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Best of E3 09: The Auteurs

Contributor:
Adrian Hatwell
Adrian Hatwell

The annual E3 event always offers a deluge of information so dense it’s difficult to keep up with. Now that the tide is receding it seems a good time to sift through the wreckage and hunt for the standout games of the show.

While most announcements at E3 are little more than gussied up advertisements that blow upcoming titles all out of proportion, there are a few relatively effective techniques for cutting through the bull. Perhaps the most useful is to look for names you trust, developers that have delivered the goods in the past, the visionaries that lead the way artistically.

This year there were certainly a few auteur/studios of note in attendance, and presented here are four of my favourites: master designer Ueda and Team ICO, conceptual DS wizards 5th Cell, David Cage and his interactive movie studio Quantic Dream, and the immortal Shigeru Miyamoto, granddaddy of videogame design.
 
The Last Guardian

A trailer of Team ICO’s latest project sent hearts fluttering as the sweet images of The Last Guardian played across the screen, even though the video revealed very little about the game.

It seems a young boy interacts with a gigantic griffin-like monster in order to navigate puzzles throughout the game’s vast temple-like environment, touching on similar themes as the developer’s previous titles ICO and Shadow of the Colossus: companionship, alienation, and environmental relationship.
 
The lumbering monster, while friendly to the boy, is said to act in a more authentically animalistic way than most virtual animals we have met in the past. The player must find ways for the boy to both manipulate and care for his towering friend in order to safely get them both out of their (so far unrevealed) situation. 

The developers’ previous work alone is enough to vouch for the quality of The Last Guardian; there’s something strangely alluring about the desolate worlds created by Team ICO, and if The Last Guardian trailer tells us anything it’s that they’re on track to do it again. This may well be the game many would-be PS3 owners are holding out for.

If you haven’t already done so check out the wonderful trailer.

Scribblenauts

One of the unexpected hits of this year’s E3 was 5th Cell’s Scribblenauts, a Nintendo DS game that offers a truly encyclopaedic gaming experience.

A simple side-scroller on the surface, the game allows players to summon nearly any object they can imagine into the gaming world by simply writing it on the touch-screen.

For example if a wall needed scaling you would need only write the word ‘rope’ and one would appear for the character to climb. 

The developers have poured through dictionaries and reference books in order to program every item they could think of into the game, each with its own characteristics and relationship to other objects. 

The developers are hoping that Scribblenauts will be a prime example of emergent content, the process by which gamers find ways of doing things in-game that developers had not intended.

In this case the scenarios for each of the 220 levels should be broad enough and the range of tools so comprehensive that solutions should seem limited by the player’s imagination alone.

After being put to the test at E3 the game has received more accolades than any other handheld title ever shown at the expo, even nabbing a few ‘Best of Show’ awards from various publications.

See the game in action here.

Heavy Rain

Call it ambition or arrogance, but with their latest project Quantic Dream are aiming to not just simulate the dark cinematic experience of a film noir thriller, but to prove that videogames can do it even better.

The atmospheric mystery of Heavy Rain will involve four playable characters each investigating, each for their own reasons, a dangerous serial killer known as The Origami Killer. If one character dies the game continues, with that character’s death becoming part of the storyline, effecting its conclusion. If all four characters die the player hasn’t lost the game, the story just has a tragic ending.

During their investigations players will need to keep track of characters’ psychological states, as their internal situation can have as much affect on the game as physical actions. The story aims to present players with complex moral decisions that will be a far cry from the black and white morality systems we’ve seen in the past.  

Taking the ‘interactive movie’ concept to a conclusion most others had given up on Quantic Dream have motion-captured their actors, recorded their dialogue, choreographed their realtime action, and are almost ready to unleash The Origami Killer on an unsuspecting public.

The developers came close with their previous project Fahrenheit (AKA Project Indigo), hopefully Heavy Rain will be the release to make us believe in mature interactive cinema. 

Get a taste from the official trailer.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Designer Shigeru Miyamoto has a talent for predicting consumer habits that few others posses, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii looks to be yet another example of that.

On the surface the game doesn’t look like much - simple graphics, basic control scheme, and familiar gameplay – it practically belongs to a different time. But in eschewing the gaming truism that bigger, brighter, more bloated = better, Nintendo might have another runaway hit on their hands according to those fortunate enough to have experienced the game first-hand at E3.

Just as New Super Mario Bros. did for the Nintendo DS, Nintendo’s latest will bring the classic 2D platforming action that made it a household name to the Wii with a modern twist; it will be the first in the series to feature four-player simultaneous multiplayer.

 This simple tweak to the formula breaths new life into the old classic by adding intriguing new cooperative and competitive elements to the game, as anyone who has ever lost hours to the DS version’s multiplayer mode knows all too well.

Nintendo’s E3 press conference seemed like a pretty inauspicious, but that may be because in many of the games announced can’t be fully grasped until they’ve been played, and it sounds like this is most definitely case with New Super Mario Bros. Wii’s addictive multiplayer experience.

Check out the trailer here. 

Keep an eye on these titles boys and girls; they look like the real deal. That’s all I have for now, geeklings, though I may return soon with a little more E3 breakdown. 

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