E3 is a magical time for any fan of gaming. It’s that one time of the year when everyone’s eyes are fixed in one place, and we all sit with bated breath waiting for those magical moments to blow us away. If you’re from Australia, that means pulling an all-nighter if you’re dedicated enough; and, for some of us, gathering with friends to share in all the highs and lows. From personal experience, even the most disappointing moments (which there are a lot of) can be enjoyed when in company, but there is nothing quite like experiencing a megaton or getting hyped for something new and sharing that excitement with others. Despite some mediocre presentations, there were still plenty of titles that surprised and got us talking, so we gathered as a team to write about the games that made this year so memorable!
As much as I would love to get hyped about and hypothesise on what exactly Death Stranding is—Kojima, you and your sneaky announcements, you brilliant bastard!—it wasn’t exactly a game yet more than a concept. So, why bring this up then? Well, in 2014, I got extremely excited about a little demo called P.T. For those who don’t know, P.T. was intended as a teaser for the next Silent Hill, and was to be developed by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro (also starring Norman Reedus). To cut a long story short, it got cancelled—along with all my hopes and dreams. I honestly didn’t think anything could ever surprise me like that again or restore my hope for AAA horror games, but I was wrong.
At E3 2016, there was a truly magical moment for me. Something I never thought possible. And it wasn’t the fact this game was announced (we all knew it was coming), more that it had been teased for over a year as a VR demo, and that I had no idea what it was until the title was clear as day on the screen. Yes, Resident Evil VII made its debut, and, much like it’s fallen brother in arms (Silent Hills), the franchise was looking to reinvent itself in first-person and to show off some of its ideas, that same day, through a playable teaser. After so many leaks, this moment was so pure and joyous that it couldn’t not be my standout memory; not to mention it’s the only game announced I got to try for myself!
Sadly, I must recognise that not all fans are as excited about RE7’s bold new direction as me, but given how divisive the franchise has been the past decade, I appreciate why. As a self-proclaimed veteran of the horror genre, however, I have faith based on what I’ve played so far. While Capcom made it clear the demo is not indicative of the full game (as it’s set to include more combat, herbs, and other series staples), I didn’t need convincing. Despite easy comparisons, I thought the teaser felt nothing like P.T., and instead portrayed a lot of fascinating ideas that have great potential. Let’s face it, the state of the franchise after RE6 was bad. Very bad. It was time for RE to try new ideas, and for those who aren’t sure, I say give it a chance and instead direct your nostalgia towards the Revelations sub-series & RE2 Remake.
Guerrilla Games have grown up since their flamboyant days of space nazis, and they’ve finally acknowledged that they’re aiming at the mature audience gamers are. Now we’re seeing them tackle an adult-focused game about giant robot dinosaur monsters, and holy balls, I am keen. What we saw from this year’s Sony conference was phenomenal, and even though I don’t own a PS4, I’m playing that game. The best part was that there wasn’t just some cinematic nonsense, there was live gameplay, the only way to demo a game without getting a dramatic eye roll from me.
I remember seeing Horizon last year, but this year’s playthrough caught my attention and latched onto it like a freakin’ mosquito. The gameplay was sleek yet imperfect, which is like seeing someone down a whole box of Krispy Kremes right in front of you. The idea seems to be to aim for weak spots in the robots’ designs, which is mighty refreshing after years of CoD asking me to hit someone’s pinky finger for a kill. We even saw a bare-bones crafting system, and while I have mixed feelings about that, it never hurts to let players use resources how they want, right?
Perhaps my favourite part of the demo was how flexible the dynamics with the robot dinos were. Sure, the demo guy killed some of ‘em, but he also tamed some, and I’m interested to see where that flexibility leads. There was even a hint of elemental combat, and if there’s one thing that makes a game more interesting, it’s counter systems. Simply put, I’m excited for taking down self-replicating AI with a bow and arrow that looks like Tesla went a frightening new direction. Way more than space nazis.
