The games on show at E3 2011 are some of the best in living memory. So you really owe it to yourself to vote in CVG's inaugural E3 2011 Awards... in the Most Anticipated Title category.
Shortly before the show, we'll work out which of these 60 special E3 game previews have enjoyed the most page views, Facebook 'Likes', ReTweets and poll votes (see below) and crown our first victor at the Los Angeles event. Give your favourites the love!
Game: Mass Effect 3
Likelihood of E3 2011 showing: Certain
Right now we're in the middle of production," says Mass Effect 3's Executive Producer Casey Hudson. "We're not really at the point where we can show you a ten minute cross-section of what the final game's gonna look like. But what we can do is show you is all the stuff that's gonna form Mass Effect 3."
And they do just that. Artists talk about the appearance of Mass Effect's returning characters, combat designers show off Shepard's new evasive roll and SWAT turn, level designers walk down empty Earth and Martian hallways, and sound designers play the same gunshot a dozen times while simulating the effects you'd hear in a dozen different rooms.
There's little to show of the story, the new missions, the cut-scenes, the places Shepard visits, or anything that resembles a game right now. If Mass Effect 3 were made by another studio the game's current state would be a cause for concern, but this is Bioware and they've done this before.
Half a year before release Mass Effect 2 was demoed to press in the same disjointed, broken form. Six months later it was 2010's Game Of The Year. So when Bioware show off art, level design, combat, and narrative as distinct elements rather than demoing them as a whole it's because they're skipping the usual demo-friendly vertical slice and rushing straight for the finish line - a complete Mass Effect 3 in time for Christmas.
Mass Effect 2's Arrival DLC sets the stage for the events of the third game's opening, with the Reapers on their way and the Alliance at last recognising the existence of the galaxy-consuming machines.
"In Arrival you have to make some sacrifices to slam that door shut on the Reapers and buy the galaxy a little more time," Hudson explains. "Your decisions in Arrival end up having a pretty catastrophic cost and you're told to report to Earth when the events of Mass Effect 2 are all over."
So Mass Effect 3 begins on Earth, just moments before the Reapers arrive. "Shepard's kind of stuck trying to explain all this stuff that's been going on when the Reapers actually arrive and take the Earth." Just like that? "Just like that," says Hudson.
"This is the galactic war Shepard has been warning everyone about for two games now. This is the whole galaxy at war," Hudson confirms. "This isn't an alien invasion story where you're fighting off the invasion. They are unstoppable. You narrowly escape. And then your goal is to figure out how to rally the forces of the whole galaxy; that's what it's going to take to come back and reclaim the Earth. It's like in Mass Effect 2 where you're building a team of twelve people, but this time you're building an entire army."
Twelve was a big number in Mass Effect 2 - almost too big, Hudson concedes. "We're focusing on a smaller squad with deeper relationships and more interesting interplay in Mass Effect 3," he explains. "We're not going to have twelve again but we are going to do more with the characters on your squad, including Liara, and Kaidan or Ashley. And we're bringing everyone back - every main character is in Mass Effect 3 somewhere."