Too busy to dig through all of the E3 2012 press conferences for nuggets of actual news? Here are the highlights:
The big news for Xbox 360 this year is Xbox SmartGlass, a technology that appears to puncture the main selling point of the Wii U. Basically, it lets you control or interact with aspects of your Xbox using your smartphone or tablet (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 8 all supported). If you already own one of these (or were looking for that little push to get one), you'll be set - though all features may not be available for all devices.
Demos focused on controlling TV shows and movies (plus accessing interactive information/features while watching), Web browsing and playing games like football where you could select plays on the SmartGlass device. A movie you were watching on a portable device can be quickly transferred to your TV (though probably only for movies acquired from certain supported sources).
Other top news from the Microsoft press conference included:
- Internet Explorer will launch on Xbox later this year. It will apparently require a SmartGlass device to control.
- New entertainment apps are on the way including NBA, NHL, expanded ESPN, Paramount Movies, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Rhapsody, Slacker, Univision and more (full list)
- Halo 4 - shipping out November 6 - replaces the popular Firefight mode with Spartan Ops, which will deliver weekly co-op episodic missions for up to four players (apparently for free).
- Gears of War: Judgment, launching in 2013, adds Overrun mode, a sort of capture the base with some new twists. Oh, and there's a new story that seems to involve the star characters being imprisoned.
- Ascend: New Gods looks all polished and action-y but it's actually a strategy game that you can play on or even across Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7 when it hits in 2013. It's asynchronous (like Words with Friends), which means you can take a turn and then come back later after your opponent has made a move.
- FIFA '13 and Madden NFL '13 both feature voice support that lets you change the game on the fly by using audibles to alter formations, call new plays, or request a pass.
- Forza Horizon appears to be more of an open-world racing game, similar to Test Drive Unlimited though probably without the mini-MMO stylings.
- Dance Central 3 adds Crew Throwdown mode, where up to four dancers per team can compete in dance battles and mini-games.
Nintendo failed to reveal price or launch date for the upcoming Wii U, and generally underwhelmed by most accounts. But they did reveal one potential system seller: Lego City Undercover. (Point of order: It seems every Wii U game will have to end with a "U" or a "U" word. You'll get Used to it.) Anyway, this Lego game is being dubbed Grand Theft Lego; basically, it's a kid-friendly open world action/adventure game from Traveler's Tales that might be worth the price of admission to Wii U, if we ever learn what that price is. Oh, and apparently, your Wii saves and downloable games will be transferrable to Wii U. Phew!
Here are the Nintendo show standouts:
- Nintendo Land is a collection of 12 mini-games featuring many classic Nintendo characters, such as Donkey Kong and Link from The Legend of Zelda, that may or may not be the pack-in title for Wii U. It would make sense if it does, since it showcases many of the new Wii U gameplay dynamics.
- New Super Mario Bros. U is the Mario launch title for Wii U. Up to four players can use Wii-motes to control characters (Mario, Luigi, etc) while a fifth GamePad player can help those in the side-scrolling arena.
- Pikmin 3 is coming to Wii U. So is Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, Mass Effect 3, Rayman: Legends, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Sing (karaoke with lyrics appearing on the gamepad), Wii Fit U and ZombiU.
- The old Wii is not dead yet. Epic Mickey 2 launches November 18 and promises co-op play and greatly improved gameplay.
- Paper Mario is coming to Nintendo 3DS. One of the few mentions of the portable.
To its credit, Sony focused more on games than its console competitors - but lacked any major announcements or unexpected reveals. And The Last Guardian is still missing in action.
Here's what we did learn from Sony:
- Want more from your PS3? The first interactive Wonderbook (which uses the PlayStation Eye to make pages interactive) is being penned by Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling. It's called Book of Spells and you can use the Move controller as a wand.
