This past week E3 returned to our lives, filling our twitter feeds with news about all of the best and worst gaming has to offer. We had the opportunity to check out some of the biggest film related titles on display and narrowed them down to our top five to keep an eye on. Once again, Warner Brothers Interactive takes the big prize, no surprise as it's, you know, Warner Brothers, but every game on this list has the potential to be exceptions to the "any game based on a movie sucks" rule.
5. 'Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes'
Following up with the success of the first "Lego Batman," WB has opened up and expanded the universe to include 50 characters from all across the DC Universe. The open world game even allows characters like Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Superman the ability to fly! Each character's powers and fighting style reflect them specifically (Wonder Woman throws her tiara like a batarang, Robin fights like the acrobat he is, Green Lantern can manipulate translucent green objects, Superman has heat vision, the Flash is SUPER FAST, which is EPIC FUN etc.) The main storyline involves the Joker and Lex Luthor working together to destroy Gotham City, forcing Batman and Robin to call in some friends to help defend the city. The opening scene, where Joker and Lex meet for the first time, was part of the playable demo. And by scene, I do mean full actual scene where things happen. For the first time ever, a Lego game will feature full voice acting, dialogue and a complete, original story.
Since "Lego Batman 2" is open world, your character is able to explore the city on foot, flying through the air, or via the Batmobile, Batwing or Batboat, following the main storyline, or taking on side missions like solving crimes or completing challenges along the way. While it feels like any other Lego game to play in-level, the new features like flying are a welcome addition, and having such an open world to explore adds a very cool dimension to the experience. Especially for fans of these characters, getting to see a new story and getting to play with all the powers of these beloved superheros should be a blast. The game comes to Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS and 3DS June 15th.
4. 'Star Trek'
After being announced at last year's E3, "Star Trek," based in the rebooted J.J. Abrams universe, had a full gameplay demo this year, showcased in 3D. We saw a sequence where Kirk and Spock beamed down to New Vulcan and encountered the just announced main enemy of the game, the Gorn. The game takes place between 2009's "Star Trek" and the sequel being released next year, fully in canon, written by the award winning video game scribe Marianna Krawczyk, alongside "Trek" screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, boasting voice work from the entire cast. I couldn't help but giggle at the enemy reveal, noting that doing the Gorn in the video game bridge between movies was probably a lot cheaper than creating the giant lizard like creatures for the movies themselves.
What makes the game really special is the asymmetrical co-op play between Kirk and Spock. The player has a completely different experience depending on character choice, as Spock will be the one to analyze the scene as Kirk generally takes a more combative approach. An example of this was shown in the demo where Spock figured out the weak point in the main boss, as Kirk took the offensive in defeating it. But don't worry, we saw Spock do a Vulcan Grip and Mind Meld as well. He's still sufficiently badass. Thanks to the writing, the voice acting, and the all too accurate renderings of the actors, the game feels completely authentic. Especially walking through the Enterprise in 3-D, you really feel a part of the crew and like you are immersed in this environment, and the integrative cut scenes create a very cinematic playthrough. Although the world building and asymmetrical co-op concept are all very exciting, the boss battle we saw seemed a little repetitive. Still, we can only hope that if this much energy has gone into making the game an authentic canon experience, that the gameplay will be equally up to par. "Star Trek" will be available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC and will be released in early 2013.
3. 'Injustice: Gods Among Us'
Another offering from Warner Brothers, "Injustice: Gods Among Us," is as far away from being released as "Lego Batman 2" is close, and although it features many of the same characters, it is more or less the polar opposite type of game. The genre is fighting, pitting DC characters against each other in various well known DCU environments. The designs of each character have been updated and polished, switching out latex for armor, with special attention paid to lighting and detail. Have you *seen* Harley Quinn's outfit? I know what I'm doing next Halloween! Each hero is equipped with their classic moves and interacts with each combatant and environment uniquely, creating a totally different fighting experience with each combination.
