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E3 Staff Picks: Most-Anticipated Games of the Coming Year
Intro and Edited By: J. Michael Neal

Isn’t May a wonderful month? Every May we know an E3 is coming, and that means one thing – plenty to drool over for the coming year! This E3 was no exception – hardware announcements, price drops, online plans, and tons and tons and TONS of killer games. However, some games are definitely worth paying more attention to than others. Everyone has their particular reasons for wanting one game more than another, though and just about everyone knows what games have them the most stoked. Here is what the VGF staff are most excited to get their grubby little hands on and why…

Josh Fishburn – NGF Staff

5) Viewtiful Joe - Capcom (GC)

Since I have only seen screens for this one and have seen nothing like it, this pick is purely hype. Fortunately, based on reactions to Nintendo’s recent GameCube demo disk, it seems deserved. This game evokes memories of Comix Zone for Genesis, another game where the protagonist is stuck in some sort of media (in Viewtiful Joe it is film). The slow, mach speed, and zoom power-ups sound awesome and seem to add a strategy element to the crazy action. More alluring than anything, however, is the “cool factor” that this game exudes. Much like the first impressions of Devil May Cry, this game just seems like it will be a lot of fun to play.

4) Need for Speed Underground - EA (PS2, Xbox, GC, GBA, PC)

One of my favorite PS2 racing games is Tokyo Extreme Racer Zero. It has an exciting illegal racing theme, diverse customization options, and challenging opponents. It is missing something that the Need for Speed franchise can hopefully deliver: mass-market appeal. NFS: Underground is based on the excellent Hot Pursuit 2 engine, but the similarities end there. Supplanting the Lamborghinis and Ferraris with “urban exotics” like Subarus and Toyotas, Underground looks to take the increasingly popular street racing theme and focus on speed and customization. The speed aspect has already been done to near perfection with Midnight Club 2, and customization with TERZ. Underground looks to fuel gamers by combining all the great elements from these games and adding real cars to the mix. I can’t wait for this one!

3) Tony Hawk: Underground - Activision (PS2, Xbox, GC, GBA)

The Tony Hawk games have been revolutionary from the start, but with so many copycat games the extreme sports genre quickly became saturated and many gamers (myself included) lost interest. So, perhaps Neversoft decided it was time for an overhaul. More than just dropping the Pro Skater moniker, they completely reworked the gameplay. Cool idea number one: Let’s let each player play as his/herself. Huh? you say. Huh indeed. Apparently you can send in your picture, it will be scanned in for you, and you will be able to go online and download the facial texture onto your player. Interesting… Cool idea number two: Let’s make this an adventure game that just happens to have skateboarding in it. Gamers can roam the city, explore, drive, climb, interact, and most importantly (or maybe not anymore…) skate. In addition, the create-a-park mode has been expanded to have a create-a-game feel, allowing you to place objects and create your own goals. You can even create your own tricks from scratch.  This one should be interesting.

2) Boktai - Konami (GBA)

At first glance, Boktai’s sun-sensible gameplay comes of as a gimmick. See, the cartridge has a sensor in it that detects sunlight. When you play outside in the sun, it’s sunny in the world of Boktai. The difference here is that it actually makes sense for the gameplay. As a vampire hunter, you must use your gun (which the sun replenishes) and the sunlight to defeat the undead enemies. Being that this is the brainchild of Hideo Kojima, my excitement for this game is off the charts. Let’s not forget that Kojima has been unafraid to innovate, and recently with great success (Metal Gear Solid, Zone of Enders, Silent Hill, et al.).

1) Castlevania: Lament of Innocence - Konami (PS2)

This one was an easy pick. Seeing the first screens last month definitely wet my appetite for this game, but that was nothing compared to my impressions after more of the game was revealed. The words of producer Koji Igarashi give us reason to be hyped: “I want to debut on the PS2 very dramatically by making this the best Castlevania ever.” Any why shouldn’t we believe him? He was involved with Symphony of the Night, which is widely considered the pinnacle of the series (You can say that again! Ed.), and he was involved in the GBA incarnations as well. The abandonment of some of Symphony’s RPG elements and the move to three dimensions may be puzzling to some fans, but we can only hope that these changes are for the best. The graphics look great, and Igarashi has once again enlisted Michiru Yamane (the woman responsible for Symphony’s somber…symphonies) to score Lament. Add to this a surprising story twist (the game takes place in the 11th century when Dracula first becomes a vampire) and you’ve got a winner to sink your teeth into.

