the artistry and psychology of gaming


E3 2012 – Gaming Symmetry Highlights

E3 2012 – Gaming Symmetry Highlights

E3 has wrapped, and frankly, we’re happy it’s over. You may have caught Mike Siciliano’s review of each of the press conferences, and perhaps have seen Ali Nazifpour’s general thoughts on the conference as a whole, but before we wrap our E3 coverage, we’d like to go over one last thing; the games themselves.

You know; games! Those things that were seen between awkward stage banters, Usher concerts, and endless developer introductions. E3 gave us a lot of them. Some games we knew about, while others were complete surprises. Judging by E3, we’ll have a lot to look forward to in the coming years (along with a lot of bows, it seems; seriously was Hawkeye being in The Avengers that big of a door opener!)

Below, our Gaming Symmetry authors have chosen to write about a few of their own favorite games and projects covered last week. Feel free to agree, disagree, or add your own thoughts in on the games in the comments section.

Assassin’s Creed III

Ali Nazifpour: Well the series had to move to America someday. And although I myself had thought it would be at the time of Civil War, the Revolution is even better. Discarding unintelligent remarks such as “but were there any buildings at that time in America? So are they now going to just use trees?” and wondering how uneducated the public can be, I’m looking forward to shaking the hands of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and James Madison (hopefully). They are some of the few people who I’m willing to kill for even in the real life.

Ethan Sheaffer: As enamored as I was with Assassin’s Creed II, I dropped the series after that. The once-a-year schedule of AC2 Part Two and AC2 Part Three (read: Brotherhood and Revelations) just didn’t sit well with me. But with a new protagonist, naval battles (!!!), seasonal and weather effects, and presumably a conclusion to the framing story (it would be kind of embarrassing if they kept going on about the end of the world after December 2012), this may be the game to rekindle my interest in the franchise. There’s just one thing I’m worried about: were there any buildings at that time in America, or are they now going to just use trees?

Agni’s Philosophy: Final Fantasy Real Time Tech Demo

David “BGH” Kempe: While none of us here at Gaming Symmetry live and die by the number of polygons on screen, or think that Bloom counts a gameplay mechanic, we’re not opposed to striking visuals when we see them. This week, Square Enix chose to unveil the power of the Luminous Studio Engine, by creating a real time demo using a fresh property (a smart move, as people are still clamoring for that Final Fantasy 7 tech demo to become a reality). Still, it would be interesting to see if this new property becomes something else (it does have it’s own dedicated website at this point), and even if it doesn’t, the demo certainly provided a great look at what we’ll be able to expect for visuals come next generation.

Beyond: Two Souls

David “BGH” Kempe: Beyond looks like it checks all the right notes for a David Cage extravaganza; I just hope there will be a game to play somewhere in it!

Ali Nazifpour: It’s the same story every time. A David Cage game makes you so excited you can’t wait until it comes out, and when it comes out it’s a revolutionary masterpiece but still deeply flawed. Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain were games great enough to keep you on lookout for Cage’s new games. The looks are impressive, Ellen Page is there, and sci-fi and thriller elements are there. Cage is an experimentalist and I hope he goes on the road he has been so far- minimalist gameplay in favor of a flexible plot.

Ethan Sheaffer: As much as I love Ellen Page, I have mixed thoughts about this game so far. I think this is because so little information about the game was revealed at E3. For instance, I really wish the trailer would have focused more on the story, rather than graphics. The first few minutes of the trailer, with the cop talking to an unresponsive Ellen Page and absolutely nothing else happening (there’s a fine line between a slow-burn scene to build mood and the glacial pace present at the beginning of the trailer) seemed to exist solely to show us how much the people look like people. I get it, the graphics are pretty, but if I want to look at things that look like people, I’ll look at people.

