For a moment, forget about the likes of Spore, Indiana Jones, Assassin's Creed and Gears of War (only available for those privileged behind closed doors folks) — here's the definitive Top 20 games across all platforms that anyone could play on the E3 showfloor.
20: Virtua Fighter 5 (Sega, arcade)
It's kind of a given among hardcore fighting game fans that VF is the premier 3D fighter, and it was the top arcade-style one-on-one fighting game at the show (perhaps by default, but still...). This PS3 exclusive was playable in arcade form running on Sega's Lindbergh arcade board. It's got a couple new characters and a new side step offensive move, which is actually a big deal, considering how intricately balanced VF games are. The game looks incredible (just look at screens) and is as responsive as ever.
19: Snoopy vs. the Red Baron (Namco Bandai, SmartBomb Interactive, PS2)
One of E3's surprise games, the simple joys available in the Nintendo-esque cartoon combat flight sim have less to do with the Peanuts license and everything to do with a smooth control method and straightforward missions structure. Indeed, in many ways it's reminiscent of Starfox, although the one-shot kill means the complexities of lock-on aren't required.
18: Resistance: Fall of Man (Insomniac, PS3)
Okay, we know that some thought the game was generic-looking, but let's give it the benefit of the doubt. At first glance, it looks like COD2 with mutants, but this title implements minimal scripting for AI soldiers and mutants, an online multiplayer mode that actually has its own storyline and weapons from the guys that did the gun-intensive Ratchet & Clank (so the game will go "boom" quite well). Also the game's physics allow for enemies to move in interesting ways across walls and ceilings. The storyline and setting of a 1951 where WWII never took place is pretty interesting too.
17: Killzone: Liberation (Sony, Guerilla, PSP)
With two years of development and 40 staff, you'd expect Killzone: Liberation to be good, but it's the scope and the sheer polish that's really impressive. There are single player sections, two player sections (with an AI or a real co-op buddy), not to mention tank levels (again single player or co-op) and various multiplayer modes. Still the fixed camera takes some getting used to.
16: Okami (Capcom, Clover Studio, PS2)
Proving it's not just Nintendo that can do wacked-out creativity, Clover Studio's calligraphy-based bash-em up Okami is looking better than ever. Taking the character of a she wolf — actually you're really a sun god in fur — you can switch into a right-stick-controlled brush mode to slash at enemies, interact with the environment, solve puzzles or even turn day into night. But it's the majestic watercolour painting style that really stands out.
15: LocoRoco (Sony, Sony, PSP)
The PSP is finally getting a game to rank alongside Lumines in terms of colourful puzzle-play, and rolypoly LocoRoco certainly made its mark at E3. A cross between Mercury and Lemmings, it's all about tilting a world using the PSP's shoulder buttons to guide your blobby LocoRoco through each level. You can also feed it as you go, with the final, fat LocoRoco able to break down into smaller clones to squeeze past any obstacles, before magically reconstituting.
14: Shadowrun (Microsoft, FASA Studio, X360)
The first game to support crossplatform Xbox Live multiplayer across PC Vista and Xbox 360, the eight-per-team FPS Shadowrun also offers some interesting gameplay options. Pitched in a world of human, orcs, elves and other species, there's a mixture of magic and technological enhancements available, so players can teleport through walls or glide through levels using wing attachments. Weaponry ranges from typical gun types through melee blades.
13: Final Fantasy XII (Square Enix, Square Enix, PS2)
Successfully launched in Japan, Final Fantasy XII is sure to be a huge hit in North America and Europe thanks to a new combat system, which doesn't require a separate battle screen, and provides the ability to switch active control to any one of your group with commands including attack, magic, gambit and summon, Graphically it's also incredibly pretty, while the usual deep plot places you in the ranks of the resistance (containing trembling love interest) against an occupying invader.
12: Hellgate: London (Namco Bandai, Flagship Studios, PC)
Focusing this year on the thirdperson perspective, melee combat and role-playing elements, Flagship Studios' Hellgate: London is shaping up to be one of the big PC games of the year. Customisation is the key consideration with several unique character classes available, as well as dynamically-generated levels and events, all set within a downtown London devastated by demonic invasion.
11: Yoshi's Island 2 (Nintendo, Nintendo, DS)
Taking something of a lateral approach in terms of its stepback graphics, nevertheless Yoshi's Island 2 (working title) continues the high standard of Nintendo's simple DS 2D platformers thanks to the twist of pairing the egg-laying dinosaur Yoshi up with various Mushroom kingdom babies — Baby Peach's parasol lets you float higher for example — while babies Mario and Donkey Kong can be swapped in via stork stations as required.