Of all the titles that were revealed during E3, including the RE7 demo that’s apparently attempting to cash in on the P.T. hype from 2014, We Happy Few unsettled and excited me the most. From the details provided, it’s set in a dystopian vision of 1960s Britain, in which people are encouraged to dose up on a drug called “Joy” – a kind of hallucinogen that dials their mental state to obscene-happiness. There’s an interesting contrast of visuals going on in We Happy Few, mixing the pastel aesthetic of England in the ’60s with an entirely dingy version of the same. It also seems as if your perception of the world will alternate between these two extremes, depending on how dosed you are at the time.
What weirds me out the most about the game, while drawing me in like a moth to the alluring light of a high-power zapper, is the way the characters of this world act and react to their surroundings. Whether the NPCs and your own quivering, cowering character, are compliant or “rebellious” to the nature of this fictional society, it feels as if no one is quite in their right mind. Those who follow expectations all wear make-up that gives them the appearance of having had an unfortunate run-in with the Joker while he was in a particularly foul mood. The people who don’t conform are shunned pariahs, stalking around crumbling suburbs and dressed as though they’re at the height of depression – both mentally and economically.
It’s as though Equilibrium, Orwell’s 1984, and Bioshock had an orgy, and while no one was sure who the baby-daddy is, they all agreed to dress it up like an extra from Eyes Wide Shut. E3 this year showed us that titles are coming out which have been long awaited, games which defy convention, and sequels to much-beloved franchises. For me, however, I’m looking forward to We Happy Few – something genuinely creepy and almost guaranteed to make me feel joyfully sad.
After watching all of the Battlefield 1 gameplay footage that was showcased during this year’s E3, it got me feeling enthusiastic about this storied franchise once again. Stepping away from modern genre conventions, DICE and EA made a bold decision to take the series further back in time than it’s ever been. Set during World War I, players will be given the ability to drive tanks, fly biplanes and control gun turrets from massive zeppelins, which, in my opinion, sounds like a lot of fun and sets it apart from the competition which continues to push safely in the opposite direction.
With a WWI arsenal comes unique time-period specific melee weapons and firearms, including bayonets, semi-automatic pistols, trench shotguns, flamethrowers, and the MP 18; which was the first practical submachine gun used in combat history. Vehicles are also set to play a big role, and I’m especially eager to try air-to-air dogfights while flying in a scout biplane as well as being able to ride in a motorcycle sidecar while shooting down enemy combatants.
From what we’ve seen so far, the level dynamics look very cinematic; the spectacle of falling buildings and burning zeppelins crashing to the ground in epic 64-multiplayer matches is spectacular. While it doesn’t appear the core formula strays too far away from that of previous titles, the historical theme of the Great War will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the weapon mechanics and presentation overall. No matter where you are, from muddy trenches to the war-filled skies, a lot is happening at once, and the unpredictability of the gameplay is further enhanced due to an improved dynamic weather system that makes a return from Battlefield Hardline. Everything about Battlefield 1 has got thrilled to play a new multiplayer FPS again, where every turn is chaotic, and to experience war at its ugliest.
At EB Expo 2013, the only game my friend Joel could talk about was Watch Dogs. I remember him dragging me to a mediocre Ubisoft Q&A where we sat through dozens of audience questions like “will there be machine guns?” and “will there be other types of guns?” Truly Inspiring. Luckily for Ubisoft, the trailer for the game and the overall concept was enough to maintain our interest, and the interest of many, many others. This was to be the dawning of a new genre of games, or at the very least, a cool new mechanic. Everyone expected this game to be a sort-of GTA crossed with Hacknet but what was delivered was a less adventurous Saints Row 4 that included a mild amount of surface level hacking. So it was no surprise when the internet started spewing out photos of EB games pre-owned bins littered with discarded copies of Watch Dogs.
Obviously, I felt like Watch Dogs never quite reached its creative potential, so I’m glad that Ubisoft persevered with the IP. Set in San Francisco (a stark contrast to the Chicago streets of Watch Dogs), Watch Dogs 2 looks much more indie, hipster tech (coining new phrases, I’m basically Shakespeare) with, mercifully, the numerous stealth and hacking options that the IP deserves. Having only seen the cinematic trailer and the gameplay of a single mission walkthrough shown at Ubisoft’s E3 conference, I already feel more of an affinity with WD2 protagonist Marcus, than I did with WD1 protagonist Aiden. Yes it is true that part of me wants this game to succeed because I love a good comeback story, and yes I do want this game to succeed so it can take over from Just Dance as a Ubisoft flagship series, but mainly I just hope that this game lives up to its genre-creating/ mechanic-defining potential.
