not only this, NPCs create their own character through voice, word choice and responses to your dialogue.

Rise of the Hutt Cartel delivers on this just as well as the original, giving you snappy choices and equally witty retorts. What stood out most though was something missing from the original release. Any veteran of Bioware games will know that other titles included the possibility of same sex relationships with companion characters (most notoriously Mass Effect, or possibly Dragon Age 2), but not so in Old Republic. While they haven’t gone back to revisit companion characters, in Rise you do have the ability to chose “flirt” conversation options, regardless of the sex of characters.

Aside from Makeb, Rise adds two galaxy spanning quest lines. One using the Seeker Droid and the other using Macro Binoculars. Both amount to variations on the idea of a scavenger hunt. The Seeker Droid allows you to search for “seeds” that have been spread across specific planets. The droid will search where you click, and if you don’t find anything will give you a color and direction indicator to show you how close you are to the “seed”. It’s basically a poke around in the dirt until you find something among a bunch of nasty critters. More interesting is the Macro Binocular quest line. It involves tracking a shadowy super-spy by finding his listening posts scattered across the galaxy. Aside from not involving hours of hunting and pecking like a chicken in the dirt, the Macro Binocular quests also add more traditional platform game content (there is a laser grid jumping puzzle, be glad they are fixing it).

All this content does come with a bit of a downside. There are no class specific quests in Rise of the Hutt Cartel, and the word from the Darth Angral is that there really aren’t any plans to create more class quest lines. From here on, it’s faction only. The good news about this is that even though there is less individualized class content, Bioware has shifted to a schedule of more frequent, smaller updates to content rather than waiting for a large “sequel” equivalent expansion. So rather than looking at another $60 every year or so, the expansions for Old Republic will be $20 and honestly provide quite equivalent content.

Ultimately, Rise of the Hutt Cartel isn’t groundbreaking, but it does provide an expanded universe to play in, with higher levels, respecced talent trees and all the accoutrement expected from an MMO expansion. It’s worth every penny considering other game content prices and the time most people sink into these games.

Oh, and before I go a couple words from the sit-down I had with the aforementioned Dark Lord. One, he didn’t say when, but the Cathar are coming. Two? He doesn’t know where the cookies are either.   Fortunately there are plenty of places in Austin to get some.