E3: The Best and Worst of the Giant Gaming Expo

Our savvy trio of hard-to-please gamers patrolled the huge E3 show floor all week. Here’s what they loved—and hated.

What Rocked at E3--And What Didn't

Lots of exciting news came out of this week's Electronic Entertainment Expo: The Wii U, the PSVita, and a metric ton of games involving ever-bigger guns.

However, for every cool announcement, there were plenty of downsides, including long lines, longer demo reels, and sequel after sequel after sequel.

Here are our picks for the best and worst of E3 2011.

Dust 514’s Ambition

As far as I'm concerned, EVE Online hasn't been a "game" since I signed up back in 2006. It's where I post up when there are no meatspace commitments to pull me from my spreadsheets and Internet spaceships.

And this is why Dust 514 is so tantalizing. It's the hardest-core PC game--known to the general public as Spreadsheets in Space--married to a console shooter.

Dust 514 hopes to bring a sense of purpose to the console-shooter space. Instead of simply chasing standings on a leaderboard, players will rejoice in the knowledge that every grunt on the field is a part of something much larger.

I hope it works.--Nate Ralph

Nintendo 3DS

Hey, remember all those great games that were announced for the Nintendo 3DS during E3? No? That's because there weren't any. The most exciting news about the 3DS to come out this week was that the eShop had finally come online, months after the hardware was released to the public.

A free copy of Excitebike is great, but it's no substitute for great first-party games on Nintendo's flagship mobile device.--Alex Wawro

Sony PlayStation Vita

After spending some quality time playing with the PlayStation Vita, I'm convinced that the hardware is sound and the $250 price is a bargain.

With a great game line-up (Uncharted, WipeOut, LittleBigPlanet) and cool tech like a rear touchpad and a beautiful 5-inch OLED screen, the Vita is my pick for best device of the show.--Alex Wawro

PlayStation Vita on AT&T

If there was one you-had-to-be-there moment of this year's E3, it would have to be the unveiling of the PSVita. Specifically, the part where Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai announced that the PSVita's service would be provided by AT&T, and the entire audience broke out in peals of laughter without missing a beat. At least Hirai managed to keep a straight face. --Patrick Miller

Saints Row: The Third

The next Saints Row looks ridiculous; [the demo we saw at E3 was gratuitous and vulgar, and I loved every minute of it).

This is not an intelligent or mature game, but it's a fun game that wallows around in the deepest depths of your darkest fantasies, and I'm glad someone created it.--Alex Wawro

Deus Ex 3: Human Revolution

Deus Ex was incredible, but it hasn't aged well. Deus Ex 2 was, from all accounts, pretty bad from the get-go.

Deus Ex 3 feels like it takes the core elements of the original, brings it up to speed with a contemporary game design and some shiny graphics, and then stays far, far away from ruining everything that made the original so special. --Patrick Miller

Sonic The Hedgehog

Sega, I loved Sonic as a little kid. I still harbor a mild affection for him, despite the fact that the old Sonic games don't stand up to the test of time and the new Sonic games routinely despoil my childhood memories. Stop trotting him out every time you want to be relevant again and retire him until you have a genuinely good game to put him in. And if I ever see him on a skateboard again, I will punch you. --Patrick Miller

A Year in The Life of The Wii U

I'll go ahead and sum up the next 12 or so months:

1. Rampant naysaying and speculation (and a few down-votes right here) about Nintendo actually striking it rich with the Wii U. "It's a tablet for Luddites." "...

2. The Wii U arrives. Developers across platforms convene to flex their creative muscles. Console games, tablet games, mobile games--the sudden realization that so much is possible (and that Nintendo might be loosening up its Internet connectivity restrictions) brings auteurs of all stripes out.

3. Profit. Nintendo chuckles at the naysayers, skips back to its dream factory in the clouds and gets back to re-inventing Play. --Nate Ralph

The Dreaded Number 3

Gears of War 3, Resistance 3, UFC: Undisputed 3, Saints Row 3, Mass Effect 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, (expansions for) The Sims 3.

Count von Count would love this year's E3, but we've seen a few too many trilogies to be quite so stoked. --Patrick Miller

Street Fighter X Tekken

I was skeptical at first. After all, it looks like Super Street Fighter IV with a few Tekken characters pasted in and smells distinctly like Capcom trying to milk the Street Fighter franchise's recent revival for all it's worth. However, I found myself going back to the booth again and again for just one more game.

