Every game looks great in screenshots and trailers. Do you really want to wait four months before finding out the game you’ve been lusting after actually sucks and just got its face rocked off by some other game? Of course not. That’s why we’re here. We’ve played everything at E3, and this is what we’re rating each game in its current state, right here and now. Let’s get it on.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Arkham Asylum is generating huge buzz for one very excellent reason: it promises to be the first Batman game to really capture the essence of what it means to be Batman. Aside from looking amazing, Arkham features grappling hooks, a heavy emphasis on stealth and counter-filled, Assassin’s Creed-style combat that looks and feels fantastic once you’ve gotten into the flow of it. We’re also huge fans of “Detective Vision,” a cool Bat-visor feature that highlights points of interest and shows enemy placement and status, even through walls. At its best, Arkham’s about sweeping down on thugs from high places and taking them down silently before their buddies notice, and at its worst it’s about running out into the line of fire and getting torn to shreds. But it’s also a lot of very pretty, moody fun, so long as you can get into the methodical groove of the action and don’t keep wondering why they’d keep gargoyles and huge, elaborate machinery in a hospital for the mentally ill.
We also got a chance to play through a few PS3-exclusive Joker challenge levels, which played like goofier versions of Batman’s multiple-foe fights. They weren’t the story levels we’d hoped to see, but it’s wicked fun to see the Joker in joy-buzzing, cop-slapping action.
God of War III
God of War III is exactly what we’d hoped it would be: more of the same, but with much better visuals and lots of cool new things to do. It’s ridiculously gory and just as viscerally fun (both literally and figuratively) as its predecessors, but the action feels a lot fiercer and your objectives are more diverse. Slitting the centaur’s belly open and ripping the head off Helios were definitely highlights, but they’re just window dressing on deeper gameplay innovations. Before he’s a pile of spilled offal, that centaur is a commander who can shout orders to several squads of skeleton warriors, instructing them to rush you or retreat. And Helios’ screaming head – which Kratos keeps tucked into his pants – is a shining beacon that can reveal secret areas, light dark hallways and stun light-sensitive enemies. We’re also big fans of riding around on harpies and Cyclopes, which takes getting used to but is a lot of fun once you do.
Finally, we’re pleased to say groups of frightened Greek civilians – whom Kratos can slaughter for a quick health boost – make a return. So far, this is shaping up to be everything we’ve wanted from a God of War game.
Forza 3 seeks to ignite the inner automotive enthusiast in all of us. With over 400 cars from 50 manufacturers, odds are good that if you’ve ever lusted after a vehicle, it’s in here. Gameplay is totally customizable with a grip of new assists and even a time rewind button. But before you cry noob, know that you can also run the game as a pure sim, with physics so exacting they’re on par with the simulators the McLaren team uses to design world-class F1 cars. The experience is as challenging as you want it to be.
The community features are also being overhauled and will enable the sharing of custom paint jobs, tuning and videos with Auction House tweaks inspired by eBay and WoW.
Final Fantasy XIII
Anything but a perfect ten will be a huge letdown for Final Fantasy fans (especially after the long-ass wait), so we’re going to go ahead and say that XIII will be perfect. Besides having some of the best graphics you will ever see on any console ever, it keeps Final Fantasy’s trademark active time battle system fresh with new tweaks like gestalt mode for summoned Aions.
With its deeply earnest characters wrapped up in epic fantasci-fi mythology, FFXIII delivers the goods for fans of Japanese RPGs and may win over a few new converts as well.
Created by Zipper Interactive, the minds behind SOCOM, MAG is genuinely huge. The maps are gigantic, able to support up to 256 players at once. When we first started it up, we joined in with a squad of private-army soldiers trying to attack control points held by rival mercenaries. While we did that, similar scenarios played out across the ginormous, open battlefield, which held plenty of opportunities for cover, multiple ways to approach our targets and vehicles that can be used to mow down the competition.
Add a ranking system that can put you in charge of a squad and ultimately all the soldiers on the field – while still keeping you in the thick of the action – and fully customizable weapon loadouts, and you’ve got a seriously hardcore shooter that has an excellent chance of challenging Call of Duty’s stranglehold on modern-military multiplayer.