Jun 29, 2012
I had very high expectations for Skyrim: Dawnguard.
How could I not? Creator Bethesda touted it as the type of DLC that would feel like an expansion pack, a nice chunk of crazy new content for RPG fans to dig their dragon-weary paws into. And of course, Skyrim was one of last year's best video games. I spent some 80 hours exploring and inhabiting its massive, secret-filled world.
So when I popped in Dawnguard, I expected it to wow me. I expected amazing new environments, crazy new plot lines, whole new cities to see and slaughter. I expected to be utterly blown away.
That didn't happen.
Here's what you should know about Dawnguard, which Bethesda released earlier this week for Xbox 360 (and will release later for PC and PlayStation 3): It adds two divergent faction lines to the game. One has you allying with a castle full of vampires; the other has you hunting down and killing those vampires. Both stories task you with acquiring a MacGuffin or three, which means you'll have to run around the world map through locations both new and old, mashing your trigger buttons and sniffing through caves on your quest to Save The World Again.
Dawnguard also fills Skyrim with a handful of other quests, tasks, and random scenarios. As a vampire, I found myself constantly accosted by the eponymous vamp-slaying Dawnguard, who would suddenly pop up in every city I visited, tracking me down like I had an iPhone. This protagonist-detecting ESP seems limited to the computer. While playing as a Dawnguard, you are instead just chased by psychic vampires (some of whom will apparently kill random NPCs everywhere you go).
WHY: Because you've seen, heard, and played most of this before.
Type of game: RPG DLC
Platforms: Xbox 360 (played), PC, PlayStation 3
Released: June 26 (Xbox 360), Later (PC, PlayStation 3)
Type of game: RPG DLC
What I played: Spent close to 15 hours finishing the vampire quest line. Took my time. Explored the world. You know: Skyrim stuff.
Two Things I Loved
- Having an excuse to revisit the world of Skyrim.
- The vampire quest's new follower, whose name and nature I won't spoil. She's awesome.
Two Things I Hated
- Boring, vast quests. Boring, vast areas.
- The game seems buggier than ever.
Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes
- "You liked Skyrim, right? Here." - -Jason Schreier, Kotaku.com
- "Hope you like caves." -Jason Schreier, Kotaku.com
Because of this DLC's nature, I should admit that I definitely haven't seen everything it has to offer. Although I finished the vampire side of Dawnguard's main story and saw a few of its new sidequests, I did not scour every location in the game in search of new content, and therefore it's very possible that I missed some awesome features. But what I did experience—and what your average new player will experience—was nothing short of underwhelming.
The new quests are underwhelming: other than a few cool new concepts—like murdering a civilian while wearing Dawnguard armor so everybody thinks the Dawnguard did it—you've seen everything here before. Go here; find this; kill him; get that. There's nothing here as unabashedly awesome as, say, a certain quest at the end of the original game's Dark Brotherhood plot line.
The new areas are underwhelming: one, Soul Cairn, is just a soul-stuffed clone of Skyrim's Blackreach. It's big, purple, and completely empty. To finish its quests, you'll have to spend a lot of time walking through vast stretches of sheer nothingness. You'll have to fight a mini-boss, walk ten minutes through nothingness, fight another mini-boss, walk another ten minutes through nothingness, and so forth. This is not particularly fun, interesting, or emotionally engaging. Neither is the part where somebody asks you to hunt down ten pieces of paper and you just groan, wondering if you've accidentally stumbled into an MMORPG.
The new vampire powers are underwhelming: you can't use potions or spells while in Vampire Mode, and worst of all, you're stuck in third-person perspective. Teleporting around as a swarm of bats and draining enemies' life is cool, but completely impractical for regular use. To use items, open chests, and get through some doors, you'll have to switch back to human form, which means you'll have to sit through a long, laggy animation sequence before you can do anything. This is very irritating.
