You know the problem with E3? You have to wait months before you find out if a game that looked great in July is going to kick ass or blow goats when it finally arrives in November. And it it sucks, you feel deflated. If only you could read, right here and right now, which games are really worth eagerly anticipating and which you should just start fitting for cement shoes right now. Wouldn't that make the world a better place?
Well congratulations Johnny, because now you can! After years of exposure to inhuman levels of liquor, cigarette smoke, and E3 cafeteria food, we've actually developed the ability to see into the future. Here, for the very first time, are the exclusive first reviews for all of the games you're most excited about this very E3.
We'll be updating these every day, so please check back often. They're guaranteed to be 100% accurate.*
Banjo Kazooie: Nuts %26amp; Bolts - Xbox 360
What's the best way to revive a classic platforming franchise? We're critics and not market analysts, but it really can't be to replace 90% of the platforming with dumbed-down, build-you-own-contraption vehicular action. We'll admit assembling your own rig out of all sorts of wings, engines, and guns - lots of guns - could be cool. But the construction screen isn't as simple as it should be and we spent way too much time collecting acorns instead of blowing things up. Plus, why the hell doesn't Kazooie have more to do?
Brothers in Arms Hell%26rsquo;s Highway - 360, PS3, PC
Squad based shooters aren%26rsquo;t really my thing, and being a obsessive COD4 player the controls take a while to get used to. Having only the GR enforced ten minutes make things doubly tough. That said%26hellip; I have a couple of teams, I have a rifle, that seems to take an age to reload, and I have a bunch of Nazi%26rsquo;s railing fire from the top of a small mound. I ignore my team and go COD on their ass, running at them antique rifle spitting. I get nailed in about four seconds. A couple more tries and I%26rsquo;m using my teams, directing them quickly with the left trigger to move forward and lay down fire on the mound. My team are surprisingly effective and kill the goons, letting me move forward and engage more guys outside a gas station. Using my squad I quickly level the station and am rewarded with the expected pyrotechnic display and ear hammering bang. My super-quick takeaway? The game looked solid enough but in all honestly nothing you haven%26rsquo;t seen before %26ndash; old fashioned guns, bombed out cityscapes, hoards of Nazi%26rsquo;s to murderize. The gun I used felt a bit clunky and pushing the right stick in to target felt awkward. The screen goes fully red to when you are exposed, I thought I was being hit, but evidently not. That seemed confusing to me too.
Castlevania Judgment - Wii
As much as we love the idea of this fighting game/shameless fanservice, we loved it a lot less once we actually played it. It's a Wii game, which means two things: A) it's not very pretty, and B) button-mashing has been replaced by frantic remote-waggling. The massive super-attacks and big, hazard-filled levels were great - especially the Clock Tower, with its falling gear platforms - but the action is stiff and shallow, and it turns repetitive the second you've tried each character once. We're also not wild about the new character designs by Death Note artist Takeshi Obata, which give the Grim Reaper long, spindly legs and put Dracula into a suit of armor with what looks like eight huge nipples. Ew.
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia - DS
There's really not a lot to say about Order of Ecclesia that we haven't already said about all the handheld Castlevanias before it. It looks great, and it has a new story, cool art and a bunch of new features. But apart from heroine Shanoa's magic system - which lets her absorb attacks from enemies and assign one to each arm, like a weapon - it feels functionally identical to nearly every other Castlevania game since Symphony of the Night. And you know what? We're fine with that.
Dark Void - 360, PS3
Take Gears of War's cover system, Dark Sector's gritty CQC and Crimson Skies' free-flying air combat, throw it all in a blender with a pinch of The Rocketeer and you've got Dark Void. The running and gunning is extremely Gears, while the new vertical cover system, where you're dangling from cliffs as robots shoot down at you, adds a real sense of height to the battlefield. Scaling rocks and zipping around with a jetpack is a ton of fun, but this build was so early and twitchy that we can't even jokingly award a score. If all the elements come together, the shooting, hijacking, flying and rocketing, it'll rock. If any one aspect stinks, the whole package could suffer. The dev's track record is good, so we'll start with a hesitant score that could (and hopefully) will rise as the build is expanded.
Damnation - PS3, 360, PC
Although we liked this alternate-history cowboy shooter's steampunk technology and Prince of Persia-meets-Unreal Tournament gameplay, we really didn't care for its everything else. Sure, it's visually appealing, and yes, the semi-destructible environments offer some depth, but the straightforward run-and-gun design looks strictly last-gen and the voice acting is less than impressive. It could still be fun, but the fact that this comes from a studio that has so far only produced low-profile horror movies fills us with doubt.
Fable 2 - 360
This is the first time Fable 2 has been demoed in co-op and it had been explained to us earlier by Peter Molyneux that dropping in to a friend's single player game can be done through Live without the need to enter a lobby. You just walk over a purple orb and bang, you've made yourself an interference in your buddy's game.
It's a kind of pointless exercise playing Fable 2 with someone else's character as that's part of the unique appeal of the game %26ndash; you create your own hero, male or female and build them up with the abilities that appeal to you. Imagine our disappointment then when we were given a generic male character with melee skills to play with. When we get the choice we'll be playing as a saucy and buxom seductress.
Anyway, it turns out you can't bring your own dog with you when you play co-op. Irritating because the idea of having a dog was one of the biggest selling points as far as we're concerned. The demo is short %26ndash; we just wandered round a tiny region of Albion and hacked up some enemies with swords and guns. The guy that was playing co-op showed off the magic spells but we preferred the brutal efficiency of the blade. All so-so to be totally honest,
The highlight of the demo came when the dog found some treasure (he does that a lot) and it contained a rubber ball. Our companion then managed to throw the ball over an insurmountable pile of rocks causing the hapless hound to run around in circles panting, incapable of getting to his new (and now lost) ball. Hilarious.