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Plugged In

Yahoo! Games: Best of E3 2012 Awards

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It's safe to say E3 2012 wasn't exactly a home run. No news about a next-gen Xbox or PlayStation, a restrained showing from Nintendo, and a dearth of groundbreaking goodies muffled the show's typically noisy presence.

But forget for a minute what wasn't at E3 and consider what was: lots and lots of very cool games coming our way. We braved the LA Convention Center for three days of digital madness, losing our hearing, health, and general sanity in the name of checking out what the future has in store. And truth be told, the future looks pretty awesome.

Presented in no particular order and regardless of platform or genre are the dozen winners of our Best of E3 2012 Awards. Way to win, winners!

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The Last of Us

Publisher: Sony
Platform: PS3
Release Date: TBD 2013

Remember that 'no particular order' part? Yeah, we sorta lied. Sony's The Last of Us was our favorite game of E3 2012.

Glance at it, however, and you might miss the magic.

The term 'survival horror' is often tied to zombie outbreaks or ghostly frights, but that's really the best way to describe The Last of Us. You help guide gruff hero Joel and a 14 year-old girl named Ellie, two survivors of some sort of apocalyptic event, through a world teeming with danger, mostly in the form of other survivors willing to do all sorts of terrible things to you just to grab some extra ammo or snacks.

You're no Rambo here. In Naughty Dog's lovingly crafted world, you might need to fend off bandits using a pipe, or outsmart them by sneaking around undetected. It's a game about humanity, regret, and improvisation, featuring what appears to be some of the most sophisticated A.I. programming ever seen in a console title. It's also a game we absolutely cannot wait to play.


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Assassin's Creed III

Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U
Release Date: October 30, 2012

Ciao, Italy. Hello, America.

The acclaimed Assassin's Creed franchise finally leaves the artsy halls of the Renaissance for the dirty outdoors of the American Revolution, and it's looking like a great move.

It's a major overhaul, from its impressive new climbing tech to its deep combat. You'll play as the half-English, half-Native American Connor Kenway, exploring both cities and wilderness as you interact with historical figures like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere in 18th century versions of Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Did we mention that it also packs naval exploration, complete with ship-to-ship combat? This thing's a killer.

Watch trailer >>


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Dishonored

Publisher: Bethesda
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: October 9, 2012

Believe it or not, not all upcoming shooters are sequels, though labeling Dishonored a 'shooter' is selling it way, way short.

It's a lot of things. It borrows bits and pieces from all-time greats like Bioshock, Deus Ex, and even Half-Life, letting players choose exactly how they want to deal with enemies. A unique Steampunk-meets-whaling town (yes, whaling town) aesthetic is simultaneously vibrant and creepy, as is the game's plethora of interesting abilities, which includes teleportation, possession, and even summoning plague rats. It's the sort of game where the goal isn't to beat a level, but to experience it however you'd like: a clever thief, a boneheaded ruffian, and all shades in between.


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The Unfinished Swan

Publisher: Sony
Platform: PS3
Release Date:  TBD 2012

We stared at a blank screen for two minutes before realizing The Unfinished Swan wasn't loading, but simply waiting for us to fling a ball of paint at it.

A downloadable game that's as poetic as it is innovative, The Unfinished Swan was too cool to stay under the radar at E3 2012. As you fill up the white canvas with splotches of ink, you'll discover puzzles and pathways and castles, creating the very world you're attempting to explore. It seems at first blush like a super artsy tech demo, but developer Giant Sparrow instills their game with a childlike sense of wonder that cuts to the very core of being a gamer. A stroke of genius, perhaps?


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Halo 4

Publisher: Microsoft
Platforms:  Xbox 360
Release Date: November 6, 2012

Welcome back, Master Chief. And welcome to the party, 343 Industries.

The development studio tasked with picking up where longtime Halo maker Bungie left off had a lot to prove at E3 2012, and prove it they did. Halo 4 looks simply terrific. We knew it would look polished, but subtle changes to the game's feel (courtesy of the move to a brand new planet, Requiem) give it an exciting new sheen. 343 also announced one of the coolest content packages in gaming: Halo 4's Spartan Ops mode, which extends the single-player campaign via weekly playable episodes. Add the game's legendary multiplayer offerings and it's looking like another big year for the Chief.