Even the bugs are underwhelming: other than this ridiculous moment toward the beginning of the game, Dawnguard's many bugs and glitches couldn't even get me to crack a smile. Particularly unfunny was the part where my follower suddenly disappeared and I had to replay an hour of progress because I couldn't activate the next quest trigger.
The sheer lack of creativity here makes it almost hard to believe that the same team worked on both Skyrim and Dawnguard. Keen-eyed Bethesda fans might notice that some of the game's new features draw from the Skyrim game jam that Todd Howard discussed at DICE earlier this year, and indeed, interesting mechanics like water currents, dark dungeons, and skeletal mounts are all in there. But they're all minor moments. The game jam itself was far more interesting than any of Dawnguard's new content.
If I had to summarize Dawnguard in two words, it would be this: more Skyrim. For many people, that's enough—and if you're in that boat, you should most definitely get your hands on this DLC. But if you wanted something special, something unique, something that could give you that feeling of giddiness you got the first time you entered Bethesda's hulking role-playing game and started exploring its caves and cities, then you might want to look elsewhere. Or at least wait for Skyrim: Game of the Year Edition.
Jun 27, 2012
I'm still powering my way through Dawnguard, which Bethesda is calling an expansion pack. My review will be up Friday morning, so until then, check out some of these vids I found on YouTube that show off all of the new features in the DLC, which is available on Xbox 360 for $20.
(Spoilers for Dawnguard content follow.)
A Day In The Life Of A Vampire Lord
Complete with crazy new mount and other special Vampire-related powers.
The Twin Dragons, Voslaarum & Naaslaarum
Dragon twins? Dragon twins.
Dragonbone Weapons and How To Start Dawnguard Quest
Dragonbone weapons? Dragonbone weapons.
New Enemy: DeathHound
Death Hounds? Death Hounds.
Dawnguard - New Enemy: Gargoyles
In Dawnguard, Gargoyles start off as stone statues and then suddenly morph into nasty flying creatures. They also come in tougher classes, like the Gargoyle Brute.
A first look at one of the game's daedric MacGuffins.
How To Get Your Hands On A Flaming Horse
It's in the Soul Cairn, which is very purple. In fact, it's one of the most purple areas in all of Skyrim. Maybe even the purplest.
How To Choose Becoming Vampire Or Dawnguard
Fairly early into Dawnguard, you get to decide whether or not to become a vampire. Here's how that goes.
How To Get An Armored Troll Follower
Yes, you can get your own armored troll. (Dawnguard only.)
Here's some video footage we just captured of Skyrim's first DLC, Dawnguard, which I've been playing today.
Watch me turn into a bunch of bats. Watch me drain peoples' lives. Watch me re-animate dead bodies.
No sparkles on this vampire, folks.
Jun 26, 2012
Crossbows, mysterious pale women, and a castle packed with nasty vampires: although the first few hours of Skyrim's first downloadable content start off a little slow, they've got some awesome things to offer—and they hint at even more to come.
Dawnguard, the expansion pack-sized DLC that developer Bethesda releases today for Xbox 360 (and later for PC and PlayStation 3), is good at slowly but surely building your excitement. Since receiving a code late last night, I've spent about three or four hours (who needs sleep?) exploring and hacking through Dawnguard's chunk of the world. And I'm psyched to see what will happen next.
While playing, I jotted down some notes about the experience. For your reading pleasure, here they are.
(Spoilers for the first 2-3 hours of Dawnguard follow)
- The coolest thing you can do in this DLC, in my experience so far, is turn into a vampire. You get this ability by visiting a castle full of vampires, listening to the king's generous offer to give you his blood, and saying yes. (He threatens to destroy you if you don't say yes.)
- As a vampire, you have a handful of special abilities. From the main menu you can use Vampire's Servant, which reanimates a corpse to fight by your side for 60 seconds, Vampire's Sight, which improves your night vision, and Vampire Lord, which zooms you out into third-person mode and morphs your character into a vicious beast.