Jared Black – XGF Staff

5) Pirates of the Caribbean* - Bethesda Softworks (Xbox, PC)

This game looks to essentially be the awesome Morrowind set to a pirate theme. Sure it’s carrying the weight of the Disney license now, but the game remains pretty much unchanged from Akella’s original vision.

*For anyone who didn’t know, this game use to be Sea Dogs II. It looked promising before the license attachment and hopefully the movie will generate some much-needed interest for this sleeper title. – Ed.

4) Mario Kart: Double Dash - Nintendo (GCN)

I don’t care how the game played at E3; you just know that Nintendo will have this one straightened out at release. The lack of online play is disappointing (few people have the resources necessary to host a console LAN game), but as long as it brings more classic Mario Kart goodness I’ll be happy.  I just hope they speed up the game considerably before release, and bring back the slide move found in Mario Kart 64 (or some other form of advanced driving technique).

3) Halo 2 - Microsoft (Xbox)

Xbox Live support, improved A.I., beefed up graphics, and oh so much more will surely make Halo 2 the Xbox game to own in early 2004.  And since this list covers up through E3 2004, I can include it.  So there!

2) Morrowind: Game of the Year – Bethesda Softworks (Xbox)

This game makes my list because it solves a huge dilemma for me. As a huge Morrowind fan and recent owner of a new PC, I’ve been considering the possibility of ditching the game (and more importantly my character) on Xbox and buying Morrowind all over again for PC. Why?  So I could enjoy the two expansion packs, Bloodmoon and Tribunal, as well as the various mods available for PC owners. Morrowind: GotY is set to include both expansion packs and perhaps even some official mods, all for a low price point of $29.99 (the same price PC owners pay for one expansion alone). Xbox owners still don’t get the editor, but that wouldn’t be practical on a console anyway.

1) Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – Konami (PS2)

Who doesn’t want this game? When the trailer leaked out a few days before E3, I sat and watched it. Then watched it again. And again. I’ve wanted another good jungle-based sneaking game ever since the Metal Gear on NES days, and this one doesn’t look like it’ll disappoint me. Kojima’s known for using E3 trailers to throw us off course though, so who knows what this game will actually turn out to be.

The possibility of Big Boss as a playable character this time around (making MGS3 a prequel of sorts) is enough to get any MGS fan giddy.  The trailer, as well as Kojima himself, hints that it may be Big Boss, but there is other evidence suggesting that it’s not Big Boss at all.  For example, the weaponry used in the game doesn’t match anything available during the 60’s, which is apparently when the game would have to be set in order to feature Big Boss…

J. Michael Neal – PSGF Staff

5) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Konami (PS2, Xbox, GC)

Ok, first of all it’s the Ninja Turtles. Need I saw more? Second the same team at Konami that did the classic TMNT arcade game way back when is doing it. Third, its being made hand-in-hand with Mirage Studios, the company responsible for the Turtles in the first place and the current, kick-ass revival currently taking place. Last, but certainly not least, this game just looks damn fun and will probably be one of the better two player games to be released in a year.

4) Metal Slug 5 – SNK (PS2)

The 2D format is an endangered species that, like all endangered species, should be preserved for future generations. Since Konami have dashed our hopes of seeing a 2D, next gen sequel to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night with the announcement of the 3D, Devil May Cry-esque Lament of Innocence, it seems SNK are the only ones willing to keep this tradition alive. They announced seven 2D titles this year alone, including ports of King of Fighters 2001/2002 and the brand new 2003, the latest installment in the SNK vs. Capcom franchise, and three, yes, THREE Metal Slugs. While I’m certainly excited to see Metal Slug 3 and 4 appear on an American console, it’s the brand new, hopefully high res, Metal Slug 5 that has me most excited! Do us old-school gamers proud SNK!

