LOS ANGELES -- The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo known as E3 proved that the future of gaming may not lie in all sequels all the time. With no new consoles on the horizon, E3 concentrated on introducing a long list of all-new video games in addition to major releases from franchises such as "Assassin's Creed," "Gears of War" and "Resident Evil," creating a highly competitive battle for best-in-show picks.
Ubisoft had one of the most talked about games at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where E3 was in residence from Tuesday through Thursday. In "Watch Dogs," a third-person action-thriller set in a fictional universe, all technology is linked, from bank accounts to cell phones to traffic lights. The protagonist has the ability to hack into any of these devices to access data or gain control. The gameplay possibilities seem to be endless.
Sony garnered some of E3's focus with footage from "The Last of Us." This new game set in a post-apocalyptic Pittsburgh looks to create a new standard in cinematically inspired gameplay. The game's voice acting and ominous setting turn the focus to mood and drama rather than gratuitous violence.
New games aside, the expo unveiled impressive footage of sequels from well-recognized series. Based in the period of the American Revolution, "Assassin's Creed III" showed exciting new video of the protagonist, Conner Kenway, manning a battleship in an epic battle at sea.
"Gears of War: Judgment," a prequel in the "Gears" series, looks to evolve the brand by adding new gameplay to the iconic franchise. "We want this to feel like a new game in the series while keeping that core crunchy combat," said Cliff Bleszinski, design director at Epic Games.
A new multiplayer mode called "Overrun" will put an emphasis on team strategy in "Gears of War: Judgment," which will be available in early 2013.
There were some disappointments at E3 2012. Many believed Nintendo would make major announcements to help offset its recent financial struggles. Instead, the Japan-based video-game company made no mention of a Wii U release date or starting price point.
Nintendo closed its show with what many believed to be the minor announcement of its new multiplayer play space for the Wii U, called "Nintendo Land." Speculation suggested that Nintendo would announce a new "Pokemon" or "Metroid" game to give the Wii U a strong franchise at launch, but that was not the case.
The recent gaming trend of offering free online games saw growth. The team-based first-person shooter "Planetside 2" from Sony Online Entertainment proves that big-budget games do not need to be full retail releases. In-game bonuses can be purchased, but the game itself is free to download and play for PC.
"End of Nations," a new game from Trion Worlds that combines the real-time strategy and massively multiplayer online genres, also is available at no charge. The business model has the potential for profits, as seen from the popularity of Riot Games' "League of Legends," which has add-ons such as character costumes and colors for purchase.
Games such as "Gears of War: Judgment," "Tomb Raider" and "Dead Space 3" announced release dates for early next year. If they hold true, expect a crowded release calendar in the January-to-March range and a less crowded schedule for holiday 2012.
Max Parker is the Post-Gazette Game Guy at communityvoices.sites.post-gazette.com and on Twitter at @GameGuyPGH. First Published June 9, 2012 4:00 AM