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The Best of E3 2012

My passion for technology was sparked by gaming. The first game console my brother and I ever owned was a Sega Genesis, which my parents bought from their friends. The hours we spent on that thing playing Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic and Knuckles, and PacMan are some of the most memorable from my childhood. As are those of our Nintendo 64, which we got a few years later. We only ever owned three games for our N64: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, and Super Smash Bros. Back in those days, we often rented games from Blockbuster, which was a sweet deal, since we would always get to play something new.

Over the years, I’ve owned a bunch of different gaming systems. GameBoy Advance followed the N64, then my brother got a PlayStation 2. I got a GameBoy Advance SP, which I traded in for a GameBoy Micro (still regret that decision). In 2006, I got a DS Lite and a Wii, and shortly after my brother got an XBOX 360, and a PSP. I eventually replaced my DS Lite with a DSi, and now a 3DS. The XBOX 360 inevitably red-ringed, and is now sitting in a closet.

So it’s no surprise that the Electronics Entertainment Expo, more commonly referred to as E3, still holds a place in my heart, despite the fact that I don’t get to play video games much anymore. Nonetheless, I look forward to June each year, as the big show rolls around. What will Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony trot out this year? What does the future of gaming look like? Nintendo in particular holds a special place in my life; a child’s bond with Mario can never be broken.

“the Electronics Entertainment Expo still holds a place in my heart”

E3 2012 took place this past week, and brought with it a slew of exciting announcements. Below, you’ll find my picks for the Best Of E3 2012, ranging from games about stealthy assassins, to short, stout plumbers.

Watch Dogs

Ubisoft really brought it at E3 this year, but the standout of their line-up was no doubt ‘Watch Dogs’. The game, which features stunning next-gen level graphics, is described as “a ground-breaking open-world action-adventure game” that revolves around anti-hero Aiden Pierce, who has the ability to hack into the ctOS, or “Centralized Operating System”. As explained in one of the game’s trailers, the ctOS is a government backbone that controls everything from traffic lights to communications spectrum.

“Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor!”

During an on-stage demo at their June 4th Press Conference, Ubisoft showcased some of Pierce’s hacking and espionage skills, as well as a crazy action sequence assassination. We’ve embedded the full demo below. Gamers: hit play and prepare to have your mind blown! Developed by Ubisoft Montreal (go, Canada!), Watch Dogs is slated to hit current generation consoles – that’s XBOX 360 and PS3 – and PC, though no release window was given.

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Assassin’s Creed III

Assassin’s Creed is finally coming to a Nintendo home console, and it only took three iterations! While the game was shown off on all three current gen consoles – including an appearance at Sony’s Press Conference, in which Ubisoft debuted the game’s new sea battles – the highlight of Assassin’s Creed III at E3 was, for me, it’s debut on Wii U.

“I’ve never been this excited to assassinate people!”

With Assassin’s Creed III, Ubisoft is making it easier than ever before to perform skillful, stylized kills! In addition to sea battles, Ubisoft showed off gameplay of new protagonist Connor traveling through the wintery wilderness, hunting deer, and pulling off some stealth kills in 1700’s Boston.

I am so excited to finally see major third party franchises coming to Nintendo in HD! For all the details on what’s new in Assassin’s Creed III, check out IGN’s in-depth look, and take a look at this beautiful gameplay clip of Assassin’s Creed III running on Wii U.

It’s-a-me! Mario, Mario, Mario!

No E3 is complete without an appearance from everyone’s favourite plumber, and Nintendo’s mascot certainly was out in force this year! Nintendo announced no less than three new Mario games, including New Super Mario Bros. U for Wii U, and New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Paper Mario: Sticker Star for Nintendo 3DS.

New Super Mario Bros. U is the first 2D side-scrolling Mario game in HD, and it takes advantage of the increase in resolution. The game looks incredibly beautiful, featuring the sleek art-style of the New Super Mario Bros. series coupled with new, extremely detailed backgrounds. Up to 5 players can participate in the fun, with 4 using Wii Remotes or Wii U Pro Controllers, and another player assisting with the Wii U GamePad. New Super Mario Bros. U will be a launch title for Wii U when it arrives this Holiday. Check out the trailer!

“Everyone’s favourite plumber will star in 3 new games this Fall!”

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is all about the gold, according to Nintendo. Mario’s first 3D side-scrolling adventure is filled to the brim with gold coins, gold enemies, and new gold power-ups. The game is clearly inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3, featuring the familiar coloured panels and the return of the Racoon tail’s flying ability. In addition, New Super Mario Bros. 2 will allow two player co-op throughout the entire main game! New Super Mario Bros. 2 launches August 19th in North America. Check out the trailer!

Finally, Mario will also appear this Holiday in Paper Mario: Sticker Star for Nintendo 3DS. This marks the first portable outing for the Paper Mario series, and the first time the series appears in stereoscopic 3D. As the name implies, Sticker Star introduces the concept of sticker collecting to the series, which players can use to attack enemies in battle. Check out the trailer!

Ubisoft + Wii U

One of the things that I was so happy to see at E3 this year was huge third-party support for Wii U. Longtime Nintendo partner Ubisoft came out in full force to support Nintendo’s new console, announcing 8 new games for Wii U. Of course, the aforementioned Assassin’s Creed III is coming, alongside Rayman Legends, Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth, Sports Connection, Just Dance 4, Rabbids Land, YourShape Fitness Evolved 2013, and the exclusive ZombiU.