In this game, environment choice is just as important as character choice. Where Batman may Batarang a car till it explodes on you, Solomon Grundy will grab it and throw it at your face. In the Batcave, hitting a stored bat suit may cause grenades to fall out and a big red button may activate the Batmobile to shoot at your enemy. The environment acts as a weapon just as much as heat vision or punching. It also falls apart as the fight goes on, making the surroundings look like a bunch of superheros really did just kick the crap out of each other. Each location also has two or three settings within it, allowing for even more variety, keeping the game fresh and exciting. Although WB couldn't get into specifics, there will be a story framing the brawl, from comic book writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, who also wrote "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe," and while 24 characters doesn't begin to scratch the surface of the DC Universe, it's still a healthy number that will provide endless options for unique battle. For you DC fans out there who turn your nose up at the Lego games, this will be the choice for you.
2. 'Lego Lord of the Rings'
I know, another Lego game in the top five what am I, ten years old? But hear me out. "Lego Lord of the Rings" takes the Lego video game franchise to a whole new level. First, rather than have divided levels, the whole game plays out uninterrupted as you quest through Middle Earth. You can still jump to other levels if you need to, and go back to other levels to do things like buy special items you couldn't afford the first time around, but in general, the game plays out like the movies. Even cooler, the game uses the exact dialogue track from the films, but without losing the Lego humor and quirk in the silent moments. It creates an experience that really feels like controlling aspects of the film, just in Lego form, more so than any of the previous titles. You play as the entire fellowship all at once, so you and your co-op partner can switch to anyone at will, depending on what the puzzles and challenges call for. When the fellowship divides, something called Palantir Mode pops up. I saw this in action as I played Gandalf fighting the Balrog while falling in the Mines of Moria. A Palantir comes up and my co-op partner then controlled the action still happening on the bridge with the rest of the Fellowship. When playing solo, you simply play that part of the level after defeating the Balrog as Gandalf, so you can either follow the exact timeline of the film, or use the magic of an interactive, dynamic platform to act out events that took place at the same time, at the same time.
The game is also RPG-lite, each character with a wheel containing 8 slots for collected items and various weapons that come in handy at different times. In this game you also have the ability to upgrade weapons, and and can use Mithril to forge some yourself. The powers of each minifig, like in all great Lego games, mirror the strengths and weaknesses of the characters. Legolas has his bow and arrow and can jump higher than everyone, Gimli can be tossed, Frodo's sword glows when Orcs are near, and so on. With 80 playable characters, the possibilities seem endless. This game is also the best looking of the Lego series, as not everything is made from Legos, and all of the background art looks intricate and authentic to the world of Middle Earth. Expect to see the game released for all major platforms this Fall.
1. 'Star Wars 1313'
The top secret LucasArts game was shown off behind closed doors during E3, in a room designed to look and feel like a spaceship, readying us for what could be a breakout hit next year. "1313" will be the first Mature minded "Star Wars" video game, as you play the part of a lethal Bounty Hunter, taking place between "Revenge of the Sith" and "A New Hope." The character and world graphics were the most impressive of the entire show and for good reason. LucasArts, ILM, Skywalker Sound and LucasFilm Animation all partnered together on the various aspects of the game including lighting, camera (the lead artist was on camera during "Return of the Jedi!"), physics, performance capture and more. Speaking of which, the performance capture aspect is truly remarkable. The actors were in full suits, allowing their faces, bodies and voices to be captured all at once, even allowing room for improv and the result is stunning. Almost photorealism with a side of uncanny valley. Additionally impressive, following in the footsteps of something like "Uncharted," "1313" features completely seamless transitions from cinematics to game play, and everything exists on the same graphical plane.
Further stepping far away from former "Star Wars" games, in "1313," there is no Force, just agile combat and death defying platforming as your bounty hunter travels to subterranean metropolis of 1313, many levels below Coruscant. Developers promise sinister characters, darker stories and shades of grey whereas past Star Wars titles stayed very black and white. Although the hero (or rather, anti-hero) of the game has yet to be revealed, fans across the world are crossing their fingers for a Boba Fett origin story. Currently, the game will only be available for PC, but I can't see any reason why it won't end up on Xbox 360 and PS3 (or Xbox 720 and PS4 according to rumors) when it's released within the next two years.