Wii U at E3 2011

E3 2011 may be officially dead and buried, but our heads are still spinning from trying to absorb the endless amount of games we saw over the last four days. Before we departed the massive bowels of the L.A. Convention Center, we managed to snag an hour of hands-on time with the Wii U and get some exclusive peeks into some other exciting games.

The Wii Grows Up

If the vowel-heavy name Nintendo chose for its upcoming console gives the impression that the Wii went off to college, its actually sort of appropriate. The Wii U seems a more grown up console, as if Nintendo learned some important lessons and took the Wii to school. The HD graphics from the “Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” demo we saw looked on par with the best visuals on Xbox 360 and PS3.

Most impressive about the new system is the snazzy tablet-style controller. It felt more comfortable and light than expected, though the Nintendo employee running of the demos said his arms and wrists were pretty sore after holding it for three straight days. Still, the Wii U enables some truly innovative gaming experiences.

During another demo, three players with Wii-motes took on the role of Metroid-type characters hunting down a fourth person with the Wii U controller who played as a “boss” in a UFO. The UFO player used the touch screen to look down from the sky to find the other players. Eventhough it was little more than Pac-Man Meets Super Mario, playing “Chase Mii” was one of our favorite moments of E3. In the demo, four players with WiiMotes chased a fifth player holding the Wii U controller around a maze. The person who was “It” could see an overhead map of the maze and icons of where everyone else was on the touchscreen.

Nintendo also showed it was more committed to the hardcore crowd by demoing “Tom Clancy: Ghost Recon Online” for the Wii U. In this edition of Ghost Recon, the controller's touchscreen is utilized mostly as a 3D map, which players can also tap to make an icon that will act as a rallying point for the team. The screen can also be used to show black-and-white video captured by a drone that hovers over the battlefield.

Infintie Greatness

There was a reason why the word “Wow!” popped out of several people’s mouths immediately after the 20-minute “Bioshock: Infinite” demo from Irrational Games at E3 -- just about everything about it looked incredible. What we knew most about the game was about the story: it’s
set in 1912 aboard a fantastic floating city called Columbia that is plagued with conflict between a group called the Founders and group called the Vox Populi. You play as Booker, who has been given the task to rescue a young girl named Elizabeth from a giant bird-machine thing called “The Songbird.”

We were witness to a scene in which Booker and Elizabeth try to escape from the Songbird and the forces of Vox Populi. It was literally a roller coaster sequence where Booker rode the rails of a roller coaster rail using a sky-hook to land on a zeppelin armed to the teeth with missles. Booker also defeated enemies using powers such as launch a horde of crows at bad guys. Not only does the action look exciting, the game was careful to emphasize the complicated relationship with Elizabeth and her captor as well as the emotional interactions between herself and Booker.

If the demo was any sign, “Bioshock: Infinite” has the potential to be the best game of the year.

Battlefield Of Beauty

If looks could kill, “Battlefield 3” may have slayed everyone else on the E3 floor. If you squinted while looking at the trailer, you could almost swear there was a real war being fought on the TV screen.

Luckily, it plays almost as good as it looks so far. We sat in on a large multiplayer session of “Rush” mode in a level set in downtown Paris. Players can now choose from four different classes -- Recon, Support, Engineer and Assault -- which is basically a medic with more firepower than in previous games.

“Rush” hasn’t been changed radically from “Bad Company 2” but part of what makes BF3 great is the amount of destruction you can do on structures. In the game we played, two teammates destroyed a ceiling with rocket launchers, causing a load of debris to fall on enemy soldiers, killing them. By the end of our match, the amount of destruction in a building made it look almost like a completely different map.

It might still be too early to tell, but “Battlefield 3” could be a “Call of Duty” killer this fall.

Follow Ryan Smith on Twitter: @RyanSmithWriter

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