Bioshock Infinite

Ali Nazifpour: We have to get over the fact that this is not really a sequel to our beloved game. Let me tell you that unless something goes horribly wrong, this game is going to be a masterpiece. Ken Levine who is maybe the most political game creator of our times is targeting the conservatives and Republicans again, as the game is told to be a criticism on American Exceptionalism and based on the historical events from 19th century to the recent Occupy protests. The gameplay is similar to Bioshock in that you use a combination of weapons and cool abilities, but the environment which is in the sky and not under water is going to play a more active role in the game. There are going to be also complex moral choices.

Ethan Sheaffer: I got super-excited for BioShock 2, and was a tad underwhelmed when I actually played the game. Then I discovered that BioShock 2 was developed by a largely different team than the original, and that this is the game that the original BioShock team started working on after the release of the first game. Now I am eagerly anticipating Infinite.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate

Alice Kojiro:  E3 was an interesting beast this year; everything that I thought would interest me looked horrid, and things about which I thought I’d care very little really gripped me.  I thought the Wii U would be an exciting new console, but it turned out to be a trainwreck with little in the way of decent games.  New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Paper Mario: Sticker Star should’ve been exciting new titles in subseries that I’ve loved in the past, but both have been reduced to gimmicky garbage.  That’s why I was so surprised to see that a spin-off of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the game that lost my interest in Castlevania, looked pretty good to me, not to mention that this particular spin-off has two subtitles.  My first impression, formed during the opening cutscenes, was that this was Konami’s response to fans’ outcries that Lords of Shadow wasn’t a Castlevania game, and that the Castlevania label had been slapped on at the last minute to try to make it sell.  Shoehorning Simon and Trevor Belmont into the story seemed like a desperate attempt to retcon Lords of Shadow into the cannon.  However, the gameplay looks pretty solid; it almost seems like a 2.5D version of Lament of Innocence meets my favorite Metrovania, Harmony of Dissonance, with a bit of God of War sprinkled in for some deeper combat options.  Oh yeah, and it has four playable characters, including Alucard, who, if his portrait is any indication, is pretty as ever.  It looks a bit on the dull and gritty side in the visual department, but still manages to be more visually appealing than the likes of Dracula X Chronicles and Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth, at least thus far.  Only time will tell if I’ll still care about this when it comes out, but for now, I have my eye on this one.

Dead Space 3

Ali Nazifpour: So we have a new protagonist who is a soldier and not an engineer, and a new plot, which either includes revenge or saving the family. There are two reasons I’ll be buying this game. First, I’m a great fan of the series in a way that I’m hooked for life, and secondly, we’re going to learn more about the religion and that’s great.


Ali Nazifpour: Steampunk, that’s the key word here. Watching the videos, there’s a genuine steampunk feel to the atmosphere, and the game is being published by Bethesda. The graphics are awesome. The plot sounds awesome. Plus the lead designer was on the same team with Warren Specter and the game follows the choice and consequence model of gameplay. I’m anxiously waiting.

Ethan Sheaffer: Dishonored seems to be taking the best parts of Deus Ex, BioShock, and Half-Life 2, with a bit of Thief and Assassin’s Creed thrown in for good measure. Even if the result is “only” the sum of its parts, this will be far from a disappointment.

DmC: Devil May Cry

Ethan Sheaffer: Bawwwwwww, Dante’s hair isn’t white. While I’m actually digging the new aesthetic, and the gameplay looks very fun, I refuse to waste my time with any reboot in which the protagonist’s hair isn’t the same color as before. (Thank you Christopher Nolan for keeping Bruce Wayne’s hair brown!)