- As a Vampire Lord—which is where all your real powers come into play—you can't use regular equipment. Your blood boils when you enter sunlight. You can drain life and even transform into a swarm of bats (which is sort of like a makeshift teleportation skill.)
- Turning into a vampire limits your inventory options until you revert back to human form.
- Turning into a vampire will purge the werewolf blood from your system.
- Turning into a vampire is really fucking cool.
- But how do you get that ability? Let's take it from the top. When I log into Dawnguard for the first time—which is really just logging into Skyrim with the DLC downloaded and installed—I load up my old character, who had been hanging out in the city Whiterun. Immediately I'm accosted by a bunch of vampire thralls. Once I defeat them, a man named Durak comes up to me and orders me to go check out Fort Dawnguard, in the way southeast corner of the map.
- See, Fort Dawnguard is where a group called the Dawnguard lives. They fight vampires. Like Buffy, but with Viking accents.
- If you start random conversations with the guards, they talk about the new vampire menace and how they wish it would go away.
- Eager to see a bunch of cool new shit, I make my way to the new area, which is southeast of Riften. I trek through an area called Dayspring Canyon and pass Stendarr's Beacon.
- Fort Dawnguard is huge. It looks lovely and romantic in the snow.
- Outside Fort Dawnguard, I meet a man named Agmaer. He's a little runt. He says he wants to join the Dawnguard, but he's scared because he's never done anything like this before. I vow that when I become a vampire and betray the Dawnguard, he'll be my first victim.
- I see Durak training with a crossbow. We chat and he says it's the Dawnguard's specialty. He gives me one. "Nothing better for putting down vampires."
- Shooting the crossbow feels nice and twangy, just like you'd expect. But it seems to reload way too slowly to be practical in combat at all. Maybe my character—a level 27 mage/swordsman—is just not built for ranged combat.
- When I enter Fort Dawnguard, I fall into the floor. Talk about a groundbreaking experience.
- Leaving and re-entering the room fixes this issue. Soon I'm chatting with Isran, leader of the Dawnguard, who asks me to go investigate Dimhollow Crypt, where a bunch of vampires are hunting after something. My job is to find out what that is.
- I teleport near Dimhollow Crypt and make my way over there.
- Oh, fuck off Ice Wraith.
- I'm too powerful for this DLC—or at least the first few hours of this DLC. Everything dies very, very quickly. Even Master Vampires collapse in two or three hits.
- So the dungeon is fairly easy. I do get to meet a new enemy, the Gargoyle, which is essentially just a new skin to attack.
- At the end of Dimhollow Crypt, I find a vampire woman named Serana. She's casually carrying an Elder Scroll on her back. She asks if I'll help her get home.
- I take Serana to her home, the aforementioned vampire castle (located in the way northwest). It's called Castle Volkihar. Her father, the king, asks if I want to join the tribe.
- I am now a vampire.
- In order to gain new perks as a vampire—which has its own skill tree—you have to kill enemies using your Drain Life or biting abilities.
- Some of the higher-end vampire perks include Supernatural Reflexes, which slows everything down, Night Cloak, which gives you a cloak of bats (!) that feed on enemies within range, and Summon Gargoyle, which does what it sounds like.
- I don't know why anyone would ever choose not to be a vampire. Presumably if you denied the king's request, you'd go back and fight for the Dawnguard. But... why?
- There's a feeding pit. You can go up to human thralls and suck out their blood. It's hot.
- I'm introduced to some other members of vampire court, like the nasty Orthjolf and Vingalmo, two oddly named vamps who are apparently out to get one another.
- What's interesting about the vampire castle—and what will hopefully make this a cool plotline—is that everyone is just a straight-up awful person. Which will make for some interesting stories. Hopefully it's as cool as the Dark Brotherhood.
- It will take every ounce of restraint in my body to not go around every city in Skyrim, eating people and bat-swarming my way through crowds of dumb guards. Gotta finish the actual game so I can review it for all you lovely readers. You're welcome.
I'll have more on Dawnguard, including a full review, in the coming days.
