So E3 has come and gone. We had fun watching, cheering, laughing, and/or cringing at presentations from the big publishers, but at the end of the day, it’s the games that matter. The digital interactive experiences that were promised to us enthusiasts, fans, and consumers.
Here are our picks of the games that blew our proverbial clothes, socks, and undergarments off during the week known as “Christmas for gamers”.
The HEAVY HITTERS
Uncharted 4 (PS4)
An open-ended(ish) car chase, marketplace shootout, and panning vistas sure grabbed our attention for the fifth Uncharted game. The fact that the graphics and detail for the shooter look gorgeous also helps.
But beyond that, we worry that it feels like the same old ride all over again; like how developer Naughty Dog wowed a lot of others with similarly bombastic set-pieces. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you, but it will take more than that to impress the jaded crowd who want a fresh spin of a third-person action adventure game with a snarky grave robber straight out of a Joss Whedon-written TV show.
Starfox Zero (Wii U)
What could be better than seeing a new iteration of space case Starfox 64 with gyroscopic Wii U tablet controls, a transforming Arwing, fast-paced flight sim action, and anthropomorphic animals smack-talking each other in space? Well, how about having top action gaming pioneers Platinum Games co-developing this title with Nintendo? Colour us super-interested as the holiday season of 2015 can’t come soon enough.
Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
No need to play around with Super Mario Bros. ROMs illegally; now you can use Nintendo’s patented graph paper-styled Mario Level maker to create that dream stage you always wanted. Or cunning deathtrap stages filled with giant Bullet Bills and Thwomp Traps to infuriate your friends with. With intuitive controls thanks to the Wii U tablet and the option to switch between different 2D sprite Mario titles, the sky’s the limit for 2D level-making which also leads to potential self-taught lessons in basic game design.
Just Cause 3 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Wingsuits do make open world games all the more fun: see Far Cry 4 for a textbook example. Just Cause 3 aims to include that style-fall apparatus alongside the game’s patented grappling hook.
Never ever leave the ground using a combination of the wingsuit and grappling hook. Attach grappling hooks with enough force to cause a dictator’s statue to slap itself repeatedly to oblivion. Pull off stunts from Just Cause 2 but now with more destructible environments and a new physics engine to toy with. And we didn’t even factor in the many weapons and vehicles you get to use to blow stuff up. Oh,and finish the story mode if that’s something you wish to do. Not even the publisher’s rather droll E3 presentation can keep us away from this potential gem this December 1.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the next chapter in the underrated-but-flawed Mirror’s Edge, will take the best parts of the first game and amplify upon that. Gun combat is completely gone; our parkouring heroine Faith has to rely on movement, momentum, and acrobatics to defeat her foes.
She’s also tossed in an open-world city (sensing a theme here) where missions are free-flowing and freedom of movement is encouraged. Controls are also made easier; Faith runs on default, with moves like wall runs and sliding being as easy as using trigger buttons and simple button presses. With the developer’s aim to fix the first title’s issues, especially the past game’s muddled story, this catalyst is looking less volatile and more of a stable compound for fun.
Fallout 4 (PS4, Xbox One)
You knew it was coming, and Bethesda delivered a rousing presentation. It’s hard not to get excited when you get to see the next post-apocalyptic adventure RPG in its current generation glory, slo-mo killbits and all.
So what’s new apart from a new story where you get to play as characters from the past waking up 200 years later in a nuclear-torn wasteland? Well, you get to build a new base of operations, an immortal dog companion, customizable weapons and armor up the wazoo using 700+ mods, an improved V.A.T.S targeting system, and laser muskets. Oh, and also a real-life Pipboy 3000 if you pre-order the game’s ludicrous special edition.
Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)
Not much is known about this remake save for the glimpse at a new Midgar and the back of Asian-made-black-dude Barrett and spikey-haired wunderkind Cloud Strife, but if we did not include this game on the list, we’d get hell for it.
The official announcement during Sony’s E3 press conference got a lot of old-school RPG fans bursting into tears of joy and gave most of the internet a heart attack.
Halo 5: Guardians (Xbox One)
Another Microsoft console, another iteration of the first-person shooter starring one Master Chief. The fifth game in the series not only ups the ante with lovely graphics and a four-player story mode that hearkens back to Halo 3 (arguably doing a better job at establishing context with new story-central Spartan warriors), but also adds in a new multiplayer mode called Warzone.
Think “Battlefield” but with Halo characters and aliens, where teams fight through multi-phase adversarial combat. Fans can look forward to Warzone, another multiplayer mode in the long list of stellar online modes the series is known for. Halo 5: Guardians arrives October 27 this year.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One)
The Tomb Raider reboot back in 2013 was what the action adventure series needed: a revamped heroine and a shake-up in gameplay filled with gunplay and exploration elements. The timed-exclusive-for-Xbox-One sequel continues on this path, but will give players the chance to bypass combat in favour of solving stages in non-violent ways.
Basically this means a lot of alternate paths featuring climbing onto statues and cliffs, as well as more focus on the “Tomb Raider” part of the title. That’s fine by us if it means more opportunities to look at awesome vistas and escaping pulse-pounding deathtraps. And yes, that ice in the E3 demo is indeed lovely-looking. Revel in the glorious tessellation of digital environments when Lara Croft’s latest grave-robbing misadventure kickstarts this November 10.
Destiny: The Taken King (PS4, Xbox One)
What will the next installment of Bungie’s renowned sci-fi shooter bring to the first-person shooter table? How about three new sub-classes for each game’s main class each covering their missing elements? How does a Void energy-filled bow with entanglement properties, a Sith Lord-style lightning bolt frenzy mode, and a flaming version of Thor’s Mjollnir sound?
