Downtown LA may not have the glamour of la Croisette, but there's no doubting E3 is the videogame equivalent to Cannes – a huge trade and press show that stuffs all the industry's big players into a colossal convention centre to show off their wares.
Microsoft came with two of the most anticipated titles, both sequels to highly popular and successful series. Halo 4 (6 November) is the first Halo game from new developers 343 Industries, and returns protagonist Master Chief to centre stage. The Covenant may have been defeated in Halo 3 but now they're back along with a new biomechanical foe, which brings an eerier, darker feel to the space shooter.
All the familiar Halo staples are present and correct – and despite the switch in developer it plays just as well as ever. The War Games deathmatch multiplayer is frantic, with grenades being thrown and vehicles zooming around the expansive landscape. There's also new Spartan Ops cooperative play, which will be released in a series of weekly episodes for no extra charge, continuing the narrative from the end of the game.
Microsoft's other big title was Forza Horizon (23 October), taking the racing sim on to the open road to create a more accessible game but with the same superb visuals and control mechanics. All the cars still handle like a dream, but now there's oncoming traffic and winding country roads to take into account as you race through urban and rural USA. It's more accessible but shouldn't put off the hardcore racing fans who've taken the Forza series to their hearts.
Sony's strongest titles were both brand new. Beyond: Two Souls, Quantic Dream's follow up to Heavy Rain, stars the Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page and shares the same narrative focus as its predecessor, but with added telekenesis. The Last of Us (2013) is a brutal third-person action game reminscent of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, with a 14-year-old girl being protected by an older male survivor. The combat is visceral and the post-apocalyptic landscape looks stunning.
Nintendo was all about its upcoming new console Wii U (release date to be confirmed) and explaining the novel tablet controller that comes with it. In the collection of minigames, NintendoLand, which will accompany the console at launch, asymmetrical gameplay was emphasised, allowing players to do different things depending on which type of controller they use. For example, in Animal Crossing: Sweet Day three players collect sweets with Wiimotes, while another attempts to catch them controlling two guards via the tablet's analogue sticks – it's very tricky, much like rubbing your tummy whilst patting your head. Familiar faces returned, with Pikmin 3 and New Super Mario Bros U set to bring old favourites to the new console.
They were also keen to show off third-party titles with perhaps the best use of the controller coming from Ubisoft. ZombiU showed that the new console isn't just for kids, and the excellent Rayman Legends used a tablet player as an assistant. It has some superb rhythm action segments, where one player is platforming with the Wiimote while the other interacts with the landscape on the tablet to a beat.
Ubisoft had an impressive conference all round, showing off exciting sequels to Far Cry, Splinter Cell and Assassin's Creed that are sure to please fans. However it was a demo of Watch Dogs that stole the show – a GTA-type game set in a large city where you are connected to all the technology within it to spy on fellow citizens. It looks incredible and promises a depth of gameplay that has yet to be seen in this generation of consoles.
Five standout titles at E3
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (out 2 Nov 2012) From British developers Criterion, Most Wanted is head and shoulders above recent offerings from EA's racer. It's an open world title like Burnout: Paradise and great fun – you can escape the cops in single-player or challenge friends online.
Dishonored (12 Oct 2012) Bethesda's new first-person shooter brings something different to the crowded FPS market with its sumptuous steampunk visuals and its clever use of magic to switch things up.
The Cave (2013) Ron Gilbert, the genius behind the Monkey Island series, returns with a new puzzler that sends intrepid adventurers into the eponymous cavern to search for their heart's desire.
Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013) Sega still won't let us try being the Alien, but playing as the marines, motion sensor in hand, is thrillingly close to the films upon which it is based.
South Park: The Stick of Truth (5 March 2013) Written and voiced by TV series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, this is an irreverent take on the RPG genre that takes you right into the world of South Park. It looks identical to the series, and the story is full of the characters and jokes you'd expect – even Mr Slave.
It took Sony and Microsoft a while to catch up with Nintendo's Wii motion controls – but the Wii U's tablet/motion-controller is already looking a little passé.
Microsoft's SmartGlass isn't a new piece of kit but an app, to be released later this year, for all major smartphones and tablets. This will turn your touch device into a second screen and input for the Xbox 360, allowing you to pause a film on one and start it up on the other, gain interactive extra contact while watching video, and provide extra gameplay opportunities – such as finding people to play with online on Halo 4 or creating custom plays for Madden NFL. If it works it will bring second screens to the masses of people that own both an Xbox and some form of touchscreen device.
Sony's answer is interactivity between the PS3 and their the portable Vita, allowing it to act as an extra controller, provide added content, and even allow multiplayer between the two devices, as on PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. It's not as neat as SmartGlass, but in combination they must have Nintendo a bit worried.
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