Face it: not every game that looks like a blockbuster at E3 turns out to be one. But do you really want to wait until freaking November to see which games are worth your money and fandom and which are going to make you and your console a laughing stock?
Of course you don’t. So we’re here to give you our 100% accurate, absolute final judgment, based upon at least ten whopping minutes of hands-on playtime with each title, as to what your most anticipated games will score when they finally come out months and months from now. *
Alpha Protocol - Xbox 360, PS3, PC
It’s tough to bet against a game that combines the open-ended character evolution of the best role-playing games with the guns of a Tom Clancy thriller and the sex drive of a James Bond flick – so we won’t. Alpha Protocol is an espionage-focused spy ‘em-up that plays however you want it to play, with your character able to focus upon stealth and martial arts, blazing guns and booming grenades, gadgetry and hacking, or various bits of everything. And whatever configuration you choose, you’re still able to do two things: Solve any international crisis like only a one-man army can, and make the sweet, sexy loving with pretty much any woman in the game. Its only apparent weaknesses are average looks and a fairly typical art style that will pale next to more exotic fare like Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2
Bayonetta – 360, PS3, PC
Halfway through our hands-on time with Bayonetta, the titular main character’s skin-tight black costume blew off. Actually, it didn’t exactly blow off – the costume is made of her own hair, and she decided that at that specific moment, her hair would be more useful if it took the form of a giant dog and gnawed a boss enemy we’d been fighting into two pieces – one for each of her exposed butt cheeks, perhaps?
That, in a nutshell, explains what sets Bayonetta apart. It’s manic, sexy, and totally over-the-top insane. Apparently, there was nobody on the development team whose job it was to say “actually, that’s a little too crazy.” Bayonetta herself is an acrobatic babe with designer eyeglasses and four guns – one in each hand, and one on each foot. It’s gorgeous to watch, the enemy designs are otherworldly, the battles are complete chaos, and you keep going because you literally can’t imagine what’s going to happen next – one level we played was leaping from one floating rock to another while a boss so big it had cannons for fingers grabbed the rocks and unloaded point blank. This is more than just another hack and slasher.
Dark Void – 360, PS3, PC
Take The Rocketeer, set it in space and throw in a ton of aliens, and you’d have Dark Void… kind of. This one feels a bit uneven at the moment – when we’re on the ground, darting from one cover point to the next and blasting away at ugly aliens, it plays well. And the way the gameplay switches directions is wild. For example, at one point we were moving vertically up a cylindrical shaft that had a bunch of revolving platforms in it, almost like horizontal fan blades. We could grab onto the underside of each “blade,” basically hanging upside-down from it and shooting upward, then flipping ourselves onto its topside and then zip-shooting ourselves to the underside of the blade above it. The flying sections are rougher; the jetpack is tough to control. But this is obviously still being worked on – if the jetpack can go from frustrating to exhilarating before it ships, this may be one of the few scores we get wrong.
Dead Space: Extraction – Wii
Last year’s Dead Space was surprisingly, almost shockingly good thanks to top-notch visuals, a chilling atmosphere that made you truly scared to round each corner, and a seriously kick-ass arsenal of weapons. When we found out the next game would be an on-rails shooter for Wii, our hearts sank. How can an on-rails shooter be scary? Luckily, someone on the development team apparently knows the answer to that question. Extraction not only looks damn good for a Wii game (but NOT as good as a PS3 or 360 game, no matter what hype you’ve heard), but its pacing is a true triumph. Of course there are moments of absolute pants-wetting, no-blinking if you want to live chaos, but there are also a ton of quiet moments and cut scenes that just pile on the tension. It actually works. If only it was longer and had more replay value.