- New first-party titles The Last of Us (Naughty Dog's heir apparent to the Uncharted series) and Beyond: Two Souls (from Quantic Dream, the maker of Heavy Rain) both star virtual versions of Ellen Page (Inception, Hard Candy) and look compelling. Neither has a release date yet, but The Last of Us is confirmed to be at least 2013.
- PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale may be a blatant knock-off of Super Smash Bros., but it has Nathan Drake and Big Daddy from BioShock. Other characters include Fat Princess, Kratos, Sly Cooper and Sweet Tooth.
- God of War: Ascension is coming March 12, 2013. Kratos, killing. 'Nuf said, right?
- Sports Champions 2 for Move includes boxing, bowling, golf, skiing, tennis plus more archery and supposedly will NOT require calibration.
- LittleBigPlanet Karting. Wasn't this already released as ModNation Racers?!
- Sounds Shapes, from the makers of popular mobile adventure Sword & Sworcery, will feature cross-platform play on PS3 and Vita when it arrives August 7.
- Assassin's Creed III: Liberation for PlayStation Vita is different from the regular Assassin's Creed III. It features a female protagonist and 18th century New Orleans setting. It is due October 31 with or without the newly minted white Vita. If that's not enough to make your Vita happy, PS1 Classics are coming this summer including Arc the Lad, Final Fantasy VII, JetMoto, and Tomb Raider. Also, Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified is scheduled for holiday release.
- Sony expanded the PlayStation Plus program to include a number of A-list games, including Infamous 2, Just Cause 2, LittleBigPlanet 2, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, Saints Row 2, Virtua Fighter 5 and Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. Reminder: You have to maintain your Plus subscription to retain access to free titles, but at $5/month that's a pretty decent rental rate.
PC and Multi-platform
- Trey Parker and Matt Stone introduced South Park: The Stick of Truth at the Microsoft press conference, but it's due for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in March 2013. This South Park RPG, written and performed by the creators, is designed to look more like a playable episode of the TV show with you portraying the new kid in town.
- Assassin's Creed III (the regular, non-Vita one) is coming to PC, PS3, Wii U and Xbox 360 on October 30. In addition to its already revealed American Revolution backdrop, we've learned there are naval battles where you steer a ship and shoot cannons at your enemies. Pretty unexpected turn for the series, but it does look fun.
- Watch Dogs (PC, PS3 and Xbox 360) is a brand new open world title that puts you in the shoes of a hacker who can quickly learn the secrets of the people populating the world around him. Alas, it's not expected to release before 2014.
- Counter-Strike Global Offensive is due in August for Mac, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. It's both a new game and an HD update to classic maps.
- Splinter Cell: Blacklist (due spring 2013 for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360) seems a bit more like Assassin's Creed than the latest Sam Fisher title (it also sounds different, due to the replacement of Michael Ironside in the lead role). The Xbox 360 version will support voice commands.
- The Tomb Raider reboot, due March 2013, seems to reduce Lara Croft's proportions to a more realistic size but generated some controversy by adding a rape backstory (not the mention the near constant moaning as she's pummeled by her environment, also heard at last year's E3). Despite all that, the game looks promising and the demo showed off a new weapon, a bow with flaming arrows. Katniss Croft? Why not.
- Far Cry 3 includes up to four-player co-op (on all platforms including PC and Xbox 360) plus exclusive free DLC for the PS3 version. The game looks more risque than past iterations thanks to the provocative trailer that was released.
- Dead Space 3 (for PS3 and Xbox 360) seems to be a break from its single-player survival horror roots, thanks largely to the addition of co-op and the addition of human enemies. The good news is that the second player disappears (not replaced with an AI character) if played alone, so there's hope. We'll see when it's released in February 2013.
- Resident Evil 6 seems to be up to its old tricks, with plenty of Quick Time Events (those quick button presses and stick movies you need to make to avoid getting creamed).
- Star Wars: 1313 looks to be a mature third-person shooter set in a seedy level of Coruscant (apparently the place has some 5000 levels, but you'll be playing on super unlucky 1313). No word on release date or even platforms.