Best of E3 2007: My Top Picks

E3 2007 has come and gone, and even though the new format didn’t deliver the crazy spectacle that it has in years past and there weren’t nearly as many surprises, the event was still nothing short of amazing. Without all the flashing lights and booth babes, the focus was all on the games, and without a doubt this year’s E3 highlighted what has to be the greatest all-around game lineup the industry has quite possibly ever seen.

Now that the event is over and I’ve had time to digest everything after two weeks of busy coverage, I figured I’d go ahead and hand out some awards for my top picks of the show, and maybe rant or rave on a few other topics while I’m at it…

Best PSP Game: God of War: Chains of Olympus

God of War - Chains of OlympusAfter a brilliant development debut with the release of Daxter for the PSP, Ready At Dawn Studios (in collaboration with SCEA’s Santa Monica Studios) is following up emphatically with God of War: Chains of Olympus, an all-new PSP prequel storyline that picks up after Kratos has murdered his wife and daughter and tells of his 10 years of servitude to the Gods of Olympus leading up to the original game. Simply having the God of War title is enough to generate excitement, but the fact that Chains is flawlessly translating the fluid combat system, brutal context-sensitive action sequences, epic landscapes and gorgeous visuals of the PS2 games to the PSP is a feat of mythological proportions.

Honorable Mentions: Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, SWAT: Target Liberty

Best Nintendo DS Game: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Phantom HourglassAny time there is a new Legend of Zelda on display at E3, you just know it’s going to be one of the top games of the show and wrack up tons of post-show awards. This year turned out to be no different, with The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass hogging the spotlight away from the rest of the DS’s lineup (which was actually rather thin, I thought). Not only is Phantom Hourglass Link’s debut adventure on the DS, but it’s also the continuation of his adventures from the Wind Waker (my personal favorite Zelda game). What’s more, the game introduces an intuitive touch-screen interface that opens up all sorts of cool new control possibilities, such as using the stylus to slash Link’s sword, throw his boomerang on drawn paths, jot down map notes, chart boat routes and so on. Cap all that off with local and online two-player battles and the colorful return of Wind Waker’s cartoony art style and Phantom Hourglass is surely set to be another Zelda classic when it finally ships this October.

Honorable Mentions: Contra 4, Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol, Drawn to Life, Dementium: The Ward, Touch Detective 2 ½

Best PC Game: Crysis

CrysisGerman development studio Crytek’s latest FPS project Crysis has been on a lot of most wanted lists for a couple of years now, and at this year’s E3 it only continued to rise in stature. The CryENGINE 2-powered game is a technical marvel – clearly one of the best looking games coming up — but beyond the crisp, lush, crystal-clear graphics the gameplay is every bit as impressive thanks to smart AI, open level design, weapon mods, cool nanosuit special abilities and intense gunplay. Crysis’ only sticking point right now is its performance, as it is obviously a serious system hog with demanding PC requirements. But rest assured, if you have the rig to handle it Crysis is going to be a must-buy all the way when it ships later this year.

Honorable Mentions: Hellgate: London, The Witcher, Universe at War: Earth Assault (also coming to 360 at a later date), World in Conflict (also coming to 360 at a later date)

Best Nintendo Wii Game: de Blob

de BlobWhile Super Mario Galaxy is the expected choice for most, THQ’s de Blob is the Wii game that wins the prize from me. If you haven’t heard about the game yet or seen it in action, de Blob is a quirky action-puzzle game that actually originated as a PC title from some game design students in the Netherlands and is now being turned into a full Wii production by Blue Tongue Entertainment (Helixe Studio is working on a DS version too). In the game you assume control of a blob on a mission to revitalize a colorless and lifeless Chroma City, flicking the Wii Remote to bounce around the city, absorb different colors and splatter it all over the buildings and citizens. The concept is simple, yes, but the oddball style, distinct art and unique gameplay all remind me of the first time I saw and played the original Katamari Damacy! If de Blob can fully capitalize on its early promise we’re in for one hell of a fun and addictive Wii game come early next year.

