After years of waiting for the next-generation consoles to take center stage, the 2013 edition of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, last month in Los Angeles, finally brought the sense of innovation and newness in games we expect to ride shotgun with such a sea change.
Blockbuster games are leveraging the hardware in powerful new ways, indie games have found a nicer seat at the table, and even the handhelds had a banner year with several PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS titles turning heads.
Here is a selection of our 2013 E3 Best in Show Awards. For the full list, visit Gameinformer.com.
Best action game: Batman: Arkham Origins: With Batman: Arkham Asylum, relatively unknown developer Rocksteady kicked off the best comic-based game series of the modern generation. For the third entry, the highly successful studio has handed development duties over to Warner Bros. Games Montreal, and the franchise doesn't look to be skipping a beat. Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel title that follows Batman in his rough-and-tumble years, pitting him against a younger Joker and other villains including Deathstroke and Black Mask. The visceral, responsive combat still serves as the heart of the experience, along with new detective gameplay that lets Batman rewind crime scenes to aid investigation. Arkham Origins feels great and promises to maintain the Caped Crusader's good reputation.
Best adventure game: The Walking Dead: 400 Days: Telltale's The Walking Dead: 400 Days bridges the gap between seasons one and two, and it looks to keep everything we love about The Walking Dead. Tense decisions, difficult choices and plenty of jaw-dropping moments all return in a new scenario that follows five different character stories and takes you from Day 1 of the zombie apocalypse all the way to Day 400. That means different scenarios will reflect the time in the world. In one story, a diner can look untouched, but later have boarded-up windows, acting as a safe haven. Telltale showed off newcomer Vince's story at E3, and the dialogue was spot-on, balancing humor and moral dilemmas. By the end of the tale, one thing was clear: Telltale still knows how to shock. Not only did an alliance have to be forged, but plenty of blood was shed to get there. That's some impressive emotional torture for only one portion of this adventure.
Best multiplayer game: Titanfall: Battlefield 4's multiplayer would have stolen the show during any other E3, but this year a titan fell to Earth. Half of Respawn's development team is made up of former Infinity Ward members, so you know Titanfall is poised to deliver in terms of gameplay and customization. The team is so confident in its competitive experience that there is no true single-player campaign. Instead, Titanfall merges the blockbuster campaign feel into multiplayer, with dramatic epilogue and prologue missions, along with non-player character fodder to bring war zones to life. The cat-and-mouse gameplay between the mechanical Titans and their lithe pilots captured the imagination of E3 showgoers, and it was easily the most talked-about multiplayer game at the show.
Best sports game: FIFA 14: The beautiful game lives up to its name on next-generation consoles. Playable behind closed doors despite being several months away from release on two brand-new consoles, FIFA 14 was the darling of the sports games at E3. Crowds feel more alive than any other sports simulation to date, and thanks to many tweaks under the hood, the fidelity of control has been improved in relation to passing, shooting, heading, and defending. If FIFA 14 is any indication, EA Sports is poised to erase its tarnished reputation when it comes to transitioning to new consoles.
Best mobile game: Plants vs. Zombies 2: PopCap's original Plants vs. Zombies was so addictive that we're still logging in from time to time to shoot peas at the undead. The sequel ramps up the action with hordes of new zombies, lawn obstacles that require you to change your strategy, and a Super Mario Bros. 3-style map that lets you pick which missions you want to play next. The new Bloomerang plant attacks multiple enemies at once, but the boxing Bonk Choy steals the show.
Best in show: Titanfall: Leave it up to Respawn Entertainment, a studio half comprised of former Infinity Ward developers, to get gamers excited for Titanfall, which merges the crowded shooter and mech genres. After a messy breakup with Activision, Respawn comes out swinging with a next-gen Xbox One and PC title that blurs the line between single- and multiplayer. Towering mech suits called Titans rocket onto the battlefield via orbital drops, letting players transition from fluid on-foot gunplay to intense mech battles. Factor in the ex-Infinity Ward crew's knack for deep progression and pitch-perfect shooting, and you have the poster child for next-gen gaming.