GamesBeat

The best games of E3 2011

How can big data and smart analytics tools ignite growth for your company? Find out at DataBeat, May 19-20 in San Francisco, from top data scientists, analysts, investors, and entrepreneurs. Register now and save $200!

We saw lots of video games at the E3 trade show in Los Angeles last week.

Some of them were pretty awesome.

The trip gave us faith that the video game industry will continue to thrive and satisfy loyal fans for a long time to come, even as disruptive forces from social and mobile games encroach on the time that gamers have available to play.

There are a lot of big games here that are akin to the movie industry’s summer blockbuster action movies. Like action movies, some of these games are reboots or sequels to previous blockbusters. We’re glad to see original titles on this list and we’re also happy to see elements of originality within the sequels as well. In other words, there’s a healthy balance between giving fans more of what they want and surprising them with new worlds and new ways to play.

So here’s VentureBeat’s list of the best games of E3 2011.

If you want more, check out our list, compiled before the show started, of the most anticipated games of E3. And for fun, here are our picks from last year. You’ll notice that Rage was No. 1 on our list last year and the game hasn’t been released yet (it is slated for October). But we figured that it wasn’t fair to put Rage on a “best of E3″ more than once.

How’d we do? Let us have it in the comments below, or vote in the poll at the bottom of this post!

1. BioShock Infinite (pictured at top)
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games, Take-Two Interactive
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: 2012

We decided that BioShock Infinite is such an epic game and such an imaginative world that we had to give it the top honor over its rivals. But this one is as close to a tie with Journey as you can get. 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 Columba. This game is a violent shooter with a lot of gritty combat, but it also has a good story and lofty messages about the nature of society. The story focuses on 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. As a player, you have 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. In the meantime, this personal story takes place within the context of a civil war between two classes of society that is tearing Columba apart.

2. Journey
Developer: Thatgamecompany
Publisher: Sony
Platform: PlayStation Network
Timing: TBA

Journey, pictured above, is one of the strangest games 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 similarly beautiful.

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.

At E3, we got a look at an additional level in the game, where it becomes clear that there is some darkness in the game that creates a more interesting story. That story remains mysterious, but the promise of some kind of negative element that you as the player must overcome is inviting.

3. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony
Platform: PS 3
Timing: fall

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was such a good game that it swept many awards in 2009. The promise of the earlier version is so strong that 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.

At E3, we saw more action scenes, like a battle atop some trucks that are running at full speed across an airport runway. And we played a round of cooperative game play in a castle-like environment, where you have to work together in order to succeed. In that battle, you wind up having a vertical firefight while climbing up walls. And we saw snippets of the game that show that the screenwriting and humor are still top notch. This game is the closest thing you’ll find to a summer blockbuster action film.

4. 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 saw a demo of 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. We saw some very cool features in Elite that could motivate players to pay for it.

At E3, we played the Spec Ops cooperative mode, where multiple players can fight off unending hordes of enemy attackers. With each round, it became tougher to survive, but the players could also keep earning points to spend on special weapons such as drones.

5. Mass Effect 3
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: March 6, 2012

Mass Effect 3 looked very polished at E3, even though it isn’t debuting for nine months. We’ve played the first two games all the way through and they have been delightful experiences. 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. The developers, led by Casey Hudson, are making the game more appealing on both fronts. It’s going to be a better action game, with the melee combat of the Omni Blade. And it’s going to have more options for character and weapons building for role-playing game fans. 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. At E3, BioWare also showed that you can give commands to your comrades in the game by issuing voice commands that the Kinect motion-sensing system can recognize. And the trailer we saw at E3 was also heartbreaking, reminding us that the game should have a very compelling story.

6. Battlefield 3
Developer: EA DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: Oct. 25.

EA showed off a very cool demo of this game at its press conference at E3. In the demo, you were part of a tank battalion that got into a long-range firefight with another tank unit. It sounded like rolling thunder as the tanks dueled across the desert at long distance. That kind of demo shows how EA can distinguish its title from the infantry-focused experience of Modern Warfare 3.

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 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. 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.

7. Tomb Raider
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix/Eidos
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC.
Timing: 2012

We moved this down a little on our list compared to the best anticipated titles, mainly because there wasn’t much revealed beyond what we had already seen and because there was pretty fierce competition at the show. 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. At E3, the more human version of Lara Croft went over extremely well.

8. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Developer: Bethesda Softworks.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: Nov. 11

Dragons are coming. Dragons are coming. 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. As an example, there are more than 300 books scattered throughout the realm, and you can actually pick them up and read them. 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.

