Wow! What an E3! This was my first year with a working situation that allowed me to stay up and watch the conferences, as well as follow the show closely online during the week. The general consensus it that this was the best E3 for many years. It's also my first E3 since I started a blog, so it seemed a good topic for this week. I'm just going to sum up the news and games that have me the most excited. I'm pretty much exclusively a PC gamer, but I won't focus solely on PC here either and I'll go pretty broad. First up: VR and AR (virtual and augmented reality).
On June 11th, the week before E3 actually started, Oculus held their own press conference and finally revealed the consumer version of the Rift, as seen above. I had a previous blog on how Oculus was seemingly lagging behind their competitors now, despite starting the new VR race, and that they needed some big announcements to catch up. Well they caught up!
- The demonstrated final consumer version comes with plentiful size adjustments and detachable headphones.
- A big announcement was their partnership with Microsoft. All Oculus Rifts sold will come with a wireless Xbox One controller. This is huge as developers can target a single input device that they know all users will have.
- There will be an online store for your Oculus games, which will include the ability to demo the games before buying them, in recognition of the fact that a traditional video trailer can tell you very little about what a virtual experience will be like.
- Price was not announced, and the release date is still a vague "1st Quarter, 2016".
- The huge reveal was their main input device (not the Xbox controller), the Oculus Touch. Clicking the pic above will take you to that part of their press conference. It looks like a controller split in two, which allows each hand to move freely in the virtual space, and without any wires. It also features haptic feedback (vibration, for touch sensation) and a ring of sensors that accurately track your finger movements, for great control or "social interaction" (use your imaginations there). It's set to release a few months after the primary Rift launch, but accounts from people using it at E3 are very positive, saying it's on par with or better than Valve or Sony's input offerings.
Microsoft stole the show at E3 with their HoloLens, winning IGN's "Coolest Tech" award for the show. If you didn't click the picture to view their Minecraft demo, do it now! I'll wait.. or if you're not interested just skip this whole section, but you're missing out.
It's hard to convey what the experience is like without having it for yourself, and so I first viewed that part of the conference with a bit of scepticism, but by all later reports, what people saw through the camera at the press conference is exactly the same experience as when people got to try for themselves later. This is an incredible technology. On the show floor they also had a (very tailored, admittedly) Halo experience with the HoloLens which you can catch a glimpse of here.
The only negative report was that the viewing window on the Lens was very narrow, in that you lost the effect in your peripheral vision, but this is still in the prototype phase with no release date, remember.
So, moving onto games, what has people excited?
Star Wars Battlefront
Winning IGN's Game Of The Show award, Battlefront wowed with its long overdue gameplay reveal. Considering we've had 3 trailers without a second of gameplay up until now and they were already cheekily taking pre-orders, this was long overdue. Personally I had wondered what they could have been hiding. The game had received a lot of negative press up until now but they finally put out something positive.
As you can see from the gameplay video (click the pic), DICE have really nailed the sights and sounds of Star Wars. In terms of gameplay, this map looks a lot like the Battlefield franchise's Rush maps, but there's a lot going on here to be excited about and it seems to feel more like a Star Wars game than a Battlefield one, which is important.
What Battlefield doesn't have (any more, at least) but Battlefront does, is bot support, meaning you can actually play in single player mode, which is a big plus for me, personally, as I don't always like relying on servers and the decent behaviour of other gamers.
This other video shows off a wave-survival mode which looks decent. Again, the graphics and animations are something to be excited about, and this was running on Playstation 4, not PC, so you can expect these visuals to be typical.
Release: Nov 17th, 2015
Platforms: PC, PS4, XB1
Bethesda kicked off E3 on the Sunday night (before E3 officially starts, technically) with their first ever E3 press conference, and it was a major event, widely lauded as the best conference of E3.
DOOM gameplay was revealed at the very start of their conference and can be seen above. They're clearly going for speed, action, gore, violence, and frantic over-the-top gameplay. I was never a major Doom player but this strikes me as exactly the kind of game Doom fans were hoping for when we saw the (ridiculous) ten second trailer only a few weeks ago, as opposed to a survival-horror (whatever that currently means).
The game features a single player campaign, multiplayer, and a very detailed in-game level/scenario editor. This could be the big arena shooter for years to come, at least until we see the next Unreal Tournament.
Release: Spring 2016
Platforms: PC, PS4, XB1
The main reason people give Bethesda the credit for best show of E3, was the reveal of Fallout 4. I'll admit that I never played the other Fallout games (I know, shame, shame) but even I could feel the excitement as Todd Howard showed off his new baby. I'm super-pumped for this. The game looks incredible. It looks like a game-changer just as Skyrim did. Incidentally I'd never played an Elder Scrolls game until Skyrim but like many others, I was an instant convert. Bethesda are really hitting their stride when it comes to making RPGs more accessible and exciting to the masses while still keeping their core audience.
You're better off watching the video but let me try to bullet-point some stuff here:
- You can play as a man or woman.
- You can play in the world before the bombs fall and the main game commences.
