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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 11, 2012 at 10:05 AM

Best of E3 game show: Bows, boats, balls and more

LOS ANGELES — With a tiny drum roll, because my ears are still ringing from the amplified madness of the E3 video-game extravaganza, here are my best-of-show awards.

Weapon of the Year: Composite bow in “Crysis 3.”

Maybe it’s because of the “Hunger Games” book and movie, but archery is hot nowadays, and every other game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) seemed to have a bow and arrow.

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The biggest is “Assassin’s Creed III” in which you play a Native American hero armed with a bow during the American Revolution. It’s arriving Oct. 13 on the Xbox, PlayStation and PC.

There’s also a “Zelda” mini game for Nintendo’s Wii U, on which you use the control sticks to aim and fire a bow and tilt the pad down to refill the quiver.

Disney’s on it with an archery game tied to its upcoming movie “Brave.” The movie looks great, but the game isn’t as inspired. On the PS3 version I played, the archery was oversimplified — you just pull a stick and a continuous stream of arrows flies out — yet I still found it tricky to aim. The game is out June 19 on the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, PC and Mac.

In my favorite, “Crysis 3,” there’s a composite bow with military sights used to battle through New York City, circa 2047. In the game, the city has been transformed by an evil, faux-green corporation into a spooky, urban rain forest.

The bow is especially useful for stealth attacks when you’re made invisible by the “Nanosuit,” a trademark of “Crysis,” a futuristic, sci-fi shooting franchise.

There’s also a crazy assortment of guns in “Crysis 3,” but the bow is more challenging. You can choose special arrows such as one that explodes or another that’s electrified and zaps enemies standing in water where the arrow lands. The quiver is limited, but you can reuse arrows found in the lush, vividly rendered landscape. “Crysis 3” is coming to the Xbox, PS3 and PC in 2013.

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Best New Vehicle: Square-rigged battleship in “Assassin’s Creed III.” As revealed during Sony’s E3 event, players get their John Paul Jones on by controlling the ship and cannons to attack British warships. I’m not sure how this will play in the U.K. market.

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Channeling Steve Jobs Award: Reggie Fils-Aime. The Nintendo of America president gets the award for saying the Wii U will “revolutionize your living room.”

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Cinderella Story of the Year: British startup Playground Games. The founders (Ralph Fulton shown at left) met with Microsoft’s Xbox team two years ago at E3, pitching their experience building racing games. This year they were back at the show — unveiling “Forza Horizon.” Their debut racing/action game is a highlight of Microsoft’s fall lineup. It’s coming to Xbox 360 on Oct. 23.

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Best Trend: Historical fiction. After thoroughly mining the future, medieval realms and wars of the 20th century, now the triple-A game developers are bringing the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s to life on game consoles with gorgeous titles like the “Assassin’s Creed” series and “Dishonored,” a quasi-Victorian, first-person action game (with a crossbow) coming to the Xbox, PS3 and PC on Oct. 9. If you could filter the violence, these would be the best educational games around.

Gore-Tex Award: Sony’s augmented-reality Wonderbooks. The books, which display animated content on the TV screen when they’re held in front of a PS3 camera attachment, were one of the few new products that didn’t leak before the show.

Swag of the Year: Old fashioned Mickey Mouse hats embroidered on-site.

The hats were used to promote Disney’s “Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two.” Second place goes to Microsoft for giving rides around the E3 parking lot in a Ferrari, Lamborghini and other supercars to promote “Forza Horizon.”

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Motion Game of the Year: “NBA Baller Beats.”

I thought “Guitar Hero”-style rhythm games had run their course. But that was before I saw this Majesco title, which is coming to the Xbox 360 Kinect system on Sept. 11. You play using a real basketball, dribbling and making moves in sync with music and the scrolling graphics on screen. You can’t play sitting down, and your downstairs neighbors will never forgive you.

Pivot of the Year: Microsoft’s “Fable: The Journey.”

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The game was introduced at last year’s E3 conference as a casual, bucolic Xbox Kinect game you could play from the sofa, using arm gestures to control the reins of a horse-drawn cart as you explored an enchanted realm.

That was just the first take. Since then, the creative director left and the game was rebuilt on the Unreal Engine developed for action games. You can still drive the cart from the sofa, but the game — releasing Oct. 9 — turns out to be a fast-paced action title in which you race the cart past perilous obstacles, fling spells at hordes of attacking beasties and wave your arms to rip apart zombielike foes.

Booth of the Year: The Videogame History Museum.

It looked like Paul Allen’s garage sale, with every imaginable digital toy over the past three decades spread out on folding tables. The Sunnyvale, Calif., organization’s booth was irresistible and put it all in perspective.

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Comments | Topics: Assassin's Creed III, best of E3, Crysis 3

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