“Nintendo should call it Wii U-bisoft”

ZombiU is one of the standout titles of Ubisoft’s Wii U lineup. Developed from the ground up for Wii U, ZombiU takes place in a zombie infested London circa 2012. The game’s tagline, “How long will you survive?” actually alludes to one of the games more interesting gameplay mechanics: players are given one life. If you die, you come back as a new character, and you can hunt down your zombified previous self to reclaim your supplies and weapons. ZombiU players will use the Wii U GamePad to control their player, and the second screen gives you quick access to inventory and scanners. ZombiU looks really promising, and is currently slated as a launch game for Wii U.

Check out these trailers and gameplay demos for Ubisoft’s Wii U lineup:
ZombiU
Rayman Legends
Marvel’s The Avengers: Battle for Earth
Sports Connection
Just Dance 4
Rabbids Land
YourShape: Fitness Evolved 2013

Halo 4

Halo 4 is much more than just another sequel. The latest entry in the famed Xbox franchise brings all new extraterrestrial enemies, visual upgrades, and weapons. Developed by 343 Industries, Halo 4 will also feature a brand-new storyline that kicks off the second trilogy of Halo games.

In addition, Halo 4 will featured weekly, episodic “Spartan Ops” co-op missions, that will feature a completely separate backstory from the main game.

“Is it stupid to buy an Xbox just for Halo 4?”

Microsoft showed a gorgeous demo of Halo 4 during their press conference that featured some of the aforementioned additions. Check out the demo and get excited: Halo 4 launches for Xbox 360 on November 6th!

Wii U and Miiverse

It’s hard to beat a new home console reveal, which is why all eyes were on Nintendo this year. E3 2012 marked the official unveiling of Wii U, and though Nintendo focused mostly on first and third party launch window titles, the company also provided new details about the console itself and the Wii U software and online experience.

The fun actually started on Sunday, when Nintendo Global President Satoru Iwata hosted an online Nintendo Direct broadcast to provide new details about Wii U. Iwata unveiled the redesigned Wii U GamePad, which is now slightly longer and thinner. The GamePad also packs two clickable analog sticks, replacing the circle pads that were part of the original controller prototype shown off last year. Iwata also announced the Wii U Pro Controller, a more traditional gamepad reminiscent of an Xbox 360 controller, that many hardcore gamers are sure to enjoy.

Iwata also announced a new online service called Miiverse. Miiverse is part of Nintendo’s online push for Wii U (and eventually 3DS), providing a way for players to interact together and discuss games directly on the Wii U. Social network like interaction between players will allow gamers to ask for help or provide tips on making it through a game. Video and voice chat will also provide a new way for players to communicate through Wii U.

“How can you not be excited for Wii U?”

In addition, Nintendo announced that Wii U will support two GamePad controllers simultaneously. At E3 2011, Nintendo was adamant that the Wii U would only support one tablet controller at a time, something that fans were a little upset about. Now, it appears that Nintendo has worked through some of the previously cited “technical limitations”, giving gamers the option to play with two Wii U GamePads.

On-stage, Reggie announced that Wii U will bring a multitude of entertainment options to the living room. Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu Plus, and YouTube are all coming to Wii U, and Reggie promised that more entertainment features would be announced in due course.

Console unveilings are always a highlight of E3, and Wii U certainly made a splash this year. While Nintendo has finally caught up to the Xbox 360 and PS3 in terms of hardware power, it will be interesting to see how things pan out when next generation consoles arrive from Microsoft and Sony.

SmartGlass and Xbox Entertainment

Finally, Microsoft announced a “second-screen” strategy of their own, which they call SmartGlass. During their stage demo, the company showed off two main uses for SmartGlass, the first of which is expanded functionality for media playback. Much like Apple’s AirPlay technology, SmartGlass will allow users to start a movie on their tablet or smartphone, and then beam that content to their television via. Xbox 360. SmartGlass can also be used to add interactivity to movies and TV shows on Xbox 360; Microsoft showed off a demo of a Game of Thrones episode playing on the TV, with an interactive map of Westeros that follows the characters as the episode progresses.

SmartGlass can also be used for games, providing a Wii U like experience for the Xbox 360. Microsoft has created SmartGlass as a “platform” that developers can use to create second-screen experiences for their games. While the concept seems tailored for casual games, Microsoft did show off a Waypoint concept that integrates with Halo 4, providing detailed maps and information to players, and an NFL concept, allowing gamers to input plays using a tablet.

“Microsoft goes after Nintendo and Apple with SmartGlass.”

Interestingly, SmartGlass will not be limited to Microsoft devices. Windows Phone devices and Windows 8 tablets will, of course, be supported, as will iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. SmartGlass is slated to launch this Fall for Xbox 360.

Microsoft also placed a lot of emphasis on Xbox Entertainment partnerships, announcing even more content deals for Xbox 360. All of ESPN’s banners are heading to the console, bringing even more live-sports to users. Microsoft also killed Zune and introduced Xbox Music, a Spotify like subscription music service that will also be coming to Windows 8 and Windows Phone. These are in addition to the plethora of other content offerings that Microsoft already has on Xbox 360, including YouTube, Bravo, HBO GO, Xfinity, Paramount movies, Netflix, IGN, MLB.tv, Amazon Instant Video, epix, Verizon FiOS, and Hulu Plus, to name a few. With all of these rumours surrounding Apple’s push into the living room, people have been overlooking Microsoft. The Xbox 360 is already an entertainment powerhouse, and Microsoft is crushing Apple when it comes to living room entertainment..

Until next year…

E3 2012 has wrapped, and we now have another 362 days (or so) until next year’s show. While the ESA has not yet confirmed the dates for E3 2013, I for one am looking forward to seeing what Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, and the third-party publishers will trot out next year. I can’t wait to see where Wii U will be in one year’s time, and how Microsoft and Sony plan to enter the next generation of gaming with new home consoles of their own. For now, we’ve got a bunch of great gaming coming our way this holiday season, and I’m excited to get playing! Until next year…

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