10: Crackdown (Microsoft, Real Time Worlds, X360)
There's still some graphical polishing to be done on this thirdperson shooter, but the run-and-gun gameplay combined with over-the-top physics (you can blow up and/or pick up and throw almost anything in the game) suggests good things. One innovative touch is that each player's game world will be persistent to their Xbox 360 hard drive, creating both the appeal of uniqueness, as well as the joy of sharing thanks to the Xbox Live two-player co-op mode.
9: Crysis (EA, Crytek, PC)
Living up to the hype as rich as its in-game foliage, Crysis is a game guaranteed to make console gamers weep with envy. Building on the all vehicle, all-terrain reputation of Far Cry, it throws you into a three-stage battle with aliens, with weapons and armour customisation adding some tactical nous to the underlying "shoot-it-it's-moving" philosophy. Still it's the graphics that really get your juices flowing.
8: Every Extend Extra (Buena Vista, Q! Entertainment, PSP)
As short and sharp as Lumines was hypnotic and gentle, E3 (hoho) is Missile Command meets Rez, with the player trying to create the longest explosive combos possible with a limited supply of short-fused bombs. Interspersed with bosses who can only be destroyed a series of five plus combo chains, you can also pick up various power ups such as the
pink Quicken blocks, which allow you to manipulate time. Addictive, but very, very hard.
7: Wii Sports (Nintendo, Nintendo, Wii)
Perhaps the cleanest incarnation of Nintendo's controversial Wii controller set-up, Wii Sports brings impact games such as golf, baseball and (best of all) tennis into motion sensitive control using the Remote controller. The ability to slice, top spin and otherwise subtlely vary shots can't be overestimated but fatigue could still be an issue for prolonged gaming sessions.
6: Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam (Activision, Vicarious Visions, DS)
While also available for Wii and GBA, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam really demonstrates how developers can squeeze the most out of limited resources; in this case the DS' 3D abilities. With environments including San Francisco and Peruvian mountain Machu Picchu, the look-and-feel is sweet, while developer Vicarious Visions also promises in-game voice-over-IP chat, a first via Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection.
5: Children of Mana (Square Enix, Next Entertainment, DS)
An action RPG, Children of Mana manages to combine fluid real-time combat — including the ability to assign weapons to hotkeys — as well as summonable monsters, great graphics, some funky sprite-based physics and brilliant audio in this package. Final Fantasy fans beware though; there's not much linear plot as the game is built around increasingly complex dungeon-crawls.
4: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Buena Vista, Amaze Entertainment, DS/PSP)
We know this will be controversial pick, but stick with us. Considering the usual dire quality of Disney tie-ins (notably the last Pirates of the Caribbean game), the fact that both DS and PSP versions of Dead Man's Chest are eminently playable pirate romps is one big surprise. Picking up your sword as Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow, you get to slash and bash your way through ruffian-laden levels, thanks to a surprisingly articulate combat system, as well as excellent animation and graphics (especially on the DS version). Other playable characters include Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, while the PSP title also includes a ship-based multiplayer deathmatch mode.
3: Lost Planet (Capcom, Capcom, X360)
Encapsulated in a snow-bound environment, it looks a bit like The Thing but considering it's been developed a hitsquad consisting of the Devil May Cry and Onimusha teams, there's a fluidity to alien-invasion shooter Lost Planet that belies its thirdperson template. And like those Capcom titles, there's certainly no stinting when it comes to throwing wave after waves of enemies at the player. Simple old school tendencies are also underlined with the use of alien-spawning generators that must be destroyed to stop the flow, and randomly available guns lying around each level, while each mini-section is bookended with increasingly huge bosses (thankfully all have well highlighted weak points).
2: Guitar Hero II (Activision, RedOctane/Harmonix, PS2)
It's convinced a generation of gamers who should know better that all they want to do is rock, and the sequel to Guitar Hero has only reinforced the fixation with head-banging, evil-eyed fists and poodle hair. More than 50 new tracks feature while the addition of new multiplayer modes provides the ability to thump out bass lines or take on rhythm duties, in both co-op and head-to-head offerings. It's senseless fun and everyone loves it.
1: Heavenly Sword (Sony, Ninja Theory, PS3)
O PlayStation 3 game to feature in the top 20, its ranking is a measure of the dedication and self-belief of developer Ninja Theory in the face of the early obstacles thrown up by the hardware Heavenly Sword is running on. And despite the washed-out graphics — there should be a gaming disease called 2MHDR (too much high dynamic range) — it's the fluidity of the controls combined the consistent ability to physically interact with the environment that really impresses. How the scripted nature of the smallscale environment highlighted in the E3 demo will map out to the promised more expansive environments can't be judged yet of course, but on this showing Heavenly Sword seems odds-on to be PlayStation 3's killer app, even at $600 a console.