- You set the appearance of the male and female couple at the start with an intuitive-looking editor, and the game then interprets the appearance of each and generates what the couples' child looks like (like GTA V does for your multiplayer character).
- The special edition comes with a real plastic 'pip-boy' arm band that you can wear and put your phone into. Why?
- Because there's a companion app for the game that lets you manage inventory, etc through your phone, though you can still do it in-game.
- As an aside, nearly, Howard mentioned that they'd also developed Fallout Shelter in which you manage a (you'll never guess) fallout shelter and its survivors, The shelter looks a lot like the 2012 Xcom's "ant hill" base management. The game is free but has micro-transactions, is so far only on Apple devices, but will come to Android, and is currently outselling even Candy Crush.
- Back to Fallout 4, you can craft your own bases and villages, and defend them with turrets, lights, traps and more, all of which require power management. It's like Rust or DayZ inside Fallout 4, though you don't even have to participate at all.
- The game is set in post-apocalyptic Boston, and is a huge huge game world.
- You can have a dog (Alsation) companion who they DON'T kill on you for normally-predictable dramatic effect.
- The game won IGN's Best PC Game award AND their Best RPG award for E3 2015.
Release: Nov 10th, 2015
Platforms: PC, PS4, XB1
No Man's Sky
No Man's Sky, which doesn't often step into the light of day, showed off some more gameplay this year at Sony's conference, and also appeared during the brand new PC Gaming conference on the Wednesday. It also picked up IGN's Best Adventure Game E3 award.
Previously the game was going to be a timed Playstation 4 exclusive, and then likely to release on PC, but Sean Murray of Hello Games announced that the game will release for PC and PS4 at the same time! What that time is, we still don't know, as Murray apologetically explained that they couldn't yet announce a release date (though they had wanted to do so at E3).
Release: Expect to see it released before the next E3. I'm betting 9-12 months.
Platforms: PC, PS4
Yeah so we're going with the North American spelling, since this is being developed by Ubisoft Montreal.
This was one of those unexpected treats. This brand new IP from Ubisoft annoucned during their press conference is centred around medieval sword fighting between vikings, knights, and samurai, because why not? The gameplay demo above shows off a lot, but essentially two teams of four players fight for control points (in the demonstrated game mode, at least). Dozens of NPC warriors are there as sword-fodder but the main fights happen between players using the "Art of War" control system, which looks like it uses the triggers and control sticks to attack and defend from different angles. Watching your opponent's body language is key here. Players can also call in arrow and catapult strikes on their enemies.
There will be several modes, though, including a single-player campaign.
I'm excited about this one, as I always am when I see attempts at sword fighting done right. We'll have to see how this one plays next year. Chivalry was okay but still usually devolved into button mashing, with the available nuances lost. Mount & Blade: Warband has the best sword fighting I've seen in a game to date, though the upcoming Kingdom Come: Deliverance also looks to have an interesting take on it.
Platforms: PC, PS4, XB1
So I'm particularly excited about this one as 2012's Xcom Enemy Unknown is one of my all-time favourite games, and my own game in development is heavily influenced by the Xcom series. A (non-gameplay) trailer was released the week before E3 but we saw some gameplay at E3.
The game is set twenty years after Enemy Unknown and the story is based on what happened if you failed (as many of us did) and the aliens took over the Earth. Xcom is now a (moreso than before) guerilla organisation fighting from a now mobile base.
The aliens themselves are much tougher, each like a mini-boss, but your grunt enemies are now human(ish?) soldiers called the Advent who are baically stormtroopers for the dark and evil alien administration. Collaborators. Traitors. So it's fine :)
A big new change is that the maps are procedurally generated, meaning you never quite know what to expect, or what's around the next corner. A fault with EU was that after a while the (wonderfully created, but limited) maps started repeating themselves and you sort of knew how best to approach the area each time. Not so, anymore.
You can now engage in melee combat, carry injured soldiers off of the battlefield, destroy floors and ceilings (only walls before), and call for your own extraction zones. You also have procedural objectives on the map and you can complete missions by taking these objectives and fleeing without having to kill every enemy, which should make for some awfully exciting sprints for the evac zone.
Release: November 2015
Platforms: PC only
At this point, I'm going to shift gears. I could talk all day about what has me excited from E3, and for two days if I talked about games that others care about even if they're not quite for me, but I'm just going buzz through the rest.
I recommend you skim this section for titles that interest you and click the links for trailers and more info.
Unless I state otherwise, chances are the games are for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
- Playstation 4 exclusive (though I REALLY hope it comes to PC) Horizon: Zero Dawn is the most worth mentioning. It's a new IP set on post-post-apocalyptic Earth when humans have reverted to tribal social structures and machines have evolved into dinosaur-like wildlife. It sounds silly and looks silly at first, but there's something really special going on here. It was nominated for all sorts of awards and won IGN's Best Playstation 4 Game of E3.
- Sea of Thieves is a new multiplayer pirate game from Rare that looks pretty awesome, though so far it seems like it's only coming to Xbox.