Jun 25, 2012
This is Skyrim's first piece of downloadable content, Dawnguard, which comes out tomorrow for Xbox 360. I loaded it up for the first time about half an hour ago. Headed to the first new area, Fort Dawnguard.
The video above shows what I found there. Enjoy your first look at Skyrim's DLC in action.
(Exiting and re-entering the room seemed to fix this issue.)
Flipping tables. It's about as perfect a rage moment as you can get. And now, in WoW's upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion, you'll be able to do it in a video game.
While there's actually a Japanese arcade game centred around this very premise, it's a Japanese arcade game. This will be a little more accessible.
Mists of Pandaria: (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ [Massively]
A gentleman named Lambent Stew has put together a webpage that gathers some of your Steam data and arranges it like little quantitative ducks in a row. How nice.
There are a number of homemade utilities that reconstitute Steam information, like a Steam sales tracker, and a Steam account value calculator. What's unique to this one is it outputs some useful aggregate data, like total hours played, and what percentage of games you've bought you haven't opened, you jerk. Good lord, I haven't played 1,006 games. Tonight, Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships, it's you and me.
Jun 15, 2012
It's here at last! We've recovered from our post-E3 plagues, put the pieces of our lives back together, and took time to meditate in a sacred grove before doing battle in the PCG-awards-debate-ring of death to determine the best games at this year's E3.
Best RPG - The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard
Since Daggerfall, one of the best elements of The Elder Scrolls' sandbox gameplay has been the ability to be a secret monster among the bustling, unaware population of NPC sheep. More than anything, Dawnguard seems tightly focused on improving that experience. We've been teased a story that fleshes out vampires and their society in a way we haven't seen in a TES game since Morrowind. Said story will feature two possible factions to side with—the vampires or the Dawnguard—much like, one of the better quest lines in the base game, the Civil War. Plus, yay replayability!
On top of that, the expansion introduces a totally new creature form (the Vampire Lord) and full skill trees for both werewolves and vampires. Oh, and crossbows! At the end of the day, of course, we'll take any excuse to jump back into one of the best RPGs of the last decade with shiny, new content to explore.
Best Strategy - XCOM: Enemy Unknown
In a market that seems afraid to put out turn-based strategy titles, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is putting all kinds of alien anatomy to the wall, courtesy of heavy machine gun fire. Very much following in the spirit of the XCOM we know and love, every alien kill and every squad member death will be permanent (and all that more poignant realized in close-up, high-res 3D). Even the passive elements of the game, like watching your science teams dutifully experiment on the extraterrestrial scum between missions in the mesmerizing cross-section view of your space base, are filled with grit and flavor which we just can't wait to get our hands on.
The aliens are coming? We say let them come.
Best Update - Rift: Storm Legion
MMO expansion formulas can be simple: add a new continent with five new zones, raise the level cap five levels, add five skills per class, and add another class or race. Oh, and don't forget a large, evil bad guy for the players to kill in six months' time.
Much like the base game, Rift's next expansion does all that's expected of it and then adds an extra scoop of awesome into the mix. It's not just adding a new continent—Storm Legion adds two continents, each just as big as the entire existing game world. It's not just adding five skills per class—Storm Legion is adding two new souls (talent trees) for each class to tinker and play around with, so that you can pick which new skills you want to add to your character.
But the most promising element of the expansion—and what really won us over at E3—is how much experimenting the developers appear to be doing with the design of all that new content.
The demo of an open-world boss fight on one of the new continents showcased it best of all. The boss wasn't just a stack of hit-points. The 60-foot-tall monster had 5 or more different targetable areas. Hack at a specific piece of his body and you could knock off his armor or weaken a limb, and that'll affect the way he fights. Launch platforms around the area will fling your character across the sky at the collosal boss. Land on his shoulder and you can carve into him up close and personal, or crash into the energy well in his chest and you'll gain a temporary ability to blast him for mega-damage.