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion

Alice Kojiro: After Nintendo’s main press conference, focusing primarily on the Wii U was a colossal letdown, I had the bar set pretty low for the 3DS conference.  Following repeated mispronunciations of Pokémon, I saw Disney get on the stage.  I hate Disney.  I hate their movies, I hate their image, I hate their 3D animation right down the expressions on the characters’ faces and the way they move, I hate their humor and how the new Lego game seems to be attempting to emulate it, I hate how people legitimize their children’s movies as deep and worthwhile cinema for adults, and I hate their hidden messages.  Oh, and Kingdom Hearts.  I continued keeping an ear open, dispassionately playing what had been the most exciting game of any of the shows thus far, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on my PSP, and I heard this wonderful set of words: “Castle of Illusion has influenced every single game I’ve ever worked on.”  Sleep Mode!  Castle of Illusion hails from the days when Capcom and Sega still had the Disney license and its games were excellent.  I watched the gameplay video, and realized that it had much to do with one of my favorite Mickey Mouse games of all time, but with some interesting new gameplay mechanics that didn’t seem too gimmicky.  I’m not sold in the Wii U just yet, but the 3DS might just be worth another look.  Finally, something from this year’s E3 that was more engaging than the three loads of laundry I was doing while watching it.

Far Cry 3

Ethan Sheaffer: Running around a tropical archipelago in an open-world first-person shooter was intriguing enough. However, the content shown at E3 for Far Cry 3 shows that the rabbit hole goes even deeper than that. The story looks to be quite strong with some incredibly dark themes and a trippy hallucination sequence or two. The four-player co-op looks great, and it’ll even offer two-player split-screen for those of us that like playing games with our real-life friends. Huzzah!

Hitman: Absolution

Ali Nazifpour: Hitman series has one of the best gameplays ever, and they are more entertaining than the vast majority of the games. The sense of completing a mission with stealth is amazing. Blood Money was even more amazing because it put the beloved Agent 47 at risk, and added a sense of suspense and tension to the stealthy story as well. Now Absolution seems to bring in even more tension, and the battle with sexy nuns was an awesome trailer.

The Last of Us

David “BGH” Kempe: Sony was right to end their conference with The Last of Us, although it was somewhat confusing the way they did it. Admittedly, when I heard tranquil sound effects and saw nothing but darkness to start off, I had thought we were finally receiving new info on The Last Guardian (seriously Team Ico, for Sony’s sake I hope you guys aren’t collecting annual salaries). Further to that, once the game was visible, I spent the first few minutes thinking I was watching yet another Uncharted game, but I guess that just comes with Naughty Dog’s territory at this point. Upon correction (the profanity certainly helped differentiate the property a bit better!), I quickly got into the game itself, as the tense action and intriguing play mechanics looked to be pretty impressive. I’m not really sure why we went into that house to kill all those guys, but boy, did we ever!

Ali Nazifpour: To me, the best way to describe this game is Enslaved 2. Normally, I hate games where you escort defenseless people- but there are two exceptions, ICO and Enslaved. It seems that this game is going to replicate all that was great about Enslaved, there is going to be a real dynamic relationship between the guy and the girl, and there is going to be a convincing apocalyptic atmosphere, and the gameplay is supposedly similar to Uncharted. If they pull it off we have a masterpiece.

Ethan Sheaffer: A lot of people are saying this looks exactly like Uncharted, and I don’t see why. There is no regenerating health, scavenging looks to be much more important, an inventory system allows for limited crafting, and the borderline hyperbolic set pieces seem to be replaced by more realistic (relatively) and gritty struggles. The only similarities are that the characters are very well-written, and the graphics and animation are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The debut trailer was a little disappointing to me because zombies have been done to (un)death in video games, but this is quickly climbing to the top of my Most Anticipated list.


David “BGH” Kempe: Alright, I admit that I have no idea what this game is going to be; at the moment it’s coming off as some sort of futuristic Marble Madness game. From what we know, it involves some sort of orb with a bunch of other shapes floating around, and that it’s for Kinect. Hopefully Matter will make the device do just that, as Kinect still has a lot to prove in order to become a significant gaming platform.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Ali Nazifpour: People complained that Raiden is too sissy, and homophobes complained that he seems to be gay. Now it seems that Raiden is going to kick a million kinds of ass. He’s the successor to Grey Fox and Olga as the cool cyborg ninja, and this time you are too. Ever since I played Fruit Ninja on Android I fantasized about a game which does that to people. And now, here it is! You can cut your enemies in all the ways imaginable. It’s like Tenchu but you have control over the gruesome dismemberment. I’m dying with joy.

