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VentureBeat's most anticipated games of E3 2011 (take our poll)

The E3 video game trade show will draw about 45,000 attendees to the Los Angeles Convention Center next week. We aren’t sure of all of the big titles being announced, but we attended the pre-E3 judge trip a couple of weeks ago as part of the Game Critics Awards group and we have a good idea of what the big games will be.

We’ll be excited by the announcements that take us by surprise and we’ll revisit this list after the show is over. But for now, this is what we consider to be the games that we are most eager to see and play. There are many sequels on this list. At the same time, we appreciate the indies and the originals for the creativity they bring.

Here’s VentureBeat’s picks for the most anticipated games of E3 2011. Check out our list from last year for fun. And check out our preview on how E3 will show the video game industry in transition.

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1. Journey
Developer: Thatgamecompany
Publisher: Sony
Platform: PlayStation Network
Timing: TBA
This game, pictured above, is one of the strangest you’ll ever see. But that’s not surprising coming from Thatgamecompany, which delivered the very strange Flower and Flow games. These developers — led by Jenova Chen, Kellee Santiago and Robin Hunicke — are known for creating beautiful environments and unusual game experiences. In Flower, for instance, you play the wind in the dream of a flower in a dilapidated city. With Flower, the flowers and grass looked beautiful. With Journey, the sand and the wind are beautifully done.

You play a character on a journey through an ancient civilization. Hunicke says that the game will have more human contact and emotional impact than the more abstract Flower. As the name implies, your character is on a journey across the desert to a distant mountain. You can walk, glide and fly through the landscape. The game play is very simple and intuitive. If you play with a stranger online, the game gets more interesting. But don’t expect to hear any words spoken at all in this game. I’ve put this at No. 1 because I’ve never seen a game like it before.

2. Tomb Raider
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix/Eidos
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC.
Timing: 2012
Lara Croft is getting a reboot, and it’s going to be a good one based on all of the material that has been released to date. Crystal Dynamics promises to take gamers into a world of Lara Croft that they have never seen before. Tomb Raider is about due for a good re-imagining. The game first debuted in 1996 with the buxom version of Lara Croft. A total of eight Tomb Raider games have since been published. In those games, Croft has gone through a number of remakes, some of which have been panned by critics as uninspired. Angelina Jolie took the franchise into superstardom with the release of two movies, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. For a time, it seemed that Lara Croft got top heavy and over-exposed. We’re hoping that this remake is going to take the game series in a brand new direction. The Tomb Raider site shows a much younger and desperate-looking Lara, with the tagline “a survivor is born.” We could use a more human, less mythical version of the adventurer.

3. Call of Duty  Modern Warfare 3
Developer: Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games
Publisher: Activision Blizzard
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: Nov. 8
We’ve seen Modern Warfare 3 in a darkened theater. It will be another intense combat game where you’ll be shooting enemies left and right with all sorts of interesting new weapons, from Reaper drones to helicopter gunships. And now you’re fighting right in the middle of some of the world’s largest cities: New York, London and Paris. We’re not sure what will be left to destroy in the next version of Modern Warfare. The game features helicopter duels and a running gun battle on a moving subway train. These over-the-top combat scenes and new environments for firefights are what it takes to give fans a new kind of experience in a franchise that has become the most popular in the world. The game will also feature a new subscription social network, Call of Duty Elite, that will enhance the social and multiplayer aspects of the game. That’s going to be hard for arch rival Electronic Arts to match.

4. Battlefield 3
Developer: EA DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: fall
EA’s bid to unseat Call of Duty in the multibillion-dollar first-person shooter game business is looking mighty good. The graphics for this game, as shown off in EA’s trailers, look ultra-realistic. They make you feel like you’re really a soldier in the middle of a deadly war. You really feel like you’re in a place like Iraq, walking warily through the streets with your brothers in arms. The combat scenes feel gritty and down to earth, not staged Hollywood style as you feel in the Call of Duty games. EA’s last game, Medal of Honor, also went down this road with a setting in Afghanistan, but that game couldn’t knock Call of Duty Black Ops off its perch. And so far, we don’t see any social network coming from EA to match what Activision Blizzard is planning with Call of Duty. Gamers will likely play both games, but there will be an amusing war of words between the two different fan groups about which game is better.