Best of all, when the boss is severely wounded, he doesn't just get a generic enrage buff—he goes on a rampage tearing down walls in the open world, which will temporarily open up a new part of the zone to everyone, complete with new quests and enemies to fight.
We haven't seen a lot of Storm Legion's content at this point, but what we've seen so far has us very excited about what other tricks the developers at Trion are packing into those two new continents.
Best Action Game - Assassin's Creed 3
Unless their branches are highlighted with a red “grab here” glow, trees are often off-limits in games. They’re tossed around environments to look naturey, bend in the breeze, and trap those who glitch into them. Watching the Animus’ new protagonist squirrel through a forest canopy and flick himself off a branch is almost disorienting.
After giving us grandiose playgrounds like the Coliseum in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Ubisoft could have stuck to its stonework and simply escalated the scope of movement with taller buildings. Instead, Assassin’s Creed III is taking an organic route, which we didn’t know we wanted until we saw Connor’s hunt so smoothly realized.
Pull away from that achievement in animation and there’s still more intrigue. How will Ubisoft handle the story of a half-British, half-Native American assassin caught in the upheaval of the American Revolution? Will the naval battle teased at Sony’s press conference be as fun as it looks, or a clunky side mission?
If any of it falls apart under hands-on scrutiny, it will at least have been a bold decision, and that deserves acknowledgement.
Best Hardware - John Carmack's Duct-Taped VR Headset
There's something very indie rock about coming to the mega marketing-splosion that is E3 with a $500 homebrew VR headset that's "literally held together with duct tape." And legendary Doom creator John Carmack is exactly the kind of guy you would expect to do it. A lot of great things in PC gaming have come out of these kinds of garage projects, and if the tech is as cool as our own David Boddington seemed convinced that it was after a hands-on demo, we could see this kind of thing becoming a pretty big deal among enthusiasts in the near future.
Best Indie Game - Natural Selection 2
“I think we should make our own modern FPS engine.”
“Hey, while we’re doing that, can we make the game look colorful, well-animated, and visually on-par with modern games?”
“So, we’re going to pursue an unthinkably ambitious design concept and make a multiplayer FPS with RTS elements.”
“Hey, you know what’d be a great idea? Left 4 Dead and StarCraft-style asymmetry between our alien and human factions.”
“Oh, and let’s make it an eSport.”
Best Sim - Arma 3
Bohemia Interactive understands the difference between authenticity as an experience and realism for realism’s sake.
But even shrugging off Arma 3’s refined mechanics and accessibility, it’s also the most impressive simulation of a real-world location we’ve ever seen in a game. Limnos (a near-clone of Lemnos, the Greek island) has a completely different feel: hundreds of enterable buildings, variegated terrain, and fine strokes that in 300-some square kilometers of virtual land. Fighting in it will be great and all, we’re sure, but man. Can you just let us walk around for awhile, Bohemia?
Best Shooter, Best MMO, Best of Show, Most Awards Received - PlanetSide 2
PlanetSide 2, on paper, almost seems too good to be true. In action, the "almost" disappears before your eyes and you're left wondering: How can something this ambitious actually exist? And if it can, why did it take this long for somebody to do it?
We didn't hand the same game the award for Best Shooter, Best MMO, and Best of Show lightly, but PlanetSide 2 clearly asserted itself as the top candidate in all of those categories. The shooting is fast, frantic, and fun. As an MMOFPS, it takes nearly every gameplay element that's been attempted in the genre up to 11, without making any compromises in its pursuit of its "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" premise. From what we've seen so far, PS2 has all of the elements PC gamers want in our ideal persistent, massively-multiplayer shooter, and probably a few we didn't know we wanted.
We love that everything you do, from the time your boots hit the ground to that inevitable moment that you're forced to log off by the sun coming in your window and the realization that you have to work, directly affects a world that doesn't go away when a match ends.
E3 hasn't ever really been about the PC, and this year featured a lot of big console titles, but we can say without any caveat that PlanetSide 2 stole the show for us. It's shaping up to be a transcendent experience, both as a shooter and an MMO, in a very "only on PC" kind of way.
