Page last updated at 08:15 GMT, Saturday, 19 July 2008 09:15 UK

E3: The best games on show

By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website, Los Angeles

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Game designer Cliffy B talks Gears of War 2

E3 has shut its doors for another 12 months and it is time to reflect on what was shown and which games emerged as best in show.

A few years ago at E3 publishers were able to match their ambitions for specific games by building ever bigger and more elaborate stands.

But now the show is much more reserved and journalists have more of a chance to play games, meet the developers and get a real sense of what titles will impress.

Gears of War 2, for the Xbox 360, was only available as a sneak peek multiplayer session, and everyone who tried it came away impressed.

The central characters Marcus and Dominic are back fighting the Locust horde, and guess what - this time it is personal.

For developers Epic the question will be whether the graphic dazzle of the first game can be surpassed with the sequel.

Lead designer Cliff Bleszinski told BBC News: "The expectations are really, really high with the sequel. We fully intend on delivering, by delivering a game and ratcheting it all up to 11.

"We have a better story this time around and a far more robust online experience."

He promises more weapons, a better story line and a longer experience playing the campaign mode.

Do not expect Gears of War 2 to make too many changes to the gun and run formula, however.

DIY Gaming

LittleBigPlanet is the highly ambitious title from MediaMolecule, a gaming start-up based in Guildford, Surrey, that has gone from demo to PlayStation 3 flagship title in a couple of years.

Screenshot from LittleBigPlanet, Sony
LittleBigPlanet lets players create their own games

Due out in October, the title is being heralded as the tipping point for user generated content in gaming. A platform title with bags of character and humour, gamers are given simple tools to build rich complex levels and then share them online.

Alex Evans, co-founder of Media Molecule, said: "We have three key words: play, create and share.

"You might get into it just by playing with your kids and your family, but each level we provide is inspiration for you to be able to create new ones."

The company has devoted a lot of time to making the tools for creating new levels as easy as possible to master.

Time will tell if LittleBigPlanet will spark a revolution of YouTube proportions, but all the indications are that the game will be a joy to play even if you never delve into the creation of new content.

Music games dominated much of E3 with Rockband, Guitar Hero World Tour and Nintendo's WiiMusic impressing many.

People who are tone deaf and lack any hand-eye coordination have been making sweet music in the halls of the Los Angeles convention Center all this week.

As Kristen Dunleavy, senior editor at teen website KiwiBox.com, explained: "Guitar Hero: World Tour looked awesome.

"I can't play guitar or drums and these games make me feel a lot cooler than I really am."

Future imperfect

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Fallout 3 lets players roam a post-apocalyptic wasteland

Fallout 3, the multi-platform role playing game from Bethesda makers of Oblivion, has generated lots of column inches at E3.

Todd Howard, the game's creative lead, told BBC News: "It's our latest, giant epic role-playing game where you can get to make any kind of character you want, and go do what you want in this giant post-apocalyptic wasteland."

"It has a lot of charm, a lot of violence and a lot of humour."

Interestingly, Fallout 3 can be played as a third-person classic RPG or as a first person shooter. It is not yet clear whether Bethesda have had to compromise on both genres in order to give gamers the choice of playing styles.

Left4Dead is the latest creation from Valve, the geniuses behind Half-Life and Half-Life 2.

Screenshot from Left4Dead
Left4Dead is the latest from Half-Life maker Valve

At first glance it appears to be a run of the mill FPS with plenty of zombie action. But there is a twist; it is an online co-operative FPS.

The game adapts in real time to how your team of four tackles given situations - work together and the zombies come at you in waves, separate and they will pick you off one at a time.

It is a very dynamic game and each time I played the level of show it was never the same experience twice. And the game also puts a staggering number of creatures on screen at one time. It is destined for the PC and Xbox 360 later this year.

Fable adventures

Peter Molyneux's labour of love Fable 2 is finished and we had the first chance to actually play it at pods on the Microsoft stand.

It is not the kind of game that you can really get a feel for in a 10-minute session but many of Molyneux's promises that it would be easy to pick up and play, and combine both simplicity and depth seem to be absolutely true.

A few simple button presses does indeed unleash combat mayhem while the control system for shooting projectile weapons feels tight.

The fantasy world of Albion looks gorgeous - the designers have eschewed cold photorealism for something much warmer and suited to the demands of fun and adventure.

The audio is also a stand-out on the game - and the world feels more vibrant because of it. The game, of course, will stand and fall on the strength of the story-telling but what I have seen is very promising indeed.

Gamers will also be able to play co-operatively alongside friends who are also roaming Albion, making a traditional solo RPG a much more social experience. Fable 2 is due out in November.

Screenshot from Killzone 2, Sony
The long awaited Killzone 2 is finally set to appear in early 2009

Killzone 2, for PlayStation 3, feels like it has been in development for decades. First trailed in 2005 it has been the subject of more controversy than any other PlayStation 3 game, as fans do battle over how close the finished game will be to the original vision.

Hermen Hulst, managing director of Guerrilla Games, said: "Our vision was communicated in that trailer in 2005.

"We set out a highly ambitious vision for the game, both graphically and in terms of AI. It requires very sophisticated systems."

The game is now scheduled for release in February 2009 and the developers are continuing to polish, and to add to the title level by level.


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