GamePro's best of E3 2008 awards

The best games of E3 2008, with top showings by Gears of War 2, Flower, Prince of Persia, and Mirror's Edge.

The editors of GamePro spent last week combing the show floor of E3 2008 searching for innovation and excitement. Now that E3 is over, we've compiled a list of the best games -- a who's who of 2008 and 2009.

Gears of War 2

Platform: Xbox 360
Format: DVD
Release date: November

Gears of War 2 made a powerful impression at Microsoft's E3 2008 press briefing, even if the framerate sputtered occasionally and the game crashed once. Seeing Gears of War 2 running in real time, it's obvious that the Xbox 360 still has some visual horsepower to spare: the graphics look stunning, with volumetric light rays, dynamic stages that you can blow up with grenades and bullets, and intense action featuring dozens of enemies. Gears of War 2 promises to be the end-all, be-all action game released this year, and the E3 2008 demo made a powerful argument for a powerful-looking game.

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Flower

Platform: PS3
Format: Download
Release date: TBA (late 2008?)

The surprise hit of E3 2008...at least, by those who played it. A new game by the developers of Flow, Flower practically defies description. It's part racing game (though there's no time limit), part flying game, and part emotional journey. You control -- wait for it -- the wind. You blow through a massive 1080p natural-looking landscape that's agonizingly beautiful, tilting the Sixaxis to guide your path (and yes, the Sixaxis motion controls work nicely here). You can skim between blades of grass, or soar high over the landscape to perform loop-de-loops. Your goal? Collect flower petals, explore the huge environment, or just listen to the relaxing sound of the breeze. This game took our breath away, but you've got to experience it for yourself before making any judgments.

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Mirror's Edge

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Format: DVD, Blu-ray
Release date: November

Several GamePro editors went hands-on with Mirror's Edge at E3 2008, and in every case they came back raving about its sleek control system (two buttons control almost everything) and vivid graphics. Because you perform your acrobatic stunts from the first-person perspective, the first few moments in the game can be jarring. But once you grasp the subtle simplicity of Mirror's Edge, you'll be busting out huge slide and wall jump combos in no time. Mirror's Edge was a favorite among the GamePro editors this year, and it's not hard to see why -- it's pretty, easy to play, and very, very stylish.

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Prince of Persia

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Format: DVD, Blu-ray
Release date: Late 2008

This rebirth of Prince of Persia ditches the goth crap that weighed down the earlier games, and features a dazzling new visual style that looks like a watercolor painting come to life. This "new" Prince of Persia wowed the GamePro editors at E3 with its smooth, acrobatic game flow -- several editors remarked that Assassin's Creed should have followed the same gameplay style. The combat system is unusually intimate and intense, too: we watched as the Prince clashed swords with a single powerful enemy, and the combat was anything but mindless hack-and-slash. In the lengthy battle, we didn't see a single combat move repeated twice -- a testament to the game's startlingly fluid animation. The Prince was a real winner at this year's E3.

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Resident Evil 5

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
Format: DVD, Blu-ray
Release date: March 2009

Though several editors criticized its apparent similarity to Resident Evil 4, Capcom's survival-horror sequel was still a GamePro favorite at E3 2008. Online cooperative play (now officially...official), massive crowds of enemy ghouls, and ultra-realistic visuals made for one dynamite combo. Now if we can just get confirmation on those rumored Mercenary modes...

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Killzone 2

Platform: PS3
Format: Blu-ray
Release date: February 2009

"Gears of War meets Call of Duty 4." That's how several GamePro editors described Killzone 2, and in this case, it's a big compliment. Killzone 2 had some of the best visuals we saw at the show - it takes that gritty rust-and-chrome look to soaring new heights - and fierce shooting that reminded us of an over-the-top remix of Call of Duty 4. Expansive online features, including customizable character classes and massive 32-man battles, will make Killzone 2 the online shooter to beat in 2009.