If that doesn’t suffice, Bungie will bring in more developed single-player campaign missions with fleshed-story bits set in a ginormous Hive ship (with no Dinklebot VO, thankfully) and a new multiplayer mode featuring near-limitless Super energy for everyone. Oh, and a new Raid that’s more badass and tougher than the Vault of Glass and Crota’s End combined, featuring the latter boss’ dad who looks like a Westernized Devilman if he was drawn by H.R Giger.
The Last Guardian (PS4)
Last and certainly not least was the preview & release date reveal of Sony’s long-anticipated title from the folks behind Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. You’ve got a story of a little boy and a giant griffin navigating through dangerous ruins. And….that’s pretty much it based on the trailer.
But developer Team Ico’s games are usually beyond what’s at face value. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are stellar gaming and story-telling experiences. No doubt The Last Guardian will be the same, though it’ll be more light-hearted than the previous games. Time will tell, but at least it won’t be long until fans of Team Ico’s titles will check this game out. It’s only one year of waiting, right?
New Kids On The Block
Recore (Xbox One)
What happens when you get Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune and the former devs who worked on Metroid Prime, Armature Studios, together in a room to make a game? You’d get ReCore, a sci-fi title which would most likely be an action adventure title with an open-world element featuring robots and humans -just a wild guess on our part-.
What we know so far is that you control a girl named Jewel who is accompanied by a blue living core called Mac which can attach itself to any machine to reanimate it. Based on the Microsoft E3 trailer, Mac can either be a little robot dog or a giant hulking golem depending on the situation. Here’s hoping we can see more, given Inafune and Armature Studios’ track record.
When the developers known for making sci-fi shooters using allegories of the Third Reich creates something new featuring bow-wielding cavewomen and cybergiraffes, you know you’re in for a treat most extraordinaire.
You play a hunter named Aloy who is born in an alternate universe where machines are sentient and rule the world (hence the cybergiraffes). You hunt down monstrosities small and very big, explore the world as you level up your abilities and discover new locations to forward the game’s yet-to-be-revealed plot. Combat ranges from simple third-person takedowns to Shadow of the Colossus-size boss battles with big hulking mecha-dinosaur-type things where you have to target specific weak joints, whittle their armour down, and shoot the core.
Sounds like a potential winner in our book! Now where’s that release window, Guerilla Games?
Media Molecule created LittleBigPlanet so that people could create levels with cute Sackboys. Now they’re designing an entirely new create-a-thing engine masquerading as a video game called Dreams. Here, you play and explore the dreams of other people online; you make things using in-game tools and share them for all to see.
Beyond that vague description, Dreams sounds more like what happens if LittleBigPlanet had sex with Tumblr and gave birth as a PS4 title. But hey, maybe all that hype and fluff might end up as something substantial: we were impressed by LittleBigPlanet when it first came out. So who knows?
Cuphead (Xbox One, PC)
This game from MDHR is a 2D action platformer with 50s vintage cartoon graphics featuring two guys with cups for heads who have to follow the devil’s bidding after a botched gambling session with the Dark Lord himself. It combines the boss battles and brutality of titles like Gunstar Heroes and Contra: Hard Corpse with the aesthetics of Steamboat Willy. It’s a huge disconnect, sure, but it’s not every day you get a game as slavishly made with such esoteric creativity.
Unravel (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
EA decided to publish something a little different from its usual testosterone-laden works. Unravel by Coldwood Studios stars a little creature made out of yarn called Yarny navigating a human world from left to right. It trudges through snow, dead leaves, underground tunnels, and even dangerous highways to god-knows-where, all the while using parts of its woolly body to make platforms and swing over gaps.
Between this and Nintendo’s upcoming platformer Yoshi’s Woolly World, these were enough to shine and pierce through the explosions and violence, just to add a little colour and cuteness to the week of E3.
Firewatch (PS4, PC)
You play a volunteer fire watch lookout armed with your wits and a walkie talkie. Speaking to you from the other end is a female dispatch named Delilah. She’s gonna be your only companion throughout the whole of Firewatch. We should also mention that this game looks striking and “wilderness”-like, with its watercolor strokes and use of forest palettes.
Tacoma (Xbox One, PC)
Remember the folks who did the indie hit Gone Home? They’re back with a brand new offering called Tacoma where you explore a lunar transfer station 200,000 miles from Earth to find out what has happened to the crew stationed there.
If it’s anything like developer Fullbright Company’s previous game, expect to be hit hard with key story bits and creative puzzles. There’s even a creative bit where you have to bypass a door using sign language. That’s gotta at least pique your curiosity, right?
The Unsung Heroes
NieR second project (PS4, Xbox One)
We were as surprised as you were when we saw the teaser and the artwork of the game, as well as NieR director Yuki Taro in Emile’s mask and Platinum Games guru Atsushi Inaba together on-stage during the Square Enix press conference. The thought of seeing the weird yet touching storyline of NieR combined with the action chops of the folks who did Bayonetta 2 can make even the most jaded of RPG gamers feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Shenmue 3 (PS4)
A conclusion 15 years overdue, Sony helped out Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki to announce the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter project which hit its $2 million goal (and counting!) within a day. New features in this sequel include technique scrolls which help you get new fighting moves if you complete their specific minigames, lovely cinematic graphics, and hopefully the closure of Ryo and Shen Hua’s story set in China. And even more locales in China if the stretch goals are met.
The Kitchen (PS4)
This innocuous Project Morpheus tech demo by Capcom puts the “bat-shit scary” in horror games back. According to a Kotaku hands-on, the game puts you in the role of a hapless victim stuck in a room as a witch-like demon kills off another victim in front of you and then proceed to torture you.
Unlike watching a film, you are experiencing this in a first-person view, making this all the more excruciating. If anything, this kind of demo proves that VR can hugely benefit from survival horror titles.