We walked into E3 2006 with great aspirations of being bowled over by new systems, being wowed by next-gen games and, on the whole, feeling as though we’d just experienced the Holy Grail of gaming. What we left with was more of a warm, fuzzy feeling that the videogame industry is not only alive and kicking, but going in new directions not just with gameplay but with immersion on the whole.
Whether that immersion takes the form of questioning our own humanity, as in our Best of Show: First-Person Shooter, in its engaging cinematic presentation, as in our Best of Show: Overall, or in its sheer scope and freedom, as in our Best of Show: PC category, there’s a lot to be excited about for the year ahead.
With that in mind, below are DailyGame’s picks for Best of E3 2006. As with all awards, our picks are completely subjective and based on the games we are most excited about personally. If we’ve done our job in the accompanying previews, you’ll understand our reasons for that excitement. So without further ado, the envelopes please.
Best of Show: Overall: Mass Effect
It may sound like we’re fluffing BioWare by saying this, but what the company is trying to do is create the perfect videogame. As a BioWare product, Mass Effect has its strong role-playing elements, but it’s also infused with a real-time tactical shooter element, something we absolutely love here at DailyGame. Add some of the most impressive graphics we’ve seen and a fantastic overall presentation, and there was little doubt after this demo that Mass Effect was our Game of Show.
Best of Show: Action: Assassin’s Creed
Actually, the two runners-up in our Best of Show category definitely gave Mass Effect a run for its money, none more than Assassin’s Creed, at least as far as action goes. Having seen the video trailer, we thought this would be little more than a Prince of Persia knockoff, but after going through the E3 demo, we were proved completely wrong. The fluid action and impressive graphics of course caught our eye, but the “social stealth” elements were simply jaw-dropping. This game can’t come soon enough for action fans.
Best of Show: RPG: Mass Effect
Phenomenal graphics, a vast galaxy and BioWare working its role-playing magic. Yep, that pretty much translates into RPG of Show in our book. Actually, it was the immersion of that role-playing that really earned Mass Effect this award, as BioWare has created a conversation “tree” that supports instinctual responses and a more-natural flow to each interaction. Plus, you can completely customize your weapons and weapons loadout, a nice RPG-like touch in a game that also has a strong tactical-shooter feel.
Best of Show: FPS: BioShock
We’re suckers for mid-century settings, but BioShock’s interpretation of the 1950s and its concept of a utopia took us to a whole new level. Everything the game addresses, from questions about what makes us “human” to how different classes of character interact, oozes not only with style but with careful thought and attention to detail. If you liked the Deus Ex series, BioShock will show you what that type of gameplay can be like on a next-generation level.
Best of Show: PC/Windows: Spore
You may be sick of hearing about Spore, but you’re going to hear a lot more about it. With a game this ambitious, it’s no surprise Will Wright is taking his sweet time creating it. From the character creation to the civic socialization to the interplanetary cross-pollination, Spore epitomizes the term “God game.” Evolution, here we come.
Best of Show: PS3: Assassin’s Creed
Sony’s new hardware left some gamers wondering where the innovation and breathtaking games were hiding. The answer: behind closed doors at Ubisoft’s booth. Assassin’s Creed mixes the best action elements of Prince of Persia with the best stealth concepts from Splinter Cell, then adds a few new twists for good measure. Its graphics also showed what the next-generation PS3 is capable of producing. In short, there’s a reason this was a runner-up for Best of Show: Overall.
Best of Show: Xbox 360: Mass Effect
What can we say about Mass Effect that we haven’t already, either in this award roundup or in our preview? That’s right: nothing. So read those crunchy bits of info and rest assured that Xbox 360 owners are in for what could become one of the all-time classics on any gaming platform.
Best of Show: Wii: Wii Sports
It would be easy to go with known commodities like Zelda, Mario or Metroid, but in terms of making the most intuitive and natural use of the Wii controller, no game left quite the impression as Wii Sports. Also, unlike at least one first-party title, Wii Sports didn’t borrow from any EyeToy games, showing that innovation doesn’t always stem from imitation. A few of us still wonder whether the controller will end up gimmicky in the same vein as the Donkey bongos, but the practical (and party-game fun) of the Wii controller and Wii Sports makes that outcome doubtful.
Best of Show: PS2: God of War 2
Some will say God of War 2 is “just more of the same.” To those people, we say “and your point is?” The first God of War left action-game fans wet and tired, and the sequel, although its only new element is a few more boss battles, will probably do just the same. Graphically the game still has a long way to go, but from a gameplay standpoint, God of War 2 picks up where the award-winning original left off.
Best of Show: Platformer: Lego Star Wars 2
With the return of platforming icon Mario, we anticipate getting some grief for this award, but we’re simply more excited about the co-op mode (ad-hoc on DS and PSP) and the vehicle-building aspects of Lego Star Wars 2 than we are about the prospect of jumping from Mario-themed planet to planet with no real purpose. Lego Star Wars 2 is going to take everything you loved about the first game and about the original trilogy and boost the fun factor tenfold. If you can “let go” and just have fun with this one, you could very well find a lot to love about this one.
Best of Show: Strategy/Sim: Spore
It’s big, it’s ambitious, it’s the most in-depth simulator we’ve ever seen. We’re not talking cities or households here; we’re talking entire galaxies and 2 million planets. To put it lightly, there’s an insane amount of things to do and explore, which means there’s a whole host of reasons to give this one our strategy/sim award.
Congratulations to all the winners and runners-up of this year’s Best of E3 Awards.