Casual players might find the differences between Super Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter X Tekken too subtle to merit buying the game, but I found SFxT was more fast-paced and exciting than SSFIV. --Patrick Miller

Video Game History

The Video Game History exhibit was a small oasis of calm and comfort amid the chaos and clamor of E3. The booth was lined with a few dozen classic arcade games, ranging from Asteroids to X-Men, and the tables were strewn with a full array of gaming hardware from the last few decades.

When you're surrounded by people telling you where you're going, it's nice to take a break and remind yourself where you came from. --Patrick Miller

Action Games On Tegra 2-Powered Tablets

Nvidia had some great tech on display at E3 if you could drag yourself away from the show floor, including some amazing 3D rendering of upcoming games like Duke Nukem Forever and a ton of beautiful game demos running on next-gen Tegra 3 smartphones and tablets.

But too many tablet games at E3 are just poor imitations of popular console games, and they suffer for it. Tablet game developers, take note: mobile gaming will fail if you fail to develop games that take advantage of the unique capabilities of your hardware. No more shooters, please.--Alex Wawro

Why Can't We Play The Games?

Skyrim? Gorgeous. Saints Row The Third? Hilarious (if you're into that sort of thing). I'm even psyched for Metro: Last Light, having dabbled however briefly in its predecessor.

But for a convention that's all about gaming, there was surprisingly little to actually play.

I get it: Developers want to offer up a pristine, refined experience.

I saw hordes of developers--indie and otherwise--clamoring to get people just like me playing their wares. And I kept on walking, because I had set aside 30 minutes to sit in your stuff little theater and watch you play through canned demonstration.

Next year, could you just stick the video on your press site?--Nate Ralph

The Ad Campaign for Saints Row The Third

E3 has come and gone, but outside of the Marketing-approved screenshots (and the few of us who managed to see the guided demonstration), no one has actually seen the game in action.

It's perfect, really. You'll either love or loathe the slapstick approach to the open-world genre that Grand Theft Auto built. But the hype and spectacle surrounding the title's release has been managed perfectly, with outlandish promotions ("Win a Rim Job!") and a flood of posters and PR-approved images of pre-rendered content.

For the record--I really liked what I saw of the actual game. But I find the spectacle far more impressive. --Nate Ralph

Unnecessary Plentiful Supply of Attractive Women (Booth Babes)

I like pretty ladies just fine, but I'm tired of wading through Los Angeles's full supply of good-looking, questionably-employed female population to get to the games I'm trying to play. It's pandering, plain and simple, and it just makes the whole event feel tawdry and unprofessional.

Even the hellish experience that is the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas doesn't leave me feeling so dirty, and CES takes place right next to the Adult Entertainment Expo. --Patrick Miller

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Unfortunately we couldn't wrangle any hands-on time with Skyrim, but the 40-minute gameplay demo we sat through convinced me that Bethesda is making the next great PC RPG.

Skyrim looks great thanks to the new Creation Engine (rest in peace, Gamebryo) and includes a bevy of cool new features like an unlockable perks system and an opportunity to combine words of power into powerful Dragon Shouts.--Alex Wawro


You know what really grinds my gears? Crowds. Teeming throngs of flesh and sweat, huddling around in front of entryways in anticipation. Slack-jawed gamers staring up at displays while I'm shuffling to appointments. The heat, and the noise, and the slow pace of it all.

Yeah, it's part and parcel with the trade show experience. But can we please get around to installing express lanes?--Nate Ralph


It's fun to root for the little guys, and it's exciting to see them do well. Skullgirls is an independently-developed fighting game that recently got picked up for distribution by Konami, and it does my gamer heart good to see it succeed. Skullgirls plays just as smoothly as the big fighting games do and for good reason--it's developed by fans of the fighting game genre that know their business, so experienced gamers will feel right at home.

The art aesthetic is what propels Skullgirls on to my Picks list, however. From wacky anime to classic Disney, each character has a completely distinct look that simply exudes raw personality. Sleeper hit of E3 2011 for sure.--Patrick Miller

L.A. Convention Center Connectivity

Attention convention planners: if you're going to invite tech journalists from every corner of the globe out to L.A. to play new games, test new tech and talk to their developers, please ensure that said journalists can actually file the stories they write in a timely manner. We had the same trouble at CES, and it's ridiculous that these tech-centric conferences are hamstrung by the lack of reliable high-speed Internet connections.--Alex Wawro

Sleep? What's That?

I can sleep when I'm dead. Until then, there are more video games to write about. --Patrick Miller

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