Watch trailer >>


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SimCity

Publisher: EA
Platforms: PC
Release Date: February 2013

The genre-defining city simulator returned with a strategically placed bang at E3, one designed to maximize profits and cause very little traffic.

Yes, the new game has curvy roads, but it's also powered by a gorgeous engine. You'd be forgiven for thinking those little cars and houses were real; the game's groovy tilt-shift look makes the whole experience resemble a miniature model set. But look beyond the style and you'll find a legit sim game packed to the gills with roads to pave, buildings to construct, and neighborhoods to manage.

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Watch Dogs

Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: TBD
Release Date: TBD

It was the biggest surprise of E3 -- and we still have no idea what it is, exactly.

But we like what we've seen thus far of Watch Dogs, the action/adventure title coyly revealed by Ubisoft during their press conference. A 10-minute gameplay demo during the show was must-see E3 TV, thanks in no small part to what appears to be some sort of next-gen voodoo at work. It's a stab at Big Brother, letting players shoot, sneak, and hack their way through a maddeningly connected open-world to take down criminals and, perhaps, become one yourself. We're watching this one closely.


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Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Publisher: Activision
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: November 13, 2012

We know, we know. It's Call of Duty, it's overhyped, you're sick of it, etc., etc. And emotionally, we totally get it.

But there's just no denying the sheer potency of what's destined to become the best-selling game of 2012. Love it or hate it, Call of Duty: Black Ops II is an insane value proposition, packing a burly single-player campaign, a league-leading multiplayer suite, a standalone Zombie experience and a tactically rich Overwatch strategy mode into one cozy package. That's a lot of game, and we played a bunch of it at E3.

But even better than quantity? Quality, and Black Ops II is shaping up to be an absolute blast. The developers at Treyarch seem resolutely determined to break their own rules in crafting this beast. Here's hoping it turns out as good as it looks.


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Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Publisher: EA
Platforms:  Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: October 30, 2012

When Criterion Games talks, racing fans listen. That's because they made a bunch of awesome Burnout games, and awesome is pretty much what they're up to in Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

A massive open-world driving game, it feels like a sort of spiritual follow-up to the legendary Burnout: Paradise. The new game revs it up even further with big, powerful cars, outrageously fun physics, and crashes, crashes, and more crashes. They've gone a few steps further, too, by incorporating a seamless multiplayer system that lets you get to the action -- for instance, competitively flinging your car over a freeway overpass -- as quickly as possible. We're all in.


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Rayman: Legends

Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Wii U
Release Date: TBD

Looks like we found our first Wii U purchase.

Rayman Legends picks up where the sinfully fun Rayman Origins left off with jaw-dropping graphics and playful platforming gameplay. But thanks to that handy Wii U tablet, another player can join in by opening doors, cutting ropes, activating mechanisms, and even taking down enemies as the flying frog Murfy. Will it work as well on other platforms? Who knows -- and for the moment at least, who cares? This version charmed our pants (and arms and legs) off.


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Tomb Raider

Publisher: Square-Enix
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: March 5, 2013

Forget what you know about Lara Croft, because this reboot is starting over from scratch.

At least that's what it feels like. Tomb Raider is as gritty as gaming gets, an origin story that shows how, in occasionally alarming detail, Lara became the impossibly tough adventurer we've all come to know. We see her kicking and shoving madmen, using a bow and arrow to hunt for food, and scrounging items in a bid to survive a shipwreck on a dangerous island. Coupling exploration with explosive action, it aims to capture the essence of the franchise while pushing it in uncomfortable new directions. Does it go too far in its depiction of Lara as a helpless, vulnerable girl? That's yet to be seen, but as a pure video game experience, it's near the top of our list.

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South Park: The Stick of Truth

Publisher: THQ
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: March 2013

We're not sure what's more shocking: the fact that a South Park role-playing game is one of the coolest things we saw at E3, or the things we saw during our demo of the South Park role-playing game.

Suffice to say, the boys are up to no good in this laugh-out-loud send-up of video game tropes. But rather than frighten you off with tales of Cartman's fart attacks or how Mr. Slave gets in on the act, we'll just say that it's got the full support of show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who even showed up at the Microsoft press conference to prove it. Developed by Obsidian, the game manages to capture the look and feel of the show perfectly while tossing in tons of role-playing goodness. You'll level up characters, plan attacks, and explore South Park as literally no one has before, since the game marks the first time Parker and Stone have ever fully mapped out the town.

Watch trailer (warning: mature language) >>

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