E3 2011 is officially over. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to pick our favorites for “Best in Show.” This year we’re doing it a bit differently. We’ve broken down our awards into three categories — Best Press Conference, Biggest Surprise and Best Game. But we’re not just crowning one item for each category. Instead, we’re letting each one of our gaming staffers weigh in and cast their vote for each category. Therefore, we’ll cast a wider net that gives you, the reader, a better idea of where each of us are coming from with our choices. So let’s get on with it, shall we? We present to you CraveOnline’s “Best in Show” for E3 2011.
Best Press Conference
Alex Keen: This was a hard category to decide, mainly because all three of the major press conferences were lackluster. The Sony press conference was boring. The Nintendo press conference was confusing. The Microsoft press conference was all about Kinect. So, my decision comes down to the best of the worst, Microsoft. Their premiere footage of Tomb Raider was impressive and the use of Kinect to play Mass Effect was a very cool surprise. I also liked the reveal of UFC Live. Even though I hate UFC, the innovation here is obvious. Finally, the reveal of Halo 4 wasn’t surprising, but a welcomed addition nonetheless.
Erik Norris: I might be in the minority here, but my vote for best conference goes to Sony. Microsoft was a snooze fest with its overemphasis on Kinect, while Nintendo’s reveal of the Wii U was more confusing than anything else. But when it comes to Sony, they came out and showed me the marque franchises I expected/wanted to see (Uncharted 3, Starhawk, Resistance 3), while also surprising me with the announcement of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. I’m a huge fan of that franchise, so I’m thrilled to see it return. Was I absolutely floored by Sony’s showing? No. But what I got was a glimpse into a solid future for the company and that’s all I could ask for.
Mike White: Despite the language barrier and orchestral hiccups, I personally enjoyed Nintendo’s press conference. I agree 100% with Alex and Erik about the Wii U’s portion not providing enough concrete information. However, what were you guys doing during the first half of that presentation? Nintendo has the best portable gaming system out there and has just announced they’re making it better by leaps and bounds. All of the Zelda news = Awesome. Starfox 3D = Awesome. Excitebike 3D and a Pokedex game that lets me take pictures next to my favorite pokeymans = Double Awesome. The first half had me hooked and the possibilities the Wii U opens up just confirms my faith in Nintendo for pushing video games in directions others won’t go.
Joey Davidson: I’m with Mike on this one. The Nintendo press conference had my jazzed, excited, wowed and intrigued. Microsoft was a dud, I think we can all agree on that. I’d be willing to place Sony way up next to Nintendo; but, the only thing separating the two is the wow factor. First of all, Nintendo’s orchestral Zelda celebration was stunning. Then we saw a parade of incredible looking 3DS titles along with the brand new Luigi’s Mansion 2. Luigi’s Mansion 2!!! Again, stunning. The Wii U came out and, sure, it was a little confusing… but it had me reeling with ideas. Like Mike mentioned, Nintendo’s on the path to push developers and hardware manufacturers to try new things. They succeeded in that right again this year. Sony had a great show, no doubt. The $250 PS Vita price point is amazing. That said, I give the nod to Nintendo based on their 3DS lineup and the Wii U unveiling.
Alex Keen: Wii U was easily the biggest surprise. While we all knew that they had a new console, nobody could have guessed that Nintendo was working on their own version of the iPad. I am highly skeptical that this new console will sell even if it is as cool as I have read. I think the majority of Wii owners don’t actually play their consoles and that does not bode well for another piece of Nintendo hardware.
Erik Norris: I have to agree with Alex here, the Wii U was the biggest shocker of the expo. However, not for the reasons you might be expecting. Usually, a new console’s announcement generates a lot of instant hysteria and hype. However, with the Wii U there was a lot of confusion. Is it an actual new system? Or is it just a new controller for the Wii with a 6” scene? I know I asked myself those questions while sitting in the audience of Nintendo’s conference. There was also a severe lack of details surrounding the device. No hardware specs were announced, and we still don’t have any clue as to what the launch line-up titles will be. Hell, even Nintendo doesn’t know what the Wii U is destined to be, outside the future of interactive entertainment, so they say. But I will say this: Nintendo has me intrigued by the Wii U. And when it comes to surprises, I definitely did not see what Nintendo showed coming.
Joey Davidson: How bad Microsoft was? No. The PS Vita price was the biggest shocker for me. The Wii U was crazy for sure. But I never saw the PS Vita price point coming. I was expecting $350 for the PSP successor. Instead, Sony blew my mind with the $250 entry point and sent me home to tabulate my finances for the system’s launch later this year. Add to that fact my time with the handheld itself and I’m double excited.
Mike White: In all honesty, my biggest surprise for E3 was the announcement that Minecraft is coming to the Xbox. I’m not set on this being a good idea or not. I love my PC and games that are exclusive to it. There is a certain accuracy required in building complex objects that I don’t think you can get with a controller, let alone motion controls. On the other hand, Minecraft is a game that will always benefit from more and more users. What never ceases to amaze me is the imagination and ingenuity of common gamers when given the tools to create and influence their game world. Let’s see what you console kids are made of.
Erik Norris: I expected BioShock Infinite to be good. But even I didn’t think it would be this good. The demo I got to check out was jaw-droppingly gorgeous and played like a dream. The inclusion of the sky-line rail system is a stroke of genius on Irrational Games’ part. The combat possibilities it adds are staggering. Then there’s that whole time rift business, which hints at a much grander story than we’ve been lead to believe. It seems Irrational is still holding a lot of cards close to their chest. And if what I saw is just the beginning, then BioShock Infinite is going to be one amazing video game.
Alex Keen: Battlefield 3 took the prize for me at E3. While Joey and Erik will have a better overall impression of everything shown at E3, Battlefield 3 looked spectacular to me. The graphics were incredibly advanced and showed an amount of detail that dwarfed any other competitors. I’ve been hoping that someone would develop a game to kill the Modern Warfare franchise and Battlefield 3 has that potential. Especially if they can translate these awesome graphics to the Xbox and PlayStation, EA will be rolling in the dough.
Joey Davidson: I could go three ways with this one. BioShock Infinite was downright amazing, but Erik already took that one. Journey also rocked my world on day three, but I was nothing more than a spectator for Erik’s hands-on. So I’m making my final choice XCOM. Wow. This first-person tactical shooter looks fantastic. The aliens are unique, the 1962 setting looks great, the tactical portions look Mass Effect-y and the storyline is shaping up to be wildly involved. I didn’t expect the game to be as good as it was, and I walked out with a huge grin on my face. Win.
Mike White: I think everyone would expect me to say Star Wars: the Old Republic here but I’ve got something else in mind. From what I’ve seen, my social life will come to a complete halt in November when Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim comes out. Bethesda will go down in the Video Game hall of fame for the work they’ve done on that series. How often did terms like gorgeous and stunning get thrown around at E3? Amongst all of the beautiful graphics from games at E3, Skyrim stood out to me. I can’t wait to go toe-to-toe with one of those dragons.