Jun 8, 2012
There were a lot of great games at E3 this year, but only one can be the best. PC Gamer's editors pick their favorites from the show floor.
Logan: Watch Dogs
Go ahead and fiddle with your Facebook privacy settings all you want: Aiden Pierce knows exactly who you’re sleeping with and how you feel about them. He can tap your cell phone to listen to what you’re telling somebody or he can jam it so they’ll never hear it. He knows where you work, how much you make, and if you stash your cash in a private account he can plunder it at the nearest ATM. And if you try to get away from him, you better run someplace that isn’t under the domain of ctOS—the central operating system that administers Chicago’s infrastructure—and hope that he doesn’t mess with the traffic signaling system on your way out.
In an unexpected and wonderfully audacious demo, Watch Dogs ruthlessly teased me with the power to take the technological apparatus of an entire city and press it into my service as a tool of surveillance, reconnaissance, or destruction—while also giving me glimpses of what may be the terrible consequences of my actions (such as a hapless bystander desperately trying to resuscitate his dead wife after an accident that Pierce caused).
It’s still an action game—there’s shooting, there’s free-running, there’s bullet-time, and there’s beating a guy with a retractable baton—but throughout an E3 smothered by overbearing, barely differentiated violence in sequelized blockbusters, Watch Dogs feels far more ambitious. It seems to see in gamers not folks who will dutifully respond to more, bigger, and louder, but instead people who want their cunning, skill, and resourcefulness challenged in new and more imaginative ways.
Evan: PlanetSide 2
Fighting against two factions instead of one activates some dormant area of my FPS brain. It's not simply that you have more and differently-colored soldiers to shoot at, but you experience this novel feeling of competition over resources that matter. No other shooter gives me that sensation. Occupying someone else's base means something—just by contending for an outpost, you're earning a tiny trickle of resources. Own it, and that earned-over-time allowance extends to your whole empire (while being denied to the enemy). The magic of that mechanic is apparent even in an hour-long play session with a character I'll never use again in a crowded, loud convention center. Whether you like it or not, you're a part of something.
Beyond that, PlanetSide 2 is better-looking than Tribes, Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and (save for Natural Selection 2, which I love the look of) any other multiplayer shooter I can name. The sci-fi context has let SOE's art team run wild with neon and high-contrast player and vehicle skins in a way Battlefield can't. It's a miracle that this will be free.
Runner-ups: Arma 3, Natural Selection 2
Rift never really grabbed my attention at launch. I've dabbled over the past year since its launch, but the game's first expansion, Storm Legion, cannot be ignored. A lot of information was revealed during E3, and everything I've seen has convinced me to re-up my subscription and dive back in headfirst. The expansion adds two continents that are each as large as the entire game world that exists today. That's cool, but it wasn't what had me scrambling for my credit card. What got me was the E3 livestream demo of Storm Legion content that showed a massive open-world boss who, when he's defeated, tears down walls to open new zones of the continent to players. Let me reiterate: this boss doesn't just drop loot when you take him down, he drops ENTIRE ZONES OF CONTENT. That's awesome, and so is everything else I've seen about this expansion so far.
Runner-ups: Planetside 2, SimCity
T.J.: The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard
It's hard to put into words how big a Skyrim fan I am. Three of my favorite things in the world are Vikings, werewolves, and The Elder Scrolls series. Letting me play in the homeland of the Norse-flavored Nords and be a werewolf in an open-world Elder Scrolls game almost gave me a fanboy heart attack. However awesome you think Skyrim is, multiply that by Odin to get how awesome I think it is. The only thing missing was an organized faction of wussy-ass vampires (you heard me, consider the gauntlet thrown!) to tear apart with my Nordic werewolf claws. Dawnguard gives me that, plus a new werewolf-specific perk tree. It may just be an expansion, but with the relatively lackluster showing of PC RPGs at this year's E3, it was the one thing I was most excited to hear more about.