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MadWorld

Platform: Wii
Format: DVD
Release date: Early 2009

You're a contestant on a game show called Deathwatch; your bloody exploits are narrated by two over-the-top commentators who chime in with lewd observations and play-by-play descriptions as you dismember various thugs and bosses. If you love the hyper-stylized violence of games like No More Heroes or even Gears of War, MadWorld is one to watch. The real shocker: it's on the family-friendly Wii!

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Wanted

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Format: DVD, Blu-ray
Release date: Late 2008/Early 2009

Though it didn't get much hype at the show, this video game sequel to the cult flick Wanted came as a big surprise to the GamePro editors. It's essentially a new-and-improved version of Max Payne, with fast-paced cover-hopping gameplay, slick "bullet curving" trick shots, and some seriously detailed graphics. It may be a movie game, but Wanted was one of our favorites from E3 2008. Once you see Wanted in motion, you'll understand why.

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Resistance 2

Platform: PS3
Format: Blu-ray
Release date: November

Resistance 2 was looking good at E3. First, developer Insomniac Games showed off the massive, 300-foot Leviathan boss to the stunned Sony press conference crowd. Later, in hands-on gameplay, we battled through a 60-player online match and tried our hand with the new explosive Magnum weapon. Resistance 2 may lack the visual panache of Killzone 2 and Gears of War 2, but it's packing a laundry list of features that will entice almost any breed of shooter fan. Resistance 2 is shaping up to be the PS3 shooter of 2008.

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James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Format: DVD, Blu-ray
Release date: November

Quantum of Solace wowed the E3 masses with a fast-paced gameplay style that felt like a blend of Gears of War and classic GoldenEye. As we watched a very lifelike Bond sprint-dash from cover to cover taking out enemies with guns and his bare hands, we couldn't help but think that this series' evolution mirrors that of James Bond himself. Quantum of Solace is faster, more physical, and way more aggressive than anything that has come before. Prepare to be blown away by this one.

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Dead Space

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Format: DVD, Blu-ray
Release date: October

It's slower than Resident Evil, and a bit more strategic: you've got to carefully aim at alien Necromorphs and blast them to pieces, bit by bit, before they tear you apart. Survival horror fans looking for a Resident Evil 5 tide-me-over should definitely look here first. The graphics are gruesome, the environments radiate dread and menace, and ammo is awfully limited. Sounds like a perfect Friday night to us...

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Fallout 3

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Format: DVD, Blu-ray
Release date: Fall 2008

We haven't been terribly excited by Fallout 3, despite its Elder Scrolls pedigree. Then we picked up the controller at E3, and we were instantly hooked. Here's what many readers don't know: Fallout 3 is essentially an RPG-heavy version of BioShock, set in an open world. We searched through some containers, augmented a cruddy assault rifle, and blasted through cannibals in an abandoned elementary school. Fallout 3 has huge potential -- we came away from our hands-on demo wearing a Joker-esque grin.

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Resistance: Retribution

Platform: PSP
Format: UMD
Release date: Spring 2009

Sony had a strong show this year, and games like Resistance Retribution were the reason. A revenge-driven side-story to the popular PS3 shooter, Retribution had the best PSP graphics we've ever seen, looking for all the world like an upper-crust PlayStation 2 game (yes, it looks better than God of War: COW). The camera angle is set in the third-person, but the shooting action was spot-on and simple, thanks to a handy auto-aim window. Look for Resistance to be a hit on the PSP -- so far it's the best handheld shooter we've played.

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Fable 2

Platform: Xbox 360
Format: DVD
Release date: October

Fable 2 hype has been on a slow burn for years, but at E3 2008, mastermind Peter Molyneux finally let gamers pick up the controller. That's when we realized how fun Fable 2 really is. Playing with a friend in the two-player cooperative mode is a crucial element: you can cooperate to take down enemy monsters and earn double experience for your efforts. Newly confirmed online co-op play and unlimited player customizations may make Fable 2 the best RPG of 2008.