9. Dust 514
Developer: CCP Games
Publisher: CCP Games
Platforms: PS 3
Timing: 2012

Dust 514 is much like other first-person-shooter games at first, dropping players into closed matches that consist of team-based competitions with certain objectives like capturing a position or eliminating the opposing team. But the whole game is tied very closely to EVE Online, a massive role-playing game where gamers play as pilots in space in the EVE Online universe. Each match that a Dust 514 player participates in is actually a contract created by an EVE Online player, a completely separate game that features tactical space combat and lots of player-driven politics. Both Dust 514 and EVE Online are run on the same servers, so they regularly interact with each other. For example, the squads on the planet’s surface can fire artillery into space to damage ships in a battle in EVE Online, and ships in the EVE Online universe can initiate orbital strikes on the planet’s surface to help Dust 514 players.

10. Assassin’s Creed Revelations
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: XBox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: Nov. 30

Assassin’s Creed Revelations tells the final story of Ezio Auditore — who has become the franchise’s centerpiece since he was introduced in Assassin’s Creed 2. The latest Assassin’s Creed game features Ezio searching for some of the lost relics left behind by his ancestor, another assassin named Altair. He’s following the trail of a Templar, one of the main antagonists of the series, while trying to elude a number of Ottomans chasing him. The game takes place in the early 1500s and will feature Constantinople as a major focus (Venice and Rome figured prominently in the past two Assassin’s Creed games.) The environment of the game looks very vibrant, with a lot of action, similar to the crazy environments players run through in the Uncharted series. Ezio also has a few new tricks up his sleeve, like stunning enemies with a smoke bomb and quickly taking them out with a crossbow.

Matthew Lynley’s Honorable Mentions:


Prey 2
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: XBox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: 2012

Prey 2 is a first-person shooter that features an open-world environment in the slums of an alien city. It tells the story of Killian Samuels, a U.S. Marshal who was captured by alien slavers but managed to escape. He has since made his living as a bounty hunter on the alien planet of Exodus while trying to piece together bits of his memory that he lost when he was captured. It’s a fast-paced shooter that lets players duck under cover, vault over it, slide under obstacles and quickly climb parts of the city. It features a lot of parkour-style elements, and the player is always able to quickly pull out their gun and shoot while performing any action. The world looks like it’s as big and vibrant as those in Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, which has basically become a staple in games made by Bethesda Softworks.

Rayman Origins
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: XBox 360, PS 3, PS Vita, PC, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS
Ubisoft is going back to the game that put the company on the map in Rayman Origins. It’s a very colorful and vibrant side-scrolling platforming game similar to the Super Mario Bros. series. But this game features co-operative play between Rayman, a weird creature with no arms and legs, and his buddy Globox as they try to fight off the Darktoons and protect their home. Rayman and his friend can punch, kick, swim and glide their way through each level in order to reach their objectives, which can range from crossing a finish line to beating a treasure chest into a pulp until it opens up. Playing through the game is like watching a cartoon, and Rayman and his friend’s antics are hysterical.

Dean Takahashi’s Honorable Mentions:

Batman Arkham City
Developer: Rocksteady Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS 3, PC
Timing: Oct. 18

This title drew crowds to Warner’s booth at E3. 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 artwork is great and it’s clear that Rocksteady Games has doubled down on the game quality in this much-anticipated sequel. As a bonus, you can also play as Catwoman.

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 storyline was written by Karen Traviss, the author of 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.

At E3, Cliff “Cliffyb” Bleszinski came out on stage at Microsoft’s press conference and sprayed death on the screen with rapper Ice T. They showed how the boss battles in this series are getting bigger and bigger.

Agree with us? Disagree? Don’t sit there, silently raging! Take our poll to vote for your own favorites — and explain your view in the comments.

We’ll be exploring the most disruptive game technologies and business models at our third annual GamesBeat 2011 conference, on July 12-13 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. It will focus on the disruptive trends in the mobile games market. GamesBeat is co-located with our MobileBeat 2011 conference this year. To register, click on this link. Sponsors can message us at sponsors@venturebeat.com. To enter the Who’s Got Game? contest for the best game startup, click here.


Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 2.00.11 PMGamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!
blog comments powered by Disqus

GamesBeat is your source for gaming news and reviews. But it's also home to the best articles from gamers, developers, and other folks outside of the traditional press. Register or log in to join our community of writers. You can even make a few bucks publishing stories here! Learn more.

You are now an esteemed member of the GamesBeat community. That means you can comment on stories or post your own to GB Unfiltered (look for the "New Post" link by mousing over your name in the red bar up top). But first, why don't you fill out your via your ?

About GamesBeat