3) Killer 7 – Capcom (GC)

I’d be lying if I said this game didn’t greatly influence my purchase of a GameCube. Put simply, Killer 7 was just too intriguing to miss. A complex, gritty, twisted, ultra-violent crime story about a wheelchair bound assassin with seven distinct personalities, told through some of the most artistically distinct cel-shading ever? Sounds like Reservoir Dogs as written by Chuck Palahniuk. Where do I sign up? 

2) Republic: The Revolution – Eidos (PC)

I’ve been waiting a while for this game. A very, very, very long while. Hopefully, when it’s released it will deliver on all its early promises, which would mean it will be the most detailed and in depth political rise-to-power simulator ever made, which would make it the game I’ve been dreaming about since the day I opened a history book. Here’s hoping Elixir Studios can pull it off.

1) TIE: Deus Ex: Invisible War – Eidos (PC, Xbox) and Half-Life 2 – Sierra  (PC, Xbox)

Well, up until a few weeks ago Deus Ex: Invisible War, the sequel to the most remarkable game ever made, firmly sat atop my “please hurry up and be released before my heart explodes” list, but post-high resolution Half-Life 2 videos, I’m not too sure. After that just about everything looks like warm, wet poo, and while Invisible War still gets honorable mention because, well, it’s a sequel to Deus Ex, Half-Life 2 pretty much taken the flavor out my mouth for just about every game out there.

Philip Roland – PCGF Staff

5) Need for Speed Underground – EA (PS2, Xbox, GC, GBA, PC)

My first Need for Speed game was NFS: High Stakes, which was a great game in itself and spawned my interest in the NFS series. Usually it's a good thing if a game series takes a new direction as long as it doesn't deviate from the original focus and gameplay style of the series. This type of innovation will soon be affecting the NFS series, with the main difference from previous Need for Speed game being the large amount of customization that will be available with your car. You'll now have the chance to build your own dream machine from a normal street car, upgrading each part at a time. I really like it when a game has a lot of customization options, be it building up your character, designing your own level/map, or just being able to choose what color your vehicle will be. This magnitude of customization is new to the Need for Speed franchise, so this title should have some interesting results.

4) Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided – LucasArts (PC)

I have to say that I haven't jumped on the MMO bandwagon yet, mainly because of the monthly fees. I really don't want to have to pay a certain amount of money each month unless the game is really, really good. Star Wars Galaxies might just be the MMO title that stands out for me. As I've mentioned before, I'm a Star Wars fan (which you'll soon see from the number of Star Wars titles that are here on my list), and being able to play out a massively multiplayer online game in the Star Wars universe would be great.

3) Knights of the Old Republic – LucasArts (Xbox, PC)

I normally don't play RPGs, but the Star Wars environment for this game has drawn me in. I'd actually have to say the most interesting part of this game so far is the storyline and setting of the game. So far there hasn't been much that's taken place in the ancient past of the Star Wars universe, and I'm looking forward to seeing what LucasArts* decides to do with this.

*More like, “I’m looking forward to seeing what Bioware decides to do with it”. These people are batting 1.000 when it comes to RPGs, hell, when it comes to any genre, so their track record + the trailers for the game = sign me up! – Ed.

2) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Konami (PS2, Xbox, GC)

The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games were some of the best Street Fighter clones released, and it's great to see the Turtles back in action once again. Graphically, the new TMNT game is looking great, as this is how cel-shading should be used. The comic book feel fits the series well, and the word balloon sound effects are a nice touch too. In terms of gameplay, I'm expecting nothing but good; as I mentioned above, the original TMNT titles were awesome fighters, and Konami should deliver the same gameplay prowess that the previous TMNT games have had.

1) Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy – LucasArts (PC)

Like I said in the Star Wars Galaxies portion of this article, I'm a Star Wars fan. It should come as no surprise, then, that my top game would be a Star Wars title. I enjoyed both Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight and Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, and the new direction the series is taking is looking pretty good so far. I also mentioned in the NFS Underground paragraph that I enjoy being able to customize the aspects of a game, and this is another title that will have a lot of customization options available. Choosing your character's race and appearance, building your own lightsaber; all accompanied by what looks to be some great gameplay, spectacular audio and breathtaking visuals to give it that Star Wars feel we all know and love.

Posted: 7-15-03
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