Honorable Mentions: Super Mario Galaxy, Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Dewy’s Adventure

Best Xbox 360 Game: Mass Effect

Mass EffectNo, I did not pick Halo 3 as my top Xbox 360 game, nor did it even crack into my honorable mentions list. It’s looking solid and will no doubt be a great game, but there are many other 360 games that have captured more of my attention. As you can see from my choice for this category, Mass Effect is leading that charge. BioWare is known for its genre-defining role-playing games – Baldur’s Gate and Knights of the Old Republic come instantly to mind – and as unbelievable as it may sound, Mass Effect is the team’s most ambitious game yet, featuring the largest scaled game universe you’ll ever see, a deep and compelling plot, innovative real-time interactive dialogue sequences, some of the most realistic character models and facial animation ever, and gameplay that fuses the best elements of third-person shooting, squad combat and role-playing into one adaptable experience, allowing you to play however you want. Need I say more?

Honorable Mentions: Project Gotham Racing 4, Fable 2, Virtua Fighter 5, Lost Odyssey, Eternal Sonata

Best PS3 Game: LittleBigPlanet

LittleBigPlanetAfter such an impressive trailer and live demo unveil at Sony’s E3 press conference, Killzone 2 immediately seemed like the clear favorite to earn my pick for best PS3 game. But after watching the footage at least a dozen times and realizing that there is still so much to learn about the game before lavishing it TOO much praise, I looked past the hype and really examined the PS3’s upcoming lineup. After doing so, Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet rose above all the other big-named challengers to take home the prize. As its “Play. Create. Share.” mantra perfectly sums up, the game is all about creativity and community, inviting players to create and explore their own unique worlds and then share them with other players across the globe via the PlayStation Network. LittleBigPlanet’s wildly imaginative and innovative concept is second to none, and with the promise of user-generated content constantly flowing in it’s a game that’s only going to bet better and better as time goes by.

Honorable Mentions: Heavenly Sword, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Killzone 2, echochrome

Best Multi-platform Game: BioShock

BioShockThere are so many exceptional multi-platform games on the way, but BioShock for the PC and Xbox 360 is the one that has captivated me the most. Set amongst the mysterious underwater city of Rapture, BioShock is sort of a sci-fi/horror FPS that opens up the playbook and lets you choose how to approach each and every situation in order to survive the city’s dangerous mutant inhabitants, including the powerhouse Big Daddies and the creepy Little Sisters they protect. Strategy and customization abound thanks to modifiable weapons, special genetic powers called Plasmids, interactive environments, and “ecological” AI, which all come together to provide a gameplay experience that is spontaneous and freeform. The atmosphere and art direction are also as good as it gets, with eerie lighting, stunning water effects, detailed art deco environments, scary enemy designs and suspenseful ambiance. Best of all, BioShock is just under a month away from release, so of all the great upcoming games it’ll be on store shelves first, giving it the perfect time to shine before the holiday flood.

Honorable Mentions: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Assassin’s Creed, The Orange Box, Condemned 2: Bloodshot, Turok

Biggest Disappointment: Super Smash Bros. Brawl M.I.A.

Super Smash Bros BrawlComing into E3, I was expecting big things from Nintendo regarding Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but disappointingly the game was essentially a no-show. Nintendo did announce an official release date at least, pegging Brawl in for a December 3rd debut, but beyond that no new details or game footage were released. Hoped for announcements like Sonic the Hedgehog as a playable character and support for online play were nowhere to be seen or heard (though reportedly Sonic is in, as long as Sega gives their final approval), leaving Smash Bros. fans looking forward to TGS to find out more about this highly anticipated title, hopefully…

Dishonorable Mentions: No Sixaxis Rumble Announced (yet…), No MGS4 Gameplay Shown

Biggest Surprise: Turok

TurokI was never a fan of any of the previous Turok games, be it the N64 originals or last generation’s prequel, so Disney Interactive Studios’ upcoming PS3 and 360 Turok never caught even the least bit of my attention, until now. Besides the beautifully rendered graphics, Turok’s main attraction is its dynamic AI technology that makes for some incredibly compelling action scenarios in which you have to deal with both enemy soldiers and the surrounding dinosaur populace. The cool thing is, if you’re clever enough you can disturb the dinosaurs into coming after your enemies – firing an arrow into their nest for example – then sit back and watch the slaughter from a safe distance or sneak up and take out any lingering opposition amidst the distraction, ending with satisfyingly vicious stealth kill animations. There are still some questions left to be answered between now and its scheduled release in February ’08, but as it stands Turok’s impressive showing was definitely a pleasant surprise and I can’t wait to see how it finally comes together.