Runner-ups: Assassin's Creed 3, Planetside 2
SimCity is looking more and more like the reboot the series deserves. The new engine is simulation-oriented, and changes the game's underlying processes without mucking with the SimCity mechanics we're used to, such as zoning areas. City specializations, resources, and vertical integration create opportunities for industrious mayors to noodle around with economics. The buildings have been pared down to their identifying features, making them charming and easily readable. The sound design makes crunching buildings into their foundations seem forceful and satisfying. Oh, and you can build cities next to your friends' if you want. It's evolving where it should while keeping the core SimCity concepts in play. If Maxis had asked me what I wanted from a new SimCity before it started on this project, I wouldn't have come up with anything I wanted as much as what it's promising.
Runner-ups: Divinity: Original Sin, PlanetSide 2
Tom Francis: Dishonored
Sipping tea in my rain-lashed manor back here in England, my view of E3 has mainly been the major publisher's press conferences. Their weird blend of family games and relentless, brutal, fetishised ultra-violence left me wondering if there was anything there for gamers like me.
But tucked away from the main stages, there was something for us: Dishonored. An open ended infiltration game with teleportation, possession, Force Push, and no small measure of fetishised ultra-violence. But they showed it in context, and demonstrated that the decision to put a blade through someone's skull was up to the player - that makes it meaningful. The generous 9-minute walkthrough video is hugely entertaining, and it's now the game I'm most excited about playing.
Tom Senior: Watch Dogs
Drab, misguided showings from many of this year's major players at E3 made me wonder what E3 is really for. Most of what was shown this year has been on the radar for a while. We were seeing new footage of largely known entities, but then, in the final moments of the Ubisoft press conference on day one, this appeared. An open world game of assassination and high tech espionage in an interconnected Chicago. Entire minutes passed without anyone being hit with a stick or shot in the face (that came later). There was investigation, conversation, and slow walk through rain slick streets in a flapping trenchcoat. There was a bit of GTA in there, and a bit of Deus Ex. It was beautiful, cool, and most importantly, new. E3 should be about surprises, which makes Watch Dogs my pick of E3 2012.
Runner-ups: John Carmack, Dawnguard
Chris: Assassin's Creed 3
What I'm looking for at an E3 presentation is a sense of the game I'll actually end up playing. It feels like the higher-profile the franchise, the less likely that we'll get to see what we'll actually be doing when the autumn rolls around.
Aside from the fact that Dishonored and Watch Dogs were taken, this is why Assassin's Creed 3 is my pick of the show. The seven minute demonstration at the Ubisoft conference certainly had its (seemingly) impossibly cinematic moments, but it was glued together by sequences that looked very much like an Assassin's Creed game - and a good one at that.
The moment when Connor returns deer meat to the forest encampment, for example, or when a passer-by asks him to fetch some mercury: that's what you're going to be doing come November.
It doesn't really bother me that Connor is the kind of assassin who'll ride a horse right up to the enemy gates, or blow up half a fortress to distract a target. Assassin's Creed has always been more of a gymnastic badassery simulator than a stealth game, and in that regard it's looking really, really slick. Also, their heavy enemy type appears to simply be defined as 'Scotsmen'.
Finally, the E3 screenshots refer to countryside parkour as 'treerunning'. Good work, Ubisoft. Pun of the show.
Runner-ups: Dishonored, Watch Dogs
Dawnguard art director Matt Carofano meets up with one of our E3 colleagues in Bethesda's E3 armoury to talk over the features we can expect from Dawnguard. Here's a summary of many of those new additions, and some Dawnguard screenshots showing the Soul Cairn realm, crossbows and Vampire lords that'll be added in the update. Carofano mentions that it's out later this month, but that's only on Xbox 360, sadly. It'll probably be a few weeks before it turns up on PC, which I greet with a feeling of disappointment that can only be communicated through the infinite sadness of dogs.