At the very least, Watch Dogs 2 will feed the Assassin’s Creed/ Watch Dogs conspiracy theorists when it is released worldwide on November 15th, 2016.
While many would argue that E3 2016 was a bit of a letdown, Sony still showed us how truly capable they are at making this trade show feel like a spectacle. While I’m probably a little more hyped for The Last Guardian than my actual choice, I was really surprised at what God of War showed when push came to shove.
As someone who came to the God of War party quite late into its run, the series has generally gone from strength to strength in my eyes with only a small falter at Ascension in what otherwise has been a wild, bloody and violent ride. Having conquered the Greek gods, it feels only natural for the developers to move on to another big gaming mainstay – Norse mythology. If I’m being honest, I know the premise of Kratos being immortal due to his demi-god status and rocking up in a completely different era is ridiculous. And while I’m generally quite critical when it comes to narrative, God of War is one of the very few games where I can put that aside and just enjoy it for the sheer brutal, power fantasy masterpiece that it is.
With the graphics engine being updated to include such wonders as Kratos adorned with a beautifully flowing beard, and an entirely new looking combat and camera system – I feel as if this was the right time for the series to be reinvented. From the brief gameplay and cinematic package that we were treated to at the Sony conference, I have no hesitation in calling that God of War (4) is going to breathe new life into a beloved Sony franchise.
Also, just go back and watch the reveal again – the movement of Kratos’s beard is majestic, like honestly, a unicorn.
E3 2016 was chock-full of flashy tech, new IPs and the usual array of impressive trailers unlikely to reflect the final quality of the released game. Usually, what excites me most about E3 are the new ideas, or existing series taking leaps into new-gen or wild new directions, but this year is different. The presence of South Park: Fractured But Whole (tee hee) at E3 wasn’t a surprise, nor did it promise any revolutionary gameplay – it just promised more South Park. Rather than being exciting about some new tech, or graphical advancement in the series, for once I’m actually pumped for more of the same. Heresy, I know!
South Park: The Stick of Truth was one of the few games to transcend the usual licenced dross and translate the spirit and excellence of the show into what was basically an interactive episode. With heavy involvement from show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, we finally got the South Park game we deserved, full of the wit, filth and social commentary that has kept the show popular for 19 seasons. Sure, the RPG core of The Stick of Truth was a bit shallow and repetitive, but it still worked as an effective vehicle for the game’s narrative.
Fractured But Whole takes place the day after The Stick of Truth, as, kids being kids, got sick of fantasy and decide to start their own billion dollar superhero franchise. You’re once again the New Kid (Douchebag), who can also be a girl, which apparently will also affect the story. The RPG system features a new combat grid system, which sounds like it will add more complexity to gameplay, and, hopefully, more work is done to make the town feel more alive. It’s not the gameplay I’m really hanging out for, though, I just can’t wait to head back on down to South Park.
Spider-Man has been one of my favourite characters for as long as I remember. Insomniac has been my favourite developer since the first time I got my little hands on Spyro. An Insomniac developed, PlayStation 4 exclusive, original concept Spider-Man game is something I would never have imagined. Of course, rumours had been surfacing that Sucker Punch (another of my most beloved studios) were working on such a game, but seeing that Insomniac logo at the front of that trailer – just far enough in that it was clearly a Spider-Man game – that changed everything.
Sucker Punch would be an easy bet. They’ve made five immaculate, super hero games set in wonderfully traversable open cities. Give them Spider-Man and you’ve got something great. Give Insomniac Spider-Man, though, and you’ve got something interesting. For all the games all over the spectrum Insomniac’s worked on, they’ve never done something quiiiite like this. Will their signature upgrade system make an appearance? Will the light-hearted, humorous spirit of Ratchet & Clank carry over, or the personal, emotional resonance of Resistance? What if they managed BOTH? As strange as it might be for a developer to reach such a point with a licensed property, Spider-Man could prove to be the culmination of my favourite developer’s long history of brilliant games.