Ethan Sheaffer: This seems to be one of the more controversial games at this year’s E3, largely because Revengeance is ditching the stealth-based gameplay of the Metal Gear Solid series in favor of the stylish hack-and-slash gameplay that serves as Platinum Games’ wheelhouse. (They even dropped the word “Solid” from the title.) Personally, I don’t mind at all: the Solid series got an excellent conclusion with Guns of the Patriots, and I’d rather they try something new with the universe rather than try to shoehorn more plot into a completed story arc with the exact same gameplay. (Also I hope that a game with the word “Revengeance” in the title knows not to take itself too seriously.) Now I just wish God of War would follow Rising‘s example and let sleeping gods lie.

Of Orcs and Men

Ali Nazifpour: All I can say is that this game reverses the normal cliche and makes humans the bad guys and puts you in the role of an Orc. The game might turn to be a fitting commentary on racism.

Project P-100

David “BGH” Kempe: For a need to really put your best foot forward in promoting the abilities of the Wii U, I’m completely baffled why Nintendo chose to omit this game from their presentation. P-100 (which seems to come off as a superhero version of Pikmin) looks like a blast, seems to incorporate a variety of interesting control mechanics using the Wii U gamepad, has an entertaining zany atmosphere about it, and is being developed by the ever-reliable Platinum Games (MadWorld, Bayonetta). Everyone needs to demand more info about this game before it becomes the next generation’s Project H.A.M.M.E.R.

Skyrim: Dawnguard

Ali Nazifpour: It’s Skyrim. It deals with a mysterious race of vampires which you can join or an underground band dedicated to kill them. You can develop awesome new abilities. It might create a dilemma between supporting the bad guys and have enough cool powers, or join the good guys and be weak, or it might be morally grey and make both sides balanced, or maybe both. Plus, it seems to be an Expansion Pack (remember those good old days?) than a lazy DLC. Anyway, it means more Skyrim and therefore hail to it. I just hope there is also some horse armor thrown in.

David “BGH” Kempe: As Ali says; it’s Skyrim, and it looks great. Unfortunately, I’m somewhat underwhelmed. New abilities are nice, but with only an estimated 15 hours in the expansion at a third of the price of the full release, I’m not convinced that it’s entirely worthwhile.

South Park: The Stick of Truth

Ali Nazifpour: To me, the best thing ever created on TV is South Park. The series is much more than a raunchy rude comedy; it targets the heart of culture and it becomes the chronology of the faults of our time, it’s satire at its best. It’s going to be an RPG no less, which is one of my favorite genres, Trey Parker and Matt Stone themselves are writing the script for the game, overseeing the project, and providing the voices of the characters; and the game is being made by Obsidian Entertainment who gave us the masterpiece Fallout: New Vegas. The style is faithful to the show’s 2D animation and the trailer was awesome. As to my personal opinion, this was the game of the show.

Ethan Sheaffer: I was a bit skeptical about this at first (as I am with just about every licensed game) but after seeing Matt and Trey’s introduction and the trailer, I’m sold. This looks like an authentic South Park experience and not just a shameless cash-in, with just as much attention paid to the details as on the actual show.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Ali Nazifpour: Sam Fisher is getting more and more violent in his every game. The last game, Conviction, revolutionized the methodical style of stealth to introduce a new violent style which included a little bit less thinking and little bit more cracking skulls on the ground, and it was a much needed fresh air in the series. Now this one follows the suit of the fifth game but it seems that it has gotten REALLY violent this time. Now we have blood and stabbing people in the eye. Anyways, I have missed our dear old Sam and I have been expecting to play more Conviction style games so it’s on my “to play” list.

