In just over a week's time, the gaming world will descend on the Los Angeles Convention Center for the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo. What can we look forward to seeing there?
Begun, the Console Wars have
Ok, now it's on. Microsoft disappointed hardcore gamers by playing up the TV and multimedia features of the Xbox One during its big reveal last month and Sony disappointed, well, everyone with its console-free PS4 'reveal' back in February.
E3, then, is a chance for both Sony and Microsoft to show off what their new consoles can really do. Both consoles have new controllers and we will be interested to find out just how well Kinect works as the default navigation method for the Xbox One and if features like heartbeat monitoring are anything more than gimmicks.
The PlayStation 4's new controller is still an unknown quantity too. The integrated touch panel ought to open up new control methods to any developer that cares to code for them and the whole controller has reportedly been rebalanced and fine-tuned for the best responses and feel. We shall see.
Xbox Live Director of Programming, Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb responded to criticism of the perceived TV-bias by tweeting: "I can confirm that we will have TV's (or similar) on stage to show games. That should be the extent of TV talk in your #E3." Sure enough, Microsoft will kick off its E3 with a 90-minute press event called "Xbox: A New Generation of Games Revealed."
That said, we would be surprised if someone from Microsoft didn't at least mention the live action Halo TV show, particularly if Steven Spielberg really is involved.
Sony is in an interesting position here in that it didn't push the PS4's TV/Multimedia features in its February product launch, but did promise more information down the line. E3 would be as good a place as any to get everyone up to speed with how the PS4 will serve up video and music 'content' but our gut feeling is that, with Microsoft on the back foot with gamers, Sony's press event will also pile on the games in an attempt to claim the position as the gamer's platform.
The PS4's lead architect, Mark Cerny, would have us believe that Sony has the titles to back that up. In an interview with Gamasutra last month he claimed, "The launch lineup for PlayStation 4 is going to be stronger than any prior PlayStation hardware." Not that we expect Microsoft to be a slouch in that department either, of course.
You can read our Xbox One vs. PS3 comparison to see how things look right now.
New Halo and Gears of War 5 to launch Xbox One?
There's going to be a new Halo game, isn't there? A world where an Xbox console can launch without Master Chief clunking his way around is not a world we want to live in. A new title in the Haloverse has been confirmed, but will this be a direct sequel to Halo 4, another outing for the ODST or something new? Whatever 343 Industries has planned we expect it to be a key part of the Xbox One launch line-up.
Similarly, Gears Of War 5 will likely stick its head out from behind cover to let us catch a glimpse of its ugly mug. Plot-wise this one could easily reboot the franchise with a new main character and even setting. Of most interest will just what a Gears game without Cliffy B at the helm will actually feel like.
See the rest of the confirmed Xbox One games.
New Sony exclusives
In the absence of the PlayStation 4 there are still some juicy PS3 games being released. Naughty Dog's twist on the survival horror genre The Last Of Us is sure to feature heavily.
We are also looking forward to a closer look at upcoming Rain, where you play an invisible boy who is searching for an invisible girl through a city of endless rain. That rain, of course, reveals your presence as your invisible body distorts the raindrops. The game looks absolutely beautiful and the early previews had more than a whiff of PS2 classic Ico about them, which is no bad thing.
There is another (no, not the Wii U)
Valve's Gabe Newell has said that the company will not be exhibiting at this year's E3, but that doesn't mean that the Steam Box is necessarily going to miss the event. As Xi3 hasshown, in theory anyone can make a 'Steam Box' - they are basically just PCs. Could we see a few more candidates pop up at E3?
Whatever happens, it looks unlikely that we will be getting our longed-for reveal of Half Life 2: Episode 3 (or even 'Half Life 3') but that won't stop us saying a silent prayer to the gods of Gaming that Newell's announcement was a fake-out.
Other PC exclusives to watch for are Elder Scrolls Online, which is shaping up rather nicely to bring Skyrim-quality RPGing to the MMO world.
Ok, now let's talk about the Wii U.
Nintendo's own next gen system will be at E3, of course. The Wii U may have taken a bit of sales beating of late but Nintendo isn't taking things laying down. Although deciding against its usual presentation, Nintendo will be holding a special press event during which it will be showcasing some new games for the Wii U. The exact titles are under wraps, but Nintendo was kind (or canny) enough to release a teaser image featuring the silhouettes of several popular characters.
From this, we can be fairly certain that new games are coming that featuring Mario - both solo and with his brother, Luigi - Link from The Legend Of Zelda and the veggie creatures from Pikmin.
Super Mario Galaxy will get a Wii U outing in a direct sequel to Super Mario Galaxy 2 on Wii. Also strongly rumoured (and leaked via an Amazon listing) but not yet seen is a Wii U port of upcoming shooter, Call Of Duty: Ghosts.
Big cross platform games
EA will be giving us our first look at FIFA 14 on the next-gen machines. FIFA games are usually just incremental improvements between releases, but EA does like to pull out the stops for a new platform. Just how photorealistic can CG footballer hair get?
Bethesda is said to be preparing a major new release and its practice of alternating between Fallout and Elder Scrolls games should mean that Fallout 4 will be shambling towards the Los Angeles Convention Center to be born. Fallout: New Vegas wasn't a huge leap forwards from Fallout 3 in terms of gameplay, although the new setting was a welcome surprise but we have high hopes that the
Meanwhile, Halo's original developers Bungie is set to show off its 'persistent shared-world shooter', Destiny. Not quite an MMO, Destiny will incorporate multiplayer elements and an environment that can be affected by events in the shared world as a whole, while still somehow having a single-player and co-op campaign. As a departure for Bungie, this won't be an Xbox (360 or One) exclusive but will also appear on the PS3 & 4.
Ubisoft will be bringing its new South Park game to E3 alongside surveil-em-up Watch Dogs and the new Assassin's Creed sequel, Black Flag. As well as these current-gen titles, Ubisoft has promised some next-gen surprises. Nothing confirmed as yet although rumours point to 3rd-person adventure Anubis and new racing franchise The Crew but there are said to be at least four more titles in the wings for Xbox One alone.
The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset got its first proper public demo at E3 2012 and in the ensuing year we have seen a number of developers publicly praising the system as well as that funny and rather touching viral video of a 90 year-old woman getting her first taste of VR but still no consumer version. That is still slated for release next year but we hope that Oculus VR Inc. will be showing off some more complete games and tech demos at E3 that will give us a better idea of what the average gamer will be able to do with it when it does hit the market.
2013 could be the year that 4K gaming really takes off. The Xbox One will support 4K gaming out of the box and although the PS4 only plays 4K videos by default, 4K gaming is rumoured to be coming. Given the Xbox One, we would expect Sony to be giving the team responsible a bit of a prod.
To actually play games in 4K resolution you will need a suitable screen. Samsung, Sony and the usual TV manufacturers have high-end tellyboxes for this kind of thing but PC-maker Asus is also launching a dedicated 4K gaming monitor which we will be very interested to gawp at.
The one thing we can be certain of is that E3 2013 will have some surprises up its sleeve. Actually, a convention centre with sleeves would be surprise enough. Bad metaphor.
Previous E3 surprises have included Portal 2, the Wii Motionplus controller and Kinect. What will knock our socks off this year? Whatever happens, be sure to check with trusted Reviews for the latest news from LA when the show kicks off on 11 June.