Regardless of who’s making it, though, the game looks great. The new suit’s original and modern, yet iconic all the same. Swinging webs, pulling dudes out of cars and hanging from armoured vehicles is pretty standard fare for Spidey games, but it’s never looked nearly as polished. The animations, in particular, are so smooth, believable and distinctly Spider-Man, that it’s hard to doubt we’ll have the next Arkham series pretty soon.
I’m a nerd for stealth (especially Ninja) games, even though I tend to find them disappointing more often than not. So, of course, I was immediately interested in Aragami when I happened upon it during my E3 catch-up. Aragami is being created by Lince Works; a new Spanish indie game studio. It seems Aragami will be their first game as a studio, and the brief interview with David León at E3 showed that Aragami was inspired by many of my favourite games, including Mark of the Ninja.
The gameplay shown at E3 gave a glimpse of the interesting powers at your disposal, from creating shadows where you need them to hide, to summoning a shadowy dragon to brutally murder the guards. I’m also interested to see how well the ‘Choose Your Own Playstyle’ concept will work out, because, after playing Undertale, I developed a keen interest in games that allow you to run through them and choose whether you want to kill anyone or anything. Of course, not every game implements this concept in a way that is well-balanced and meaningful, but I have high hopes for this one.
Finally, what we know so far about the plot also really appeals to me. The character you play as is actually some kind of warrior god who has been brought back to life by a woman named Yamiko. It seems that the warrior will regain his memories as the game progresses, and we’ll find out more about Yamiko and why she revived him in the first place.
I do love a good self-discovery after reincarnation story, and Aragami has taken a lot of inspiration from other highly successful games in the same genre, so overall I’m quite optimistic about this title. Please impress me this September, Lince Works!
PlatinumGames showed a change of pace from their usual “Character-Action” titles when they first announced Scalebound at E3 2014. From what’s been shown so far, Scalebound appears to be an Action RPG where players are able to explore an open world with their own customizable dragon, and, as revealed at last year’s E3, team up with other people to fight through dungeons and face off against epic bosses.
Following up from that announcement this year, Platinum demoed a co-op boss battle from the first dungeon. The scale of which was impressive, as players faced off against a giant crab-like boss, and, in turn, evoked many comparisons to games such as Monster Hunter and Lost Planet with regards to the size and scope of the battles.
As the scale (no pun intended) appears a lot bigger than in previous Platinum titles, the pace seems to be a lot slower to compensate, with combat being a lot more deliberate and hard hitting as opposed to combo-centric hits that players have become accustomed to in earlier releases such as Bayonetta. That being said, the combat still looks solid, and Platinum does well to demonstrate its excellent combat design.
In Scalebound, players have a variety of options at their disposals that include traditional weapons such bows and swords as well as magical ranged abilities. Players are also shown to transform into a dragon-like beast for powerful melee combos, and, of course, use of the dragon companion in combat is significant. The demo did well to show how all these various abilities can be used together to bring down enemies, such as using your dragon companion to launch the player onto the enemy to afford an opportunity to release a barrage of melee attacks.
Being a fan of Platinum titles, I look forward to seeing what they have to offer in terms of building a world to explore, rather than one to simply fight through. Within that world, I trust their stellar combat design stays true as I team up and take down giant bosses all with a trusty dragon by my side.
Nintendo has played with me too often with Zelda teases and promises at E3, to the point where writing this again is just deja vu. However, we finally have proof, an entire three minutes and 19 seconds of glorious proof that new Zelda is within reach! The rumours were enough to keep me going after each disappointment, so long as I told myself a late game was preferable to a rubbish one.
My guilty pleasure of all the rumours has been the one about the map putting even Skyrim to shame, and I haven’t given up hope on that just yet either.
The art style may not be new to anyone who’s been watching for Zelda news, but seeing it to a fuller extent, finally, was almost humbling. It looks like the best designs of several Zelda games have had parts poached to make Breath of the Wild look equal parts familiar yet completely unknown. The abilities and mechanics give new life to how the hero will travel, fight, and interact with the new surroundings and monsters, while still keeping us old-school fans happy with the Master Sword in sight. I don’t care that this is the third time I’ve written about this already, new Zelda is happening, and I love it already!