- Rare also announced Rare Replay which is a 30th Anniversary celebration of Rare's career making games, giving you 30 old Rare titles for $30 on the Xbox One. Most of these titles were from Rare's heavyweight days as N64 champions and are well worth playing or replaying.
- Just Cause 3 is looking very silly, explosive and fun. Everything a game wants to be and could be if it took itself less seriously. This game is just about awesome explosions and stunts, and isn't trying to be anything else.
- Microsoft announced that Xbox One will soon have backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games, and with a host of exclusive titles coming soon, they're hoping to convert many 360 users to the new console. Will Playstation follow suit? I hope so, but there's no official word one way or the other.
- Starfox Zero for Nintendo Wii U is getting a mixed reception. I looks graphically very appealing but requires heavy use of the gamepad for your targeting, while the TV screen shows off the wider, more cinematic views. Will you spend most of the game looking away from the TV? I don't know, but it looks gorgeous to me. The game is neither a prequel, sequel, nor reboot, apparently. It just.. "is".. I guess.
- There's a new Hitman game on the way, which is looking like taking some of the wind out of Assassin's Creed's sails in the next year.
- Deus Ex Mankind Divided is looking good if you're a Deus Ex fan. We're still following Adam Jensen, marking the first time we repeat a protagonist in the series. It looks a lot like 2011's Human Revolution, but moreso, if that makes sense.
- We continue our march towards Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain's November release (we hope it's not delayed) with another 40 minute video of gameplay, though there's barely anything new in this video if you've been following previous gameplay footage.
- We've an announcement trailer for Mass Effect Andromeda but there's no gameplay, very little info other than that you're a new hero in a new galaxy, and the game's still a long way off.
- Gears Of War 4 is coming to Xbox One (the trailer says "Gears 4") but it's confirmed that "of war" will still be in the title. This gameplay looks stupid to me. Where the hell does the super-massive storm come from and go to all of a sudden? It's a two minute super storm that just serves to make the heroes go into a building. That kind of lazy design really turns me off.
- Gears of War 1 is getting a HD remake and coming to XB1 AND the PC, for once, with a multiplayer element based on Gears 3. This marks Gears' first appearance away from an Xbox console. August 25th is the Xbox release, but there's no date for the PC release yet.
- Switching to Ubisoft's Tom Clancy series of games, there's three games to talk about. Firstly, Rainbow Six: Siege continues to look great and a single-player element is confirmed, though sadly there are no AI squad-mates to accompany you, so it probably isn't really worth talking about next to the multiplayer experience.
- Secondly, The Division showed off a new so-so-scripted gameplay demo, which really disappointed me and many others. Basically, every player winds up betraying and fucking over every other player until one is left, and now the game basically looks like DayZ without the zombies. By this I mean "just not fun to play with people", which is the whole point. Graphically, it looks less impressive than it seemed before, also, and I think that the general consensus is that the ball has been dropped on this one. The game was probably delayed too many times and just missed the boat, though that remains to be seen, come release next March.
- If The Division dropped the ball, though, new announcement Ghost Recon Wildlands picked it up! It's a 4 player co-op experience in a huge open world in which you approach your targets your way. Plan your approach, set up a sniper, booby-trap a vehicle, whatever. This one actually looks quite fun (if you've 3 competent friends who want to play with you).
- Final Fantasy VII is getting a remake, so the rumour mill can finally stop churning!
- Similarly, The Last Guardian is finally seen again, and its cute giant-bird-puppy looks incredibly well animated.
- Dishonoured 2 is a thing now.
- Cuphead for the Xbox One has an incredible retro-Disney animation style and is really worth looking at.
- Another beautiful indie game worth looking at is Unravel, who EA have picked up as part of their "we care about the little guys too" quota.
- Shenmue 3 was announced, though I never heard of its predecessors, sorry. It was declared as a Kickstarter campaign that broke Kickstarter in minutes. Needless to say, it's already successful.
- Dark Souls 3 was announced but hasn't made any real waves so far.
- South Park are making their second game, The Fractured But Whole (say it out loud).
- We saw some footage of Rise Of The Tomb Raider, which is an Xbox exclusive. From the gameplay video this may as well be a movie as it's so scripted and on-the-rails. Apparently the game does actually contain tombs and puzzles though.
- Another Xbox exclusive ReCore could be good.
- Kingdom Hearts 3 showed us a new trailer.
- The new Mirror's Edge is called Catalyst and is prequel. Very little is known but it's confirmed that this time you can't use guns at all. In the original you could take an enemy's gun and just fire off what was in the clip, but not reload or keep the gun.
- The multiplayer team shooter Rising Storm is getting a sequel set in Vietnam, The original was set in WW2. I wonder if they're just following what DICE did with Battlefield more than 10 years ago. If the next one is set in 2142, we'll know.
- Arma III is getting a huge new island expansion called Tanoa.
- Halo 5 Guardians is coming out on October 27th, 2015.
Thanks for reading. I hope my E3 summation gave you something to get excited about. I'll be back to more opinionated blogging next week. Until next time..