Soul Sacrifice

Ali Nazifpour: Keiji Inafune’s new game seems to be really interesting and present a new radical choice system; so let me quote this interview to highlight interesting things: “I wanted the theme to be sacrifice. If you want to win a certain amount of power, you would need to make sacrifices. You’re asked to make hard choices every step of the way. Are you going to sacrifice your friend in order to defeat an enemy, a certain really strong boss? Or, ultimately, could you need to sacrifice your own life? It’s the drama and the emotions that he wanted to present. It’s something that could be interesting if it’s incorporated into gameplay.” Seems an interesting premise. Of course, my budget does not allow me to buy PS Vita anytime soon so good luck to those of you who can.

Tomb Raider

Ali Nazifpour: I have never been a fan of Tomb Raider series although I have played them all, because I am very sensitive on the protagonist’s character and Lara Croft never convinced me as an interesting protagonist. She was just awesome, without any flaw or any real humanity. She was hot and she kicked ass and that’s all fine, but my favorite heroes all have a sense of villainy as well which makes them more human, as in Max Payne who is troubled with existential angst, Konoko in Oni who is haunted by question of her identity and Nina Williams who has a heart of stone. But thankfully, in the reboot Lara Croft seems to be joining the gang. She is now a normal girl who is trapped in an impossible situation and is driven to violence, and the game is dark and gritty. This is going to be a great improvement for the series.

David “BGH” Kempe: Honestly, I’m not as excited for Tomb Raider as I was last year. I’m all for a demonstration of girl power, but I’m not convinced that it’s what we’re ultimately getting from this one. From the trailers and demo shown over the last week, they really beat the hell out of poor Lara. From all the impalements, panting, shouts, bruises, and hard impacts Ms. Croft was subjected to for our enjoyment, this game looks like it’s bordering on torture porn territory rather than a straight-up action adventure. I’m a bit concerned for Lara’s own actions as well, since I’m not sure if sneaking and knife gameplay is really needed for the franchise. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong though, as I still would like to see this project succeed.

Ethan Sheaffer: A lot of people are complaining about sequels at E3 changing  the gameplay of the series (“Remember when Splinter Cell used to be a stealth game?” “Remember when Dead Space used to be scary?”) but the changes to Tomb Raider aren’t drawing as much ire. I think this is because the Tomb Raider franchise desperately needed new life breathed into it,  with the most recent entries being rather lackluster. In a way, this will probably be the series’ Casino Royale. A ton of recent games have been pushing for a more “dark and gritty” aesthetic to appeal to the “Rated M for Manly” demographic, but I think here, it’s being done for the right reasons. Also, it’s about time that Lara Croft evolved into a three-dimensional character whose character traits encapsulate more than just the contents of her bra.

Watch Dogs

Ali Nazifpour: One of the coolest things about Deus Ex: Human Revolution was its hacking. Now this is a game in which gameplay is based on hacking. You can use hacking to steal information, or destroy stuff, or cause disorder. It seems that the gameplay is going to be complex and include various possibilities of hacking and its consequences. Of course, I have my reservations. The gameplay might end up boring if you are not free in your method and you are simply asked to hack this and that, I hope the creators don’t follow their own game- Assassin’s Creed– as an example and follow in the footsteps of games like Hitman. The main character is clearly not a hero and I think the plot may turn out to be very relevant in the post-9/11 world.

Ethan Sheaffer: As far as I’m concerned, this was Game of the Show. Watch Dogs looks so intriguing, so complex, so ambitious, that it almost seems too good to be true. I still have a ton of questions about this game. What other creative applications will hacking have? Why is the player character so mad at that guy who looks like David Cross? Does the shift to a second player at the end of the presentation represent a persistent online mode, like in Demon’s Souls? Can I hack into the television and make MTV cancel Jersey Shore? Only time will tell.

David “BGH” Kempe: Easily the biggest surprise of the show, and something that should considerably boost Ubisoft’s IP library as offering a direct competitor to Rockstar, whose next big game was conspicuously absent from the show. As noted, there are still many questions left to answer as far as how typical gameplay will go, but so far all signs point to a hit. Hopefully, the increased focus on technology in an open world setting will expand on gameplay possibilities, rather than consolidate them.

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