5. BioShock Infinite
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games, Take-Two Interactive
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: 2012
BioShock was one of the great original hits of 2007, and BioShock Infinite bears very little resemblance to it. That’s a good thing, because the world of BioShock Infinite is so completely original that you’ll be fascinated simply exploring the floating city of Columbia. This game is a violent shooter with a lot of gritty combat, but it also has a character, Elizabeth, who has been locked in a tower in Columba since childhood. Your job as a hired gun is to rescue her and bring her back to her family. Your problem is that Elizabeth is jealously guarded by a giant mechanical bird creature who will hunt you down wherever you go. The player has a chance to build an emotional bond with Elizabeth, and that drives a lot of the story that will make this game more interesting to play.

6. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Developer: Bethesda Softworks.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: Nov. 11
Everybody needs a chance to slay a dragon once in a while. In Skyrim, you’ll get a chance to do that. This game is going to be a massive role-playing game in a series whose last installment was the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which debuted back in 2007. The trailers for this game show that the quality of graphics and the dramatic flare are top-notch. Bethesda’s developers have created an entire fantasy world that will immerse you in the story. The back story, lore, and attention to detail will make the world seem all the more real. Skyrim is going to raise the bar for fantasy RPGs to some pretty lofty heights.

7. Gears of War 3
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft
Platform: Xbox 360
Timing: September 20
This game wraps up a saga that first began eight years ago. Epic Games returns with an exclusive for the Xbox 360 that will carry more emotional impact because it is bringing the third-person sci-fi shooter to its close. There are bigger enemies, more interesting weapons (like mortars), and new tweaks to multiplayer combat such as four-player cooperative play. But I have high expectations for the single-player game, whose story was written by sci-fi author Karen Traviss, who has written three Gears novels. You still have to fight the Locust horde and hide behind cover as you do so. If the fighting gets too nasty, you have to cut your enemy in half with a chainsaw bayonet. But you’ll have firefights where you deal with the little horde bad guys and the big horde bad guys. That is, some of these monsters are as big as houses. There’s also some female characters, finally. And really, we just want to know if humanity is going to survive or not.

8. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony
Platform: PS 3
Timing: fall
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was such a good game when it swept many awards in 2009. So we had to include Uncharted 3, even though we have seen only a few parts of the game so far. Back in March, Sony showed how you could play this game with stereoscopic 3D. That level, where Nathan Drake has to maneuver through a multistory burning building, looked incredible. You have to fight off enemies even as all of the building is crashing down around you. It showed how Naughty Dog continues to push the envelope with outstanding graphics on the PlayStation 3. This game has an interesting new female villain, Katherine Marlowe, who should help continue another fine tradition of the Uncharted games: a fascinating and enthralling story. As with the previous game, this one has an opening where Drake is looking back on a gigantic wreck. You will no doubt spend a lot of time in the game figuring out how that wreck happened. We’re looking forward to getting a much better look at the game at the show.

9. Mass Effect 3
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: first quarter 2012
I’ve played the past two games all the way through and they have been delightful experiences, even when I don’t play the games correctly. Mass Effect 2 was a huge improvement on the first game, where you discovered a threat to all life in the form of the Reapers. In the second game, the story got better. You had to round up a team to go on a suicide mission to stop the Reapers from returning to wipe out all organic life in the galaxy. Now you have to save not only the galaxy, but planet Earth itself. EA has pushed this title into 2012, but mainly because BioWare wanted to make improvements to the game play. That means making the game more like an action shooting game, as opposed to a role-playing game. I’m always happy to be doing more shooting than anything else in a game. One cool feature is that the decisions you made in Mass Effect 2 can be imported into Mass Effect 3, and that will affect what kind of game you will play.

10. Batman Arkham City
Developer: Rocksteady Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: Oct. 18
Batman Arkham Asylum was one of the best games of 2009 and it brought back the much-maligned superhero video game genre. As the Dark Knight, you can now fly over the city and stalk bad guys from above. You have an advantage coming down from the sky undetected, but combat is brutal once you’re on the ground. As with the earlier game, it pays to stop and investigate a situation before you go barging in. Batman has some cool scanning devices that give him the intelligence he needs to move forward with stealth weapons.  The art work is great and it’s clear that Rocksteady Games has doubled down on the game quality in this much-anticipated sequel. If you want to explore gender-bending, you can play as Catwoman as well in the game.

Honorable mentions. Other highly anticipated titles include Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Rage, and Forza Motorsport 4. We could go on and on, but then it wouldn’t be much of a curated list.

What’s your opinion? Please take our poll and explain your vote in the comments. If your game isn’t there, add it in the comments.

Online Surveys – Zoomerang.com


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