And after a bit of a weekend break it’s time for Part 3 of the 2012 E3 Epic Win Awards! While Parts 1 and 2 explored some of the more aspects of the show itself, it’s time to get to the heart of the matter: the games! These categories took the best of each genre and pitted it against its competition, whether it be a non-playable demo or a game that we can physically get our dirty little hands on.
Not that we had dirty hands. We all had manicures before E3. That’s all we did during our off time, actually, was trade man-grooming secrets. Yes, man-grooming tips and how to be better “besties” to our lady-friends, and certainly not drink copious amounts of alcohol.
(OK, we really just drank copious amounts of alcohol. But I digress. To the awards.)
Best Strategy/Simulation of E3 2012
And the Epic Win belongs to… SimCity.
Reboots are all the rage lately. Devil May Cry, Tomb Raider, and even the Super Mario Bros series has seen a boost in popularity due to reboots, present or upcoming.
When SimCity announced it was getting a refreshed look and play structure, it was difficult to define it as a “reboot,” since essentially it was still a city-building simulation. What really could you do differently?
Showcased at E3 in the EA booth, the rebooted SimCity answered that question with a resounding “Lots!” From finally being able to create curving streets, to online partnership with other sim-cities, SimCity showed that it was taking this overhaul very seriously.
Let’s be honest, the Sim series was getting really tired. The original SimCity was unique and innovative. Then came SimEarth, SimLife, SimHotel, SimYourMom. (OK, not really on the last one.) It got SimOverplayed. Maxis went for the refresh with The Sims, focusing on the people who lived in your SimCity. That brought about some freshness to the stale series, but now after two direct sequels and countless expansion packs, a lot of us, myself included, swore off SimGames, believing we had seen it all.
Epic Win, EA & Maxis, for showing us there’s Sim-thing new out there with the reboot of SimCity.
Best Sports Title of E3 2012
And the Epic Win belongs to… Nike Plus Kinect Training.
Sports titles left a lot to be desired this year at E3. The major titles that came out were just the annual iterations of the usual titles, such as Madden NFL 13 and NBA 2K13.
But if you were at E3 in the Microsoft booth, and noticed a strange funk in the corner, that wasn’t just a massive horde of unwashed gamers… it was actual people getting an actual sweat from a fitness title. And while other fitness titles might have made you breathe a little heavier, Nike Plus Kinect Training was ready to kick your hindquarters worse than if you had bent over in front of Chun-Li.
I only got a small trial of Nike Plus Kinect Training, but my exercise was high knees. And the game – nay, we really should call this a fitness program – was not interested in letting you slack at all. The Kinect sensor set your target at an area that would truly make you work. If a knee did not register as hitting that target, it did not count, unlike other fitness games that would give you (by error or grace) some wiggle room. And with its countless workout elements programmed in by the fitness experts at Nike, the game creates reasonable workouts that will demand your efforts. Or as one of the game demonstrators told me, you could try to cheat yourself by making the workout easy, but Nike Plus Kinect Training will recognize it and put you on blast, in essence.
Whether it shows weakness from this year’s sports titles or dominance from Nike Plus Kinect Fitness, for a fitness program to not only break into this category but to run away with it shows there’s a lot more sweat when the program releases this holiday season. Epic win for Nike and Microsoft.
Best Social/Mobile Game of E3 2012
And the Epic Win belongs to… Outernauts.
Take all the Pokemon and launch them into space! YAY!
Ok, ok, so we didn’t launch all the Pokemon into space, which probably would have warranted its own Epic Win. But Outernauts, which showed us a demo at E3, has the same feel as a Pokemon title while being on Facebook. Players create their Outernaut, customize it the way they want, then go out and tame space creatures to use in battle while fighting against space pirates, etc. Insomniac Games, publisher of such hits as Ratchet & Clank, really took aim at making a good game that you might find on PSN or XBLA, and putting it on Facebook instead. Epic Win (…in SPAAAAAAACE!) for Outernauts.
Best RPG of E3 2012
And the Epic Win belongs to… South Park: The Stick of Truth.
RPGs were in shorter supply than years past, and as an avid RPGer I was thirsty for them on the game floor. Fortunately the titles that were found were quality, making this a small but competitive category. So how do you get a leg up on the competition?
Trey Parker and Matt Stone might help.
South Park: The Stick of Truth from what we saw, had the look and feel of an episode of South Park (or as the creators would call it, “like crap.”) It definitely had the humor of an episode of South Park. But it had the appearance and elements of a true RPG. It wasn’t just a crap game with characters slapped on it. There is a hefty amount of effort and gameplay crafting going in the title, and Parker and Stone, who have admitted to being disappointed by other South Park games, have taken a big hands-on advisory role. Epic Win for The Stick of Truth, a very big fish in a relatively small pond.
Best Racing Game of E3 2012
And the Epic Win belongs to… Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
Speaking of small ponds, this one was quite small as well; in fact so small that all the points in this category were split between Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Forza: Horizon, and N4S bested it out by only one point.
And although Forza: Horizon is an exceptional racing game, Need for Speed: Most Wanted is also exceptional. Get all your Burnout: Paradise comments out of the way now, because those who know racing games will see the similarity between the two. Criterion made both, and both carry a mentality that favor speed over skill. “Drive it like you stole it” is definitely the motto of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, whether you are hiding out from the cops or not. And you will be, after crashing into walls and other cars, flying over hills, and generally causing lots of unwarranted property damage.
One of my favorite elements was the multi-player drop-in/drop-out. What’s great is that it doesn’t just put you somewhere and say “Ready… go!” It plops you in the middle of nowhere, and makes you meet everyone else at the starting location, so the jockeying for advantage starts right away. Epic Win for Need for Speed: Most Wanted, proving that second place truly is the first loser.
Best Puzzle Game of E3 2012
And the Epic Win belongs to… Quantum Conundrum.
“Oh man, if you get a chance, you have to go to the Square Enix booth and play Quantum Conundrum. Too much fun.”
Well, I know the bossman, Ramon Aranda, is an unabashed fanboy of Portal and Portal 2, and that Quantum Conundrum was made by Valve, the same developers as those two games. I’ll try to check it out.
But then Josh Boykin and Adam Larck were also on the QC bandwagon, and the buzz started to go out throughout the show floor… you have to try Quantum Conundrum. OK, OK, says I, I’ll go… that’s how my Day 3 started, and it could have ended right there, because I practically had to tear myself away from the demo station.
Test of a good puzzle game? Addiction factor. From Tetris onward, the difficulty of the game was tantamount, but the difficulty to put it down was a definition of staying power. Quantum Conundrum had me hooked from the beginning, where the fun was not just completing the puzzle via use of dimensional distortion, but also after completing a room, getting that rush of, “OK, what’s next, bring it on!”
Though the demo was simple and basic, it caught the charm and deviousness of the game. Much like the Portal games, as you look in the puzzle you think to yourself, “This is so simple!” And fifteen minutes later, you’re ready to throw your controller in frustration. But then, you pick it up again and take a crack at it. And that proves that we have an Epic Winner. Epic Win for Valve and Quantum Conundrum. I promise that the copius amounts of swearing that this game will produce from my mouth is nothing personal.
Part 4 will be coming soon, with more “Best of” genre epic wins, including Platforming, Fighting, FPS, Music/Dance, and Action. And one of these categories has an upset that will shock you.
If you missed the other pieces of the Epic Win awards, click here for Part 1 (Best Conference, Best Booth, Hottest Booth Babes) or click here for Part 2 (Biggest Flop, Biggest Surprise, and Most Anticipated).