Honorable Mentions: Rise of the Argonauts, Fracture, de Blob, echochrome

Game to Watch For: Infamous

InfamousFor this “Game to Watch” For category, I wanted to pick out an upcoming title that is still somewhat shrouded in mystery and is thusly a game to keep a close eye on for the future. This E3, that game for me was Infamous, the latest project from the talented team at Sucker Punch. Sony’s press conference teaser trailer surprise revealed the game’s development, and given Sucker Punch’s previous work on the light-hearted Sly Cooper series it really caught onlookers by surprise with its gritty appearance. Right now, about all that’s known about Infamous is that it’s a superhero sandbox game coming to the PS3 next year. From what little was shown, it appeared to bear a few similarities to the Xbox 360’s Crackdown, though hopefully there’s more to it than that as I wasn’t much of a fan of that game. Knowing Sucker Punch, I don’t think they’ll disappoint.

Honorable Mentions: Legendary: The box, Silent Hill 5, Mario Kart Wii, Fallout 3, echochrome, Resident Evil 5

Best Game Lineup: Sony

Sony Computer EntertainmentOf all these awards, determining which publisher’s overall game lineup left the biggest impression was by far the easiest. Consisting of hot games like Heavenly Sword, Killzone 2, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Warhawk, Lair, Folklore, LittleBigPlanet and SOCOM: Confrontation – bolstered by short teasers for Infamous and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue — Sony’s first-party PS3 E3 lineup was absolutely remarkable. On top of all that, downloadable PlayStation Network titles like echochrome, Pain, Everyday Shooter and Go! Sports Ski, and excellent PSP games like God of War: Chains of Olympus, Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow, Jeanne d’Arc, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike and Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice proved without a shadow of a doubt that Sony is leading the way with the best first-party games and developers in the business. And thankfully, the majority of these titles are coming out this year, so the current PS3 game drought is finally almost over!

Honorable Mentions: EA, Nintendo, Sega, THQ

Most Over-Hyped Story: PS3 Price Cut “Farce”

PS3Sony came out ahead of this year’s E3 and made a lot of gamers happy by announcing that the price on the 60GB PS3 had been dropped by 100 bucks and that a new 80GB unit bundled with MotorStorm was on the way to fill the $599 price point. Shortly thereafter, word came out that production on the 60GB system was being discontinued and it was only being sold at its cheaper price until the remaining stock ran out. Immediately after this news broke, the gaming press and Sony haters alike erupted with stories and message board posts saying that Sony basically lied about the price cut and that they were pulling a “bait and switch”.

For starters, Sony never proclaimed a full PS3 “price cut” (SCEA President and CEO Jack Tretton even stated in an interview on G4 that it wasn’t), they simply announced a reduced price on one model and introduced a new model. Secondly, how is it a bad thing for a company to lower the price of any console to begin with? The 60GB PS3 is a great machine and you can now get it $100 cheaper than you could before. Because the system may be going out of production that makes the reduced price a farce? Nonsense! There’s plenty of stock on the 60GB to go around for the foreseeable future according to Sony, and after that it’s logical to believe that the newly announced 80GB model will be released on its own outside the MotorStorm bundle at a lower price point, probably by early next year. So what exactly is the problem? Just another overblown attempt to bash Sony for anything that they do if you ask me…

Best Overall Game: BioShock

BioShockChoosing only one game as E3’s best of show was damn near an impossible task, but after tirelessly examining everything this year’s E3 had to offer 2K Games’ and Irrational Games’ BioShock squeaked out a narrow victory. Call of Duty 4, Killzone 2, Mass Effect, LittleBigPlanet and any of my other runners-up are every bit as deserving, but what ultimately gave BioShock the slight edge over the competition in my mind are its unique premise and truly freeform gameplay. BioShock is not a sequel, an evolution on old ideas or just another run-of-the-mill FPS with fancy next-gen graphics. It’s a game that exemplifies forward thinking and innovative advances in game design, and for those reasons (along with the fact that it looks gorgeous and is just a great damn game) it gets my nod for best of show.

Honorable Mentions: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, LittleBigPlanet, Killzone 2, Mass Effect, Crysis, Assassin’s Creed, Heavenly Sword

So there we have it… another E3 down, another year of mind-blowing games to look forward to. Hopefully you found our show coverage helpful and enjoyed browsing through my top best of show picks. I know it’s corny and cliché, but ultimately the real winners of E3 are us as gamers, so be sure to enjoy it!

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!