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Infamous

Platform: PS3
Format: Blu-ray
Release date: Spring 2009

The behind closed-doors demo of Infamous showed a game with great promise. We watched as messenger-turned-superhuman Cole navigated the sprawling streets of a quarantined Empire City, scrabbling along rooftops and electrocuting superhuman foes. The morality twist isn't just for show, but will determine how you play. Will you be dark and selfish, wasting dozens of innocents with your most destructive powers? Or will you put nobility over destruction and learn to focus your electricity attacks in order to minimize collateral damage? Fascinating game design and some gorgeous production values for this PS3-only gem.

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LittleBigPlanet

Platform: PS3
Format: Blu-ray, Download
Release date: October

YouTube meets Mario. You can create your own side-scrolling levels using photos, custom designs, and even video. There's not much new to say about LittleBigPlanet based on its E3 2008 showing, but the game looks better and better every time we see it. The user-created content will be insane -- we are truly in uncharted waters with this game.

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Halo Wars

Platform: Xbox 360
Format: DVD
Release date: Late 2008

Halo Wars was looking sharp at E3 2008. The new demo version included the first implementation of the new Spartans supersoldiers, who can kick ass with the best of them (and even take over enemy vehicles). The controls are simple - crucial for a console strategy game - and the graphical polish is looking better and better. Can Halo Wars overcome the console RTS curse? The evidence is promising.

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Honorable Mentions

We caught a few other pleasant surprises at E3 2008. Here's a quick list of the other games we'll be watching closely in the months to come -- there are some real gems in here.

Crash Commandos

Platform: PS3
Format: Download
Release date: TBA (late 2008?)

Like a fusion of Contra and Quake, this online game pits tiny warriors against each other in a beautifully detailed 2D world. You can choose your weapons (rocket launchers, shotguns, sniper rifles, and more) and zip around deathmatch arenas, using a jetpack, while scoring kills on other players or bots. It sounds awfully simple, but the graphics, gore, and humor had us wanting to play more of this downloadable gem. A cult hit in the making.

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Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
Format: DVD, Blu-ray
Release date: November

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe: MK vs. DC returns to its more 2D roots, and that's okay with us because the end result is more classic gameplay. The T rating means no more gory fatalities, but pitting Batman against Liu Kang is intriguing. The energy level is high, the Unreal-based graphics are sharp, and the 20+ character lineup is expansive. Prepare yourself for a surprise with this offbeat fighter.

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Bayonetta

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
Format: DVD, Blu-ray
Release date: TBA 2009

You play as a raunchy, oversexed witch who struts like a streetwalker while devastating demons with elaborate combos and spells. The catch? She's packing foot-mounted guns and an array of complicated S&M torture devices. Trashy, flashy, and yet oddly brilliant. Devil May Cry fans should keep their eyes peeled for Bayonetta.

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Wii Sports Resort

Platform: Wii
Format: DVD
Release date: Early 2009

It's taken Nintendo an inexcusably long time to introduce a proper Wii Sports sequel, but now that we've played it, we're thinking the game might be worth the wait. New events include jet ski courses and a very slick swordfighting mini-game that takes advantage of the new MotionPlus Wii Remote add-on. Nintendo's one standout Wii game at E3 2008.

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Fat Princess

Platform: PS3
Format: Download
Release date: TBA

Like a demented game of capture the flag, your team of 16 players must infiltrate the enemy's castle and carry their princess back to score. In this unusual online game, the best defense is weighing down your princess with cake feedings to slow any capture attempts. The ultra-cute graphics hide some impressive gore (arrows lodge into enemy craniums and stay there).

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BioShock

Platform: PS3
Format: Blu-ray
Release date: Fall 2008

New challenge modes? Better graphics? Trophy support? Count us in. The PlayStation 3 port of BioShock looks to be the definitive version of this classic horror-shooter, and the addition of exclusive new mini-games (some combat-oriented, some Portal-like puzzles) warrant a second trip to Rapture.

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