The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, is a convention you have to attend in order to learn how to attend it. Like a day spent at Disneyland, there’s simply too much to see and play at the gaming showcase, and any attempt to stuff one’s schedule to the brim would be ill-advised from a physical, mental, and sanitary standpoint.
Instead, E3 beckons you to roam its vast halls and appreciate its full-throttle extravagance. Where else are you going to witness Hulk Hogan signing autographs, Verne Troyer zooming by on a scooter, an orchestra playing music from Lord of the Rings, the most friendly looking dragon ever, and whatever the heck these guys are? Perhaps Comic-Con, which outshines E3 in terms of star power and do-it-yourself costuming. But E3 reigns when it comes to geektacular eye candy and eardrum-awakening loudness. (My colleague Adam Vary’s 10-step process for recreating E3 at home gets it just right.) Plus, as far as I’m aware, Comic-Con hasn’t been endorsed by Jesus, so there’s that.
But the snazzy booths and scintillating video screens are merely the set dressings for the main attraction — the games. So here are the three titles that made the biggest impression on me during my second day at E3:
Batman: Arkham City: This is the highly anticipated sequel to 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, a game I admit I haven’t played — an admission that, in some corners, may be the equivalent of a movie buff not seeing Citizen Kane. Suffice it to say, Arkham City made me realize what I’ve been missing. The sequel expands the game’s universe from an island-bound criminal asylum to a richly detailed city that’s five times the size. In the game’s story, Gotham’s slums have been transformed into Arkham City, a massive prison that houses many of the Dark Knight’s most notorious adversaries.
The city looks incredible. When I started my demo, Batman was perched on the top of a tall building, and I took a moment to look around and appreciate just how much care went into crafting the Gothic architecture. But Batman had things to do, so I was soon gliding in the air and using my grappling hook to traverse the city — an experience the game pulls off with a measure of grace. I also got to play as Catwoman, and disposing of a pack of goons while cracking a whip does wonders for one’s self-esteem. (due Oct. 18)
BioShock Infinite: If video games were awarded Oscars, BioShock Infinite would be a lock for Best Art Direction. That isn’t a surprise considering its two predecessors, BioShock and BioShock 2, were set in a visually stunning underwater utopia called Rapture. Infinite, however, takes to the skies, as you navigate the floating steampunk city of Columbia. In the hands-off demo, a Pinkerton agent named Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth — the woman he rescued — attempt to evade a posse of baddies and Songbird, a hulking avian robot.
The game is set in 1912 in an alternative universe, and I want to mention one moment in the demo that instantly made me adore the game. [Warning: spoilers] So, Elizabeth possesses magical powers that she doesn’t fully comprehend yet. At one point, she comes across a badly injured horse and attempts to use her paranormal abilities to revive the animal. Instead, she seemingly opens a temporary wormhole to another dimension. And what do they see in that parallel world? A modern-looking city street with a movie theater showing Revenge of the Jedi (a working title for Return of the Jedi). Tears for Fears’ 1985 song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” plays softly in the background. Doc Jensen, care to explain? (2012)
Kinect Fun Labs: This downloadable collection of motion-controlled mini-games launched Monday on Xbox Live and offers a glimpse of how the Kinect sensor may be used by developers in the future. One gadget called Kinect Me takes a photo of you and then creates your own Xbox avatar. Another game, Bobble Head, transforms your face into a moveable bobblehead. But my favorite, Googly Eyes, allows you to scan any object you own and turn it into a cartoon character that you can manipulate by moving your body. I used my reporter’s notebook to create this little guy. I shall call him Pad-awan, and he shall be mine.